Reception at Guru Harkishan Public School - Karol Bagh
Marching along Ajmal Khan Road - New Delhi
A Palanquin of Sri Shirdi Sai Baba - Ajmal Khan Road
Inside the Sacred Heart Cathedral - New Delhi
Sri M addresses the gathering at Sacred Heart Cathedral - New Delhi
Lighting candles at the grotto of the Scared Heart Cathedral - New Delhi
The Bal Bharati Public School Band leads the padayatra to Birla Mandir
Inside the Valmiki Mandir - Mandir Marg - New Delhi
Sri M welcomed at Bal Bharati Public School
The traffic restrictions imposed to facilitate the Delhi Marathon delayed the Walk by half an hour. The Yatris could see first hand a professional marathon being run. As they reached the start point, the front-runners had gone past that area. It was a lesson to those not so familiar with marathons to see how seriously even those who have no chance to finish in the top 100 take it. The struggle, sweat and the pain of the runners were out there for all to see, varying degrees of which all yatris had gone through over the last 412 days!
The Valmiki Mandir on Mandir Marg was the first major stop of the day. Originally, a temple for the Valmikis - a caste considered untouchable - it assumed importance when Mahatma Gandhi started living here in 1946. Several memorabilia in this connection are kept in the temple. Gandhiji even taught at the school attached to the temple during his stay here.
The Bal Bharati School on Pusa Road hosted the yatris for breakfast. Right from the start, their sprightly band has played rousing music up to the school. All had a sumptuous fare in the lush green, neatly manicured stadium of the school. The reception and Satsang, attended by more than a thousand students, teachers and parents of Bal Bharati schools from all over Delhi followed. Smt Kiran Bedi, politician, social activist and retired IPS officer was among the audience. After Bhajans by the Bal Bharati choir, Sri M addressed the gathering under the blue and white shamiana:
Sri M chanted
Om, Sarve bhavantu sukhinaḥ
Sarve santu nirāmayāḥ
Sarve bhadrāṇi paśyantu
Mā kashchit duḥkha bhāgbhavet
Oṁ Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ
May all be prosperous and happy
May all be free from illness
May all see what is spiritually uplifting
May no one suffer
Om peace, peace, peace
And, after thanking all present including Kabir Bedi, he said, "On the 12th of January '15, we started this yatra from Kanyakumari for two reasons. One, Kanyakumari is our land's end. It is what Highways Department calls 'Zero Point'. So, when we started, I told our Padayatris, "Let us make ourselves zeros and start the walk". Because once ego comes in, it's difficult to do something for somebody else. Second reason is that it is a confluence of three great oceans. This is a yatra that aims to bring people together and not allow the fabric of the society to tear into pieces, and the third reason is that 12th January happens to be the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, who has been my idol from school and college days. With these things in common, we thought it was a great place to start. Now, we have covered seven states, we've entered the 8th. We've done 5,800 kms roughly. We have another 2000 kms to go before we reach Srinagar. If we reach! Because we're walking from Jammu to Srinagar! I always have confidence that Babaji is with me.”
“This is the logistics of the walk. There has to be a root or a seed of an idea from which it developed. Several years ago, when I was just 21 years old and I was living with my Guru Maheshwarnath Babaji, he said many words of wisdom but two things I always remember. He said this because one day we were having an argument, which I regretted later, about the length of time that I should meditate. Babaji was insisting that I do it for a shorter time but I wanted to do it for a longer time. There was always this youthful enthusiasm to reach the goal as quickly as possible. So, he told me something very significant. He told me, in Hindi of course, that if you meditate for 15 hours a day for 15 years in a cave, and when you come out of there, if you don't hear the cry of a hungry child in a kutir, all your 15 years of Sadhana is absolutely of no use. Later on, when I studied the Gita and other texts and read the life of saints and understood what they stood for, I realized it is the same.”
“Swami Vivekananda was asked once by his followers to go teach Vedanta in the villages. He said, 'What Vedanta will you teach to empty stomachs? If you need to go to the villages and teach, arm yourself with maps, telescopes, microscopes and books and teach them how to stand on their on feet and earn a living than Vedanta. Babaji's thoughts reflected this even though he couldn't speak much English or had never been to US or anything. He was a perfect Parivrajaka. Didn't stay for more than 5-6 days in a place, no banners, no organisation, not even shoes to wear. I have seen him walking on the Gangotri glacier barefoot.”
