Monday, 11 of December of 2017

on the Eve of Karthigai Deepam

It is the eve of Karthigai Deepam today and Tiruvannamalai is being battered by torrential rains since yesterday. One wonders how the Deepam flame will be lit tomorrow amidst this deluge but Light it they will come rain come sun the devotees of Arunachala have never failed to Light the Holy Beacon of Karthigai since time immemorial!

Meanwhile day before yesterday, ie on Wednesday 29 november was the day of the Maha Ratham and once again, we witnessed this awesome event with thrill and wonder! It has been 20 years since the writer settled down in this sacred place and has never ceased to be spellbound by the majestic and impressive festival- journey of this magnificent chariot of the Gods..

And here is a description of the actual event from the past:

The eight day of the Karthigai festival is the day of the Maha Ratham or the Great Chariot. On this day, the great wooden chariot which is the largest temple chariot in Asia, is taken on procession around the four streets of the temple. The main great chariot carries the stately figures of Lord Arunachaleswara and his consort Goddess Unnamulai whereas the smaller chariots which follow in retinue carry the deities of Lord Muruga, Lord Ganesha and Goddes Durga respectively.

Early in the morning, thousands of men and women flock the venue of departure in front of the Raja Gopuram, eager to pull the chains of the chariot and thus have the honour of drawing their Lord’s vehicle. The method in which the chariot is drawn goes back to ancient times. Two long chains made of iron links are connected to the chariot. Carpenters use wooden wedges as brakes to check the speed on the downward slopes as well as to stop the ratham. The signal is given to lift the chain and the devotees pick up the chain. The men hold one side of the chain and women the other. When the wedges are removed and the lever is applied at the back of the huge wheel to give the initial momentum, the second signal is given from the chariot. At once, men and women with great enthusiasm and cheering in unison “Hail to Annamalaiyar” draw the chariot with all their might. Slowly, inch by inch, the great chariot moves and as the pull increases, it gains momentum and moves faster.

It is indeed impressive to see the gigantesque, enormous wooden chariot move forth slowly and majestically, drawn entirely by man power. The chariot is made of rose wood and has beautiful carvings of divinities on its sides.  The top is decorated  attractively with silk canopies, banana and coconut fronds and flower garlands. The Temple Sivacharyas in royal attire are seated on either side like footmen to the Gods and they wave lovely peacock feathered fans to keep the Gods cool and refreshed during their procession.

And thus the great chariot winds its way down the temple streets. By the time it has reached the western street, it is evening and the sun has started to set. The golden rays of the sinking sun shine through the peaks of the Hill. With the Hill view, the golden sunset, the soaring temple towers and the Lord majestically riding on his great chariot in the centre, it is indeed a spectacular sight and one feels the presence of the Lord Himself witnessing the scene in quiet enjoyment !


The Ribhu Gita and Sri Ramana

Among the 8 scriptural works recommended by Bhagavan for spiritual seekers, the Ribhu Gita is the foremost one. Such is the power of the Ribhu Gita that Bhagavan used to say that just reciting the verses of the Ribhu Gita would itself take one to liberation ribhuwhereas with the other works, it was necessary to study and understand and practice.

When Bhagavan attained Self Realisation at the young age of 16, he had  become a knower of Brahman without even knowing the meaning of the word Brahman. It is only afterwards that he found that his experience of the Self tallied with that of the ancient sages as described in the Upanishads. Bhagavan later described his state as follows:

I did not know that there was an Essence or Impersonal Reality underlying everything and that God and I were both identical with it. Later at Tiruvannamalai, as I listened to the Ribhu Gita and other sacred books, I learnt all this and found that they were analysing and naming what I had felt intuitively without analysis or name”

Moreover Bhagavan felt that the Ribhu Gita was accessible even to ordinary people without high literary skills which are usually required for studying scriptural works.

In accordance with this Sampurnamma, a simple uneducated devotee who had the good fortune of staying at Bhagavan’s feet recalls:

“One day Bhagavan gave me a copy of Ribhu Gita and asked me to study it. I was not at all anxious to pore over a difficult text good only for learned pundits, and asked to be excused saying that I did not understand a single word of it” To this Bhagavan replied, “it does not matter that you do not understand” he said. “still it will be of great benefit to you!”

Bhagavan’s words were proved true years later when all saw Sampurnamma in the ashram as she sat silently and peacefully ever absorbed in the Truth of the Self..

