16 Feb Ramana Maharshi Ashram
“As the moon derives its light from the sun, so other holy places shall derive their sanctity from Arunachala. This is the only place where I [Shiva] have taken this form for the benefit of those who wish to worship me and obtain illumination. Arunachala is OM itself.” ~ Purunas
I have been staying for the last week nearby the Ramana Maharshi Ashram situated at the foot of the rolling Arunachala Hills in Thiruvannamalai, South India. Nature has blessed this land with overflowing energy and grace, which prompted Sri Ramana Maharshi to found this ashram or spiritual hermitage here.
Every day I go to the ashram‘s main hall, Sri Maharshi’s Samadhi and to the Matrubhuteswara Temple to receive darshan “blessings” or simply sit quietly. I also spend time meditating in the old hall where Ramana Maharshi used to give satsang. Otherwise I walk up Arunachala hills and meditate in the caves where Ramana Marharshi meditated himself. There are two caves: Virupaksha cave where Sri Ramana Maharshi lived from 1899 to 1916 to and another one called Skandashram where he lived from 1916 to 1922. The powerful energy of these two sites is tangible.
Sri Ramana Maharshi was born as Venkataraman Iyer in Madurai, South India. He experienced a great spiritual awakening at the tender age of sixteen, and left his home for Arunachala to spread his vedanta or philosophy of Advaita. Here, he founded the Ramana Maharshi Ashram in 1923 and lived there for 27 years until his death in 1950.
His followers strongly believe that this wise sage did not die like a mere mortal, but has returned to his formless self instead. His soul can certainly be felt within and around the ashram where his teachings are followed by hundreds of devotees.
The stillness of the Arunachala the beloved hills of Ramana Maharshi is said to offer salvation to everyone around the world who is seeking. It is believe that the Hindu God Shiva ordained that anyone living close to these hills will be able to unite with the Supreme power. Devotees take up Giri Pradakshina on the full moon, which is the act of walking around this holy hill from 14 kilometers away in a clockwise direction. Ramana walked over every inch of the Arunachala hills during his lifetime and absorbed its overpowering energy.
Maharshi teaches us the Advaita vedanta or self-realization through rigorous self-inquiry. This in turn brings about spiritual healing. Nonduality is understood, or rather, experienced through the Advaita Vedanta; it is the awakening to inner peace when you realize after much self-inquiry that the self and the non-self are actually undivided. Here are the main teachings of Maharshi:
- In-depth self-inquiry leads to the discovery of the Infinite Existence. The quest for “Who Am I?” is the core of his teachings; it will push all other materialistic thoughts out of your mind. When there is no “I” thought, you have achieved a state of silence and the ego has been destroyed. Then there is full consciousness and realization of oneself.
- All thoughts of self arise within the heart. Heart is God and self is the guru; find the guru within yourself.
- With repeated practice of handling other non-self thoughts that keep arising, the mind goes back to its source – the heart. Keep the mind contained within the heart and do not let it stray through the brain and senses to the external world; this inwardness is the ultimate goal. This will cause the self to shine.
- Once you realize about “I,” you can be yourself wherever you go.
I only have been here a week and I still have another week to go but I deeply enjoy the energy of the Arunachala Hills and can feel a deep sense of inner peace. Ramana Maharshi’s presence has a profound impact on me; and I feel that only after I return to my regular life and activities will I be able to know how much of an impact this episode of my life will have on my spiritual journey.
In peace and light,