The Srirangapatna Sri Padmavathi Jain KalyanMantap was a hive of activity as the walkers enjoyed their wake-up coffee. A number of people from the local community too had joined in for the padayatra. They left at 6.00 am, walking to the highway through the narrow but quiet inner roads of the temple town. They passed by Tipu Sultan’s place of demise and the historic armoury on their way. The procession of 200 people or so soon reached the Bangalore Mysore State Highway # 17. Today was a busier day on the highway, being a Sunday. Vehicles whizzed by as the day progressed.
The yatris walked quietly in the pleasant weather, accompanied by the river in the distance while the glowing orange rays of the sun made their way from behind small hillocks in the east. It reminded of the paintings one made as a child of a natural scenery – a couple of hills with the sun rising in between, birds in the sky, a few coconut trees and a water body… simple but with all the ingredients for a perfect picture of peace.
The yatris stopped for a short break after about 45 minutes, when the local hosts offered milk to them. Another half hour of walking saw Sri M and the walkers greeted by a group of about 70 people. Here, a school band from a local school welcomed them. The band, comprising of small children, led the procession for about an hour. Sri M then bid farewell to them and they reached a local leader’s house. They hosted Sri M’s breakfast and the yatris were served on the open grounds of their house, alongside the highway.
An hour of walking again, there was a stop at a forest nursery where the walkers were served cool watermelon by the local Police staff. The Mandya district police’s gesture was truly appreciated by one and all.
Mr. K S Puttannaiah from the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS – A Farmers’ Union turned political party), a Member of the Legislative Assembly from Melkote, met Sri M and spent a few minutes with him on the route soon after. Here too, badam milk was offered to the yatris along with some hot vadas. This belt had many a stop with the local communities greeting Sri M at regular intervals.Powered by irrigation facilities from river Kaveri, this region is one of the most prosperous agricultural belts in Karnataka. The walkers could see stretches of sugarcane waving gently in the breeze, interspersed with paddy and marigold fields.
The sun was now up completely and the day was getting scorching. Summer starts early in Karnataka, with March and April being hot and dry.After a tender coconut break at 9.30 am, they had another stop where it was the turn of a wayside local fruit vendor, Sayeed Ilyas, who supplied watermelons for the entire team. It was indeed heart-warming and the yatris cherished the gesture and applauded him. A couple of breaks and 1.5 hours later, the walkers reached Kalenahalli at 12.00 noon. Walk of Hope had passed through small hamlets like Kirangoor, Baburayanakoppal and Shettihalli. They had walked 22 kms in total today.
The halting point today was the Bishop’s Pastoral House, Kalenahalli. This was the only set of buildings visible after they crossed a set of warehouses and industries. The men and women were put up in dormitories with some of the men adjusting on makeshift mattresses in the corridors. The place is clean and basic.
The concept & criterion of luxury is undergoing a change for the long-term walkers now. The ratio of number of people sharing a clean toilet, a place to dry their washed clothes, which were earlier taken for granted, now lead the list. This is one of the places they had access to clean bathrooms but the ratio of users was 15:1 ! With the walk now into almost 15 days in Karnataka, they are slowly getting accustomed to the change in food – Kerala was a luxury on this front with every meal being a ‘sadhya’ – traditional vegetarian food served on a plantain leaf with many courses, including payasam!
Today, there was no public program and hence it was only a private Satsang. Sri M started the Satsang saying that he wanted people to ask questions but he would narrate a few Sufi stories before that. He commenced thus: “Once upon a time there was a Sufi who had a disciple who lived with him for thirty years. If the disciple was thirty years old when he started, he must have been sixty when this happened, we can leave that to our imagination. After practicing all sadhanas and so on, he used to say that nothing has happened, nothing has happened, nothing has happened. One day the Sufi teacher took him for a walk and they came to a beautiful pond. The teacher said, ‘Let us walk into the water, it is nice and cool’. When they were waist deep in the water, the teacher caught hold of the student and pushed him into the water and held him there. His first reaction was, ‘I am asking too many questions, so he is trying to drown me’. So, he started struggling, than after some time when he thought he was going to die, the master released him. They sat down somewhere as the disciple gasped for breath. The master told him, ‘When the desire for the divine is of the same intensity as your desire for that gasp of air, then something will happen. The hunger for knowing the truth needs to be that strong’.”
“We have so many interests. The sum and substance of this is don't blame me if nothing happens. I am not the type that will push your head into water. This is a Sufi story that shows the relationship between a teacher and a disciple. Sometimes, it will be smooth and other times rough. One point must go in, the point here is that when nothing is as important as finding That, then That comes of itself and there is nothing to do. So, this is one story.”
“Being a Sufi story, there are many links and connections, so we can think about it in different ways and ruminate over it for some time before we find different answers, or we may find more questions - which is the intention, of course. Here is another story.”
