After a hiatus of five days, the padayatra started from Freedom Park, Bangalore for the day’s destination - Nelamangala. The yatris, led by Sri M, set off at 5.30am after a cup of coffee.
Heading north on the National Highway #4, the first stop for the day was the Maha Bodhi Society, a two-minute walk from Freedom Park. The Maha Bodhi Society is a South Asian Buddhist society founded by the Sri Lankan Buddhist leader Anagarika Dharmapala and the British journalist and poet Sir Edwin Arnold. In 1891, he was on a pilgrimage to Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya, the location where Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment. This was the time when the social order was going through another change. Anagarika Dharmapala saw that the temple had changed hands and the rituals being followed there were not as per prescribed Buddhist rites. This disturbed him and he started an agitational approach to resolve the matter. After a struggle, a part of the site was restored to the management of Mahabodhi Society in 1948.
The Mahabodhi society at Colombo was founded in 1891 but its offices were moved to Calcutta the following year. Ven. Kassapa Thera is the current president of the premises in Bangalore. He and other monks welcomed Sri M and Walk of Hope.Here, at the Maha Bodhi Society complex, a large gathering of about a hundred Buddhist monks chanted the Maitri Sutra. The chanting was organised by Sri Ananda Bhante of the Maha Bodhi Society who was one of the panelists for Dialogue of Hope. A sutra is an aphorism or a collection of aphorisms in the form of a manual or, more broadly, a text. Maitri Sutra is a text on kindness composed by the Hinayana school. It is one of the most popular texts of the Theravada, the "Doctrine of the Elders", which contains the earliest surviving record of the Buddha's teachings. It says:
“This is what should be done by a man who is wise, who seeks the good, and knows the meaning of the place of peace. Let him be strenuous or determined, upright, and truly straight. Let him not be submerged by the things of the world, let him live a simple life and be easily contented and joyous—let his sense be controlled. Let him not desire great possessions even for his family. Let him do nothing that is mean or that the wise would reprove. May all beings be happy and at their ease! May they be joyous and live in safety! All beings whether weak or strong, in high, middle or low realms of existence, small or great, visible or invisible, near or far away, born or to be born—may all beings be happy at their ease! Let none deceive another, or spite any beings in any states! Let none in anger or ill-will wish harm to another! Even as a mother watches over and protects her child, her only child, so with a boundless mind should one cherish all living beings, radiating friendliness over the entire world, above, below, and all around without limit. So let him cultivate a boundless good will towards the entire world, un-cramped, free from ill will or enmity. Standing or walking, sitting or lying down, during all his walking hours, let him establish this mindfulness of goodwill, which men call the highest state. Abandoning vain discussions, having a clear vision, free from sense appetites, he who is made perfect will never again know rebirth.”
After this chant, Sri M was felicitated and he briefly addressed the gathering thus: “I thank all of you, especially venerable Kassapa, the monks and also the little monks sitting here.I thank you for welcoming us in the morning. I would like to thank you especially for offering prayers and wishes. Although I am not a Buddhist monk, I firmly believe in Buddha and Maitri, which is of the essence of all religions. Like the monks chant, 'Buddha sharnamgachyami', we will also walk along the path. Thank you!”
The padayatra resumed from here and it passed through Tumkur road, exiting the city. On the way, they passed through Vyalikaval, an old residential area in Bangalore and met the local community of Bandhavyanagar an old residential area where a mix of Hindus and Muslims have been living harmoniously for many years. Recently, the communities came together against the destruction of their homes in the name of development and have prevailed over the vested interests. Sri M interacted with the community for a short while and visited the Mosque and the Temple.
Continuing on the route, they reached the Chowdiah Memorial Hall in Malleswaram and stopped for breakfast. This hall is built in the shape of a violin and is home to musical and theatrical performances as well as competitions. Located in Malleswaram, it was built as a tribute to Tirumakudalu Chowdiah, a violin maestro from the Carnatic classical tradition. A beautiful cultural ambience was created at the breakfast venue. It was also a point to note that breakfast was hosted by people who were meeting Sri M for the first time. Having read the autobiography, they had great respect for his mission and his work. People from a cross section of society - educationists, teachers and people contributing to a greener Bangalore had an opportunity to meet Sri M. A famous veena artiste’s disciples played on the veena while the yatris had breakfast.
Bishop Seraphin of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Bangalore and other eminent personalities like Jnanpith Awardee Chandrashekhara Kambara who was one of the guests at The Celebration of Hope on 5th April and Nina Nayak - Chairperson, Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, also joined the walk for short distances. Going towards the outskirts, they had a refreshment point in a Cinema Theater where they were warmly welcomed by the owner.
