BENGALURU: Spiritual leader Sri M has dismissed the concept of ‘holy men’, saying a person can become holy or divine only if he is learned and without ego.
In the city on his 6,500-km ‘Walk of Hope’ from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, he says the word holy is misconstrued in India.
“Seeking blessings from ‘holy’ persons is a man-made idea. Ideally, a holy person has a higher realisation of life with minimum selfishness,” he says. “He or she must be able to do good to others without expecting anything in return and without any ego.”
Sri M, who has taken up his walk to promote the ideals of humanity, peace and oneness, is not your quintessential swami, with long hair and orange robes. At his residence at the Sarva Dharma Kendra here, he was in a T-shirt and shorts. He spoke to Express about his early life, his upbringing and how he believes that all humans are the same, regardless of caste, religion and background.
Tell us about your early life.
I was born in Trivandrum into a family of immigrants from the North-West Frontier Province as Mumtaz Ali Khan. When I was nine years of age, I was playing in the backyard when I saw a tall man with matted hair standing under a jackfruit tree.
He beckoned to me and asked, “Kuch yaad aya? (Do you remember something?)”. When I said I didn’t, he said I would remember everything later. He placed his hand on my head and told me to go back home. I walked back and when I turned back, he was nowhere to be seen. I later met the same person in the Himalayas. By 19, I had the urge to leave home. I made the break for it. I had some money with me, with which I bought a ticket to Rishikesh.
How was your experience in the Himalayas?
I reached Rishikesh and after that I went to the Vashishta cave, which is located around 20 km away. After resting for a few days, I started walking to Badrinath, which I reached after two months. I met several sadhus there and they were mainly engaged in smoking ganja, which I did not like. I set out towards Mana (the last Indian village before the Indo-Tibet border). I was so depressed that I did not find the spiritual bliss that I had always longed for.
One day, as I was walking, I passed by the Vyasa cave, which was empty. Upon my return, I saw there was a fire inside the cave. I went inside, hoping to meet someone. To my surprise, I saw the tall man I had met when I was nine in Kerala. Upon seeing him, I was very happy and told him that I would never leave his side. His name was Maheshwarnath Babaji. I stayed with him for 2-3 years, during which time he imparted the Upanishads, Kriya Yoga and other Vedic texts to me. I started looking at the world in a different way altogether.
I was with him for around three years. One day, he told me that I can’t stay with him forever and he advised me to go back home and not utter a single word about my experience. Gutted, I came back to New Delhi. Babaji had told me to meet a few learned individuals, including Jiddu Krishnamurti, the visionary. I met him and even worked with the Krishnamurti Foundation for some time. During this period, I met my wife (Sunanda) and had two children.
After Krishnamurti’s death, I quit the foundation and started social work.
When did you start preaching your message?
In 1994, I had a dream that Babaji (who had passed away by then), dressed in a railway official’s uniform, waving a green flag at me. I woke up laughing and dismissed it as a figment of my imagination. A few days later, I went to the market to buy something and I met a friend, whose friend had told him that I had been in the Himalayas for some time. My friend persuaded me to talk to a group of people about my experience. I remembered by dream and put two and two together.
I agreed to deliver a talk after that; that was the beginning. Later, I started the Satsang Foundation. A close friend once called me M, and it has stuck since then.
Who is your inspiration, apart from Babaji?
I think Swami Vivekananda has inspired me a lot. His teachings can be studied for another century — there is that much material there. For instance, the pineal gland which is present in everyone — in the mid-brain — was considered to be a useless organ till around 50 years ago. However, Swami Vivekananda, around 80 years ago, said it is very important and that it is the gateway to higher consciousness. Later, doctors discovered that the pineal glands were responsible for the sleep cycles in human beings. How did he know that it was important at that time?
What is the ‘Walk of Hope’, and what next?
The ‘Walk of Hope’ is an initiative of the Manav Ekta Mission, an offset of the Satsang Foundation. We plan to cover 6,500 kilometres on foot. Through the walk, I hope to meet several people and explain to them that regardless of religion, culture, caste or our background, we are essentially one - human beings. We must not harm others.
The walk is expected to end in April next year. After that, I want to take a break for 3-4 months and spend some time in solitude. I will probably go to the Himalayas.