Day 34 | 14 Feb 2015 | The Walk of Hope 2015 -16

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Refreshed after a day of rest at Kodungallur, the walkers, along with Sri M commenced the day’s journey at 6.00 am from the Swami Vivekananda Kendra, at peace with the early hours before dawn. With the sun yet to make its appearance, the pace was brisk, the progress swift, as they made their way through the populous part of the town slowly stirring awake for the day’s business. Soon, they were on the state highway, negotiating the crowded thoroughfare with its goods carriers and public transport buses. Sri M’s frequent exhortation of the symbolism of the Walk of Hope 2015-16 – of it being an inner journey as well as an external journey seem to be having a visible effect on the padayatris. The different degrees of manifestation of this reiteration can be clearly observed in them, some of the traits common to all. For example, those who have been walking for a while are relatively silent. They do talk but not as frequently. Many walkers who have joined recently clearly tend to talk more in groups.

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After being greeted by a group of 10 people, they reached Vellangallur where the group was served breakfast. An hour later, after a brief visit at a satsangi’s house, the group was welcomed by the students of Kendriya Vidyalaya and their family members, along with the local community, numbering around 50. The group also had a refreshing round of fresh buttermilk served, at the meeting point. Greeted by another group of 30 with most of them joining the walk just before they entered Irinjalakkuda town, they were soon at the Koodalmanikyam temple which was their halting point. Sri M and the padayatris were welcomed with chants by a group of children and showers of flower petals. They were soon assigned their places of rest - with the men staying in three halls and the women being transported in vehicles to their rooms. They had lunch at 12.30 p.m. and dispersed to their rooms for some rest. Though the name Irinjalakkuda (merging of two rivers) suggests flowing waters, the place does not have a river. There is a huge banyan tree in the town center which serves as its unofficial congregation point for the community. The Koodalmanikyam temple is unique as it is the only temple in India dedicated to Sri Rama’s brother, Bharata. Originally, it was called Bharateswara, the Digambara Jain saint. The temple is one of four in Kerala state that form a set called "Nalambalam" - each temple dedicated to one of the four brothers in Ramayana: Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Though the deity worshipped is generally believed be Bharata, the idol in the sanctum sanctorum is that of Vishnu, also known as ‘Sangameshwara’ (Lord of the confluence). Another difference from the other Kerala temples is that there is no Deeparadhana – lighting of lamps along the walls of the temple. Sri M met prominent representatives of the local community and the volunteers, and had an interaction with them for an hour from 5 to 6 p.m. The evening program was organized in a hall just behind the temple. The evening started off with a Veena recital for about 30 minutes, after which Sri M addressed a packed auditorium with more than 700 people. There were people standing in the aisles and an equal number outside, listening intently to Sri M’s words. Sri M began his talk saying that 500 kms out of the 6500 kms had now been traversed. He was taking each day as it came, and not thinking about the next day till it dawns. ‘It was my Guru, Maheshwarnath Babaji's words that was the catalyst. One day he told me that I would embark on a walk like we are attempting now. Since everyone by now knows about the padayatra, I will recount some stories about my experiences with Babaji. Once at Uttarkashi, my feet starting hurting after a long walk. Babaji asked me if they were hurting and asked how many kilometres we had done by then. I said I didn't know. Babaji, who used to follow the British metric system, said we had done more than 20 miles. He also added to my surprise that I would have to do thousands of miles of walking "ek samay par jaana hi hoga!". I said I would do it with his blessings. He also added, ‘you would have to do it with many people.’ I said this was not possible. Babaji said firmly, ‘just do it’ and he reminded me of the time that I had said that I was his dog. I had no other option but to say “aadesh”, which in Nath parlance means acquiescence.’ ‘Five years ago, I thought about this idea but had great reservations about who would be willing to walk along with me, but the compulsion - as it was Babajis' instructions, was always at the back of my mind. I again thought about it and shared this with some of my friends. They all agreed and over the last couple of years many people joined me and made it into a reality. The padayatra has happily turned into a tirth-yatra (piligrimage) as well. For example, I had never visited Koodalmanikyam temple and here I am now. I talked to my sahayatris about two types of journeys they have to undertake. One, the outward journey from Kanyakumari to Srinagar, and the other, an internal one, a preparation enabling them to look and find the essence within.’ Sri M said “Many of us are adjusting to the heat, mosquitoes etc., but surprisingly, no one is complaining. The walk has turned into a tapasya into itself. The only thing is that they are not allowing me to be with them in their travails. Now, I will share with you my own version of the Bhagavatam. Since many of my experiences with Babaji has been mentioned in my autobiography – Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master, A Yogi’s Autobiography, I will mention a few which will find place in its' sequel. Please understand that the hero of both these books is not me but Maheshwarnath Babaji, a maha-yogi. It is only that something of him has rubbed off on me.’ ‘When I was twelve years of age, my father’s older cousin, visited our house as he often did. He remained unmarried due to a funny incident which happened during his intended wedding ceremony. Some of his "would-be brides' friends" threw a banana peel at him in jest, which so enraged him that he came off in a huff saying that if things are as bad as this before marriage, after marriage could possibly be sheer hell, for all one knows! He never agreed to getting married again. A school teacher, based in Punalur, he was a voracious reader, erudite and progressive in his beliefs. It was he who first mentioned Kundalini to me. He was a master of Kalari, and was delighted to know that I too had started my training in Kalari at the C V N Kalari training center. During one of his visits, he told me that he would take me somewhere and asked me not to tell anyone at home about the destination. We decided to tell my father that we were going to his house in Punalur for Kalari training. My father readily agreed. After six days of travelling in trains and buses, we reached Ganeshpuri in Maharashtra. Our destination was Nityananda Avadhuta’s ashram. This swami had earlier lived in Kanhangad, where he used to live in a cave. We got his darshan at 4 p.m. in the evening. The swami was heavily built, dark skinned and resting in an easy chair while we all stood in a queue to meet him. I got scared of him, by his looks and was getting worried. He spoke something to everyone. As I went near him, he hit me hard on my cheek, so hard that I fell down and started crying. He asked me to get out as well. I wept bitterly and complained to my uncle that I wanted to go home quickly. He took me to Punalur first so that nobody got suspicious. After 3 or 4 days I was taken back home deciding never to follow my uncle anywhere again. As you may know, by the age of 19, I had left home, and eventually ended up at Babajis' lotus feet after many adventures. After a year with him, he told me that I should practice a particular pranayama so that the Ida nadi, which was closed would open up. After 3 months of practice, he said that it had opened up completely. Out of curiosity, I asked about my Pingala nadi. It was then he said to my great surprise that it had already opened at the age of twelve, through that great whack by Nityananda avadhuta. This is how the greats are connected and how they work.” Narrating a second story, Sri M said that ‘Babajis' love and affection was there not only for humans but also for animals.So much so that I feel that he was a PETA activist during his time. In Rishikesh, there is a road leading to Neelkanth temple and on a hill there is the Mauni Baba cave which was our shelter during our stay at Rishikesh. Mauni Baba would go to Neelkanth and leave a bhramachari to look after us.’ A group of sadhus once visited Babaji and told him that a rogue elephant was troubling them and had even killed one of the sadhus without provocation and asked for his help in ensuring their safety. Babaji said ‘teekh hai’ and did not assure them of anything. But later, in the middle of the night, he woke up the young disciple from his slumber and they walked into the forest. They stopped in a clearing in the middle of the forest and Sri M was asked to sit on a rock along with Babaji. The scared disciple sat beside quaking with fear and apprehension. Babaji motioned him to silence and they sat waiting. Suddenly, Sri M heard a sound and saw an elephant charging in full force, towards them. He thought it was his end and tried to hide behind the rock. What happened next was unbelievable. Babaji was standing right next to the elephant, gently stroking its trunk and murmuring to him. After a few minutes, Babaji asked Sri M to come forward and bow down to the elephant. With great trepidation, he walked slowly to the elephant and bowed down respectfully. He continued “Such a great man who had no videos, no tapes, no books, no advertisements, no banners or footwear, only one blanket even which he gave away to me! He was my father, mother, Guru and friend all rolled into one. I always got an answer to my questions from him. Sometimes he would tell me “later”. I dared not question him further for the fear of being reprimanded on these occasions.’ Sri M narrated another story saying ‘He had always said “no” to my taking a photograph of him or even commissioning a portrait of his likeness. I wasn’t ready to be discouraged that easily. Those days, if you took a boat back from Mauni Baba's ashram, one reached where Shivananda ashram is now located. It was at this place between 5 and 7 p.m. that I learned many, many things from my master. There is a place called Lakshman Jhula where many photographers offer their services and hand over photographs taken, very quickly. I got friendly with one such photographer from Dehradun. I asked him to take a snap of Babaji. He pointedly asked me whether I had got permission to do this. I told him in my best conspiratorial tone that if you asked him, he would never allow it, so it had to be done at any cost.’ ‘I asked him to pretend that he did not know me and to take a picture of Babaji,without him being aware of it. I also said that it will be very easy to identify him as he was a towering six-footer. With this”perfect” plan, I sat with Babaji on the river banks and we talked about many things till dusk fell. Babaji suddenly said that it might now be impossible for your photographer friend to arrive. I fell at his feet asking for his forgiveness, as there was nothing else to do at that point. "Jaane do, theek hai", he pacified me, and gave me a lecture on photography. He explained the process of photography and asked me if “I {Babaji} have the ability to withdraw my reflection from falling on the lenses, how can my photograph be taken?”. At this point, I looked at Babaji and could only see a black image in an outline. However, I very badly wanted to know what had happened to my photographer friend. I tried to coax Babaji to go for a walk together to Dehradun for this purpose. He said 'no' saying that it is only a ruse to meet my photographer friend. Finally when I got a chance to meet him, he told me that he had got into a bus to come to Rishikesh to take the photograph, the bus promptly broke down. The same happened with the car too. He chastised me not to try such things with Gurus.’ ‘With several such experiences, my mind and heart became steady,’ Sri M said. He then came back to the twelfth chapter of the Bhagawat Gita which elucidates the qualities of a true bhakta as one who has ‘’withdrawn all externalized sense organs, equanimity at all times and the welfare of all beings at heart’. ‘An important thing’ he said was that ‘he learnt about “samyam indriya” (restraining the sense organs) first from Babaji and only then from the Gita. He went on to say that that none of these things were new. Rig Veda has said this a long, long time ago and only later has Krishna mentioned this in the eighteen Yogas described in Bhagwat Gita. They all end in reaching Parabrahman or the supreme. Sri M concluded his satsang saying that this yatra is only on account of Babajis' blessings and not because of his own efforts. After the chanting of OM and meditation, the group had dinner at 8 p.m. and retired for the night.

Sri M's Daily Satsang

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  1. Sreeranjini Sreenivasa Shenoi says:

    Fine example of limitations of photography

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