In the memoir Eat, Pray, Love, writer Elizabeth Gilbert gives up her entire way of life to spend a year traveling the world, finding spiritual enlightenment along the way. Julia Roberts, who plays Gilbert’s character in the movie version out this week, apparently found enlightenment of her own through the role, revealing that she has become a practicing Hindu.
As Joan Ball asks in a Guest Voices post, “Is it possible to live a life of deep, transformational faith without dropping everything and hitting the road?”
In your tradition, what is the aim of the spiritual journey?
The Sufis refer to the spiritual journey as tariqah, literally “the path.” What they mean is that the road to self-annihilation and communion with God is, in fact, a road. It has stages and obstacles that must be overcome, after which the Sufi experiences higher and higher levels of existence until he gets to the end of the path, whereupon he becomes “one with God.” That said, Sufis acknowledge that very few “get to the end” as it were. But that is irrelevant because the only thing that matters is traveling the path. And it doesn’t even matter what path one chooses, so long as a path is chosen. The Sufi says that all paths ultimately lead to God, and that while some are better than others, the path itself (by which they mean the religion tradition you choose) is immaterial. It is the journey that’s important.