The group gathered at Sri M’s host residence and, along with him, left for Pallikathode at 6.00 am. An early morning mist greeted the walkers as shafts of the eastern light began to filter through the towering trees. The winding roads vacillated between sharp inclines, sometimes up, sometimes down, in the hilly terrain. The sides of the road were thick with underbrush and giant, old trees. Traditional and contemporary styled houses dotted the landscape.
Communes at various points, including one at Devagiri Junction, Kangazha, greeted Sri M. The walkers enjoyed a tea break at 7.30 am and continued with the walk to reach Sree Krishna Swami temple at Pulickavalla, Vazhoor. The temple authorities and the local community greeted Sri M and the walkers at this point. About 8 kms into the Walk, breakfast was served at a satsangi’s house at 9.00 am.
By noon, the sun was at its peak and the walkers had reached State Highway # 220. For a while, they walked on the highway in 2 or 3 rows in view of the heavy oncoming traffic and its associated pollution, amidst an occasional dust cloud raised by a speeding vehicle. Soon, they left the state highway with relief, walking in the shade of the tall rubber trees lining either side of the narrow roads.
With at least four more stops for local welcome and greetings enroute, the group reached Pallikkathode at 12.30 pm. By then, a group of more than 50 people had joined the Walk along the way.
Many more locals joined the Walk before the entry point into Pallikkathode, and the group was 400 strong by the time it entered the town. The long-winding procession, stretching quarter of a kilometer, reached the halting point at 12.30 pm. The culminating point for the day was Aravinda Vidya Mandiram, run by the Aravinda Charitable School. The padayatris covered 19 kms in around 6 hours today.
Approaching the school at Pallikathode, the group had a rousing welcome by the school band. Children lined the road leading to the school. Flowers were showered on Sri M and the walkers. As they entered the school, more children greeted them, waving happily. Every walker was handed a rose in welcome, quite an emotional moment for everyone.
The group was served lunch at the school canteen and they retired for a brief rest in the afternoon. Sri M and the padayatris gathered in the school auditorium at 3.00 pm for an hour-long interactive session with the children. Some of the padayatris shared their backgrounds and experiences from the Walk. The children asked many questions about the Walk and Sri M answered them with some yatris joining in to substantiate.
Mr. CN.Purushothaman, a retired professor of Malayalam and currently President of the Aravinda Charitable Society, gave an introductory talk and welcomed Sri M and the walkers. Aravinda Charitable Society is a non-profit organization and is involved in around 40 projects being promoted in the cultural and educational arena. Their projects also include one that provides free medical aid to the needy.
The evening satsang started at 6.00 pm in the school grounds, with a group of children singing the Guru Paduka Stotram—a powerful chant that makes one receptive to the Guru's grace. Sri M commenced his talk at 6.10 pm saying that he was very pleased with the singing of the Stotram as obeisance to the Guru is a critical requirement. He spoke of his Guru—Maheswarnath Babaji—who was an extraordinary being. Sri M said he could not express his feelings in words, visibly overwhelmed with emotion.
Swami Vivekananda’s words about his Guru, Sri Ramakrishna, ‘A thousand Vivekanandas can be created from a speck of dust from his feet’ articulated Sri M’s feelings too. He said: ‘A thousand Sri Ms can be created from a speck of dust from Babaji’s feet’. Sri M continued that whatever he is doing today is only because of his Guru’s will. He said this is something he never forgets. People around him sometimes assume that it is he (Sri M) who is responsible for all his actions. Many others tell him that it’s so brave of him to undertake this walk at the age of 66. It’s only his Guru’s blessings that have given him the courage to take on such an enormous task.
Continuing in the same intensity, he declared thus, “I will walk whatever be the obstacles. Nothing seems impossible as Babaji is with me always, behind every action of mine. Nothing would change this.”
