2014 New Year Message From Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Dear Friends,

Humanity stands at the crossroads of destiny. Amidst wars and conflict on this planet, along with poverty, disease, and changes in the environment leading to global warming, the way ahead is not clear to me. Is it clear to you? If so, please share your views.

Our heroes in the past have tended to be warriors, kings, conquerors, entrepreneurs, innovators, inventors, who through their power of imagination, genius, organization, cleverness, and ingenuity were able to succeed beyond measure and attain personal empires, fortunes, and glories.  I ask you all to consider that perhaps we need different types of heroes if human evolution is to find its rightful purpose and survive. Our heroes, out of necessity now, have to be those with a long term vision of peace. Our heroes have to be the Peace Makers. Without them, the very survival of humanity is at stake.

I read somewhere that in the 19th century, over 19 million people died in armed conflict. In the 20th century, probably due to more sophisticated weapons and technology, almost 110 million people died in wars. Now we are in the 21st century. One wonders what will happen in this century to us, our loved ones, our children,  grandchildren, sisters, brothers, neighbors,  friends, and the human family in general?

Will our wisdom finally catch up with our knowledge, cunning, technology, ruthlessness, and the ability to destroy each other along with the planet? Or are we helpless in face of the human condition where gross self-interest, violence, and vengeance are the rules for individuals, groups, and nations.  Even the environment and the various species of plants, animals, and sea creatures have not been spared from the tendency of humans to violate.

A careful analysis of human violence no longer involves simply evaluating a moral issue. This reflection is important because the answers we come up with and the way we operationalize and implement these will impact the long term future of humanity it self.

Violence means to violate. To impose one’s will on another is a form of violence. Violence, of course, is part of all nature. Some violence is even essential for survival.  However, excessive and unnecessary violence breeds fear, resentment, anger, and rage. It is not a recipe for any type of realistic peace among human beings.  A strong person, group, organization, and even a nation can always attain a temporary victory.  But such a victory generally comes with lasting consequences of worry, fear, anxiety, and retaliation. Violence and Peace can never stay in the same house together.

Is violence so genetically embedded in humanity that, even knowing better, we are simply unable to overcome it? Is the destruction of humanity inevitable because of our helplessness in face of our root instincts?  I shudder at the thought of this possibility. What comforts me in such moments are the Peace Makers and the way they lived their lives. You know who they are. You have heard of them.  We have read their stories. Possibly, if we are very lucky, we might have run into one at some point in our life. Buddha, Jesus, Mahavir, Gandhi, St. Francis of Assisi, Bishop Tutu, Mother Theresa…there must be thousands of such heroes. It does give me some hope that there have been human beings who somehow were able to rise above the instinct to survive and lived their lives for others.

It seems to me that the path shown by the Peace Makers throughout history contains the seeds for survival of humanity. Embracing Ahimsa as the engine of human evolution has now become essential.  The supreme principle and the cardinal rule of the spiritual life has always had its foundation in the ancient philosophy of Ahimsa or nonviolence. This principle can no longer be limited to the spiritual life and must be broadened to include all aspects of life and creative endeavors such as business, politics, and world affairs. In fact, we have no choice but to do that.

The energy of consciousness, projected through the mind, is responsible for evolution of humanity through breakthroughs in technology and improved understanding of how the physical and subtle laws of the universe function. However, without Ahimsa (nonviolence) as the basic foundation of our thinking, the power of the mind can easily turn into a destructive force with the possibility of undermining human civilization.

Without truly understanding the nature of our interdependence with each other as human beings regardless of country, race, religion; and without realizing that we share with the plants, animals, water, air, and all living beings, this common desire to flourish, Ahimsa as a philosophy is difficult to understand and embrace.

Mahavira, the Jain prophet of nonviolence, said 2500 years ago that all beings have the natural desire to live and survive. Wanting to be safe, happy, and in a nurturing community is not unique to any particular country, culture, religion, or spiritual tradition. In fact, it is not even unique to human beings. Enjoying success at the expense of others including nature and the environment cannot be sustained. This is a simple but an ancient truth. According to the law of karma, if we wish to be happy, we should respect all life as sacred and minimize any type of violence to the extent we can.

Dr. Martin Luther King said in one of his sermons:

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. We are faced now with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late…We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: Too late.” (Martin Luther King Jr. ‘Where do we go from here: chaos or community’).

My friends, prejudice, hatred, and incomprehensible violence are part of humanity. Still many individuals in every age, country, religion, and culture have been able to demonstrate the innate capacity of human beings to love, to nurture, to heal, to be peacemakers, and to forgive without reservation.

Like two lovers who are inseparable, Ahimsa and wisdom go hand in hand. Both point to the precious nature of all life and the sacredness of the present moment. Be that present moment and let compassion guide your way. You are the Peace Maker.

