First thing first, Teerath Yaatraa (also spelt Tirath or Tirth Yatra - ਤੀਰਥ ਯਾਤਰਾ ) is repudiated in the Gurmat (Teaching of the Gur-Shabad).
The SGGS does not ask us to wander around these places!
Then, as per the Gurbani, what is considered Teerath (place of pilgrimage, holy spot, etc.)? According to the Gurbani – not according to the fool-o-sophy – the true Teerath in Gurmat is the Hari Naam.
- ਤੀਰਥੁ ਹਮਰਾ ਹਰਿ ਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਗੁਰਿ ਉਪਦੇਸਿਆ ਤਤੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: The Hari Naam is my Teerath. The Guru has instructed me in this True Essence of spiritual Wisdom (Aatmic-Giaan; ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਦੀ ਸੂਝ ਦਾ ਇਹ ਨਿਚੋੜ – ਗਿਆਨ). ||1||Pause|| (sggs 1142).
- ਤੀਰਥਿ ਨਾਵਣ ਜਾਉ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੈ ॥: Teerathi naavan jaaou teerathu naamu hai (sggs 687).
- ਆਠ ਪਹਰ ਸਿਮਰਹੁ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਅਨਿਕ ਤੀਰਥ ਮਜਨੁ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥: Aath pahar simarahu prabh Naamu… (sggs 184).
Where is this Teerath of the Gurbani located? Baabaa Nanak made it very clear in the outset of the SGGS that this Teerath is located within. And we must go within and cleanse ourselves in this Teerath.
- ਅੰਤਰਗਤਿ ਤੀਰਥਿ ਮਲਿ ਨਾਉ ॥: Cleanse yourself with the Naam, at the Teerath deep within. (sggs 4).
Then why do many (educated and uneducated alike) wander around at the external places called Teerath? Again, according to the Gurbani, these people are Manmukh, deluded by doubt (ਭਰਮਾ ਦੇ ਪੱਟੇ ਹੋਏ), corrupt minded, Mayadhaaree (mammon worshippers), Haumai ridden (egoistic), greedy (who have reduced the Gurbani to a mere mundane business), who are ignorant of the Gurbani’s true Teaching…
- ਭਰਮੇ ਭੂਲਾ ਸਭਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਗਹੈ ॥: Deluded by doubt (he) visits all Teerath (external shrines of pilgrimage). (sggs 948).
- ਮਨ ਕਾ ਝੂਠਾ ਝੂਠੁ ਕਮਾਵੈ ॥ ਮਾਇਆ ਨੋ ਫਿਰੈ ਤਪਾ ਸਦਾਵੈ ॥ ਭਰਮੇ ਭੂਲਾ ਸਭਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਗਹੈ ॥: The man of false mind practices falsehood. He runs after Maya, and yet pretends to be Tapaa (a devotee, a hermit, a recluse, etc.)… (sggs 1142).
- ਜਿਸੁ ਜੀਉ ਅੰਤਰੁ ਮੈਲਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਤੀਰਥ ਭਵੈ ਦਿਸੰਤਰ ਲੋਇ ॥: Jisu jiou antaru mailaa hoi. Teerath bhavai disantar loi (sggs 1169).
In nutshell, those who wander at the external Teerath are mammon worshippers, who have no clue as to what the Gur-Shabad is saying. It’s the hunger for Maya that makes many roam around; for Maya itself is “Dolanee” like wind (“ਡੋਲਨੀ”-that wavers, roams, wanders, ਜੋ ਟਿਕਦੀ ਨਹੀ…).
How can we all realize the Teerath within as commanded by the Gurbani? Again, according to the Gurbani, the True Teerath within can be realized through the Spiritual Wisdom (Aatam-Giaan) cultivated through the earnest Shabad-Vichhar.
- ਤੀਰਥੁ ਸਬਦ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਹੈ ॥: To Reflect on the Shabad (Shabad-Vichaar…) is the Teerath (for me, because of this) Spiritual Wisdom (Aatamic-Giaan) arises within (sggs 687).
- ਗੁਰਦੇਵ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਸਰੋਵਰੁ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨ ਮਜਨੁ ਅਪਰੰਪਰਾ ॥: The Gurdev is the Teerath, and the pool of Amrit; bathing in the Guru’s wisdom, one experiences the Infinite. (sggs 262).
