Sunday, September 9, 2012

Want to go on Pilgrimage with Me?

The other day, I stumbled onto the 2010 movie The Way while browsing Netflix Canada. The movie stars Martin Sheen, who travels to France upon learning of his (somewhat) estranged son's death in the Pyrenees. He had just began the 800km long El Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James), the route traveled on foot by pilgrims for over a thousand years, through northern Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where the Apostle James' remains are believed to be buried. Sheen, upon recieving the backpack and gear his son had packed for the journey he only just began, decides to walk the Camino, spreading his son's ashes along the way. In doing so he encounters a trio of other unlikely pilgrims, and finds somethings about himself.

Anyways, good movie, and it leaves me thinking.... why don't I go on pilgrimage? The last 20 years or so have seen a huge rise in modern pilgrimages (for believers and non-believers alike). It's in incredible way to explore some of humanity's oldest routes and meet some phenomenal people along the way. Oh yeah... and you usually have to commit to walking, often for months at a time.... so maybe I can't go on pilgrimage today, but as I informed my supervisor at our lab meeting Friday Morning, if my project doesn't pick back up soon... I just might pack up a bag and start walking.

Here are a couple of the pilgrimages I'd love to do.

El Camino de Satiago, the Way of St. James, Spain

765km if your start in St-Jean, France. The route taken in the above movie. Would take about 4 weeks, and take me through some of the most beautiful landscape Northern Spain has to offer.

The Hajj, to Mecca, Saudi Arabia

One of (if not the most) commonly walked pilgrimages is the Hajj, walked by millions of the devout every year, as the Fifth Pillar of Islam, every able bodied Muslim is expected to complete the Hajj at least once in their lives. However, it is also one of the most dangerous, since it is scheduled once a year, there have been hundreds of deaths along the route or at the religious ceremonies at the completion (due to being trampled by the masses of worshipers).  Maybe, this is one worth doing in the off season, to walk the path, starting and ending at the Great Mosque in Mecca, that countless millions have walked since the time of Abraham.

Bodh Gaya, the Place of Enlightenment, Bihar, India

There are four main pilgrimage sites in Buddhism, and after the birthplace of Gautama Siddahrta, the Place of Enlightenment is a close second. During the full moon of Vaisakh (April/May ish on the Hindu Calendar) the trek to Bodh Gaya is most commonly undertaken. While most pilgrims to Bodh Gaya travel by modern means, there is supposed to be development into the Buddha Trail, and some travel sites include walking tours through some of Buddhisms most important sites. Either way, I would love to go to India, ASAP.

Oh and speaking of long walks and hikes. Kelley, from a Crooked Trail, did a guest post over at  Secondhand Sundays, listing the 6 best hikes in the world (or at least the 6 ones she'd most like to do) kinda sad no Canadian destinations on that list, but I'd happily do any of them.

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