Michael Bowes


by Michael Bowes

I want to tell you about a hill where I live. I don’t suppose that the hill that I will describe could be the hill that represents the opposite pole to Arunachala. But the location of this hill is definitely on the other side of the globe from Tiruvannamalai.

I have been practicing various forms of yoga and meditation for many years. While on a trip to India in April, 1996 I took up the practice of Atma Vichara and subsequently visited Ramana’s Ashrama. Prior to my trip my father had passed away and when I returned to the United States I found that my mother had purchased a winter home in Scottsdale, Arizona. She asked me to help her to move some of her belongings from Kansas City to Arizona. So in January, 1997 I drove her to Scottsdale and after about a month I decided to stay.

In May of 1997 I rented my own apartment. After I moved in, and when I was finished setting up my new place, I was walking out of the front door and for the first time took notice of a hill that was very near. It bore an uncanny resemblance to Arunachala. In fact the similarity was nothing short of amazing. Instantly, I wondered if this was the hill named “Camelback.” Camelback has a famous rock formation on the Northwest side called the “Praying Monk.” Of course it was/is Camelback.

Camelback looks very much like Arunachala. I started doing some research about Arunachala on the internet. According to my best recollection Arunachala and Camelback are within about 50 feet of being the same height. And it seems that they are similar in length.

According to Richard Allen of gemland.com, the major portion of Camelback is formed of Precambrian Rock. Precambrian Rock is the oldest rock on the planet. The west side of Camelback, known as the “Camel’s Head,” is composed of Tertiary Rock which was formed much later. But the main body of the hill has been present on our earth since the time that rock first started to form from earth’s original molten mass. I believe that this type of rock is sometimes referred to as the “Vishnu Sheath.”

Not long after I moved into my first apartment, a Tamil friend of mine came to visit. He is a dear friend and we had been to Ramana’s Ashrama together in July of 1996. He has never been afraid to speak his true mind, and he too was amazed at how much Camelback looks like Arunachala.

Camelback is central to this valley and visible from nearly everywhere around. Even before my friend arrived I was so overwhelmed by the similarity between Arunachala and Camelback that every time I would see Camelback, whether I was at home or driving, I would remember to practice vichara. Soon I was practicing constantly. I couldn’t stop. Thank God! Due to the grace of God and Guru, the effect on me over the years has been nothing short of a miracle.

If you could see Camelback yourself, you too would realize how similar it is to Arunachala. Perhaps you have seen it. The color is very much the same as Arunachala (reddish).

There are trails that go up the mountain, one from the east and one from the west. The trail on the east side is called the Cholla trail. Cholla is a certain type of cactus found here in the Sonoran Desert. Please forgive me if I can’t help but equate the word “cholla” with “chala,” though the words are pronounced differently. The small municipality just north of the hill is named ”Paradise Valley.” There is an exclusive resort development on part of the north side of the hill named “The Sanctuary on Camelback.” Farther south, in the municipality of Tempe, Arizona there is a major road named “Priest Drive” that runs north and south. When traveling north on this road an observer has a wonderful view of the hill and is pointing directly at its summit.

There are many, many caves on the hill and every time I see them it reminds me of the caves on Arunachala that were used as ashramas and hermitages. There are Saguaro cactus all around the area that are reminiscent of Shiva’s trident.

There is a rock formation on the Northwest side of the hill called the “Praying Monk.” It is phenomenal. The Praying Monk has been worshipping this hill day and night for eons. To me it is symbolic of the constant effort and perseverance that is required in order to realize the Self. The Praying Monk is probably eighty to one hundred feet tall and it can be seen from many locations around the valley. It looks just like a monk in a “Franciscan” style robe, or the same style of attire that the swamis of the order of Shankara wear. The figure is bowing to a rock formation on the west side of the hill that reminds me of a lingam. Many years ago the Franciscan order of Catholic monks built a retreat center nearby that still operates to this day. Just the very sight of the Praying Monk quiets my mind. Sometimes it nearly brings me to tears. But it always causes me to deepen my abidance.

About a year and a half after I moved to the valley a book was published entitled Camelback, Sacred Mountain of Phoenix, by Gary Driggs. He calls Camelback the “Sacred Mountain of Phoenix” because archaeologists have determined that a cave near the Praying Monk is the first known place of worship in this valley (pages 74-79 of the book). The native people used this cave for their religious ceremonies. Gary Driggs calls this cave the ”Sacred Grotto.” The cave is quite large and is capable of accommodating many people at once. The book was the final confirmation for me. This hill is a physical manifestation of the Sadguru.

I suppose that I may as well mention that the original Arizona State Capitol building’s foundation is built with stone that was quarried from Camelback Mountain. A huge white angel crowns this building. The building was outgrown and is now a museum, surrounded by more modern and spacious state government buildings. So in a symbolic sense, the government of the state was built upon the foundation of Camelback Mountain.

One last thing is that the hill is located in Phoenix, Arizona. Of course the legendary “Phoenix” is the mythological bird that symbolizes immortality, resurrection and life after death. According to the myth, when the bird felt its death was near, it would build a nest of aromatic wood and set it on fire. Flames then consumed the bird and a new phoenix would spring forth from the pyre. It embalmed the ashes of its predecessor in an egg of myrrh and flew with it to Heliopolis, “City of the Sun.” It is easy to make a comparison between the self-immolation of the Phoenix bird, and our efforts to destroy the “ego sense” so that the SELF will rise from the ashes (vibhuti).

In the course of the unimaginable march over eons of time, worlds have come and worlds will go. Societies will come and societies will go. Persons come and go. Philosophies come and philosophies go. Hills will be built up due to the forces of nature and once again they will be destroyed by the very same forces that created them. But the SELF has been forever and always is. The object of vichara, indeed the object of life, is to abide as the SELF, our own true nature. We can, we must, and eventually we all will make every effort to personally realize this truth. The SELF is the only perpetually abiding truth of life. Guru’s grace is ample for the task. May we always realize the grace of the Guru.

This is from THE MAHARSHI News Letter