Today, between 5.30 and 6.00 am, 100 or so padayatris gathered at the Satsangi’s house, adjacent Sree Pisharikavu Temple. After morning coffee, they began their walk at 6.00 am to their destination—Puthuppanam, Vadakara, a distance of 18 kms as per the map. They walked in darkness for a while and slowly, the sun spread its orange halo across the eastern horizon. The spectacular sight was made even more enjoyable by the steady breeze from the sea.
The Walk progressed through small hamlets and villages like Puliyanchery and Moodadi. A bigger town, named Thikkodi, was soon passed. This town is famous for a coconut nursery, which is more than 100 years old. It is also known for its mussels or edible clams. Remains of an old lighthouse speak of the importance this place must have once had for passing ships. Thikkodi is the birthplace of well-known Malayalam author, P Kunhananandan Nair, known universally by his penname – Thikodiyan. P T Usha, former international athlete, also known as Payyoli Express is also from this area.
The walkers stopped by a roadside ‘chayakada’ (tea shop) for tea and spent a leisurely 15 minutes there. By 8.45 am, they had reached Payyoli, about 10 kms from the starting point. A satsangi’s house here served as the breakfast point. Greeted by a group of 20 people, Sri M and the walkers were led in a procession by a troupe playing traditional drums – a musical ensemble known as ‘chendamelam’.
After breakfast, they reached the Payyoli Bus Stand where Sri M addressed a crowd of about 120 people and elaborated about Walk of Hope. Soon after, back on the highway, the walkers stopped for a tea break at a roadside teashop. Walking through another small village, they enjoyed another break enjoying a fruit juice this time. Again, the highway traffic was not too troublesome today.
At 1.00 pm, the padayatra reached Puthuppanam Bhajanamadam—the congregating point for the day. Sri M and the walkers were received by a group of about 50 people when they entered Puthuppanam. They were served a sumptuous lunch and then transported to their place of rest at Siddha Samaj Ashram, Vadakara. Siddha Samajam is a spiritual and charitable establishment founded by Swami Sivananda Paramahamsa. Men and women were assigned to comfortable halls and rooms respectively.
Though they had to be transported to the congregating point to & fro in the evening, the rooms more than made up for it! Today, it was a long walk covering almost 23 kilometers (despite what the map said!), mostly on the highway.
After a brief rest, the yatris re-assembled at Puthuppanam Bhajanamadam and, led by Sri M, walked 2 kilometers to the Krishna Kripa Auditorium, Vadakara—the venue for the evening program. The auditorium was packed and more than 500 people were present.
The evening started with the address by Sri M.
He commenced his talk thus: “Many people from India and abroad have been walking right through our travel in Kerala. They have been patiently listening to my satsangs in Malayalam without understanding much of it. I think they don't mind my speaking in Malayalam as well.”
“I will not talk much about my Padayatra as you already know about it but there being a starting point, and a road map for everything, I would like to speak about it today. Then, this will become a satsang. Otherwise it would only be a speech. Many years ago, when I was 22, I was sitting with my Guru, Sri Maheshwarnath Babaji on the banks of the river Ganga, and he told me that thirteen hours a day of meditation for thirteen years would be a ‘zero’ or a waste, if I could not hear a hungry child’s cry.”
“Another day, he told me, I will have to walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and that I would be walking with many people.” Sri M, at that point of time, had told his Guru he would be ready to walk but wanted to do it alone as Babaji did. Babaji then admonishingly asked him what he thought of himself and the disciple said that he was Babaji’s dog. Babji replied that he should not wag his tail too much. Sri M had then said ‘Aadesh’ meaning ‘it would be done’.
“In the end, it was at a house, near Bandipur game sanctuary, where I stay when I need some solitude that I thought of the importance of Manav Ekta in India. For several centuries, India has had millions of people with many beliefs, religions and castes living together. I felt that despite all these differences we could live together peacefully. I have had a strong internal experience about this and so, I thought that our yatra will be for this cause without any other agenda.”
Naturally, Sri M’s next thought was ‘whether anyone else would be willing to come with me?’ He said, “The first one who agreed to accompany me was Dr. Ajai Kumar Singh who is in our midst today. I warned him about the hardships involved but still he was confident about doing it with me. Over the last couple of years, our group grew in number and, as of today, the Padayatra has been on for forty-five days having covered close to 800 kms. Despite all the hardships they are braving, I see none leaving or even complaining.”
