The Arunachala Ashram is a non profit organization that functions in the U.S. and Canada. They have two formal Ashrams. One is in Jamaica, NY and the other is in Nova Scotia, Canada. Devotees can stay in these Ashrams as guests and enjoy Satsang.
Recently the Arunachala Ashram, with help from the Florida devotees, has started holding annual retreats on Bhagavan’s teachings in Tampa, Florida.
I have visited both the Nova Scotia and the NY Ashrams with my daughter. Being with Bhagavan devotees is like being with family and it is always an enriching and a nourishing time. The Arunachala Ashram website lists Satsangs which are held monthly or weekly around the U.S. and Canada. if one is interested in Bhagavan’s teachings and wants to enjoy Satsang, some of the Satsangs are listed below.
One of the first stops after leaving Colorado that my best friend and I took in our new home-on-wheels (“Lakshmi”) was in Sedona, AZ to go to satsang with Robert Adams. Many of you may know that Robert Adams (whose body died a few years ago) sat before Ramana for years in Tiruvannamalai.
We knew that Robert Adams was aging and that a special opportunity awaited us. Now, keep in mind that my conscious spiritual journey was rather new and I had previously immersed myself in the Satsang Mecca called Boulder.
I had really gotten a feeling for what satsang was “supposed to” look like and went to Robert Adams’ place fully armed with my finest “spiritual” clothing, “spiritual” face, “spiritual” voice, and “spiritual” sitting posture.
When we arrived, spiritually carrying our zaphus behind our hips in silence, heads held humbly down, we were quite surprised to find a room…
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Seeking Satsang with other Bhagavan Ramana devotees, on July 12, my daughter and I arrived at the Arunachala Ashram in Jamaica, NY, for Guru Purnima scheduled for Sunday, July 13.
We had visited the Arunachala Ashram in Nova Scotia, Canada, in the summer of 2013 and had very fond memories of that. We soon met and were greeted by some of the residents of the Ashram including Margo-ji, Ran-ji, Bandhu-ji, and Dennis-ji.
In the Indian culture, we sometimes add the word “ji” at the end of someone’s name to convey respect.
For example, if someone’s name is Ashok, and we want to convey warmth and respect, we call him Ashok-ji. If someone’s name is Maya, we call her Maya-ji.
However, in the Indian culture, no one will ask or demand that we add “ji” when addressing them to show respect. That would be very uncool. It would actually be humorous. It is up to us when we want to add the “ji” after the name of the person. There is no compulsion that we have to add “ji” to the name of everyone we meet and greet.
I am starting with this post a series of articles dedicated to the teachings that Gururaj Ananda Yogi gave to his chelas during 12 years. Gururaj Ananda Yogi (birth name: Purushottam Narsinhram Valodia, 3 March 1932, Gujarat, India – died 17 May 1988, Cape Town, South Africa) was the founder of International Foundation of Spiritual Unfoldment. Gururaj Ananda Yogi started giving satsang in his living room at his home in South Africa and during 1974 with the help of some of his disciples in South Africa started The South African Meditation Society and The International Foundation for Spiritual Unfoldment. Since that date to 1988 when he passed away he traveled around the world lecturing and had chelas in several countries, particularly Spain, USA and the UK countries he visited twice a year since he started teaching. His teachings were recorded and more than 3,000 hours of recorded material are now being edited and transcribed to be published in different media. Some of his disciples are today teachng meditation and there are centers in many parts of the world. I actually dedicate myself full time to teach meditation and maintain meditation centers in Barcelona, Asturias, Bilbao and Madrid
Nothing to do
Nowhere to go
Pulsating life that laughs back at
This bunch of impressions
That feel have an existence by its own
But just exist as impressions of this singled drop of water
Moment by moment, this form performs within this universal dance
And carries images to this singled drop of water
Still pictures of a film
Only existing in its own maya of mind
Clouds that hide the sun
Amazing sun that created those very same clouds
At times merging into my soul – a moment of perfection,
Vain seems my learning, and incomplete
The world’s knowledge gathered through its lifetime,
Impressions of what is, moment by moment, gathered in this singled drop of water
At this moment into timelessness, spacelessness, perfection;
Vain is all art, cults, creeds, humanity – all incomplete
Illusions! Mirages! And then that moment lapses:
The limitless becomes limited, the infinite becomes finite
The machinery of mind starts rolling in its own disturbance –
Surveying the din and tumult of the world,
All existence becomes real and time is divided;
The mind gropes in its own darkness
Real becomes the multitude stricken with pain –
All striving for wealth or fame or a dreamed “forever” prince.
A strive for perfection – the aim of all – consciously or unconsciously.
Knowledge and art and cults and creeds are not in vain
In the world of mind; toiling, striving, fathoming –
Seeking completeness from without
Images gathered reflected back in this moment of delight.
