The bright moon stood witness as the padayatris left Ananda Ashram at 6.00 am after the customary morning tea/ coffee for today's destination—Chullikkara. They walked on State Highway #56, along the Kanhangad - Rajapuram - Malom road.
The Walk changed character today with it being divided into two sessions—one, from the Ananda Ashram to Attenganam (the lunch spot and resting place until 4.00 pm in the evening) and, two, from Attenganam to Chullikkara, which was to be the resting place for the day. This change was undertaken as the walk in this region is taxing due to the Ghat section and the hilly regions that require greater physical effort.
The scenery has completely changed in just a day. Yesterday, they were in the plains and today, they are in the hills. A relatively kinder sun hidden by trees has replaced the bright, scorching sun that the walkers were used to until now. It is humid nonetheless in late mornings and afternoons. In fact, it is more uncomfortable walking here in the afternoon as one exerts more, climbing uphill. It has also become slightly chilly in the evenings and early mornings, and walkers now have a chance to air their warm clothes.
Not only the topography but also the demographics have changed with them nearing the Karnataka border. The architecture is also changing from the typical Kerala style to more of the Konkani style. Tulu and Kannada are the languages spoken along with Malayalam. Walking thus in the morning, they passed Kottapara, Ramnagar, Pallur, Ambalathara, Kannoth, Eriya, Podavadukkam and finally Attenganam. All of these are no more than small hamlets with a smattering of homes, a few shops - all selling the same wares and one bus stop. The way of life in these places is unhurried and as the procession of walkers passed by, people stopped to watch them till they were out of sight.
Along the way, the walkers visited the Parappally Juma Masjid, run by the Parappally Jamath Committee, on outskirts of Ambalathara. The Masjid is situated along the highway. Since the parent body in Parappally, which the walkers had visited earlier, runs it, similar customs are followed wherein women from other religions can go light lamps and offer prayers in the Masjid.
A place of local importance was Attenganam. It is home to the Belur Sree Shiva Temple and Jeelani Mosque. Sri M and the yatris visited the Belur Sree Shiva Temple and Sri M spent a few minutes in prayer here.Around 11.30 am, the yatra stopped at a satsangi’s house, about 2 kms away from the temple. The residence is a mansion in the midst of a twenty-acre green plantation with plantain and coconut trees, far away from habitation. Padayatris had their lunch here and stayed on until 4.00 pm. Most of the walkers rested in the house or on the grass under the cool glades of a coconut tree. Some of them went exploring in the plantations, around the house.
Leaving at 4.00 pm, the yatra went through Odayanchal and finally reached Chullikkara by 6.30 pm, after a walk of 24.5 kms. On the way, walkers stopped at Thalaserry Diocese St. Sebastian Church and Sri M spent time in prayer here. Subsequently, walkers also stopped in front of Don Bosco Church of Padimaruthu, where they were received by a group of about 40 school children. Father Johnson Kanjirakkattu joined Sri M and walked with the yatra till they reached the halting point.
The walkers reached the Golden Palace Auditorium of Chullikkara by 6.30 pm and that heralded the start of the evening event. There was a classical music recital by local artistes followed by Satsang with Sri M which began around 7.15 pm.
Sri M started with the universal prayer
Oṁ Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ
TranslationMay 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
Followed by the invocation,‘Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu’ – ‘Let the whole world be prosperous and happy’.
Sri M offered Namaskarams to all assembled and thanked the host. He asked the audience to excuse his bad Malayalam and said “I will speak less on the padayatra as all of you have already read and heard about it. We started padayatra at Kanyakumari, which is a ‘sangamam’—a confluence of three rivers. Kanyakumari is also the Zero Point because India's land ends there. Zero is ‘shunya’ in Vedantic terminology. It has much significance. The mind has to be pure, clean and humble in order to understand something. This could otherwise be termed as Shunya or Zero state. Swami Vivekananda, in his travels, came to Kanyakumari, meditated and envisioned his mission for India”.
Sri M further explained, “Why have I undertaken this yatra? Many people might think that the idea of walking 6500 kms, braving extreme weather, might be madness when people would prefer to travel by airplanes. But you would note that anywhere in the world, to get good things done, people have struggled and have been branded 'mad'. Once in Trivandrum, I approached a person who has been thought of as mad by people around him. I approached him nevertheless and sat next to him. He showered abuse at me, trying to shake me off. When I did not budge, he quietly smiled and asked me, ‘Who is mad, I or all these people who are branding me mad?”