Now what is this Ribhu Gita? Who is the author? The title Ribhu Gita literally means ribhu3the Song of Ribhu and the author is none other than Siva, the Supreme Lord Himself ! The Ribhu Gita comprises the sixth amsa or canto of the hundred thousand verse long epic work Sri Siva Rahasya, and it consists of approximately 2200 stanzas which sing the glory of the Self or Brahman and the unreality of the perceived world. It is a dialogue between the sage Ribhu and his disciple Nidagha.

The story of Ribhu and Nidagha   (as retold by divine life society)                                         Brahma had a son by name Ribhu. Ribhu, by his very nature, possessed a sound knowledge of Brahman. Nidagha, the son of Maharshi Pulastya, was a disciple of Ribhu. Pleased with the good qualities of Nidagha, Ribhu instructed his disciple fully in the knowledge of the Brahman. Ribhu found out that his disciple, though proficient in all the scriptures, was not steady in the knowledge of the Brahman, because he was not able to cognise the one Reality underlying the various objects of the Universe.

Nidagha went and settled himself in Viranagar on the banks of the river Devika and began to lead an ideal life bearing in mind at all times the duties of a true householder. After the lapse of a long time Ribhu went to Viranagar with the object of seeing his disciple Nidagha. Nidagha was waiting at the gate in expectation of a guest after duly performing his daily sacrificial rites. Nidagha welcomed Ribhu warmly and took him inside the house. Nidagha duly worshipped the noble guest and humbly requested him to take his dinner.
Ribhu said, O Brahmin! Please tell me what kind of food you will serve me today. I do not relish unholy foods. Nidagha said, I have got in my house wheat-flour, maize, fruits, roots and loaves of bread. Of these whichever you like I shall be pleased to serve you with.
Ribhu said, I do not want all these useless food-stuffs. Give me good sweets, rice boiled in milk, curds, molasses and other delicious articles.

Then Nidagha said to his wife, O mistress! Soon make ready a very palatable and savoury meal for our guest today with the best of articles available in the house. According to the wishes of her husband, Nidagha’s wife prepared the dinner and he fed Ribhu sumptuously. When Ribhu had just finished his dinner Nidagha humbly requested him thus: O my venerable guest! Was the food tasty? Are you fully satisfied? Where do you live? Where are you proceeding now and wherefrom are you coming?

Ribhu replied, He who is hungry becomes satisfied when he takes a hearty meal. I was never hungry at all and why do you put me this question? When by the constant working of the Jatharagni (digestive fire) the digestive organs get tired, man feels hungry and when the water in the system gets exhausted he feels thirsty. Hunger and thirst are the Dharmas of the body and not mine. Since there is no hunger at all for me, I am always satisfied. Pleasure and satisfaction are the functions of the mind. I am not the mind too. Enquire then about these things whose Dharma is satisfaction, pleasure etc.

Now hearken to me about the other questions ‘Where do you live? Where do you go? And wherefrom are you coming?’ Atman or the Self is all-pervading like the ether and therefore these questions do not at all apply to It. The questions themselves are without basis. I do not go anywhere. I do not come from any place and I do not remain in any one place. These differences of ‘I’, ‘he’ and ‘you’ are in respect of the different bodies and not in reality. The truth is that you are not you. I am not myself nor is he another different from the other two.

A sweet thing is not always sweet. When I requested of you sweet rice etc., my intention was simply to know what you would say. For the really hungry man everything is palatable. The same food which is palatable once begins to give the reverse impression the next moment. When man has taken food to his heart’s content even the most delicious food causes retching. Thus the tasty food becomes non-tasty and vice versa. Further, is there any such food which is uniformly tasty in the beginning, middle and end? This physical body made of earth is kept up by food which is also earth particles in reality. Just as the wall built out of clay is kept strong by coating it with clay now and then, this body also remains healthy and strong by the atoms of food that we take. Barley, wheat, green dhall, oil, milk, curds, sugar, fruits, etc., are all mere atoms of earth only. Then which of these are we to call tasty and which non-tasty? Knowing thus you should educate your differentiating mind and try to see the one underlying thing in all and you should become serene. Serenity is the most important qualification for the attainment of Moksha.
Hearing these words of wisdom Nidagha prostrated before Ribhu and humbly said, O Revered sir! Be gracious unto me. Please reveal thy identity. I think you have come here to bless me with the true knowledge. by hearing your soul-elevating speech I am free from all delusions.
Ribhu replied, O Brahmin! I am your preceptor Ribhu. I came here to give you the knowledge of the Self by which you will be able to distinguish the real from the unreal. I take leave of you now. That which is true and which is fit to be known, I have already told you. Ever meditating on these truths may you find the whole world indwelt by the one Vasudeva! There is not even a grain of difference or duality in it.