Love, Heart, and Enlightenment: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Sri Ramana Walking

Sri Ramana Walking

There is only One Heart

Sri Ramana once said that many advanced souls get liberation after reaching higher planes and that a few rare ones attain mukti (liberation) right here and now. In such cases their Prana along with mind (Kundalini Shakti) gets fully absorbed in the Spiritual Heart and the individual identity is dissolved into Brahman, the Self, the universal Heart and consciousness.

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Caves of Arunachala

As we have been exploring Arunachala we keep finding ‘caves,’ some already widely known, and some not. A friend suggested that we put this onto the blog. This seems a good idea, and this is the first attempt in so doing. We can find nothing like this available now.

Our exploration of Arunachala is ongoing, and any more caves we find will be added to this. I will often refer to other postings where there may be more photos and information about specific caves.

I put quotes around the first instance of ‘caves’ since what are called caves here are often nothing more than a sheltered space under a big rock.

Is some cases the individual caves already have names in common use. Most do not, and for the purposes of this listing I am calling these by names that I made up. If other caves are known, or names of caves shows are  known, I ask that you let me know, and I will update this listing.

Caves Associated with Sri Ramana Maharshi

Virupaksha Cave


Virupaksha is, for most, deeply associated with Sri Ramana Maharshi. Ramana lived where he lived for 17 years [1899-1916].

Below is a famous photo of the young Ramana at Virupaksha cave.


The cave is named for a famous saint, Virupaksha, who lived in this cave in the 1500’s, around the same time as Guhai Nama Shivaya lived nearby (see below). At Virupaksha’s demise, called here ‘maha samadhi,’ it is said that his body was transformed into vibhuti (sacred ash). In the interior of this cave there is a mound in the shape of Arunachala. It is said to be made of this vibhuti.


More on Skandashram is in the post Walking up to Skandashram.


Sri Ramana lived at Skandashram from 1916 to 1922. His mother joined him during this period, and for the first time cooking was done there. This is where the mother had her maha samadhi in 1922. Her room is now a shrine.


Mango Tree Cave

Sri Ramana lived here during the summer during the Virupaksha days. I do not yet have a photo. This will be added soon.

Guhai Nama Sivaya

This is another cave in which Ramana lived in 1899. It is here that he wrote the notes which later because the pamphlet, Who am I?

A bit more on this cave is in the post New Access to Ramana Sites below Virupaksha.


A short clip from Arunachala Grace Blog:

Guhai Namasivaya is known to have been born around the year AD 1548 in Karnataka to a pious Saiva couple. His spiritual nature became evident at an early age: he was virtuous in his conduct, adept at his studies and evinced no attachment to worldly matters.

He practised his system of yoga for many years and as a result of the dream guidance of Lord Mallikarjuna, the presiding deity of Sri Sailam, Guhai Namasivaya came to Arunachala and remained as a Guru, giving teachings to mature disciples who approached him.

Seven Springs Caves

The next four caves are shown in the Seven Springs posting. They are all located on the hill above Skandashram, one of the paths that goes to the top of the hill.

Godman’s Cave

This is a cave, said to be greatly improved by the work of David Godman in the 1980s. Maybe ten people can fit into this cave.


Altar in the cave.


Looking out the entrance. John, the archivist at Ramanasramam, stands outside  the entrance.


Seven Springs 1

This is first of three caves found at Seven Springs. There is a stone entrance built, and a good altar in the cave. Maybe four people can fit in here.

Up the hill you can see stonework.


The entrance, from the inside.


Richard, offering incense to the altar.


Carol, exiting the cave.


Seven Springs 2

This is a small cave, behind Seven Springs 1. Maybe two people fit inside. Many stone and concrete improvements have been made.


Richard, meditating in the cave.


Ramana’s resting cave


I call it ‘Ramana’s Resting Cave’ since this is the cave that is documented in writing about Ramana where he was known to rest, while others made the climb up to the top of Arunachala.

It is in the shade all day with a nice breeze through it, and a view out through green trees.

The entrance is a bit tight, though.


Caves below Virupaksha Cave

These caves are described in the post New Access to Ramana Sites below Virupaksha.

Below Virupaksha 1

This cave is big enough that one or two people can sit in it.


Below Virupaksha 2

This cave is very small. One person can lie down in it.


Below Virupaksha 3 – Associated with Ramana?

This cave is said by local villagers to be one used by Ramana in the early days. Recently, people have built walls and a door and an altar in it.


The altar.


Caves on Papaji’s Knoll

These caves are shown in the posts Papaji’s Cave and Aum Amma’s Cave.

Papaji’s Cave 1

The first ‘cave’ of Papaji’s is in the area where part of his ashes were scattered. This is a nice place to sit and meditate at the altar that has been set up there.



Papaji’s Cave 2

The next of the caves named for Papaji, and one that he is said to have lived in, is near the first cave, down the rock and a bit up the path.

Carol enters the cave from the path.


Richard and Carol, meditating in the cave.


Below is part of a mother goddess statue, placed in this cave.


Aum Amma’s Cave

Aum Amma’s cave is the most developed of any cave we have found so far (except for those, like Virupaksha, which have had buildings constructed around them).


