Day 394 | 9 February 2016 | Aligarh Muslim University | The Walk of Hope 2015-16

  • WOH Day 394 - Entering the precincts of the Aligarh Muslim University
  • Sri M flanked by the Vice Chancellor, Pro-Vice Chancellor of AMU, Aligarh
  • A powerful exhortation from the founder relevant even today - AMU
  • VC Gen. Zamiruddin Shah during his address - AMU
  • Sri M addresses the gathering at AMU
  • An occasion to remember - Aligarh Muslim University
  • 7.The-national-anthem-brings-the-curtains-down-on-a-memorable-evening,-AMU,-UP
Aligarh Muslim University is ranked as the second best university in India by international rating agencies. It was founded as Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College in 1875 by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. AMU took shape in 1920 as a Central University. Spread over 100 acres, it offers over 300 courses now. Currently, it has 13 faculties, 7 constituent colleges, 15 Centres, 3 Institutes and 10 schools.

The Journal Of Hope Archive

After a longish drive from Vrindavan, the padayatris were treated to tea and snacks at the picturesque cricket pavilion of the University. A short symbolic walk took them inside the university with its many historic departments, libraries and mosques. The public function was arranged at the lovely lawns near the mosque. On January 26th 2016, the university opened the faculty of Interfaith Understanding. Vice Chancellor General Zamir Uddin Shah said in his address that the visit of the Walk of Hope could not have come at a more opportune moment. He welcomed Sri M and the padayatris and said that the objectives of the Walk of Hope & AMU were co-terminus. He also stated that the concept of Manav Ekta was very close to their hearts and was preached at AMU. Pro Vice-Chancellor Brigadier Syed Ahmad Ali and Sri Tariq Ahmed, Director, Department of Interfaith Understanding were also present on the dais. Sri M started his address thus: “Salaam Alaikum and Namaskar. Firstly, I'd like to tell you that my Hindi and Urdu aren't great because I was born and brought up in Kerala. If you don't mind, I will stick to English, I'll shift to Hindi in between. I thank General Zameer Uddin Shah, the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Brigadier Syed Ahmed Ali, the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tariq Ahmed, the Director of the Center for Interfaith Understanding, Begum Zameer Uddin Shah and since I don't know everyone's names, I thank all of you who have welcomed us to this University. Till date, up to the age of 67, I have never been to this University and this is the first time I am coming here and I'm more than thrilled to be here. I'm not going to take much time because I believe that it is better to do than to speak. I want to tell you about a great Christian saint called St. Francis of Assisi. He had the habit of walking everyday for long stretches with his disciples. One day, he was walking quietly without speaking. So his disciples asked him, they must have talked in Italian, 'You haven't spoken anything today. Can you give us some knowledge?' He said 'at the end of my walk, I will speak to you'. So, the walk ended and still he wasn’t saying anything. He was sitting quietly looking at the sky. So the disciples said, 'At the end of the walk you said you would say something'. He said, 'Yes, I will say this - my walk is my talk'. This was St Francis of Assisi. I'm not comparing myself to Francis of Assisi. There was a time when one of our leaders said, 'Kaam zyada batein kum'. So, we are trying in some way to practise this. However, I have to explain to you why a mad man is walking from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. In fact, two three people told me 'This is absolute craziness, if you are going to walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, where will Manav Ekta come from? What do you think?' When we reached Ralegaon Siddhi, we spent a day with Anna Hazare. So I told Anna Hazare, this is the comment I got three days ago. He didn't deny that I was mad. He said, ‘Only someone who is mad can do something like this’. In the Sufi tradition, there are 'walis' who are called 'mastaans' - 'mast' because they are mad in a way. They go insane with their love for God. But you can't say that they are not contributing to the system. In the Hindu system of thought, they are also called Avadhootas. You look at them you'll think that they are mad. They are not mad. They think we are mad. So, this way we have started on this journey from Kanyakumari on the 12th of January 2015. You know Kanyakumari is the coming together of three great oceans. We thought it is an ideal place to start a walk which aims at bringing people together. Not so much bringing people together as making sure that they don't go apart. They are a part of the fabric of this nation. Of course, I know that many of us know about living together. It's not that we don't know, because it's an ancient tradition of this country. Whoever has come from any part of the world has been welcomed. No one has not been welcomed. You will not probably find a nation anywhere other than here where there are more than 25 languages and several dialects and many religions and in the religions what you call 'Sampradayas' (traditions) in Sanskrit. Yet, you go to a man on the street, be it anybody, and ask him who you are and certainly he will say, 'hum Hindustani hai'. This is rare, it's not possible easily. We know this. In this country, we don't have to teach. Unfortunately, sometimes due to various reasons which I won't go into, the fabric is torn asunder and when this happens, there's a raging fire which doesn't get doused even if you pour water into it. So our idea was that it should be prevented from happening. You know, prevention is better than cure. And, therefore, I have been meeting people across the country, belonging to different religions, because religions have a great influence on the mind of a