by Ajahn Jitindriya
Pilgrimage is a spiritual practice. It's a term or a concept we can understand or look at in different ways. Primarily it indicates a spiritual journey of sorts -- setting out with a special purpose, undertaking something and journeying somewhere, to a special destination. That destination may be an external place or it may be an internal "place." Either way, whether travelling internally or externally, it's about setting up a particular intention, undertaking something and following it through, for the sake of our spiritual development.
It can be about devotion -- a call to express one's gratitude, love and faith. It can be about austerity -- a call to challenge oneself and one's attachments. It can be about adventure -- a need to throw oneself into the unknown and trust in one's inner sense of spiritual direction. It can be about sacrifice -- giving oneself completely to "the Way" for the welfare of the many folk. It can be about "dedicating" -- offering the blessings or the fruits of one's efforts for a particular cause. For most of us it will be a blend of all of these things.
Essentially, it's about opening, learning, and developing the heart bent on Truth. Having somewhere to go externally, and some particular action to undertake, provides the framework or "field" within which one experiences oneself in a myriad of different predicaments and mind-states, with the prospect of finding the route to that which is truly free from suffering, of finding the path of liberation. Or at least, the experience can provide the impetus that deepens one's commitment to realization.
As with anything we undertake, what we get out of it often depends on what we put into it. So setting the stage, establishing the intention, or creating the container for the practice, is something that is worth much careful attention. If something is close to our hearts, we should take care of, respect and nurture it with goodness. The movement of the heart in a spiritual direction is precious and potent, and when empowered and ripened with wisdom and faith, becomes unconquerable.
(originally written for DharmaWheels)
  Venerable Ajahn Jitindriya left residence at the Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in October, 2002 for pilgrimage. A longer talk of hers on the meaning of pilgrimage can be found in the Spring, 2003 Abhayagiri newsletter Fearless Mountain. This issue also contains email correspondence from Ajahn Jitindriya on her pilgrimage in India with Sr. Anandabodhi.

There's also another article,"On Pilgrimage in Thailand, Reflection from the Journey" by several lay journeyers to Thailand.

Last Year...
Here are some testimonials from last year's ride. We include them here because one way or another they all touch on the spiritual nature of last year's ride.
Just wanted to express my heartfelt and sincere appreciation for the extraordinary event. It was my first such trip on a bicycle and I was initially apprehensive if I could endure such a trip!! I decided to take the plunge as there was some unknown power that drew me into it--I still cannot put my hands on it, but I'm awfully happy that it did. I think the idea of such a trip was appealing to me was because there was a sense of community and getting connected to fellow human beings. The (Dharma) talks were inspirational as well as humorous and very soothing. I will fondly remember this trip and look forward to this next year!!  --Sridhar Doraiswamy, rider

Wow, I still feel high from the ride and all of the inspiration which accompanied it. I feel like I was very focused prior to the ride on "making sure I made it" and was so jazzed on how inspirational the folks from Abhayagiri were--their energy was awesome and silly and the chanting was beautiful.  --Alison Nagy, rider

Being new to meditation and Buddhism, I was overwhelmed by the spirit and generosity of all associated with the ride. I would definitely volunteer again for future events. The picture that stays with me is the Saturday night guided meditation under the stars. Wow, I can still feel the pure spirit of community and cosmos. I was really honored to be a part of that energy.   --Shany Cruz, rider

Friends kept saying I should be proud of myself, but I felt peace and awe, or spacious, loving gratitude. It showed in how I looked for several days. I appreciated the monastics' talks encouraging us to be mindful. While it has not fully sunk in, I began to see parallels between the ride and other aspects of my life... From training, like cultivating wholesome habits in practice, suddenly seeing how much you've changed and seeing how the mind contributes as much as muscles; to following the directions on the map, keeping an eye out for other cyclists to make sure I was on the right route; to focusing on the road right in front of me, because mind chatter could take me off course or lead me into a flat-producing road hazard; and finishing the ride earlier than I expected to take that end-of-trip shower (but I've always know I can be goal-oriented).   --Susan Savage, rider

I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the pilgrimage. It was not only fun but enlightening, relaxing & just wonderful.   --Asha Mithal, volunteer

It's a ride where I came to understand intuitively that there is no first, no last on a pilgrimage, especially for me, who huffed and puffed in next-to-last place each day.   --Michele Anderson, rider

A week after the pilgrimage, the good feeling lingers, and continues to affect my day-to-day life in a positive way. Hard to say exactly what it is. It's not an earth-shattering epiphany but it is a significant step along the path to taking refuge in the Buddha. It was both an affirmation and rejuvenation of my practice. Sure helps to find community in practice.   --Leon Sun, rider

Please let me express how truly grateful I am for all of the efforts and the generosity that came so freely from so many people...especially the Buddhist community in general...I have been touched in a way that I can not describe as of yet. I must say that the people I met and had the privilege of participating with in this event have all left a mark on me that I am still sitting with...it's as if a strange quiet has encapsulated all the mundane chaos of my life and I feel comforted in knowing that, at least for today, I can be okay with just being whatever it is I am ...just for today I do not need to be concerned with all the things I am not...it is an odd perception for me to have...but, I am grateful to feel it...even if it is just fleeting. Again, many thanks for allowing me this opportunity...I have to be honest though...the idea of it being a pilgrimmage didn't really sink in until the second day of the ride...it has left me believing that this will not be my last one...  --Kevin Scott Day, rider

I loved having the Dharma people with us. I loved it that they incorporated riding in their talks to us (like watching mind states going up hills and coming down and so on)... The whole trip was wonderful ... a mountain of good will I felt during and after the trip.   --Teah Strozer, rider