Saturday, 29 September 2012

Footholds in Life

Tree clinging to a rock
Living on the Edge

It felt like a particularly long weekend. Not because of it being an extended one, but because he felt alone.

Alone, was something he understood only too well when  living in a big city. During the week he was working, his mind was preoccupied and busy, but when the weekend came... Where could he go? He felt 'unconnected'. What could he do, if the things that interested most people, just did not interest him?

What was it about being in a place, teeming with millions of other 'beings' and yet feeling utterly isolated, useless and alone?

This was a feeling that had visited him often when he was in that place.

Not only had it visited him on every occasion when he had stayed there for a while, but there had been many times when he had tried to run away from it. He would force himself to stay a while and then dash off like a frightened rabbit back into the folds of mad, vibrant, chaotic life in old 'Mother India'.
That had become his place of refuge. A place where anything and everything seemed possible. A place where he felt constantly, the 'grit' of life in his teeth. The place where 'life' challenged him at every turn and where it was totally and without boundaries, 'in his face'.

There was something about 'getting his hands dirty' that made him feel like he was alive. He used to wonder, 'is there anyone else out there, who feels like this too?'

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men
Books by the Writer

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Ubuntu, 'I Am Because You Are'

"I Am Because of You"

How interdependent and inter connected are we all?
Can any of us exist in this world alone?

Our inter relationship with Everything and Everyone, 
is the very basis and fabric of our existence.
Not a single one of us can live in isolation.
From the air that we breath, to the food that we eat, 
our existence is woven into the whole tapestry of life as an integral and inter dependent fact.

'Ubuntu' is an African word, derived from the Zulu language. It has no direct translation into the English.  However, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu came close to encapsulating the spirit of it with his words;  'My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours'...
'A person is a person, through other people'. This idea has its roots in African humanist philosophy which postulates that society is built upon 'common humanity, oneness, you and me both'...

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

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Bridge of the Heart

holding hands

Around the time of my eighteenth birthday i was living in a small hut in a tropical forest in the north of Queensland, Australia. At that time, i had taken it into my head that i needed to 'find myself'.  So i had retired to a small patch of forest just outside the country town of Kuranda, intent on leading a life of meditation and contemplation.

My partner had remained in the town of Cairns.  We generally only met when i came down from the tableland to do a little shopping and take care of some chores from time to time. However, when my birthday arrived he asked me to come down especially, so we could have a meal together and perhaps meet with a few friends to mark the occasion.

Calvin was always very outgoing and made friends easily, and although we had only moved to Queensland a few months previously, he had already gathered a fairly large circle of friends and acquaintances around himself.  I, on the other hand, was much more reticent and besides, my self imposed isolation, at that time, was not very conducive to making new friends.

Therefore, being in a somewhat subdued frame of mind, i was happy to meet with him and a few of his closer acquaintances, but not interested in any sort of large gathering.  However things did not quite turn out as i might have envisioned.

When ever Calvin planned anything, he would get caught up in the spirit of it and soon it would take on much larger proportions and when evening rolled in that day, word had got out that there would be a party on the beach and everyone should bring a little something to eat.  What ever i lacked for in terms of sociability in my younger years, he more than made up for and when he decided on something, it usually came together in a much grander way than i would have imagined.

That evening a large group of us gathered on the brilliant white sands of Half Moon Beach. It just happened to be a full moon and the whole landscape was transformed into a silvery white world. Evanescent waves, shimmering with moonlight, lapped the shores. It was a gorgeous evening. We all sat around sharing our food, talking and laughing.

There would have been about forty people present, of which i knew only a handful. However the atmosphere was light and relaxed and everyone seemed to be having a good time. After the dinner was over, Calvin decided to give a little speech in honor of my birthday and he cracked a few jokes and had everyone laughing and gathered around. Then he turned and asked me to make a wish, something that could be shared with everyone present. I will never know why, but i suddenly had the inspiration that we should all join hands and chant the sacred letter 'om'.

No one objected, so we all took the hand of whoever was next to us and soon we had linked ourselves into a circle and  begun to chant.  At first it was quite faltering and forty voices were all at different pitches, some even a bit dissonant, but as the moments passed, there came a natural adjustment and the tone of our combined chanting began to balance itself and become  harmonious and more and more powerful.

Then something quite extraordinary and unexpected happened.  It was as though our combined forty hearts and voices became completely attuned to one another, as though the people standing there in the circle had become a single, breathing unit. Everybody felt it. As if we were one voice we suddenly stopped singing without anyone having given a sign, and we all stood there enfolded in a most magical blanket of warmth and light. It was something quite tangible...

