With the departure time being advanced by 30 minutes now, the walker’s day begins at least an hour earlier. Many a yatri wakes up by 3.00 am to avoid the last minute rush and ensure that he or she is ready on time. While this translates to lesser amount of sleep, the positive is that they avoid walking after noon and are able to catch a siesta meanwhile.
Coffee is served by 4.45 am and the congregation spot is thus a hive of activity. The customary announcement of the destination point, the distance, the dos and don’ts, the reciting of the pledge are all set to precision and the walkers are ready when Sri M joins them and begins the walk.
The walk starts in darkness with the sun yet to rise. Only a passing vehicle’s headlights and a few yatris’ torchlights show them the way ahead till the golden rays of dawn start lighting up the horizon. On this day, they passed through villages like Gumanahalli, Thoriyapanahalli and Doddagula before reaching Sira.
Breakfast is served a short while after 8.00 am at Gumanahalli. Soon after, a group of 30 people from the local community greeted Sri M and performed a ‘pada puja’ – a ritualistic washing of feet, denoting respect with humility and devotion. With the sun up, the pace slowed down somewhat and they reached Manjushree Comforts in Sira by 12.15 pm, after having walked 24 kilometers.
Sira, once Siriya, is a medium sized town and is of historical importance. It was one of South India's strategically important places prior to the British Raj and has a fort. The foundation of the town and the fort is attributed to Rangappa Nayaka, a chief of Ratnagiri. The fort is named after the 'Nayaka' ruler and it is symbolic of the hold the Nayaka community rulers once had on Sira. Many people of Sira worship the deity Durgamma and the local Durgamma Temple is very famous—it is open to people of all castes and creed and people come from afar every year for Navarathri and Dasara. Dasara here is also sometimes known as second Mysore Dasara. The Dargah of Mallik Rehan, who was the Subahdar of Sira, also draws many people.
The day also marked Vishu. Vishu heralds ‘a new auspicious beginning’. It is celebrated in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the coastal parts of Karnataka. The day of Vishu is often considered as the first day of the Zodiac Calendar and signifies the sun's transit into the Meda Raasi (first zodiac sign) according to Indian astrological calculations, and falls on the spring equinox. During the equinox, a day has equal number of hours of daylight and darkness, the word "Vishu" in Sanskrit means "equal". It is said that Lord Sree Krishna killed the demon Narakasura on this day. Among the many popular traditions there is also the tradition of elders of the family giving money to younger ones called ‘Vishukkaineetam’. In continuation of the tradition, Sri M gave 1 rupee to all the walkers at breakfast and a Kaineetam (hand cloth) after the evening informal Satsang.
Reaching Sira, the padayatris were accommodated two or three persons per room, and the evening saw them and a few locals gather for bhajans. There were about 160 people in all. After the Bhajans, there was an informal Satsang. Sri M began with the universal prayers –
“Akhaṇḍa-maṇḍalākāram vyāptam yena carācaram|
Tatpadam darśitam yena tasmai śrī guravenamah||
(Which) pervades the entire unbroken form of the circle (of creation), moving and unmoving.
To that beautiful and benevolent Guru through whom that state was revealed (to me), salutations.
Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu Gurur Devo Maheshwara
Gurur Sakshat Parabrahma Tasmai Shree Guruvey Namaha
The Guru is Brahma(The creator), Lord Vishnu (The preserver, and Lord Shiva (the destroyer)
To that very Guru I bow, for He is the Supreme Being, right before my eyes.
Loka samasta sukhinoh bhavantu – May the entire universe be happy”.
He continued: “So, today is the first day of the Malayalam New Year and I have given everyone one rupee. This is a New Year and this is my message to all padayatris - if you have any differences of opinion and problems, transcend them and move into the New Year. All of you who have been walking and working, if you have any differences of opinion, sort them out. We are together in this like our friend who was singing and playing on the flute - 'jyot se jyot jagate chalo, prem ki ganga bahate chalo' (from lamp to lamp, spread light; from heart to hear, spread love).
“Try to work out ways and means to adjust because, with all our spiritual practice, finally the most important thing is love, affection, forgiveness and not holding grudges in our minds forever. If that does not happen, then you can go everyday to the temple, put a tilaka on your forehead and go back home and nothing changes or happens. The main thing is the heart; if you can forgive, if you can love and move forward, then I will consider that as opening of the New Year, the Vishu.”
“If you go to temples, remember that not only there, but here - the body - is also a temple which you have to respect more than any building of stone, granite and cement. It is very important. For us human beings, it is more important to us than anything else -more important than sitting on a throne. What I am saying is reflected in my eyes. So, those of you, if you want to stare into my eyes, please do. If you find anything, which is not true, please let me know. This is quite transparent. This is why I called you all.”
Following this, there was an interactive session. Excerpts from this session:
Q. Please talk to us about the dedication required for spiritual practice, our abhyasa.
A. Abhyasa means practice. Many people think abhyasa is sitting down and closing your eyes and breathing up and down. How you live with people, how you sleep, how you eat, how much anger you have inside, how much you can forgive... this is the most important abhyasa, not the breathing. The blacksmith's bellows also breathe. Along with that, you can also center your mind. I cannot say that I will live as I wish, do my sadhana and get moksha. This is not possible. Not possible at all. Because sadhana is not a short cut, it is the longest cut. The longest cut is to cut your ego. This is abhyasa. Other practices, you can pick up from here. You can center your mind for ten minutes, fifteen minutes, half an hour, I understand. But, the real abhyasa is how you live in this world; how you behave with people; how you tell lies sometimes; to watch out; if the lies are harmless it’s all right. So it is to live a proper life, to eat moderately and to sleep moderately.