Nidagha paid his due respects, worshipped his Guru and lived happily in the true spirit of the teachings of his Guru.

II
After a long number of years had rolled on, Maharshi Ribhu, in order to instruct Nidagha in the knowledge of Self, again went to Viranagar City. When he reached the city he saw that the king of the country had entered the city with a big crowd of followers. He found big crowds of men in every nook and corner of the town busily engaged in the reception of the king. Ribhu noticed Nidagha standing in a secluded place far away from the crowds with Kusa and Samidha in his hands. Nidagha was much afflicted by hunger and thirst but he could not proceed further towards his house due to the huge crowd of men obstructing his way.
Ribhu went near Nidagha and questioned him thus: Dear Brahmin! Why are you standing here alone in quite a solitary corner? Nidagha replied, Today the king of this country has come here and there is much crowd waiting upon him and I cannot push my way through the crowd. Hence I am forced to wait here.

Ribhu said, You seem to know all about this place. Please tell me who is the king and who are the others. Nidagha said, He who is seated on the huge elephant which resembles a big mountain, is the king, and the others are his courtiers who have accompanied him.
Ribhu said, Revered sir, you have described both the elephant and the king jointly and of the two I am at a loss to know who is the king and which is the elephant. You did not definitely point out or give me the description of both distinctly. That I would like to know from you. Nidagha said, Of these that which is below is the elephant and one who sits over it is the king. They have the connection of the carrier and the carried. I do not think that there is anyone who cannot understand even this.

Ribhu said, Yes, I understood that. But please tell me what the words ‘below’ and ‘above’ mean. How am I to understand which is up and which is down?

Nidagha at once got upon the shoulders of Ribhu and exclaimed, Look here, O Brahmin, hearken to me. I shall reply your query. Now I stand ‘up’ like the king and you stand ‘down’ like the elephant. This illustration I have given you practically to make you thoroughly understand what is ‘up’ and what is ‘down’.

Ribhu said, What is ‘up’ and ‘down’? They are relative terms. ‘Up’ becomes ‘down’ and ‘down’ becomes ‘up’ from different positions or angles of vision. You told me now that you were standing up like the king and that I was standing down like the elephant. Please tell me ‘who are you? who am I?’ I am very eager to know the truth of this. Hearing these words Nidagha prostrated at Ribhu’s feet and said, O Lord! You are none other than Rishi Ribhu, my beloved preceptor. No one else can speak like this. You are very intelligent. You who stand in front of me are no other than Maharshi Ribhu. Pray bless me.
Then Ribhu said, O Nidagha! Once you served me with great faith and devotion and welcomed me in your house. You bestowed on me great honour. So bound by the cords of your affection I, known as Ribhu, have come to you once again to instruct you in the knowledge of the Self. O thou of high intellect! Always behold the one reality of the Self in all objects of the world. May you see oneness everywhere and not duality. Saying thus Ribhu departed.

Nidagha contemplated over the nectar-like words of his Guru and attained union with the Para Brahman. He was never again deluded by the charms of Maya. The world of duality entirely vanished and he saw the one homogeneous essence in every object from a blade of grass to the state of the Brahman.

 

 

 

 


The Silent Look

Ramana-classicThe grace of the Guru works in different ways. In scriptures, the working of grace is compared to the ways in which fish, tortoises and birds cause their eggs to hatch. The ancients believed that the mere look of the fish was sufficient to bring life to its eggs. The tortoise, they believed, stayed at some distance from its eggs and by the power of its presence and by its intense concentration on them, caused its eggs to hatch. The third category, the birds, need to have physical contact with their eggs. Sitting on them, they incubate them by the warmth of their body. In this analogy, it is the fish which is the most powerful. By their mere look, their eggs hatch.

This is how Sri Bhagavan’s grace worked. He did not need to initiate or transmit grace by touching devotees, nor did he even seem to need to concentrate on them. A single look was often enough to transform whomever his gaze fell upon. All those who have experienced that look of grace can testify to the tremendous impact it had on them. That silent look transmitted his highest teaching.

A devotee once complained that Sri Bhagavan gave the highest teachings to everyone, irrespective of their limitations. That particular devotee thought that beginners should be given preliminary exercises, along the lines prescribed by traditional gurus. He even offered to teach these people himself and initiate them!

It is a measure of Sri Bhagavan’s greatness that he said that he was not interested in handing out half-truths and lesser teachings. What mattered to him was the dissemination of the purest truth, and for that we shall be eternally grateful.

