Spirituality is India’s Gift to the World

The historic walk headed by Sri M reaffirms the centrality of the tasks that we need to accomplish as we near the 70th anniversary celebrations of our independence.

Ramnath Narayanswamy

A very significant event occurred in the spiritual search for peace, harmony and inclusion in the 70th year of independence in our country. Spearheaded by Sri M (born Mumtaz Ali Khan and also known as Sri Madhukarnath), the founder of the Manav Ekta Mission, it consisted in undertaking a journey by foot from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. It was called the Walk of Hope and it stretched a full 7500 kilometres, spanning sixteen months, covered 11 states, crossed 86 districts and touched over 10 million people.

Sri M is the author of the inimitable spiritual classic entitled Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master: A Yogi’s Autobiography. It is an extraordinary account of his spiritual experiences, the core of which consisted in the mentoring and guidance that he received from his Guru, Sri Maheshwarnath Babaji and culminates in his meeting with Mahavatar Babaji. Spiritual seekers should read it as a sequel to the much acclaimed Autobiography of a Yogi by Swami Yogananda Paramahamsa. The book captures the fascinating story of his transformation from that of a spiritual seeker in his early years to that of a full-fledged yogic master in his later years.

It is a gripping, incredible and marvelous tale from all accounts. It holds the reader spellbound from start to finish. His dedication and commitment to his spiritual quest invites our admiration and serves as a source of inspiration to seekers exploring their own journeys. Seeking to go beyond the outer shell of most religions and discovering their inner core, Sri M says: “Go to the core. Theories are of no use.”

This historical walk was initiated by Sri M to heighten public awareness in six critical areas including interfaith harmony, sustainable living, women empowerment, community health, education and youth development. The mammoth padayatra began on 12 January 2015 on the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda and ended on 29 April in Srinagar. The idea behind the walk lay in restoring the innate spirituality of India, rekindling faith and awakening the spirit of love, harmony and inclusion.

What is spirituality and why is it important? Spirituality is the search for outer harmony through inner enlightenment. It is the uncompromising search to understand the true nature of Reality. It can be described as a walk of hope that seeks to straddle the two worlds – the inner and the outer – simultaneously. In the outer world, it is about giving to society more than you have received from it, while in the inner world; it consists of a relentless effort in self-awakening.

Religion is often confused with spirituality. They are not the same thing and need to be distinguished from each other. Religion deals with the outer world. Its focus generally lies in advising its followers on the rules of worldly engagement. It can be divisive (‘mine is better than yours’). It provides instructions on how to lead a peaceful and contented life. Spirituality deals with the inner world. Its focus lies in awakening human beings to discovering their innate divinity. Its reach is universal and inclusive. It provides the wherewithal to transcend life and – death.

It is generally agreed that we are living in the Kali Yuga where fidelity to dharma or righteousness and satyam or truth are reduced to a mere quarter. A cursory glance at the world around us more than merely confirms this impression: the dharma deficit stares at us in the face. The world is at war with itself, the five elements are in disarray and internecine strife appears to have become the order of the day. Greed has become the dominant religion of our time.

It is spirituality alone that can restore truth and righteousness to a world that has all but abandoned it. The historic walk headed by Sri M needs to be understood against this context. Prompted by entirely selfless considerations, it reaffirms the centrality of the tasks that we need to accomplish as we near the 70th anniversary celebrations of our independence.

“The gift of India,” said Swami Vivekananda, “is the gift of religion and philosophy, and wisdom and spirituality. And religion does not want cohorts to march before its path and clear its way. Wisdom and philosophy do not want to be carried on floods of blood. Wisdom and philosophy do not march upon bleeding human bodies, do not march with violence but come on the wings of peace and love, and that has always been so. Therefore we had to give.”

The author is a senior professor at IIM Bangalore.

Featured image: Rebecca Conway/AFP/Getty Images