There is a certain magic associated with traveling.
We all have heard stories about people who travel and somehow their journey transforms them. The list includes some of the most influential people of our time, like Che Guevara and Steve Jobs. People who became enlightened, from Gautama the Buddha to Guru Nanak, were travelers.
Sometimes I wonder, did they travel because they were enlightened, or did they become enlightened because they were travelers?
On the surface, you can find many similarities between a Buddha and a traveler (not a tourist).
• A Buddha is completely free and has no attachments. Similarly, a traveler has taken a breather from his responsibilities and attachments, so he is free for the course of his journey.
• As true explorers, both the traveler and the Buddha are fearless and compassionate toward other people and their cultures.
• The traveler has come to terms with the realization that on the road, things can go haywire. So, he doesn’t get blown away easily. His mind is always in a state of peace and harmony.
But after years of traveling, even if you have developed all the attributes of a classic traveler, are you enlightened?
The answer is no.
Now I come to the bigger question, why can’t you be enlightened by traveling?
To understand this, I want you to go back to your most memorable traveling experience. It can be anything: a mountain’s summit, a visit to a temple, etc. Afterwards, you felt pure ecstasy. You were one with the moment and yourself. You didn’t want to add or subtract anything from that moment. A Buddha has a similar experience when he becomes enlightened. But the thing that makes all the difference is the stimulus that causes the memorable experience.
A traveler feels the ecstasy because of a worldly experience. He might have seen something mesmerizing or done something that exceeded his expectations. But the outer world is transient, and so is the happiness that comes from it. As soon as the stimulus goes away, so does the high that comes from it. What does a traveler do afterwards? He longs for something more beautiful or a bigger feat. The journey never ends for him, it goes on.
On the other hand, Buddha has his experience inside him. From his experience, Buddha gains his wisdom. This is the wisdom that makes a person a Buddha. Buddha is the one who has found the truth within himself. No one can take this truth away from him, because he didn’t find it in a valley, or a mountain, or a river. This is the reason why Buddha is the true traveler. He is the only one whose journey has come to an end.
This brings me to my last question.
How can a traveler become enlightened?
A bridge is required to convert the transient but pristine traveling experience into a spiritual experience that has the potential to change you and keep a smile glowing on your face for a long time. My fellow travelers, this bridge that I talk of is nothing but love.
Learn to love each and every individual and thing that is part of the world, and more importantly, your own self. Once you learn to love, you can let everything be. If you do this, each and every second the universe will make you more mindful and compassionate. You will begin to see more and more beauty in more and more things.
The world reflects our own image back to us. When you think the world is becoming beautiful, actually it is you that is becoming beautiful.
Pavneet Tiwana is an avid traveler who is trying to find his own piece of this world. On the way, he keeps collecting special talents like meditating, skiing, climbing, and musical instruments. His blog is called Traveller the Buddha.
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Assistant Ed: Moira Madden/Ed: Brianna Bemel