In the pacific ocean there is a small island, Easter Island, on which there are one thousand huge stone statues, all about twenty feet tall. The population of the island is now just two hundred. It was found, when the island was first discovered, that it was so small that it could not produce food for more than two hundred people; which suggests that its population could have never been greater. When only two hundred people can live there, it was surprising to find such huge stone statues, and as many as one thousand! Five statues for every person! And those people would not have been able to make such huge statues even if they had wanted to, because their lives were spent in taking care of their daily needs. What could be the purpose of those statues? Who would have made them and why? Many such questions arose for the historians.
In central Asia there is another place that is equally puzzling. It could have been meant for use as an airport but since airplanes had not yet been invented, this hypothesis was not possible. The area seemed to have been developed fifteen to twenty thousand years ago. And only after the airplane had been invented, it was thought that this place in central Asia might once have served as an airport.
I am telling you these things to convey to you the idea, that we will not be able to understand the significance of these places of pilgrimage until we ourselves realize the need for them.
When the statues of Easter Island were photographed from the air, one could imagine that they had been erected at certain geometrical points, in such a way that they might be seen from the moon on particular nights. Those who have studied this subject think that we, in this century, are not the first people to look for life on other planets. Many times before experiments and attempts have been made to find living beings and other forms of life on other planets, so that communication could be established with them. And many coded systems were created to make it possible for any other living beings to contact the Earth.
These twenty-foot-high statues are not meaningful in themselves, but when their whole pattern is observed from the air, there are indications of some signs and secret messages. Those signs could only be read from the moon. But as long as we had not seen the statues from the air, we could not imagine what use they might have; they were still just statues. In the same way, there are many things on this earth about which we will know nothing until our civilization rediscovers them, and sets up a similar situation again.
Just three or four days ago, I was talking about a small iron box which was found in Teheran. It was kept in the British Museum for a long time, and for many years was just lying there. It has now been found to be a kind of battery which was used in Teheran about two thousand years ago! It was beyond anyone's imagination that such a battery should exist in Teheran two thousand years ago. But now it is an established fact that it is a battery. If we had not already invented the storage battery, we would never have been able to imagine that such a box might be a battery. The very idea, the very concept, would not have arisen in us.
A tirtha, a sacred place of pilgrimage, is a unique invention, very deep and symbolic, created by an ancient civilization. But our present civilization has lost all knowledge of the significance of such places. Today visiting a place of pilgrimage is just a dead ritual for us. We simply tolerate them, without knowing why places of pilgrimage were established, what their use was, and who made them.