Why is so much sanctity attached to a pilgrimage, and not to a mere sight-seeing trip or an official tour?
It is because the very idea of 'going on a pilgrimage' prepares your mind to be in a highly receptive mood, in a highly prayerful mood. It shuts out the worldly grooves in the mind. You leave the cloak of your officiallife in your officeroom. You abandon the cumbersome apparel of social life when you leave your town or city.
Even if you travel with your family, you gradually begin to look upon the family members as co-pilgrims and not so much as personal relations. If you are alone, perhaps you live completely in a spiritual world of your own, with little or no family cares, worries and anxieties. This is the mental condition that is most conducive to the greatest reception of the spiritual vibrations that surround you on all sides in holy regions like Uttarakhand.
The pilgrim who goes as a pilgrim is conscious that he is engaged upon a sacred mission of gathering spiritual impressions and will therefore gain the greatest blessings by a pilgrimage. He will be a thoroughly changed man when he returns from the yatra.
How are people benefited by a pilgrimage?
This question has to be answered by each pilgrim for himself. The spiritual benefitalways depends entirely upon the heart's faith. Faith is the life-breath of the spirit in man. No spiritual endeavour can be fruitful without it. With it, no spiritual achievement is impossible. If a pilgrim heartily believed, was convinced, and was certain at heart that all his sins would be washed away, that he would attain moksha and get beyond the wheel of samsara, there is absolutely no reason why it should not actually prove to be so.
A pilgrimage like Badri-Yatra can wash off all your sins and enable you to take great strides towards the Great Goal, Self-realization, if you have firmfaith in its glory. But, remember, the test of this faith is what you are after you return from the pilgrimage; if, after the pilgrimage, you prove that you have been thoroughly purged of all your sins, that all the evil samskaras have been washed away by the holy waters of the rivers you have bathed in, and that you have been filled with the spiritual vibrations of the sublime atmosphere you have sojourned in, and if you live a pure life of righteousness, devotion, truth, love and purity, you have certainly been liberated. The pilgrimage has served its supreme purpose.
Some pilgrims do rise to such spiritual heights, though their number may be small, and though they may not advertise their achievements.