“The second thing was, sitting on the banks of Ganga in Uttarkashi, he told me, "One day, you will have to walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir". I asked "Babaji, why do I need to walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir?" I said "I'm very happy to be walking around with you in the Himalayas and I'll keep doing this for the rest of my life". He also told me that many people would walk with me. When he said that, I got even more scared. Some of our old friends know that I'm one who loves solitude. I was thinking what sort of a job Babaji has given me. Actually, I almost begged him not to say it because whatever he said, I took to be the truth. For me, it is like a command. He asked me a very nice question, 'Once I'd asked you what you consider yourself in relation to me. What was your reply? And you'd replied that you're like my dog. What did I say to you then? So I replied, "You said I could be a dog but I shouldn't wag my tail too much". So he said, "Do precisely that, don't wag your tail and do as you're told". I kept quiet. Babaji attained Samadhi in '83, so I thought probably no one would ask me to walk. But deep down it was there in my mind. That, one day, possibly I might go.”
“This is a great country; you can't find such a country anywhere else in the world. How many languages do we have, 23 or more? So many sub-dialects. How many religions we have? Is there any country where they have so many religions? For thousands of years, whomever came has been welcomed with open arms and allowed to stay. Not just allowed to stay but accepted wholeheartedly. I actually don't like the word tolerance. Tolerance means: I'm good, that fellow is not so good but it's okay, let him survive. I would say acceptance, where you accept someone on equal terms.”
“Look at this country – so varied and diverse. The man from south speaks a different language. In Kerala, we speak Malayalam. If I speak, you may not understand. [Speaks in Malayalam] What do you understand? You speak in Hindi and you may not be understood in another part of the country. But all of us very proudly say we are Indians, right? We are very proud and happy to be Hindustanis. And yet, sometimes, little fissures raise their ugly heads. The unity is broken here and there. However, I must add that there hasn't been as much bloodshed since Independence as it happened during Partition. I'm a post-Partition man, so I don't know what happened. However, generally, we live together in peace and harmony whatever be our names, whatever be our ideologies. This breaking is happening more often. And the pain of seeing innocent people being killed, murdered, and burnt, sometimes for no reason. This is all done in the name of religion, in the name of ideologies, politics. I'm saying 'in the name of' deliberately because these words are used as a façade in the name of religion because no religion asks you to kill your neighbor. I have fortunately studied deeply the religions we have in India today. Go to the core and there is nothing like that. Yet these are used as reasons for discord. I thought about it for a long while. I honestly didn't have the guts to do something like this, of this scale. But Babaji's words kept recurring in my head. So about three years ago, I decided that if I don't do it now, I wouldn’t be keeping Babaji's promise. I'm now 67 years old physically, but my mind is not old at all, thank God! So, I decided that I would walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, talking to people, and tell whoever is ready to listen that please understand that, first and foremost, we are human beings. Then you may be Amar, you may be Akbar, you may be Anthony, it doesn't matter, but we are human beings. And the essence of all religions teaches you that you're all human beings. Two, that we are citizens of this great country, which looks at everyone equally. This great land for which Mahatma Gandhi fasted till people thought he might die of starvation. When we have been given such a wonderful treasure in our hands, why won't we keep it together? Why would we break it? Why would we throw it to the dogs?”
“So, with this in mind, I suggested to a close friend of mine (unfortunately, he didn't come today) that I'm going to walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. I got a very surprising answer. He said, 'I'm also walking with you'. Believe me, before you knew it - I think it's Babaji's drama - many people gathered. Within one or two years, so many people gathered – cutting across religions, communities, states, languages and political affiliations – and said let's do it. Thus started the Walk of Hope. Now we have reached Delhi after 5800 kms. We have met lakhs of human beings along the way. We've gone to small villages where the population is no more than a 1000 and had wonderful satsangs under the Peepal tree in the evening, we've gone to villages where there are only five Muslim families living or in places where there are just a few Hindu families among the Muslims. Believe me, the oneness of the nation still stands. Sometimes, when I speak to them they say, 'Unfortunately, it breaks sometimes'. Why does this happen? They have now understood, so we can't easily take them for a ride now. Nobody can, they understand. They say there are reasons that have nothing to do with religion or caste or community. One of the Pradhans in the village told me, 'If you look closely, you'll know that these things happen because of some vested interest'. So, we have spent time talking to people.”
