The day started early, half an hour than usual, at 5.30 am since some of the padayatris had to be transported to the starting point—Shankara Hall and Auditorium, Thrissur. From this point, the padayatra started at 6.00 am. Leaving the city behind in 30 minutes, the yatris walked in a semi-urban landscape for a while—flanked by large warehouses on one side and vast, mist-covered uninhabited areas on the other.
A small group of people greeted Sri M and the walkers at the Vivekananda Vijnana Bhavanam, Punkunnam. Sri M spent a brief time in prayer here and everybody enjoyed a cup of tea. On reaching Cheerakuzhy, after walking 8 kms, the padayatra gathered at the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Temple (SNDP). This is one of the temples initiated and installed by Sree Narayana Guru—sant, sadhu and social reformer.
Walking on, the padayatris reached a Satsangi’s house and were greeted by about 40 people here. After a refreshing drink of cool lemonade, the group proceeded with some of the local reception committee joining them as well. Most of the progress was on a highway, which does afford more space for the walkers, though the flip side is they always need to be on the watch for speeding vehicles. It wasn’t very humid today and the walk was rather uneventful. Moving away from the highway, they were again walking on narrow yet heavily trafficked roads, proceeding along the string of small-towns that characterizes Kerala.
The group reached Kechery Mamta Hotel at 11.45 am, after having walked 17.8 kms. This the congregation point as well as the halting point for the elderly and the womenfolk. The younger and the able-bodied men were taken to an old house very close to the Sri Guruvayoor temple—about 12 kms away. This group had to be ferried across the town four times and their day ended only around 11 pm. However, being very close to the Guruvayoor temple, most of them were able to fit in a temple visit - a blessing in disguise!
Kechery, on the banks of the river Kechery Puzha, is a small town in Thrissur district with its own multifaceted culture and heritage. The mosaic of different cultures, religions and lineages is colourful and varied, being so close in proximity to the cultural capital of Thrissur and the hallowed pilgrimage center of Guruvayoor.
Guruvayoor Sri Krishna Temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and is often referred to as "Bhuloka Vaikunta"—the "Holy Abode of Vishnu on Earth". The presiding deity in the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Guruvayur Temple is Lord Vishnu, worshipped in the form of Lord Krishna, his avatar. This image represents the majestic form of Vishnu as revealed to Krishna's parents Vasudeva and Devaki around the time of Krishna's birth; hence Guruvayur is also known as "Dwaraka of South India". The deity is worshipped according to routines laid down by Adi Shankara.
Lunch was served at 1.30 pm and the group congregated again at 4.30 pm for tea.
The evening program was held at the Aruga Auditorium at 6 pm. It commenced with a Mohiniyattam dance recital by a satsangi, Ms. Sujatha Ramachandran, who was accompanied by her Guru.
Mohiniyattam, a classical dance form of Kerala, is a very graceful form of dance performed mostly solo by women. Mohiniyattam literally means the ‘dance of the enchantress’ and is believed to have its origins from Vishnu’s disguise as a temptress to destroy the demon Bhasmasura (who possessing a boon of immortality granted by Lord Siva, tried to destroy the Lord himself). Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma, Maharaja of Travancore, popularized this art form in the 19th century.
Ms. Sujatha Ramachandran is the disciple of Padmasri Kalamandalam Kshemavathy, a torchbearer of this art. Sujatha is an empanelled artist of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and is also one of the artists forming part of Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Academy’s endeavour to popularise Mohiniyattom in the country.
The dance recital expressed various facets of Prema or love – from shrungara (attraction) to bhakti (devotion), from the physical to the sacred. It started with Sri M’s rendering of the Gurustuti followed by the first depiction of love portraying ‘shrungara’. "Chaliye kunjan mor" depicting Radha and Krishna, and their time together is a Swathi Thirunal padam written in Hindi. The next piece depicted Bhakti through excerpts from Sugathakumari's (a poet & activist of Kerala) famous poem "Krishna nee enne ariyilla"—the lament of a Gopika to Lord Krishna. The gopika says, "You don’t know me, oh Krishna! I am an ordinary woman who lives in a modest dwelling in Vrindavan. Unlike other gopikas who are clad in silks and announce their arrival to you with their tinkling anklets, I do not even steal a glance at you while drawing water, yet you don’t know me. Oh, Krishna! When we dance with you and you embrace us, I have never looked at you in a lustful manner. When your flute announces the arrival of spring and everyone rushes to unite with you, I shut myself in my home and offer you my very soul. Yet you don’t know me, O Krishna! When you leave for Mathura with Akrura, your chariot stopped in front of my abode and you glanced at me with tear-filled eyes and presented me your divine smile. I then understood that you always knew me and held me close to you. O Krishna!”
The dance recital ended with a short piece on Sri M’s rendering of ‘Bhavani Twam Dase’, verse 22 from the Soundarya Lahiri (Sanskrit)— a famous literary work believed to be written by sage Pushpadanta and Adi Shankara. The verse is the most powerful in Soundarya Lahari since the Yantra is Sri Chakra itself.
The overall message of the short piece was thus: “Just as how this one dance form found varied expressions of the ‘prema’ aspect through different languages and bhavas, we too, despite our caste, creed, language, geographical or social differences, have one language of the heart, love, that makes us human and humane.”