– from Kunjuswami’s remniscences with Bhagavan as retold in The Power of the Presence


The Karthigai Maha Deepam

aru-deepam2The culmination of the glorious festival of Karthigai Deepam took place on Friday 5th December. On this day the sacred flame or the holy beacon is lit on the summit of  Arunachala hill. The prelude to the Lighting of the Great Flame started inside the big temple at 2 o clock in the morning. At this time, a Yagna or sacred fire Homa is kindled in the Mahamantapam while the Abhishekam to Lord Arunachaleswara is performed in the inner sanctum.

After the puja, Arathi is done by the priests by lighting a huge chunk of camphor on a golden plate and waving it around the Lord. The temple bells start clanging and the musicians beat on their drums. Amidst all these sounds, the temple walls resound with loud cries of devotion. The Arathi is brought outside and shown to the five lamps lit on earthen plates for which the Yagna has been going on. This is Bharani Deepam, the prelude to Karthigai Deepam. Its significance is that the universal Lord manifests as the five elements during the day and in the evening He again becomes the One Absolute Being and shines as Tejolinga when the Deepam is lit on the Hill. (Bharani is one of the 27 stellar constellations through which the moon is believed to pass through successively each day and according to the hindu almanac, Bharani precedes Krithika which is the constellation of Karthigai Deepam).

The earthenware lamps of Bharani Deepam are taken in procession around the temple. A fire torch is lit from the fire of these lamps and taken to the Hill top. Here on the summit there is a huge copper cauldron filled with ghee (poured in by devotees) and a wick made from many metres of cotton cloth rubbed with camphor after being steeped in the ghee. Millions of people have already arrived since morning and start walking giripradakshina around the Hill. The roads are packed with an ocean of people still increasing as the day goes by.

Around sunset, at 6 p.m. to be exact, the deity of Lord Ardhanaareeswara is brought out ceremoniously andDeepam 2014 installed in the DeepaMantapam in the big temple, facing the Hill. After Arathi is shown to the Lord, a thundering blast of fire crackers gives the signal to the men on the summit of the Hill to light the Flame. It is a Full Moon night and as the sun sets in the western sky and the beautiful full moon rises in the east, the flames of the Maha Karthigai Deepam spring forth into the sky on top of Arunachala, creating a wave of ecstatic devotion among the people. A tremendous roar of “Annaamalaiyurukku Haro Haraa” is heard from all directions. The Deepam burns brightly and fills our hearts with the powerful and vibrant presence of the Lord. Everyone stands awe-stricken in front of this splendid sight and thousands fall down on their hands and knees doing Pranaam to the Great Lord. And thus the great festival of Deepam is completed.

However, True Completion happens when it is not only outside with the Lighting of the Flame on the Hill but also inside when the Flame of Jnana is lit correspondingly in the Heart of each being.


The Origin of Karthigai Deepam

 The festival of Karthigai Deepam which is approaching soon is the one of the oldest living festivals in India. It takes place in theArunachala_Deepam-58 Tamil month of Karthigai when the star Kirthiga is on the ascendant and usually occurs on a full moon day. In ancient tamil literature, the oldest available work Tolkappiyam which dates back to 2500 B.C. carries a marked reference to this festival. In another ancient Tamil classic, the Kalavazhi Naarpadu, dating back to the third Sangam period (around 1000 B.C.), the poet writes, “In the battle, the blood oozing out from the dead soldiers’ bodies is like the red coloured flame of the light lit on Karthigai Deepam”. Another song in Sambandar’s Thevaram says that the Lord is verily the Deepam (lit during the Karthigai festival)

Everyone knows that Karthigam Deepam is the lighting of the flame on the summit of Arunachala on Karthigai day but not many people know about why this festival is celebrated. Readers may remember the legend of the Navaratri festival in earlier posts about how Goddess Parvathi having incurred the wrath of her husband, LordArunachala_Deepam-40 Shiva, came to the holy hill of Arunachala to do Tapas and regain the favour of her Lord. And so, after a long period of arduous Tapas which the Goddess Parvathi performed with great devotion and strength, Lord Shiva’s wrath was appeased and He came down to Arunachala to take her back. When He arrived, Lord Shiva was so moved by the strength and force which emanated from the Goddess as a result of her Tapas that he decided that She was his equal in every way. Therefore he granted her half his body so that the Two would become totally united in One form. This was the birth of Ardhanareeswara. Physically It signifies the Divine Union of Shiva and Parvathi. Spiritually it signifies the divine union of Advaita. Not two but One. Shiva and Parvathi are not two but One. Man and God are not different but united as One in the non-dual Self, the Absolute Consciousness!

