In the wee hours of the morning - from Dhar to Lebada
Reception enroute - Dhar
WOH Day 462 - with a group of devoted policemen by our side - Dhar
Satsang at Milan Mahal - Dhar
Walk of Hope left from Dhar at 5.30 am, and walked towards Lebad. Today’s walk covered 17 kilometres—passing through the villages of Jeetpura, Magajpura, Utawad, Niyamat Khedi and Gunawad. Lebad connects many highways and local village roads making it a typical travellers’ town - with many stores and guesthouses centred around the main roads, dusty and littered bus stops with vendors carting wares, hawkers selling peanuts and water sachets to travellers, roadside sweetmeat shops and so on. This small town is surrounded on all sides by farmlands. The last season just ended a few weeks ago and the lands are barren, ready for the next crop cycle.
The padayatris started off towards the destination in the wee hours and moved quietly in the darkness. The mornings have a definite chill these days and the changing weather has many of the walkers dig deep into their bags for warmer clothes. It is quite a sight to see nothing but open land and the sun beating on a group of a hundred odd people walking quietly in the heat, on the open and desolate road. A virus is going around in the group and a few of them are down with fever these days. They rest for a day, or two, or three and then get moving again. Travelling like they have been - sleeping and eating with little comfort - they have become quite resilient and this is one of the rare occassions that most of those who are unwell have been touched by a fever or a cough.
After yesterday’s receptions galore, today was a relatively quiet day with only two or three receptions. The quiet walk was a welcome break. The walkers reached Lebad at around noon and retired at their resting place soon after. The quality of their resting places have become inconsequential to the veteren padayatris and they are content in less-than-basic halls as well as air-conditioned, soft-bedded hotel rooms. In Madhya Pradesh, the organisers have worked very hard and till now, they have been housed in comfort. Today they were put up in a hall which was okay. They had lunch and rested for some time. In the evening, they gathered at the Milan Mandap in Dhar for the evening program. The program started off with dance performances by girl students from a local school. After this, Sri M addressed the gathering of about 500 people.
Sri M’s address at the Milan Mandap went thus,
“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 Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih”
“First of all my namaskaar and salaam to all; I also say ‘Satnaam Wahe Guru’; and good evening. From the film just shown, you would have already learnt about the yaatra (journey) so I will not speak much about it. I will only tell you about how and why it began and what its aim is. We aim to reach Srinagar in April, 2016, with God’s Grace; Inshallah (if God wills), as they say.”
“How did the idea come about? One day, many years ago, when I was sitting on the banks of the Ganga at Uttarkashi with my Guru Maheshwarnaath Baba ji, he said that one day I would have to walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. To tell you the truth, I had no interest in this. I said to my Guru, ‘Baba ji, I don’t want to walk this way; I will walk with you in the Himalayas as much as you wish, but what will I gain by walking from Kanyakumari to Srinagar?’”
“Before proceeding any further, I wish to state that if I make mistakes in speaking Hindi, please forgive me because I am from the South and my language is Malayalam.”
“So when I said this to Baba ji, he asked ‘One day in Rishikesh, when I asked you what you think of yourself, what did you reply?’ I told him that I had said ‘I am your dog, just as a dog sits and watches, I too sit and watch.’ Then he asked ‘what did I say?’ you said, ‘Dog is alright but don’t wag your tail too much.’ He then asked me not to wag my tail too much and added ‘your walk will not be now but when the time for it is right.’ This was the beginning of the idea of a walk.”
“And, the second, after Baba ji placed his hand on my head (when I was 9) and my saadhana began, my spiritual experience was that the omnipresent Ishwar (God) dwelt in the hearts of all humans and all living beings. Whether we call it the Atman or the Noor, it exists in the hearts of all. What does it mean? It means that every human, be it a woman or a man, is a walking temple. How to worship in this temple? Performing aarti (ritual of worship) is of no use; aarti is performed in a temple; ibaadat (Arabic for worship) is done in a masjid; ibaadat is performed in a Gurudwara (Sikh temple) and also in a church.”
“But how to worship the Antaryaami (indwelling God); how to worship that something of God that resides inside each one of us? Baba ji told me that this temple of God can be worshiped by service. So service to humanity is the best way to worship God, there is no spiritual practice greater than this.”