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Ungainly Dance of Life

Mouse Frog

'Life is a tale, told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing...' Shakespeare.

'Life is a theatre of the absurd.' Shakespeare.

'It used to be the 'theatre of the absurd', now it is so ridiculous
we don't even have a name for it." KVS

I had taken down these quotes one day during a breakfast with KVS at Arunachala, they rather appealed to me, so i filed them away for a rainy day...

I don't remember what bought them up, but i knew they would come in handy, and sure enough, here in the middle of a suburban wilderness of concrete, mortar and speeding motor cars, they reappear on my screen with a vibrancy all their own.

Life is indeed a 'theater of the absurd'...

Read More in Masters, Mice and Men
Books by the Writer

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Ransoming Lives

'Limit yourself to just a few activities and undertake them with all diligence.'

Chadral Rinpoche.

One of the 'activities' that Chadral Rinpoche
undertook with 'all diligence' was and remains the annual fish release in the sacred Indian river, the Ganges, at the point where it finally flows out into the Bay of Bengal and the wide open sea.

He began this project in the 1960,s with little more than an old wooden canoe, a few bucket loads of fish and a couple of helpers. Today, the work is carried on principally, by His wife, Sangyum Karmala and various sponsors and volunteers and is now a large operation involving many helpers, a number of boats and many truck loads of fish which are purchased from the fish farms in and around Kolkata and then released with prayers and auspicious mantras into the milky waters of the great 'Mother Ganga'.

During the 1990,s i used to wonder about the little black pouch that Rinpoche always wore around his waist, He guarded this pouch very carefully as it was stuffed full of various denominations of Indian and Nepal rupee notes which devotees had offered for the purchase and release of fish. He was thoroughly scrupulous about the offerings which came in. Each was assigned to its own purse which denoted a particular cause, but somehow the funds for the 'fish release' were always very abundant.

However this wasn't always the case. When Rinpoche began this project He was only newly arrived as a refugee from Tibet and extremely poor. In those days He was establishing the very first Buddhist Meditation Three Year Retreat Center in India, and as they could not afford to hire many workers, He rolled up his sleeves and took up a shovel, carrying and laboring on the repair work site with everyone else.

Funds were very scarce. One time the monastery caretaker walked into Rinpoche's room with tears in his eyes. He had just discovered that Rinpoche had sold a lovely piece of precious brocade, one of very few items that they had managed to bring with them from Tibet. With these funds He had bought a dial up phone so that He could call Kolkata and order fish and keep tabs on the process for the annual end of year release!

The caretaker was in a state of utter misery a good deal of the time in those days, wondering how on earth they would all be able to eat and carry on the general business of very simple living, but Rinpoche was never concerned and always waved him away with words of solace, telling him that all would be well.

I know that Rinpoche would have given the clothes off his own back in order to keep on releasing fish into the Ganges. In fact He ordered Lolu, the caretaker, to sell some of His scant possessions in order to do just this, on more than one occasion.

I used to watch Rinpoche's hand picked group leave from Salbari every year for this great event, with tears in my eyes, wondering if i would ever have enough merit to be allowed to go with them and help. They all stayed at the house of a Marwari Hindu who had taken a 'shine' to Rinpoche's 'project'.  And Rinpoche, ever mindful and sensitive of others, was always careful never to take more people with Him than was absolutely necessary for the task at hand. He did this so as not to over step or impose upon the of kindness of a generous donor.

One year, however, i decided to take matters into my own hands. I had been up in the Darjeeling hills and had come to know that Rinpoche had arrived in Salbari from Nepal and was already on His way to Kolkata. I did not want to ask for permission and risk being sent back to my hut, so i just packed a few things, went down the hill and caught the night train, turning up on the banks of the Ganges the following morning just as they were all arriving to begin the 'release'...

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Simplest Things in Life

Considering how vital it is for our sense of well being and happiness, it is surprising how seldom we really open our hearts and connect with others. Somehow the conditions for it don't seem so accessible a lot of the time. We simply fail to realize that we can connect heart to heart with any one, on any level, at any time. The necessary tools for this are always available.

