“Would you become a pilgrim on the road of love?
The first condition is that you make yourself humble as dust and ashes.”
Yatra means journey or pilgrimage, from the Sanskrit word ”ya”, to go.
Yatra refers to Hindu pilgrimages but pilgrimages are common to all cultures.
Generally a Yatra is a solo journey one makes to a sacred place. The journey itself is as important as the destination, and both are representative of the sacred journey all seekers make within. The difficulties, surprises, obstacles, enjoyments, insights, hardships and so on that one experiences on a Yatra are allegorical and relate to the inner journey. Yes, sometimes on a Yatra the wanderer will meet and walk alongside others for some time, and share space and time and energy, but if they are true to the purpose of the pilgrimage they will each go their separate ways eventually and allow the other to face the vast silence alone.
People make Yatra to mountain tops, the sources of rivers such as the Ganges, specific temples that are symbolic for them. They may circumambulate a mountain such as Kailash. A Yatra can even be made internally, if the intention and will are there. And of course pilgrimage made with the wrong intention and without surrender will most likely be useless.
Often at the end of a Yatra the wanderer arrives to a thriving, jostling mass of humanity at some sacred place, where hundreds or thousands have convened and this sudden change from the solitude of the journey can be over-whelming. Adjustment has to be made. But it is all part of the wild variety, joy and austerity of the conscious act of pilgrimage.
On Yatra the wanderer travels with the barest minimal of possessions, leaving behind all comforts and supports. And thus the pilgrim discovers intimately and frankly the basic needs of the body for clean air, water, food, sleep, and shelter. The normal bodily functions and the boon of good health and strength are appreciated as the invaluable gifts they are. This plunge into a natural life rids the wanderer of the need for excessive material goods. Small mercies are appreciated. The smallest of items take on a sacred quality. Blown leaves and hidden flowers. A stream over pebbles.
Also the daily walk allows the wanderer to watch and observe the mind without distraction, so that they may notice the eternal swinging duality of the mental habit. They see that what they took for reason and intellect usually goes round in circles without ever arriving at a satisfactory conclusion. Eventually attachment to the vagaries of that pendulum instrument falls away, and moments of clear illumination and intuition are given space to evolve.
Likewise Yatra often conjures strong emotions as the wanderer experiences the various hurdles associated with a long and arduous journey. The frustration of bad weather or harsh terrain, the impatience with recurring appetite, the fear of not finding shelter, and so on. Also the jubilation of turning a corner and finding a beautiful vista, or the gratitude for small kindnesses from strangers encountered along the way. This practice of observing natural emotion reveals its own secrets.
By leaving the security of the familiar the pilgrim throws themselves with an open heart and recurring hope upon the mercy of the world. Their survival is sometimes challenged, if for example they wander in high mountains, where there are wild animals, unsure footing and inclement weather. Sometimes food is scarce. Sometimes shelter is absent. The wanderer becomes primordial human, alone amid nature, with none of the false trappings of their normal lives to compound their identity.
They become no one, nothing, a tiny insignificant speck beneath the vast orb of the heavens. And thus they may, if they are lucky, come home to themselves.
Pilgrim, Pilgrimage, and Road,
Was but Myself toward Myself: and Your
Arrival but Myself at my own Door…