“I think when you undertake such a venture with a yajna spirit, you get much peace. If you do a good thing, even if it hurts a little, it gives you lasting happiness. More than two thousand years back, the Rig Vedas said ‘Ekam Sat. Viprah bahuda vadanti’ meaning ‘The Truth is One but the wise call it by many names’. The Supreme may be worshipped in many forms and as many names but the ultimate Truth is One. It is a truth that will stand the test of time.”
“The ever present ‘parabrahman’(Supreme Cosmic Spirit, or Godhead) is in all of us. It is only that when our mind is impure, we cannot perceive it.” Sri M then spoke about the Kshetra – the body and the Kshetragna - the one who resides within. resides within. It is the same divinity that resides in all living beings.
He continued, “You are born as a man and you will die as a man. It is only that we all lead different lives, finally succumbing to inescapable death. Both birth and death are not under our control. The question is whether there is anything beyond. The ‘jivatma’, which is a sliver of the ‘paramatma’, its innate quality is ‘ananda’. Once we are immersed in it, you cannot even think of hurting anyone. Once in a while, we forget this and need to be reminded about it. The padayatra is for this purpose.”
Speaking on the qualities of one who is dearest to the Supreme, he referred to the Twelfth Chapter (Bhakti Yoga) from the Bhagavat Gita, “One who has control over his sense organs, is equally disposed to all and has the welfare of all beings at heart is the ideal devotee or ‘bhakta’, according to God Krishna.”
He then quoted from the poet saint, Tulsidas:
Kaam Krodh Mad Lobh Ki Jo Log Main Hai Khaan, To Log Pandit Murakh Ek Saman.
When the mind still has desire, anger, pride and greed, both a fool and a scholar are the same.
Sri M 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.
He then recounted 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 teachings of Sri Ramakrishna. Swamiji was upset 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 moved 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.
Sri M then narrated a similar story from Mohammad Nabi’s life, who was leaving to offer prayers on Ramadan day. The place was a little far away from a small mosque and he was getting late. It is usual for followers of Islam to buy good clothes for children on this auspicious occasion. On the way to the mosque, Mohammad Nabi found an orphan child in tattered clothes. When he came to know of the child’s background, he took the child with him and made the child happy by gifting him new clothes. Through all this, his followers were reminding him that he was getting late for prayer. Mohammad Nabi told his followers that what he did for the child itself was the greatest prayer possible and, even if his prayer was a little late, it is not of greater importance than this act of his.
Talking about Jesus Christ, he said, “Jesus Christ, the great parivraajaka, who walked the streets of Jerusalem spreading the message of love said,‘blessed are the peace makers for they will be called the children of God’. Thus it is easy to understand that in all religions, the most spiritual thing is to feel love towards everyone. I keep telling my co-walkers that, along with the physical yatra, there should also be an internal yatra by which you transform your mind, cleanse it and expand it. If this does not happen, by the end of 6500 Kms in Srinagar, the yatra would be a waste for them individually. Man has to change himself first individually, then initiate change at home and then try to make a difference in his neighbourhood. Only then will the whole world change for the better.”
Concluding his address, he added, “Many people ask me why there are no slogans. I tell them that our padayatra is about walking silently. I am not special in any way and do not want to stand out. Many people keep asking who is this Mister Sri M amongst the walkers as they find it difficult to identify me from the others. It is just that I am as important as anyone else.”
Sri M concluded the satsang with the chanting of OM thrice and five minutes of silence.
After the satsang, there was a demonstration of Kalaripayattu – the ancient Indian martial art from Kerala—performed by a martial arts school. This fighting system is considered to be the oldest in existence. Kalaripayattu includes all moves like strikes, grappling, programmed forms, weaponry and also healing methods. Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk, is said to have taken this martial art to China. Some flexibility training methods from this martial art have been applied in Kathakkali and other dance forms in Kerala to make the dancers lithe.
The skill and the moves of the performers were greatly appreciated by the gathering. After the event concluded at 8.00 pm, the walkers were transported back to Siddha Samaj Ashram where they were served dinner at 8.30 pm.
Later, the padayatris retired for the night by 9.30 p.m.