“So when I experienced this fact - I am not talking about a theory after reading about it in a book - it is my experience. When I see anyone,I first see the priceless jewel in him or her. My heart aches when, sometimes, we forget this oneness; someone belches fire and violence takes place. I wept last night, wondering why people behave this way. Why don’t they understand that we are all one, we are all humans and the pain that is felt in another’s home when mother, father and children cry; victims of violence, the same pain will be felt at our homes too when we fall prey to violence.”
“This distress, think of it as a burning fire of agony, has been troubling me for many years but I did not have the courage to discuss it with people. So, about three or four years ago, I thought to myself that whatever Baba ji had asked me to do I had done, but this was one thing that remained to be accomplished.”
“I have a friend who is not present here now, he has returned home. He was the DGP of Karnataka and has retired now. He has translated my autobiography into Hindi - Ajai Kumar ji. I expressed my wish to walk from Kanyakumari to Srinagar to him. He did not ask, why, what, how, he said you walk, I am with you. Despite that, three years went by and so many people came forward to join me in my endeavour.”
“I know all Indians are aware that we are all one and all of humanity is one. It is a fact embedded in our culture from time immemorial, it is not a new idea. Just as Jesus Christ declared in the Bible that Truth is never new, it is ancient. He said it is ‘old wine in anew bottle.’ So it is just a new bottle, the wine is very old. Indian culture is so old, everyone knows of the fact that all humans are one.”
“But what happens is that we sometimes forget this underlying unity; we forget it for various reasons. Sometimes, we forget in anger, sometimes we get instigated by an event. So, our aim is only to convey to people to not let violence take place, whatever happens. We want to remind people not to forget this unity that is all our aim is; and this has arisen from my personal experience and not from any theory; neither am I out to win an election. So, this is why we are walking.”
“Why are we walking? Because it is by walking alone that we will be able to meet people living in villages - to be able to sit with them, have tea with them and talk to them. Having tea is a very good thing; sitting together and having tea, it’s a very good activity, people understand. When they see my grey hair, they ask if I take sugarless tea. I tell them to add two spoons, I have no restrictions. So this is how we started the padyaatra.”
“Seeing the response that we have received till now, it appears that our effort is having some effect. How much the effect is cannot be quantified but it appears to me that people understand. Even today, 70% of Bhaarat’s population lives in villages; if they understand, then we can be sure that Bhaarat has understood. When I talk to them, I get an overwhelming response, whichever state we have been through; from Kerala to here. Because of this, we have a hope that Maanav Ekta (unity of humanity) will happen and when it happens in Bhaarat the whole world will watch.”
“There was a time when people came to Takshashila and Nalanda to learn from far off places around the world; now we go to Harvard. It is my dream that such a time will return and we have begun to move in that direction. But for it to happen, Maanav Ekta is essential. If we do it together, then no one can take it away from us. So, it is my dream that a day will come again when people from all over the world will come to learn from us” (audience applauds). “But for this we have to work on it together.”
“It is wrong to say that so and so belongs to this or that religion; just understand that first you are a human being and then a citizen of Bhaarat. If we sow such seeds of thought, then everything is possible. I did not want to say it, but say it nevertheless that in 20 years we will be ahead of China economically, so it appears to me but only if we are together. It has been said in every religion, not one but in every religion.”
“When two Musalmaan friends meet each other, what do they say; Salaam? What does Salaam mean? It means peace. When we go to a temple, we get prasaad, what does it mean? If you look up a Sanskrit dictionary it is prasaadam, peace. A Satsang (spiritual discourse) endswith Om, shaanti, shaanti, shaantih; if you say that in Arabic, it’s salaam.May Lord Krishna be with you. Jews say ‘shalom’. ‘Salaam’ and ‘shalom’are the same. But what do we do? We quarrel among ourselves because we do not know the meaning of these words.”
“I will not talk more on the subject because every day we walk 20 km, on foot.”
“But before ending, I will tell you a small story. I researched the origins of the story a bit; it seems to have its beginnings in the Jain religion many thousands of years ago. It was a favourite of Sri Rama Krishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda. And, in Turkey, there was a great Sufi about 800 to 900 years ago named Maulana Rumi. Maulana Rumi, who is the originator of the Whirling Dervishes Sect of Sufis, also adopted this story. He has related it in his book the Masnavi written in Persian. See how far the story travelled after originating in the Jain religion! What is the meaning of the Jain religion? It is Indian culture.”
