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Let Us Learn To Live: The Art Of Walking

Published: 19.02.2012
Updated: 19.02.2012

Indian culture lays emphasis on Charaiveti, which means "to keep going". According to this concept, luck favors those who put forth the most effort, whereas a person who sits idle can never enjoy good fortune.

A Sanskrit poet wrote:

"Hasti sthoolavapuh sa chankushavashah kirn hastimatro 'nkushah.
Dipe prajvalite pranashyati tamah kirn dipamatram tamah.
Vajrenapi hat ah patanti girayah kirn vajramatro nagah.
Tejoyasya virajate sa balavan sthuleshu kah pratyayah."

"A small prod can control a huge elephant, a small lamp can remove intense darkness, and a small thunderbolt can destroy big mountains. Therefore 'small' should not be ignored."

Human life is precious. To make it worthwhile, it is necessary to pay attention to matters that may seem small and simple but can actually shape one's life. These include how to stand, how to sit, how to talk, and how to walk.


Walking is a fundamental activity of life. Moving one foot after another is the result of muscle movements. However, the act of walking projects more about a person than just his muscular activity'.

Let us reflect on the act of walking. A newborn cannot walk on his legs because his physique is too weak. After a few months the baby begins to sit. Then he learns to walk by holding his parent's finger. After that he tries to walk without any assistance. His first tottering steps bring joy to all. Thus walking is not a mere coordination of muscles; it involves many other faculties as well.

Purposeful Walking

To walk means to move. There are two types of movements. One refers to moving with the legs and the other implies progress in life.

The former is physical whereas the latter is abstract. All creatures in this world move methodically. However, walking should be a conscious act. The mind should be engaged in telling you how to walk, when to walk, and why.

The first thing to consider is the purpose of walking. Walking miles and miles is meaningful only if it has an objective. To walk even a step without an aim is a waste of time and energy. There should be a purpose of goodwill for all.

Morning and evening walks are considered advantageous for maintaining good health. The lungs normally have the capacity to take in five to six liters of oxygen, but generally people do not use their full potential. Walking enhances the capacity of the intake of oxygen, which in turn keeps you more energetic. Morning walks are deemed healthiest because with the sunrise trees release more fresh oxygen and the environment is not polluted. Walking is particularly beneficial for people with diabetes, depression, obesity and asthma.

Mindful Walking (Gamanyoga)

The word Gamanyoga, as described in the Preksha Meditation System, means to walk carefully. Gamanyoga is simply a non-violent walk with the intent to avoid hurting other beings.

It also emphasizes choosing the right place and the right path and following the safety rules. Every so often, despite awareness of the rules of the road, people still walk on the forbidden side just for ease or sheer neglect and such violations could be dangerous. While walking reflection should be limited.

Before embarking on a journey, one should recite a favorite mantra to make the journey auspicious. Once when Acharya Mahapragya was traveling barefoot in Haryana, India, one of his disciples was gravely injured in an accident. To protect them from such calamities in the future, Acharya Mahapragya gave all his monks, nuns, shravaks and shravikas a safety mantra, "Om Phum Hreem Shreem Kleem Thah Thah Thah Swaha" with the advice they must chant it before embarking on any travel.

Change Your Walk to Change Your Personality

Walking is not merely a physical act but also reflects one's personality. Graceful walking leaves a positive impression. Some people tread softly, while others move hastily and heavily, making a great deal of noise. Some keep their body in a straight line and others bend their neck and shoulders forward. Some people walk energetically with firm steps while others walk nervously.

The following guidelines for walking can effectively change your personality:

  • Staying conscious of each and every movement of the feet makes you more cautious and alert.
  • Taking balanced and firm steps represents courage and confidence.
  • Walking on the entire foot is more natural than walking only on the toes.
  • A disturbed person tends to split himself while walking: His physical movement is in one direction, his vision is in another, and his mind may be taking an entirely different path. Let the body, mind, and vision go in unison.
  • Hitting other people, creatures or objects in the vicinity is a sign of frustration and aggression and should be avoided.
  • A mindful walk awakens and energizes the non-violent consciousness within you.

