In 2005 I made a journey to East Asia. It was a spiritual journey, a pilgrimage to visit temples and people that form the roots of our linage. In one sense such journeys are not necessary and in another sense they are. And I am very very glad I went and perhaps there will be an opportunity to go again.
While I was at the temple in Germany last week I talked to a small group about the actual significance of Dharma connections and about ways of honouring them. Basically we honour them by giving expression to, keeping alive, the heart connection that exists by going to the roots, or the source as it is sometimes put. Sometimes that is given physical expression by going somewhere, as I did. To visit a temple, a teacher or grave marker.
I have been thinking of ancient times, say in Tibet, when devotees actually walked to a pilgrimage site. A holy mountain or shrine. They used their legs to get them from A to B. Often this involved spreading out their entire body in a full prostration between every step. One step, bow. One step, bow. Huge act of devotion, growing faith and resolve along the way.
The devotional aspect of journeying is less obvious now with mechanical means to get from A to B. But as I prepare to fly to the US on Tuesday bound for Shasta Abbey, there is a sense of joyous anticipation. This trip has a strong element of giving expression to, showing my love and devotion for, my direct Dharmic connections. What does that mean? Yes I’ll offer incense and make bows at the Stupa that marks where my Master is buried. Yes, I will connect up with trainees lay and monastic and that will be wonderful. We will sit together, sing together, eat ice-cream together no doubt! What does that all actually mean though?
Well, again at the temple in Germany, it came to me that while it is essential to grow deep roots and a strong stem of faith if one fails to look up and see the magnificent blossom attached to the top of the stem – well one has missed the point completely. And sadly that happens.
Patiently we wait
And smiles eternally.
That’s it! The smile in the heart is there, in every step. Pilgrimage? A journey without a destination. While holding aloft the smiling lotus.
Thanks to Tony for the photograph.
This post was slightly edited June 3rd.