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

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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.

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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.

Skandashram

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Altar in the cave.

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

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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.

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The entrance, from the inside.

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Richard, offering incense to the altar.

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Carol, exiting the cave.

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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.

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Richard, meditating in the cave.

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Ramana’s resting cave

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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.

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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.

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Below Virupaksha 2

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

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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.

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The altar.

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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.

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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.

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Richard and Carol, meditating in the cave.

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

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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).

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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.

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Stairs lead down into a main room.

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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.

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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.

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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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A nice cement floor has been put in the cave.

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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
2008

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.

www.JJMDskincare.com.

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

LOTUS LAND

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