Many bags of cement were carried up the hill to make these cave improvements. Aum Amma lived her for several years until just a few years ago.


Stairs lead down into a main room.


There is a good view out the “window” in the main room. It looks like sometimes that people sleep in this cave, though you are not supposed to, and if you stay too long, the Forestry Department people will chase you out.


Caves in Kattu Siva area

Kattu Siva Cave

This cave is shown in the post Kattu Siva Cave.

There is a nice cleared area around the cave. this is good place to come during the heat of the day. There is plenty of shade.


Climbing over the rocks at the end of the clearing, a hole in the rock appears.


This is Kattu Siva’s cave. A big rock, in front of Richard, has fallen into the cave. Will someone be able to remove it?


On the top of the rock over the cave, a cement water catching area was made. The photo below looks over this to the Arunachala hillside behind Kattu Siva’s cave.


Cave Above Kattu Siva Meditation Perch

Related posts are: Kattu Siva Meditation Perch and Kattu Siva path Renewal – Part 1.

This is a small unused cave. Rocks need to be cleared from the floor to make a good sleeping area.


Mankala Cave

This cave is shown in the post Kattu Siva path Renewal – Part 1. It is under a rock that looks like a natural lingam as you approach this cave.


Cave next to Inner Path near Kannapar Temple

This cave is shown in the post Inner Path – Around Parvati Hill.

A path leads to it from the Inner Path.


This cave was improved with a stone and cement wall in front.


A nice cement floor has been put in the cave.


More caves to find, more of Arunachala to explore

I have heard of more caves. I have been told:

  • There are four caves on the hill above the Mountain of Medicine Arunachala reforestation facility.
  • There is another cave high above Papaji’s cave.
  • There are three caves on the north side.
  • There is a cave near Virupaksha occupied by a sadhu that does not like to be bothered.

What else is there? We have to explore to know more. If you know of any more caves that haven’t been listed, please let me know.

Pomegranate For Your Skin: By Dr. Jeanette Jacknin

300px-pomegranateEach year cosmeceutical companies and consumers alike search for the next big thing in anti-aging discoveries.  This year, with everyone going “green” and searching for natural ingredients, pomegranate definitely is “in” in the anti-aging cosmeceutical industry. Dr. Carl Thornfeldt, MD in his March 2008 article in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology states “Mucocutaneous inflammation as the final common pathway of many systemic and mucocutaneous diseases including extrinsic aging has been established at the molecular and cellular levels.”[1]  Pomegranate has known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and has been documented in double-blind clinical trials to significantly improve signs of skin aging. Of the over 8000 known antioxidant ingredients, pomegranate is 1 in less than 20 have been incorporated into topical formulations which have been documented in human clinical trials to reverse signs of aging of the skin.

The status of the Pomegranate goes back as far as the history of agriculture itself, 10,000 years. Allusions to the pomegranate are readily found in the oldest cultures of the Indus Valley, ancient China, and classical Greece, as well as in the Old Testament. It has a long history of medicinal use, with the peel well regarded for its astringent use.

Anthocyanins account for the red-purple color of the pomegranate’s skin, flesh, and seed. More importantly, pomegranate juice made from squeezing the whole fruit is a rich source of punicalagin, a large polyphenol antioxidant. Pomegranate seeds are a good source of punicic acid, similar to conjugated linoleic acid.

Research has shown that the physiological effects of pomegranate juice constituents are remarkable in their preventive potential against two of the major chronic diseases of aging – heart disease and cancer. There is evidence of the pomegranate’s impact on heart disease, including its ability to enhance nitric oxide production in endothelial cells.[2]

There is also significant antiproliferative effects attributed to the pomegranate [3] in battling several breast cancer[4] and prostate cancer[5], and it has been shown to retard tumor growth in animals. One can also hypothesize that pomegranate juice may work the same way on skin cells.

In a study carried out at the University of Michigan Medical School, aqueous fractions prepared from pomegranate peel, fermented juice and lipophilic fractions of the pomegranate were examined for effects on human epidermal and dermal cell function.

Pomegranate seed oil was shown to stimulate epidermal call proliferation, and a mild thickening of the epidermis was observed!  In contrast, pomegranate peel extract stimulated type I procollagen synthesis by dermal fibroblasts, These results indicate the potential of pomegranate fractions for facilitating skin repair by promoting regeneration of the dermis and epidermis.[6]

Three oral supplements containing a pomegranate mix have been documented in double-blind clinical trials to effectively improve signs of aging. Additionally, pomegranate demonstrated efficacy in improving signs of extrinsic skin aging in open label trials when topical and oral administration were combined. [7]

In Jan 2008 Dr. Seeram reported his study which applied 4 tests of antioxidant potency of polyphenol-rich beverages available in the marketplace. Pomegranate juice had the greatest antioxidant potency composite index among the 12 beverages tested and was at least 20% greater than any of the other 11 beverages tested.