“When I meet a big group of majority Hindu population, I talk to them about the Gita and I remind them that even though the Gita is written in Sanskrit - for that was the language of the times - it's a universal text. It doesn't treat anybody as different. It talks of human beings. Now, in the Gita, there are many mentions but I'd like to mention a few things. The 12th Chapter is called Bhakti Yoga. People think Bhakti is meant for uneducated people who have no understanding of Vedanta. That is not true. Bhakti is the essence of one's spiritual practise. Without that, however much you do 'pranayam', however much you've read and understood with thousands of books, are of no use because feeling is the most important part of the human system. Love, compassion and bhakti are the highest expressions of this. In that chapter called Bhakti Yoga, Arjuna asks Krishna "Who do you think is the greatest of human beings, a great yogi or a great Bhakta?" Krishna points out a few things, I won't go into all that right now. But the last point made is 'I consider him to be 'Yah Bhakta Samay Priya', my dearest Bhakta to be one who is 'Sarva Bhoota Hite Rataha' – the one who thinks of the welfare of all beings. Very good definition if only we could follow.”
“There's no point of doing lip service to the Gita. If you could only put this in practise, then we would be a part of the Walk of Hope. Can we, with love and affection, embrace everybody? Can we look after the welfare of all human beings and treat them as your own? When two Muslims meet each other, what do they say? 'Salaam Alaikum', what does it mean? Oh... It's in Arabic? So? It's just another language. What it means is, 'May the peace of the Lord be upon you'. The reply is 'May it be on you too'. See the irony of it, there's a line that divides two nations. One side says 'Salaam', in Arabic that means peace. The neighbor says 'Shalom' in Hebrew which means peace and what do they do to each other?”
“Of course, we can't go there now, but we can put our house in order, perhaps set an example. So, these are some of the reasons why we started this Walk. and like Jesus Christ said in the Bible, 'Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God'. So, peace is of the essence. After every talk, after every Satsang, after every Puja, what do we say? 'Om shanti, shanti, shanti'. When you go to a temple and get Prasad, what does it mean? Yes, it's nice and tasty. But ‘Prasad’ in the Sanskrit dictionary means peace, prasadam. How are we going to live in peace if we divide ourselves based on language, religion, caste, creed, community, that too in this nation where 3000 years ago the Rig Veda said, 'Ekam Sat Vipra Bahuda Vadanti' – there's but one truth, the wise may call it by different names. I do not consider myself to belong to any particular religion. But if you say religion is to do with the good of humanity and to find the truth for yourself individually and not to impose your views on somebody else, I belong to that religion.”
“Dharma does not mean an organised thing. Dharma means, gunas. What Gunas do you have? What are your characteristics? That is the meaning of Dharma. So, having seen all this and feeling saddened by the state of affairs, we decided to do this Walk. I am glad to say that so far, the response we have got shows that most Indian citizens really want to live in unity and peace. I keep telling, especially the young, "You are the future of this country". We might have committed mistakes, quite possible, maybe. But the youth are the future of this country. The destiny of this nation is in their hands. So, we are sowing the seeds of peace and harmony of living together, of Manavta, in the hearts of the young. But then, when you sow a seed, it doesn't sprout into a tree the next day. It takes time. The responsibility for nurturing these seeds, are with us; the parents, the teachers, they should nurture the seeds.”
