This past week, we initiated our first GTUx Live lecture, Where Pilgrims Meet the World with Drs. Mahjabeen Dhala and Kathryn Barush. In this fascinating lecture and discussion, Drs. Dhala and Barush discussed the themes of pilgrimage–in other words, the act of leaving one’s home in order to have an encounter with the divine. From the Arbaeen pilgrimage to a pilgrimage in one’s own backyard, the lecture delved into the ways in which communities come together to create these experiential spiritual practices, both in the present and the past.
Dr. Dhala’s portion of the lecture discussed the Arbaeen Pilgrimage and the theme of leaving one’s home to find God, the very act of pilgrimage. This is the “meeting point” from where a pilgrim begins their spiritual and intellectual journey. Of particular interest were the ways in which Dr. Dhala described how the community comes together to support one another during the Arbaeen pilgrimage. Volunteers from all over the world prepare water, refreshments, tea, hot meals, and foot massages for the pilgrims. For the volunteers, giving to those on the pilgrimage is a way of offering their service to the community and devoting themselves to a cause greater than themselves. In this way, the community comes together to support the pilgrims walking for love, walking for peace, and walking for change. If you want to learn more about the Arbaeen Pilgrimage, you can register for Dr. Mahjabeen Dhala’s GTUx original offering here.
Dr. Barush discussed the practical ways in which the listener can create or participate in the pilgrimage experience, regardless of religious affiliation. Her work centers around the relics and rituals of ancient and modern pilgrimage practices and explores the ways in which people can participate in pilgrimage, regardless of ability or availability. For example, Dr. Barush explores a pilgrimage by proxy, which sends the pilgrim on an imaginative journey without taking a single step. Whether in person or through an online platform, these pilgrimages create a boundary experience that shifts the individual from the everyday mode to a more authentic mode of being. Additionally, Dr. Barush mentioned two forms of media that could inform the pilgrimage experience. The first being, Phil’s Camino, which is a documentary, and The Way, which is an evocative movie about pilgrims walking along Spain’s Santiago de Compostela. Additionally, Dr. Barush premiered the Berkeley Art and Interreligious Pilgrimage Project, which offers communitas through art and culture through locally guided and pop-up pilgrimages that align with social justice initiatives in the area.
You can watch or re-watch the lecture here. Ready for discussion? Join our Facebook group or join the #gtuxlive Slack channel thread to keep the conversation going, share resources, or ask any questions you may have.