The padayatris congregated at the KVC Hotel, Krishna Vilas Road, Mysore after a cup of hot coffee. Before the walk started, there was an announcement about a change in the route through the city to accommodate the previously unscheduled program in Sri Ramakrishna Ashram, Mysore. Dawn was just breaking and the city was waking up to welcome the New Year (Ugadi).
Starting off, the yatris numbering around 300 walked in a procession towards Sri Ramakrishna Ashram on K.R.S. Road. The roads were lined with old trees, and the pavements were covered with a carpet of yellow flowers falling from the trees, this being the end of spring and the onset of summer. Tabebuia Argentea or more commonly known as the Tree of Gold has its flowering season from January to March. Another road,along the route, had rain-trees lined on both sides with their huge trunks and large green canopies overhead.
They reached Sri Ramakrishna Ashram at 6.45 am where they were greeted by the Head of the Mysore Math, Swami Muktidananda, and his associates, numbering around 60. The yatris were first led to the shrine where there was chanting of the Shanti Mantras after which they gathered in the auditorium for a short while. The yatris were also offered tea and biscuits by the Ashram volunteers. Swami Muktidananda greeted Sri M and the padayatris and expressed his gratitude on the visit to the Ashram. Sri M addressed a gathering of about 300, which included padayatris, ashramites and volunteers. Sri Ramakrishna Ashram, Mysore is a unit of Sri Ramakrishna Math and Mission, established by Sri Swami Vivekananda which has its head quarters at Belur. The Ashram has the twin ideals of ‘Atmano Mokshartham Jagat Hitayacha’, meaning, “For the liberation of the self and the good of the world”. The Ashramin Mysore was established in the year 1925 with Swami Siddeshwaranandaji as the founder President. Many of the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna including Swami Vivekananda have visited Mysore and lived there for a while.
Sri M started his address thus:
“Good friends, Swamijis and Brahmacharis, you are all my friends. Till yesterday,we did not have this program scheduled. We stopped here as Swamiji said you have to stop here on the way. I do not want to engage you too much because we also have to go to Srirangapatna today. While Maharaj-ji introduced me to you all in his address, he said many things, but he forgot to mention one important thing. My roots also lie in Sri Ramakrishna Math.”
“Maharaj-ji, in his address, mentioned that I had said that one person alone couldn’t do anything. There is an exception to that rule, which was Swami Vivekananda. Of course, he believed that he was not doing anything. When Swami Vivekananda was visiting Amarnath during the last period of his life and Sister Nivedita was with him, he was all the time saying 'Shivohum, Shivohum' and running a high fever. So Nivedita got worried, because she had heard aboutSri Ramakrishna’s divination that when Swami Vivekananda understood who he was, he would leave his body. She was very worried and she asked him, ‘What will happen now, with all these institutions, this Belur Math, you have done all this work’.
He interrupted her and said, ‘You know the One that sits in the temple of Dakshineshwar, she has made me do all these things, she rides my shoulders. I have done nothing.’ For a person who had done all this to say that he had done nothing is not an easy task. We do small tasks and we say 'I have done it'. So, you can imagine.”
“My roots also lie here in a profound way because Swamiji was my childhood hero. I also happen to be a legitimate initiate of the Ramakrishna Order. Swami Tapasyananda was the Vice President and the Vice President was allowed to initiate people then. When he was in Trivandrum too, I knew him but for some reason I did not take initiation. I had met many great swamijis during my stay in the Ramakrishna Order including Swami Ranganathanandaji. Maybe it was that I was destined to be initiated by Tapasyananda-ji, who I knew from childhood days. So, one day when I asked him if he would initiate me, he said, ‘I am surprised that you are still not initiated. Tomorrow is Vijayadashmi, come with some flowers.’ It was held in the old shrine in Chennai. While Maheshwarnath Babaji, who was my personal guru, did ask me to go to the Ramakrishna Order after my stay in the Himalayas with him, the inspiration comes many years before this.”
“One more thing, I would say before we start is that all the people who are walking with me are part of one whole, we are not different people, we are not different. When you are happy, I am happy. When you are sad, I am sad. You are not isolated, we are all walking together.”
“Last, I thank the Sri Ramakrishna Ashram, Mysore and Swamiji for giving me this book –‘Swami Tapasyananda As We Knew Him’. An interesting thing is that in this book, in Part C, page 761, Chapter 7, an extract from my Autobiography mentioning Swami Tapasyananda is included. Of course, my previous name has been mentioned here. So, please do read it to know my impressions and understandings of him.”
“Thank you very much. Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi. Hari Om Tat Sat.” The walkers walked with the Swamijis from the Ashram accompanying them for a kilometer or so. The Walk proceeded out of Mysore and reached in front of Sri Ramakrishna Vidyashala where the students from the school lined the streets and the procession passed between them. The Mysore Bangalore highway is one of the busiest highways in the regions. Fortunately, there were not too many vehicles today, being Ugadi.
