Author Topic: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.  (Read 1544 times)

Subramanian.R

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My wife Anu, dropped me off at Dulles International Airport. Washington D.C.  Four weeks earlier we
been sitting in our Puja Room in our house in Vienna, Virginia discussing the plans for our India trip in
July 2010, in connection with the Upanayanam of my brother's son as well as the Sathabhishekam celebrations
of my father.     

I mentioned that it would be unlikely that I would be able to visit Arunachala until 2011. As a self employed
physician I could never afford to take more than ten days off from work at a single time.  Each trip to India
represented an enormous expense since I had to continue paying the practice expenses and payroll while
effectively earning no money and at the same time incurring additional expenses while in India.  Thus I have
to earn and save money for each trip. I had already made a trip to Pune in May 2009, I had resigned myself
to mental contemplation of the only place that I truly call my home.

As I spoke these words my gaze moved to the picture of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi.   The gentle countenace
smiled back at me as if relishing a secret joke.

contd.,


Arunachala Siva.         
   

Subramanian.R

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Re: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2016, 01:04:22 PM »
Next day my office manager brought me the December schedule.  She wanted to know which days
we would be closing the practice for Christmas and New Year.  I looked at the calendar.  December
23rd was a Wednesday and Christmas fell on a Friday this year.  My heart jumped at the realization
that between December 23rd and January 4th we would be open only for 4 days.  This meant that if
I made a trip to Tiruvannamalai I would lose no more than four days of revenue and we would easily
offset that loss by working extra 1/2 days on week ends before and after that period!

I called Anu  with my suggestion.  She quickly found me a flight itinerary that fitted the dates and was
affordable.  I would depart at 5.30 pm on Wednesday December 23rd and reach Chennai, India at
11.50 pm. on Thursday December 24th.  After resting at my brother-in-law's place in East Tambaram
I could reach Sri Ramanasramam on Friday December 25th afternoon and I could stay there till January
1st 2010.

My return would be on January 2nd, 2010.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       
 

Subramanian.R

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Re: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2016, 11:35:46 AM »
What was more, December 31st was full moon and January 1st was Bhagavan's Jayanti.  I had never
before been able to experience either event at Arunachala. It is at moments like these that I relearn
the lesson of the beauty of His play.  He plays with the hearts of His bhaktas like Krishna with gopis.
One day He makes me feel the ache and despondency of separation and then in the next instant
He fills me with the longing and excitement of impending union. Such is His Blessed Leela and i thrilled
to play my part in it.  On a separate note, I had made a vow in December 2006, that I would visit
Arunachala every year henceforth and by arranging this trip He had in one stroke ensured that this
vow would be fulfilled for both 2009 and 2010.  Who is it that dares claim that it is they who are
performing the actions.... Indeed it is only He who takes such vows and it is He who fulfills them too,
yet all the while letting us be the beneficiaries of His actions.  Such is His Grace.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.               

Subramanian.R

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Re: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2016, 12:18:34 PM »
I walked past the Security gates and boarded the flight at Dulles.  The 20 hours trip passed in a strange
dream like movement.  Every trip of mine to Arunachala has had a completely unique flavor. Never
has the visit been the same. This time the pull of Arunachala was inexorable.  Bhagavan has frequently
claimed that indeed no one ever goes anywhere or comes anywhere, that the Self remains motionless
while what moves is the scenery of the vehicle, body, plane, clouds, until finally the scenery of the destination
is displayed in full detail before the Eternal Witness.  And indeed this time it was exactly so.  Sitting in my
seat with the thrumming vibration of the engines beneath my feet, I felt distinctly there was indeed no
going to Arunachala that could ever be done.  There was profound stillness within and without me,
a sense of conscious awareness of infinite depth stretching beyond the limits of space and time., A
profound stillness of unconcerned and unaffected awareness that was me but so much greater than
anything that I had ever associated as me before.  Thoughts would occasionally rise but this movement
had slowed to molasses like density of my awareness.  So distinct was this separation that there was
no effort needed to control these random bubbles of thought.  The awareness had begun resonating
with a powerful fascination and there was no room for anything outside of itself. 

Right over there at 35,000 feet over the North Atlantic I realized once and forever that I was always
at Arunachala and that there was never anything outside of that state.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.             

Subramanian.R

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Re: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2016, 11:49:16 AM »
Friday, December 25th, 2009:

I am woken up from my jet lagged slumber by my driver, who informs me that we have reached
Tiruvannamalai.  I glance at my watch. It is 5.30 pm.  Then the car passed beneath the wrought iron
arches and I found myself embraced by the shadow of the 400 year old iluppai tree of my spiritual home
away from the demons of such fears and declaring the eternal constancy of the silent welcome of my
Master. I walk into the great Hall to greet and acknowledge the smile and recognition and welcome
beaming from Bhagavan's picture before making my way to my assigned room in the Palakkottu section
of the Asramam.  It was with a sense of glad relief that I sank into my Asramam bed at 10 pm.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.   