Arunachala_Deepam-60This momentous event is believed to have happened in the month of Karthigai on the day of Kirthiga Nakshatra and that is why till today the flame is lit on the summit of Arunachala in memory and honour of this wonderful Union which unite Man and God.

When Sri Muruganar asked Bhagavan Ramana about the significance of the Karthigai Deepam festival, Bhagavan composed a stanza of four lines in which He says,The true significance of the Karthigai Deepam festival is to turn the intellect inwards and have it fixed in the Heart, thereby merging it with the indweller of the Heart


Navaratri

navaratri1The grand festival of Navarathri is in full swing in the Ashram of Ramana. Traditionally this is a time of worshipping the Goddess Parvathi in all her different forms notably Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi.

As the name denotes, Navaratri is a festival of nine nights dedicated to the Goddess Shakthi (Parvathi or Amba) in her different manifestations. The legend of Navarathri starts with the penance of the Goddess on the slopes of Arunachala. Separated from her Lord (due to having playfully closed his eyes with her hands), the Goddess yearns to be reunited with Him. The great sage Guatama advises her to perform penance on the slopes of the holy Hill Arunachala and accordingly she comes here and sits in Tapas (penance). She follows the various scriptural injunctions and exhibits her devotion to the Lord in various ways. During the nine days of penance she manifests herself each day in one of her different forms. On the tenth day she assumes a terrifying form of Mahishasura Mardhini, slayer of demons and vanquishes the evil demon Mahisha on the slopes of Arunachala. Thus this festival is of particular significance in Tiruvannamalai since it was here, millions of years ago, that the first Navarathri actually happened.

In Ramanashram, the Navaratri festival is celebrated elaborately. On the night of Mahavalya Amavasya, the goddess Yogambikanvt7 is brought out of her niche in the Mother’s shrine and taken on procession around the Samadhi of Ramana. After this, she is installed in a beautiful decorated pedestal behind the Nandi of the Mother’s shrine. Every night for nine days, the goddess is decorated splendidly in silk attire, gold jewels and flowers, depicting each day a different aspect. After the Alamkaram, arathi puja is performed by the priests in an elaborate manner. Hundreds of devotees from all over throng the new hall every evening to witness this spectacle.

nvt9It will be interesting to see what Bhagavan Sri Ramana had to say about this celebration. In Letters from Ramanasramam, Suri Nagamma recounts to her brother in a letter dated 27th January 1946. “You have seen the decorations made in the shrine of Mathrabhutheswara on the Ramana-classicfirst day of Navarathri festival last year. There was a different type of decoration every day in accordance with the puranic story that Amba went out to do Tapas as she could not bear the separation from the Shiva. So the idol of Amba was decorated suitably and was put in the shade of a tree. After the night meal was over that day, Bhagavan was taken to that place and was shown that idol. Next morning in the hall, while talking about the ornamentation in the temple and in this shrine, Bhagavan said, “Yesterday’s ornamentation was intended to show that Amba was doing Tapas. Unable to bear the separation, she goes out to do Tapas (penance) here. But Parvathi is depicted as sitting in a stylish pose under a tree to do Tapas, wearing a silk sari, gold jewels and flower garlands! What our people do is always like this. Tapas means meditation connected with the practice of self-denial or bodily mortification, does it not? Amba is reported to have closed the eyes of Shiva with both her hands for fun and to expiate that sin, Parameswara asked her to perform penance, and so she left her husband, went to a lonely place, and in self-mortification, forgot about her body, became weak and with great austerity, performed Tapas. But see the way Amba is now decorated to depict that story. She is dressed like a Maharani with diamonds and emeralds and gold ornaments and wearing a silk sari and flower garlands!”


