This is the continuation of the first essay of Tiruvannamalai days. If you haven’t read that, I first invite you to take a look at it to grasp the integrity and then come back to these lines.
Every full moon, tens of thousands of pilgrims come to Tiruvannamalai to circumambulate Arunachala. The circumambulation is called Pradakshina and covers a distance of 14 km. It is such a mystical scene to see the huge flow of crowds walking barefoot around the mountain. According to Hindus, the walk removes sins and helps achieve freedom from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Offerings are made in a string of shrines, springs, caves and eight famous lingas around the hill.
To do the Pradakshina I chose the new moon day as I wanted to walk in quietness and in solitude. (Full moons are always over crowded with thousands of people.) I started my barefoot walk at around 5.30 at the dawn. During this 4 hour pilgirimage walk I remained fully in my meditative state. I kept on chanting ‘Om Nama Shivaya’ silently. There were some sadhus along the road in deep meditation. I stopped at some points where I could see clear views of Arunachala. I took my time to feel him, to pray and to honour the new opening of the deep realizations in my consciousness. I dedicated this walk to the age of maturity in my life that had just began.
Feeling Arunachala and Shiva deeply, I prayed and prayed not just for myself but for the benefit of all beings. I deeply knew all my words were heard. Because the divine is not somewhere out there and apart from me. It is me. I am That.
For myself and for every being I prayed for guidance, support, inspiration, love, compassion, wisdom and miracles for;
the purification of the delusions like anxiety, pride, jealousy, anger, doubts, attachments, desires and ignorance / the removal of the obstacles / the openness and wisdom to love unconditionally without discrimination and to forgive with compassion / the sense of being complete, content and in peace any where, any time / the gift to manifest virtues and spread the unlimited love inside / the ability to be always with the fundamental focus, the Self / the rise in intuitive powers / the quality to remain in connection with the loved ones we waved good bye from this life / the encounters with the souls and teachings that will bring inspiration and wisdom / the protection from sudden accidents and illnesses / and the luck and abundance.
As I mentioned in the first essay of Tiruvannamalai, Shiva’s destructive force has been with me during my whole India journey. As we know the Gods and Goddesses are the symbols of energies that reside in all of us. As in Shiva’s aspect as the destroyer, these energies are sometimes the wild forces in us that must be canalized fruitfully to infuse divine consciousness and to attain spiritual perfection. Shiva destroys our illusions, desires, ignorance, attachments, impurities and many things that stand between us and God (pure consciousness/absolute reality) as obstacles to our progress and inner transformation.
During all these months in India my lower self, first the surface then the deeper layers of the ego kept on being demolished day after day. It was like a fire, first destroying then opening the space for renewal. It was not easy but it was highly nourishing and constructive in deed. In fact this was the fire of knowledge, fire of wisdom that took me one step closer to the higher Self in each breath.
Especially the strong meaning of Shiva’s form Nataraj -Dancing Shiva- (above) supported me greatly and evoked in me perseverance and patience in fighting my delusions. Dancing Shiva performs the dance of bliss. He dances within an arch of flames which symbolizes the cosmic fire that creates everything and consumes everything, in cycle of life. He embodies contrasting elements like joy and fire, signifying a spirituality that looks beyond, understands interconnectedness and transcends all duality. The slightly smiling face of Shiva represents his calmness despite being immersed in the contrasting forces of universe.
He is often depicted with a third eye, with which he burned desire to ashes. He is balancing over a demon (ignorance) which symbolises action and dance that leads to victory over evil. His right hand with a wrapped snake (in abhaya mudra) symbolizes fearlessness. His left hand (in gaja hasta mudra) represents the elephant trunk of Ganesha (the son of Shiva) who is the remover of obstacles. This stands for Shiva’s power to pacify and remove obstacles that prevent the path to liberation (to be free from suffering).
During my whole one month stay here I was always in deep connection with Arunachala that is also the Guru of Ramana. Once he said ‘Arunachala has drawn us all here’. It is an immensely powerful magnetic field. Apart from walking at his foothills or going to Virupaksha cave, I also did the summit walk. April to June are the hottest months here. As the rocks gets so hot during the day I started climbing at the dawn.
Arunachala’s wise energy supported and guided me immensely, enabling me to maintain my concentration even effortlessly. I heard Ramana saying; ‘Dive within in silence.’ In each of my breath and step I kept my awareness in the recognition of the ‘I’, the real Self. Without waiting for any result, knowing that there is nothing to accomplish as it is already there. I simply opened myself.
At the summit a strong wind welcomed me. As I layed down on the rocks, I felt like my mind was no longer dominating anything. I opened myself to ‘I am’ awareness and left the rest to Arunachala. My name, identity and my body, form were there but with no seperate significance. This was not a trance mode, instead my wakefulness had reached to the highest level. Then I fell into a short but deep sleep, letting myself fully to Arunachala. And then I woke up with a calm inner peace and great joy and started laughing and laughing.