In Navindra Seeram’s comparative study published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemisty, he demonstrated that the antioxidant potency and total polyphenol content were consistently greatest in pomegranate juice as compared to apple juice, acai juice, black cherry juice, red wine, blueberry juice, cranberry juice, Concord grape juice, orange juice, black tea, green tea, and white tea capacity.  Although in vitro antioxidant potency does not prove in vivo biological activity, there is also consistent clinical evidence of antioxidant potency for the most potent beverages including pomegranate juice. [8]

Thus, it would be surprising if many cosmeceutical companies don’t add pomegranate to their mix of anti-aging ingredients, with its clinically proven anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-aging properties.

1.  Carl R Thornfeldt, MDFAAD, “Chronic inflammation is etiology of
extrinsic aging,” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 7(1), 78-82, March

2. De Nigris F et al. “Beneficial effects of pomegranate juice on
oxidation-sensitive genes and endothelial nitric oxide synthase
activity at sites of perturbed shear stress.” Proc Natl Acad Sci USA.
102, 13:4896-901, 2005, http://www.pnas.org

3.  Seeram NP et al. ” In vitro antiproliferative, apoptotoic and
antioxidant activities of punicalagin, ellagic acid, and a total
pomegranate tannin extract are enhanced in combination with other
polyphenols as found in pomegranate juice.” J Nutr Biochem. 16,
6:360-7, 2005. http://www.elsevier.com/locate/nutbio

4. Mehta Re, Lansky EP. “Breast cancer chemopreventive properties of
pomegranate ( Punica granatum) fruit extracts in a mouse mammary organ
culture.” Eur J Cancer Prev.13, 4:345-8, 2004.

5. Lansky EP el al. “Pomegranate ( Pumica granatum) pure chemicals show
possible synergistic inhibition of human PC-3 prostate cancer cell
invasion across Matrigel.” Invest New Drugs.23, 2:121-2, 2005.

6. Aslam, MN, Lansky EP, et al. “Pomegranate as a cosmeceutical source:
pomegranate fractions promote proliferation and procollagen synethsis
and inhibit matrix metalloproteinase-1 production in human skin cells,
J Ethnopharmacol , 20,103(3): 311-318, 2006.

7. Carl R. Thornberg, “Cosmeceuticals containing herbs: fact, fiction
and future,” Dermatol Surg.31(72):873-80, Jul 2005

8. Navindra Seeram, [My paper] “Comparison of antioxidant potency of
commonly consumed polyphenol-rich beverages in the United States.” J
Agric Food Chem.56(4):1415-22, Feb 2008

dr-jacknin-250Board-certified Dermatologist Dr. Jeanette Jacknin has distinguished herself as a well-respected physician and author whose passion is nutricosmeceuticals and holistic dermatology.

Dr. Jacknin’s credentials are many and start with the medical degree she earned from Medical College of Virginia in 1983. There she completed her Dermatology Residency and served as Chief Resident. Dr. Jacknin’s education and vast experience have led her to become a published author of the classic book, Smart Medicine for Your Skin, published by Penguin Putnam in 2001. For easy access, the book is now published in e-Book format, at http://www.drjacknin.com for instant download on the internet.

In addition, Dr. Jacknin has contributed to an abundance of articles published in numerous high profile magazines, such as Alternative Medicine, Body and Soul, Better Homes and Gardens, Reader’s Digest, Men’s Health, Natural Health, Shape, and Women’s World Magazine.  She is a regular contributor to In Cosmeceuticals, Natural Solutions, Carefair.com and AZSpaGirls.com. She has been featured on radio programs like: Health Talk, The Deborah Ray Show and the Wealth of Health Nutrition Hour.

To find out more about Dr. Jacknin and her skin care philosophy and products, please visit her website.


Yoga And Advaita: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Yoga and breath Jnana and mind

These questions came up some years ago. My responses are included. (Photo art above is from Andreas Farsatis).

Question: Is the way and goal of Patanjali’s Yoga and  Sri Sankara’s Advaita Vedanta the same?

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Lotus Land: By Madathil Rajendran Nair


India is a lotus land,
In full bloom, all white and red.
We begin our days
Saluting the Lord of the Day,
Who rises holding a white lotus
On a chariot of seven horses.

Our Goddesses of Word and Wealth
Are seated on lotuses,
One white and the other red
Oh, ours is land of lotuses.

We beat our chest
And say “I, I, I am the best”,
Our Sage says:
“That “I” is not you,
Look underneath
What you beat,
There is a lotus,
Lotus of the heart,
Your sacred retreat,
The divine habitat.”.

India is a lotus land,
In full bloom, all white and red.
I was a boy in teens
In my native Kerala,
A land full of ponds,
Who once swam a silver pool
In the early morning sun
To pluck a lotus
For his blushful girlfriend.

His feet got caught
In the mesh underneath,
In the netty knottiness
Of intricate roots.
He struggled hard to extricate
Himself in anguish and panic.

For the first time in life
Fear of death he tasted.
Lotuses all around
Looked and smiled,
They gave him hope
And enthused him to fight.

