Weaving the lessons and gifts of the Camino de Invierno into the context of Hindu iconography and spirituality, especially that of Arya Samaj, requires drawing parallels between the core principles and spiritual quests in both traditions.
Arya Samaj, with its emphasis on personal morality, self-improvement, and direct communion with the Divine, offers a unique perspective to understand the Camino’s spiritual journey from a uniquely Hindu perspective.
Why Arya Samaj? Because Anju, one of my closest friends who walked the Camino with me was raised in that practice of Hinduism, and she also went to Catholic school, so she was able to quote back the Bible to me on many occasions.
Nature and the Divine (Prakriti and Ishwar)
The beautiful landscapes and natural settings of the Camino provide an opportunity to connect with Prakriti (nature) and, through it, experience a sense of the divine presence, similar to the reverence for nature found in Hindu spirituality.
Seeking Truth and Inner Purity (Satya and Shuddhi)
Direct Communion with the Divine (Ishwar)
Arya Samaj advocates for personal communion with Ishwar (God), free from rituals and intermediaries. The Camino offers a parallel in its solitary walks and moments of quiet reflection, where one can feel a direct connection with a higher power, or the universe, in a deeply personal way. As we walked, my Hindu companions were eager to hear Catholic beliefs and stories, and we found many parallels between the two religions. So you think Hindus believe in many Gods? Not at all! One God but many manifestations.
Simplicity and Renunciation (Tyaga)
The principle of simplicity and renunciation is mirrored in the Camino experience. Pilgrims carry only what they need, learning to let go of material burdens and comforts, and finding joy in the simple act of walking and eating what is available. Most days, we had to eat the snacks we had carried, as cafes were closed.
Karma and Dharma
Walking the Camino can be seen as an act of fulfilling one’s dharma (duty) towards self-discovery and spiritual growth. The effort and challenges faced on the journey reflect the concept of karma, where every step and action leads to spiritual progress. As we climbed the mountains of Las Medulas in a wintry fog, we talked about how these mountains were like the sacred Himalayas, that the Pandavas had to ascend to reach heaven. And how, Yudhistra refused to enter if his faithful dog was not allowed entry.
Yoga and Physical Well-being
The physical aspect of walking the Camino resonates with the practice of Yoga in Hinduism, emphasizing the importance of physical health and endurance as a means to spiritual well-being. Yes, we learnt about utilising our core and our breath as tools for bothe physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Community and Universal Brotherhood (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam)
The sense of community and shared purpose among pilgrims on the Camino aligns with the Arya Samaj principle of universal brotherhood. AS we walked together it no longer mattered what sect or denomination we were, being a pilgrim transcended religious and cultural differences.
In essence, the Camino de Invierno is powerful metaphor for the spiritual path in any religion – a journey towards ruth, and direct communion with the divine, achieved through simplicity, physical effort and a meaningful connection with the natural world and fellow human beings.
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