Volume 7 - Issue 07
July 2009
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For every sincere pilgrim, to be able to go on a pilgrimage is undoubtedly an outpouring of Divine Grace. Thousands throng to Prasanthi Nilayam everyday, which is now the spiritual epicenter of this Universe to ‘recharge’ so to say the ‘batteries’ of their spiritual lives. Just like it is with the current Sathya Sai Avatar, everytime God incarnated as man or sent His divine messenger, there have been few places on this earth which have been blessed to be associated with the Divine’s earthly sojourn.  This multi-faith quiz takes you on a journey of such holy sites which have inspired and purified lives for generations.

1. The Golden Temple in Amritsar, a city in the North Indian State of Punjab, is the holiest shrine of the Sikh religion and a place of pilgrimage for Sikhs worldwide, which was established by Guru Ram Das Ji, the fourth guru of the Sikhs. Known among the Sikhs as the Durbar Sahib, this holy shrine, its architecture, symbolism and religious significance, is deeply rooted in the history and traditions of Sikhism.

The temple is surrounded by a large Sarovar (manmade lake), known as the Amritsar (Lake of Holy Water or Immortal Nectar). A pilgrimage to this holy site is a journey that Sikhs as well as many followers of other religions make, because the sanctity and peace of the holy shrine brings peace to every pilgrim that enters its portals.

The temple building has four entrances instead of the usual single entry. What is the significance of having four entrances?


2. Pilgrimage serves an important function in the Bahá'í community. The Bahá’í World Centre, the spiritual and administrative heart of the Bahá’í community, is located in the twin cities of ‘Akká and Haifa in northern Israel. It comprises the Shrines of Bahá’u’lláh (prophet/founder of the Bahá’í faith), the Báb (his forerunner), and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (his son), and other holy sites where Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá lived. Every year thousands of Bahá'ís visit these sites as pilgrims in the company of fellow believers from all parts of the world.

Which of these spots is considered the holiest site for the Bahá'í’s?


3. Jerusalem becomes the focus of pilgrimages each year for thousands of Jews celebrating the festivals of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. These pilgrimages are in keeping with the command in the Torah to visit and worship "…in the place that God will choose, for the Lord God blesses you with produce and blesses the work of your hands and you shall rejoice" (Deuteronomy 16:16).

Synagogues around the world are traditionally built with the Holy Ark facing Jerusalem.

In association with holy Jerusalem, many Jews have "Mizrach" (plaques) hung on a wall of their homes. What does the plaque indicate?


4. For the Hindus, a pilgrimage to Badrinath is considered heavenly! During a Divine  Discourse delivered in 1961, Bhagavan Baba revealed to us the details of the pilgrimage He made to Badrinath with about 150 fortunate devotees: “Shankaracharya brought five lingams from Kailash and installed one each at Dwaraka, Sringeri, Badri and Puri and the fifth he placed at Chidambaram. Of these, the one at Badri has the Narayana amsam (orientation) and that had to be consecrated afresh. That was My task…

The Nethra Lingam, laid by Shankaracharya underneath the idol there, was "taken" out by Me and abhisheka (consecration by pouring holy water) was done with Gangothri water which I fetched by a wave of the hand. It was worshipped with golden Bilva leaves and Thumme flowers, both created by Me on the spot, and sent back to its original place. The Lingam was placed on a Golden Lotus, with three layers of petals, each having two smaller layers of 16 smaller petals - the entire Kamala (lotus) representing the Hridhaya (heart) where the Lingam has to be installed for worship.”

According to Swami, what is one of the biggest benefits one can derive from going on a pilgrimage to a holy place?


5. Pilgrimage is an important part of spiritual life for many Christians. They see life itself as a journey, coming from God and returning to God. The pilgrim seeks to separate himself from the everyday concerns of the world, and to spend time in the presence of God as he travels to a place of special meaning.

The "little town" of Bethlehem, mentioned in any number of Christmas carols, attracts pilgrims worldwide on account of its description in the New Testament (and particularly the Gospels) as the birthplace of Jesus.

During a Divine  Discourse in 2002, Swami talked about the three royal, wise men who came to see baby Jesus in Bethlehem. According to Swami, what did the third one say?


6. The most important places of pilgrimage in Buddhism are located where Gautama Buddha lived and taught, and the main sites connected to his life are now important places of pilgrimage. Bodhgaya is the place where Siddhartha attained enlightenment to become the Buddha.