As i sat on the Hill of Arunachala this morning, looking out over the old temple with its four huge towers, an adolescent monkey climbed up onto the rock near me eager to know if i had some food with me.  The monkeys in this place can be very annoying and naughty. They never ask if they can take something away, they simply snatch it and run.  Normally when the little fellows are around i shoo them away with out hesitating. Today however, something stopped me.  Instead of immediately sending him away i had an urge to share something, so i reached into my bag and took out a handful of flat rice that i happened to be carrying with me. I put some on the rock for him and took a little for myself. Piece by piece he quietly worked his way through the pile and we sat together companionably.

As i continued to sit and gaze out over the town below, he looked at me for a moment and then climbed around to the other side and carefully pushed my bag away so that he could take a few more pieces of rice that had slipped onto the front of my dress, making sure that he hadn't missed a single piece. Satisfied that there were no more lying around, he wrapped his furry little hand around my small finger and sat there unusually quiet for one of his species.

Never Not Ever Here Now

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Joy of Anonymity

K.V. Subramanian

I first noticed KVS in a queue outside the dining hall in Ramana Ashram at Arunachala. I was standing some distance behind him and it was his voice that initially caught my attention. It was a clear and distinctive Indian voice, speaking well enunciated and impeccable English. When I looked up to take note of the speaker I was surprised to see a small, fragile man in a long white dhoti and shirt, white hair flying out in all directions and a flowing, wispy beard, in much the same unconstrained condition.

As he spoke he bobbed his head up and down and made extravagant gestures with his hands augmenting thereby the meaning he was trying to convey.
'The Joy of Anonymity' is a phrase that very aptly depicts this humble and most unassuming man.

Right there and then, I decided I would have to get to know him better. The name KVS is an abbreviation for a much longer Tamil name ending in Subramaniam, however, that title is seldom used and the shorter version is the one by which he is addressed and known to all. KVS has a brilliant mind and a good understanding and command of close to thirteen different languages. He has extensive reading experience, an almost photographic memory and a vast life experience, much of which has been very challenging.

However it is not my intention to focus on the past of KVS, or even on his many and varied accomplishments. Of what importance are the details of a life? To be sure he has 'his story.' Yet it is not the story that is of interest here so much as his day to day, natural abidance with what is real. His 'living presence,' which flows in such an easy and unpretentious way might be overlooked, or even passed off as somewhat eccentric.

Right in our midst and often quite unnoticed, move those who have quietly and without fuss or fanfare discovered their inner wealth and the joy that spontaneously flows from dipping into the perennial spring of peace. They do not need to 'do' anything to benefit others. Their very presence spreads a fragrance throughout the surrounding atmosphere which spontaneously uplifts and enlivens.

It is inspiring to reflect upon the fact that we can rub shoulders, so to speak and move so closely with those who live and interact with the world and yet all the while have their existence from the infinite expanse of ego-less-ness. Those who are quietly demonstrating, in a completely un-contrived and natural way, the biblical axiom ‘to be in the world, but not of the world.’

Continue Reading in Masters, Mice and Men

Volume 3 of Shades of Awareness

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Following the Advice of the Guru

"Living near does not mean breathing the same air.  It means trusting and     
 obeying, not letting the good intentions of the teacher go to waste. 
 Have your Guru always in your heart and remember his instructions.
 This is the real abidance with the true.
 Physical proximity is least important.
 Make your entire life an expression of your faith and love for your teacher."            
 Nisargadatta Maharaj

Pearls of Searching

Having a clear, and balanced perspective on ones 'relationship' with the 'Guru' is extremely important.  But in the times that we live, not always such a simple matter. Where does one draw the line between, having complete faith, and retaining a sense of discrimination?

The 'line' is drawn at the point of our acceptance
The saying, 'when the disciple is ready, the Master will appear', is a statement of truth and one which i have verified personally on more than one occasion during my lifetime. For those of us who have had the good fortune of 'bumping into' our Masters, there is never any question of 'authenticity'.  In such instances, the heart 'knows' and its voice rings out loud and clear.

But for 'seekers' who are searching for an authentic guide, the choice of ones Guru should be made with the utmost care. What is the measure of an authentic Master?

Some of the qualities that we might notice when we come into contact with such a 'Being' should include; 
  •    Great Compassion.
  •    An instinctive sense of 'respect' that we may feel in their presence.
  •    The feeling of 'peace of mind' that naturally arises in the presence of a Master, is also a strong indicator of 'authenticity'.
Aside from looking for these qualities, we can but watch, listen, learn and wait until we are satisfied that we have found a Master in whom we can place our trust and our confidence, someone who will be able to lead us directly to the goal of 'realization'. 

Once we have 'accepted' a Master, we should be prepared to follow his/her instructions with complete confidence and faith. This is a really important point.

