View from Adi Annamalai


From Arunachala Puranam Vignettes - By J. Jayaraman

(Prada = giver of boons; Kshi = destroyer of Karma; Na = giver of Jnana. Also, Pra-Dakshina = going around with centre kept to the right). The holy Arunachala is the primal, Adi linga. The path around its base is the sacred Yoni. Pradakshina of the Hill is therefore pradakshina of the source of all lingas! So one goes round keeping to the left-edge of the path. A mere step taken, confers the benefit of a Yaaga, sacrifice; two steps, the fruit of Raajasuya Yaaga; and three that of Asvamedha Yaga. Going round the hill one gains in health and vigour. The hill abounds in rare herbs sought by traditional herbalists. The breeze carries the salubrious wafts from these siddha
herbs to the one doing the holy round. The dust from the feet of such a person, carried and deposited in towns far away effects immeasurable purification.

The circumambulation of Arunachala (Giripradakshina) has been prescribed as a panacea for all the ills of life. The Maharshi encouraged all of his devotees to make the nine-mile circuit, even those who were infirm, knowing for certain that the spiritual benefits of giripradakshina far outweighed any physical hardships. He said, “The greatness of this giripradakshina has been described at length in Arunachala Puranam. Lord Nandikesa asked Sadasiva about its greatness and Sadasiva narrated as follows: “To go round this hill is good. The word ‘pradakshina’ has a typical meaning. The letter ‘Pra’ stands for the removal of all kinds of sin; ‘da’ stands for the fulfillment of desires; ‘kshi’ stands for freedom from future births; ‘na’ stands for the granting of deliverance through jnana. One should go round either in mouna (silence) or dhyana (meditation) or japa (repetition of Lord’s name) or bhajan (singing praises) and thereby think of God all the time. One should walk slowly like a woman who is in the ninth month of pregnancy.”

Another day while describing its benefits, the Maharshi was recorded to have said, “Really, it is difficult to describe the pleasure and the happiness one gets by this pradakshina. The body gets tired, the sense organs lose their strength and all the activities of the body become absorbed within. It is possible thus to forget oneself and get into a state of meditation. As one continues to walk, the body automatically gets harmonized as in the asana state. The body therefore becomes improved in health. Besides this, there are several varieties of medicinal herbs on the hill. The air that passes over those herbs is good for the lungs.

“Pilgrims become absorbed in their Atma by walking with no other thought than that of God. Giripradakshina is also the same thing. The body becomes light and walks of its own accord. There will not be the feeling that we are walking. The dhyana that you cannot get into while sitting, you get into automatically if you go for pradakshina. However unable a person is to walk, if he once goes round the hill he will feel like going again and again. The more you go, the more the enthusiasm for it. It never decreases. Once a person is accustomed to the happiness of Pradakshina, he can never give it up.”

These days it is a common sight to see hundreds thousands of pilgrims piously treading the pradakshina route on purnima, the full moon night, and there are also a good number of devotees that make the circuit daily. The Maharshi often walked around the hill taking a whole day, several days or sometimes even a week. This came to an end in 1926 when he felt that the attention he attracted while doing pradakshina inconvenienced others. But of the early days of his wanderings he has said that there was not a single spot on the hill where he had not set his foot.

The Maharshi’s “Five Hymns to Arunachala” are the ecstatic outpourings from the spiritual heart of a fully illumined sage united forever with his beloved, Arunachala. There is immense inspiration and guidance on the path in each and every stanza of these poems.

When I approach Thee regarding Thee as having form, Thou standest as a Hill on earth. If with the mind the seeker looks for Thy (essential) form as formless, he is like one who travels the earth to see the (ever-present) ether. To dwell without thought upon Thy (boundless) nature is to lose one’s (separate) identity like a doll of sugar when it comes in contact with the ocean (of nectar); and when I come to realize who I am, what else is this identity of mine (but Thee), O Thou Who standest as the towering Aruna Hill. — Sri Arunachala Ashtakam, verse 3
Map of Arunachala and Shrines [Click on map to enlarge the size]

The fruit of a Sunday pradakshina is Siva’s abode; that of Monday is merger in Siva-form; that of Tuesday is termination of debt and cyclic death; that of Wednesday is divinity through skill in philosophy and art; that of Thursday is lordship over gods and god-men; that of Friday is lordship of the Lotus Lady. A Saturday pradakshina confers the astronomical benefits of a nine-planet conjunction in the Eleventh House.

