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Having only been in Shangri-La for a couple of days now, the people here have already made me reflect on much in my life, perfectly exemplifying qualities we as people all ought to possess: dedication and devotion.

After landing at the airport and being greeted by some CERS staff members, we drove to the CERS center outside of town. As we were driving we came upon two men biking on the side of a muddy road. Initially, I didn’t think much of these travelers, but when the van passed another pair of bikers, one of the CERS staff members softly remarked, “There are some more pilgrims.” With strong curiosity about the new culture I had just landed into, I inquired about her comment.

She told me people such as these men make pilgrimages from all over China, often times traveling for months with only their bikes and what could be carried. She seemed shocked at my astonishment as I told her I had never before heard of someone doing such a thing. I told her that if someone would have made such a trip back home, they would have surely been featured somewhere in the news. I began to look at these pilgrims with such a high level of respect, amazed by the level of physical and mental perseverance needed to travel such great lengths with so little. Surely these men provided a glimpse into the strength that mankind possesses, and as I learned more about such pilgrims, I saw even greater evidence for this.

She told me people such as these men make pilgrimages from all over China, often times traveling for months with only their bikes and what could be carried. She seemed shocked at my astonishment as I told her I had never before heard of someone doing such a thing. I told her that if someone would have made such a trip back home, they would have surely been featured somewhere in the news.

As a part of our nightly routine at CERS, we have watched several short documentaries, ranging from local yak herding to the Flying Tigers, yet a 10-minute film focused on the highly revered Mount Kailash caught my interest more than the rest. The film told the story of pilgrimaging men and women and their arduous journeys to this sacred mountain peak, stories that had brought back memories of the bikers I saw that first day. What hadn’t crossed my mind in regards to the bikers was what these people did once they reached their destination, something that the film highlighted and something that caused my mind to race. The final act of these peoples’ pilgrimages was to circumambulate this sacred mountain peak, taking over a day to make it around the 32-mile path once (many would make the trek around several times). Though walking around the mountain was in itself a feat of great difficulty, what the film described next made my jaw drop; my conception of what it meant to be dedicated and devoted began to be challenged. The film described the journey of a select few pilgrims whom would prostrate the entire length of the mountain path, enduring the rough terrain and extreme altitude as they repeatedly made these physically challenging movements. Demanding their bodies to go past their physical limitations, these people demonstrated just how deeply their devotion to their beliefs ran, one that was seemingly unwavering.

The journeys of these pilgrims bring an entire new meaning to my definitions of dedication and devotion. By their acts, these people have epitomized the idea of dedicating one’s entire self to something. Where we live in a culture that puts so much importance on allotting and splitting both our time and energy up among a wide variety of things, these people have shown me the great strength and power a person is capable of possessing when they dedicate their life to a singular, overarching purpose.

Isn’t this what dedication and devotion are all about?

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