The day of rest turned out to be a day full of activity for the walkers. At 7.00 am, they congregated at the beach for the first activity of the day – cleaning up of the seashore. A light breeze complemented the morning sun’s rays of gold sweeping the blue waters. Sri M spent a short while at the land’s end in solitude. The atmosphere was relaxed; mirth and bonhomie filled the air.
The beach was soon a hive of activity with the padayatris and a few locals joining in the clean-up drive. The stretch soon looked clean minus the debris of plastic bottles, polythene covers, waste paper and other garbage. Then, the walkers walked back for breakfast with satisfaction of a job well done! One of the cardinal objectives of the Walk of Hope is community health, which is implemented by propagating effective community awareness programmes to improve sanitation thus creating a positive influence on personal health and hygiene.
Soon after this, the yatris walked through the town to the main thoroughfare of the city, M G Square, where Sri M garlanded the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Again, walking through the crowded roads on a working day in the morning peak hour was a challenge but it also drew a lot of attention from the onlookers. The yatris succeeded in spreading the message of Walk of Hope to the local communities.
Sri M then left for a press conference at Hotel Alakapuri, where he elaborated on the initiative for peace and harmony, its objectives and the experiences so far since the Walk began.
Lunch was served at a Satsangi’s house and, subsequently, the walkers dispersed to their places of rest. They gathered again at the Rotary Club, the venue for the evening program, at 6.00 pm. The event started with a prayer followed by a Mohiniyattam dance recital by a satsangi, Ms. Sujatha Ramachandran.
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 highlight of the performance was 'Omana Thingal Kidavoo' - the most famous lullaby in Malayalam written by the illustrious poet, Ravi Varman Thampi, better known as Irayimman Thampi (1782–1856). This lullaby is said to have been written for Maharaja Swati Thirunal to sleep when he was a baby.
The second 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 fromSugathakumari'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’s Satsang started around 7.00 pm. He started his talk on a humorous note saying, “Since I have been speaking in Malayalam for the last several days, I would like to combine both Malayalam and English - 'Manglish'. I would like to dwell on the beginning of where we are now. It is all about the journey from being a base metal to transforming ourselves into gold.”
“I tell my fellow travellers that Walk of Hope is not only a physical journey but also an inner journey, where we understand our emotions better, relate with each other and so on. Following these simple steps, we may even reach the Himalayan heights, as far as internal development is concerned.”
Sri M said it all started at Uttarkashi, where he spent time with his Guru Babaji on the banks of the river Ganga. His Babaji suddenly told him, “Thirteen hours of meditation everyday, for thirteen years would not be of any use if you do not hear the hungry cry of a neighbour’s child. All your efforts would be zero or ‘Shoonya ho jayega’. This is the foundation on which the concept of our Padayatra has been built.”
“I always had a feeling that, to understand Vedanta, I needed to go into some abstraction. But, my Guruji felt that this was another form of anesthesia. From this simple yet powerful advice, sprang the seeds of our padayatra.” “At an age when my classmates and friends have retired and settled down, I am walking in the hot sun for about 15 to 20 kms everyday. I know that my engine is old and there are problems with repairs required, but I have the enthusiasm to make people understand what I have experienced.”
“Let's take the case of the great Sanyasi, Shri Shankaracharya, who said ‘Brahman Satyam, Jagat Mithya’ meaning ‘God alone is real, the world is illusory’. The very same Swami had the physical energy to travel and start four mutts in four corners of the country, and write prolifically in a short life of 32 years. Thus, when your mind is settled and you understand that everything is One, you cannot sit idle. You will be so caught up with the desire to share it with others. The same way, Lord Buddha could have kept on meditating at Bodh Gaya but he did not. What did he do? He travelled widely spreading his teachings all over.”
“Another classic case is that of Swami Vivekananda. Before he was discovered by the West, he travelled the length and breadth of the country under several names - Satchidananda, Vivekananda and so on - understanding the country, its people, then drawing out a plan and executing it for the welfare of his countrymen. Here is another problem very commonly seen in our country. We badly need the stamp of approval from the West in order to understand the true worth of something. The fact that I am speaking in English proves this point.”