When at last the Lord
Helped him back to land
To hand the flower to the anxious lass,
He saw bees in her lashes
Hovering over red lotuses –
Her blushful cheeks,
And forgot all about
The struggle just bygone

Swinging to and fro,
Between pain and smile,
He grew up to learn
About the six circles
Of the Kundalini.
Each one was a lotus again
Of different number of petals,
The last one on the crown
In full bloom with thousand leaves
Where his Ma resides
As his resplendent Self.

And when he slept
He knew he was a pond
Of countless lotuses,
In full bloom, all white and red –
A body of shining water
With blossoms smiling all over.

Oh India is a lotus land,
In full bloom, all white and red,
Listening to the lullaby of the stars.

Madathil Rajendran Nair

Advaita-Vedanta and Sri Ramana: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Advaita is a Sanskrit term and means “not two”. It refers to the philosophy of nondualism. There is a lot of literature on Advaita Vedanta that can be found in any good library and, of course, the Internet.

Excellent and reliable information on classical Advaita-Vedanta and the saints associated with that tradition can be found at the following links.

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Summary of the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12: By Dr. Ram Chandran

Gita Chapter 12: The Path of Devotion to God Realization

The path of devotion communicated during the conversation between Sri Arjuna and Lord Krishna is highlighted by providing answer to the following key questions:

(1) Should One Worship a Personal or an Impersonal God?

(2) What are the four Paths to God Realization explained in this chapter?

(3) Why Karma-Yoga is recommended to be the Best Starting Point for God Realization?

(4) What are the Key Attributes of a Devotee that we can gather from this Chapter?

(5) Finally why One Should Sincerely Strive to develop Divine Qualities?

Arjuna asked: Which of these has the best knowledge of yoga; those ever-steadfast devotees who wor­ship personal aspect, or impersonal aspect (the formless Absolute)?

Lord Krishna said – “I consider the best yogis to be those ever steadfast devotees who worship with supreme faith by fixing their mind on Me as their personal God.”

This is a restatement of what He said in chapter 6, verse 47. True devotion is defined as the highest order of love for God. True devotion is motiveless intense love of God to attain Him. It is seeking God’s grace and serving with love and dedication to please Him . Thus, devotion is doing one’s duty as an offering to the Lord with love of God in one’s heart.

It should be also understood that devotion is granted by the grace of God. A loving relationship with God is easily developed through a personal God. The faithful followers of Rama, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Christ, and Muhammad are considered the steadfast devotees. All spiritual practices in the absence of steadfast devotion will become useless. The pearl of Self-knowledge is born on the nucleus of faith and devo­tion only.

What Lord Krishna has said with respect to those who worship the impersonal God? He assures that they also attain Me who worship the unchangeable, the inexplicable, the invisible, the omnipresent, the inconceivable, the unchanging, the immov­able, and the formless. Their worship of the impersonal God come in the form of change in their attitude to life by restraining all the senses, even-minded behavior under all circumstances by en­gaging in the welfare of all creatures. A person who is competent to worship the formless aspect of God must have a complete mastery over the senses, be tranquil under all circumstances, and be engaged in the welfare of all creatures.

Lord Krishna implicitly points out that worshiping the personal God is relatively easier than worshiping the impersonal God. One must be free from body-feeling and be established in the feeling of the existence of the Self alone, if one wants to succeed in worship of formless Absolute. One becomes free from the bodily conception of life when one is fully purified and acts solely for the Supreme Lord. Attainment of such a state is not possible for the average human being, but only for advanced souls. Therefore, the natural course for the ordinary seeker is to worship God with a form. Thus the method of worship depends on the individual. One should find out for oneself which method suits one best. It is quite fruitless to ask a child to worship a formless God, whereas a sage sees God in every form and does not need a statue or even a picture of God for worship.

At the starting point there are likely differences between these two approaches to the worship of God. But those practice with steadfast devotion the differences get melted away. Then there will be no real difference between the two paths. – the path of devotion to a personal God and the path of Self-knowledge of the impersonal God – as they attain full spiritual maturity. In the highest stage of realization they merge and become one. The personal and the impersonal, the physical form and the transcendental form, are the two sides of the coin of ultimate Reality. A per­son must learn to focus the mind with the one and only thought on a personal God with a form. After succeeding therein by fixing their mind, their mind get purified and they are able to transcendent all attachments to names and forms. The highest lib­eration is possible only by realization of God as the very Self in all beings, and it comes only through maturity of devo­tion to the personal God and by His grace.

Four Paths to God

First is the path of meditation (See Chapter 6 for greater details) for the contemplative mind. Thinking of a chosen form of God all the time is different from worshiping that form, but both practices are the same in quality and effect. In other words, contemplation is also a form of worship. If you are unable to focus your mind steadily on Me then long to at­tain Me by practice of any other spiritual discipline; such as a ritual, or deity worship that suits you. (12.09).

