Today, the group assembled at 5.30 am, most of them visibly relaxed as the distance to be covered was lesser than usual. Leaving at 6.15 am after a cup of coffee, they walked at a leisurely pace towards their destination for the day — Koyilandi.
The National Highway # 66 (previously 17) was relatively free of traffic today. The group stopped for a tea break on the roadside for 15 minutes and, subsequently, walked through few small villages like Allapally and Pookkad.
After covering about 7 kms, they reached the Durgadevi Temple, Poyilkavu. The Temple is ancient with its origins lost in antiquity and legend has it that Sage Parasurama worshipped Goddess Durga with such devotion that she appeared before him. A thick forest that adds to the atmosphere of the place surrounds the temple.
At the Temple, the group witnessed the culminating rituals of the Chamundeshwari Festival. It was an enchanting sight as more than a thousand people were gathered round to watch the ritual dance. Men carrying swords and flowers danced around the Dwajastambam (Sacred Flag-post) in ecstasy. Accompanying this ritual was the raising of the flag on Dwajastambam, set in the backdrop of unremitting fireworks. This scene lasted for about 5 minutes and then, the gathering lined in a serpentine queue to get the prasadam. They probably would have to wait for hours for their turn. Sri M and the walkers were taken in a special queue and left after their breakfast.
Chamunda, also known as Chamundi, Chamundeshwari and Charchika, is a fearsome aspect of Devi—the Hindu Divine Mother. She is also one of the chief Yoginis, a group of sixty-four or eighty-one Tantric goddesses, who are attendants of the warrior goddess, Durga. Walking on through another small village called Chengottukavu, they reached their halt of the day—Sree Pisharikavu Temple, Koyilandi—by 10.45 a.m. Sri M and the walkers stopped at a Satsangi’s house right next to the temple. The Satsangi is a member of the temple staff. By 11.00 am, the yatris were assigned their places of stay. The women were directed to a lodge nearby while most of the men were allocated in a large hall with basic amenities. A few of them stayed at the satsangi’s house. The padaytris had walked 15 kms today.
Sree Pisharikavu Temple is dedicated to Bhadra Kali—the auspicious and fortunate form of Kali who protects the good. Her form is associated with the Tantra tradition, the Matrikas and the tradition of the Dasha-Mahavidyas, which Sri M has spoken about and falls under the broader umbrella of Shaktism. Historically, it is said the remaining members of the ‘Ettuveettil’ (Lords of the Eight Houses - a group of nobles from eight Nair houses in the erstwhile Kingdom of Venad in present-day Kerala) settled down in Koyilandi and were diamond merchants. One of the family members was involved in devout penance to the Goddess Bhadra Kali. Pleased by his dhyana, the family goddess, Sri Porkali appeared in his dream and presented him with a very special sword called the “Nandhakam” and asked him to pray to her in this form. He went back to his hometown, built the temple and worshipped the sword. The descendants still hold special rights for conducting a festival called ‘Kaliyattam’ (The dance of Kali).
Koyilandy is a taluk in Kozhikode district and its economy is based on fishing, local trading and also remittances from the Gulf. Koyilandy hookahs or traditional smoking pipes were famous across North India, the Gulf and Pakistan. Made by a coppersmith community called Moosari, these hookahs were once a matter of pride for Koyilandi. The ornately designed hookahs with attractive motifs have a coconut shell as the water holder. The origin of the hookahs is traced back to a group of Yemeni merchants who migrated to Koyilandi more than 500 years ago. They commissioned local craftsmen to handcraft the hookah. The finished product so impressed the traders that they soon came to be known as Koyilandy Hookahs. With changing lifestyles, hookahs are no longer in demand as it once was.
Lunch was served at 2.00 pm at the satsangi’s house and some of the yatris relaxed in the half-open patio of the house. Being on the outskirts of Koyilandi, it is relatively a quiet place. The Parappally beach is a very scenic beach and it is very close to the place of stay. Many of the walkers enjoyed a trip to the beach. The temple’s water body is also a sight to behold and is Kerala’s second largest temple pond.
The evening Satsang with Sri M started at 6.30 pm.
Starting his address, he said, “I won't speak much about the Padayatra as it has been covered adequately in the print and electronic media. Today, I will speak on ‘dhyana’. Many people are asking why nothing has happened even though they have been doing ‘dhyana’ for many years. So, I will spend some time on it and mention two points about the Padayatra.”
“The Padayatra started from Kanyakumari because it is a Sangam (confluence) of three seas and very much a symbol of Manav Ekta. According to my tradition, three of anything symbolises the Ida, Pingala and the Suhshumna nadis as per the Siddha Siddhanta Padhati of Gorakhnath. I hope that the Kundalini will rise as we move from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. If the minds of all the yatris are raised from the Mooladhara to the Sahasrara, it will be very good for them. I am not sure whether it will happen, but there is hope.”
“There is an intrinsic value to the effort they are putting in. The thirty-five to forty people, who are walking with me permanently, walk with a yajna spirit braving many difficulties. Putting up with these difficulties even for forty-five days is a difficult task.”
“All men in essence are One and we can all live together happily without strife. India is a splendid example to showcase this crucial concept as we have, over the last two millennia, consistently told all our visitors to come, to sit with us, to live with us happily. This has also been mentioned in the Rig Veda more than two thousand years ago as ‘Ekam Sat, Viprah bahudaa vadanti’ meaning ‘The truth is one, the wise call it by different names’. The Walk is a way to tell our countrymen not to forget this supreme principle. During our walk, each one of us has turned into a parivraajaka (one who wanders from place to place in quest of Truth), never staying in one place for more than a day, which also is a sadhana of sorts.”