Born into royalty, Siddhartha had renounced his royal heritage, and since then had faced many hardships in his search for Truth. He came to Bodhgaya looking for a quiet retreat where he could meditate upon the causes for human suffering.

In Bodhgaya, where did Siddhartha choose to sit for meditation and became the Enlightened Buddha?


7.TheHajj (annual pilgrimage) is one of the "five pillars" of the Islamic faith. (The other "pillars" include the declaration of faith, daily prayers, offering regular charity, and fasting during the month of Ramadan.)

Medina ranks as the second holiest city of Islam, after Mecca. Both cities' numerous mosques are the destination points for large numbers of Muslims on their Hajj. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims come to Medina annually to visit the Tomb of the Prophet and to worship at mosques in a unified celebration. Muslims believe that praying once in the Mosque of the Prophet is equal to praying at least 1000 times in any other mosque.

During the days of the Hajj, how do the Muslim pilgrims say their prayers?


8. Going on a Zoroastrian pilgrimage is about learning how to balance the more serious aspects of life with the lighter moments.

Most of the ancient Zoroastrian places of pilgrimage are in the province of Yezd in Iran, all of which carry a long history of faith, resistance, love, hope and survival.

The village of Chak Chak, also known as Pir-e Sabz, consists of a shrine perched beneath a towering cliff face in the desert of central Iran. It is the most sacred of the Zoroastrian mountain shrines as it serves as a pilgrimage point for pious Zoroastrians. Each year many thousands of Zoroastrians from Iran, India and other countries flock to the fire temple of Pir-e Sabz. Tradition has it that pilgrims are to stop the moment they see the sight of the temple and continue their journey on foot the rest of the way.

According to Zoroastrians, how can an individual pilgrim benefit the most while undertaking this pilgrimage?


9.Of the great number of places of Jain teerths (pilgrimages), one which is of unequaled sanctity is Mount Parshwanath, or Sammet Shikhar, in Bihar, for it is believed that here no fewer than twenty of the twenty-four Tirthankars (enlightened beings) left their last earthly bodies and achieved moksha. For each of them there is a shrine on the hill. In addition, numerous ascetic saints also attained salvation here by practicing deep penance and meditation.

Jains believe that when just one auspicious event of one Tirthankar, can convert a place into a pilgrimage, it will be quite impossible for human intelligence to assess the holiness and power of that pilgrimage where as many as twenty Tirthankars have lit up the inextinguishable light of 'nirvana' and attained the supreme status of 'moksha'. So this is called Teerthraj (King of Teerths).

This is the only reason that when a devotee starts pilgrimage for Sammet Shikhar, his heart and mind gets filled with great enthusiasm, joy and devotion towards the Tirthankars.

At the starting point, what is the most enchanting part of this pilgrimage?


10. Bhagavan Baba often says: “Do not restrict God to temples and pilgrimage centers. He is Hridayavasi (indweller of the heart). He is in you, with you, above you, around you. You do not need to visit various pilgrimage centers. Your heart is the real pilgrimage center.”

During a Divine Discourse in 1970, Baba guides us how to undertake the real, internal pilgrimage: “The nine steps in the pilgrimage of man towards God along the path of dedication and surrender are: (1) Developing a desire to listen to the glory and grandeur of the handiwork of God and of the various awe-inspiring manifestations of Divinity. This is the starting point. It is by hearing about the Lord again and again, that we can transform ourselves into divinity. (2) Singing to oneself about the Lord, in praise of His magnificence and manifold exploits. (3) Dwelling on the Lord in the mind, reveling in the contemplation of His Beauty Majesty and Compassion. (4) Entering upon the worship of the Lord, by concentrating on honouring the feet or footprints. (5) This develops into a total propitiation of the Lord, and systematic ritualistic worship, in which the aspirant gets inner satisfaction and inspiration. (6) The aspirant begins to see the favourite Form of God, which he likes to worship, in all beings and all objects, wherever he turns, and so, he develops an attitude of Vandhana (reverence) towards nature and all life.”

On this spiritual pilgrimage, according to Swami, after succeeding in these 6 steps towards God, what is 7th stage that one should reach?

He becomes the devoted servant of all

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- Heart2Heart Team


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