He recounted a story from Sri Ramakrishna’s life. A ‘gentleman’ of Indian origin, very English in his ways and easily impressed by the then ruling English, used to visit Sri Ramakrishna, and was once heard talking loudly about how great the Bhagavat Gita is. Sri Ramakrishna heard this and immediately remarked, “An Englishman must have praised the Gita.” Sri M’s Guru, Babaji, had specifically advised him to render most of his talks in English so that many people in the present age could listen and comprehend the message.
“Despite throwing away the British yoke many years earlier, I am still speaking in English.” Sri M reverted to his favourite chapter of Bhakti Yoga from the Bhagawad Gita, quoting the verse “Sanniyamyendriya gramam, sarvata sama-buddhayah, te prapnuvanti mam eva, sarva bhuta-hite ratah”meaning ‘only one who has control over his sense organs, one who is equally disposed to all and who has the welfare of all beings at heart is the ideal devotee or ‘bhakta’, according to God Krishna. He added, “Our minds should become compassionate and we should sincerely want to end the misery of others for any spiritual development to happen within ourselves.”
“Most of the problems today are due to our unbridled chasing of all things sensory. We find 'the cream of society' carrying several bottles of cream in their baggage as we get into a depression when we see a wrinkle. We have truly emotional hearts and brains but we use our brains only to prove what we think is right.
“The Gita teaches us that the physical body can be likened to a ‘Kshetram’ (temple) and the individual soul to a ‘Kshetragna’ (deity).”
Sri M again quoted from The Rig Veda: Ekam Sat, Viprah Bahudha Vadanthi - ‘The truth is one, the wise call it by different names’. In different ages and times, different rishis or wise ones have shown us the way to that One Truth in different ways. They have revealed that love is paramount. If the heart is not suffused with love for the Lord, which is like a mother’s love - pure and unsullied - then, Self Realization or realization of the truth is difficult and cannot be found.
“I feel it is the responsibility of India to take a lead in teaching this truth to rest of the world as ours was the place where people would flock to learn about the great truths”. “At 66 years, I realised that it would be too late if I delayed for another two years, since it would have been impossible to undertake a journey of this magnitude physically. Someone has to sacrifice, just as Shiva drank the Halahal poison, in order to protect the world from its harmful effects. Hence, we have started on this journey braving many hardships. While Kanyakumari is a Sangam of the three seas, Srinagar is also a kind of a Sangam. One, it is in the holy Himalayan area; second, it is where Shankaracharya established one of his mutts; third, it is where Dara Shikoh- Aurangzeb's elder brother took efforts to translate the Upanishads to Persian. It was from Persian that the Upanishads got translated into Greek and made available to the West. Only then, did the Western world know that such treasures existed in the East.”
“The change has to happen first within oneself, then in one’s home and then the rest of the world will follow - like a snowball growing in size, rolling downhill.” Sri M thereafter narrated the incident from Swami Vivekananda’s life about how the Swami had tears flowing down his cheeks when he heard of a dear friend’s death. A few people questioned him as to how a sanyasin could cry over death. Swamiji replied that being a sanyasin did not mean being insensitive and cold-hearted.
Sri M said that Bhakti or devotion was most required, and many people have attained realization only with Bhakti. He then quoted from Kabir who said ‘that the body in which love has not entered is like a veritable graveyard; it is like the blacksmith’s bellows which breathes in and breathes out the air but has no life of it’s own’.
He concluded thus: “With such wisdom existing within our country, why is it that we are not listening to these simple truths and following them? It is either because we are too distracted or because we think that we know it all. I request you all to first realise these great yet simple truths and then try and spread it in your own neighbourhood. Similar is our effort to educate the people whom we meet along our Padayatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.”
The session ended with the chanting of OM thrice, followed by silence for five minutes.
The day, though full of activity, was a pleasurable one. The time spent on the beach evoked a sense of quietude and peace. Unlike other days, the padayatris experienced no physical fatigue as they retired to sleep after dinner.