The above effects are magnified if done on Sivaraatri, New-year day, or during the three months, mid-October to mid-January. The fruits increase by a factor of one crore if done on the two solstices; or on the day the moon is in the Magha asterism during February-March; or during the pre-dawn hour; or during solar eclipse or Vidhipaada Yoga.

As to the ritual of the spiritual round, one abjures all thought of the opposite sex on the day of pradakshina. After bathing one wears clean white clothes, applies the holy ash and proceeds, giving alms but without accepting any. One does not wear shirt or shawl or carry an umbrella. Free from fear, anger, irritation or sorrow one walks on bare feet, without using vehicles. Without swinging one’s arms about, with a silent soft tread, one saunters like a queen in her ‘tenth-month’. One bows, first to the holy Hill from each of the eight cardinal directions, and then to the Lord of that direction enshrined in the linga there. One bows mentally to the incorporeal gods and siddhas going the rounds and keeps to the side. One could keep silence of speech and mind; or one could allow thoughts to flow on to the Hill of Fire; or one could sing and listen to songs of devotional praise.

In the company of those of lofty character, one could halt here and there and enjoy a feast of fruit and milk. Otherwise, simple food free of flesh may be taken.

In conclusion, the Arunachala Puranam declares, “The residents of Tiruvannamalai must scrupulously follow the above rules. Pilgrims from far-away places are allowed to do the holy round according to their capacity.”

Untold Story

In 1946, when I was a young boy, there was was an older boy down the street that had an afternoon paper route. To me, at the time, he seemed really a cool, delivered his papers using an even cooler motorized Whizzer bike and, unlike myself and most of my own age friends, always had money to spend. In those days I lived with my Uncle and every afternoon that he would allow me I would go over to the boy's house and help fold papers, drink Bireley's grape or orange, and just hang out until he left on his route.
During the summer of that year the newspaper had a contest that offered a free one week trip to Catalina Island, all expenses paid, for selling the most subscriptions. The boy won and during the first part of September 1946, a few weeks before school started, he went, taking me along with him after convincing his boss how much work I had done.

Early one morning we were dropped off at the Wilmington boat terminal south of Los Angeles, sailing the twenty-six miles to Catalina on the Great White Steamer, newly refurbished in July from war duty. They put us up in a sort of tent-like village about two blocks behind the main street and straight up from the pier in the little town of Avalon. There really wasn't much adult supervision and for the most part we pretty much got to do whatever we wanted. One of the things we did was take the inland motor tour. The tour used sort of antique pre-war busses built a little like a cross between a wooden station wagon and a stagecoach. Halfway through the trip we came to a place high in the mountains called Eagles Nest that was at one time used as a stage stop. It was closed and run-down, dilapidated actually, not having been used for a long time. The tour bus stopped and we all got out to stretch our legs and in the process my friend and I wandered off exploring. Next thing we knew the bus was gone and we were stranded miles from town. Figuring another tour bus would be along any time we just went about our business exploring. Hours went by at first without us really noticing, but eventually the sun started to set and the sky began getting dark and the air cold. We decided to hole up in some old stable like building and wait for morning.

As might be expected I didn't sleep well that night. It was uncomfortable and cold, and I kept rolling over and over. In the middle of the night I noticed a light coming from the the old stage stop building. My friend and I had tried the doors and windows and had been unsuccessful in finding a way in. To my knowlege no one had come by since the bus left so it seemed odd there would be any kind of a light coming from inside. I tried to wake my friend to no avail, so I got up and walked over to the building myself, cleaned the glass as much as I could with the sleeve of my shirt and peered in.
I could just barely see two men sitting cross-legged on the heavy planked wooden floor in the dim light emanating from an old lantern placed on the floor between them. One man, barefoot, was dressed all in black, the other, an older man, sort of dark skinned with short-cropped white hair and beard, was nearly naked and barefoot as well, wearing only what I would now call a loincloth. I tried the door and this time, unlike earlier, it wasn't locked. As I pushed the door open there was a sudden whoosh of a thick cold-yet-warm tomb-like blast of air that blew right past me toward the outside that I felt on my face and most distinctly so across both my cheeks and ears. In the process the light blew out and the room darkened.