Abhyasa is not some mysterious thing you can practice in the middle of the night. It is something you practice every moment. Do not have quarrels with anybody about God. People may have different ideas. Different people have different ideas. That is their idea, this is my idea - don't quarrel! You are right, we have to center ourselves everyday for at least thirty minutes until we come to a state where the natural state of the mind is tranquil. Can you imagine fighting with somebody and sitting down to meditate, is that possible?
The substitute word for the word 'shivam' is auspiciousness, tranquility. To be a stitha-prajna (to be established in wisdom), one has to keep the mind quiet. For that the greatest asset is forgiveness. Many things do not matter. It is all right.
Q. There are laws of nature and laws of land and sometimes they clash. What is the ultimate law?
A. See, any law that teaches you to go against humanity can be discarded. But, if you stay in a particular commune where you will be arrested in case you say or do something breaking the law, pretend to follow that law but don't actually follow it. You cannot go to extremes. Like the Arab says—trust in God but tie your camel. So, in these matters, one has to use one's common sense. Don't forget that all human beings are connected together in the ultimate sense. And, therefore, compassion to a living being, love and affection to a living being is the ultimate one can do. Many laws have been framed to bring this about because people do not practice this naturally. If you find any law that goes against this, then feel free to discard it but discard it carefully so that the prevailing law of the land does not catch hold of you.
It says in the Old Testament—God created the earth and the heavens in six days and on the seventh day, He rested. So, they rest on the seventh day. When Jesus went out to the open market and preached on the Sabbath day, he was questioned. So, he said the law is made for man, not man for the law. These are things which one can speak but use it with a bit of common sense. But, please remember, kindness, compassion and goodwill towards another is the ultimate law. There is no law to beat this.
Q. Are there some simple rules that we have to follow?
A. Definitely, you should eat the proper food so that you go to the toilet daily! There are some important things to do. One is, as far as possible, do not develop hatred or enmity towards anyone. Two, try to fall in line with others who are walking with us; eat your food, meditate everyday, sleep at a proper time, look after your health. Three, do not miss your meditation. Whatever busy time you may have, please take out half an hour for meditation. Four, keep your body clean as long as water is available; if your body is unclean, you will get diseases plus other people have to walk beside you. These four things, principally if you follow, it is okay.
Fifth thing is the most important; when I say something, please listen to it. When I am walking, I may make some jokes, please listen carefully. For me, the words are not that important, but the effect it has on people is. I maybe saying something that seems to be a joke, there maybe five people around and I know how it affects everyone. You are all men and women walking together. Do not develop any unnatural friendships with one another; being friends is fine.
Q. There is the future, the past and the present. Moments come and they go. What is the present, actually?
A. In a thousand, there is maybe one who is in the present moment; only one who is liberated is in the present. All others are either in the future or in the past; they are not in the now. In fact, there is no time called the present time. There is nothing called the present time. Only one who knows the now knows what it is, the rest do not. If you catch it once, your work is done. If one’s mind goes here and there, it is only because of habit.
Now see, there is a thought which came in the mind. It came and it went. It went as soon as it came. The whole life goes on like this. It is like a cinema; remember those old projector movies. One by one, the frame moves on. In small divisions, the mind works. If one catches the interval between these divisions, his work is done. He is living but he is dead while alive. Everyone thinks he eats and lives; so he is alive.But it is not so.
Q. So many people have spoken about Moksha or liberation. Shankaracharya spoke of it as the end of birth, death and rebirth. What is it about?
A. Not only Shankara, many have said the same thing. End of rebirth is something we know nothing about. We know only what is written in the Sasthras (scriptures). We really do not know, but there is another meaning to the ending of rebirth; it is when the mind stops craving. When the mind settles down without the craving for anything, that is the end of rebirth. When that happens, perhaps the Yogi will understand about the Other. When everything is over, then you have a way of finding out about That.
Q. When one is around you, I am better and I feel a little bit dependent.
A. I hope it is true that when I am around, it is better; but I don't know. But tell me, how long are you going to be with me? Does anybody know how long one will live? Does anybody know how long I will live? Does the mind have to depend on the physical existence or the message that I have to give? After sometime, you don't have to be dependent on me. So, in the beginning, one is like a small child dependent on its mother, which is okay. But at some point, you have to mature. You know why you are dependent on me?
Perhaps, there is something in me that is different. When that thing begins to unfold in you, it will be different. So, till then, it is okay, I suppose. It is not dependence, it is interaction; it is rapport, we fix our minds in one direction together.
Thank you! Om Shanti Shanti Shanti.
With these words, Sri M concluded the session. After the Satsang, the padayatris had dinner at the Inspection Bungalow, Sira, about a kilometer away.
Day 94 | Daily Satsang | Day of Vishu, the Hindu New Year