No pilgrimage is complete without a return. Unless the pilgrim is immediately translated into the space of Bliss, he or she must go back to ordinary life.
What use is grand revelation if we can't take it home with us and let it make us a better person? Thinking about all the things I had seen, I reclaimed my dog, climbed back into my pickup truck and got back on the interstate. My hometown of Lexington and my hometown friends waited for me with tickets to the National Horse Show at the Kentucky Horse Park. I could not be so close and not go home...
I used to live only twenty minutes from the KY Horse Park, which is the horse person's version of Mecca and the Promised Land. I used to spend most of my weekends from April to October at the park, sometimes as a spectator, sometimes as a volunteer and sometimes as a competitor. The park has only gotten larger and the facilities more impressive since the 2010 World Equestrian Games were held there. Where it was once the finest facility for horse sports in the nation, it is now an international venue capable of staging 7 or 8 international events at once.
Here's a brief clip of the Grand Prix showing a horse completing a clear round over a demanding course. This was only the second clear round of the evening and one of only five to reach the jump off:
The video also shows the large indoor arena. The crowd seems rather sparse, but the Breeder's Cup races including the Classic were happening in Louisville that same evening.
That night I slept well but I dreamed about the Buddha Relic display. My dreams lingered over the bead-like objects identified as the historical Buddha's as if to say "Look again." I believe these sights were so unusual that my dreams were taking great care to fix this episode in my memory.
I would love to undertake a longer pilgrimage: to go to India and Nepal and see the places were the Buddha was born, achieved Enlightenment and died. I feel a kinship with all pilgrims, no matter their religion. I send good wishes to those devout Muslims who began the traditional journey to Mecca at about the same time I was setting out for Louisville.
A pilgrimage takes us outside of our comfort zone (in my case, driving at night). We will meet new people. They may impress upon us the sad state of the world like the people living in the cheap motel or they may expand our horizons like the volunteers at Unity. Unity of Louisville is a remarkable church; only in America could a synagogue modeled on a mosque be a Christian church hosting a display of Buddhist artifacts. Despite my skepticism, I was moved to spiritual insight. My own practice of meditation has gained a new dimension. I am still processing what I have seen and learned. My own inclination is to be a rational Buddhist...however I have been working on a series of novels about a heroine who can't help but be a mystic. Certainly this is something she would have gone to see and in some dimension the two of us are arguing over exactly what we have seen.
A pilgrimage is distinguished from an ordinary journey by the reverent mindset of the traveler. I'm going to try to keep that mindset wrapped around me as I journey through life.I think by doing so it is possible to travel an infinite distance without moving.