Nisargadatta Maharaj's life was a very clear example of a disciple following the words of his Guru. His master gave him very simple, short instructions, and  Maharaj took those instructions to heart and lived and breathed them until he could understand the 'truth behind them'. He didn't add to what his Master had told him, nor did he take away anything from the advice that he had received, he simply did exactly as he was told, with complete faith, until such time as he could experience for himself the truth of his Master's words.

Before accepting a 'Guru' as our guide, we must thoroughly investigate and question. This process can take years, but when we are satisfied and feel we can accept a Guru as our own, then ideally we should put aside all doubt and place our faith firmly and unshakably in his/her ability to guide us.  

Some people instantly 'know' when they meet their 'Guru', others search until they find someone they feel combines all or most of the qualities that they hold dearest to their ideal of such a figurehead. However the case may be, once a Guru is accepted as such, any half-hearted following from that point onwards, can bring about only unsatisfactory results.

Read more in Never Not Ever Here Now

Books by the Writer

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Sage of Arunachala

Among thousands of men scarce one strive'th for Perfection;
of the successful strivers,
scarce one Knowe'th ME in essence.

Bagavad Gita

Recognizing the truth of who and what we really are, is the key to finding meaning and joy in this life. It is the permanent solution to ending suffering.

When a Being radiates that truth, through their own living-ness, whether they are in the body or not, its effects are extraordinarily powerful and all pervasive.

Sri Ramana Maharshi is the archetypal Guru of our times. Why, you might ask? 
  • Because in our age of technological advancement and complexity, his message is one of utter simplicity.
  • Because the question; who am I? cuts through the divisions created by religion and race.
  • Because, who am I? break down all the boundaries, placing before us, a truth that each and everyone of us can verify for ourselves, NOW.

Each of us is given the choice to recognize what is 'choice-less.'
To recognize the fact of our Awareness!

The Maharshi's life was a perfect manifestation of this living truth.
His 'after-life,' is a testament to that which crosses the boundaries of time and space.

Until the time when we are able to recognize the truth of our own nature, a 'Guru' is necessary. S/he, acts like a beacon of light in the darkness. When that 'truth' is realized and embodied, it can be understood that Guru and Self are one and the same...

Such have I known, Him of the lustrous eyes, Him whose sole look pierced to the heart, of wisdom deeper than the holy book, of Truth alone.

Arthur Osborne

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men
Volume Three in Shades of Awareness

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Seeing Through the Projections

Have you ever stopped to notice how many times you are bombarded, in a single day, with other peoples images of what they think you are, or should be? Our own projections on the world around us and the people in it are often equally off the mark.  It can be very revealing if one really takes the time to notice. 

Most of what goes on in our world, is geared to promote some kind of fantasy, some kind of unrealistic image of who and what we think we should/could be. We desperately need to take a look at all of this, to ask ourselves, is this true?

We need to step back, so that we can get a perspective, so that we can see through the 'projections'. Because, basically most of it is precisely that, projection! 
These projections are like reflections in a mirror, they are not the real me, nor are they the real you.

Take for example, some of the most 'powerful people' in the world today; the politicians, movie stars, artists, sports people, all those 'famous figures' who seem to have everything. Do any of them know who they really are?

Friday, 20 January 2012

Just As You Are

Recognizing one's inner peace and happiness
 need not involve any discomfort or effort at all.

Sunset from an old temple in South India
Adi Annamalai

Does a fish know that the water in which it is swimming is the reason it can exist?  It lives out the entire little drama of it's life quite unaware of this fact.  In the same way, we live, move and have our being within 'awareness' and yet never acknowledge it or are even aware of our dependence upon it for our very existence.  

If there is a purpose in life, it must surely be to find out who and what we really are.

The mind is supreme in complicating what is most simple and in this way deflects attention away from it's source.  If we carefully and methodically investigate the nature of our thoughts; the nature of our minds, we can very soon understand that these thoughts have no basis; that there is no mind.

It is not enough to merely to hear this, one has to make an investigation with intention and focus. 

For aeons we have let mind rule our existence and it has run us a riot! The ocean of samsara is vast and it can enslave us within its fascination for countless aeons. Anything that the mind is capable of imagining is possible, because in samsara the mind is king and creates its own 'reality.'

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

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The White Sail

While briefly lent this precious human body's white sail
pushed by pure intentions gentle wind,
without turning back towards miserable samsaric deserts
and making the error of missing this chance,
try to receive virtue's jewels by crossing the waves of ocean mind
to the supreme continent of the Triple Gems,
since doing this is more meaningful than anything else!

