Once a group of disciples expressed their heartiest desire to go on the pilgrimage in front of their Guru.
One of the disciples explained, “My master as you are very well aware that according to Hindu methodology and scriptures, every human being must go on the pilgrimage atleast once in their lifetime. It is believed that going on the pilgrimage would wash all the evil deeds done intentionally or unintentionally in that lifetime. We all are here to seek your permission to go on this holy pilgrimage.”
The Guru readily gave his permission. But before they left, he handed them a bitter gourd and said, “I am too old to go anywhere now. But it is my wish that you take this bitter gourd along with you. There is one more thing. Whenever you have a chance to take a dip in all the holy rivers, make sure that the bitter gourd is also fully dipped in that same water.”
Disciples did as their Guru said. They went from one holy place to another, stopping occasionally and doing what was necessary on the pilgrimage.
They returned to their Guru after completing their pilgrimage and gave him the bitter gourd.
That day, the Guru asked the chef to cook the bitter gourd and serve as sacramental food.
When everyone sat to have dinner in the evening, the Guru tasted the food and exclaimed, “Strange. This bitter gourd is still bitter.”
Disciples looked at each other quizzically.
The Guru continued, “I thought the water of holy rivers must have washed the bitterness of the bitter gourd too.”
The disciples understood what their Guru was trying to teach them.
The real pilgrimage is when a human starts the journey inside. Outer pilgrim places are just symbolic of the ones that are inside all human beings. Outer ones can remind you again and again about the real ones. But if a human really wants to go on the actual pilgrimage, he has to start his journey inside.