By this time the sun was up and smoldering. The temperature recorded at this time was 37 degrees - the highest till now. The roads were dusty, noisy and moving. Every few kilometers, they stopped for a small break and moving thus, they reached Sri Maruthi Sai Dham, the halt for the day by 1.00 pm. The padayatra covered twenty-three kilometers in seven and a half hours.This temple is the first of its kind, where the idol of Lord Hanuman is carved from a single block from granite, about 36 feet tall. There are also temples of Santoshi Maa & Sri Shirdi Sai Baba here. Men and women walkers were both assigned to large halls, which were quite comfortable. At 4.30 p.m., a group of about 80 children from a nearby village met Sri M at the temple. He taught them a simple meditation technique with pranayama and the Rama Mantra and made them repeat it after him.
At 6.00 pm, the padayatris gathered in the temple hall for bhajans and Satsang followed soon after.
Sri M’s address began thus with his customary invocations:
“Om, Sarvebhavantu 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
Loka samasta sukhinoh bhavantu – May the entire universe be happy”
“Unfortunately, I cannot speak in Kannada so I will speak in English today. I can also speak in Hindi but I think my English is better. So, I really do not know what to speak on right now. There were these ladies sitting in front, doing their bhajans and kirtans.
“We have a hundred and one philosophies and a thousand darshanas. We have many religions and many beliefs. But if you look at all the religions in the world, a few things are common. One is that, everybody knows that the connection is not with the brain but with the heart. Two, everyone seeks love, affection, peace. Every Satsang, every reading, every kirtan, every bhajan ends with 'Om Shanti Shanti Shanti'.”
“In this ancient culture, three thousand years ago, the principle 'Loka samasta sukhinoh bhavantu' was the standard. The loss of this thinking sometimes worries us. People get violent, they kill each other in the name of religion, and this is what I cannot understand. The essence of Jainism is declared openly as 'ahimsa parama dharma' (Non violence is the greatest dharma). We know that when we say 'Loka samasta', it means the whole world and not just my house alone.”
“Sometimes, the Supreme Energy tries to rectify this and people like us madly walk twenty four kilometers in the hot sun. No sane person will do this. Only when you are a little bit crazy, will you do this. And, when you walk, what is this madness? I think that all this madness of love and affection and sacrifice - without this you cannot counter the other madness of people that results in killing, injuring, creating problems. That evil madness can be wiped out only if the other side restores the balance by talking about love, affection, sacrificing one’s life, so let’s do it! This is the reason for Walk of Hope.”
“We want people to understand that there should be peace. In Arabic, peace is called 'Salaam'. When two people meet, they greet each other by saying 'Salaam', which means peace. After saying 'Salaam', if you take a gun, what is the point? When a Jew meets a Jew, he says 'Shalom', which means the same thing. In our ancient culture, when people meet how do they greet each other? They put their hands together(Namaste) which means 'you and I are coming together', 'we are not separate', 'we are together', 'we are one' and we put our hands near the heart which means that deep down in my heart, I know we are one.”
“In Bhagwad Gita, Krishna says 'Sarva bhuta hite rataha', meaning ‘the one who has welfare of all beings in his heart, this is who I consider to be the greatest Yogi and devotee’. So, this is what it is, it is not a new thing, it is old wine in new bottles. Every Yuga it happens, the grace comes and enters somebody's heart and it works through him or her. If this balancing is not done, this world will be destroyed. What we need is not so much the brain but the heart to make this happen. Love, affection and forgiveness are the essential characteristics of existence.”
“Otherwise, only the brain expands wherein we will have lots of nuclear weapons and a monkey-like man - unlike this one (referring to the Hanuman temple which is the venue of today’s Satsang) – with only the brain one becomes more of a donkey like man with the button in his hand. One press and the whole world goes up in flames. Are we really ready to do that? Will we not stop it now? Just as we have our children and mothers at home, so do others. Others will feel the same pain that we feel by the loss of our mothers and children. This is why we are on this walk.”
“As I always tell people, in these fourteen hundred kilometers we have put behind us, there is this inner journey happening one way or the other within us. People who were lazy are active, people who are active now know the value of rest, people who did not walk ten meters are walking twenty-four kilometers, and people who were not so sharing are now sharing things with others. This itself is a movement; this is an inner journey. We hope that when we reach Srinagar after some seven thousand kilometers in April 2016, not only would we have spread the message, but we ourselves would have changed and become better human beings, possessing more love and affection.”
“Please walk with us. I do not have to say this to those who have been walking with me, I am walking because they are walking now. If I stop, I do not know what will happen. They have been telling me that they have been restless for the last four days. So, I appeal to those who are not walking with us to walk with us or help us with the walk in some way or mentally support us by praying for us. Last but not the least, please undertake this inner journey where we learn to understand that other human beings are not different from us. If that happens, the ancient prayer 'Loka samasta sukhinoh bhavantu' will come true.”
“Om Shanti Shanti Shanti. Thank you!”
The entire audience then chanted OM three times with Sri M and meditated for a few minutes.
Following the Satsang, the walkers had dinner and retired for the day.