The scripture Dasavaikalika teaches the art of walking to a monk: "A monk should not walk in haste or recklessly. He should not walk looking upwards. He should also not talk, laugh, study, or get distracted while walking." Conscious walking is also mentioned in another scripture called Uttaradhyayana: "Uvavutte riyam riye." Meaning "a monk should consciously involve himself in walking." A Rajasthani hymn says:

"Neeche joyan char gun, garni vastu mil jaye.
Daya pale hinsa tale, drishti dosh tal jaye."

"Watchfully walking looking down helps avoid violence, find lost objects, and spares one from habitual carelessness."

Global Change through Walking

Walking for a cause can bring about awareness and positive change in society. History attests the success of peace walks and marches in achieving the seemingly impossible all around the world. Walking for a cause draws global attention to poverty, exploitation, inhumane behavior, racism, nuclear armament, and war. Many great men like Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave, Martin Luther King, Jr., Lech Walesa and Nelson Mandela have been crusaders of peaceful revolutions through peace marches. I myself, along with the H.H. Acharya Mahapragya, have been on peace marches that have resulted in awakening non-violent consciousness and reinforcing the moral values of society.

Internal Walking: Spiritual Progress

The abstract or metaphysical meaning of walking is progress, and specifically spiritual progress.

Indian culture lays emphasis on Charaiveti, which means "to keep going". According to this concept, luck favors those who put forth the most effort, whereas a person who sits idle can never be expected to enjoy good fortune.

"To keep going" in the context of this book is to proceed on the spiritual path. Of course, such movement requires right perception and guidance besides physical effort.

Here is a story how a king tested the spiritual progress of his sons to select his heir:

A king with three sons had to choose his heir. He decided to evaluate their aptitude become king. Giving each of them a dollar, he ordered that each furnish his palace with that dollar by 8 p.m. the following night.

The eldest thought, "Furnishing the palace with just one dollar is impossible. If I buy some stock that appreciates in value, I may be able to carry out my father's wish." After some more thinking he decided to take a shortcut. He said to himself, "Why not gamble and win some money?" He did so and lost the only dollar he had.

The other two princes carried out their father's command.

At the scheduled hour the king set out to inspect the palaces. He found that the eldest prince's palace was empty, and the prince was sitting outside dejected. His explanation why he could not fulfill his father's wish did not impress the king.

Without uttering a single word to his son, the king proceeded to the second palace where a foul smell emanated from within. Holding his nose, he asked the second prince to explain the stench. The prince replied, "Father! What could I get except garbage with the one dollar you gave me? Since it was necessary to carry out your order in time, I stuffed the palace with garbage." The king moved away silently from there, too.

Now, it was the youngest prince's turn. The king was astonished when he entered his palace: It had a pleasing fragrance and was full of divine candlelight. This prince had bought candles, incense sticks, and flowers with the dollar to illuminate and aromatize the palace. The king admired his youngest son and announced him as his heir.

The first prince had neither the right perception of the king's intent nor the knowledge to execute the task. The second prince comprehended the king's intent but lacked the wisdom to find a creative solution. The third prince not only understood the king's intent but also astutely executed his command. By beautifying the entire palace with just a dollar, he demonstrated that even little things can make a big difference!

What really matters is how effectively one uses knowledge for progress in life. Usually, people stress the importance of bookish knowledge. Progress in life should not be judged by this or name or fame. The most meaningful measure of one's knowledge is its proper use for spirituality and enlightenment.


Let Us Learn To Live

Jain Vishva Bharati, Ladnun With Best Wishes:
Buddhmal Chordia Charitable trust
Charwas - Kolkata 1. Edition: June 2011
2. Edition: November 2011

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Mahapragya
  3. Body
  4. Consciousness
  5. Environment
  6. Gandhi
  7. Gun
  8. Haryana
  9. Hinsa
  10. Mahapragya
  11. Mahatma
  12. Mahatma Gandhi
  13. Mantra
  14. Meditation
  15. OM
  16. Preksha
  17. Preksha Meditation
  18. Rajasthani
  19. Sanskrit
  20. Shravaks
  21. Shravikas
  22. Uttaradhyayana
  23. Vinoba Bhave
  24. Violence
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