Moments before when I had been outside looking through the dirty glass windows I had noticed a small box of matches on the floor near the lantern, so in the dark on my hands and knees, I started fumbling around until I found them. When I finally got the lantern lit neither man was there. As I turned, still on my knees and holding the lantern high in an attempt to illuminate the room as much as could with a turning sweep of dim light, I clearly saw the dark-skinned man standing in the open doorway, facing me and holding, although not actually leaning on, a down to the ground half-his-height wooden staff. He looked right into my eyes from a few feet away and somehow TIME SEEMED TO SLOW, maybe even stopping altogether. From far away I felt myself losing balance, all the while trying to brace myself with one arm while trying to hold the lantern high with the other. I weighed a ton and could barely move. In ultra slow motion the light, moving now at such an overwhelmingly reduced rate I could hear it, flickered and nearly went out. Then, just as the lantern reached the top arc of its swing and stilled to start back, the light rekindled itself. In that waffer-thin edge-on membrane of darkness the man was gone. As my ability to move flowed hurriedly back into my body and I regained a more typical sense of my surroundings I bolted out of the building, running at top speed all the way back to where my friend still lay asleep, and again tried to wake him and again to no avail. After a while my heart stopped pounding and as the night slowly slipped toward dawn my eyes began to get heavy. I tried to stay awake thinking the men might come back, but they never did. I blew out the lantern and dozed off. In the morning I told my friend what happened and he looked at me like I was crazy. We walked over to the building and just like the day before it was locked up tight. He said I must have been dreaming, but inside I could see the box of matches on the floor just where I left them, plus I still had the lantern.

In the four years or so my uncle and I were together, during of which the incident on Catalina Island transpired, we spent a lot of time traveling in and about some very isolated sections of the desert southwest interacting with the indigenous populations thereof because of various "art" related ties he had with them. In the process of those travels time passed and the incident at the stage stop eventually faded from my thoughts.

One day my uncle came to me and told me he would be returning to New Mexico on a permanent basis only this time I would not be going, but would instead, be staying with a foster couple in an arrangement set up not by him, but my father.

Eight years after the stage stop, a time period which encompassed the failure of my stay with the foster couple including me running away from home on more than one occasion, found me as a teenager in high school, living along the coast in a Southern California beach community under the auspices of my grandmother. During those high school years, as I have presented in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT : The Path Unfolds, a sort of unusual single older man moved into the house next door. He was always barefoot, aways dressed in dark clothes, and always walked wherever he went. Eventually, as neighbors, at least on a hello basis, he got to know my grandmother, who I was living with at the time. One morning he stopped and told her he intended to refinish some wood in his house and wondered if he might hire me to help. A few days later, after discussing it with my grandmother and then my dad, I started.

All went well until one day after work I discovered I left my wallet in his house and went back to retrieve it. Letting myself through the still open front door I found the man sitting crosslegged with his eyes closed on the otherwise bare living room floor in front of a candle, naked. In ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds I tell how the next day it was all resolved, how he mixed two iced teas, put his hand on my shoulder guiding me out on the front porch, and pretty much telling me all about himself, meditation, India and such things.

