Monday, November 11, 2013

Arunachala Yatra (Part 2-Pradakshina)

The pradakshina of Arunachala is not contained in the explanation of “simply walking around the hill”. There are many different levels of depth and subtlety involved depending upon one’s approach. However, even in the most profound depths of that subtlety, it is still simply walking around the hill. Truth and beauty are so often simple, while effective action direct and precise, and this kriya contains both.

After our initial pradakshina, we took several days to recover and to explore some of the areas on and around Arunachala. In the city, there are temples to Durga, Kamakshi, and Kali, and we were able to spend sometime at these. The following day, we climbed up on the hill and meditated in Virupaksha cave and Skandashram, where the sage Ramana Maharshi had stayed. Being in such proximity to Arunachala and in such sanctified spaces, one can only fall into the primordial silence. The next day was a Saturday, and we wanted to spend some time at Adi Annamalai, however, upon reaching we learned that the temple would not open for sometime. So, first we went and sat at Vayu Linga for sometime. Our subtle “winds” thus empowered, we returned a bit later to sit inside the temple. The linga there was established by Brahma making this area is an extremely powerful place with rarified air that is almost tangible. Indeed, one can hear all kind of subtle sounds in that place. Upon returning from Adi Annamalai, we also sat near the Nirudhi linga, absorbing the fierce and protective energy from there.

To understand the depth of what pradakshina can be, one needs to understand the principle of accord, and accord is learned in deep openness and surrender. This means that one is not only able to give all of oneself into a certain “energetic field”, but able to see within themselves the subtle processes required to come truly “in line”. At the highest levels, it is a deconstruction and construction in a moment. To place ones life breath and each and every tattva directly “into” a power while also taking responsibility not only for what is revealed, but also for completely being it.

On Sunday, we resumed our pradakshina with better planning which included leaving in the late afternoon and avoid the mid-day heat. Each day of the week for pradakshina is a bit different in the type of energy and empowerment available. For example, it is said in the Arunachala Mahatmyam that a Sunday pradakshina helps one “penetrate the regions of the sun”. That being the case, we stopped at Surya linga along the route, which is a linga said to be established by Surya himself. (Both Surya and Chandra at one time were cursed to loose their shine, so both established lingas at Arunachala to regain their luster.) While doing all of the pradakshinas, we would stop briefly to acknowledge each of the Dikpala lingas, and on different days we would stop to linger longer at certain places. Sometimes this was intentional while other times it corresponded to our needing to rest a bit during the walk. During that Sunday pradakshina, we stopped at Kuber linga to sit sometime, then afterward visited the panchmukha darshan temple (so named because from that spot one can see the five faces/peaks of Arunachala).

It is said that to circumbulate Arunachala is to do the pradakshina of the entire universe. On a more microcosmic level (at least from the perspective of the universe), the route is also linked to the houses of the zodiac, so even the different portions of the path have a unique aspect and feel. Leaving aside all of this, in just the process and environments, one can see the pradakshina route as a life cycle or as elements of life which one may transverse. There are quiet and peaceful areas of the path (where one should remain sharp), there are areas where the view of Arunachala is completely obscured (where one should persist in knowing and having the confidence that while seemingly obscured it is still present), and there are areas in the city section where it is pure noise and chaos which seems all the more intrusive after coming from more peaceful sections of road (where one not only should not be distracted by the bustle and play, but should also not divide the sacred and mudane). Regardless of where one is on the route, there is a unique darshan, and true darshan is not just seeing with the eyes, but experiencing from the depths of the heart. In this, darshan is also transmition, and the art of accord is to learn to receive transmition.

Monday is a sacred day for Shiva, so the Monday pradakshina was special. It is said in the tantras that to worship Shiva, one must become Shiva, so to walk united with Arunachala is the best devotion. Indeed, a true bhakta always unites and becomes what they love, and once truly united, any separation and duality is played with fearlessly…this is true lila. Yama linga was the final dikpal linga before reaching where we stayed, and we’d often spend time sitting there before walking the last portion of the journey. During this last portion of the pradakshina, it started to rain heavily, and we were drenched within minutes. We walked together as a group, but after it started to rain, people scampered quickly and in no time all were thirty yards ahead of me. I had kept the same pace. It is important especially when doing a great kriya, that one finish properly, and not get complacent with the “finish line” in sight. After sometime, I just stopped until they recognized that I was missing. They got the point. I thought it rather revealing and a teaching moment about life in general, that when the proverbial “rains” (adversity) come, then people shouldn’t loose sight of the guru, loose sight of devata, or loose sight of their own nature. When things get adverse, the tendency is to get absorbed in self and in escaping, but if one is unshakable in these times then real power grows. The Guru (and Guru- tattva) will wait with a heart breaking patience, but will not follow. I thought the experience pointed to another lesson as well, which is “if your already wet, then don’t worry about getting wet!” One can see people in so many circumstances who metaphorically are constantly worried about getting wet when they are already soaked in it. (In many ways the metaphor applies more to what one would call a “good” things, as opposed to “bad”.)

(“The Sage Ashtavakra had many disciples, and when the great king Janaka became his disciple many of the others felt envious of his relation with the Guru. Several disciples expressed that there was a favoritism at play because Janaka was a king and had wealth and great influence. To show the reality, Ashtavakra contrived a situation to reveal the real reason that Janaka was close to him. As the disciples were sitting with their Guru, someone came running and told them to come quickly, as monkeys tearing up the clothes they had left for drying. All left the Guru and quickly ran off to secure their garb. Later, while Janaka was sitting in the assembly with Ashtavakra, someone came shouting that the entire palace was on fire and that the king was needed immediately. Janaka scolded the fellow saying “can’t you see I’m with my Guru. Go away!” The disciples then had to admit that they were moved by a few pieces of clothes, while Janaka wouldn’t leave his Guru for a whole palace with all its wealth.”)

After various excursions on Tuesday and Wednesday, we resumed the pradakshina, completing on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Thursday is the day of the Guru, so during pradakshina on this day, that tattva was foremost in mind. Shiva is the Adi-Guru, so we felt honored to do the pradakshina on that day in such a place. Many great Gurus had come to Arunachala, and around the hill are temples and places of Gautam Rishi, Durvasa Rishi, as well as the Rishi Agastya. It is said that the pradakshina on Friday brings the blessing of Vishnu and Laksmi, and each day contained a unique flavor which the so-called “benefits” hinted at. Saturday turned out to be our final pradakshina, and it was a powerful day. One of the names of Arunachala is Mahakaal, and on Saturday that energy predominates. The perspective included the energy of all planetary bodies, and the perspective included all of time. There was only one day of the week left for pradakshina, which was a Tueday, but circumstance and life had a different plan.