Just to be clear, any kind of travel cannot transform you into the limitless being that you already are.
No teerthayatra/ pilgrimage or travel into wilderness or travel to a different culture can make you who you are. Still travel can help us with our adhikaritvam, readiness for Vedanta.
We travel on work or to meet family or to meet friends or on vacation. We may travel into wilderness or cities. We may plunge into an adventure sport, learn a craft, go on a hike or immerse ourselves in the local culture.
Travel can whisk away the dense clouds of rigid concepts that as though block the radiant blazing sun.
9 ways in which travel helps to increase our adhikaritvam for Vedanta
1. Travel helps us to redefine ourselves.
Have nt you said or heard this?
I never thought I could go river rafting. I never imagined myself travelling alone abroad especially the first time. I never thought I would try this dance form in public with the tribe.
What you thought you could do or could not do changes.
You push the boundaries of the body.
You see that you are more than the body.
You hear some new perspectives – In some temples, meat and alcohol are served to devatas as naivedyam, sacred offering. After marriage, the husband goes to live with the woman’s family where the ancestral property is handed over to the woman in a matrilineal society.
What you thought as acceptable and not acceptable changes.
You push the boundaries of the mind.
You are more than your mind.
You are less offended when somebody comments on your body or your capabilities. Why? Because you see that the body and mind are constantly changing.
That being so, what about me is unchanging? What about me cannot be negated? We get the emotional space to distill our enquiry between what is changing, anitya and what is never changing, nitya? There is a growing viveka – clarity born of the enquiry between what is real and unreal. How can I define myself by that which is constantly changing? How can I define myself only by my body and mind? I am not suggesting that we travel to develop viveka. Reflecting on our travel helps increase viveka.
2. Travel helps you to be free from binding desires, vairagya.
At home, we are used to our bed, the height of the pillow, the level of darkness in the room, the cup of tea or coffee or lemon water first thing in the morning.
And then you travel. The bed is different, there is honking outside or temple bells ringing. You have to wait for your cup of tea or coffee or lemon water and breakfast is served only at 8 am long after you have left your room. The local cuisine is different, the language is different.
With excitement for the rest of the day or the travel, the height of the mattress, pillow and cup of tea or the food don’t matter much. At home, you would have thrown a fit. On a vacation you accommodate change. You are free from the binding desire of how your living arrangements should be or should not be.
Of course some people can complain about the softness of the mattress for the rest of the trip or you can marvel at how you accommodate little changes. You are no longer conditioned by things and situations. Your vairagya, freedom from binding desires grows.
3. Travel can help to resolve mental conflict and hence build shama, mano-nigraha, resolution of the mind
In college one of my friends had an extremely possessive and jealous boyfriend who would advise her on the clothes she could or could not wear. From his standpoint, she was so attractive that he feared other men making a beeline for her and hence losing her. They fought a lot and eventually broke up. He then went abroad. Seeing females of all ages dressed in a more casual and liberal way opened his eyes. He realised that he was operating out of fear and not love. He apologised and apologized some more to his girlfriend and they have been happily married for 25 years. No amount of explaining or discussion had helped him. I know because I was the agony Aunt. Only when he traveled to a different culture, his moot conflict of how women should dress loosened and the shaky foundation of his conflict crumbled. Sometimes the distance from our everyday life can offer much needed perspective which can be healing. Can you think of how travel helped you resolve some conflict?
4. Travel can help in mastery of the body, Damah.
On a walking tour of the city or a teerthayatra to Kedarnath which is about 19 kms by foot, there is discomfort. The legs are aching, you are hot and sweaty for some time. The next minute you are cold and shivering. You have a slight headache. The weight of the backpack starts to weigh you down and you feel your energy draining away especially in the last few kilometers as you reach 10000 feet. But you keep going as you expect to be uncomfortable on a teerthayatra. You push through the addiction to feeling comfortable all the time and learn to be comfortable with discomfort. The body becomes an instrument in your hands. You dictate what the body should do or not do. The body does not. The body is used for your pursuits. As Kalidasa righly said – Sharira dharma khalu sādhanam. The body is the instrument for the purpose of Dharma and you use the body accordingly without being victimised by its limitations.
Travel can increase your shraddha, trust in the words of the Shaastra and the guru.
You just have to travel through India and see the millions of people with folded hands in temples, earnestly praying with closed eyes and muttering chants. The devatas are different, the states of India are different, the chants or prayers are different but all are united in their bhakti. Some have affection. Some have love or even fear for Bhagavan in some form as they fervently pray for health, wealth, family or just for a greater connection. In your travels you cannot help but see an altar in almost every structure be it a restaurant, an electronics shop, the cart of a streetside vendor, the cantonment area at the country border and yes even a wildlife reserve,
The Shraddha that sab theek hoga, all will be well, keeps people going. It is common to hear the statement of explaining favourable situations as – yeh toh bhagavan ki krpa hai – this is God ‘ s grace and the statement of explaining unfavorable situations as – yeh toh karma ka phal hai. These are the results of my karma. All this people say without much exposure to Vedanta. Seeing their Shraddha is infectious.
We don’t have to go to svarga to experience Bhagavan. We feel the presence and blessings of Sri Krishna and Sri Rama who have walked through this sacred geography. We can visit the places they were born as avataaras, where they lived and travelled. Travel especially teerthayatras or performing acts of daanam greatly add punya to our karma bank.
Travel can help increase our forbearance, titiksha, sahishnutvam
There is a difference between venting your frustration and only focusing on what is not going well in your travels. Have n’t you heard some people only complain about how bad their trip was? Yes. Some travel experiences can be very uncomfortable. The temperature may be extreme, the people unpleasant and the food not according to your food habits. And yet, one can be cheerful because one is open, curious and full of wonder about the local culture. One is more accommodating without jumping to judgment and complains less at the level of body as well as the challenges presented to the mind.
7. Travel can help build one-pointedness, samadhaanam or ekagrata
When we travel for rest and relaxation we are away from the distraction of notifications and our never ending to do work list. At-least we try. We are away from the demand and tug of war between our many responsibilities. Our attention is available to be in the moment and enjoy the Now. We can return home, recharged with a better focus on what really matters and hence be one-pointed and committed in our pursuits.
8. Travel can strengthen the discipline of performing one ‘s svadharma or uparatti
Travelling with family or friends or even with work colleagues allows for quality time and interaction. We realise how they add value and meaning to our lives. We learn to drop our grudges with family members. Travel can give us an emotional distance born of a helicopter perspective of the conflict maze. You can see afresh the maze of conflict from a height and not get lost in ..’he said she said, he did, he did not..’
Of course, one does not need a holiday to share quality time with family members. Just 5-10 minutes a day of your attention just catching up on how the day was can be enough to feel close. It does not always have to be an earth shattering conversation. Still travel can help us honor our relationships and be present in fulfilling our responsibilities.