Abraham bought his lucky ticket at Mecca.
But can the holy places - Vaticans, Varanasis or Vagharshapats help one attain God?
Previous TaleTown Story: The Allah of Mecca
"Is going on a pilgrimage useless then?" asked Josh.
"No effort is useless," answered Rosh, "but some effort is more useful than others. Because people are different, their paths will be different. Just like different people learn faster in different ways. Some by hearing, others by watching, yet others by doing."
"Similarly, different people achieve Him in different ways. Some through knowledge or Gyan - following a teacher or seeking by themselves, others through Karm - service or by doing other action."
"Whether they reach Him by pilgrimage or not, the intent to reach and the follow through on their intent by action remains commendable, so long as it does not turn into thoughtless orthodoxy. Ritual can discipline an ordinary mind to some extent, you know."
"The ways are many, Krishn says in Gita. Worship, or Bhakti, is one. Gita is a very useful manual for living life, even today. Especially today! It offers different ways to attain Him, to suit different kinds of people."
"Depending on how they might learn best, a teacher fine tunes the training to the student. He may train one student in one way, and another student in another way."
"Like Master Shifu in the DreamWorks Animation Kung Fu Panda. He trains the Furious Five warriors in the traditional way, but the panda Po, who just can't get his head around Kung Fu basics, has to be trained completely differently."
"Shifu notices that Po can do impressive moves when motivated by food. So he uses Po's love of food to train him. Now who could have thought, that you could train the awesomest kung-fu fighter using dumplings."
"But people don't generally recognize the teacher's wisdom in deciding which path is best suited for their student. They just see that someone followed a particular path and reached."
"And they copy. Blindly and without understanding. How would it look if the whole of China now started training kungfu fighters using dumplings."
"Funny!" said Josh, "I can't even imagine China doing that."
"Yea," continued Rosh, "A pilgrimage by the multitude appears similarly funny to Kabir. And dangerous, because it imbibes ritual without understanding into a passionate person. Promoting blind faith creates only powder kegs, waiting to explode if shown a spark."
"God can't be reached by ritual. Ritual creates God fearing people, not God loving people."
"Pilgrimage is not a cooking recipe. That following it to the letter will get the same result, regardless of who is cooking. The cook is more important than the ingredients when it comes to cooking the God recipe."
"A knowing coach may, however, decide that going on a pilgrimage will help their student. Because the ambience there might lift them up spiritually. Or the environment may expedite change in them."
"For some, a pilgrimage to Vatican, or Mecca or Kumbh or elsewhere may help. Just like going to a Gym can help some people."
"But knowing where to go and what to do gets results. Results come from a trainer knowing the physique and temperament of his student, rather than from any inherent greatness in the Gym where the student eventually goes to train."
"If there were a truly holy place, holier than others, everyone could just go there and be spiritually cleansed. But we know that just doesn't happen."
"But Gyms are different Pa," objected Josh, "Some are better than others. Couldn't some places be holier than others too?"
"Wow! Bow! Take a bow!" crowed a persistent crow who had surreptitiously been following the duo along. These guys were worth keeping an eye on.
"Yea," Rosh smiled, "Some Gyms can be better than others. But then the abstract can only be explained through words. Without words, communication is handicapped. But words can be crude and homographic, limited and limiting. They can only go so far to help us understand."
"Let me give you another analogy. Let's say you hit Jackpot one week when you buy Lotto at the local shop. Should the whole country buy Lotto next week from your local store where the winning ticket last came from?"
"No," answered Josh.
"Why not?" asked Rosh.
"Because the next Jackpot may or may not come next week," Josh said, "and there is certainly no guarantee that it will come from my local store ever again."
"But you won from here, didn't you?" Rosh pushed.
"That was my luck," answered Josh, "nothing to do with the shop."
"Maybe," argued Rosh, "although it can be contended that it was the shop's luck as well, as you could have bought the winning ticket from any shop. Now imagine, more and more people start buying their lottery tickets from your local shop. Hoping to ride its luck. Gamblers think like that you know."
"That would be stupid," interjected Josh.
"Over four thousand years ago," Rosh continued, "Abraham bought the lucky ticket at the Mecca Shop. And people have been buying tickets from it ever since. In growing numbers."
"The same goes for any other holy place. The Vaticans, Varanasis or Vagharshapats. In fact, bathing in the Ganges now is more likely to give you water borne diseases than to help you attain God."
"So, places are not holy, people are. That is why the most beautiful Lotus can bloom in the dirtiest of ponds, unsoiled and untouched by its surroundings."
"But, I believe that if you can afford to travel and are physically able to do so, you must travel. For travelling has many real benefits. It can be good for your health as well as horizons."
"So is the Allah of Mecca," Josh was trying to understand, "really the same as the God of New Zealand? Can I find Him right here?"
"Yea," answered Rosh, "They are the same. You can find Him right here. There is no need to go anywhere to find Him. He exists in the here and now, in you and around you. You may find Him in a Church, or in a Mosque, in the Vatican, or at Mecca, under a tree, or on a mount. You can find him anywhere, anytime."
"The place and circumstance of His discovery are accidental. They are of His choosing, not ours. We build temples to commemorate the place where someone was enlightened, but do nothing to deserve that wisdom ourselves."
"We call the places holy. And idolize pilgrimages to them. Religion becomes part-time indulgence. But remembrance an hour a week on Sunday or five times a day does not purify us if the rest of the time we remain immoral."
"Remembrance is love. Love doesn't happen by the watch. It is an all-consuming passion. A full-time occupation."
Ishq Nachaye Jisko Yaar, Woh Phir Nache Beech Bazar
Ishq Kare Jisko Beemar, Uspe Dava-Daroo Bekar."
"It pains. It doesn't occur. It persists. Endures. Like a mother mourning her only child's death. Or a lover yearning to meet their beloved. If we deserve and are ready, we will receive Him."
"Regardless strangely, of how good or bad, moral or immoral we have been."
"The greatest darkness vanishes in an instant, by the turning on of light. Similarly, are we transformed in an instant."
"We don't need to be sitting under a Bodhi tree for this to happen. Nor gyrating around the Kaaba. Nor bathing in the Ganges. Nor lighting a candle in the Church. Nor meditating in the Himalayas."
"It can happen anywhere, anytime. So become deserving. And know this. The roads are many. But, all roads lead to Rome."
Next TaleTown Story: Still unpublished