[June 23, 2013 Shri. Anil asked Swami to give a message on the recent havoc followed by several deaths in the pilgrimage to Kedarnath.]
Actually, in the olden days, these pilgrim places were in lonely atmosphere situated in forests and on hills. The peaceful atmosphere co-operated with the development of devotion. But, today, these places are terribly busy with crowds of people running to fulfill their desires. The basic concept is lost since you are expected to set aside all the material desires being away from the populated places. But, today, these pilgrim places are more populated than the cities in which you reside. People run to such pious places to fulfill their material desires. Thus, the atmosphere is not at all congenial for meditation or spiritual concentration in absence of spiritual associates. The actual purpose is lost. The priests in such places are busier in looting the public. People are exploited by the false stories created on such pious places. The priests exploit the public to loot money with the help of such false stories (Sthalapuranams). Originally, these false stories were created as psychological tricks to develop faith and devotion in the ignorant public. Today, the same false stories are used to attract the people to such places for the business of the priests. Therefore, today, the pilgrimage is only giving reverse results in the spiritual line. The long journey and absence of hygienic food etc., result in acquirement of new diseases. Lot of money is also wasted in journey. Both health and wealth are lost apart from loss of spiritual concentration due to the fulfillment of desires. Your house with less number of people is far better than such pilgrim place. Your prayer room is far better than the crowdy temple.
However, if you argue that there should be change of place, the new place should have more peaceful atmosphere than your house. You can achieve this by going a few miles away from your town and not to a pilgrim place, which is more crowded. You can have spiritual meeting and do prayers in such real peaceful atmosphere taking a photo of God there. Such trips will really fulfill such necessities and also will really help your spiritual development. The calamity happened in Kedarnath is the expression of God to discourage such pilgrimages, which are associated with negative results only from the beginning to the end.
If your prayers are based on fulfillment of desires, God, sometimes, helps to fulfill your desires, in case such action has the possibility of development of your faith and devotion in God. In such context, the good fruit of your own good deeds is taken out from your fixed deposit only to fulfill your desire. Such action is done by God whether you pray in your house or in the temple or even in the pilgrim place. This action has nothing to do with the place and it is done only to increase your faith and devotion. Therefore, for fulfillment of your desire, which, of course, is not correct spiritual path, you need not run to a temple or a pilgrim place for such purpose.