Ramana Maharshi awakened mankind to the practice of ‘Self-enquiry’ for the recognition of the ultimate reality. This practice is simply based on a contemplative investigation through the silence of the mind. As Ramana said; “God dwells in you, as you and you don’t have to do anything to be God-realized, Self-realized. It is already your true and natural state. Just drop all seeking, turn your attention inward and sacrifice your ego mind to the One Self radiating in the heart of your being. For this to be your own lived experience, Self-Inquiry is a direct and immediate way.”
So in the self-inquiry when a thought arises, one enquires ‘To whom this thought arises?’ The answer is ‘To me.’ Then comes the question ‘Who am I?’ which first leads you to see the ‘individual I’ and then through silence it enables a realization that ‘Self’ or ‘real I’ is a non-personal, all-inclusive awareness.
There is a deep profoundity on leaving all the questions aside but just stick to one question and ask Who? All contemplative practices in different traditions guide the one to be the witness. But I have reached the deepest meaning of the ‘witness’ through Ramana’s teachings. There is a significant difference in these two perspectives; ‘becoming aware of awareness’ and ‘becoming aware as awareness’. The second perspective unlocks a great potential. Then ‘I am’ awareness opens up as the revolutionary realization which is the direct path to enlightenment. This unveils the mystery.
This is how Ramana put this into words; “Talking of the ‘witness’ should not lead to the idea that there is a witness and something else apart from him that he is witnessing. The ‘witness’ really means the light that illumines the seer, the seen and the process of seeing. Before, during and after the triads of seer, seen and seeing, the illumination exists. It alone exists always.”
These are some little parts from his profound teachings:
“Simply we have to throw out all the innate tendencies. When all of them have been given up the Self will shine alone. Effortless and choiceless awareness is our real state. But one cannot reach it without effort, the effort of deliberate meditation.”
“We will know that our glory lies where we cease to exist. In order to gain that state, one should surrender oneself. Surrender can take effect only when done with full knowledge. Such knowledge comes after enquiry and ends in surrender.”
“Guru’s Grace is always there. You imagine it is something somewhere high in the sky, far away and has to descend. It is really inside you, in your inner Heart. The moment you effect the merger of the mind to its Source, the Grace rushes forth, spouting as from a spring from within you.”
For an introduction to the essence of Ramana’s teachings on self-inquiry, you can read this little book called ‘Who am I?’:
And I highly recommend this brilliant documentary on Ramana and his teachings:
For the last 6 months in India, having the deepest impulse and greatest motivation on seeking the truth, I was wandering here and there, visiting centers, monasteries, ashrams, opening myself to the teachings of Buddha, some Gurus or Yogic Tradition to absorb what I needed to know. It was as if my spiritual path took me step by step from primary levels to the higher ones in the most beneficial sequence. After a relatively short time of seeking the reality, I came here and Ramana blessed me in such a way that I stopped seeking. My search was over. But God knows how sincerely I had prayed for this.
Meeting the practice of Self-inquiry and Advaita Vedanta tradition (nondualistic existence) came as a revolution into my life. Anyone can start directly from here but frankly speaking if I had come across with Ramana before my former practices and investigations, I guess I wouldn’t be able to grasp what he is really guiding us to. I had benefited greatly from working with my ego and my psychology at the first place. This helped me to purge the unnecessary burdens I was carrying with myself. Without knowing the mind, it is not quite possible to be free from that. (except some special souls) Without experiencing how the mind functions, it is not so easy to open to that silent space within and go beyond the mind. Besides I saw the benefits of having a developed concentration in meditation that was taught to me by some monasteries and teachers I had come across before.
God was whispering: “Wake up!”
The conditions and my inner instincts were one after another revealing themselves through the grace of the Absolute. For me to read, so to awake. There was no other choice at all but to dive within the silence with profound guidances. Jnana (self-knowledge) and Bhakti (devotion and surrender) were my companions. I walked to the light and the light rushed towards me. What a shift in consciousness! What a revolution of being! What a blessing!
Arunachala and Ramana are always with me, wherever I go. We merged once and for all. This light keeps me in this endless path. I am deeply in gratitude.
6 months India journey was now coming to an end. What a crazy route it was from one place to another; Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Rishikesh, Dehradun, Dharamshala, Amritsar, Jaipur, Pushkar, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Ellora Caves, Hampi, Gokarna, Alleppey, Trivandrum, Kovalam, Varkala, Munnar, Kodaikanal, Auroville, Chennai and Tiruvannamalai.
Words are never enough to tell about this profound life time experience in which I cherish with immeasurable love and joy. Feeling deep gratitude in every part of (my) body, spirit and consciousness, embracing all my gifts that mother India has offered me so generously, now it was the time to pass to Thailand.