Watching the WoH videos with the students of Mudhoji High School, Phaltan
Students listening in rapt attention - Mudhoji High School, Phaltan
Sri M takes leave from Mudhoji High School, Phaltan
Walk of Hope rested in Phaltan today. In the morning, the yatris participated in a cleanliness drive in the city. Later, some of them visited the two main temples in this town—one dedicated to Ram and the other to Krishna. In the evening, there was an interactive Satsang between Sri M and about 200 school children at the 150-year old institution - Mudhoji Public School.
“Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah
Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah
Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih
Om, May All become Happy,
May All be Free from Illness.
May All See what is Auspicious,
May no one Suffer.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.
Loka samasta sukinoh bhavantu May the entire universe be happy
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.”
“First of all, I would like to thank your principal for welcoming us here.There is a problem, I do not know Marathi! I know Hindi and English. I asked him, so he said, speak in Hindi. You do study English? (A resounding ‘Yes’). Okay, we will mix Hindi and English. There is no electricity and I will speak without the microphone. Many things have already been said about the padayatra. We started on 12th of January from Kanyakumari because it was the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. We thought it would be a good day to start this padayatra. This little ten-year-old girl in front of me also walked for some time, she went home for a while and has come back now.”
“Swami Vivekananda wandered all over India - north, south, east, west, he walked everywhere before visiting America and became famous. After walking, he understood what India’s problem was. He then went to Kanyakumari. Swimming across the ocean to the little rock - he sat in meditation and discovered his mission. And, see what he has done - the service that Ramakrishna Mission provides all over India and the world.It started because of him and it is still going on after a hundred years.”
“We felt that Kanyakumari would be a nice place to start. Also, it is a sangama of three oceans—the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea come together at this point. After that, there is no landmass;it is the last point in India. It is called ‘Zero Point’. It also symbolises coming together of people, which is a very good thing. If people do not come together, India cannot become strong. Why does India have to become strong? Because the message of peace has to go from India.”
“To learn, we go abroad, to foreign lands. But a day will come when people will come here to learn these things from India. Walking from Kanyakumari, we came to Kerala, from there we came to Karnataka and then to Maharashtra. This way, we have reached your town, Phaltan. We have planned this route deliberately, going through small towns and villages on purpose. We are not going through Bombay but to Pune, because that is close to Alandi.”
“We have done 2600 kilometers. My age is 66. We still have to walk 5000 kilometers. We will reach Srinagar in April of 2016, with the message that we are all One. Whatever is in India is all One. With this, we have set out on this padayatra.”
“I have full confidence that we will reach Srinagar and people will understand our message of peace and harmony. You are all citizens of India. If this message of Humanity and Oneness is sown in your hearts, then in time - ten years, fifteen years - there will be a great tree with many fruits and flowers. These flowers will spread the fragrance all around, and through India, this fragrance will go to all parts of the world.”
“You will leave school eventually and move forward in life. It maybe that you will achieve high posts, the spark of future India lies in you. Remember that a man, old and grey but with a mind still young, came with many people to your old school and spoke about Manav Ekta, and seeing him you felt that he was speaking the truth. Remember this in your heart.”
“If tomorrow, someone comes and says to you that you are different, say to them that it is not so, we are all One. If you do that, India will be strong and the message of Humanity and Oneness will go to all parts of the world from here. Remember this.”
“We are going to Pune from Phaltan. We are walking 20 to 25 kilometers a day. Tomorrow, we walk only 15 kilometers and this can be done easily. When one goes to a doctor - not you, but those who are older than you - they say two things, do some meditation and walk daily. If you walk three or four kilometers everyday, it will be very good for your health. We are walking 20 to 25 kilometers a day and till now, we haven’t have had any great physical discomfort. Yes, because of age there are some issues, like the knee pain, now and then. But otherwise, it has been okay.”
“With this message, we have come to you. I know that you cannot walk with us; you have to go to school. But, you can walk with us in your mind. You will do that, won’t you? We can have a dialogue now.”
