Shiva is the primordial awareness, and Shakti is the primordial energy. All sentient beings hold these divine principles within, and even apparent delusion or confusion is merely these aspects in play. They are ever united, and the expressions of that regardless of what one may think or conceive, are ever, always, and only that. And yet, still we move and navigate the landscape of manifest life which is both always reflective of this understanding and at the same time, always operating by laws of apparent contradiction of that simplicity. However, when seen fully, those contradictions only open up into an even greater joy of the ultimate understanding.
Parvati came to Arunachala to do sadhana. The question arises, why did Parvati who is the Devi (i.e. the divine principle) need to go and do sadhana…what was lacking? For that matter, there were episodes where Shiva also performed tapas and engaged in different sadhanas. So, in those cases we may also question, what was lacking? And if Shiva and Shakti, are always in union, why would it be sought? These questions speak directly to the lives of humans (and all sentient beings), as verily, one’s true nature is perfect and without lack, and yet we are embodied in forms and circumstances which may not always appear to conform. However, deep understanding doesn’t get hung up on apparent contradictions, nor does it stifle the need for skillful action when appropriate. With this understanding, perfection and action are in accord, even when action appears to suggest (by just the nature of acting) a lack of perfection. It is thought and ego which divides and sees exclusivity (and action based only on self reason), while the heart understands the beauty and poetry of the accord of apparent contradiction. The famous physicist Niels Bohr once said, “A great truth is a truth whose opposite is also a great truth.” Indeed, It is often the lack of true confidence in the perfect nature which presents a rather intellectual (and subtly divisive) perspective that suggests that to act or take action somehow “harms” that perfection (or suggests a lack of understanding of it).
The question maybe more in accord or obvious to the heart regarding the action of Parvati or Shiva (and those aspects in ourselves) is, “they are perfect and without lack, so why wouldn’t they act?” To both see inherent perfection, and to move within the structure which doesn’t always appear to conform to that vision, while being unmoved in it, is to conform that appearance to that vision. Moreover, it is an understanding which doesn’t leave behind, but includes, as even the great impulse that guides the heart toward living for the liberation of all sentient beings has within it both the understanding that all being are at this moment already complete and liberated, while understanding that they are suffering and bound. And it is the former view which truly allows one to act. All this is to say, that Parvati came to Arunachala to do sadhana, how wonderful…how beautiful!
Pavalakundru or the Coral Hill was the place where Gautam Rishi had his Ashram, and when Parvati came to Arunachala, this is where she stayed. It was a rainy day when we arrived at the temple, and the great hill was seen through mist clouds. It was here that Gautam Rishi narrated the greatness of Arunachala, and then after performing tapas, the devi merged with Shiva. Because of this, the temple is for the form of the divine called Ardhanarishvara, and in this form, the left half of the rupa is Shakti while the right is Shiva. We were completely alone at this temple and despite its ancient lore and power, this is a place not frequented by many people. After wandering the grounds a bit, we sat in the front of the temple. However, I felt drawn toward the back of the temple and the view of Arunachala from there. Indeed, this was the view that Parvati had of Arunachala when staying there, so to have this darshan through the eyes of the Devi was special. The shroud of mist during that day would reveal and conceal the peaks, which at the time seems to speak to the playful interaction of Shiva and Shakti and their interaction in/as our lives.
Our final action for our yatra to Arunachala was to perform abhishek, as the hill was in fact a linga. When people make offerings to a linga, they often give either water or milk to bathe it. We wanted to finish our work there with something special, so brought water from inside the main sanctum of Kamakhya. In this, we viewed the offering as not only an abhiskek, but an offering of each to the other, in the great spirit of union and merging which permeates that sacred place. It was to be an offering and merging of the Aadya Yoni and Adi Linga. For this ritual, we climbed the hill on the path behind Ramanashram, and found a big boulder on which to sit. After meditating upon those great principles, we sprinkled the hill with the holy water and sat for sometime. Once finished, we felt it as a great culmination to our visit and trip, and made it our heart prayer to live in greater integrity with what was relieved to us.
If one truly makes a pilgrimage, and there are many different ways both inner and outer to do so, then the where or what of one’s encounter are always with and incorporated into the person. This is so because pilgrimage is to deeply encounter and assimilate, and when it is like this, then the energy or understanding communicated become indistinguishable from ones own being. It is such a blessing for a person to be in the presence of Arunachala, so if one can go there and take it into our heart, then they can move in this world letting this light shine on others. Therefore, the greatest pilgrimages are not only opportunities for grace, but become responsibilities of the heart.