Today, the walkers converged between 5.00 and 5.15 am, earlier than usual since the distance to be covered was longer. After a cup of coffee, during which the Siddha Ashram staff spoke to them about the Ashram and its founder, Swami Shivananda Paramahamsa, the yatris were taken to the starting point at Bhajanamadam, Vadakara. At 5.30 am, they started on their 23 km walk to their next destination—Thalassery.
The route today left the seafront and wound its way inland towards Kannur district. There were also a number of new participants in the Walk today.
The daylight was yet to break and the walk proceeded along the highway in the darkness. Vehicles whizzed by in the dark. At some of the places, the highway was quite narrow with only two lanes and the group inadvertently caused a few traffic snarls.
After 2 hours of walking, the yatris reached a satsangi’s house, where they were served breakfast. From then on, there were a string of welcome receptions from the local communities. A group of 30 people greeted Sri M and the yatris at a bus stop in a village and a few of these villagers joined the Walk later. 15 minutes later, a family, who also joined the Walk, greeted them.Stopping for a break around 9.00 am, the yatris enjoyed refreshing lemonade. They passed through picturesque small villages like Madappaly and Chombala—a natural fishing harbor. They soon approached Azhiyur, a small village that is part of the greater Mahe region.
The walkers reached St. Theresa’s Shrine in Mahe by 10.45 am. The priest welcomed Sri M and the walkers; and Sri M spent some time in prayer at the shrine. This shrine is dedicated to St. Theresa of Avila.
Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada (28 March 1515 – 4 October 1582), was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, author during the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. She was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered to be a founder of the Discalced Carmelites along with John of the Cross. In 1622, forty years after her death, Pope Gregory XV canonized her.
Walking on, Sri M was greeted by a large gathering of about 100 people at a busy junction in Mahe with many of them joining the Walk thereafter. Mahe is a small town, officially a part of the Union Territory of Puducherry (erstwhile Pondicherry), surrounded on all sides by Kerala. It was part of French India and many of the old buildings have French colonial style architecture. It is also known as Mayyazhi, meaning "eyebrow of the sea".
With the sun blazing overhead, the walkers left Mahe behind. They stopped after sometime for a fruit break where everyone feasted on oranges. During this time, Sri M was greeted by a family, all of whom joined the padayatra. Soon, they passed a hamlet belonging to a fishing community and some of them cheered the walkers on. Sri M had a photo opportunity with the children from the community.
The Walk passed through Vayalalam and Pilakool—couple of villages along the route to Thalassery. Just before they entered Thalassery, they were greeted by a group of 20 people, and led in procession by a Chendamelam troupe of about 10 people. The Chendamelam troupe looked a tad incongruous in their traditional attire topped by white sun hats, forced by the scorching sun. By 1.20 pm, the padayatra reached the Government General Hospital, Thalassery. A television media crew was present and they covered the Walk for a while. He was requested to initiate the lunch for the day for the inmates. They soon reached Sangamam Auditorium, Thalassery—their congregation point for the day. After lunch, they retired to their rooms. Both men and women were assigned stay at the Auditorium and also in a hotel, just 200 metres away.
The accommodation today was remarkably comfortable, even luxurious – beds, soft pillows and hot showers! The walkers today covered 26.69 kms in 6.46 hours. There were almost 180 walkers by the time they reached their halting point.Thalassery, derived from 'Thala' (Head) and 'Kacheri' (Office), meaning 'head of offices', is a commercial town on the Malabar Coast. The Europeans nicknamed the town "Paris" or in other words "The Paris of Malabar", as it was the sole French military base in Kerala in that era. Thalassery’s role has been significant during the past 500 years in the development of Kerala. Thalassery had a unique geographical advantage as a trading center and is an important center in many trading route since antiquity.
The evening program was at the Sangamam Auditorium and it started at 6.00 pm with a Mohiniyattam dance recital by a group of artistes. Mohiniyattam, the sinuous dance of the enchantress, is a distinctive classical dance form of Kerala. Slow, graceful, swaying movements of the body and limbs and highly emotive eye and hand gestures are unique to this dance form. The simple, elegant gold-filigreed dress of the dancer, in pure white or ivory, is akin to the traditional attire of the women of Kerala. The origin of Mohiniyattam is rooted in Hindu mythology.
Sri M started his Satsang after the dance performance with apologies for his ‘weak Malayalam’.
“You are all expecting a satsang today, hardly expecting to hear about the padayatra as I am sure you know about it already. Satsang is my life but I will briefly touch upon the basis of the padayatra as well. Thanks to my Guru, Maheswarnath Babaji, I learnt and experienced much. I was hiding these experiences in my mind, for a long time. When it became unbearable, I put them down in the form of a book, my autobiography - 'Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master' - later translated into Malayalam as 'Guru Samaksham'. In the same way, some other things, which I had kept in my mind on the back burner, were manifested in the form of a padayatra from the 12th of January 2015. This is how it all began.”
“One day, while I was meditating near the flowing waters of the river Ganga with Babaji next to me, he told me that thirteen years of meditation, thirteen hours a day is a waste if I cannot hear a hungry child’s cry.” Even if we engage in twenty years of meditation for twenty hours a day, it will not be of much use if we do not have kindness in our hearts.
