Pilgrimage Defined

In media, we often come across commercials/advertisements about this Teerath Yaatraa or that Teerath Yaatraa (ਤੀਰਥ-ਯਾਤਰਾ – pilgrimage). What is the true Pilgrimage in Sikhi according to the Gurbani?

Vultures roam  around flying high over the planes, mountains, forests and water. However, there  eyes are always fixed on the charnel-pits:  depositories of the dead animals or  bones. Similarly, the mind gripped by the Mayaic Budhi fly high like a vulture and  wander around in directions.

As indicated in the Gurbani, under the spell of ignorance or foolishness, many of us travel thousands of miles and climb high mountains to visit the so called sacred shrines of pilgrimage and bathe in their waters. But the eyes of our vulture like minds always remain fixed on corruption and falsehood — lust, greed, anger, emotional attachment, pride, stubborn-mindedness, enviousness, and so on.

  • 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॥: (People 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 bodily filth (external filth) is washed off by bathing, but they accumulate twice as much (of mental filth – pride, ego…). (It’s like a gourd) a gourd may be washed off on the outside, but on the inside, it remains filled with poison (i.e., bitterness…). Saadh (good human beings, Bhagats, Gurmukhs, Guru’s Satsangi Jan etc.) are good without bathing (at shrines or pilgrim places), and thieves (even after bathing at the shrines) are only thieves. ||2|| (sggs 789).
  • ਕਾਲੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਨਾਹੀ ਸਤ ਕਾ ਢਬੁ ॥ ਥਾਨਸਟ ਜਗ ਭਰਿਸਟ ਹੋਏ ਡੂਬਤਾ ਇਵ ਜਗੁ ॥: This is not the environment (for sitting with closed eyes and holding nostrils as Yogis doing Yoga, because with these ways) union with the Divine Life or high conduct cannot be realized (people do this to deceive the world, this is not Bhagti or Dharma). (Through such false and deceptive practices) the shrines of the world become polluted (minds of people there become corrupt, filthy, ridden with Pakhand etc.) thus the world begins to drown or sink (in Bikaar: lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride etc.). (sggs 662).
  • ਕੋਟਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਮਜਨ ਇਸਨਾਨਾ ਇਸੁ ਕਲਿ ਮਹਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਭਰੀਜੈ ॥: Koti tirath majan isnaanaa is kal mahi mail bhreejai (sggs 747).
  • ਜਿਸੁ ਜੀਉ ਅੰਤਰੁ ਮੈਲਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਤੀਰਥ ਭਵੈ ਦਿਸੰਤਰ ਲੋਇ ॥: Jis jiou antar mailaa hoi. Tirath bhavai disantar loi (sggs 1169).

As indicated in the Gurbani, the Manmukh (materialistic, self-willed, denier of truthful living…) person is a “stupid” being. He is unaware of the Essence of the Absolute Reality ever present within his body just as the deer is unaware of the presence of musk within his body. On the other hand, the True and the Wise (Gurmukhs) ones do not care for pilgrimage since they are Pure inside. To the contrary, the Manmukh filled with the poisonous lava of ego-sense (Haumai) inside repeatedly visits such places.

  • ਪੰਚ ਭੂ ਆਤਮਾ ਵਸਿ ਕਰਹਿ ਤਾ ਤੀਰਥ ਕਰਹਿ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ ॥੨॥ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਮੁਗਧੁ ਹੈ ਸੋਝੀ ਕਿਛੂ ਨ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਬੁਝਈ ਅੰਤਿ ਗਇਆ ਪਛੁਤਾਇ ॥੩॥: Panch bhoo aatmaa vasi karahi ta tirath karahi nivaas. ||2||… (sggs 491).

As time and again revealed in the Gurbani, visiting all sorts of shrines (pilgrimage: Teerath-Yaatraa, ਤੀਰਥ -ਇਸਨਾਨ, ਤੀਰਥ-ਯਾਤਰਾ, etc.) is the false pilgrimage. Bathing in ponds, making donations or charities in ignorance, performing all sorts of ritualistic acts, and so on, is nothing but a naked show of one’s false ego-sense (Haume). As declared in the Gurbani, since this sort of false activities are in the mode of ignorance, God is not pleased (or Realized) by them at all.