human being. Most people live by faith. And, if a person who is responsible for teaching religion says the same thing which I'm saying, it will have much more impact than my saying it. This was one of the reasons why we started this walk, so that this fabric which is usually all quite nice doesn't tear apart as it happens sometimes. So, we believe that prevention is better than cure. This is the reason why we started this walk. We have now done 5800 kilometers, as a padayatra, walking. I'm not alone, there are many good friends walking. There is a core group of 60-70 people walking with us all the time from different states, different religions, different categories, even some people from abroad are walking with us, those who believe that we should live together in harmony and peace. We completed a year in Kanpur, on the 12th of January 2016. We have to go another 2000 km, we hope to reach Hazrat Bal in Srinagar on the 1st of May, walking from Jammu. We have been warned by different people that it's dangerous to go but I have firm faith that irrespective of what religion one belongs to, we are human beings basically, and humanity is one. I'm sure we will reach Hazrat Bal in Srinagar or the 1st of May, I'm sure. The rest as you say, 'Inshallah' and 'Bhagvan Ki krupa'. That's all. As fas as religions are concerned, we do not believe that any religion preaches destroying somebody else or taking anyone's life. All religions talk of peace. When you have a satsang in an ashram, it always ends with 'Om shanti shanti shanti'. When two Muslim brothers or sisters meet each other, what do they say? They say, 'Assalaamualaikum', which means what? May the 'salaamat' of the Supreme Being be upon you. Salaamat means, peace. May the peace and well being of the Lord be upon you. And, reply is, 'valaikumussalaam', so be it with you. It's only a question of language. Shanti is in Sanskrit and Salaamat is in Arabic. There's no other difference. We have been going to Jain institutions and meeting Jain munis. The principle of the religion is, 'Ahimsa Paramo Dharmaha'. Non violence is the essence of their religion. As far as Christianity is concerned, we don't have to say anything. There was a man wandering in the streets of Jerusalem, many years ago, who also said, “If somebody strikes you on one cheek, turn the other. Not easy to practise. We won't go to that extreme, we need to defend ourselves sometimes. But what I'm saying is here was a man, being or whatever you might want to call him, who said, 'Blessed are the peace-makers for they shall be called the children of God'. Not people from this religion or that, 'Peace-makers will be called the children of God'. So, it is there in all different religions. Peace, well being and living together are the essence. And this discrimination and the communal problems that happen, we believe, are not because of religion but in the name of religion. It is the facade of religion that is put in front; if you carefully examine, you will find that there will be a lot of vested interests, it's not religion. I was born in a Muslim family, I have learnt enough of Sufi teachings to understand them. At the age of 19, I went off to the Himalayas. I've spent time with yogis. One of my great teachers was Maheshwarnath Babaji who was a 'Nath panthi'. I studied in a college witch was run by Jesuits. Father Superior told me you're the prefect material, let's send you to the seminary. But I didn't. I said, let me stay as I am, what I am and continue this movement towards peace and oneness. You know that Buddhism always talks of non-violence, peace, compassion. So it's there. Since we are at Aligarh Muslim University, I'd like to tell you a nice little anecdote from the life of the prophet, may his soul rest in peace. It is said that once he was sitting in Mecca with a few people around him, you can't call them disciples, 'ahabs' or co workers. Well, if you literally translate, it becomes comrades. And then a dead body was taken across. So he stood up and the others also stood, and he prayed for peace. After the body was gone, his 'ahabs' asked him, 'Why did you stand up, that was a Jew's body that was taken, there was no reason for you to stand up'. He asked, 'After all these years haven't you realised that he is a human being and all human beings come from the Supreme Being'. This can come only from someone who has had spiritual enlightenment. We are walking with the ancient Vedic saying 'Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu, Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet'.It is in Sanskrit but it is a language. What it means is, 'May the whole world be happy'. In the essential teachings of Islam, there's only one world and there are only human beings. You may have your separate belief systems but we human beings come from the same source. There can't be another creator sitting somewhere and creating new people, this is impossible. And actually God knows what you really have in your heart, we cannot say anything. How can we say what somebody is thinking. Only God who sees everybody's heart knows what is happening inside. So we have started with this idea that we keep people together, don't allow them to split, live together in this great country like brothers and sisters. We saw what was written outside by the founder of Aligarh Muslim University. We also believe that we are first human beings, everybody is born from the womb of a mother, nobody falls from heaven and we all die and go back into this earth. Cremate or bury but we go back into this earth. In this small interim period between birth and death, can't we live in peace and harmony with each other? Your religious beliefs are your personal faith, but no religion says you can go and cause harm to somebody else. As General Zameer Shah, the Vice Chancellor, said, a handful of people create problems and everybody is branded. This happens in all religions, not only in Islam. So our idea is to bring people together