Subramanian.R

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Re: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2016, 04:20:10 PM »
Sunday, December 26th, 2009:


I woke up without the benefit of an alarm thanks to my body still remembering the circadian rhythms
of the western hemisphere.   I walked towards the Old Meditation Hall which curiously was radiant with
flood lights, a very unusual finding at this hour.  On entering I was surprised to see that three workers
were busy painting the walls and Bhagavan's couch had been moved to the middle of the room and
the wooden barriers that served as a cordon had been moved aside.  I realized that they were preparing
the room for Bhagavan's Jayanti barely six days away.

As I stood before Him, He smiled His welcome at this new accessibility. I moved forward and sat very close
to His couch delighted at this rare opportunity to have the 'sparshan' of the couch, which my Master
occupied for nearly three decades showering His Grace on prince and pauper alike.

The large picture frame of Him reclining with feet stretched down the length of the couch was lifelike above me
as I sat at His Feet. Time stood still as my heart relived this experience that it once had before the Master
in a different body, in a different lifetime.  Bhagavan has often said that the Guru's Glance (guru kataksham)
is like the grip of a tiger on the throat of its prey.  Once so held, no matter what the disciple may do,
however much he may struggle, despite all his failings he is never forsaken, and is eventually consumed
into the eternal state that is Kaivlayam.  Sitting at the feet of Bhagavan I felt with sureness that verily
I had no cause for fear having become captive of this Tiger.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.         
     

Subramanian.R

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Re: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2016, 11:12:55 AM »
The workers continued their work around me, while I sat in rapture at Bhagavan's Feet.  Strangely no
one chose to enter for the next three hours.  Periodically the door would open and someone would step
in and  bow hastily and leave after seeing the workers working around me.  There was no sign saying that
they could not stay. Yet no one dared to intrude.  It was as if Bhagavan had purposely orchestrated the
events to give me this private time with Him and I unabashedly drank with abandon from the cup that
was offered. 

I met Swami Shantananda Puri.  His body has slowed somewhat after his recent heart attack but his
mind has lost none of its perspicacity or wisdom.  Satsangh with such people and watching the quiet
unobtrusive teaching by practice of the many Asramam inmates is far more efficacious in enabling
my transformation than the most brilliant oratory of the learned pundits.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.           

Subramanian.R

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Re: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.
« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2016, 12:54:50 PM »
At the Asramam I begin to see the true meaning of ahimsa.  I am beginning to see that the customary
understanding of the principle of non violence or Ahimsa as non injury to animals and fellow beings
and extending to ideas of vegetarian notions of diet and a monastic form of existence could not be more
infantile.  Here at Arunachala I am brought face to face with the truth that ahimsa first and foremost
means non differentiation from self.

I am shown here that the essence of differential identification of oneself is violence.  This is the primordial
violence committed by me within my consciousness long before it manifests as external behavior.

Stirring here at Arunachala, Bhagavan makes me confront the truth about how to commit this violence
in myriad ways and the hours I spend watching the behavior of the Asramam inmates and elevated
souls like Swami Shantananda Puri reaffirms the truth that something higher is not compatible with
normal existence.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.     

Subramanian.R

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Re: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.
« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2016, 11:17:41 AM »
Sunday, December 27th, 2009:


The Asramam President, Sri V.S. Ramanan graciously sits down with me after breakfast.  He inquires
about my family and parents.  Through him I learnt that December 31st  is Full Moon + Lunar Eclipse
+ Ardra Darsanam day and January 1st is Bhagavan's Jayanti.  He tells me that this kind of synchrony
of events is extremely rare.  I am thrilled at this blessing.  It is always a joy to converse with him
and Smt. Susila Mami.

I climbed to Skandasramam today.  The weather is cool even in the afternoon and there is always a
refreshing breeze that is very pleasant indeed. The physical exercise is quite beneficial and I always
return to the US in better health after visiting Sri Ramanasramam.

There is a very nice sannyasi from either Kerala or Palakkad who lives at Skandasramam and frequently
gives walking sticks to struggling climbers.  Every morning at 8 am. he performs Puja to Bhagavan at
Skandasramam to the tune of the most melodious and vibrationally powerful chant one can hear.  It is an
intense experience to lose oneself in the waves of sound as he performs his worship.

