Analytical. Mind-oriented. Thinker. Logical. Scientific.
All these words have an edge and a certain finesse that attract what one may term as ingredients of success in a world of competition and achievement. These are liberally thrown at me by well-meaning people for my general orientation to life. The multitasker in me took pride in these labels, sometimes adding further descriptions. I was to learn…. that these words have the exact opposite impact in a world of search for the path to the divine. I completely understood that. Yes, understood- intellectually and from the thinking part of the brain.
Try as I might, the feeling channel to the heart had clogged. Dark and murky, it danced to its rhythm in its chaotic world. Happy in its inaccessibility, it continued to grow, throwing me even more into my world of analysis and investigation. How was it to be unclogged?
The short burst of an answer and the glimpse of what it can look like came at the foothills of the Arunachala. Arunachala- the hills where Ramana Maharshi, the Indian saint, called home and said, “He who thinks of Arunachala gets Liberation”.
“It”- the channel that takes the energy from the mind and converts it to something compelling, that of feeling. The presence is soft; one can almost touch it. The deciphering mind shuts down, and one enters an entirely new world. The Parayana (poetic works of “Bhagwan” Ramana Maharshi), the day before I left Tiruvannamalai, brought a new revelation.
I was sitting once again next to her. I had seen her on the first day and was drawn to the quietude around her. My eyes followed her circumambulation around the Bhagawan’s Samadhi while my mind could not fathom how she had managed to walk that slow. I have walked around Bhagwan’s samadhi in one big hurried sweep, and many times, my mind tried new ways to snake my way through the devotees walking. For, it was an activity to be ticked off. Many such actions had been lined up for the five days I was there. The Pradikshina around the mountain, attending the discourses, listening to the Veda recitation- and many more.
It fascinated me-her slow, deliberate, and contemplative gait. It was as if she was willed not to move fast. Gaze at the cold stone floor, almost warm in its embrace; she carried on. Cream saree and yellow gold border tucked neatly at the waist; she was in a world of her own. A peaceful world. She was not lost.
The evening recitation of the Parayana on that fateful Monday. The poetic works of Sri Ramana Maharshi in Tamil are transliterated into English. I am not a Tamil native and do not know how to pronounce the words; it is challenging enough to read, not to speak, of the musical recitation that goes with it. Men on one side and women on the other facing each other sing alternate lines about the glories of Arunachala. Arunachala Shiva, as the mountain is called, is believed to be the Hindu Lord Shiva himself. Reading a verse of Arunachala Aksharamanamalai, they implore Arunachala.
“My sin is Mountain High,
elevate me from my lowly state,
not just show me the mirror.”
In Sri Bhagavan’s lifetime, Vedic chanting or Veda Parayana was held twice a day, morning and evening, lasting about forty minutes on each occasion, and this is continued. When asked whether people should learn the meaning, to follow it, Ramana Maharshi said no: it was sufficient that the chanting supported meditation. The devotional “Bhav,” the feeling of oneness that transcends the being himself, is palpable in the room that still smells from the burning Diyas of the Maha Mangala aarti. For it is Punarvasu day, the arrangement of the constellation under which Ramana Maharshi was born. It is also a day of the week the Hindu religion Dharma dedicates to Lord Shiva.
The light has started fading outside, casting a burnt glow on the mountain behind me. The musicality carries me high, like the notes that ebb and drop softly at Bhagwan’s feet.
I surrender, technically, as a friend has told me…Surrender yourself. Surrender your problems at Bhagwan’s altar.
With a deep gulp of nervousness, I decided to join in among the pure speakers of Tamil and singers singing at two different Meters (Chand). I suddenly realize that the Tamil words are forming, and I seem to be muttering them. They come dancing, teasing me at their audacity to come out from a non-Tamil speaker. It is futile to fight with them and push them back, for they have taken a life of their own. The flow turns into a crescendo in the room. I am officially now parayana singer. Book in front like a veteran; I go through the notes.
Halfway through, I find tears forming. The wetness is not from any of the emotions I have felt before. My breath slows, and the sounds of the words recede and add a stillness that mingles with the flow and sounds of the word. A stillness as still as the mountain. The calm of the soft wool cloud that drifts without the winds.
As the final hymn draws to a close, I find myself next to the samadhi, my feet as heavy as lead. They refuse to move. The gait slows down. I am anchored and routed to a spot. The next step is only when he wills it. 5, 6, and 7 rounds, I am not conscious. Vijaya [name changed], who has been placed coincidently by my side, explains that the mind has been made to slow down, which slows down the body. Try as I might, I cannot make my body move faster. I get some answers to the problems surrendered.
I am drawn quietly, almost lifted, and taken to circumambulate the mother’s shrine. Here I notice that Shri Hari is all around her. The temple has statues placed outside, benevolently smiling. Mocking me for not having felt his presence all these years and through all my visits. With a slight smile, he says, “I am that.” Shri Hari is omnipotent, for he lives everywhere.
Hari. Hara. Vishnu. Shiva. Bhagwan. They all merge in a bubble of nothingness and slowness.
I lost my speed and strength for that moment in eternity but found myself. A glimpse of the heart’s feel channel, and I know there is a largesse waiting to be tapped.
“Oh, Arunachala! Without talking, you talked to me
And told me to stop talking and kept quiet” -36th verse of Akshara Manamalai