For many of the padyaatris, it was an excellent opportunity to attend a high-profile Summit where personalities of great repute and knowledge presented their views and suggestions on the subjects of peace and harmony. The rendering of the 'kulgeeth' or University anthem had all the participants in rapture. Such are the lyrics and music of this great work, not to forget the singing talent of the students.
Dr Karan Singh brought to the attention the need for world peace, peace within the country, within the society, within the family and within each individual. He also highlighted the importance of understanding the identity of a person e.g,. in his case a Dogri, then a Kashmiri, a Rajput, an Indian and above all a citizen of the world. He added that despite having multiple identities, there is a definite need for each of us to realise that we are all citizens of the world.
Mr Adama Kieng lauded India's contribution over the years to World Peace and quoted the ancient Indian dictum 'Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavanthu’. He also congratulated Sri M and his efforts towards world peace and universal brotherhood.
Sri M addressed the audience next. He started his speech reciting the Shanti Path from the Taittreya Upanishad and went on to thank those present: Dr. Karan Singh, MP, member of Parliament, Prof. Priyankar Upadhyay, UNESCO chair of the BHU, Prof. Harishchandra Tripati, vice chancellor of BHU and others.
After a brief introduction on the Walk of Hope, he spoke about Varanasi, "What can I say about Varanasi, it's the 'darbar' of 'Bholenath' – whoever lives here knows it. As soon as you land here, you'll see karma yoga presenting itself in a paradox -- it appears as though no one's doing anything, but the work gets done. The mind becomes calm.The ambience here is such that you don't need to do anything. Wake up early in the morning and - when the sun rises - you sit by the banks of Ganga, watch the river and understand that the flow of life is similar to the flowing river. If you want to cross the river, you'll need to catch a boat. We believe that Dharma is such a boat that we use to go from one place to another. In Buddhism, they call it 'Tatah Gataha' – the one who has crossed over to the other side."
He then narrated the story of the blind men trying to describe an elephant and added: "Sometimes, it feels like we have eyes but still can't see anything.Even I was blind and Maheshwarnath Babaji, my guru, came, put his hand on my head and slightly opened my eyes." He connected this story to the shloka that Dr Karan Singh had stated -'Ekam sat viprah bahuda vadanti.’
Explaining further: "Love is one such emotion that takes us out of this limited understanding because love also means sharing. When I share something with you I'm already expanding my horizon. The biggest problem is this 'I'. That's why when there's a communal fight, they just give it the name of ‘communal’. It's not ‘communal’ - people with vested interests try to exploit it, in the name of communal. If someone really understands the fundamentals of a religion, they won't do this. That's why I think the word fundamentalist is the wrong term. If they know the fundamentals of a religion, they won't do this."
Before stating the three qualities of a true devotee as mentioned in the 12th chapter ofThe Bhagavad Gita, called the Bhakti Yoga, Sri M said, "Don't put it away because it's in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is just a language. It’s an ancient language. If someone says ‘salaam alaykum’ and you reply ‘valekumas salaam’, they ask are you an Arab? It simply means may the peace of God be upon you and the reply means the same be upon you. So, this language barrier like religion barrier, caste barrier, they have to be worked out. When you listen to Sanskrit, don't say this is Hindu. That way everyone who lives in this country are Hindus, 'Sab Hindustani Hai'. “(All are Indians)
He then went on to state the three qualities, the first being:'samyam indriyagraamam' - the one who can keep his senses under control. In connection with this, he said, "When they say communal problems, you have to deal with anger by keeping our senses under control. Anger comes because we are prevented from enjoying something. Solve your own anger, like Dr. Karan Singh said. If you can change yourself, you can change the world. So, this is important to practise before we walk around talking about peace."
Moving on to the second quality:'sarvatra sama budhaya', he said, "In sukha or dukha, in pleasure or pain, in praise or in insult, one must keep their mind light without being unnecessarily disturbed. Such a mind can work wonders. Today most of the medicines sold are for depression. You can't do anything worthwhile if you depend on public opinion. You have to find your own inner strength. When we met Anna Ji, I told him some people call me mad because we are walking the length of India. So he replied that only mad men can do such work."
Finally, he explained the third quality described by Krishna to Arjuna: 'Sarva Bhoota Hite Rataha’ - having the welfare of all living beings in one's heart and added, "So peace and oneness of human beings, for me, is not theory but an experience I actually feel. A small part of the divine resides in every heart, so all of us are moving temples of God and the only way to worship this temple cannot be through Aarti but through service. So, service is the key to bring about change in us and in others. And it comes from kindness, compassion and love for others. The moment you love others, your mind has expanded. This is what we're trying to do with this walk."
Sri M repeated the quote on the wall of the BHU auditorium by Madan Mohan Malviya: 'This university will seek not merely to turn out men as engineers, scientists, doctors, merchants, geologists, but also men of high character, prodigy and honour whose conduct through life will show that they bear the hallmark of the great University'. And, he ended his speech with Swami Vivekananda's message: "Atmano mokshartha jagat hitayacha'– find moksha for your soul and do good to all human beings".
The plenary session – with addresses by Prof Douglas Allen and Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar – was profound and stimulating. Prof Douglas Allen is a leading expert on Mahatma Gandhi and the application of his principles in modern time. The session on 'Banaras, a model of communal peace and integration' brought out many lesser-known facts about this hoary city, to be made known to all Indians and to the world.
In the valedictory function, most people commended the quality of presentations. They all felt that more time was needed to present and discuss a topic like world peace. Prof Douglas Allen said that one could get many people to agree on the importance of peace and harmony but when it comes to putting it in practice, there are no takers. In this context, he congratulated Sri M's initiative to foster peace and communal harmony in his own way through the Walk of Hope.
All agreed that it was a wonderful effort by the Banaras Hindu University and also Sri M and the padyaatriswho had come together to contribute to such a noble cause.