“Men are born different. The very meaning of the word nature, or prakriti is that which is different. So, there are many different beliefs, religions, castes, creeds and thoughts. But, as Sri Narayana Guru said, ‘whatever be the religion, it is okay if Man is good’.” “Our idea is to walk the length of the country and spread this idea. ‘Manav Ekta’ is our only agenda. I consider that if this message goes from India, it is most befitting as we are the country, which has over centuries, invited, accepted and nurtured with open hands, all those people who have come to our shores.”
“Let us take your place, Chullikara, a small town. How do you judge people? Do you judge people by their caste or religion or according to the way they behave, how they interact with others and the good they do?” “I have travelled many times around the country but most of those travels have been in vehicles. Unfortunately, that travel does not give you the right exposure. You just move from place to place, finish work, travel to hotels, maybe search for tea-shops. Walking enables us to meet many different people, listen to their views and closely interact with them.”
“Right through our journey, till now we have not seen anyone saying that ‘Manav Ekta' is not welcome. I have had a chance to interact with workers, auto drivers and people from many walks of life. All of them tend to think that men are all one and that violence is totally unnecessary despite different beliefs and religions. I have not taken this as a social reformation activity but I am only trying to pass on my spiritual experience from which this idea originated.”
Sri M said that his Guru, Sri Maheshwarnath Babaji had told him that he would walk one day from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and with many people. “I said, I would walk but alone, like he did”. Babaji immediately chastised him for his selfishness and asked him to do as he was told. “Three years ago, I thought it was getting late as I am already 66 years old now. I shared the idea with my friends and all of them agreed. It has come a long way now and many people have joined us from our country and other countries too. Now, we have forty five people walking with us end to end”.
“I feel that at the end of 53 days, their belief in human beings has increased. At the end of the day, after a tiring walk, when they say they are feeling fine despite their obvious weariness, I also get confidence. However, only when we reach Srinagar, can we say that our padayatra is a success.”
“Once I was meditating on the banks of the River Ganga, Babaji told me ‘Thirteen hours of meditation every day, 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 useless.” “I have gone through the teachings of many Yogis and they all say the same thing.” He then narrated the story in the context of Swami Vivekananda setting up the main objectives of the Ramakrishna Math.
Swami Vivekananda believed that service to ‘Daridranarayana’ was one of the ways to God (To serve Narayana or the Lord, 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 part of Math activity. 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 take on the leadership mantle again.
He then quoted from Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, “Lay Treasures in your heart where thieves do not break in or steal.” And said, “Don’t think that these utterances were for a particular community or a small section of people. ‘Sarve Bhavantu Sukhina' and 'Loka Samastha Sukhina Bhavantu', these are prayers for the welfare of the world at large and not for a set of people or a country.”
He continued, “Jesus said –‘bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you’. He also said, ‘know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God’.” Sri M further explained that the Biblical quote: “Know Ye not that ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” has a very strong parallel in Bhagavad Gita's mention of Kshetra and Kshetrajna.
“All spiritually evolved people will have similar spiritual experiences, that all are one. Every human being is born on earth, lives on earth and dies on earth.” Alluding to The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter Twelve, he quoted, “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’.” ‘Manav Ekta’ is based on these three things” he said.
He further added that, most people are dependent on something happening on the outside but if they were to look inside and identify that portion of ‘parabramha’ residing inside, they would be able to let sense gratification take a back seat and enjoy the ‘anantaananda’, the endless bliss available within.
“Upavasa or fasting is a method to control the Indriyas. Upavasa literally means getting closer to God. Many realise these truths but tend to forget this from time to time. In such cases, one should read their own scriptures to remind themselves about the truth. The padayatra is an effort to remind everyone about these truths. We have had wonderful experiences on our way from Kanyakumari till here.”
“I was touched by the benevolent act of an auto driver along the way. He probably earns not more than 100 rupees a day but he was so inspired by this mission of peace and harmony that he gave 100 rupees to me saying it is his contribution to the endeavor. Such acts of true magnanimity and selflessness have kept this padayatra going.”
“When we entered Malappuram, people warned us that it was dangerous. But we only experienced good hospitality in this sector. In fact, we met an old Muslim lady who asked us, ‘Why are you doing this padayatra?’. When we explained, she replied, ‘There are no differences in religions, there is no difference at all, except between men and women. We need to live together’.”
“These two instances, these experiences, reassure me that braving the hot sun, despite my leg pain and fixing a band-aid to my blister are all worth the effort.” Concluding his satsang thus, Sri M called on stage a few people to relate their experiences about Walk of Hope.
The session ended with the chanting of Om thrice and meditation for five minutes. After Satsang, the places of rest were assigned to the walkers. Men were accommodated in the large Satsang hall itself and women stayed in four homes belonging to the local community.
They had dinner soon and retired for the night at 10.00 pm.
The daily Satsang with Sri M at Chullikkara, Karnataka