By 9.00 am, they reached the outskirts of Mysore city and stopped at Bhagwan Mahaveer Darshan Eye Hospital, which housed a temple too. This was the breakfast point. After they left the largely urbanized part of Mysore city, they walked on the long stretch of tarmac. There are not too many trees on the highway, thanks to the chopping down of trees due to the widening of the roads over the years. But it is still soothing to the eyes to see the long expanses of green with sugarcane and paddy being grown in the area.
By 10.00 am, the sun was up but a southern breeze blowing their way made the mid morning sun tolerable. At 10.20 am, they were greeted by a group of 30 people led by a group of traditional drums. They were soon greeted by another group of 20 people at 10.45 am. They also took a small break, resting by the wayside. Just fifteen minutes later, they had a group of people along with some children from the local schools greeting them and they stopped for a refreshing melon juice organized at a wayside restaurant. There was also a congregation of people from Rama Dasa Mission, who were on a Ratha Yatra. They greeted Sri M and the Swamiji from the Mission joined the walk for a short distance.They stopped just outside the Narasimha Swamy Temple where they had another short break and cool buttermilk was served. By this time, the sun was beating down mercilessly and the walkers looked visibly tired.
Passing through villages like Siddalingapura, Naganahalli, Kalasthavadi and Brahmapura, they reached the outskirts of their destination by 11.30 am. Soon after, the walkers were greeted at the Sri Sai Baba Temple and Orphanage on the fringes of Srirangapatna where they were served tea and biscuits. Sri M and the walkers went to the riverside and a puja was performed to Mother Kaveri. Sri M spent a little time with the founder of the Ashram and then continued the walk through the town, after which they reached the Sri Padmavathi Jain Kalyana Mantap—their halting point for the day, at 1.00 pm. They were allocated their places of stay in fairly clean surroundings, in large halls. This was also the venue for the evening program. They had walked a distance of 25 kilometers today.
Srirangapatna is a town in Mandya district of religious, cultural and historic importance. The river Kaveri encloses the entire town to form a river island. The town takes its name from the celebrated Ranganathaswamy temple, which dominates the town, making Srirangapatna one of the most important Vaishnavite centers of pilgrimage in south India. The Ganga dynasty rulers of the area built the temple in the 9th century; the structure was strengthened and improved upon architecturally some three centuries later. Tradition holds that all the islands formed in the Kaveri River are consecrated to Sri Ranganathaswamy. The sangama here is the confluence of three holy streams: the rivers Kaveri, Kabini and Hemavati. Tipu Sultan, the last ruling king of the town was killed within the fort of Srirangapatna; a memorial marks the spot where he ultimately fell.
Sri M and a small group of walkers visited the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple and spent about 30 minutes there. Walking back to the venue, there was a beautiful music performance by the Police Band. This was a set of more than 20 police artists playing Carnatic instrumental music. It was an amazing experience for the entire gathering. It was a little unexpected to see policemen in white and green uniform with tall traditional headgear in white green and gold,and in black shoes, sitting on chairs with some of the instruments placed on chairs either in the front or on their side producing such melodious soulful tunes of popular Carnatic numbers.
After this, there was a public function in which local leaders were present. There was also a flute recital by a local artiste and accompanying artists. The local leaders welcomed Sri M and the padayatris to their town, following which Sri M addressed the gathering of around 300 people.
He started his talk with the now customary prayers to the Guru:
“Gurur-Brahmaa Gurur-Vishnnuh Gururdevo Maheshvarah,
Gurureva Param Brahma Tasmai Shree-Gurave Namah
And Lokah Samasta Sukinoh Bhavanti… May the entire world be happy.”
The Guru is Brahma, the Guru is Vishnu, the Guru
Deva is Maheswara (Shiva),
The Guru is Verily the Para-Brahman (Supreme
Brahman); Salutations to that Guru.
Sri M said, “Dear friends, those who are walking with me and those who are not walking with me - I am sorry that I cannot speak in Kannada though I can understand Kannada. It is difficult to speak in Kannada because I have not stayed in this area for long, although my wife is from Karnataka. I have asked Ms. Nayana Kashyap to translate; she has a additional advantage because she is the translator of my autobiography into Kannada.”
“First of all, I am not going to say too many words. My Guru, Sri Maheshwarnath Babaji, had told me that I would walk one day. So, this was inside my heart, always there, a seed planted by Babaji. He said 'Someday, you will walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir'. I told him that I will walk till Kashmir, even till the end of the world if he was there. He said, 'This body is there today, it might not be there tomorrow, but you will walk'. Then, he said that I would walk with many people; to which, I put a full stop. I told him that I would walk but not with many people. This is because, by nature, I do not like to go out, I like to sit alone quietly somewhere. After my autobiography came out, the whole circus started.”
“I told him that this is not possible; I am not going to walk with many people. He then reminded me of something. Once upon a time, he had asked me, 'What do you think of yourself?' and I said that 'I am your dog'. He had then told me, 'That is okay but do not wag your tail too much, do as I say'. This was in my mind for many, many years and finally, three years ago I decided that we have to do it. It was so because if we do not do it now, the body may not be able to take it.”