and make them understand that in this great garden of India, where different flowers bloom, in different seasons and live together, may the wind of Oneness blow and may the breeze take the beautiful scent of all these flowers together and show the world that we can live together. The world is watching us. We have to set an example, we are Hindus, we are Muslims, we are Christians but we have to set an example to the world that in this ancient land, people still live together in peace, respecting each other's religions. This is the reason we have this walk. Especially we want to address the youngsters, the students, because the future of this country is in your hands. If you can understand this, you'll prevent any such thing from happening and move forward which is why we are so happy that we've come here to interact with students who are so young. We are now greyed, we will move on and you will take over. It is now your responsibility to see that this country remains united. If human beings do fight for the sake of religion, it’s because the essence of religion can be understood only up to a certain extent. This is a Sufi teaching. Each person can understand only up to his capacity. No more than that. I will tell you a story that comes from the ancient Jain sources but which was adapted by the great Sufi, Maulana Rumi, in the Maznavi. The story is about three blind men who went to find out what an elephant is. One touched the foot of an elephant and said, (he's blind, mind you), an elephant is like a pillar, with mosaic pieces set at the bottom, it's very big and it’s very rough. Sometimes, it moves and if you go too close, they warn that you might be killed. Elephant's foot on a person is enough. The other person touched the tail of the elephant. He said the elephant is like a broom and it keeps swinging up and down. If you go too close, you might get hit on your head. The third blind man touched the trunk of an elephant. He said an elephant is like a rubber hose, it moves all the time, it is very rough and sometimes it makes a 'phus phus' sound. This was the definition of an elephant from three blind men. Maulana Rumi says thus very beautifully in the Maznavi. Not in the Maznavi actually, it is in a lesser known text called the 'Fihi Ma Fihi', 'it is and yet it is not'. So a big fight started between the three blind men as to what is the correct definition of an elephant. It went to violence. When someone who could actually see appeared, he looked and he asked what is this fight about. They said the elephant is this this.... So he said, look, listen, what you're saying is right. What you're saying is also right. But you're all absolutely wrong because the elephant is much more than what you know. For that you have to open your eyes. You have no eyes so you don't see the elephant. You see only parts of the elephant. So, at different periods of time, the Almighty has sent different teachers, who explain to you in conditions which you and I can understand. So there must be many angles to it. Only those whose eyes are open see the whole picture. They are called Walis, friends of God. For them there is no difference. I want to tell you this, when the Golden temple was being built in Amritsar, Guru Arjun Singh was asked 'who will lay the first brick to build this temple?’. He said, ‘Go and ask Miya Meer to lay the first brick. I don't see any greater saint around.’ What do you say about this? I hope we haven't forgotten this. Sometimes, it feels like it's forgotten. It is very saddening sometimes that people fight with each other in the name of religion. We have to now take this in our hands. It's our responsibility. Wherever we go, we meet people who are politicians. Till this date, we've met every Chief Minister in all the states we've gone, we've discussed these matters because I believe that those who are in power can do wonders, if they understand. Now in Delhi, on the 19th, our Rashtrapathi Pranab Mukherjee is going to meet all of us padayatris, at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, at 1 o clock in the afternoon and have an interaction, a little bit of tea and so on and talk about what we are doing. So it’s only when it goes to such places that awareness spreads and people understand. We can't do this alone. So, why do I say this? Because I believe unless all of you are with us, this thing is impossible for us to do. I know that you cannot walk with us up to Srinagar. But in your mind if you support us by thinking 'This is a good thing, we should do it', then I would say right now in Aligarh we have succeeded. I once again thank all of you for welcoming us here and appeal to you that if you can't physically walk with us, let your minds walk with us so that we live in peace and harmony. And let the whole world see that this is possible in this country. Salaam Alaikum, Jai Hind. Sorry, I must introduce myself. The fact is we are an immigrant family from across the border. A hundred years ago, our family settled in Kerala which is why I consider myself a Malayali, a Keralite. Actually, my forefathers came as bodyguards to the Maharaja of Travancore. When I was born, my parents named me Mumtaz Ali Khan. The first letter of Mumtaz is M. When I went to the Himalayas, Maheshwarnath Babaji used to very sweetly call me Madhukar so, that Madhu which also means honey, is M. The first letter is M. But above all, the most important reason, why I love to call myself M, when people call me 'M' I'm very happy, because M also means, Manav in Hindi, a human being, or in Sanskrit Manushya. I think it can also mean M as in Muslim because a good Muslim is a good human being. I believe this. So this is what M is. So when people say M I'm very happy. In the Indian tradition, they add Sri it sounds better than Mister M. Because you know Mister M is James Bond's boss. So, Sri M is a much better word. Which is why I'm Sri M. Thank you very much!”

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