Sri M then began his address saying that he would like to keep the Satsang concise today for two reasons – “One, I have no words after the dance performance by Sujatha, which is so full of Bhakti Rasa, and second, my foot is hurting and I hope the pain will vanish in a couple of days. It is something very physical irrespective of one’s spiritual development; one's body will react in many ways and will give problems. One should be ready to face them. But for these problems, why should one aspire for Moksha which is in fact, absence of all maladies.”
He said, “I am really touched by Sujatha's performance and am happy that her Guru is also present here today. I will speak about ‘bhakti’ before we do our ‘dhyana’. I will narrate a couple of stories.”
Narrating the first story Sri M said, “My Babaji used to repeat this story many a time. One day, Sri Krishna visited his friend, Uddhava, who was not home. Uddhava’s wife was dumb-founded by his arrival and wasn’t able to think properly. Sri Krishna entered and asked for a seat. Uddhava’s wife hastily provided him with one. Now Uddhava’s wife was in a stage described in Keno Upanishad –‘Yadvacha abhyuditam yena vaagbhyudhyate. Tadeva Brahma tvam, viddi nedam yadidamupaasate’ meaning ‘That which cannot be expressed through speech and (on the contrary) by which speech is expressed, you realize that alone is Brahman, not this that people worship’. Something words cannot explain. Bhakti and self-realization will follow when normal logic and thinking process is shattered. For some, it is easy and for some, it is very difficult. For some, it could happen early in life and for some, it could take a lifetime or many births even.”
“Sri Krishna asked Uddhava’s wife for something to eat. In a flurry, she gave him some water and also some bananas. She sat at his feet and fed him bananas one-by-one. But, in her state of confusion, instead of feeding him the banana, she threw the fruit away and fed him the peels. At this juncture, Uddhava entered and was greatly vexed to see this strange thing happening. Upon his enquiry, she came to her senses and asked for Krishna’s forgiveness. Uddhava asked her to go inside and started feeding Sri Krishna himself. He did the right thing by feeding him the bananas while throwing away the peels. Sri Krishna told Uddhava that the bananas were incredibly sweet, but he also added that the peels tasted better.”
Sri M quoted another verse from Keno Upanishad, “Yanmanasaa na manute, yenahurmanomatam.Tadeva Brahma tvam viddhi, nedam yadidamupaasate,” meaning “That which cannot be comprehended by the mind, and (on the contrary) by which the mind comprehends, you realize that alone as Brahman, not this which people worship.”
Continuing, he said, “Today is a day for stories. I am reminded of Rev. Father Mar Chrysostom, who has retired from bishop-hood and authored a book, 'Kathaparayum Neram' (Story time).”
Narrating the second story, Sri M said, “It was a time when Sri Krishna had moved from Vrindavan and Mathura and had settled in Dwaraka, with Satyabhama and Rukmini as wives. At night, his wives found Sri Krishna calling out the names of several Gopikas aloud, in his dreams. They were greatly aggrieved as they had been doing his ‘seva’ with extreme devotion. The time had come for Sri Krishna to enact one of his famous dramas. He suddenly fell sick with severe stomach ache. Several physicians came but their medications and treatments were of no avail. Then, Sage Narada arrived. He was told of Sri Krishnas' grave condition. Narada suggested a ‘Siddha Aushada’ (Siddha medicine) to cure this malady.
It was the dust from someone's feet. If the dust from anybody’s feet could be offered to Sri Krishna, his malady could be cured. Nobody, including Satyabhama and Rukmini, were ready to offer this to him as they were mortally afraid of going to hell for this ultimate crime of feeding Sri Bhagwan Krishna with their 'paada-dhuli' (dust from their feet).”
“Narada disappeared and appeared before the Gopikas in Vrindavan. The Gopis asked about Sri Krishna’s well being and were stricken when told that he was bed-ridden due to an acute stomach illness. Narada then told them about the antidote to his illness. Presto! All the Gopikas most willingly offered their 'pada-dhuli' to him despite being warned of the ‘karma’ (the law of moral causation) it would generate.”
Sri M continued further saying that when we think of Vedanta, we tend to think only about Adi Shankara and his Advaita. But there are many aspects like Dvaitam (Duality) and Vishista Dvaitam (Qualified Duality). He then went on to narrate the third story about the saint, Sri Ramanujacharya.
“Sri Ramanujacharya is the propounder of Vishista Dvaita from Sriperumbudur. His Guru taught him the Taraka Mantra and instructed him that it should be shared only with disciples who are most deserving. All those who were shared the Taraka Mantra, whether deserving or undeserving, would go to Vaikunta. But if the mantra was given to an undeserving person, Ramanujacharya would have to go to Naraka a hundred times over for a hundred births.”
“The very next day, Ramanujacharya went atop a hill and called out, ‘Come everyone, I am going to initiate you into Taraka Mantra.’ The other disciples of the Guru saw this and told the Guru that Ramanujacharya was indiscriminately distributing the Mantra. The Guru replied, "That’s Ramanuja, why do you think I have made him my premier disciple?"
Sri M said one should “Go home and reflect on these stories till you get their essence. Even if you consider them as stories, it is also okay.” He concluded his talk by thanking Sujatha Ramachandran for the soulful dance performance.
The session ended with the chanting of OM followed by silent meditation.
The padayatris were served dinner at 8.00 pm, after which they retired for the night.