The Way exists but not the traveller on it. Ancient Buddhist dictum
For the pilgrim the road is home. Reaching your destination seems nearly inconsequential. Andrew Schelling
A few days ago I made a comment on Singing Bear's excellent blog Flying Down Zed Alley about certain sympathies between Buddhism and Christianity, particularly early Celtic Christianity. I write about Buddhism from time to time on this blog - but Christianity also attracts me (and repels me at the same time, but that's another story!); and, of course, the whole culture, history and 'holiness' of Christianity underpins the Camino I'm on.
With all this mind, I was intrigued to read just now this short paragraph in Nicholas Shrady's book Sacred Roads: Adventures from the Pilgrimage Trail: Had either the Buddha or Christ chosen a secluded, stationary life, there would be no footsteps to follow. As it was, they both exalted the peripatetic condition, and they both showed us a Path; that one leads to Nirvana, and the other to salvation and eternal life, are two very different spiritual prospects, but in both cases it is the pilgrim, the soul seeking enlightenment, who must set off on the journey. As the Buddha lay on his deathbed, he offered his followers a simple, if telling, imperative: 'Walk on!'
Ultreia! or Ultreya! is a word deriving from the ancient Galician language (and originally from the Latin word ultra) which is difficult to translate exactly, but means something like 'Walk further!', 'Walk higher!', 'Onward!' or 'Walk on!'. Camino pilgrims often come across this word scrawled graffiti-like in underpasses, on walls and alongside the ubiquitous yellow arrows which point the Way.
Ultra means 'further', 'extreme', 'radical', 'beyond the norm'. The true end of the Spanish Camino is Fistera, Finisterre, Finis Terra, The End of the Earth, the Furthest Point West in Spain. The romance and promise of the West pervades much folklore, mythology and many spiritual and quasi-spiritual beliefs (eg there's the story of the lost kingdom of Atlantis).
As I approached Toulouse by the Canal du Midi this September, a cyclist on the opposite bank called out to me 'Ultreia!' in recognition, greeting, encouragement and blessing, with one arm held high in the air, the fingers of her hand pointing skywards.