THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For a spiritual leader who supports Vedantic practice, Sri M does not have a flowing beard or a saffron uniform. He does not identify with what he calls the “consumer model” of spirituality, in which people pay for their capsule of “spiritual entertainment.” He does not agree with the term ‘godmen’ nor the brand of spirituality they profess. And he as a spiritual guru is about to set out on a ‘Walk of Hope’ from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.
Who is Sri M? ‘M’ was once the first alphabet of Mumtaz Ali, the name of a boy born in a Muslim family in Thiruvananthapuram. As a young man he had headed to the Himalayas, where he met his guru Maheshwarnath Babaji. The guru named him Madhukar Nath. The first alphabet did not change. Today Sri M is the founder of Satsang Foundation, and identifies the letter ‘M’ with the word ‘manav’ or human being. Manav Ekta Mission is organising the ‘Walk of Hope.’
But why is his “padayatra for peace and harmony” different from the numerous marches and marathons led by politicians, businessmen and other spiritual leaders? “I am not going to contest in an election after this padayatra,” he says with a chuckle. If not vested interests what is the agenda of the walk, one wonders. He says that the walk helps one feel the pulse of a place, and understand the real problems that people face.
He adds, “One of the things I want to do is teach Kriya Yoga. I am a meditator basically. I’ve learnt it from Maheshwarnath Babaji and found it useful to stabilise the mind. I am going to sit down with them and tell them that no matter what religion you belong to, let’s sit down and meditate. Nobody objects to closing the eyes and meditating.”
How will that solve problems like poverty?
He says, “This is not a substitute for poverty.” However, he feels that if people can sit quietly and meditate, many things can improve. He wishes to sow seeds of hope in the minds of people, especially youngsters, something that’s very hard to believe in a day and age when hope is but a hackneyed word.
Sensing our disbelief he starts to assure, “As far as possible we will contribute. There are some participant organisations which support the walk and who are ready to contribute.”
He says that they have tied up with All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, which has promised to arrange for community medicines along the route of the ‘padayatra’. Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh Shauchalaya movement, has promised to support. An NGO in Pune will contribute paper bags, to support the group’s decision to avoid plastic. There are NGOs which will support the planting of saplings.
One keeps asking if that is enough. He says, “I call it the ‘Walk of Hope’. I only have hope. Whether it works or not, we don’t know. I am not even sure if I will complete this journey.” He is described as a living yogi by disciples. But instead of magical powers, one discovers vulnerability. One encounters just another human being. This is the sense of wonder that Sri M hopes to leave behind during his ‘Walk of Hope’, a walk on foot through 12 Indian states torn with strife, poverty and inequality.