What I didn't tell in ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT is just prior to going outside to the porch he stopped for a few seconds and searched through a stack of books sitting parallel along the floor against the wall. There he found a small, almost pamphlet size book, well worn and crudely made, that had been published in India and handed it to me. The name of the book, which I really didn't have time to absorb because I dropped it from my hands in a sort of stunned disbelief, was titled Glimpses of the Life and Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by Frank H.Humphreys. Although my thoughts and feelings would eventually open and morph through it's passage, at that very specific moment in time --- and for years afterwards --- I was sure I had never heard of a Bhagavan, a Sri Ramana, or a Maharshi. Even so, I immediately grasped why he thought the book should be important, and it wasn't who wrote it or what was inside, but what was outside. Outside, on the cover, was a picture of the EXACT same man I saw that night in the old stage stop atop Catalina, short-cropped white hair and beard, walking stick and all. As a shuttering cold chill engulfed my body it dawned on me as well, after seeing the photograph on the cover, that the other man, the man in the dark clothes I caught only a fleeting glimpse of some eight years before, was the same man now sitting on the floor of the porch next to me. Both had been at the stage stop that night, the man sitting next to me AND the man on the cover.

The reason I didn't say anything to the readers is because often times people new along the path are uncomfortable with such stories and quite frankly, Sri Ramana supporters don't like to hear it. Many Ramana supporters even express surprise when I remind them of well documented similar circumstances surrounding such spiritual adepts as Ganapathi Muni and Paul Brunton (see more on this below) as well as the low key and little known Ramana adherent, Robert Adams. In the weight of such circumstances, transpiring as they have, it may be easy for some to simply blow off Adams or myself as being weird, but Muni and Brunton are somewhat more difficult.