“Every year, I go to Europe, United States, Thailand, and many such places. I go there every year for a month each. When we go to schools and colleges there, they write the questions they want to ask on a piece of paper and after an hour, there is an interaction. This dialogue is very important. Not only about Manav Ekta but also about everything. In Science, it is the most important. How did Einstein discover anything? He did so by asking many questions. For a long time, people believed that the Sun went around the Earth. Copernicus asked, is it so? And, he discovered that the Earth goes around the Sun and not the other way around! This came through dialogue and through asking questions. Looking at your faces, I know you have understood. If you want to ask anything, please do so freely. I understand because I have also taught in a school. You can ask anything about me or the yatra. Let’s start from the boys section.”
A Boy: What is your full name?
Sri M: I know it would be confusing if someone came and said, my name is B - what is this B? I wondered why nobody has asked that question. People call me ‘M’. With respect, they call me ‘Sri M’. When I go to England or the US, they call me ‘Mister M’. How did M come about, I will tell you. First of all, and most importantly, I do not want to speak with anyone about my religion. Manavta, Manushya - the first letter of this is ‘M’, I am very happy when people call me M. When I was born, I was born in a Muslim family and they named me Mumtaz Ali. Sometimes, it is very difficult in the airport; because of my name, they think that a lady has come! They ask, has any madam come, I say, no it is just me.
When I was very young, I went to the Himalayas and met my guru, Maheshwarnath Babaji there. He was from the Nath Tradition. The great saint Mauli was also from this tradition. When Maheswarnath Babaji gave me Diksha into Nath tradition, he gave me the name ‘Madhukarnath’. So ‘M’ also comes from there. Also, it reminds me of Maheshwarnath Babaji because the first letter of his name is also ‘M’ and this makes me very happy. This is the genesis of my name.
A girl: Is there anything memorable from the walk for you?
Sri M: I told you many things about the walk but yes, there are a few things that are very memorable. One of them is that once, while we were going through Kerala, an auto-rickshaw driver came close to us and stopped in front of me. My security guard - he is standing there - got a little worried because the auto came very close. He wondered, this auto-rickshaw has stopped so close to us, is there going to be any problem? But, there was no problem. The driver got down and handed me a hundred rupees. He said that these are my earnings for the day, keep this for your padayatra.”
I asked him if he would walk with us. He replied that he had given me all that he had earned so far that day, and if he did not make some money, he would have nothing to eat. But, he added, he would come and join us in the evening Satsang. I liked this so much. Sometimes, we go to big people, they say - yes, yes - and nothing happens. And then, people like the auto driver come to us and give a hundred rupees. Why are they doing so? Because they understand that something good is happening.
Like this, near Mysore, there was a watermelon seller. He had a small shed by the road and he earned his daily earnings there. On our way there, the advance party went to his shop and asked him to get some watermelons ready for the padayatris. He asked those coordinators many questions - why are they coming, who are they, where have they come from,etc. On hearing their answers he said, this is a very good thing. When they asked him how much it would cost, he said that he wanted to do it for free, and if they spoke about money again, he would close his shop and go home, and switch his mobile phone off. What he gave us would have cost him more than a day’s income. He wanted to give.
Like this, we were passing through a village in Kerala. It was a Muslim district where, now and then, there were problems. People were very worried and warned us to be careful in this area. Wherever we went, they sent the bomb squad ahead to check. But....nothing happened. We walked with great ease and everyone welcomed us. For the first time in that area, the BJP, Congress, RSS, Muslim League, CPM, representatives of the Church, they all came together and welcomed us. They said that people like you are needed here.
In the same place, an old lady came to us. She was so old that she was bent at the waist and could not walk straight. The people who give information leaflets about the padayatra, walk in front of the group and they walk very fast. They gave the sheet to her. She read it and by the time we came to her, she raised both of her hands in blessing and said that you are speaking the truth, there is no race or religion, there is only man and woman, all else is man-made.
Like this, we have had many such experiences because of which we have faith that this walk will be successful. Wherever we have gone, be it a temple, a mosque or a church, we have been welcomed at every place. Some temples in Kerala are very orthodox and do not let anyone come in. They were waiting outside with garlands for us; they took us in by the hand. Seeing all of these things, we have hope. We have hope that what has been said in the Vedas –Ekam sat, viprah bahuda vadanti – meaning ‘The truth is one but the wise know it by many names’ - this truth people can understand.
A girl: Why is it called ‘AshaYatra’?
