Today early morning, after a hot cup of coffee at 5.30 am, the padayatris converged at the Shiva Temple, Mallur. At sharp 6.00 am, the group left the temple for the day’s destination—Tirur. The sun was up within an hour yet not as scorching as yesterday. The atmosphere was understandably humid which forced a slower pace.
The first stop was at the Tirunavaya Temple and the walkers were served breakfast here. Sri M spent some time in prayer at the temple.The Tirunavaya Nava Mukunda Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is an ancient Hindu temple on the banks of the Bharathapuzha River. It also features deities of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi. It is interesting to note that the Muslim community supplies the lotuses used in worship at the temple. The temple is also a famous pilgrim center as it is one of the 108 Vaishanava Thiruppathis (most holy temples). Thirunavaya historically was one of the venues for Mamangam—a grand assembly of the rulers of Kerala, held once every 12 years.
The Bharatapuzha river in Thirunavaya flows caressing three temples—Maha Vishnu on it’s north bank and Brahma and Lord Shiva on its south bank. Hence, the Pithrukarmas (rituals for one’s ancestors) performed at this ‘Thrimoorthy Sangam' are considered very sacred. On Karkidaka Vavu (No Moon day of the Karkidaka month), Hindus flock at the banks of Bharathapuzha here, to perform the pithrukriya for the souls of their dead ancestors.
There is another legend associated with the Tirunavaya Temple. The deity is called "Nava Mukundan" as it is believed that the idol was the ninth one to be installed by a group of Hindu saints known as "Navayogis". The first eight idols disappeared as soon as they were placed there and the ninth sank to its knees before it was forcibly stopped. It is interesting that the image of Nava Mukundan is portrayed only from above the knee, the rest of the image being concealed within the ground. It is believed there is a bottomless, unexplored pit behind the image in the sanctum.
Soon after breakfast, they were received at the CSI Mission Hospital, Codacal where Sri M and the walkers enjoyed lemon juice and some rest. The CSI Mission Hospital is the first multi-specialty hospital in the area and has state-of-the-art accident and trauma care center with ultra modern facilities. The ten-year-old hospital provides medical care at affordable cost to the common man.
At 10.30 am, the yatris were greeted by a group of 70 school children from the Vidya Peetham Lower Primary School, Tirur. Fifteen minutes later, they had a break where they enjoyed a fruit and another lemonade. Walking on, they reached the B P Angadi Dargah where Sri M spent some time in prayer and contemplation. Here, the walkers were treated to some watermelon juice and a special variety of laddoo with a local flavor. A local news channel interviewed Sri M at this point.
It was almost noon and the day was turning extremely hot, and the level of difficulty went up couple of notches. Around noon, about 100 students from the SSM Polytechnic College, Tirur welcomed Sri M and the yatris. There was enough respite for a tea and also a photo opportunity.
Just outside Tirur, they were welcomed by a small group of people who also joined the Walk. The walkers reached the Thunchan Memorial Center, Tirur at 1.15 p.m. This was their halting point for the day. Lunch was served at 2.30 pm and then, the yatris were allocated their places of stay. The men were put up at the Karuna Classic Auditorium about 450 meters away and the women stayed in a lodge about 10 minutes away. The yatris, numbering around 170 to 200, had walked 22 kms in a span of 7 hours and 15 minutes, longer than usual as the number of breaks were more today.
At the BP Angadi Dargah
The Thunchan Memorial at Tirur is the birthplace of Thunchan Ramanujan Ezhuthachan, the father of Malayalam language. He was a devotional poet and linguist from around the 16th century. Coming from an underprivileged caste, he translated the two Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, into Malayalam for the common man. He brought massive changes and standardization in the language through his works.
The padayatris assembled again at 5.30 pm for their evening tea and the program. The evening started with a mellifluous veena recital for about 30 minutes and Sri M started his address at 6.30 pm. The Satsang started with readings from the Quran, Bhagavad Gita and the Bible.
Sri M addressed the gathering with ‘Namaskaram’ and ‘Salaam’. He remarked that the salutation ‘Salaam’ meant ‘Let peace be with all’ which is also the meaning of the oft-repeated "Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti" mantra. He said, “Though we use words most of the time, we do it mechanically, not understanding their import. That is the way most of us live now. To understand the importance of what we say, to mean what we say and to feel deeply what we say, is one of the agenda of our Padayatra.”
“If we take the essence of the excerpts of the holy books which were read out now, it is quite easy to understand that the underlying theme of all is love. If we take Buddhism as well, the theme is none other than this. The rest of the teachings we could move to the backburner without harming anyone.”
He narrated the story of Swami Vivekananda and his service to ‘Daridranarayana’ (To serve Narayana, we have to serve the starving millions of the land). In the early days of establishing the Belur Math, his co-monks expressed their displeasure to him about his serving the poor as one of the main activities of the Mission. They felt he was moving away from the precincts of Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings. Swamiji was annoyed and, while preparing to leave the Math as a result, spoke about Sri Ramakrishna’s pilgrimage along with Mathur Babu (Rani Rasmoni’s son-in-law) to Deogarh, Varanasi, Allahabad and Vrindavan. At that time, the town of Deogarh was undergoing a severe famine and the people were dying from hunger and thirst. Sri Ramakrishna, seeing the plight of the villagers was deeply anguished and refused to move from the place unless Mathur Babu organized a supply of rations for their survival. A reluctant Mathur Babu had to accede to his request. Sri Ramakrishna ate only after the villagers were fed. The fellow monks immediately realized their mistake and asked Swamiji to step into his leadership shoes again.