God is beyond words

Ramana_Maharshi-18
God is beyond words. No words would ever be able to describe Him. He can only be felt. How? The test is simple. One would feel total peace an indescribable peace, by being with Him. In His presence, no questions, doubts and thoughts would distract one’s mind. Further, the peace secured is beyond words and makes one fulfilled and consumed. In that situation one feels kritkritya, there being no need for any thing more to be achieved in life. Here are a few statements about the Godhood of Sri Ramana, made by those who had the good fortune of being in His presence, according to their capacity to find words to record their experiences:
Paul Brunton: The Maharshi emanates the perfume of spiritual peace as the flower emanates fragrance from its petals The peace overwhelms me. I know that there is nothing further that I shall ask from life ¦In the extraordinary peace, I find a sense of exaltation and lightness. Time seems to stand still. My heart is released from the burden of care.
Justice Sundaram Chettiar: His very presence generates an atmosphere of peace.
Grant Duff: The moment he looked at me, I felt he was the Truth and the Light. I was in direct contact with one who has passed beyond the boundaries of senses and was merged in the Absolute.
Justice Chandrasekhar Aiyar: The Maharshi was the veritable storehouse of spiritual energy. He radiates shanti or peace. To be in his presence is by itself a stirring experience in the elevation of the soul.
Eleanor Pauline Noye: When He smiled it was as though the gets of Heaven were thrown open ¦At His feet happiness garlanded me.
Ella Maillart: He implants a lasting peace in the centre of every heart He is a link between the unknowable ultimate and man.
Duncan Greenlees: My mind was caught and held in that peace in a blissfulness it had never known before. He is greatness incarnate.
Balarama Reddy: Just to think of him or sit in his presence used to rouse us to higher levels of blessedness The Divine power of his presence was something remarkable, entirely outstanding.
S.S. Cohen: Joy and peace suffused my being. Never before had I such a delightful feeling of purity Ramana_Maharshi-19and well-being at the mere proximity of a man. He was a beacon light in an impenetrable darkness.
K.K.Nambiar: I felt an indescribable sense of calmness settling over me He was a mighty spiritual magnet, Divinity in human form.
Arthur Osborne: The Maharshi was Divine Grace in human form. For the first time in my life I understood what the grace and blessings of a guru could mean.
Prof. G.V. Subbaramayya: As our eyes met, there was a miraculous effect on my mind and I felt as if I had plunged into a pool of peace. I sat in a state of ecstasy for nearly an hour.
Major Chadwick: It is impossible to describe or even believe what the Maharshi was, unless you have seen it yourself.
Prof. K. Swaminathan: The pure happiness I enjoyed was that of a child when it sits securely in its mother’s lap.
Akilandamma: The gracious power that prevailed in that holy place numbed the mind so effectively that the visitors to Bhagavan’s room were automatically silenced.
Swami Madhavatirtha: While in the presence of the Maharshi, my breath seemed to stop for a while and my mind was elevated into some spiritual realm of unutterable peace and happiness.
Kunju Swami: As Bhagavan’s gracious look was fixed on me, all my confusions ceased and I experienced a peace and bliss, I had never experienced before.
Chhaganlal V. Yogi: The light of the Maharshi’s eyes was suffusing my consciousness. Even without being aware of it, his silent gaze brought about a subtle but definite transformation in me.
Viswanatha Swami: In the Maharshi’s presence the unique bliss of peace was directly experienced.
Walter Keers: The light radiating from the Maharshi filled my being, sweeping away all my darkness in one stroke. His presence alone was enough to evaporate the usual mental flow of thoughts, ideas and problems.
Mouni Sadhu: Being near the Maharshi one feels the presence of God as a matter of course, no arguments or proofs are necessary.
Pascaline Mallet: To look into his eyes was to be caught up into bliss that is beyond understanding.
M.A. Piggot: When he smiled I felt as if all the flowers in the world had poured their fragrance into our midst.
Ramanadasa Sadananda: Contagious was his bliss! He sends forth beams of light of jnana by his mere proximity and fills even the unhappy with joy and peace by his very presence.
F.H. Humphreys: The Maharshi’s body was not of man; it was an instrument of God from which God was radiating terrifically.
Dr. P.V. Karamchandani: The vibrations which emanated from the Maharshi were heavenly. His spirituality completely enveloped us and our minds attained a state of blissful meditation.
V.Kameshwar Rao: When I sat before the Maharshi, I felt that I was in the presence of God.
T.K.Sundaresa Iyer: A life-giving current flowed from the Maharshi, charging all those nearby.
N.O.Mehta: In the presence of the Maharshi, we were in a world totally different from the one we had left behind.
Santha Rangachary: There was an irresistible and indefinable spiritual power about the Maharshi, which completely overwhelmed me.
Srimat Puragara Parampanthi: The Maharshi’s spiritual presence was dynamic and clearly perceptible. It touched me and I felt suddenly the presence of a spiritual power taking me to a higher plane.
RONA019PN. Ponniah: Nothing seemed more enjoyable in this world than to sit in silence in the holy presence of the Maharshi. I felt a sort of electric charge an unusual vibrating sensation.
Morarji Desai: One gets transformed by his very presence.
T.S. Anantha Murthy: Sri Ramana was Brahman in human form. Spiritual illumination was enshrined in him.
Suzanne Alexandra: The Maharshi is a king of yogis. The splendour of his Realisation radiates like a sun. He lifts you far above the world.
K. Vithoba Kamath: The Maharshi radiated spiritual splendour through sublime silence.
Atmakuri Govindacharyulu: The Maharshi is an ocean of peace. He rules all through silence.
Shanti: In the Maharshi’s presence, the mind becomes calm and tranquil of its own accord. Doubts and questions become few and finally vanished.
Words would fail to grasp the greatness of Sri Ramana the Supreme incarnate in human form, who always kept an appearance of a humble and run-of-the-mill person. Grant Duff, a British scholar, noted in 1935: “Never in world history was the Supreme Truth placed within such easy reach of so vast a multitude. We bow to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.”
Source: Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, a publication of Sri Ramana Kendram, Hyderabad)

