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Travel through Karma, Jnana, and Bhakti Marg

By Dr. Nimit Chowdhary, Professor, Tourism Faculty of Management Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia.

As I have always maintained, any travel is, to some extent, transformative. Travel is an opportunity to reflect. As discussed in a previous article, whether it is the Dvaita or Advaita perspective, the pursuit of truth and the search for a deeper understanding of human existence are central themes in Indian philosophy. These pursuits are often approached through different paths, known as “margas” (means). The three primary paths– Jnana Marg (path of knowledge/wisdom), Karma Marg (path of action), and Bhakti Marg (path of devotion) – are integral to the Indian philosophical and spiritual framework. These paths provide different approaches to self-realisation and a deeper connection with the divine or the ultimate truth.

The Karma Marg is a philosophy rooted in the Bhagavad Gita, emphasising selfless action and the idea of performing one’s duties without attachment to the outcomes. This philosophy backs travelling with the intention of experiencing and contributing positively to the places and communities visited. Individuals cultivate a sense of selflessness and empathy. This approach to travel encourages a deeper connection with the destinations and the people encountered, leading to personal growth and a broader perspective.

Jnana Marg is the path of knowledge and wisdom. It encourages seekers to explore the nature of reality through contemplation and self-inquiry. Jnana Marg’s approach suggests that the act of journeying and encountering new environments can serve as a catalyst for self-reflection and the exploration of more profound truths. Travellers engage in introspection while experiencing unfamiliar cultures, landscapes, and ways of life, leading to insights about the nature of existence and one’s own place in the world.

We mentioned Bhakti Marg in the previous issue, also. It is the path of devotion and love for the divine. Bhakti Marg encourages travellers to approach their journeys with a heart full of love and reverence, fostering a profound spiritual experience manifested in a responsible travel. On a more superficial level, it can be a spiritual pilgrimage, where individuals embark on journeys to sacred places, temples, and shrines. In a deep sense, through these travels, individuals deepen their sense of devotion and connection to the creation of the divine while also experiencing a sense of unity with fellow travellers in this journey called life.

Let us also be clear that these three paths are not mutually exclusive. In fact, individuals often employ a combination of these paths based on their personal inclinations, life circumstances, and the specific context of their journeys. A traveller’s journey to a beach destination can involve a combination of the three paths. She might be curious about the local ecosystem, marine life, and environmental sustainability. She could join guided tours or workshops focusing on marine biology, ocean conservation, and the impact of tourism on coastal ecosystems. By seeking knowledge about the local environment and the importance of preserving it, the traveller moves through the Jnana Marg.

Subsequently, she could participate in beach clean-up activities organised by local organisations or resorts to contribute positively to the local community and environment. By participating in these efforts, she embodies Karma Marg, performing selfless actions to maintain the cleanliness and beauty of the beach for themselves and others. The traveller might develop a deep appreciation for the beauty and tranquillity of the beach setting. This could lead to more mindful conduct, creating a sense of connection and reverence for the natural surroundings. This practice cultivates a state of devotion and gratitude on the way to Bhakti Marg.

Individuals often have a natural inclination towards one path over others. Still, their experiences and journey context can lead to the integration of multiple paths. Travel provides a unique opportunity to engage with these paths dynamically, depending on the destinations visited, the interactions with local communities, and personal reflections along the way. Combining these paths enriches the travel experience, offering a holistic approach to the pursuit of truth and deeper understanding.

These are just a few examples of how different schools of Indian philosophy offer unique perspectives on travel and its potential for personal transformation. Each philosophy provides a distinct lens through which individuals can approach their journeys, fostering a deeper connection with the world and a greater understanding of their own inner selves.

About the author: Dr Nimit Chowdhary is a Professor at the Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management at Jamia Millia Islamia. He has more than 29 years of academic experience, of which he has been a full professor for 16 years in India, China, and Mexico. In addition, he was a visiting faculty at Gotland University (Sweden), the University of Girona (Spain), IIM Sirmaur, IIQM, and EDII. He is a recipient of many academic awards and recognitions. He has authored 20 books and more than 200 academic papers and chapters. He has travelled extensively to around 40 countries and almost all states within the country.

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