Second is the path of ritual, prayer, and devotional worship recommended for people who are emotional, have more faith but less reasoning and intellect (See also 9.32). Constantly contemplate and concentrate your mind on God, using symbols or mental pictures of a personal God as an aid to develop devotion. If you are unable even to do any spiritual discipline, then dedicate all your work to Me, or do your duty just for Me. You shall attain perfection by doing your prescribed duty for Me – without any selfish motive – just as an instrument to serve and please Me. (12.10)

Third is the path of transcendental knowledge or renunciation, acquired through contemplation and scriptural study for people who have realized the truth that we are only divine instruments. Lord Himself guides every endeavor of the person who works for the good of humanity, and success comes to a person who dedicates his or her life to the service of God. If you are unable to dedicate your work to Me, then just surrender unto My will and renounce the attachment to, and the anxiety for, the fruits of all work by learning to accept all results with equanimity as God’s grace. (12.11).

The fourth is the path of Karma Yoga, the selfless service to humanity, discussed in Chapter 3, for householders who cannot renounce worldly activity and work full-time for God, as discussed in verse 12.10, above. The main thrust of verses 12.08-11 is that one must establish some relationship with the Lord; such as the progenitor, fa­ther, mother, beloved, child, savior, guru, master, helper, guest, friend, and even an enemy. Karma Yoga, or the renunciation of the selfish attachment to fruits of work, is not a method of last resort; as it may appear from verse 12.11.

Karma Yoga is the Best Way

The transcendental knowledge of scriptures is better than mere ritualistic practice; meditation is better than scriptural knowledge; renunciation of selfish attachment to the fruits of work (KarmaYoga) is better than meditation; because peace immediately follows renunciation of selfish motives. (See more on renunciation in 18.02, and 18.09) When one’s knowledge of God increases, all Karma is gradually eliminated because one who is situated in knowledge thinks he or she is not the doer but an instrument working at the pleasure of the creator. Such an action in God-consciousness becomes devotion ¾ free from any Karmic bondage. Thus, there is no sharp demarcation between the paths of selfless service, spiritual knowledge, and devotion.

What are the Key Attributes of a Devotee?

One is dear to Me who does not hate any creature, who is friendly and compassion­ate, free from the notion of “I” and “my”, even-minded in pain and pleasure, forgiving; and who is ever content, who has subdued the mind, whose re­solve is firm, whose mind and intellect are engaged in dwelling upon Me, and who is devoted to Me. (12.13-14) To attain oneness with God, one has to become per­fect like Him by cultivating moral virtues. Virtues and discipline are two sure means of devotion. A list of forty virtues and values are provided through verses 12.13 to 12.19 by describing the qualities of an ideal devotee, or a Self-realized person. The true devotee is fully committed to these forty noble qualities. It should be pointed out the true devotion implies “COMMITMENT” without “ATTACHMENT.”

One is also dear to Me who is free from joy, envy, fear and anxiety and does not agitate others and also not agitated by them. (12.15)

One who is desireless, pure, wise, impartial, and free from anxiety; who has renounced the doership in all undertakings – such a devotee is dear to Me. (12.16)

One who neither rejoices nor grieves, neither likes nor dislikes, who has renounced both the good and the evil, and is full of devotion is also dear to Me. (12.17)

One who remains the same towards friend or foe, in honor or dis­grace, in heat or cold, in pleasure or pain; who is free from attach­ment; who is indifferent to censure or praise; who is quiet, and content with whatever one has, unattached to a place, a country, or a house; who is tranquil, and full of devotion, that person is dear to Me. (12.18-19)

It is said that divine Controllers with their exalted qualities, such as the knowledge of God, wisdom, renunciation, detachment, and equanimity, always reside in the inner psyche of a pure devotee. Thus, perfect devotees who have renounced affinity for the world and its objects and have love for God are rewarded by the Lord with divine qualities. They are dear to the Lord.

What about those who are imperfect, but trying sincerely for perfection? Lord Krishna answers this question in the very the next verse suggesting that One Should Sincerely Strive to Develop Divine Qualities:

But those faithful devotees are very dear to Me who set Me as their supreme goal and follow — or just sincerely strive to develop — the above mentioned nectar of (forty) moral values. (12.20)

One may not have all the virtues, but a sincere effort to develop virtues is most appreciated by the Lord. Thus the one who strives is very dear to the Lord. The higher class of devotees do not desire anything, including salvation from the Lord, ex­cept for the boon to permanently be at the lotus feet of a personal God, birth after birth. Lower class devotees use God as a ser­vant to fulfill their material demands and desires. The development of unswerving love and devotion to the lotus feet of the Lord is the ultimate aim of all spiritual discipline and meri­torious deeds as well as the goal of human birth. A true devotee con­siders oneself the servant, the Lord as the master, and the entire creation as His body.

