There are two methods of making a boat move. One method is to open the sails at the right time, in the direction of the wind, and not to use the oars; the other method is not to open the sails, but to help the boat move with the use of the oars. The places of pilgrimage are places where the stream of consciousness is flowing automatically: you just have to stand in the middle of the stream with the sails of your consciousness open, and you begin your journey onwards. You will be able to travel far more easily and faster in such places than anywhere else – and alone. Elsewhere, you may unknowingly reach some negative place, and open up your sails in the wrong direction: you may move further away from your destination and become lost.
For example, if you are sitting in meditation in a place which is full of negative emotions – where butchers are killing animals the whole day – there will be a great struggle and conflict in your mind. In meditation you become very receptive, open and vulnerable; so whatever is happening around you at that time enters you. So when you meditate it is always necessary to choose a place which will not take you in a wrong direction. Whenever you have disturbing thoughts during meditation, or find it difficult to be silent, move from such a place. One can sit in meditation even in a jail, but that requires a very strong individuality. Different methods are required to help you meditate in a jail: you have to create a line of demarcation over which negative forces cannot enter.
But in a tirtha, a sacred place of pilgrimage, such a line is not necessary. In such a place you require a technique that helps you to drop all resistance and to open your doors and windows from all sides. There, positive energy is flowing in abundance. Hundreds of people have traveled into the unknown from there and have created a path. Yes, it should be called a path…. It is as if they have made a path by cutting down trees and removing the bushes blocking the way, so that those walking behind them find it easier to travel. On the religious path, efforts are made by the higher, stronger consciousnesses to help weaker people in every way. The place of pilgrimage was one such great experiment.
A place of pilgrimage is where currents flow from the body towards the soul, where the whole atmosphere is charged; where people have achieved samadhi, where for centuries people have been realizing their enlightenment. Such places have become especially charged. In such a place, if you just open your sails, without doing anything else, your journey will begin.
So all religions have established their places of pilgrimage. Even those religions which were against temples have done it. It is surprising that religions that were against idol worship and temples established places of pilgrimage. It was easy to do without statues, but places of pilgrimage could not be done away with because they have a value so vast that no religions could oppose or deny.
Jainas are not basically idol worshippers, nor are Mohammedans, Sikhs, or Buddhists – in the beginning Buddhists were not idol worshippers at all. But all of them have established their sacred places of pilgrimage. They had to. Without such places there is no meaning in a religion. If there were no such places, everything would have to be done by the individual, and in that case there would be no meaning or purpose in a religious commune.