“Thus, we may meditate for long hours, develop siddhis, talk captivatingly, but, if we do not develop deep love for mankind, much of what we have acquired will not be of any value. Great souls have repeatedly mentioned this.” He added.
“Jesus, during his journeys came across a prostitute who was about to be pelted by stones by a crowd. He said that it is okay to throw stones if the law states thus but, he exhorted that only those who have not sinned may throw the first stone. As it turned out, none came forward to pelt stones.” “Once we realize that there is a small portion of the almighty residing within all of us, only then, can we look at others with love.”
Sri M then narrated another parable, which Sri Ramakrishna used frequently to illustrate unity among all religions. “There were three people from three different countries traveling together and were thirsty.” Sri M jokingly interjected at this point: “These people were walking and they got thirsty… it was not like our Padayatra where, every fifteen minutes, we are supplied with water, lemon juice or buttermilk!!” in reference to the hospitality of the Malappuram team of volunteers, who took such care of the Padayatris during the last two days. Continuing with the story, “Each traveler tried to express their need saying it in their own language – ‘paani’ in Hindi, ‘âb’ in Persian and ‘nero’ in Latin. There soon started an argument, which resulted in a fight. A passerby, trying to gather the reason for their fight, soon understood what they wanted and took them to a water body!”
“Here, the fight was over the "name" of the object they all wanted badly. This truth was echoed by the Rig Veda, probably more than 2000 years back – ‘Ekam Sat Viprah Bahuda Vadanthi’ (There is only One Truth. The Wise call it by many names). Depending on the place you come from, your circumstances, the type of Dhyana you do, you might adopt different methodologies in your worship of the almighty, but the essence of all religions is, simply put, love. It is not the physical love that many experience at certain stages in your life but a different kind, which arises in very different and difficult situations.
Take the case of Mother Theresa. She would take the homeless, the terminally sick and the destitute to her ashram and take care of them with deep love. For her, nothing else mattered. The motto of Manav Ekta Mission is the same. What is in a name anyways? If I call someone as Balu, whose name is Balakrishna, does it matter?”
He continued, “This concept or ideology is nothing new. Kabir was born a Muslim and later changed his name to Kabir Das. One of his famous Dohas goes: ‘Jaathi na poocho saadhu ki, pooch lijiye gnaan, mol karo talwar ka, pada rahan do mayan’ (Do not ask the caste of a holy man, ask about his knowledge, bargain for the price of the sword, leave the scabbard alone).”
“I spent many years with my Guru, Sri Maheshwarnath Babaji, and learnt many things from him. The most outstanding among them were his humility and his love for all creation. He told me that if, after years of severe austerities, you cannot hear a neighbour child's cry for food, throw out whatever you have amassed with all those austerities... khidki se bahar phenk do.”
“One way to develop such sublime love is to be in the company of people who already possess the same. The other is to rid your mind of Kama, Krodha, Mada & Lobha. As Tulsidas wrote,‘Kama krodha lobha saba natha naraka ke pamtha saba parihai raghubirahi bhajahu bhajahi jehi samtha’ – meaning ‘lust, anger, vanity and covetousness are all paths leading to Hell’. Leaving all these, adore the hero of Raghu’s lineage, whom saints worship.” Sri M said, “Taking Rama’s name, we become pure and learn to love all beings.
“Anyone who reads the Quran will note the mention of the words, Rahman and Rahim i.e. compassionate and merciful. As God introduced the breath of life into Adam, the first man, at least a little bit of these two qualities would have been instilled into humans as well. Though religions may be different and approaches to God different, nothing prevents all of us from living together happily. Whatever religion you follow, if the love in your heart does not grow, the path you are taking is wrong. Sadhana is a way of developing that love in your heart.”
Repeating his oft quoted verse from the 12th Chapter of the Bhagawad Gita, Sri M said that one should have the welfare of all beings at heart, as in ‘Sarvabhoota Hite ratah’.He moved to another story: “Prophet Mohammed was sitting in the company of a group of people. A cat came and lay down on his robes. As the time for prayer approached, others got up to go but Prophet would not budge for fear of disturbing the cat from its slumber. Finally, he cut off the part of the robes where the cat was resting so that he could leave without disturbing the cat in slumber!” Sri M said, “Reflect on this though these are things very difficult to emulate.”
He continued, “Parabrahma is within all of us. We are walking Kshetras, Mosques and Churches and it is only logical that we have God Almighty within us. Once we realise what lies within, it is easy to understand Parabrahma or the infinite, indefinable power. To do this, one's mind has to be pure and full of love. Then, we will be able to understand, experientially, the oneness of all scriptures; otherwise, it is not possible.”
“Bhagavat Gita has 18 chapters, each describing a different Yoga or approach to understand the Ultimate Truth. It is so like different rivers flowing into the mighty ocean. We also chose Kanyakumari, a sangam of three seas, to start our Padayatra. We should complete this yatra by end of April 2016; what will happen by then, we would know only then. But, by the way we have covered the first 560 km, the way the yatris and other well wishers have shown interest, I feel it is very much possible to complete the yatra successfully.”
“I need your prayers and support for the successful completion of our endeavour. I will be very happy if you could join us for a few steps, an hour or a day, whichever is convenient to you. I feel you will be taking us along on our yatra and not the other way around.”
He concluded his address with the words: “I thank all the persons who have worked tirelessly in Malappuram to assist us in our journey through this wonderful district. Though we owe it to God to make anything happen, since there is a portion of God in all of you, it is very much your effort as well.”
Dinner was served at 8.00 pm and the padayatris retired to their places by 9.30 pm.