As the walkers move into the plains of the Hunsur district, the second district of the Karnataka leg of Walk of Hope 2015-16, the terrain changes form and characteristics. One sees the expanse of the vast open fields, a different visual experience when compared to the hills but nonetheless a panorama of beauty. Like yesterday, the thick foliage of old trees are no longer a common sight. It is vast stretches of farmland with crops in various stages of growth, intended to feed a hungry nation. The world is lofty and open here, miles and miles of land stretching to the horizon, the sun pouring its benevolent energy, sometimes a tad too harsh.
Leaving at 6.00 am, the yatris led by Sri M walked from the hills unto the open plains, continuing on State Highway # 88.Just about 20 minutes later, Sri M was welcomed by a group of around 20 people and he planted a sapling at the site later. Walking through Koppa and other villages on the way, they stopped for a short break, a set routine now every five kms or so, for refreshing themselves with water, an orange or a melon juice.
On reaching a village called Thirumalapura, Sri M was again greeted by a group of about 30 people. After breakfast, they walked on to Basavanahalli where they were greeted by a group of about 20 people around 11.30 am. By 12.30 pm, the walkers reached Periyapatna, thus entering Mysore district. The halt in the town was Mahalakshmi Lodge. They were assigned rooms with about 3 or 4 people in each room. The padayatra had traversed 23 kilometers in duration of about 6 hours.
The agricultural belt around the town of Periyapatna, Basavanhalli, and Thirumalapura has vast tracts growing tobacco as the main produce. VFC tobacco was introduced in the late 60s and early 1970s and has changed the economy of the region. More than 75% of the VFC tobacco grown here gets exported to various countries every year and is well known for its quality at the international level. Legendary Kannada film Director, Puttanna Kanagal, hailed from Periyapatna.
Lunch was served by 1.00 pm and the yatris rested briefly before they gathered again at the Rotary Club International, Periyapatna. They walked to the hall in the evening around 5.00 pm. Sri M started his address, after the preliminary welcome address by the local leaders, at 6.00 pm.
He started the satsang with the invocation of the universal prayers –
Om, Sarve bhavantu sukinah
Sarve santu niraamayaah
Sarve bhadraani pashyantu
Maa kashchit dukha bhaagbhavet
Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantihi
May all be prosperous and happy
May all be free from illness
May all see only the spiritually uplifting
May no one suffer in any way
Om Peace, Peace, Peace
And Loka samasta sukhinoh bhavantu – May the entire universe be happy.
“I will speak in English and Nayana Kashyap, who has translated my autobiography into Kannada, will translate what I say into Kannada. This padayatra started from Kanyakumari on 12th of January this year. 12th January happens to be the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda was a great spiritual person, and also a social reformer.
“Kanyakumari is the confluence of Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. It is the land’s end for India - there is nothing but ocean south of this point. Since these three oceans meet together, the message of Walk of Hope and Manav Ekta Mission is that all human beings should come together, no matter what their religions, beliefs or ideologies. This is another reason we started at Kanyakumari.”
“We are walking from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, almost 6500 kilometres out of which some 1000 kilometres have
been covered. Please note that this is a padayatra and not a ratha yatra. We are walking. From Kanyakumari to Kashmir, we will take one and a half years. In April of 2016, we will reach Kashmir.”
“Everyday, we are walking in the hot sun like mad people. Why are we walking in the hot sun? We are walking 20 to 25 kilometres everyday. People have come from all parts of India and also outside to walk with us. Why are they walking like this? There must be some faith, must there be not? Otherwise, why are they walking like this? I would have walked alone, but they are walking with me, and there are people here who have rarely stepped out of their homes, why are they walking – what is the reason?”
“The reason started many years ago when I was 22 years old. Now, I am 66 years old. I was with my Guru in Uttarakashi, meditating by the river Ganga, and Babaji suddenly told me, “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, ‘Shoonya ho jayega’ in his parlance. When a person spiritually advances, the first thing that manifests is kindness and goodness to others.”
“In the Bhagawat Gita, Arjuna asks Krishna, ‘what are the most important qualifications of a Bhakta?’ Lord Krishna answers, ‘A true Bhakta is one who has withdrawn the senses, one who has equanimity of the mind at all times and one who has the welfare of all beings at heart’.”
“This padayatra is an outward expression of my inner experience and understanding. All human beings are different and they should be different, nature is that way, no two human beings are alike - and yet they are one. Human beings are born on this earth and they die on this earth, human beings - no matter what category they belong to - are essentially one. In every heart, there is a spark of the divine - the antaryami. You and I are walking temples of the divine because inside us is a spark of the Supreme Being.”
“This is the reason for this padayatra, to make people understand that you may have a difference of opinion, but you need not resort to violence. We can talk, but we need not kill each other. Wherever we go, we see that we cut across religions, political affiliations - they say you are right, this has to be done.”
“India has to stay united and strong. It is from India that this message of unity must originate. India is a country that since time immemorial has granted refuge and safe haven to all people from all places. The Parsis came here, the Muslims came here, the Jews came here, the Christians came here, everybody was welcome. This is not possible in most countries.”
“India has, from time immemorial, said ‘Ekam Sat, viprah bahudaa vadanti’ meaning ‘The truth is one but the wise call it by many names’. This message must originate from this country. If it is so, India will become the spiritual leader of the time that is to come, as it was before in the ancient days.”
“The message is not only for India. It is for ‘Loka samasta’—the prayer is for the whole world. This idea should reach people, specially school and college children, so that when they grow up they have the understanding that united we stand, divided we fall.”
“Whenever we reach a place, people have appreciated and encouraged us. At not a single place, have we encountered dissatisfaction with Walk of Hope. This is 100% certain that something good will come out of it. Even if ten lakhs of people believe in this, a change will happen. This is a rally for goodness and oneness of humanity.”
“I mentioned about the help people are extending to us. The most remarkable is the tremendous support we are receiving when we walk in rural areas; two times until now, ordinary rickshaw drivers have come upto me and given me their day’s earnings. Even now something similar happened - a coconut seller, on the way here, gave us 50 rupees. I want to call your town the 'great' Patna, 'Periyapatna’. Like this, we have had so many good responses.”
“Once a person who was drunk came and embraced me. They tried to remove him but he was able to embrace me. He was fed up with the world so he drank to forget it. There are other things one can get drunk on - love, compassion. When one is very, very drunk with that, the whole world will change.”
“After a year or so, you will read about this yatra in the newspaper – in terms of what hope it has generated. I know it will be so because we have started with the blessings of my Guru, Maheswarnath Babaji and nothing he has blessed so far has come to a naught. I am a man who likes to live in solitude, meeting so many people is not my cup of tea. I am only doing so because my Guru has asked me to.”
“We are at the Rotary Club and the principles of the Rotary Club are similar to what I am speaking of. It means to do good to others and help as much as possible - 'service above self'." "Service to humanity, which Swami Vivekanda called, 'daridra-narayana-seva', is to consider those who are suffering as Gods in human form and help them. This is the greatest thing you can do. One more thing, when we go on this Padayatra, I invite everyone here to join us to walk. You need not do the whole distance, do how much ever is possible for you.”
A few padayatris were called on stage to relate their experiences on Walk of Hope. The evening program concluded thus and they walked back to the lodge. Halfway through, it started raining and they walked in the rain mirthfully. It was the first serious rain-shower for the walkers in the last 63 days and most were drenched by the time they reached the lodge. After dinner, they retired for the night.