I entered the hall with our group, filming to capture the moment. Then, I turned towards the statue of Sri Ramana Maharshi and my world flipped upside-down: the power and presence of Maharshi reached in and took hold. I directly experienced Bhagavan and crumbled to my knees crying.
Quiet #1: Spirit
Years ago, I’d read a few books containing Ramana’s teachings, but I never imagined visiting Sri Ramanashram. It seemed to me that it was a place reserved solely for highly committed devotees. Yet, there I was, unmistakably overwhelmed in my heart and not understanding why. Over the following two weeks, I realised that a deep peace rose within each time I visited the ashram. It grew stronger when I sat quietly. Perhaps I was receiving ‘upadesa’ (spiritual instruction) by sitting silently in the company of his energy. This peace is at the root of feeling moved because it’s like being seen and accepted in the deepest recesses of who I am.
Quiet #2: Body
Ramana travelled to Tiruvannamalai after realising the possibility of ‘Divine Union’ whereby there’s “a state of blissful consciousness transcending both the physical and mental plane and yet compatible with full use of the physical and mental faculties.” The source of this realisation was Arunachala, the sacred mountain. There are numerous stories and documents, dating back thousands of years, describing how people have been attracted to the mountain. I hadn’t yet consciously felt the energy of Arunachala Mountain before walking up the hill early one morning with the retreat group. Our destination was the Virupaksha Cave where Ramana lived from 1899-1916.
In the Virupaksha Cave, as I sat down to meditate, my body quickly settled in. I experienced extreme physical quietness and an unhurried mind. I just kept sitting and observing, I had no good reason to move. Excuses to get up (and move on to the next activity) that might normally be taken as reasonable were as intangible as incense smoke. I felt like the mountain was teaching me how to be. It felt like a cosmic gravity was pulling on each of my cells, on the intra- and intercellular fluids. Arunachala’s lesson became more engrained with each visit to the mountain. Since leaving India the pull continues to grow; it now draws at the very threads of thoughts as if they are clumps of hair clogging pipes. This isn’t to say that I cannot think anymore, in fact, it’s the opposite; background noise is being diminished thereby quietening my entire system, relieving unnecessary babble and cacophony.
Quiet #3: Mind
In 1896, a few weeks after Ramana arrived at the temple of Arunachaleswara in Tiruvannamali, Bhagavan crawled into the Patala-lingam vault in order to remain undisturbed by teenagers poking fun at him. He became absorbed in deep samādhi, unaware of his body. As I walked around the temple that protects this underground space I felt immense reverence and a quiet that was somehow different from what I’d experienced in the Viupaksha Cave or at Sri Ramanashram. I descended the short flight of stairs to sit at the edge of the vault. Suddenly, my mind was dead quiet. In the cave on Arunachala thoughts were still present, although slow and terminable. As I looked into the small dug-out that contains the lingam (an aniconic representation of deity) there were no thoughts—none, not even crickets. It was as if my mind had been temporarily switched off, while the body was left relatively unfazed. Only after walking out of the temple area could I recognise and describe that thoughts had rebounded as they neared my mind as if they were bouncing off the atmosphere of a planet.
These three experiences of quiet were, and continue to be, quite enjoyable. But they are relatively meaningless in and of themselves. They only become important through continued development and self-enquiry. Fortunately, I have my teacher, Govind, to thank for instructing me in the process of grounding. In short, Govind demonstrated to our group, through lesson and example, how to be at ‘home’ in this unique design of body, mind, and spirit, instead of capriciously homeless and inconsonant.
Through simple practices, I’m learning to move in life while allowing Ramana and Arunachala to work their magic, “drawing the soul to turn inwards and face Self, the one reality”.
❝ I have seen a wonder, a magnetic hill that forcibly attracts the soul. Arresting the activities of the soul who thinks of it even once, drawing it to face itself, the One, making it thus motionless like itself, it feeds upon that sweet [pure and ripened] soul. What a wonder is this! O souls, be saved by thinking of this great Arunagiri, which shines in the mind as the destroyer of the soul [the ego].❞
~Sri Bhagavan, in the 10th verse of ‘Sri Arunachala Patikam’
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