Pilgrimage: Celebrating Your Smallness
People go on tours, trek, and climb mountains because they want to achieve something or enhance their life. But the purpose of a pilgrimage is to humble yourself. A pilgrimage is the process of allowing something else to overwhelm you.
Every year in August, since the year 2005, we at Isha make a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash in the Tibetan Himalayas. For thousands of years this pilgrimage has been made in this country because you cannot help but feel small in front of these mountains. And that is the purpose of a pilgrimage: to know that you are like a particle of dust in this universe.
If a person does not realize how small he is, he will fail to include everything within himself. If he thinks he is big, he becomes small. If he knows that he is small, he becomes unlimited.
It is also to celebrate that smallness. Human beings are a speck in this existence, but still if we are willing, we can contain the whole of this existence within ourselves. If a person does not realize how small he is, he will fail to include everything within himself. If he thinks he is big, he becomes small. If he knows that he is small, he becomes unlimited. That is the beauty of being human.
It is also the struggle of being human. It takes much awareness to see that it is in dissolving yourself that you become boundless. To realize that, unfortunately, most people take lifetimes.
The Himalayas are the youngest mountain range on the planet—very fresh, very fragile—and in many ways the struggle of these mountains to grow is deeply symbolic of human life. The moment you step into the Himalayan foothills, a certain romance has begun between the youngest species in the planet—you— and the youngest mountain range in the planet.
Both are still struggling, still evolving, still longing to reach their peaks. But reaching the peaks doesn’t come easy for the Himalayas. Every day in its effort to grow, it dismantles itself. There are innumerable landslides, avalanches, and disturbances. All this seeming chaos is because the mountain range is making an effort to reach its ultimate height.
The same is true of human life: when we strive to grow, earthquakes and landslides keep happening in our lives. The lives of those who are stagnant seems to be stable. It looks better, but it is lifeless. For those who are striving to grow, an enormous amount of upheaval happens—but all these are worth the little bit of growth that could happen within a human being. So the struggles of the Himalayas and the struggles of human beings are very deeply connected.
Most people struggle to grow. It is not impossible to grow without struggle. But it takes enormous intelligence, or enormous trust. Otherwise, struggle is inevitable.
I am often asked, ‘How do we get the maximum benefit from a pilgrimage?’ One simple way to be a pilgrim is to drop this one calculation: ‘What is the takeaway?’ You don’t have to get anything. Nothing needs to happen. This is not about becoming healthy or enlightened or reaching heaven. When you are not trying to be anything, not trying to get anywhere, you are simply being.
The point of a Himalayan pilgrimage is to leave you as nothing. If you walk through this life thinking too much of yourself, you’re a vandal. If you take every step of your life in gratitude, if you see how small you are, you walk on this planet gently, like a pilgrim. This life could be your pilgrimage.
July 2016: Isha Yoga for Children offers a unique possibility for every child to experience a joyful blossoming of his or her natural potential. Isha Yoga celebrates the natural gifts within every child, encouraging and nurturing a sense of wonder and oneness with life. The program introduces yoga to children ages 7 to 13 through an exploration of fun, love, and joy, allowing each child to develop and live in optimal health and inner peace. www.IshaUSA.org/Childrens
Named one of India’s 50 most influential people, Sadhguru speaks before millions annually around the globe, including to prominent leadership forums such as the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, TED, and the World Peace Congress. From ground-breaking yoga programs to projects for rural communities and the environment, Sadhguru’s Isha Foundation (www.IshaFoundation.org) serves as a thriving model for human empowerment, which is reflected in the Foundation’s special consultative status with the UN.
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