Walking back to the Asramam, I cannot help wondering how anyone could possibly conceive any other
way to spend their vacation time than coming to Arunachala, then I smile as I realize that most of my
relatives would probably think the reverse about me.  Such is the wonder of His leela.

I run into acquaintance, one Mr. C.S.Bedi from Chandigarh.  He too shares the same inexplicable connection
to Arunachala as me.  "Most of my friends cannot comprehend what I do at this place for 15 days,
or why I would come here.",  he says laughing a bit self consciously.

"What can I tell them, when I do not understand how this place holds me captive.  Who can understand
the joy of this place without first losing themselves?"

He knows the inner pradakshina path very well having done it many times, and we laugh like children
on a secret adventure as we make plans to walk it at night.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

             

Subramanian.R

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Re: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2016, 12:51:55 PM »
Monday, December 28th,  2009:

I climbed to Skandasramam around 3.00 pm.  The rear gate of the Asramam is kept closed until 6 am;
however, I use the detour available by walking past the Ganapati temple, just beyond Annamalai Swami
Asrham and swinging right along Palakottu tank along with the outer aspect of the Asramam's rear boundary
wall until I reach the rear gate from the other side.  From there it is up the regular path to Skandasramam.
The early morning darkness is well relived by the bright illumination of an LED head lamp that I brought
specifically for this purpose.

The climb to Skandasramam strikes me as a very apt metaphor for the course of spiritual sadhana.
The initital 1/3 is a steep heart pounding climb that very often bests the faint of heart, just as when
one initially starts a new sadhana, one is faced with seemingly daunting obstacles.  But when just
when you think that you would never succeed in the face of such rigor, the path levels off and you enter
a shaded plateau between two hill outcrops.

Sitting securely on that rock in the predawn darkness, I felt suspended in space with the lights of the
Arunachaleswara temple, and the town shining like jewels beneath my feet.  Above was the December
sky, and the waxing moon.  Behind was the towering massive presence of Arunachala.  In my ears
were the magnetic sounds of Vedic chants.  I rapidly sink into this experience.  There are no further words
that can be used.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva. 



 

Subramanian.R

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Re: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2016, 12:02:38 PM »
Tuesday, December 29th, 2009:

I spent the day relatively quietly at the Asramam. Everywhere the preparations for the coming Jayanti
on January 1st are in full swing.  The open ground right outside the dining hall where the majority
of the water taps are located, has been covered with copious amounts of diluted cow dung that act as
a bonding agent upon the loose dirt.  Once dried the resulting effect is as if the entire area has been
cemented into a firm dry surface that does not stain clothes nor release any dust.  This will be the
man dining area for the estimated 10,000 visitors on Jayanti day.

Yet through it all nothing changes in the underlying rhythms of the unchanging Arunachala peak that
towers above, the daily parayana and meditations continue unruffled regardless of all the movement.
This is my Rock of Gibraltar.  This constancy, this certainty of permanence amidst the impermanence
that pervades even this place.  This is the silent declaration of my Guru and My Father of the One Sat
that vibrates in stillness at the center of an entire cosmos of whirlwind change.

What my words are to be spoken when I am reduced to a state of silence by the Bliss of simple being,
when there is a natural silence that in indescribable to anyone outside the pale of that state and yet
its radiance is unmistakable to recognize when confronted by someone who is in its grip.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva. 

Subramanian.R

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Re: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.
« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2016, 11:41:05 AM »
Wednesday, December 30th, 2009:

I climb up and spend the morning at Skandasramam.  After lunch, C.S. Bedi informs me that we may
do giri pradakshina via the inner path.  Another North Indian couple also joins us and we set off.
The inner pradakshina path commences as a fork from the path to Skandasramam a couple of 100
feet from the Asramam rear gate.  However, at 1 pm.  the rear gate was closed, so we took the bypass
that I had discovered a few days back from the side of Annamalai ashram along Palakkottu tank.

This was my first time and I did not expect the lush and wild beauty of the inner path that commences
right from the start.  About five minutes into the path there is a stream of cool refreshing water that
forms a natural waterfall into a three foot deep pool of crystal  water.  From there we crossed a small
garden or park that appeared to be managed by the Arunachala reforestation group.  The heavily wooded
footpath trail of the inner pradakshina ends finally at Pachiamman Koil on the north western side of Arunachala.

We walked steadily along the path surrounded by the raw wild beauty of Arunachala.   This was the face
I had never seen or imagined before.  The sounds and activity of the outer world were only distantly
apprehensible here.  I was transported back to my childhood when I would hide with friends in bushes
of the backyard and create a private world in which I would revel in seclusion.