The path of devotion is a better path for most people, but Devotion does not develop without a combination of personal effort, faith, and the grace of God. Nine techniques for cultivating devotion which is an intense love for God as a personal Being – based on Tulasi Ramayana are:

(1) The company of the holy and wise,

(2) Listening and reading the glories and stories of Lord’s incarnations in the religious scriptures,

(3) Seva or serving God through service to the needy, the saints, and society,

(4) Congregational chanting and singing of the glories of God,

(5) Repeating the Lord’s name and mantra with firm faith,

(6) Discipline, con­trol over the six senses, and detachment,

(7) Seeing your personal God everywhere and in everything,

(8) Contentment and lack of greed as well as overlooking others’ faults, and

(9) Simplicity, lack of anger, jealousy, and hatred.

The best thing a person should do is to develop love of God. Lord Rama said that one needs to follow any one of the above methods with faith to develop love of God and become a devotee.

Good company of saints and sages is a very powerful tool for God-realization. It is said that friendship, discussions, dealings, and marriage should be with equals or those who are better than oneself, not with persons of lower level of intellect (MB 5.13.117).

A person is known by the company he or she keeps. According to most saints and sages, the path of devotion is very simple and easy to perform. One can begin by simply chanting a personal mantra or any holy name of God. There is no restriction on the correct time or place for chanting the holy name of God. The process of devotional service consists of one or more of the following practices: Hearing discourses, chanting the holy name of God, remembering and contemplating God, worshipping Him, praying to Him, serving God and humanity, and surrendering to His will.

The four inter-connected paths of yoga discussed in the first twelve chapters of the Gita may be summarized as follows:

The practice of Karma Yoga leads to purification of the mind from the stain of selfishness that paves the way for knowledge of God to be revealed. Knowledge develops into devotional love of God. Constant thinking of God, the object of our love due to devotion, is called meditation and contemplation that eventually lead to enlightenment and salvation.

Is there Only One Right Way to God?

Lord Krishna has been talking about both manifest and unmanifest aspects of God in the previous chapters (See for example 9.4 and 9.5). Arjuna’s question has been answered in great detail in this chapter, but people still argue that one method of worship or certain religious practices are better than others. Such persons will continue to argue and will be only able to understand half the truth.

From what is presented in Chapter 12, it is clear that the method of worship depends on the nature of the individual. The person or the person’s guru should find out which path will be most suitable for the individual, depending on the person’s temperament. To force his or her own method of worship on other people is the greatest disservice a guru can do to disciples. The most important thing is to develop faith in and love of God. God has the power to manifest before a devotee in any form, regardless of the devotee’s chosen form of worship. What has worked for one may not work for all, so what makes you think your method is universal? There was no need for the Lord to discuss different paths of yoga if there was one path for all. If the chosen path of spiritual discipline does not give one peace or God-realization, then it must be understood that one is not practicing correctly or the path is not right for the individual. It should be kept in mind that a drop of water, no matter what route it takes, will eventually reach the ocean.

Note: It should be pointed out that the recipes presented in this chapter are quite useful for cooks who want to prepare tasty meals for seekers who like the flavors of Dwaita or Visistadwaita or Advaita! That may explain why this chapter is well-liked by the followers of different schools of thought.

Arunachala – On the Inner Path: Parvati Hill

This post continues the series of posts that show Arunachala’s Inner Path, used by devotees of Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi for the sacred walk around this holy hill. This walking is called pradakshina, or, in Tamil, girivalam.

Part one shows the path from Ramanasramam. Part two shows the walk around the southwest side of the hill. This post is Part three of the series.

Inner Girivalam Path around Arunachala:
Parvati Hill section

A map is below. The Parvati Hill section of the Inner Path is shown in purple.

Arunachala Inner Path Parvati hill

Another way to visualize this is by the look of Arunachala from this location. From the correct place on this side of Arunachala, one can see Arunachala rising behind the twin peaks of Parvati Hill. Parvati Hill is in the foreground, with Arunachala behind.


Approaching the Inner Path

We started from our house on the southwest side of the mountain. The day we walked was after more than one week of rain, after ‘a cyclone’ hit Tamil Nadu. As you will see, much of the path was under water, and the catchment basins and tanks were filled with water.

It is a cloudy day, and Arunachala is behind a cloud.


Parvati Hill is to the left. Arunachala goes off to the right.


Sadhus are bathing at Kattu Siva tank.


The trees at the Arunachala Kattu Siva Plantation are gone, a sign of the changes this organization is going through as it tries to deal with new people in the local Forestry Department. I hate it that they felt they had to move away from the mountain. See this link for more information about the important work being done by this organization.


From this area, you can also walk to the Kattu Siva Cave, or take a Path Across Arunachala.

The deep water pump and beautiful water lilies remain.


Now we start on this section of the Inner Path. Follow the path, generally north.


Across a creek, full of water now, the path that goes to the Kattu Siva Meditation Perch branches off to the right.

Carol is taking the main path. The east end of the peak of Parvati Hill is in the background.


Here are both peaks. These also carry the names of Siva and Parvati. These two peaks are the only part of Arunachala hill that have the same look from both sides of the hill. I will show the other side in a photo later in this article.


After all the rain, the path, in many places, seemed more like a creek than a path.


After a bit of walking, you will come to this tank. Today it is very full. There is a path on the other side, too, but now it is under water.