“I'm sure you are doing it. I'm saying 'increase it'. Do more. I've been suggesting this to most schools and colleges. I feel you should have something like that. Have a period at least once in two weeks or once a week for such matters to be discussed and not mathematics and geography, academics. Our children will become bright stars in the firmament of the future of this country. This is so important and we have to do it. Don't expect the Govt to do it because the Govt is also made of us, of human beings. They are not a separate species. They are the same so what we do is reflected there and comes back to us. So, this is the aim of the walk and I know you have so many things to do which is also important for the nation and for the world but if you understand what I'm saying and if you support us with your minds and say that 'We are with you', then I would say even before reaching Srinagar, the aim of this walk has been fulfilled. If that doesn't happen, even if we walk to Srinagar and go back nothing would have happened. So I pray with you, I plead with you, lend your mind's support to us, be with us, and help us on this path that we are taking for this land is ours, and we should all live in peace and harmony. Manav Ekta, Shanti and Sadbhavna should be the hallmarks of this nation. Now, it's not just that India is important, the whole world is important. The Vedas didn't say just India. 'Loka Samasta Sukhinoh Bhavantu' – May the entire world be happy. But we have to start work in our home before we talk to the neighbor. I'm hoping that once this walk is done, if our neighboring country or countries invite us to walk, we'll certainly do it, no matter where. With this, I will conclude the talk. Thank you!”
Sri M then fielded a question from the audience.
Q: How does one find a Guru?
A: “Please don't call me a Guru, for Godsake. But, suppose, I know how to go to Karol Bagh. I really don't know but suppose I know. There's a problem there too, there are people who don't know who pretend that they know. That's another problem. Suppose I know and I stand there and tell you that this is the way to go, I explain. If you have to reach Karol Bagh, what do you have to do? You have to walk or take the car and drive and follow the directions right? Instead of that, if you stay where I am and garland me and do arati to me and say 'You are the greatest Guru on earth, you've shown me how to go to Karol Bagh', you won't reach Karol Bagh. Unfortunately, if you think there are Gurus who mislead, it's because of Supply and Demand. It's what people ask for. So, whenever there's a supply, there's a demand; if there's demand, there's supply. So, that's what happens. The Sanskrit meaning of the word Guru comes from 'GU', that which is hidden and 'RU' is rudra, the destroyer of things. I also believe that if you're a spiritual aspirant, a true spiritual aspirant, who wants to find the truth as much as a thirsty person wants to find water or a hungry person wants to find food - if you've come to that state of spiritual enquiry where nothing else satisfies you - I don't think you'll have to search for Gurus or go to the Internet. The real spiritual teacher will come and somehow guide you. And, if you find somebody and think you want to make him into a Guru, then don't get caught up by the external appearance. Somebody may look very nice. I may have a long nose. Go and be with that person for sometime. Get to know that person. And decide if he wants to give you something or if he wants to take your chequebook. Whether he wants something from you or he's ready to give you something. Go carefully. Also, see if this person has at least become a 'sthitha prajna', which means - does he succumb to praise and flattery. Or does he get irritated if you call him a fool. If he doesn't, then you can say that he's a yogi. Now, you cannot find a spiritual teacher by definition. When one goes to a spiritual teacher, one is already in a primary school, one does not know how to judge. However, don't think there's a stereotype for a spiritual teacher. The person who tends your garden maybe a highly advanced soul, you never know. He doesn't wear robes, and he doesn't have any fashionable hairdo. But he could be a great spiritual being. I could have gone on longer but a real spiritual Guru expects nothing from you except dedication and sincerity. If I may add, he's not in a marketing business.”
Leaving Bal Bharati, the walk went along Karol Bagh, one of the biggest shopping areas in Asia, and ended up at Ajmal Khan market area. Today as well, the padayatris were treated to a delicious lunch at a Satsangi's house after which they returned to Gurudwara Bangla Sahib.
The Sacred Hearts Cathedral, the venue of the evening program, was walking distance from the place of stay of the Padayatris. Being a Sunday, families who were attending Church for Mass stayed back for the programme.
Father Sebastian of Sacred Hearts Cathedral, Delhi welcomed Sri M and said, "Religion is supposed to serve humanity because it is supposed to help us experience that God is one. We are privileged to have this progamme here to get first-hand information through our brother, Sri M."