(Readers should be aware that the Inner Path has now been closed by the Forestry Department.
Anyone who wishes to walk the Inner Path requires permission from the Forestry Office, situated
near the bus stand in Tiruvannamalai.)

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.     

Subramanian.R

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Re: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2016, 11:47:23 AM »
Wednesday, December 30th evening:  8 pm.

I returned to my favorite spot on the rock above Skandasramam after dinner.  Night had fallen and I
sat there, allowing myself to sink into contemplation of spectacle of the township lights before me.....

Sitting on the rock for the first time there was the experience of unreality of the Universe and the
simultaneous experience of the reality of awareness!  An enormous sense of expansive freedom filled
my consciousness.  I truly had nothing to do in this life or any other life henceforth.  These experiences
and pictures and impressions were automatic emissions and therefore no concern of mine, of no greater
import than the random bead of sweat that may drip from my forehead or any other automatic bodily
function that I may witness.  If even death were to come to this body at this moment it would be
be merely one more automatic experience superimposed upon this awareness.  This awareness that had
no name, no beginning, no end, no gender, no form, neither light or dark, no direction, no place of residence,
no location, no movement, no stillness, no attribute apart from itself, no support,  yet it is radiantly luminous,
the one light  by which all is manifested, the one alone that ever remains, no means to know it except to be
it, no way to manifest except as Silence.

It was 10 pm when I became conscious of my surroundings. I got up and climbed down to the Asramam and
lay on my bed.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.               

Subramanian.R

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Re: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.
« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2016, 11:42:37 AM »
Thursday, December 31st, 2009:

I got up at 5 am., which was a little later than my usual hour.  There was sense that I had never slept.
I felt refreshed and there was no experiences of fatigue but somehow the distinction between sleep
and wakefulness no longer felt clear cut.

After breakfast I set out on my own to do giri pradakshina along the inner path.  When I reached the
flowing stream, I climbed down into the pool and bathed under the water fall.  Climbing out I walked
along the foot path while the weather was neither cold nor hot and I felt very comfortable walking in my wet
T-shirt and shorts with my canvas Ramanasramam shoulder bag.  Along the way there were several
other ponds and tanks and some of whom had some sannyasis bathing and washing their clothes.

I continued walking until I reached Parvati Mukham.  There I noticed a side trail bifurcating away from
the Inner Path and on impulse I followed it and within a short distance I was deeper into the forest at
the base of Parvati Mukham.  Hence there was a profusion of red colored and yellow colored stones.
I picked several stones that attracted my fancy.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.   

Subramanian.R

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Re: A Pilgrim's Log - Ravi Iyer - Mountain Path -July Sept. 2016.
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2016, 11:37:17 AM »
Walking alone down the Inner Path was a special experience.  Like my private time in front of Bhagavan's
couch on December 26th, there was a sense of intimate communion with my Mother.  There was at
no time any feeling of fatigue.  The feet never seemed to touch the ground despite the fact that it was
a Full Moon day, there were no other pilgrims on the path and I walked carefree in the courtyard
of my Father and Mother reveling in the joy that can only be experienced when in one's own home.

I reached the Asramam at 11.30 am just in time to join C.S. Bedi and other friends at the lunch time
outside the dining hall.  He took one look at my face and asked, 'Did you do girivalam?'  'Yes!'.  I smiled
back.  " I am again going after lunch want to come?'  He laughed. 'You have become crazy!' 
I laughed.  'It is Arunachala's fault!'

After lunch I set off again alone on the Inner Path.  There was no fatigue and I was not really pushing my
face.  Each circuit was about 9 miles and yet at no point of time  did I feel any strain.  All through my
circuit I would be doing japam but at many times even the japam would stop and there would be periods
of blankness when I would not be able to recall the sector that I had just crossed, yet the feet walked
and the body moved.

Gazing up at Arunachala, I suddenly realized that by this time tomorrow, I would be on the road of
Chennai and onward to Washington DC.  My heart gripped by a doubt: "Of what use is all Your power
to shower Grace upon me, if You are unable to be equally powerful when I am physically removed from
this place", I boldly asked, "If You are not bounded by Space and Time, then how is it that Your
pretend that Your Grace is dependent on my proximity to You?"

The answer came immediately to my consciousness, 'Stop thinking that you are physically removed
and I will stop pretending to limit my Grace."  Relief descended upon me at this assurance and I turned
and continued to walk with a song in my heart.

I reached the Asramam at 4.30 pm and went and rested in my room for half an hour.  At 6.30 om
in accordance with my usual habit I set outside the Samadhi Hall as the Parayana went on inside before
Bhagavan's Samadhi

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.