 


Maha Rudra Yagnam in Ramanashram

maharud7The word “Yajna” (Sanskrit root “yaj”) means ‘an act of pious and devotional worship’. It entails the performance of a Vedic rite with absolute devotion to the ParamAtman (Supreme Being). The Vedic Hindu tradition prescribes that ishtapoorta, which implies praying for the welfare of all through the conduct of yajnas as the highest of services. The Mahanarayana Upanishad categorizes eleven items in the discussion of moksha sadhana (the path of liberation) and speaks highly of yajnam (sacrifice) in this regard:

yajna itiyajno hi devAnAm yajnena hi devA divam gata …. yajnena dvishanto mitrA bhavanti yajne sarvam pratishThitam tasmat yajnam paramam vadanti

(Sacrifice is the means of liberation; sacrifice is indeed dear to devas. The devas attained heaven by sacrifices; by sacrifice even the unfriendly become friendly; everything is supported by sacrifice and so they say that it is the supreme means of liberation.)

The Sri Rudram hymn is an invocation to Lord Shiva. It consists of two parts, namely the Namakam and the Chamakam.maharud8 The Namakam sings the glory of Lord Shiva and the Chamakam consists of prayers to the Lord asking Him to grant the devotee material and spiritual grace.. maharud10Now each of the Namakam and Chamakam consists of eleven chapters called as ‘Anuvakams’.

– Routine chanting of Sri Rudram is called ‘Roopam’ and consists of chanting the Namakam once and the Chamakam once.

– Eleven recitations of Namakam followed by one recitation of Chamakam are called ‘Ekadasa Rudram’.

– Eleven rounds of Ekadasa Rudram chanting constitute a ‘Laghu Rudram’.

– Eleven rounds of Laghu Rudram chanting constitute a ‘Maha Rudram’.

– Eleven rounds of Maha Rudram chanting constitute an ‘Athi Rudram’.

If eleven Ritviks chant the Ekadasa Rudram simultaneously, that would result in completing a Laghu Rudram. If 121 Ritviksmaharud9 chant the Ekadasa Rudram simultaneously that would result in completing a Maha Rudram. Typically, a Maha Rudram is completed in one day resulting in the chanting of the Rudram 1331 (121×11) times.

Recently, devotees were enthralled by an awesome Maha Rudra yagnam that was conducted in the Ramanashram. It went on for three days. On the final day, the culminating yagnam was performed in the new hall of the ashram with sacred energy and vedic excellence. The fires of the havan leaped upwards and seemed to dance with delight as the Rudram was chanted with great fervour by the venerable Agnihotras and the other brahmin priests assembled around. As is the tradition, the consecrated waters were then carried to the shrines of Ramana and the Mother and Abhishekam was performed over the deities. With such an auspicious beginning, we can look forward to a clement summer this year…

 


Girivalam shrines: Ashtalingams – Indra lingam (East)

indraThe anthropomorphic god Indra is an important god in the Hindu religion. He is also known as Śakra in the Vedas and is revered as the leader of the Devas or gods and the King of paradise or Devaloka. For the Aryas, he was their national god and he was regarded as the protector of the military aristocracy and the Kshatriyas warriors. The formidable thunderbolt-wielding Indra strikes an imposing figure but as king of the gods he is generally benevolent, being generous to his worshippers, guaranteeing peace and prosperity and delivering beneficial rainstorms to end droughts. He can also be called upon in times of war to give support with his divine weapons and favourable intervention. In later tradition Indra is transformed from a worshipped god into a mythological figure involved in various,indra2 sometimes unflattering adventures, whilst gods such as Vishnu and Shiva replace him at the head of the Hindu pantheon. Nevertheless, Indra continued to be associated with storms, rain and he is notably the reigning deity of the cardinal direction East.