Even as the man next door became my Mentor and spritual guide in things Zen I never said a word to him about the incident nor were any needed. However, a friend of his, that I only identify as the "dowager" in my writings, mainly because to this day I am unable to recall her name, although we always called her Mrs. "somebody," told me several months later what she could remember and knew about the man next door and the man I saw on the cover of the pamphlet. She told me the white-bearded man was a Spiritual Guide called a Bhagavan or Maharshi, a teacher of sorts, and that the man next door had studied under him at a place called an ashram in the south of India between the wars. She said that before the two met, the bearded man had lived alone in a cave on the side of a mountain for twenty years. She also told me that prior to buying the house next to mine the man himself had been living a semi-ascetic lifestyle on one of the Channel Islands off the coast of California for seven years, having gone to the island in September 1946 on the occasion of his holy man's Golden Anniversary. Later research revealed that devotees of the Maharshi gathered at the Ramana Ashram in September 1946 for a great celebration honoring the fiftieth anniversary of his arrival at Tiruvannamali, the same time as the experience I had that night at the stage stop. The only thing I didn't know at the time, nor did the dowager seem to express or reveal to me, was that the Maharshi had NEVER left India in his life. Matter of fact he never left Tiruvannamalai after he arrived that September morning fifty years before, and in later years, years that encompassed the exact same time as my experience at the stage stop, he never even left the ashram.
It should be brought forth that the above experience involving Sri Ramana was not totally unique. Although it is true that throughout his life the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi never exhibited even the slightest interest in Siddhis, occult abilities, or psychic powers to outsiders, often citing Queen Chudala, he did have other recorded fully conscious bilocation experiences he rarely discussed wherein he was translocated from his ashram in a matter of minutes to the presence of others many, many miles away.
One of the first and earliest devotees of Sri Ramana was a great Sanskrit scholar and savant by the name of Ganapati Muni, known throughout India for his powerful Siddhis and through his ability known to bring down or stop the rains or even destroy a whole town. About a year after his first meeting with Sri Bhagavan, Ganapathi Muni experienced a remarkable outflow of Ramana's Grace. While he was sitting in meditation in the temple of Ganapati at Tiruvottiyur he felt distracted and longed intensely for the presence and guidance of the Bhagavan. At that moment Sri Ramana entered the temple. Ganapathi prostrated himself before him and, as he was about to rise, he felt the Maharshi's hand upon his head and a terrifically vital force coursing through his body from the touch; so that he also received Grace by touch from the Master. Speaking about this incident in later years, not Ganapathi Muni, but the Enlightened sage HIMSELF Sri Ramana Maharshi said: "One day, some years ago, I was lying down and awake when I distinctly felt my body rise higher and higher. I could see the physical objects below growing smaller and smaller until they disappeared and all around me was a limitless expanse of dazzling light. After some time I felt the body slowly descend and the physical objects below began to appear. I was so fully aware of this incident that I finally concluded that it must be by such means that Sages using the powers of Siddhis travel over vast distances in a short time and Appear and Disappear in such a mysterious manner. While the body thus descended to the ground it occurred to me that I was at Tiruvottiyur though I had never seen the place before. I found myself on a highroad and walked along it. At some distance from the roadside was a temple of Ganapati and I entered it."
The most interesting part of all of the above is that unlike almost every case that you come across that discusses similar bilocation or translocation experiences, it is NOT onesided. That is, BOTH parties involved, Sri Ramana and Ganapathi Muni, each, in separate stories, reported seeing each other.
In another interesting set of events, albeit not involving bilocation or translocation, but instead, paralleling my equally important experience regarding the intensely piercing gaze I received from the man in the doorway at the stage stop, the father of Adam Osborne, who I knew as a young boy, Ramana biographer Arthur Osborne, in his book Ramana Maharshi And The Path of Self-Knowledge (York Beach: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1995, pages 144-145) writes:
Ramana would turn to the devotee, his eyes fixed upon him with blazing intentness. The luminosity, the power of his eyes pierced into one, breaking down the thought-process. Sometimes it was as though an electric current was passing through one, a vast peace, a flood of light. One devotee has described it: "Suddenly Bhagavan turned his luminous, transparent eyes on me. Before that I could not stand his gaze for long. Now I looked straight back into those terrible, wonderful eyes, how long I could not tell. They held me in a sort of vibration distinctly audible to me"
In the process of his research, British author and playwright William Somerset Maugham was caught up in the outflow of an eye contact sequence related to Ramana and his novel The Razor's Edge. To wit, the following:
The eye contact sequences may not seem like much to the casual purveyor of the Maugham novel --- and to my knowledge NEVER brought up or thought of as having any sort of import by most critics and reviewers of The Razor's Edge. However, I consider Maugham's observations and his attempts to clarify his own inner thoughts and feelings on the matter --- inturn so both he himself as well as the reader will have a better understanding of Larry Darrell and his Enlightenment --- to be of major importance, especially so because of my own personal experiences in similar areas. Nowhere in any of Maugham's works, plays, novels, or shortstories, does it show up that he he spent so much time emphasizing and presenting a similar sort of circumstance to the reader. It was not until he met with the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi personally in India did it get resolved. Up to that point he labored over it and over it, and for me, in the end, it is the single most important event --- or string of events --- that grabbed Maugham and sent him on his journey to India and meet with and talk to the Maharshi. In 1938 a woman by the name of Mercedes De Acosta, was driven by an inner need to visit Sri Ramana. After she had been sitting in the meditation hall for several hours a fellow American, Guy Hague, who many people have said was the real life role model for the Larry Darrell character in William Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge, suggested she go and sit closer to the Maharshi. He said, "You can never tell when Bhagavan will come out of Samadhi. When he does, I am sure he will be pleased to see you, and it will be beneficial for you, at this moment, to be sitting near him."
Although she didn't faint as Maugham did in the Maharshi's presence, in her book Here Lies the Heart she related the following, similar and equally strong eye contact experience:
I moved near Bhagavan, sitting at his feet and facing him. Not long after this Bhagavan opened his eyes. He moved his head and looked directly down at me, his eyes looking into mine. It would be impossible to describe this moment and I am not going to attempt it. I can only say that at this second I felt my inner being raised to a new level--as if, suddenly, my state of consciousness was lifted to a much higher degree. Perhaps in this split second I was no longer my human self but the Self.
Last but not least, within just a few years of De Acosta's visit to the ashram and her "split second" experience of the Absolute, in the footsteps of another remarkable eye contact sequence and yet again another American, only this time a very young boy, there is a quote attributed to Ramana advocate and follower C.R. Rajamani that goes like:
"A mere spark has ignited his spiritual fire. So, that casual look was a spark of tremendous power."