Thinley Norbu

The chapter on the life of another great Tibetan Master has closed and yet Dungsey Thinley Norbu's writings will continue to inspire and motivate those in search of truth for many generations to come.

I met him for the first time in the early 1990,s at Asura Cave above the small township of Parping, in the southern corner of the Kathmandu Valley. He appeared there one afternoon with a small group of Western Students. At the time I was occupying a room in the retreat center of Tulku Orgyen which is next to the famous cave.

When I heard a Tibetan voice carefully enunciating sentences in English, I curiously leaned out of my window to see who it was and was pleasantly surprised to see Thinley Norbu talking to one of his students while at the same time, trying to catch his breath after the lengthy climb. Asura is a good hundred steep, steps up the side of a hill from the village below. As soon as I realized who it was, I shot down the stairs, taking a long white greeting scarf with me.

I had been extremely fortunate to be present at a number of teachings that he gave over the years in Boudhanath, but I had never met him personally, so this was a truly golden opportunity.
After I had gone forward and offered the Kadak, he immediately asked who my teacher was and when I told him that it was Chadral Rinpoche he seemed very pleased indeed.

Chadral Rinpoche and Thinley Norbu were very close, in fact he had come to Parping to visit Chadral Rinpoche at his Monastery which was situated lower down the hill at the base of a mighty cliff.

Read more in Masters, Mice and Men
Volume 3 of Shades of Awareness

Dunsey Thinley Norbu Rinpoche.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Magic Mushrooms

The Healer, by Nicholas Roerich.

In the Himalayan Mountain's temperate zones, one can find 
many different varieties of mushrooms. Mushroom lore is quite highly developed among the local populations and not least among those staying in long Buddhist retreats. For many of these Yogis mushrooms in fact form an important part of their diet.

In the mountains north of Kathmandu, there is a very famous and highly prized mushroom that the Tibetans call Ah Sharmo. It grows in the thick, damp forests of upper Helambu. It can become very large and weigh in at a few kilos if one stumbles upon a mature growth in the forest. Generally they grow out of decaying trees and logs from a white based stem that shoots out in all directions in a bright orange profusion of frills. 

Chadral Rinpoche has a great fondness for these particular specimens. In fact he unashamedly relishes them! As do all those who have had the good fortune to taste them at one time or another. Little can compare with the pure enjoyment of roasting these mushrooms over a glowing, hot fire, splashed with a little fresh Dzomo butter, during a chilly Himalayan evening. The smell and the taste are incomparable.

There fore it was with great excitement that one of the Lamas and i, stumbled upon a little treasure trove of this delicacy one noon in the forest not far from our huts. We cut a few inches from the base, to be sure that more would grow up after a few days and carefully took our spoils back to the camp...

Read more in Tibetan Tales and other True Stories
Books by the Writer

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

He Who Beats The Drum

Nisargadatta Maharaj.

"Use everything as an opportunity to go within!
  Ask Yourself - 'To whom does all this happen!'
  Light your way by burning up obstacles in the intensity of awareness."

To all appearances Nisargadatta Maharaj looked like a simple bidi seller,(these are small Indian leaf-rolled cigarettes). He was, by all appearances, an ordinary married man, plying his trade in order to support a wife and children.  His home was in a red light district of Mumbai, next to a public latrine.
He was a man who assumed no airs, but who also, bowed to none, but his Guru. A man whose eyes shone with an inner fire.  

One day a young Polish-man who had been living many years in India, namely Maurice Frydman, was strolling down a back lane in this particular area of Bombay when he noticed this bidi seller in the midst of an animated conversation with several other men.

He had learnt to speak Marathi, the main dialect spoken in Maharashtra, the state in which Bombay is situated.  So he was able to understand much of what was being spoken and it stopped him in his tracks.

Maurice Frydman had a knack of picking out 'jnanis' (liberated beings) even in the midst of an ordinary throng. While listening to the conversation taking place he was astounded at the wisdom and profound clarity of understanding of this 'simple bidi walla'...

Friday, 2 December 2011

Karthikai Deepam and Lighting the Flame at Arunachala

Photo by Dev Gogoi.
"This is the holy place,
  of all Arunachala is the most sacred!
  It is the heart of the world!
  Know it to be the secret and sacred Heart-centre of  Shiva!
  In this place, He always abides as the glorious  Aruna Hill!"
  Skanda Purana.