Sri M addressed the gathering and said, "It is indeed a privilege to be here at the Sacred Hearts Cathedral. I thank everyone here, the congregation, the sisters, my friends and last, but not the least, this little child sitting here. We have undertaken a walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. It is a symbolic walk to talk to people of this country. We have perhaps met 10 lakh people already. I hope my number is correct. It may be more. The message we give - irrespective of caste, creed, religion and colour - is that finally, we are human beings. Everyone here with us has been born from the womb of a mother and we go back into this earth. Maybe cremated, maybe buried, but we go back to this earth. And, in this short drama of life from birth to death, we are like a bubble that can go off at any time. Can't we live in peace and harmony together? No matter if our names are Amar, Akbar or Anthony. I think we can. We have also come to Delhi at a time when there is some kind of a turmoil going on. I think we as citizens of this country, and first as human beings, can certainly evolve a way through dialogue and discussion rather than violence, to keep human beings together. I would say in this country first, because we live here. We cannot fix the rest of the world before putting our own house in order. Peace, as the Vedas say, is for everyone, 'Loka Samastha Sukhinoh Bhavantu' - 'May the whole world be happy'. Since I'm standing in a church, the beautiful name of which is Sacred Heart, I would say 'more than your own personal profits, have a heart'. Think of the pain and the suffering when there is a problem – ideological or communal. I personally think the facade of ideology and religion is used but it is because of vested interests that it happens. It is the responsibility of the leaders of all religions, which I'm sure you're doing in a great way - to put this in order and in perspective - to say that we are human beings and that we'll live together. Since I'm in a church today, I won't use too many Vedic statements or Koranic statements. I would rather go by the Bible because, after the age of 19, having read the Old and New Testament, I have found that there is one particular part of the Bible, which is universal and good for everyone. It is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus goes up the mountain, sees the multitude and speaks to them. I'm saying this because this desire and longing for peace and goodness is in all religions. In the words of Jesus Christ, especially in the situation we are facing, the turmoil among the young, when he was being taken for crucifixion and St Peter took up the sword, Jesus said to him, 'Peter, put down thy sword, for he who raises his sword, dies by it'. So in a confrontation that is ideological, what is required is dialogue. You cannot force; peace is of the essence. Now, if we human beings don't understand this, do we expect animals to understand this? I'm reminded of anther great statement, 'If you are the salt of the earth, and if the salt has lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted'. That salt is savoured if we understand that we are human beings, and are kind and compassionate to your neighbor. I know it's not easy to practise all that Jesus said. He also said 'Bless them that curse you. Do good to them that hate you. And pray for them who spitefully use you and persecute you.' How much can we practise it? But we must remember, as human beings, that we must try to practise it as much as we can. Sometimes, in a fit of anger one might react. Try to keep it under control. The third, 'Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God'. It does not say, not blessed are you belonging to this creed or that creed. Blessed are the peacemakers. Let's look for peace. And 'Blessed are the pure in heart', and since everyone has a heart, let's make it sacred. You must have seen images of Jesus and Mary with the heart in the center. It is the heart, which is in everyone, as the spark of the divine. Quoting St Paul, 'Know ye not that you are the children of the living God and the spirit of God dwelleth in you'. The spirit of God dwells in me, the spirit of God dwells in you. It can't be only in one person. When every human being's life becomes sacred! If we just remember this that the pain caused when someone in my house is hurt and assaulted is the same pain that my neighbor feels when his people are assaulted. These are simple things. Let's not let anyone complicate it. Let's just be human beings. This is the message I've been giving. We go to churches, mosques, temples, and Gurudwaras. There's no place where someone has told us we are not welcome. It gives us great hope that, in this great country, there's still hope for peace and tranquility and Manav Ekta."
Sri M concluded by saying, "I plan to come back to all the places we've visited. I'm a wanderer anyway. Not as great a wanderer as the great saint in Jerusalem. I'm not the one who said, 'The foxes have dens, the snakes have holes but the son of man does not know where to lay his head'. If you define it in Sanskrit, it's called 'aniketa' - the one who has no house, the one who slept in the streets. I'm not that great. I do sleep in shelters; and people keep feeding me. In fact, after the Walk, we might have gained weight. Last, but not the least, the congregation, the priests and nuns who lead this, please pray for us. Put your minds to our efforts and pray to God and Jesus Christ that this work that we are doing, let something good come out of it and to let that bring some change in society."
After the talk, everyone lit candles and placed them in the Grotto, saying a silent prayer for peace. After boxes full of snacks and tea (sponsored by a walker in Delhi), everyone dispersed.