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Thursday, October 24, 2002

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  • Jerry Katz
    Issue #1237 - Thursday, October 24, 2002 - Edited by Jerry MARK MCCLOSKEY ARUNACHALA 2002 (continued from issue #1236) [Image] Under the Ashram entrance sign
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 26, 2002
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      Issue #1237 - Thursday, October 24, 2002 - Edited by Jerry


      ARUNACHALA 2002
      (continued from issue #1236)

      Under the Ashram entrance sign

      After checking in to my meager accommodations which
      included a straw filled mattress in a small 6 by 10 foot
      room I immediately went outside to "do the tour." I saw
      Ramana's tomb, his mother's tomb, the temples, and the
      various rooms where he loved, lived and taught. What was
      especially nice to see was the shrine built over the
      tomb of the cow Lakshmi, who supposedly received
      self-realization in the presence of the Maharshi. For
      the next two days I attended some of the rituals and
      meals and basically watched the people coming and going.
      There were many older Indians, who looked like
      sannyasins or sadhus, wearing ashes on their foreheads
      and making ritualistic offerings in the temple. There
      were equally a large number of westerners, many clothed
      in traditional Indian garb as in white kurta pajamas.
      They were performing prostrations before Ramana's shrine
      and circumambulating his Samadhi or tomb. They looked
      out of place here. I do not know how many were graced
      with self-realization or if they even knew what 'it"
      was. I hope that they were not there fleeing their
      lives, which is seen today in greater numbers: people
      unhappy with their present circumstances and traveling
      the earth to find something of value. It reminded me of
      so many who leave their positions, families and
      circumstance here in the west to "find inner peace" by
      traveling far away to places like India, etc. and
      donning robes, shaving their heads and all the rest of
      it. Ramana spoke about this and advised us that there is
      "no where to go to find the Self" and that people doing
      their daily jobs, living their simple lives could find
      Self-Realization. I suddenly felt very alone. Here I had
      merely come to visit the place where this man of wisdom
      had lived his life. I wanted to see the background where
      the tremendous liberating teaching "Who am I" had been
      formulated. But instead I found something disturbing.
      Here, people were seemingly treating Ramana as someone
      to be revered or bowed to. It appeared to me that the
      experiential teaching took second place to the
      worshipping and honoring of the teacher. Please do not
      get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with worship and
      honor. But when these become the priority, the treasures
      of the truth become hidden.

      Inside the Temple

      It is in this that a great sense of duality revealed
      itself. Ramana had NEVER wanted to be worshipped like a
      god and merely allowed people to offer respect to him
      because he felt kindness for them and their ritualistic
      ways. The essence of his non-dual teaching is that there
      are NO differences between us, that one should not be
      above another. He equally embraced rich and poor, did
      not distinguish caste and even treated animals as
      equals. The One Self which is the only reality is not
      more abundant in one particular human over another.
      Rather, the Self is all in all, equally and lovingly
      manifested. Ultimately I was seeing the tragic mistake
      we humans have made from time immemorial: making gods of
      those few enlightened ones who have revealed the Truth
      to us, and instead of following their teachings, their
      messages of simplicity, we worship them, idolize them,
      divinize them and even try to become them. In other
      words, we may have missed the mark entirely. Instead of
      dropping all conceptual comparisons, we have divided
      reality into those labeled "Divine" and all the rest of
      us. We have often put others on great pedestals above
      us, instead of simply realizing that we and they are
      exactly the same, that there exists no division between
      us at all. The greatest realization is that there is no
      division between us and the Divine itself. Very simply
      put: we are that which we seek.

      I passed that night in meditation and silence. Actually
      it was all I could do as I had no light and the power
      had gone out and it was much too hot to sleep with no
      ventilation and a powerless ceiling fan. There was a lot
      of noise as well in this Ashram, from the cries of
      peacocks, monkeys and birds, to the constant drone of
      traffic on the highway nearby and the incessant horn
      beeping of trucks passing by. Some locals had even
      decided to have a cheering and clapping celebration
      about something at 3:00 AM. I perceived it all as a sly
      test offered by Ramana - sort of a challenge to me to
      stay fixed in the self, in the interior silence, even
      while all was noisily moving about me. That was a great
      teaching in itself. Grace always follows and appears in
      the most inauspicious situations.

      The next and final day, my associate and I decided to
      walk the path up Arunachala itself. To do this I was
      told I would have to discard the Timberlands and walk
      barefooted up the holy mountain. Not too quick to be
      defeated I took up the task for I really wanted to see
      where Ramana lived in the caves and rocky crags of the
      beautiful hill. It was a great movement in reflexology
      and as I crossed the stones one by one, I soon made my
      way to Skandasram cave, the unbelievably small
      accommodation where Ramana stayed for so many years of
      his life. Inside it was dark, musty and unbearably hot
      with little moving air. How firmly fixed in his own
      stillness he must had been to have been living here at
      all. How absolutely spoiled we are as Westerners, given
      all the comforts we have in daily life. Another great
      lesson unfolded.

      The rocky path up the mountain

      As we walked down the hill to the other side, we
      approached what I considered the supreme teaching of the
      entire trip. We walked through a small area of absolute
      poverty and destitution. There, in sight of both
      Arunachala and the very home of Ramana Maharshi, people
      lived in squalor, in huts smaller than Ramana's cave,
      with no electric, no running water, no sanitary
      facilities and very little food, clothes or provisions.
      And as I walked by and gave them each a few rupees their
      eyes shone with a remarkable brightness which did not
      dim, which filled me with a gentle remnant, a lingering
      morsel which has since remained in my soul. Their smiles
      filled the air with a silent compassion the likes of
      which I have only experience in the depths of
      meditation. There was an especially happy woman, about
      60 years old, who was sitting in a pile of mud and cow
      dung and she was mixing the two elements to be used, I
      was told, as a fuel to burn lamps at night. She bowed
      her head, smiled and mouthed Namaste (I bow to the
      Divine Self in you) as we passed by. She and all these
      people were the Self. And in their poverty, and in their
      littleness, they shone more brightly that all the
      rituals and teachings and philosophies and traditions,
      more that all the temples of the earth. Their eyes spoke
      so keenly to this person about the true meaning of
      non-duality, which Ramana knew and taught so well. You
      see my friend these blessed ones are you and I this
      moment: needing nothing, wanting nothing, having
      nothing, and taking nothing. The Self, which is silence
      within is already free, already enlightened, already
      shining, already healed and rich beyond any measure. In
      the realization of that, there exists no separation
      between us and it, or them and us. We are all one in
      that glory. And one does not need to climb a mountain,
      or fly across an ocean or prostate to the ground or
      perform any ritual or offer any prayer. You do not need
      to leave your job, or your spouse or your home to find
      this. That which you are IS this moment and in that
      there is only love: gentle, abundant and forgiving. The
      stillness of Arunachala is the same inside you and me.
      All we need to learn is simply to abide there. The rest
      is all joy.

      Arunachala Mountain as seen from the Ashram

      Ramana's message to us then and now is the same. Relax
      into the ever present Self, which is the pure silence
      within you, where there is no "I", no thought, no
      concept, no past and no future. There is just this
      moment. In that we are one. Even Arunachala will someday
      disappear, no matter its seeming might. The essence of
      you, which has always been here and will always be, is
      the eternal witness of all this: and is silent, enduring
      and free. Arunachala is so small by comparison.

      Mark McCloskey

      October 2002


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