The padayatris left at 6.00 am this morning from the Pavakkulam Temple, Kaloor. Walking in the dark on the city streets was a new experience—the glowing orange street lights, bright neon billboards with the associated flickering sounds of insects and an occasional dog howling in an otherwise empty road, a surreal effect indeed. The walkers strode, picking their way carefully, through pathways littered with debris from the Metro under-construction.
As the sun rose, the city slowly woke up. By 7.30 am, the streets were filling up with buses, cars and screaming lorries, going about their daily itinerary. The yatris soon reached National Highway 47, walking under the huge half-built Metro lines. These provided some shade thankfully, now and then.
The padayatra arrived at the SCMS School of Engineering and Technology by 8.15 am. Sri M interacted with students from the College for a while after breakfast. Walking on, with a ten-minute break for a refreshing juice, they reached the Aluva NSS Camp and Office by 10.45 am where Sri M interacted with the local community.
After breakfast, the group backtracked for a few hundred meters and took an empty village road. It was a relief to walk again on the undulating streets in the quiet quarters, surrounded by trees. They walked past small clusters of habitation on the way. It is easy to see that Kerala is one big city with very few parts non-populated and rural.
After a short break where the yatris enjoyed some oranges, Sri M and the yatris were received and greeted at Union Christian College, Aluva, by the College authorities, including the Principal. Here too, he addressed the students.
From here, they walked to the Tantra Vidya Peedham, Aluva, reaching at 12.30 pm. This was the halting point for the day. The group walked 21 kms today, averaging 18 minutes to a kilometer. The padayatra, consisting of the yatris and many local participants, numbered about 150.Both men and women were accommodated on the same campus in a clean environment. They then retired for rest after lunch at 1.30 pm.
Late Sri Madhavji, a leader of social and spiritual renaissance, started the Thantra Vidya Peedham in 1972. Practitioners of Kerala Thanthra Sastra, as prescribed by the scriptures, have now become sparse due to a fall in spiritual and scholarly standards through the ages. This Institute was started to revive and sustain this ancient body of knowledge. It follows the traditional Gurukula system of education, under the guidance of the Kulapathi. The students do not pay any fees except a ‘gurudakshina’ and are provided exposure to modern education and expertise in Temple Sastras.
The Institute is situated on the banks of the River Periyar and many walkers enjoyed a cool dip before the evening program. Some headed towards a sporting good megastore to replenish stocks. Over the last couple of days, it was agreed that all walkers would carry with them a steel plate, a water bottle, a cup and a spoon so as to avoid litter of plastic and other waste.
The evening program, held on the banks of Periyar in the beautiful village of Veliyathnaadu, started with Sri V E B Menon, a Board Member of the Thantra Vidya Peedham, introducing Sri M and the late founder, Sri Madhavji. Interestingly, he noted that the Periyar, the second largest river, flows north at this point, the same way the Ganga at Varanasi flows north. He then spoke about the curriculum followed by the Vidhya Peedham and the founder’s desire to turn Veliyathunaadu into a modern village.
Sri M commenced his address saying that this was the first time he was visiting the Thantra Vidya Peedham. He had heard about Sri Madhavji and also about his outstanding work. He spoke about his unique Samadhi marked only by a peepal tree and nothing else. He said this was comparable to Maheshwarnath Babaji’s Samadhi, where there is no memorial to identify the place. He said that Babaji did not want to add to the number of museums or memorials already existing in the names of departed saints. Both the samadhis, he said, are testimonies of their lives spent without ego, simply carrying on their work.
“Tantra Vidya is taught in this Gurukul. In many places, especially the North, it is believed that Tantra is black magic and constitutes rituals done in cemeteries by cults. The word Tantra actually means a method of how to bring about change. There is Mantra, Yantra and Tantra. Yantra is the blue print. When you have the blue print, you know how to direct the energies. They are like pictures. Mantra is the sound equivalent of the yantra. The meaning of Tantra is to gather these energies that are usually dissipated, purify the mind, channelize the energies from the left and right, and join them at the bottom, which is called ‘Mooladhara chakra’.
