As the first light began to greet the world, the padayatra left Aravinda Vidya Mandiram, Ponkunnam at 6.00 am for its next destination—Bharananangam, around 20 kilometers away.
There were frequent stops along the route for local people to receive and greet Sri M. The first reception was at a temple in Anikad, the second about 15 minutes away by a group of 20 people and, the third, hardly a kilometer away at a church in Kavungumpaalam. After the group left the church, they were again greeted by a group of 30 people who presented a bouquet of roses. They also joined the walk.
Having walked 6 kms by now, the group reached Chengalam and was greeted by representatives of St. Anthony’s Church, comprising around 30 people. The receiving public walked with the group to the Church. Sri M addressed a gathering of around 300 people in the Church where he was welcomed and introduced by the parish priest. Being a border parish of the diocese of Kanjirappally, Chengalam St. Antony’s has a unique place among the parishes of the diocese. Once upon a time, Chengalam was popularly known as the Padua of India.
The yatris reached the Aiswarya Gandharva Swamy Bhadrakali Temple, Urulikunnam. This was the breakfast point for the group. By now, the padayatra had traversed 9 kms since the start in the morning. At 9.45 am, the padaytra left the temple and were welcomed by a group of 50 people from Paika, many of whom joined the Walk.
The Walk today was pleasant. The route hardly touched any major highways and the padayatris could enjoy the lush greenery. Approaching hilly areas, the inclines were common. Even the seasoned walkers had a robust time adapting to the changed terrain. For the first time, they walked through thick wooded areas filled with cluster of bamboos and the effect was truly ethereal—sheaths of sunlight sifting through the tall plants, the atmosphere a translucent green.
The group also came across large rubber and coffee plantations with sizes anywhere between 5 to 50 acres of land. At many a place, the aroma of coffee from the plantations suffused the air.
It was 11.00 am when the padayatris touched Edamattom, on the banks of the river Meenachil. A group of around 60 people welcomed Sri M, to the accompaniment of Chenda drums. Along with the locals, the group walked to the local Gram Panchayat office. Sri M planted a sapling and the team proceeded to K T J M School (Kuruvinakunnel Thommen Joseph Memorial School) where the children welcomed Sri M. He addressed the congregation of around 400 children in the school, introducing them to the Walk of Hope and its objectives.
Walking on, the yatris reached the culminating point of the day’s walk—Hosanna Mount, Bharananangam. The Hosanna Mount is the administrative center of two Christian organizations, established in 1975, and is funded by donations. Spread over 10 acres, it was originally started as a hospital funded by a Dutch organization. It is now meant mainly for spiritual study and reflection. After being allocated rooms, the group congregated again for lunch at 2.00 pm in the canteen. Then, the yatris rested for a while.
In the evening, Satsang started at 6.00 pm in an open space with around 170 people, including local people from the town. Sri M started his address saying he would talk about his Guru, Sri Maheswarnath Babaji, today. He said that his body and soul had been purified in the three years he stayed with his Guru in the Himalayas. His mind had transformed and become one-pointed. He had an experience wherein he could see all as ‘parabramhan’ or the ‘One’ in all.
He compared the Guru to the mythical ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ that could transform base metal to gold. His mind had been like iron and it turned to gold upon his close contact with his Guru. He did not want to return to the plains and desperately wanted to stay in the Himalayas forever. When he spoke about this to Babaji, Babaji asked him, “Is this all you have learnt? Have I taught you to be selfish?”
Sri M continued that though he had shared in his autobiography some of his experiences with his Guru, there were many facets he had not shared yet. He spoke about the fact that Babaji had the ability to communicate with animals. There was an incident in the lower Himalayas where a rogue elephant was on rampage and had killed many sadhus (wandering monks). A group of them approached Babaji for help and, he heard them with patience though he did not give them any assurance of a remedying action. His Guru woke up Sri M in the dead of the night and both of them walked into the forest and sat on a rock.
Babaji signaled for silence and, very soon, the elephant came into their sight. The elephant charged at Babaji, who, as calm as ever, stood his ground. Just when Sri M thought the elephant would kill them, he saw the elephant bowing down to Babaji, who had his hand on its forehand, stroking it and speaking to it in a soft voice. After a short while, he asked Sri M to bow to the elephant. Soon, it got up and left the place peacefully. No more killings happened after this incident. Sri M also mentioned how Babaji had calmed many a wild Tibetan Mastiff when they were wandering through the Himalayas.
Babaji instructed Sri M to go back to the plains and lead a life in the world. He predicted that one day, Sri M would teach people and most of these people would belong to the ‘grihasta-ashrama’ (people with families and responsibilities in the world) phase.
He recalled his days with Babaji, nostalgically mentioning how his Guru was everything to him – father, mother and friend. He travelled a lot with Babaji and they usually chose to walk. He narrated an incident where both of them had walked a long distance and stopped at the Arundhati Guha (Arundhati Cave), near Rishikesh. Sri M was very tired and hence fell asleep as soon as they settled down in the cave. Feeling something on his feet, he suddenly woke up to see Babaji lovingly massaging his feet. This was just a minor demonstration of the love and compassion Babaji had for him. Sri M said he was also willing to massage any of the padayatri’s feet, if they so wished!
Sri M continued that Jesus was also a traveler and wandered around with his disciples. He said a Guru is like a magnet and if one spends time in the proximity of a Guru, he turns into a magnet too. In the presence of a Guru like Babaji, he could not help but become what he is now.He said there is a lot of pain and suffering on a journey like Walk of Hope. This could be either internal or external or both. He has learnt to disassociate from the suffering though he feels the pain. He asked, “What is the use of meditating if one’s heart is not loving and compassionate? One may meditate for 13 hours a day for 13 years in a cave but if one doesn’t feel another’s pain, there is no use.”
He quoted Tulsidas, the famous poet saint, who fervently sang to Lord Rama that ‘Kama’(desire), ‘Krodha’ (anger), ‘moha’ (obsession), ‘madha’ (conceit) and ‘matsaryam’ (jealousy) be removed from his heart. The objective of Yoga is to remove these negative qualities. For this, consistent daily practice is important. He urged people to do their daily sadhana (practice) without fail.
He concluded the talk by exhorting people to join him and be associated with the Walk of Hope. The audience joined him in the chanting of Om and meditated in silence, thereafter. A few padayatris then related experiences about their participation in the Walk.
The session ended with a vote of thanks from Sri Kondu Parambil, the President of the Gram Panchayat.