Sri M: It is called Asha Yatra – Walk of Hope – because it is our hope that something will happen. But what will happen, we can only say when we reach Srinagar. What is this hope? Manav Ekta - to make India strong; and then, Loka samasta sukhinoh bhavantu. The whole world is One. It is a huge task, not a small one. When you are older, you will remember that something like this happened. You will talk of this. When there will be discussions, you will understand what I said is the truth. What I am saying is nothing new, it is old. In the Bible, Jesus said that what he was saying was nothing new. He used an expression - old wine in new bottles. Similarly, I am giving you what has been said before in a new way. If you read the Gita, the Upanishads, the Vedas, you will find the same thing.
A girl: Why do you think this yatra was needed? What made you undertake this yatra?
Sri M: This is a very relevant question. There are two things. One, you must see in papers that in the name of religion or in the name of some political party, violence breaks out, a lot of violence. I could not stand seeing this and felt I needed to do something. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and elders that are in your home are in the other person’s home too. The same pain that is felt by your family members is also felt by the others' family members. I want to tell people that if there is a difference of opinion, sit down together and sort things out.
Secondly, Swami Vivekananda said something a hundred years ago on this. He said that Daridra Narayana Seva is the seva of God himself.
Thirdly, my guru, Maheshwarnath Babaji said to me, when I was 23 years old, that I would have to walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir one day. I asked him why, I was happy being in the Himalayas. He told me that I would have to walk with the message of ManavEkta.
For many years, I postponed this. I had made a promise and had to keep it. I was 66 years old so I had to do it now, or it would have been too late. So, in this manner, we started.
A boy: How did you start Manav Ekta Mission?
Sri M: Manav Ekta Mission is not such a big organisation. Actually, the name of our organisation is Satsang Foundation. When it started, we were 4 people and we had 500 rupees and we started a school.
Do I have more time to speak? (Organiser says ‘Yes’) Okay, so about the school.
I stay in Madanapalle, away from the town. I built a house there, an ashram. All around me were Adivasi people from the ‘Lambani’ tribe. The ladies wear a ‘ghagra’ up until their heels and lots of jewellery. I saw that the children were not going to the school; they were out grazing cattle or working in the farm. The families are usually involved in carpentry or in making alcohol and I was worried, if they do not go to school, what would happen to them? I called them and asked the parents why they did not send their children to school. They said that they could not because there was no school near by. Then I asked them, if I start a school, would they send their children?
They said that they would send the boys but not the girls; they wanted the girls to work in the house and the farms. I told them it would not work, if a school was opened, both the girls and the boys would have to come. Like this we started the school. The Satsang Foundation started then and I got involved with people. You won’t believe me but I like to stay alone. For this work, I started an organisation called The Satsang Foundation and Manav Ekta Mission is a branch of it.
We started the school with twenty children and one teacher. It is a free school with no fees, and we provide them with a free lunch. Growing from there, there are now around 200 children. With no government support, the school is running even today. Now, we have all the modern facilities - computers, good books, etc. Because the children went home and spoke with their parents, they have almost completely stopped making alcohol. They used to do dacoity; that too has stopped. If the parents have time in the evening, they come and take adult education classes.
A boy: Why have you chosen Srinagar as the last point of this padayatra?
Sri M: Just like we chose Kanyakumari as the starting point because there was nothing after it, we have chosen Srinagar as the ending point because there is nothing after it. Beyond, there is Pakistan. Srinagar is an integral part of India; that is why we have chosen it.
A girl: We see that there is violence everywhere. There are many, many crimes against women and young girls like us. We children understand what you are saying. But what of the elders, do they not understand?
Sri M: These days, things are a little bad. I would say to you that if you understand this and speak about these things when you go home, then these things would be reduced by the time you are as old as your parents. When they call me to schools and colleges, I go there first. Because, I have more hope in the young than in the old. Our hair is greying and I have little hope from those who are not young. I have full faith that you will remember, that all will be different. In your school, you should make small groups, have a dialogue and discuss these things. Many negatives will be there, but it is okay, a dialogue is like that.
So, my Namaskars to all of you. I enjoyed our dialogue here. Tomorrow we leave, walking towards Pune. We will walk 15 kilometers tomorrow and then 20 or 25 kilometers. We will reach Pune on 1st of July and I am doing a ‘Nirahar Satyagraha’ - a fast without food and water against terrorism and violence.