Tuesday 27 November 2012

Deepam Morning.


When I went to bed last night, i had no intention of stepping outside the gate of my home for another 40 hours or so.  The great annual celebration of Deepam at Arunachala in the South of India is nearing its conclusion. Many hundreds of thousands of pilgrims  poured into the Temple town of Tiruvannamalai that day, and busloads more were continuing to arrive. This would go on throughout the night and all of the following day.

However at 2.30 am my eyes opened and I found myself completely awake and alert.  It is not the first time that this has happened to me here. Arunachala Hill has extraordinary power and a strong magnetic pull.  For many years I have puzzled over the effect and hold that it has over me and countless others who are drawn to this most sacred of places.

However, the mystery of this place cannot be solved by the mind.  The power that resonates so clearly here is something that moves at a much deeper, subconscious level.

I knew exactly what I was going to do, despite my previous intentions. I would go round the Hill.  Often this feeling arises very unexpectedly, but when it comes I feel compelled and on this morning of the Holy Deepam day i washed, dressed and made my way through the various locked gates of the compound and  out into the still, night air. At the corner of our quiet little dirt road, a buzz of intense activity was astir as a small group of workers prepared rice in huge steaming cauldrons. This would be offered freely to countless pilgrims as they make their way around the pradakshina road that encircles the Hill.

When i got out onto the main road itself, despite the early hour, I found it teeming with life. Masses of barefooted people, young, old, short, fat, tall, thin.  Humanity of every shape and variety moved, in silent unison, like a vast, swift river. All of them were making their round of the Hill. I merged into this living stream and
was soon finding my own walking pace amidst the crowd.

The repetitious chant of Om unobtrusively permeated the air from speakers that had been placed every hundred meters along the road.  This was a recent innovation of the local government and did much to augment the atmosphere. This could only be India. Thousands moving along together. Amid the cacophony of sounds, one felt a palpable silence punctuated only by prayers, the occasional outburst of devotional song and the patting of multitudes of bare feet tapping against the cold, hard tar of the road.

While walking the circumambulation route that girdles the Hill, I felt as though I were in a dream. There is something distinctly surreal about it all.
Arunachalaeshwar Temple

Near the main temple, with its great towers soaring up into the dawning sky, flocks of white birds darted about on the breezes, their wings illuminated by the floodlights. I spot two monkeys crouched together among the sculptured Gods and Goddesses many hundreds of feet above, their arms firmly wrapped around one another as they sleep in peaceful oblivion of the churning masses below.

We hear so much about the discord and disharmony going on in the world today. We hear about intolerance and hatred between people, all of whom are human, all of whom breath the same air and dance to the same blood as it circles their veins and gives them life. But here is an untold story. Countless thousands moving along in quiet, peaceful harmony.
In the east, the sun begins to rise. Rays of light fan out across the sky. As I turn northwards I see more shafts of light spilling across the Hill, and a long grey plume of mist rising off its summit.

Later on this day the flame in a giant cauldron will be lit on the top of the Hill.  At that time, a vast mass of humanity will be gazing towards the summit, their hands folded in prayer. This multitude will span the entire thirteen-kilometre circuit of the Hill.  With the sun setting in the west and the full moon disk rising in the east, a fire will burst up from the summit and with it a roar from all those gathered. Their focus is supremely united.

HaroHara, HaroHara, HaroHara, sounds out, as with one voice. 'This is a Sight for the Gods to See!'

Here is the Untold Story.
Here is a Song of Hope...

Deepam Flame at Ramana Ashram

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Smile When Your Heart is Breaking

Even in our darkest hours there is cause for hope. The difference between a smiling heart and a breaking one cannot be measured because both of these emotions are inextricably intertwined.

Of course to smile when our heart is breaking is the very last thing we might think of doing. Yet the difference between our smiles and our tears is not as great as it might seem.
In fact they are like the front and back of our  hands;  inseparable. Without one the other could not exist, just as light cannot manifest without the presence of darkness or vice versa...

Read more in Never Not Ever Here Now
Books by the Writer

Monday 12 November 2012

Looking Beyond our Thoughts

Cartoon by Leunig
3 am Wake Up, Leunig

Did you ever wake up in the early hours of the morning and feel that the whole world was resting upon your shoulders. That, no matter which way you turned, everything looked dark and miserable. In those wee hours our minds can be so troubled and full of foreboding thoughts that no matter how we might try to look at it, all seems dark and there is a sense that nothing can ever turn out right.

We fall back into an uneasy slumber and when we waken again later that morning there is a lingering sensation that something awful 'happened' or is about to 'happen', but it is also mixed with a dawning sense of relief. As the sun begins to rise and we pull ourselves together for the coming days work, the premonitions and our previous sense of futility from the night before begin to fade into insignificance and before long these disappear like morning mist, swallowed up by the distractions and concerns of life.

For me, Leunig's wonderful cartoon encapsulates this little scenario most pithily. It is one instance of how we can take our thoughts very seriously in one moment and yet in another  feel very differently. What does this tell us about our minds and the nature of our thoughts?

If we can accustom ourselves to being mindful of our thoughts at least some of the time, we can soon begin to see just how illusory and baseless they actually are. Upon first observation this may not seem very significant but in fact realising this as a fact can completely change the way we react to thoughts and subsequently the way we live our lives...

Read more in Never Not Ever Here Now
Books by the Writer