“From there, these energies must be taken through the central channel, which is referred to in some mystical books as the narrow straight path—known as Merudanda. Krishna says, “Among the mountains, I am Meru.” To be able to take the energy through different chakras to the Sahasraara chakra; to take this energy, this Devi, to the top and merge it with Shiva is Samadhi. Incidentally, one may develop some powers in the process. These powers are only incidental. The goal is to achieve happiness, bliss, joy and ecstasy. Unless the mind is purified, no one can touch this power. This is a natural safety valve.”
He compared this process of inner purification to the philosopher’s stone that could turn any base metal into gold.
He continued his talk and spoke about Sri Vidya Upasana. “Here, the universal energy is worshipped as a Devi. There are Bijaksharas (seed syllables) associated with the worship. The Guru decides the mantra, according to the tendency of the student. There are many variations, number of chants and the Chakra on which it is to be concentrated but it is extremely effective when compared to other vidyas. For most people, twenty percent activation of Mooladhara is enough for usual life functions. The rest of the eighty percent needs to be diverted. As you go up, every center has a description, every center has a Bijakshara, every center has an image that you have to visualise. Some people take years in one chakra to progress. For some people, it is very fast. The time factor cannot be decided since it is based on the past and present karmas, the kind of life one leads and the food habits. When this energy goes from one step to another, the mind opens up and, step-by-step, the awareness also rises. When one reaches the top, one is a multidimensional being, no longer limited to the three dimensions.”
Sri M said further, “ There is a physical yatra and an internal yatra. The internal walk is towards purity of mind. I am sure there will be progress in the case of all sahayatris and they will enjoy Shanti (peace), Samadhana (harmony) and Paramananda (Supreme Bliss). Our effort is to share this progress during Satsangs organised everyday.”
Touching upon Kriya Yoga, he said the technique is also aimed at purifying the mind. He then spoke about Vamachara and the Samayachara traditions in Sri Vidya Upasana. He said people should lead normal lives and then gradually withdraw. “Let one enjoy the sensual pleasures and realize that everything is available. As in a temple, there is an external worship and an internal worship by the Bhakta. In Samayachara, everything is internalised. The ego of the practitioner is sacrificed in the case of a ‘bali’. In the Dasha Mahavidya, you worship Bhadra Kali who is a ghora (horrible) devata. Kali is defined as 'munda-mala-vibhushita' (she who wears a garland of severed heads). To know, to understand, you have to sacrifice your head - your ego - your ahamkara.” He jocularly added that people should not attempt it, as it is extremely difficult.
Sri M added that breath for a human being is very important and “once you lose your breath, you cannot bring it back unless you are a mahayogi like Lahiri Mahasaya”. In Benaras, there lived a yogi named Lahari Mahasaya. One of his prominent disciple’s son, a medical doctor, completed his internship. The father asked him to go to Lahiri Mahashaya and take his blessings. He went to Sri Lahiri and took his blessings. The mahayogi then asked him what are the general symptoms of death. The young doctor said that the heartbeat stops, the pulse stops, breathing comes to a standstill and the solar plexus slowly becomes cold. Sri Lahiri Mahashaya then asked him to watch and demonstrated a state akin to death.
He stopped his breath and the doctor, with growing anxiety, observed all symptoms associated with death. He checked him and saw that there was no pulse, no heartbeat and his solar plexus was going cold. He raised an alarm that Sri Lahiri Mahasaya had died. People gathered around assuming him to be dead. Suddenly, to their utmost shock, they heard laughter from the ‘dead body’. Sri Lahiri Mahasaya got up saying that the medical profession needed to progress more. Sri M said that most of us die when the breath stops but this is not true in the case of great yogis.
He concluded his talk by saying that the environment must be kept clean, one should grow more trees or we should live in the vicinity of a flowing river. These prevent dirt from accumulating in one’s surroundings.
The audience, along with Sri M, chanted OM thrice and meditated for a few minutes in silence. Dinner was served from 8.00 pm onwards. As the walkers retired, the gurgle of the flowing waters of the Periyar, reflecting the silvery moon, gently lulled them to sleep.