“Now the aim of this walk is not political, it is only to remind people of an ancient truth mentioned three thousand years ago in the Vedas,‘Ekam Sat, Viprah bahudaa vadanti’ meaning ‘There is only one truth and the wise call it by different names’. No two human beings are alike. There are different religions and different factions. There are different ideas and different ideologies. There are differences in opinion. Prakriti itself is defined in Sankhya philosophy as that which divides.”
“Ultimately, we are all one because we are human beings. I maybe a Communist but I am a human being. I maybe a Vedantin but I am a human being. In every one of us, there is a spark of the Supreme, the all-pervading divine, which the Ishavasya Upanishad describes as ‘Ishavasyam idam sarvam’, meaning ‘the Lord is everywhere surrounding us’, residing in every heart as a small spark. Therefore, the Gita calls the body as a Kshetra and the inner spark of the divine as a Kshetragna. All of us are moving temples of God.”
“We heard a beautiful raga just now. There cannot be a raga if there aren’t seven swaras (notes). We cannot make the raga with just one note. So, this is life, this is creation - all human beings are linked together by the divine spark. They may be divided into Shaivite, Vaishnavite, Advaitin, and Dwaitin, so on and so forth. Everybody agrees on this that the mind needs to be purified and then the spark of the divine, which is in our heart, will shine forth.”
“When action comes out of THAT, it is not a selfish action. This is because it comes from fullness. Poornam adam, poornam idam – Wholeness or fullness there and fullness here – inside and outside. This is the actual root cause of the Walk. Footing out twenty-five kilometers everyday is the physical manifestation of the Walk. All the people who are walking have no shortage of energy because Poorna is always with us.”
“Now, I will say two more things before we stop. This outside walk should be accompanied by an inner journey. Inner journey is to learn by experience. It is a Yagna, so that when we go to Srinagar and come back our minds are also purified, and we also progress in the spiritual journey. If we have not progressed in the spiritual journey, than we cannot call this journey a success. Maybe, half a success, that’s all. If this change takes place when we come back, the seeds we have sown now will sprout into beautiful trees and the fruits will be shared by the future generations. I believe that unless I change, I cannot change the world.”
“This message must originate from this country because India is the land where people from all lands, all religions, all ideologies, have been welcomed. From ancient times, the Parsis came here, the Jews came and lived in Cochin, the Muslims and the Christians came here. Vasco De Gama came and landed in Calicut, he was welcomed with open arms. We did not know then that he would occupy the lands here. So, all religions and faiths have lived together as one in this country.”
“In this country there are so many colours - there are so many flowers in all kinds of gardens. Now, we cannot think that there will be only one kind of flower. Of course, for me, a lotus is a sacred flower. For somebody else, a rose may be a sacred flower. So, in this country, we live with this understanding that the essence of our behavior is Loka Samasta sukinoh bhavantu - may the whole world be happy.”
“All religions have said that kindness, compassion and good work are the basis of spiritual understanding. When a Muslim greets a Muslim, he says 'Salsam', which means peace. After meeting, however, if there is violence - that is a contradiction. When a Jew greets a Jew, he says 'Shalom', which again means peace. In the ancient times in our land, we used to do Namaskara. This namaskara from the heart means that I bow down to the Supreme Being who is the antaryami– the indweller, sitting in my heart. This means, ‘I bring together you and me, we are one’” (Joining his palms together in the traditional greeting).”Only then, in a deeper sense, the sharira and the atma are together - the body and the soul are united. We say 'namah' meaning ‘I bow down to you.”
“So the essence of all is this. Sometimes it gets forgotten. In this country, one of the greatest Scriptures of all times is the Bhagwad Gita. Now, Gita is so important - it is called the Song of the Lord - Gitam. You don't read a song rather you sing it. When you sing, you sing with your heart. You need all the ragas and all the swaras. What kind of instrument does Krishna use? A flute. A flute renders beautiful music because it is hollow. You cannot blow through a solid tube. It has to be hollow. We, the Yogis believe, that the seven holes in the flute are the seven chakras of the sushumna nadi. When we blow through that, the heart opens up, there is love and affection.”
“When Arjuna asks Krishna, ‘Who do you think is the greatest bhakta’, Krishna answers: Those who have control over their senses, who have equanimity in all situations, and who are engaged in the welfare of all the beings, verily, they all come to Me. Now, what more can I say? This is the essence from which this whole Walk of Hope has started.”
“I ask all of you here, please walk with us. If you can walk, come with us for a little while. If you cannot walk, support us in your mind. When you go home, if you are a teacher, talk about this to your students and make them understand, discuss these things. So, with an invitation with open arms, chanting the ancient Sanskrit shloka‘ Samvo Manamsi jnanatam’- with our minds put together, may we understand, I conclude this talk.
“Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi.”
After Satsang, the padayatris had dinner and retired for the day.