Continuing, Sri M said that Babaji had told him, ‘‘you will walk a long distance”. He also told him that he would be walking with many people. Sri M, at that point of time, 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. Babaji replied that he should not wag his tail too much. Sri M had then said ‘Aadesh’ meaning ‘it would be done’. Sri M jokingly mentioned about the old recording company, HMV, which had a dog listening to the gramophone. The abbreviation HMV, when expanded, said His Master’s Voice.
“At 66, I felt that it was getting too late to start the padayatra but it had to be done. So I shared the idea with one person and that person readily agreed. Since then, many people have agreed to join the padayatra. I will not call anyone my 'shishya' (disciple) as I feel that I need to learn from others as well. Teacher-student expression is more tolerable. I told all of them whether you come or not, I will walk.”
Sri M then narrated a story about the King of Patiala who wanted to extend his kingdom. The King realized that the kingdom could be extended only by waging a war against his neighbours. As was the practice, he then approached the Emperor of Delhi, Bahadur Shah Zafar. The Emperor said, “There are two things that you have to consider. One, I will give you one of my generals to extend your kingdom and he might turn against you, then what will you do? Pointing to a sadhu, the Emperor asked, “And two, who do you think is more happier, the sadhu or me, the emperor of India?” The King of Patiala, upon realizing his folly, went to Rishikesh and was later well-known as ‘Tapasvi Maharaj’.
“Even when you realise that a small portion of the ‘parabramha’ (Supreme Cosmic Spirit, orGodhead) dwells within you, it is difficult to realise that because it is concealed under layers of mala
(impurities). That portion of ‘parabramha’ is ‘poorna’ (complete). It is only because we feel incomplete that we go in search of something external in the hope of feeling complete. The nature of that sliver of ‘parabramha’ within you is ‘sat-chit-ananda’—absolute truth and ever-present.”
“Your body is temporary and not permanent. There is no history of a living being who has lived permanently. This sat is also called amrita; this amrita is not the nectar that gives you ever-lasting life but its a-mrita, meaning that which does not die. Once we realise that we are IT, we are not dependent on anything for happiness. But won’t you still have a difficulty in absolute bliss? Yes. When you have good food, it is only natural you feel it should also be shared with your children. Similarly, you would like to share the bliss you are enjoying with others as well. When you decide to do this, satsang happens. It is not to get anything. What is there left for a complete being to seek?”
“Unless one is not complete, one is in misery. How to remove misery? Human misery can be removed only through understanding.”
“Ekam Sat, Viprah bahudaa vadanti’ means ‘The truth is One, the wise call it by many names’. This message is still relevant even after two thousand years. As you live, you have to be good to others. You cannot live as you wish and attain the Supreme by doing ‘dhyana’ (meditation which is a deeper awareness of oneness). You have to steady your experience of the Absolute by ‘sadhana’ (a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a spiritual goal) as well.”
“On our way to Thalassery, we came across many flyovers with expensive cars speeding over them. But underneath the flyovers, there were many things rotten and foul smelling, so much that we had to cover our noses. We have to understand that cleanliness is next to godliness. We should have clean food, ensure that we keep our mind and body clean. And also help keep our neighbourhood clean.”
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.”
Sri M said that the padayatra has to be an external as well as an internal yatra. “I tell everyone to observe how they are within, how they react to others and to think how they can better themselves. If this is sincerely and consistently done during the Padayatra, it could also be a journey from the Mooladhara to the Sahasrara. If this does not happen, the whole physical journey could be considered a waste.”
“When teachers come to join our school, we ask them what they can teach rather than their ability to teach. We ensure that they can be good models to the children as they live with them. This is crucial as children learn a lot by observing.”“Many people say that satsang and all is fine, but what to do with the mind which is very fickle. Even Arjuna says in the Gita that you can control the wind but not the mind.”
Sri M narrated another story from Lahiri Mahasaya’s life - One of his prominent disciple’s son, a medical doctor, completed his internship. The father asked him to go to Lahiri Mahasaya and take his blessings. He went to Sri Lahiri and took his blessings. The mahayogi then asked him what are the general symptoms of death. The young doctor said that the heartbeat stops, the pulse stops, breathing comes to a standstill and the solar plexus slowly becomes cold. Sri Lahiri Mahasaya then asked him to watch and demonstrated death. He stopped his breath and the doctor, with growing anxiety, observed all symptoms associated with death. He checked him and saw that there was no pulse, no heartbeat and his solar plexus was going cold. He raised an alarm that Sri Lahiri Mahasaya had died. People gathered around assuming him to be dead. Suddenly, to their utmost shock, they heard laughter from the ‘dead body’. Sri Lahiri Mahasaya got up saying that the medical profession needed to progress more.
Sri M concluded thus: “The breath and the mind are linked. If we observe breath, we can develop mastery over breath and the mind.”
Sri M then led the chanting of OM thrice followed by a few minutes of silent meditation. He then called four padayatris to the stage to relate their experiences during the Walk. The evening gathering consisted of more than 700 people. After dinner at 8.00 pm, the walkers retired to their rooms for a night’s rest.