“There was a teacher, who with his disciples was walking along on a street. They came in front of a tavern where wine is served. They were passing by and the owner of the tavern thought this great yogi is not going to come to my place - how will he come, why will he come, what for and so on. Suddenly, the master turned and asked, ‘You are not inviting me in’. The tavern owner said, ‘Yes master, but will you come? The master replied that if you invite me, I will come. So the owner said, I am inviting you, please come. The master went inside with his ten disciples.”
“The master than asked him, what have you got to offer? The man said that I have nothing here but wine. The master said that if that is the only thing you have then, give me a glass of wine. So, he filled a glass of wine and the master drank the wine very slowly. The disciples thought, so many days we have had no wine and here the master is having it. So, they called the owner and asked for wine and their glasses were filled. The master of-course drank very slowly and by the time the master finished his glass, they had drunk three to four glasses.”
“So, they finished their wine and they went out. The master walked out and the disciples crawled out. They were still walking, kind of. They finally passed in front of a foundry where metal is melted. In that foundry, they were melting tin for making bullets. So the master went up to the owner and said, will you not invite me? The foundry owner said, yes but there is nothing here for me to offer. The master replied, yes but invite me. So, the foundry owner invited the master in. The master said, here I come.” “The master went in followed by his disciples who were in different states. They came and sat down, then the master said, what have you got to offer me? The foundry owner said that nothing but molten tin. So the master said, give it to me. In a crucible, some molten tin was poured and the master said, this is very nice and he drank it. He told his disciples that you can also have as much as you like. So, the lesson here is do not imitate the master. Not me - the teacher. A teacher might be doing something for a certain purpose, it may not be that it is his habit.”
“I am going to tell you one more story; the things that happen to us may not be very logical. There was this great man whose name was Mullah Nasruddin, who was supposed to be a comical character. In his comedy, there was great wisdom. I will give you some Mullah Nasruddin stories.”
“Once, there were two countries divided by a border. The border had a check-post. Through the check-post, some goods, especially food grains could be carried to the other side. They stopped people at the check post and if they carried anything forbidden, they were sent back. Mullah Nasruddin used to go everyday with a few donkeys who were loaded and they used to check his loads at the check-post. In them, they found that there was nothing but mud and rubbish. This happened routinely for many days.” “Many years later, the customs officer retired and the officer went to live near the sea. Mullah Nassarudin also happened to live near the sea. One day Mullah Nasaruddin met the customs officer. The customs officer said ,’I have now retired, can you now tell me what were you smuggling because every day we found nothing but mud and rubbish; now we are friends, please tell me.’ Mullah Nasruddin said, ‘What a fool you are, I was smuggling donkeys’.”
“The thing is, when we look for complicated things we miss the obvious. The obvious is very simple - fix your attention, keep your mind there and go forward. But we complicate it.”
“One person came today and told me that I was trying to reach the thoughtless state. Thoughtless state will happen when you die or when you are unconscious. This is an illusion for which many people waste their lives - a thoughtless state. There is no thoughtless state. You are either unconscious or you are dead.”
Following the stories, there was an interactive session where some of the walkers asked questions and Sri M answered them:
Q1: When I try to meditate picturing Babaji’s feet, there is confusion of where I need to start and how I should picture them.
Sri M: You should look at Babaji’s feet only as a pure symbol and need not get into details of how the toes look, how the feet are shaped and so on. The feet are only a symbol for you to focus on.
Q2: You say that we should live in the present and not look at the past – how can I do that when I am a product of the past and all the past memories are what are prodding me into action? Just to give you an example, if I commit a murder, don’t I have to face consequences?
Sri M: Living in the present is that you should not keep thinking of what happened in the past. To talk about the example you gave, it does not mean that the law will not take its course… I am not against that or saying that it will not happen. The law will take its course. But the murderer should not keep thinking in his mind that ‘I am a murderer, I am a murderer’. Then, there is no hope for him. For realized people, they only see the divinity in each person and do not look at their actions in the external world. Take the incident from Jesus Christ’s life where he said that only a person who had not committed any sin could throw the first stone at the woman who had ‘sinned’. It is only the pure presence of Jesus Christ that prevented people from throwing a stone. If somebody else had said it, everybody would have thrown stones.
Q3: When I try to sit and meditate and try to reach the thoughtless state, I feel I hit a wall. How do I cross this state?
Sri M: It is impossible to reach a thoughtless state. As I mentioned earlier, it is only when you are in deep sleep, unconscious or dead that you are in a thoughtless state. There is no wall to cross. There are tools to get over this if you are ready to use them.
Q4: It is really difficult for me to sit and meditate.
Sri M: Sitting down and meditating is not for all. Somebody asked Ramana Maharshi – ‘You say that we should sit and meditate but you go around the hill wandering’. Ramana said – ‘As long as your mind is calm, you can either move around or sit down. It does not matter.’
Following the Satsang, the padayatris retired to a quiet evening and dinner. Tomorrow, they have to walk only 8 kilometers and the atmosphere is visibly relaxed.