God of Thunder & Storms: In the Hindu creation myth Indra was born (along with his brother Agni) from the mouth of the primordial god or giant Purusha whose various other body parts gave birth to the other members of the Hindu pantheon. These new gods then brought order to the cosmos and Indra, seated on his throne within the indra5storm clouds of the svarga or third heaven is ruler of the clouds and skies alongside his wife Indrāni. In Hindu mythology, the clouds are equated with divine cattle and the sound of thunder during storms is Indra fighting with the demons who are forever trying to steal these celestial cows. In addition, the rain is equated with Indra milking his divine herd and the god is seen as a protector of earthly cattle belonging to his worshippers. Indra encompasses and controls the universe,indra7 balancing the earth in the palm of his hand and manipulating it according to his whim. He also created the rivers and streams by shaping the mountains and valleys with his sacred axe.

Indra has a favourite companion, his pet ape Vrishakapi, but his fondness for the creature did once incur the jealous wrath of Indrāni who then displayed amorous intentions towards Vrishakapi which were reciprocated and when the couple were discovered by Indra, the angry god drove the animal away. However, the tables were turned when, later, Indra himself was discovered in the arms of Vrishakapi’s wife by his once faithful pet. Thus being equal in their unfaithfulness, the pair’s great friendship was restored.

Here on Arunachala Girivalam, the Indra lingam shrine is located at the centre of Tiruvannamalai town in the main market area. Esconced between two jewellery shops, it is hardly visible from the main road. A little passage leads to the antechamber of the shrine from where one descends a small flight of stairs to the inner sanctum built on an underground level. And thus one is rewarded at last with a darshan of the eastern Ashta lingam, the lingam of Indra!


Arunachala Akshara Manamaalai – the Marital Garland of Letters

 
Of flowers many, flowers rare
Are garlands woven, garlands fair
But these, Thy holy ones declare
Delight not Thee
Delight Thee more garlands strung
Of Syllables of Praises sung
By those who sing with heart and tongue of piety
Self Knowers they so can sing

                                          –  Thaayumanavar (Tamil Saivaite Saint)

“Arunachala Shiva Arunachala Shiva, Thou dost uproot and annihilate the ego of those who meditate on09aruna 11 Thee in their hearts, O Arunachala” so begins the classic Arunachala Akshara Manamaalai hymn composed by Bhagavan Ramana in 1914 and sung almost every day by Him and devotees from then onwards right upto the last moments of his earthly manifestation. These sublime 108 verses brilliantlly combine the strengths of Jnana (knowledge) and Bhakthi (devotion) and thus appeal universally to every spiritual seeker and devotee of the Eternal Absolute Truth, call it God, call it the Self..

For what is Arunachala but the Heart of every being! The garland that weds us to the Akshara (the indestructible)is called Akshara manamaalai. There is a subtle word play on the word akshara as it means both letters and the indestructible.

Sri Muruganar composed a prelude to this hymn which says, “Getting rid of the mind that mistakes this perishable, insentient body as ‘I’ and turning it inwards to merge firmly in the Heart, realize the effulgence within as the Truth of non-dual pure awareness. This is the truth of Arunachala, the Heart-centre of the universe”.

Here is the story of how the Akshara Manamaalai came to be composed:

RONA019P“During the early years of Sri Bhagavan’s abode at Virupaksha, Palaniswami and others used to go into town to beg food for the small group of devotees, and oneakshara2 day they asked Sri Bhagavan for a devotional song to sing as they went. He replied that there were plenty of devotional songs composed by the Saints, many of them neglected, so there was no need to compose a new one. However, they continued to urge him and some days later he set out on Pradakshina round the Hill, taking a pencil and paper with him, and, on the way, composed the hundred and eight verses. Tears of ecstasy streamed down his face as he wrote, sometimes blinding his eyes and choking his voice. This hymn then became the great devotional inspiration of the devotees. The pain of separation and the bliss of union are mirrored in its glowing symbolism. It is composed inakshara3 Shringara Bhava (in the mood of a bride writing to her groom). The perfection of Knowledge is combined with the ecstasy of devotion. And yet this most heartfelt of poems was composed from the standpoint of the devotee, of one who is still seeking. It is also an acrostic, its hundred and eight verses beginning with the successive letters of the Tamil alphabet. Nevertheless, no poem could be more authentic. Some devotees asked Sri Bhagavan the interpretation of some of the verses and he replied: “You think it out and I will too. I didn’t think while I was composing it; I just wrote as it came.”

aksharaThe centenary day of the Arunachala Aksharamana malai was celebrated in Ramanashram on Monday 30th December. The Arunachala Akshara Manamaalai hymn was chanted non-stop by devotees from 6 am to 6 pm in the New hall. A very special atmosphere of devotion and spiritual fervour prevailed here during the chanting and one could feel the presence of Ramana singing with us and making us realise the Truth of Arunachala in our own hearts…