There is a sadhu’s hut by this tank. The winds during the cyclone have torn his plastic ‘door’ to shreds.


On the other side of this tank, we see some statues.


We come closer to these statues. Investigating, we have found that they represent a tribal God, Vediyappan (god of wilderness, or forest). These horses are seen near many temples is this area.

This shrine is located in a spot considered very sacred by the local tribal people. They say that you can hear the gods’ footsteps in this area. That is why the shrine is located here.

I have talked to other local people about these horses, and while they may not know about Vediyappan, they know that these horses stand ready for the god to ride out whenever someone needs protection.

Here is a closer photo of the horses, the god, I guess, and the dogs that are the escorts.


At the side of the statues is the “primitive” forest temple, with natural rocks worshiped as lingams, etc. These kinds of shrines are in many places in South India. I think one can see the progression from natural shrine, to outside altar, to small holy building, to temple, to temple complex.


Below, a close-up of the watchman. You can see a shield in one hand. The other hand, though empty now, once held a sword.  These figures are the protectors of the forest from predators, standing ready.

I have researched Vediyappan and not found much. But I did find Ved Ayyappan, said to be the third son of Siva, and to have overcome a forest-thug, Udayanan. Here is a link for Ayyappan. Here is a second link. Maybe this local god is a local version of this legend?  Further research makes me think that this a local name for Ayyanar. Ayyanar is definitely associated with the white horses.


Arunachala, enshrouded in clouds.


Now to follow the path onward around Parvati Hill.


Still wondering if this is the path or a creek? I see a white and red path marker ahead, so it must be the path.


One  of the peaks of Parvati Hill.


The old Inner Path section that is being restored goes to the right here. Here are two posts about this path. Part one. Part two.


Water pours over this catchment dam, with Arunachala in the background.


Looking away from the hill, one sees the forest that surrounds the path on this side of the hill.


The path slogs on through the water.


One last look at Arunachala before it is occluded by Parvati Hill.


On the other side of Parvati Hill one sees a big tree and rock to the right of the path.


Coming closer, you can see a path off to the right.


The side path leads through the bushes.


And to a nice cave, just off the Inner Path. We had walked by this spot for several months without noticing this cave.


Inside the cave is a cement floor, dry even after the last week of rain. Notice the rock and cement work to the right  of the doorway.


Back on the Inner Path.


For a bit, the trees change, the general color seems a darker green, and there are the big trees like these behind Carol.


Here is a stone survey marker dated from 1904. There are several of these around the hill, all from the same approximate period.


To the left is a big intersection with another path.


Follow the path to the left.


You come to Kannapar Shrine. There is a path from Girivalam Road that takes you right to this spot.


Newly built next to Kannapar Shrine is what I think of as a ‘lingam field.’ This is one of the young Nithyananda‘s facilities. Here I think there are 1008 lingams.

HPIM9689 closeup

Back on the path, now on the north side of Parvati Hill. The path is pretty wide here.


After a bit more walking through the trees and brush, the terrain opens up.


We walk through a wide open grassy area. The Inner Path goes to the right of this photo. We walk through the center path. It seems easier and more direct.


To the left is a field, flooded and being plowed by a man behind two bullocks.


To the right are the twin peaks of Parvati Hill. From the north side this time, though.


For a panoramic view, I stood in one place and swung the camera from left to right. Panoramic shot 1.


Panoramic shot 2


Panoramic shot 3.


Panoramic shot 4.


Below, still walking along the trail. This small house is the only one close to the path on this side of the hill. I have seen a sadhu there, accompanied by another man.

In this picture there is another stone marker of some kind. Obviously meant to mark something. But it is not associated with the property line and line of posts.


Following the path(s) around the hill.


Look, on the rock ahead is a black goat.


We pass the herd of bulls that seems to live here. They are always in this spot as we pass by in the morning.


The clouds above the hill, a spot of clearing over one of the passes over the hill.


The path goes through this open area towards Arunachala hill. From here, you usually see the structure, ‘The Elephant.’ Today the clouds obstruct The Elephant.


Looking towards the path over the hill.


A bit more through the grassy fields and clumps of trees.


I know we are getting close to the end of this section because of the palm tree to the left of this shot. The path winds through these scrubby low bushes.


We are joining the main path again here.


Or is it the main creek?


The ‘Frog Pond’ (as we call it) is over its banks. We cannot even get to where we usually sit for a rest without wading through the water. Today we don’t even try.


We usually walk to the right here. Not today.


Carol sits for a bit. So do I. This is the end of this section. We rest before we proceed to the next section, which we call, ‘The Elephant.’


Below, the east end of Parvati Hill from the Frog Pond.


Parvati Hill from a bit further on the path, reflected in the now-full northside basin.


Related Posts:

Kattu Siva path Renewal – part 1

Kattu Siva path Renewal – part 2

Kattu Siva Cave

Kattu Siva meditation Perch

A Path Across Arunachala

Inner Path – Southwest Side

Inner Path – South Side from Ramanasramam

Holy Feet