Every year around the time of November/December the ancient festival of Karthikai Deepam is celebrated in the old temple town of Tiruvannamalai, south of Chennai in India.  The first mention of this festival dates back to 200 BC, although it may well have been celebrated long before this.

The words Arunachala and Tiruvannamalai both translate as " Holy Fire Hill" and the ancient temple at the foot of the hill houses the Agni/Fire lingam, one of five great shrines around India that represent one of the five elements.

This festival, which has been taking place annually for many thousands of years, culminates in the lighting of a huge lamp on top of Arunachala Hill. During the following ten days, it is relit each evening and burns brightly throughout the night. Thousands of pilgrims make the arduous climb to the summit with offerings of ghee and oil to keep the lamp aflame, and countless thousands circle around the base of the Hill on Deepam night, most of them walking barefoot for the entire thirteen kilometres.

"Look there it stands as if insentient.  
 Mysterious is the way it works,
 beyond all human understanding...
 When it stilled my mind and drew me near, 
 I saw that it was Stillness absolute." Sri Ramana Maharshi.

After Ramana Maharshi achieved Self Realisation at the very tender age of 16 years, He was drawn to Arunachala as if by a magnet. From that time onwards he never left the place, not even for a single day. Outwardly a simple Sadhu, He was the, in fact, the Supreme Sat-Guru, a living embodiment of the power of the Hill, which is, in fact, the power of the Self! To his humble feet were drawn people of all castes and creeds, people from all over the world. Ramana Maharshi revealed the glory of Arunachala and made its power known to the world.

However few have spoken more eloquently about the special qualities of Arunachala than Annamalai Swami, a close disciple of the Maharshi. Below I have taken the liberty of quoting several passages from his "Final Talks" compiled by David Godman.

"This is not an ordinary hill.  It is not like other hills in the world. It is a Spiritual Hill.  Those who associate with it feel a magnetic pull towards the Self.  Though it is in the form of a hill, it has the full energy of the Self.  Seekers who come to this place with the intention of realising the Self can be much benefited by going around the Hill."

"There is water everywhere under the ground, but there are some places where it is easier to get at.  Likewise, the Self is everywhere.  There is no place that is without it, but it is also true that there are certain places, certain people, around which and around whom the presence of the Self can be easily felt.  In the proximity of this Hill, the presence of the Self is more powerful and more self-evident than anywhere else.  However, the great glory of this Hill cannot be explained in words.  One has to experience it for oneself."

"There are other holy, powerful places in the world, but none has the power of Arunachala.  There is a huge amount of shakti, spiritual energy, here. We can take as much as we want, but no matter how much we take, the original amount is never diminished.  It is an inexhaustible source. Even before the Maharshi came and lived here, there were innumerable sages who had discovered the power of Arunachala for themselves.  Many came here, realised the Self and attributed their realisation to the power and grace of this mountain."

"The Maharshi always maintained that the power of this mountain was not a matter of belief.  He said that if you sit in the shade of a tree, you will feel the cool shade.  This is a physical fact, not a matter of belief.  Then He went on to say that Arunachala worked in the same way.  It affects the people who are here, whether they believe in it or not."

"He once said, 'Arunachala is like a fire.  If you go near it you will feel the heat whether you believe in it or not."

"I also heard him say once, 'If you go round this Hill, it will give you its grace, even if you don't want it.'"  

During Karthikai Deepam there is an intense focusing of the power of the Hill.  Many thousands of people are drawn in from far and wide to witness the lighting of the lamp on the summit of the Hill.

Kartikai Deepam
Kartikai Deepam
This is a very moving moment, when all the town folk living around the base of the hill, are out on their rooftops with tiny offering lamps that mirror the event which is about to take place on the summit of Arunachala. Pilgrims come from far and wide to share in the witnessing of this magnificent event. Many are praying and singing hymns to the 'Holy Fire Hill'.  With the sun setting in the west and the full moon rising in the east, a fire in the huge cauldron atop the Hill bursts into flame.  As the light flares up towards the heavens, a sound rends the air from all directions. It rises like one continuous roar and as if with a single voice; Harohara, harohara, harohara!  which roughly translates as 'this is a sight for the Gods to see!'

In this day and age of high technology and fast, distracted living, here is a place, and here is a moment, when time stands still.  When in fact, time as we know it, is without meaning.  A moment when the most fundamental instincts of our spiritual inheritance shine forth to bless to the world.

Arunachala with the Karthikai Flame from Adi Annamalai