Sunday, June 20, 2010

Visits to Arunachaleswara Temple... into the Temple's Belly. Tracing the footsteps of Ramana Maharshi.

The wandering sadhus wearing orange, 
along with the ancient trees that bordered many roads, seemed like 
surreal guardians. Their presence seemed to be whispering that a 
mystical journey had begun. 

~Bringing Home the Mountain: Finding the Teacher Within

The further we drove from Chennai, with a population of 7.5 
million, the roads became narrow and the landscape rural. 
Tiruvannamalai is 120 miles southwest of Chennai, and has a 
population of around 130,000. However, the population can swell to 
over a million during special full moon and other holy Hindu 
celebrations. I would be staying in a small village about two miles 
away, near Ramana Maharshi’s ashram. When I spotted towering 
lights in the night landscape, I knew we were close. It was my first 
glimpse of the Arunachaleswara Temple, one of the largest in India.

~Bringing Home the Mountain-Finding the Teacher Within

When Venkataraman, later known as Ramana Maharshi, first arrived to Tiruvannamalai as a teenager he mostly sat absorbed in a samadhi, or heightened meditation state. He nestled himself in a tiny room within a dark basement of the ancient Arunacheleswara Temple and lived there. Despite the relentless insects, rodents, and other teens that would physically harass him, he sat unmoving. Finally, a kind hearted man took pity on him, recognizing him as an advanced soul. Ramana was assisted in relocating to a mango grove where he stayed until settling into the caves of Arunachala. 

With a heart filled with devotion, I visited the room where Ramana first stayed. It is now a sacred shrine dedicated in his honor. One of the resident swami's then took a friend and I on a tour into the temple's belly. 

The swami painted our foreheads in traditional Hindu fashion with red, white, and black ash and included us in a blessing ceremony. We were led deeper and deeper into the temple, passing several small fire offerings until we approached the innermost shrine room. It became profoundly quiet. My body was lulled deeper through the winding path into the most inner sanctum. Several Hindu worshipers had gathered around a large, black sacred lingam, their object of devotion. A lingam or Shiva Linga is a phallic-shaped statue said to represent the creative powers of the Universe. We joined the others in the mysterious darkness within the temple’s belly. Suddenly, it became light with a vibrant energy. I looked for the source of light but I could not identify anything to account for the brightness. 

~Bringing Home the Mountain-Finding the Teacher Within.

 Om Namo Arunachaleswara Om...