A Precious Bounty

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I have received my official invitation to go on the 9-Day Baha'i pilgrimage in June of next year! I have fourteen months to prepare, which seems like forever! I am so excited I can hardly stand it!

Most world religions have some sort of pilgrimage that their followers can take in order to pray and worship at their holy places. In the Baha'i Faith, pilgrimage is considered a privilege and a bounty of inestimable value. It is not only a physical journey to the historical and sacred sites of the Faith, but an important inner journey of immense spiritual significance.

Below I have gathered some of the images of various holy sites of pilgrimage from many of the different world religions. Have you ever been on pilgrimage to a site you find sacred? Do you hope to some day? Please share your experiences, thoughts or feelings on pilgrimage from your spiritual tradition.

The image above is from the Baha'i World Centre on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel. The building you see is the Shrine of The Báb (which means "The Gate"). The Báb was the Founder of the Babi religion and the Herald of Baha'u'llah. I will be staying at a hotel on Mount Carmel during my pilgrimage and it will be a short walk for me to visit this Shrine.

This is the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh located in Bahjí near Acre, Israel. It is the most holy place for Bahá'ís and represents our Qiblih, or direction of prayer. It contains the remains of Bahá'u'lláh and is near the spot where he died in the Mansion of Bahjí. This is the most sacred place I will be visiting during my pilgrimage.

The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish religion, until its destruction in 70 CE. Since then, the western retaining wall of the original temple, known as the Wailing Wall, or Western Wall remains in the Old City of Jerusalem and this has been the most sacred site for religious Jews.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the walled Old City of Jerusalem. The site is venerated as Golgotha (the Hill of Calvary), where Jesus was crucified and is said to also contain the place where Jesus was buried (the sepulchre). The church has been an important Christian pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century.

The Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God (Allah).

Gautama Buddha is said to have identified four sites most worthy of pilgrimage for his followers, saying that they would produce a feeling of spiritual urgency. One of them pictured above, is in Kushinagar, where there rests a 1500 year old statue of the Buddha as he attained Parinirvana (Great Nirvana or passing away).

The Badrinath temple in India is widely considered to be one of the holiest Hindu temples, and is dedicated to the god Vishnu. The temple and town are one of the four Char Dham pilgrimage sites. It was traditionally believed that one who undertakes a pilgrimage to all four sites will attain moksha, the release from samsara (cycle of rebirths), at the time of death.


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