“The journey of five thousand miles starts with a single step and so it is with the spiritual path… There are three stages: listening with the ear, reflecting in the heart and then putting into practice… We can obstruct, but if the obstructions are removed or dropped through following in the instructions of the Buddha then the heart unfolds according to its nature.” – Dr Desmond Biddulph
Buddhist Pilgrimage – Dr Desmond Biddulph
All of the major religions seem to have established pilgrimage as an undertaking of great spiritual value. Travelling was a risky thing to undertake: no sat-navs and no mobile phones, and it is often undertaken at great personal risk from wild animals, robbers, wars, pestilence and privation of one kind or another, where the devout pilgrim puts his own life and that of his family in jeopardy for the sake of spiritual inspiration. It was not for sight-seeing, nor financial gain, but to gaze at the holy places, and from this experience to gain strength and inspiration to live the moral life.
Five blessings, householders, accrue to the riteous man through his practice of virtue: great increase of wealth through his diligence; a favourable reputation; a confident deportment, without timidity, in every society, be it that of nobles, Brahmans, householders, or ascetics; a serene death; and, at the breaking up of the body after death, rebirth in a happy state, in a heavenly world.
The Buddha encouraged pilgrimage to the four holy sites: the place of his birth, the place of his Enlightenment, and the place of the first teaching or the setting in motion of the Dharma Wheel, and finally the site of his final passing into Nirvana.
The Buddha also said, ‘he who sees me sees the Dharma, and he who sees the Dharma sees me’. This is important as it is not possible for everyone to go to India. We must all nevertheless undergo the inner journey, the inner pilgrimage from the safety of our opinions and preconceptions to that higher country where the light is brighter and the vista wider. This journey can seem a very frightening one to undertake, wrapped as we are in the tatters of our attachments and tied down by shoulds and oughts. Yet we need not fear, even the journey of five thousand miles starts with a single step and so it is with the spiritual path.
There are three stages: listening with the ear, reflecting in the heart and then putting into practice. To really ‘listen’ is much more difficult than we would suppose because we really do think we already know. However, this has to be accepted and whatever we can reflect on and put into practice does bear fruit, really almost immediately and so the journey to the heart’s centre has begun. Strangely, we have no choice; all things and all beings after all, flow towards, move towards, drift towards Nirvana, as the flow of water in the great rivers moves towards the oceans. We can obstruct, but if the obstructions are removed or dropped through following in the instructions of the Buddha then the heart unfolds according to its nature.
Text Source: ‘Editorial’ by Dr Desmond Biddulph in The Middle Way: Journal Of The Buddhist Society, August 2013 Vol 88 No. 2, p. 101.
Image: ‘Ruwanwelisaya Stupa’ by PJL 2012.