The year was 2006, when my bro had first taken me to Mt. Arunachala. The first time my eyes set on it, I did not feel much. To be honest, I did not care much. Actually, that was when I first met Ananthakrishnan (a saint and an astrologer)who predicted the love of my life would die soon if we got married. I was very disturbed and also hurt. I even thought of breaking up with my girl when I reach Bangalore. Sitting in the rickshaw, I was still feeling a lot of lump in my throat. But there were moments, when thoughts like “If that is the case, so be it” used to arise.
Then in Dec 2008, at my bro’s insistence, I again went to Thiruvannaamalai. I wasn’t completely happy about it. Then that was the day when we did not get any room in the Seshadri Ashram, or Shiva Saniddhi Ashram. We went and booked a room in Hotel Arunachala. Huh, I still wonder why that was so? Then that day we did the “Girivallam” (Circambulation of the hill which was a 14km walk, with the hill on your right side always). That is when a little chord did strike. There was a small stretch at that time where the road was not properly constructed and on the way there were only saints. The hindu saints in their Saffron costume and a small cloth bag with all their belongings. Yes, renunciates. Although, not all were of the holy or true spirit of the seeker. There were those who would beg for money. Inbetween, you can spot some who are indifferent and not begging. Ahh, I really felt great looking at them. Trying to imagine their stories and the path which brought them here, I also saw how “light” and “simple” their lives were. For some reason, there was certain tranquility in the air. I was not impressed with Virupaksha cave and the Skandashram then.
During this time, my career aspect of the life was really bad. There was lot of politics and favoritism being played. I had lost a lot of my mental peace. My brother used to make frequent trips to TVMalai. He often used to call me but I would never go. I had made up my mind that I might visit it, but only when I am more at peace with myself.
Then in the end of 2009, my brother got relocated to Pune. I had made peace with my life in a whole. I clearly understood where “work” should stand in my life. I have done many things with “Vairagya” but this was the first time I was extending it for some event which happens 5 days in a week. I had promised my love and her twin that we will certainly go to TVMalai once. In 2010, we did go there. Things had changed. The little stretch of road, where I had felt tranquility, was quite different. The road and Footpath were well built. The saints were there although much less than before. During that walk, I was very much moved with my love and her twin. They have had such a different lifestyle before, which included pubbing, clubbing, parties and all that. Now to see them here, walking with me for 14 kms evoked great love for them as well as great respect for this hill. Somehow, the threads of our destinies were tied to this place.
Then again in 2010 year-end, we went back to the hill. We did not do the Girivallam. We just visited the Skandashram and Virupaksha cave. There was something different about this trip. I had not told anyone before, but I had thought that Mt. Arunachala is not my “shoe”. It did not fit me. Before boarding on to this trip, I had silently asked “Please give me some sign this time, please let me know if you are indeed the shoe that will fit me”. And then…
Events related to this trip:
We had planned for this trip for some time. So when in USA, I stumbled upon BookAdda.com from which I ordered “A Search in Secret India” by Paul Brunton. I found it so hard to keep it down once I started reading it.
We met Devraj and in one of his conversations, he mentioned how he had come here for many years before he had a divine experience in Virupaksha Cave. Then how we was speaking about the energy he feels in India which is not present in Canada. I told him about the Chinese cab driver in NY who was also an aspiring Buddhist monk and how he used to feel “at home” when flying over India, China and Tibet.
We also spoke to Swamiji. He was a very wise man with one of the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen. Eyes, like the ones which I have only read about or eyes as seen in ancient sculptures of Buddha and other historic figures. He answered many questions that we asked. That is when he spoke about Contemplation. Whenever a feeling of hate, irritation or anything like that comes up, don’t react to it. Just contemplate “why is this arising, where is this coming from”. Even if you do mistake, contemplate on it. He said that he does not do any meditation but only contemplate and surrender to Bhagawan Ramana Maharshi with all love and devotion. I was introduced to the path of contemplation “through him”.
I wanted to meet someone who was truly enlightened. Maybe that Swamiji was a realized person. Since I am not wise or a realized person, I can never be sure. Also, I did not go to him with the sense of a “shishya” (disciple). In the Ramana Ashram Book Store, my eyes fell on the book “No Mind, I am the Self” by David Godman. It was an autobiography of Sri Lakshmana Narayana and Mathru Shri Sharada Devi. I asked Swamiji about them and he said something like, “Yeah, they stay here somewhere. I have completely left everything on Bhagawan.” I did not meet this individuals inspite of me being there on Dec 25th (the only day when they give public “darshan”). Then in another book shop (where I have never set my foot before), I “chanced upon” another inspiring book called “Living with the Himalayan Masters” by Swami Rama.
Off late, I was reading a book from Swami Bhoomananada Thirtha who lives in Kerala , Thrissur. My brother says that I am “guru shopping”. He says ‘When there is that hill there and the Virupaksha Cave, why do you need anything or anyone else?”. I want to know if I would feel any different or if any unknown lock can be opened in a “satsang” (Meditating or sitting and conversing about spiritual topics) with a realized person. I contacted the Ashram to know if the Swamiji will be available in January. My bro kept on telling me, that “You will go everywhere but in the end will end up at TVmalai”. Maybe, just like Paul Brunton. Coming back to the Ashram, they advised me that Swamiji will not be available on the dates I enquired.
I am only knowledgeable enough about the fact that life always gives us some signs but not wise enough to read them accurately. But if I had to pretend and read the signs here, I would say it looks like all the ways are leading to TVMalai. My one shop for all spiritual needs. Nowadays,I envision the hill many times during the day and it somehow lightens my mood. With the sticker of the hill and Maharshi Ramana’s face in front of the car, I always feel safe behind the wheels.
When I sincerely prayed to give me some signs, some message, the hill heard it. Paul Brunton's book and bookadda.com in US while casualy surfing. Devraj just walked in when we were almost done with our dinner and on our way to meeting Swamiji. I might have walked across “No Mind, I am the Self” book so many times before without seeing it. Also, the shop from where I bought the inspiring book by Swami Rama. I have seen that store almost every trip but never even went in before. And then the meeting with Swamiji and his wonderful answers. The most important lesson of contemplation among them.
Ahh, Mount Arunachala… How will I ever explain anyone about your grace, power and divinity. I have myself been there when I was quite indifferent to it. But not now. Mere thinking of you, fills my heart with some sort of divinity. Everytime there is a holiday coming up, my first thought is “Hmm, maybe I should go to TVMalai”.
Sri Arunachala, Will I ever realize what “you” are or “are not”? I try to embrace you with my tiny arms but then will you sweep and merge me in?