“As we proceed, I feel many people will join us in our Walk and ‘jo chalenge woh pahuchenge' (Those who walk will reach). Every place we go, people have joined us and walked with us for some distance at least, demonstrating that they have caught on to our idea and are with us in spirit.”
Talking about the two points on which the Walk has been based, Sri M said, “Some of you must have read my autobiography.” Sri M’s Guru, Sri Maheswarnath Babaji had told him on the banks of the river Ganga that thirteen years of meditation for thirteen hours a day would be of no use if one does not hear a hungry child’s cry.
He then narrated the incident, which Swami Vivekananda had recounted to his fellow monks in the early days of establishing the Ramakrishna Order. His co-monks expressed their displeasure to him about his establishing ‘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 once again.
Sri M added, “…if you do not have much in life, it is easy to walk out, but once an establishment becomes large, it becomes difficult to relinquish it. Take one look at the Belur Math and its related institutions, and this becomes very clear to you.”
To illustrate this point, Sri M narrated another incident from Swamiji’s life. “A young man once came to Swami Vivekananda and said, ‘I want to become a Buddha after relinquishing everything.’ He did not have a job, did not have any money, did not have a house and did not have anything of his own. Swami Vivekananda responded, ‘How can you be like Buddha - Buddha was a King, he had almost everything he wanted and he left it all. You work, earn something and then come to me. Then, I will tell you to leave everything and take up Sanyasa’. I have experienced it and no one needs to give me anything more. People host me wherever I go and that itself is enough.”
He then said that welfare of all beings should be in one’s heart as exemplified by 'Sarva bhuta hiteh ratah'. “Coming back to Dhyana,” he continued, “the oldest text which mentions Dhyana is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. We will not be able to ascertain the date of his work as we do not know the period during which Patanjali lived. He has been depicted in half-man, half-snake form. Snake worship has all but disappeared from earth; it is done only in Kerala now.”
“The Yoga Sutras describe Ashtanga Yoga (eight limbs or sections of Yoga). Then, you have the Yama-s and the Niyams. The Yoga Sutras define Yoga as 'yogas chitta vritti nirodha'. 'Vritti' means mind-stuff, which will not allow you to remain calm. Without the mind being calm, there can be no spiritual progress.”Speaking about the Yama and Niyama, Sri M said, “If the two are not there, Dhyana will not be effective. By Yama and Niyama, it is meant that we should not hurt any being, including human beings, as far as possible. Mention is made of food and drink as well - 'Mita Ahara Viharasya' - meaning moderation in food, drink and habits. There is definitely a need for entertainment in life but life should not become a full-time entertainment. If you do so, your senses will get entangled.”
“The Bhagavat Gita describes a Yogi as someone who does not eat too much and does not eat too little.” He then said jocularly, “People wait for 6.30 in the evening to go to pubs and enter into a Samadhi-like state. It might feel similar, as there is temporary memory loss, disconnection of neurons and euphoria. They might even argue that they are Vamacharis, practising ‘panch-makara sadhana’. But this Sadhana should be done in minuscule quantities and not in liters.”
Moving to Asanas, he said, “The Yoga Sutras define Asanas as 'sthir-sukham-asana'. Asanas enable you to sit steadily for prolonged periods of time to meditate comfortably. Asanas underline the dictum, healthy mind in a healthy body but its import is not only physical. I would like you to go for at least half an hour walk in the morning. We have all been given legs to walk. If you go to Rajasthan, you will see many women walk for kilometers and kilometers. The result is excellent health."
Joking about his driver, Sri M said, “Everywhere we go, he will ask if Sir wants to go in the car.” Continuing, he said, “Practising Asanas under an accomplished Master has many advantages.” “Pranayama is all about understanding how life-force travels. Prana is not breath but it is linked to it. If you can control breathing, you can control your Prana. As I always say, our breath is most important for our lives but still we do not pay attention to it. Please pay attention to it as it facilitates Dhyana. You will observe that, while under stress, your breath is turbulent. While you are in a tranquil mood, your breath becomes very calm and slow. Once we understand that the mood determines the way you breathe, why don't we learn to control our breathing so as to attain a comfortable state of mind? It is only in such a state of mind that realisation happens.”
Coming to Pratyahara, he said “Pratyahara is the ability to use your senses when you want them and to withdraw the senses when you do not want them. It also means being able to pay one-pointed attention to what you are doing. Driving when you are driving, meditating when you are meditating and NO meditating when you are driving.”
"Dharana”, Sri M continued, “is intense concentration on one Rupa (form), Shabda (sound) or Idea, shutting out everything else. The Dharana could be on your ishta-devata (one’s favourite deity), visualising it in your heart. Here you will have to stick to one ishta-devata.’ Interjecting a humourous take, he said, “One man falling to the ground prayed to many ishta-devatas. As he fell, all different ishta-devatas thought that the other would save him and, therefore, he hit the ground!”
"Dharana could be a symbol, or the sound Om—the sound of Pranava. Once you are able to do Dharana properly, Dhyana follows. Once Dhyana becomes deep, then you forget yourself. The person meditating becomes one with meditation. The mind settles in the Almighty and one becomes immersed in that bliss. Forgetting oneself is most pleasurable. In sleep, this is what happens, you forget who you are". He thus concluded his talk.
The satsang ended with the chant of OM thrice and a short meditation.
Dinner was served from 8.00 to 9.00 pm. The walkers soon retired for the night, the breeze from the not-so-far-away sea gently lulling them to sleep. A skyful of stars twinkled above—their lights reaching a dim earth after a journey of a million years.