“The story goes something like this. Three blind men decided to find out what an elephant was like. One held one of its legs and said that an elephant is a very big pillar which moves sometimes and it is said that one should not go too close to it as it may fall on one’s head. This was his definition of the animal. The second who held its trunk, described it as being a leather hose through which wind blows sometimes. The third held its tail and said that an elephant was like a broom which moves all the time and may hit one if one went too close.”
“Each one stuck to his own description of the elephant, refusing to accept the other’s view and soon they began to quarrel among themselves; even coming to blows. Before long, a man who was not blind arrived at the scene. There is a statement in the Mundaka Upanishad, ‘andhe naiva niyamaanaa yatha andhaah’ which in English means, ‘blind leading the blind.’ It is thought that Shakespeare is its originator but two thousand years ago it was already stated in the Mundaka Upanishad, ‘andhe naiva niyamaanaa yatha andhaah’, ‘blind leading the blind.’”
“So this person, who arrived at the scene, was not blind and such people think of themselves as Gurus, as Rishis. Anyway, he asked the three blind men as to what the fight was about. Each one described the elephant to him in his own way. The man with eyesight told them that while each of them was right in his own way, the elephant was much bigger than what each of them had perceived it to be. Its completeness could not be defined in words as they could not see it in its entirety. It is not that any of them was incorrect, for each one was right to the extent they had felt different parts of the elephant.”
“Such is the situation of all of us. Our limited minds cannot describe the Truth; we can manage only to state it to the extent our limited abilities permit us to define it. That is why the great Sages and great Rishis have described it in the way that the common man can understand; the whole cannot be understood by anyone. Even if the Truth be revealed, it cannot be described in words. It is stated in the Keno Upanishad, ‘yad vaachaa nabhyuditam’- cannot be spoken of in words.”
“It is stated in the Rig Veda, ‘Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti’; the Truth is one, Sages call it by different names. We are all one, only our descriptions differ.”
“There is a saying in English, ‘down to earth’, so literally we are putting our feet down on the earth and walking.”
“I am very happy and I thank all of you that I saw this unity demonstrated at Dhar very well. We had gone to a temple, to a Devi temple, everyone was there, and our Vakil Sahab (advocate) was there After this, we all went to the Dargah. At the temple, they had applied Sindoor on my forehead. I went to the Dargah with the Sindoor still on my forehead. When we went there, they welcomed us, changed my turban,and then all of us prayed together.’
“Later, we all sat down and discussed which is very good” (the audience applauds). “This could only have happened with Baba ji’s blessings, the blessings of a Hindu Baba ji, everyone knows.”
“I will not take more of your time but we have the Bible and we have the Granth Saheb (the Sikh holy book). The Sloka of the Granth Saheb is….you know it, will you tell us what it is? (Asking the Sikh priest present there)….’Awal Allah noor upaya kudrat ke sab bande’ (First God created light and then by His creative power he made all mortal beings).The names may be different; but to realize this, we serve and leave our personal egos.”
“I will tell you another very short story before ending. Guru Nanak Sahib used to live at a place a little beyond Jalandhar, where he used to work for the Nawab Sahab and he was assigned the job of distributing grains to the populace. So, the first day, he did his work well; people were standing in a queue and as their turn came he counted one, two, three and so on till twelve. When he came to the number thirteen (terah in Punjabi), he could not go beyond this number because thirteen or ‘terah’ in Punjabi also means ‘yours’. He repeatedly said terah, terah terah and kept dispensing the grains. He felt that nothing was his and it was all ‘terah’ or His (God’s).”
“Somebody informed the Nawab that his employee had lost his wits, so he came and asked Nanak what he was up to. Nanak replied that he was convinced that nothing belonged to him and that all was His. When one begins to think this way, then he is not of any use in worldly matters. He becomes a zero. This zero in Buddhist scriptures is called Shunya. Nothing remains.”
“So, if we understand all these matters, we can live together in harmony. This is Bhaarat’s ancient culture. It is with this aim of establishing unity of humanity that we are walking.”
“Once again, my Namaskaars to you and Dhanyavaad. Tomorrow, we will leave from here for our next destination. I know that you cannot walk with us physically but do walk with us in your minds. I am convinced that if you pray for the success of our journey and accompany us in your minds, we will surely be successful in achieving our aim.”
“Thank you.” (The audience applauds).