(Translation of a discourse by Poojya Gurudev on "Tirthasevan Ka Mahatva Aur Prayojan ": Continued from the previous issue)
I was talking about the revival of the ancient tradition of tirthas (revered places of pilgrimage). Samarth Guru
Ramdas had established two thousands Hanuman temples spread across the whole of Maratha Land. These were built as centres of mass awakening and hence tirthas in the true sense. They served a great purpose which is revered in glowing words in the Indian history of those times. We need such efforts once again. The necessity for moral, cultural and spiritual uplifting of the people has become exigent today. Reviving the original system of tirthas is a promising solution in my views. In an attempt to resurrect this noble tradition and keeping in mind today’s circumstances, our mission has established two tirthas (two dhams) - Gayatri
Tapobhumi at Mathura and Shantikunj
at Hardwar: the former for organization and the latter for sadhana
Adi Shankarcharya had made four dhams for revival of Vedic glory. Our dhams are dedicated for social, cultural, moral and spiritual upliftment of mankind. Associated with these there are two thousand four hundred Gayatri
Shaktipithas spread in different corners of India and some more abroad. Like the Hanuman temples of Guru
Ramdas, these Shaktipithas are built to work as centres of mass education. My vision and aspiration is that these should become Gayatri-Tirthas and generate refined talents dedicated to altruistic service, awakening of righteous thinking among the masses resulting in their moral-cultural reformation. This is what tirthas are supposed to do. If you have faith in pilgrimage, you ought to visit and support the growth of such tirthas.
Does that mean that I am discouraging you form pilgrimage in the conventional sense, which is more popular today? No. You should go for pilgrimage; it is good. But tell me where are the "tirthas " today that could be the destination of a true pilgrim? I don’t see any. I find that the popular centres of ’conventional’ pilgrimage these days have become more like tourist spots. Sure, historic / religious episodes / events are associated with them; but no signs or memories of the past endeavors of their founders are found to be alive at those places. There are no rishis or Aranyaks there to guide and enlighten the devotees and aspirants in their spiritual search. How can then these places be called tirthas?
If you really have faith in pilgrimage, you must do one more thing. You should endeavor awakening the dead traditions of tirthas where you go on in your pilgrimage. You should also participate and support such attempts of others whole-heartedly and strengthen their cause collectively. So that tomorrow, if someone asks you "What is a tirtha? Where is it?" you can tell him about tirthas existing in reality today. What we mostly see today is that the nominal tirthas are ’equipped’ with gorgeous temples that have only become sources of livinghood for the people associated with their maintenance / management. Many a times these so-called priests are seen fighting for power and having greater share in the earnings of the temple and what not…? The dignity, peace, spiritual ambience of real tirthas, is nowhere experienced at these places. The noble objectives and activities of real tirthas are also missing there.
What sort of pilgrimage and what type of tirtha is it, where you just have a dip in a pond or a river, throw some money (as donation) have a sight of an idol of some God, fulfil some rituals, take a round of the temple, that is all! This is certainly not a pilgrimage center or a tirtha in the true sense. Dev-darshan and devotional worship
could only be a part of it but the real worth of pilgrimage lies in immersing the mind and the inner self in the Gyan-Ganga (nectar spring of divine knowledge) that flows in a real tirtha. Real tirthas bless the pilgrims with noble inspirations, guidance, enlightenment and elevation of thoughts and emotions. Near total absence of such vibrant tirthas has forced us to establish new tirthas under the banner of our Gayatri
Pariwar Mission. You should come forward to help these tirthas in fulfilling their noble objectives. You may also try to establish such tirthas (Gayatri Shaktipithas / Pragya Mandals, etc) at some other places.
I would like every Gayatri-Tirtha (Shaktipithas) to conduct training programmes for upliftment of the masses. Apart from sadhana
sessions, there should also be specifically designed programmes for literacy and education of children, young men, women, and the elderly who have been deprived of proper schooling. There should be classes for practice of yoga-asanas and pranayams. Centres for natural healing through Ayurvedic herbal medicines (Jadi-buti Chikitsa Kendras) should also be associated with these tirthas. In the evenings there should be inspiring Katha-vachana activities in which people are taught and motivated to improve their lives through storytelling. These may also be supplemented with good cultural programmes organized around moral themes. The Gayatri-Tirthas should motivate collective efforts of the local parijans
and conduct constructive programmes on multiple fronts of social reformation and welfare. Karyakartas (voluntary teachers and doctors etc) who will conduct these activities will be trained in Shantikunj.