Ramana was a silent Teacher, if there was one. It would be more appropriate to call him the Silent One, for teaching denotes duality, the teacher and taught, while Ramana was, as a devotee wrote, “the Pure Non-dual Essence.” His most direct and profound teaching was transmitted in silence.

However, how many were there that could immediately hear or experience the unspoken, the unwritten word? Devotees and visitors asked questions and out of his boundless compassion Bhagavan answered them in his own inimitable way, as the following excerpts will show.

Existence or Consciousness is the only reality. Consciousness plus waking we call waking. Consciousness plus sleep we call sleep. Consciousness plus dream, we call dream. Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go. The screen is real, the pictures are mere shadows on it.

Mind is a wonderful force inherent in the Self. That which arises in this body as 'I' is the mind. When the subtle mind emerges through the brain and the senses, the gross names and forms are cognized. When it remains in the Heart, names and forms disappear. If the mind remains in the Heart, the 'I' or the ego which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self, the Real, Eternal 'I' alone will shine. Where there is not the slightest trace of the ego, there is the Self.

For all thoughts the source is the 'I' thought. The mind will merge only by Self-enquiry 'Who am I?' The thought 'Who am l?' will destroy all other thoughts and finally kill itself also. If other thoughts arise, without trying to complete them, one must enquire to whom did this thought arise. What does it matter how many thoughts arise? As each thought arises one must be watchful and ask to whom is this thought occurring. The answer will be 'to me'. If you enquire 'Who am I?' the mind will return to its source (or where it issued from). The thought which arose will also submerge. As you practise like this more and more, the power of the mind to remain as its source is increased.

There is no difference between the dream and the waking states except that the dream is short and the waking long. Both are the result of the mind. Our real state, called turiya (fourth), is beyond the waking, dream and sleep states.

There are two ways of achieving surrender. One is looking into the source of the 'I' and merging into that source. The other is feeling 'I am helpless myself, God alone is all powerful, and except by throwing myself completely on Him, there is no other means of safety for me', and thus gradually developing the conviction that God alone exists and the ego does not count. Both methods lead to the same goal. Complete surrender is another name for jnana or liberation.

I have not said that a Guru is not necessary. But a Guru need not always be in human form. First a person thinks that he is an inferior and that there is a superior, all-knowing, all powerful God who controls his own and the world's destiny and worships him or does Bhakti. When he reaches a certain stage and becomes fit for enlightenment, the same God whom he was worshipping comes as Guru and leads him on. That Guru comes only to tell him that ‘God is within yourself. Dive within and realize.’ God, Guru and the Self are the same.

The state we call realization is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything. If one has realized, he is that which alone is, and which alone has always been. He cannot describe that state. He can only be That. Of course, we loosely talk of Self-realization for want of a better term.

That which is, is peace. All that we need do is to keep quiet. Peace is our real nature. We spoil it. What is required is that we cease to spoil it.

In the center of the cavity of the Heart, the sole Brahman shines by itself as the Atman (Self) in the feeling of 'I-I'. Reach the Heart by diving within yourself, either with control of breath, or with thought concentrated on the quest of Self. You will thus get fixed in the Self.

I have not said that a Guru is not necessary. But a Guru need not always be in human form. First a person thinks that he is an inferior and that there is a superior, all-knowing, all powerful God who controls his own and the world's destiny and worships him or does Bhakti. When he reaches a certain stage and becomes fit for enlightenment, the same God whom he was worshipping comes as Guru and leads him on. That Guru comes only to tell him that ‘God is within yourself. Dive within and realize.’ God, Guru and the Self are the same.

The jnani has attained Liberation even while alive, here and now. It is immaterial to him as to how, where and when he leaves the body. Some jnanis may appear to suffer, others may be in samadhi; still others may disappear from sight before death. But that makes no difference to their jnana. Such suffering is apparent, seems real to the onlooker, but is not felt by the jnani, for he has already transcended the mistaken identity of the Self with the body.

The jnani does not think he is the body. He does not even see the body. He sees only the Self in the body. If the body is not there, but only the Self, the question of its disappearing in any form does not arise.