Sri M shared a story of how Swami Vivekananda, after his return from the United States of America, started serving the poor and the needy. Some of the monks in the Math (Order) were not in favour of this as they felt it was not in line with Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings and they opposed it strongly. Swami Vivekananda was furious and, getting his meager belongings together, was ready to walk out. He told his co-monks, “If you think that you understand Thakur’s teachings better, you are welcome to run the Math. I am leaving.” He also reminded them of when Sri Ramakrishna, on a pilgrimage, visited Deogarh—a holy place with a temple housing one of the Jyotirlingas. At that time, Deogarh was undergoing a severe famine with people dying as a result. Sri Ramakrishna was moved by the plight of the people and asked
Rani Rashmoni’s son-in-law, Mathur Babu, who was accompanying him, to arrange rations for the people. Mathur Babu hesitated taking up the mammoth task thinking about the astronomical cost involved. Sri Ramakrishna stopped at one of the worst affected households and declared that he would not eat till all the villagers were fed. Mathur Babu, along with Rani Rashmoni, were then forced into action and three months of rations were brought to Deogarh. Sri Ramakrishna, true to his word, ate only after the villagers had a meal. Hearing this story, the monks of the Ramakrishna Order realized their mistake and pleaded with Swami Vivekananda not to leave them, requesting him to take on the mantle of leadership again. Sri M said that the ultimate duty of a Yogi was to serve the poorest of the poor.
Continuing, he said that the aim of Yoga was that the heart should become loving and compassionate—not detached and hard. He shared another story from Swami Vivekananda’s life to highlight this aspect. Swamiji was then traveling under the name of Satchidananda. He once went to Maharashtra and was saddened by the news of an old friend’s demise. Tears flowed down his cheeks. When asked as to how he, a sanyasi, could cry, he replied that being a sanyasi did not mean his heart had turned to stone. It was actually the opposite—the heart had turned soft and anybody’s pain could be felt as his own.
Sri M referred to the 12th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita – Bhakti Yoga (The Yoga of Devotion). He spoke about the qualities of a Bhakta—the one who has surrendered. A true Bhakta is “One who has withdrawn the senses, one who has equanimity of the mind at all times and one who has the welfare of all beings at heart.” “Sarva bhute hite ratah.” he quoted. A true bhakta is one who is able to put other’s needs ahead of his. This can be felt only when one’s heart is open to recognize and feel other people’s sufferings.
He elaborated about anger and said that anger should not find a place in one’s heart or mind. At the same time, one should pretend to be angry when there’s a reason for it. He shared another story to illustrate this point.
A poisonous snake used to terrorize the people in a village. No one dared going to the area where the snake lived. A wandering yogi once visited the village and walked towards the area where the snake was. On being warned about the snake, he walked fearlessly to it, recited a mantra and advised the snake not to bite. The snake changed and it stopped biting people. The people, after noticing the change in the snake, started throwing stones and beating it up. The snake withdrew into its hole and did not dare come out. Injured, it grew weak and stayed in the hole, hungry.
After a few days, the yogi came back to the village and enquired if the villagers were still troubled by the snake. Laughing, the villagers told him that the snake did not trouble them as it hardly came out of its hiding place. The yogi rushed to the spot and called out to the snake. The snake, recognizing the yogi’s voice, slowly crawled out in pain. Seeing the poor snake, the yogi asked for the reason of its plight. The snake told him, “You told me that anger was not good, so I stopped getting angry and biting people. Look what I get in return. Now children beat me up with sticks.” The yogi said in reply, “Oh, my friend. It’s true that I asked you not to bite. But did I tell you not to hiss?”
He said that the mind has to be purified and thus transformed. The heart has to turn soft—loving and compassionate. It’s only then one has the capability to take on tasks of such capacities. Higher capacities come only with a pure mind – this is the ‘control valve’ provided by nature.Sri M wished that, once the Walk of Hope was over, shorter walks should continue across the spread of India with the same idea or objectives and thus energize the whole of India. He continued that India would be restored to her original glory and grandeur and take its natural position as the world’s teacher. He continued that all aspects required for this are ever present but lies dormant and forgotten.
He exhorted people to join and be associated with the Walk of Hope.
The satsang concluded at 7.30 pm with the chanting of OM and a period of observed silence. Dinner was subsequently served at 8.30 pm and the yatris turned in for the night at 9.30 pm.