- ਅੰਤਰਿ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਹੈ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਦੀਆ ਬੁਝਾਇ ॥ ਮੈਲੁ ਗਈ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਹੋਆ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਸਰਿ ਤੀਰਥਿ ਨਾਇ ॥: Deep within is the Teerath of Giaan (Spiritual Wisdom…), which the Satgur has revealed. Bathing in (this Teerath), the pool of Amrit, filth of the mind (filth of Bikaars…) is removed and it becomes pure. (sggs 587).
Thus, we are time and again told by the Gurbani that all pilgrimages are in the Divine Naam (Gur-Shabad, Hukam, Aatam-Giaan of the Gurbani…), through which one realizes the “sixty-eight” places of pilgrimage within his own Heart by becoming the Gurmukh.
- ਸਚਾ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਜਿਤੁ ਸਤ ਸਰਿ ਨਾਵਣੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਆਪਿ ਬੁਝਾਏ ॥ ਅਠਸਠਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦਿ ਦਿਖਾਏ ਤਿਤੁ ਨਾਤੈ ਮਲੁ ਜਾਏ ॥ ਸਚਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਸਚਾ ਹੈ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਨਾ ਮਲੁ ਲਗੈ ਨ ਲਾਏ ॥ ਸਚੀ ਸਿਫਤਿ ਸਚੀ ਸਾਲਾਹ ਪੂਰੇ ਗੁਰ ਤੇ ਪਾਏ ॥੫॥: Sachaa teerathu jitu satt sari naavanu gurmukhi aapi bujhaaey… (sggs 753).
- ਸਚੁ ਤਾਂ ਪਰੁ ਜਾਣੀਐ ਜਾ ਆਤਮ ਤੀਰਥਿ ਕਰੇ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ ॥: Sachu taan paru jaaneeai jaa atam teerathi kare nivaasu (sggs 468).
This little story attributed to Bhagat Kabeer Sahib highlights the emptiness of Teerath Yaatraa and ablutions. It goes something like this: A disciple of Bhagat Kabeer Sahib asked his permission for visiting pilgrim places and taking ritual bath in their so-called holy rivers and ponds (Srovars). Kabeer gave his disciple a gourd and asked: “Please bathe this gourd wherever you bathe”. The disciple did exactly that — wherever he bathed in the so-called holy waters of Teerath places, he also bathed the gourd. Upon his returning from the pilgrimage, he gave the gourd back to Bhagat Kabeer Sahib. In turn, Kabeer Sahib handed it over to the cook in charge of the kitchen with the following instructions: “Please cook this gourd and serve it with the next meal to all devotees”. So he did. However, as we know that the gourd is poisonously bitter, no one could eat it. Kabeer wanted to make the point to his deluded and immature student that, as the gourd did not shed its bitterness by bathing at all of the so-called holy places, similarly, the mental filth cannot be washed off by any type of external ablution. This is the Gurbani’s edict. The outer mind is like an oily rag, which can only be cleansed with the Water of the Divine Name within — the Inner bodily Pool or “Sarovar“.
- ਨਾਵਣ ਚਲੇ ਤੀਰਥੀ ਮਨਿ ਖੋਟੈ ਤਨਿ ਚੋਰ ॥ ਇਕੁ ਭਾਉ ਲਥੀ ਨਾਤਿਆ ਦੁਇ ਭਾ ਚੜੀਅਸੁ ਹੋਰ ॥ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਧੋਤੀ ਤੂਮੜੀ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਵਿਸੁ ਨਿਕੋਰ ॥ ਸਾਧ ਭਲੇ ਅਣਨਾਤਿਆ ਚੋਰ ਸਿ ਚੋਰਾ ਚੋਰ ॥੨॥: (Men of) evil mind and thievish bodies (body occupied with thieves like lust, anger, greed, etc.), go to bathe at the pilgrim places. The one part of their body filth (external filth) is washed off by bathing, but they accumulate twice as much of mental filth (pride, etc.). Like a gourd, they may be washed off on the outside, but on the inside, they are still filled with poison (of egoism). A saintly being is blessed, even without such bathing (at pilgrim places – ਤੀਰਥਾਂ ਤੇ), while a thief is a thief, no matter how much he bathes (at pilgrim places – ਤੀਰਥਾਂ ਤੇ) ||2|| (sggs 789).
- ਬਹੁ ਤੀਰਥ ਭਵਿਆ ॥ ਤੇਤੋ ਲਵਿਆ ॥ ਬਹੁ ਭੇਖ ਕੀਆ ਦੇਹੀ ਦੁਖੁ ਦੀਆ ॥…: The more one wanders at Teerath the more one talks uselessly (in ego, he goes around telling others that he has visited this Teerath or that Teerath). The more one wears religious robes, the more pain he causes his body. (sggs 467).