This brings us to the following question: According to the Gurbani, what is the true pilgrimage and bathing?

As defined in the Gurbani, the true pilgrimage is none other than the unbroken remembrance of the Naam, coupled with the true love and complete involvement of the mind.

The Gurbani defines the true “Teerath” (the shrine of pilgrimage) as follows:

  • ਤੀਰਥੁ ਹਮਰਾ ਹਰਿ ਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਗੁਰਿ ਉਪਦੇਸਿਆ ਤਤੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Tirath hamraa Hari ko Naam. Gur updesiaa tatt giaan ||1||Rahaaou|| (sggs 1142).
  • ਆਠ ਪਹਰ ਸਿਮਰਹੁ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਅਨਿਕ ਤੀਰਥ ਮਜਨੁ ਇਸਨਾਨੁ ॥: Aath pahar simarahu prabh Naam. Anik tirath majan isnaan (sggs 184).
  • ਸਚੁ ਤਾਂ ਪਰੁ ਜਾਣੀਐ ਜਾ ਆਤਮ ਤੀਰਥਿ ਕਰੇ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ ॥: Sach taa par jaaneeai jaa atam tirath kare nivaas (sggs 468).
  • ਤੀਰਥਿ ਅਠਸਠਿ ਮਜਨੁ ਨਾਈ ॥: Tirath athsath majan naaee (sggs 1263).
  • ਅਠਸਠਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਗੁਰੂ ਦਿਖਾਏ ਘਟ ਹੀ ਭੀਤਰਿ ਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਉਗੋ ॥੩॥: Tirath dekhi n jal mahi paisaou jeea jant n sataavaougo. Athsath tirath Guru dikhaae ghat hee bheetar nhaaougo ||3 (sggs 973).

Thus, all pilgrimages are in the Naam (Gur-Shabad, Aatm-Giaan, spiritual Knowledge…), through which – by becoming the Gurmukh – one realizes the “sixty-eight” places of pilgrimage within his own Heart.

  • ਜਹਾ ਜਾਈਐ ਤਹ ਜਲ ਪਖਾਨ ॥ … ਊਹਾਂ ਤਉ ਜਾਈਐ ਜਉ ਈਹਾਂ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੨॥ : (Bhagat Rama Nand Ji proclaims:) Wherever (i.e., pilgrim places) I go, I find (only two things) water and stones (i.e., idols). … (Bhagat Rama Nand Ji proclaims:) I would need go there (i.e., pilgrim places) only if the Divine (Rabb) were not here (within me). ||2|| (sggs 1195).
  • 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 teerath jit satt sari naavan gurmukhi aap bujhaaey… (sggs 753).
  • ਅਸਮਾਨ ਮ੍ਯ੍ਯਿਾਨੇ ਲਹੰਗ ਦਰੀਆ ਗੁਸਲ ਕਰਦਨ ਬੂਦ ॥: In the mind, a stream flows (i.e., the stream of Wisdom, Virtues, Amrit, Truth, Universal Energy…); take your bath in it. (sggs 727).

In nutshell, for a real Sikh, Wisdom or Giaan of the Gurmat is the real Teerath (Giaan Teerath-ਗਿਆਨ ਤੀਰਥ)!

  • ਤੀਰਥਿ ਨਾਵਣ ਜਾਉ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੈ ॥ ਤੀਰਥੁ ਸਬਦ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਹੈ ॥: I (too) go to bathe at the Teerath (place of pilgrimage); but for me Naam (Giaan, Wisdom, Virtues…) is the Teerath. To Reflect on the Shabad (Shabad Vichaar…) is the Teerath, (because of this) Wisdom Awakens within (sggs 687).

1 comment

  1. well said, thank you for this enlightenment. I hope I clergy learn from it and do not permit unSikh rituals to faten their pockets.

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