Trivunamallai, Sri Baba vs. Bhagavan Ramana
3 December 2004
I wanted the real deep south Hindu experience. Temples all over India are happy to have you go in, give (buy) prasad, get ash rubbed on your wisdom eye. Maybe buy the elephant a banana. Hindus don't really operate on a belief-vs-disbelief system. The Gods are fully operational, anyone can feel that. We have created them, we are inseparable from them, and its our duty to keep on creating them. But lots of the temples are pretty dispassionate and work-a-day at least if you just pop in.
I heard good things about Trivunamallai. Its at the foot of Arunachala, which is a mountain and also the world's largest Shiva Lingam. The Lingam is a black pillar or cone that is the primordial Self, the nearly formless Thing that Is just before you come to the realization that Its Everything, and then you cease to be you, cease to realize anything and just Are. It is one of the forms that Shiva manifests as. The mountain is a natural manifestation. Every year they soak the entire top of it with thousands of gallons of Ghee and set it on fire.
Up near the top lives Sri Baba. (Not to be mistaken with Sai Baba) His boys find you on the way up and start pestering you with prasad and telling you how holy he is. 15 years no sleep no laydown only one cup milk each day every morning 5am so many western people come see Sri Baba. And then they demand money for "little things", blessings. Every morning 20 or so westerners go up there, mostly white women with their hair tied back or under a scarf like Audrey Hepburn. They can't leave without giving at least 100 Rs. That's 2000Rs a day. One cup of milk costs 2 Rs. What does Sri Baba do with the profits ? I'm sorry I missed meeting him (we were late). I mean if you come to India you of course want to meet a spaced out cat that sits on a mountain for 15 years. But the signs are all to obvious that he is not fully realized, just spaced out and working the image for money. No real teacher needs to ask for money. Take that always as a sign, if people start asking for money, just walk away. After getting sugar and lemons for blessing I declined to give any money. "You can't sell blessings, stop it. Donation means donation." They aren't too happy.
Update: I retract this ! I got a nice email from somebody who had met with Sri Baba 10 years ago and again recently. He says the boys are operating on their own and Baba is completely unconcerned with things of this earth. I do wish I had gotten up the hill early enough to see him.
Bhagavan Sri Maharshi Ramana is known as the Light of India, a shining example in the last 50 or so years of someone with true attainment. His face is clear, his smile is real, his eyes are intelligent and his teachings cut straight to the purpose. He is unfortunately also quite dead (1970), but this hasn't stopped him continuing to teach through presence. Carl Jung was impressed, a lot of European writers and thinkers went down to see him while he was alive. (Oh we always gotta parade out Carl Jung to back up our kooky ideas). Its common that people came with pages and pages of questions and then when they got there they just sat and watched him in silence. Lots of comparisons with Buddha and a general recognition that he was the shining light of India's madhouse of Sadhus. He never left the foot of the mountain, never travelled and didn't preach at all.
"The individual, being only a mode of absolute Consciousness, struggles against his finitude to regain his primordial state of absolute freedom through grace."
The Ashram is beatiful, peaceful and filled with more White Women with their hair tied back. Very nice peacocks. You can stay there if you write several months in advance.
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