I that have tasted of infinity
Fight with my own mind at times, to loosen its bonds,
And try to seek within
For another moment of eternity
Through these series of articles I will be introducing the teachings of Gururaj Ananda Yogi from which many will be able to benefit
Ho hum, just another ordinary day in Tiru. We got up really early, 5am, to walk to see Nanagaru, one of the spiritual teachers who maintains an ashram here and comes several times a year. We have a friend who is a devotee of Nanagaru, and was certain that we would find his darshan meaningful. Now, Nome has been my teacher for many years, and after coming to Tiruvannamalai I realize that Arunachala is the Guru of us all. But, they say that it is good for an aspirant to keep company with jnanis, Self-realized beings, so I’ll always want to sit with masters like Nanagaru.
It was dark when we started out, a little difficult to walk up our dirt-and-rock road, but we made it to the paved “main” road with no difficulty, not even having to negotiate the barks of the four dogs who live between our house and the road. Soon after we arrived on the road, a bullock cart stopped and asked if we wanted a ride. The cart was piled with large, stuffed burlap bags, so simply hopping on wasn’t possible. The driver pulled me up to his level “at the helm,” and I climbed over the sacks from there. Richard followed me. I made my way to the back of the cart and dangled my legs over, but the driver said something that meant that wasn’t safe. I climbed back to the center of the pile of lumpy sacks.
So here we are at 5:45 in the morning, dawn breaking, and we’re riding down the road pulled by two bony male cattle who had to be constantly prodded by the driver, who talked to them, made clicking sounds, touched a stick to them, and, oddly, kept cupping his hands under their anuses, goosing them on.
When he let us off he said “Arunachalam,” which is code around here for “give me some money.” Richard gave him a 10-rupee note, worth about a quarter, which is a lot to give for an Arunachalam request. We walked down the side road that our driver, Rajan, told us to take, but got stymied by an apparent dead end near a brick “factory.” (The way bricks are made is that the clay is molded and dried, then the pieces are stacked up into an eight-foot cube. Pieces of wood are inserted into the center of the cube, set on fire, and the bricks are fired from the inside.) Some people saw us and waved us toward the right direction. After crossing a ditch and a field, we found Nanagaru’s ashram.
We were pointed to the rooftop meeting space, where we joined a group of about 60, mostly older Indian women, seated on the floor. Nanagaru was just being seated on a plastic chair in front of the group.
He’s quite old, and looked slightly shaky. He sat in silence, looking towards the mountain, which seemed very close. He said something to a young man sitting at his feet, and the man started to shake and cry, I thought, although his back was to me. This guy is pretty powerful, I thought, to cause the young man to react like that. Reminded me of those “Christian” spiritual teachers on TV in the States, where they approach a follower and the follower falls down in a swoon. Then Nanna Garu seemed to be shaking slightly. Turns out the man at his feet was giving Nanna Garu a foot massage, and the shaking was from the vigorous effort.
The massage stopped, and a woman up front stood and gestured to a certain western woman to come forward and sit at Nanagaru’s feet. The woman seemed surprised, but she went there. No fainting or swooning for her, but she sat silently facing the Master. The Master, meanwhile, stayed silent, looked around the group several times, and then said to the woman, in English, that she should go around the mountain at 3 o’clock today. She didn’t reply, and he said no more to her.
More silence, more looking at the mountain, and I could see clearly that Nanagaru had forgotten to put his teeth in. We sat like this for a while, then he stood up, gestured a pranam to the group, and was escorted down the stairs. It was a very peaceful session. Richard remarked that he was surprised that we had been sitting for an hour, a phenomenon that happens when one’s meditation is deep. I agreed that the time went by quickly, but I suspect that I would have been way more rapt sitting on a chair on MY rooftop looking at my real guru, Arunachala.
Down in the courtyard of the ashram they had metal dispensers for coffee and chai. Having the ever-scrumptious sweetened Indian milk coffee did give me a taste of nirvana, though, and it completed the peaceful experience of being with a Master. We walked back home, pleasantly spiritual, as always. And, as I write, the day is still young!
The night of March 6 – when there was no moon – was Mahasivaratri this year. This night honors Siva, seen in nonduality as Being-Consciousness absolute. It is the association with Siva that makes Arunachala such a holy mountain.
Instead of going into town to a temple, or doing pradakshina – walking around Arunachala – we decided to hold a Siva Puja at our house. Here are some photos.
The Altar set up near sun down
The altar has a picture of Siva, a lingam, a photo of Nome, and various puja materials.
Arunachala is is the background.
Fruit and a coconut are common offering.
For Sivaratri it is important to have Bilva leaves as an offering.
Camphor is there for later use.
Puja at midnight
Richard is offering Puja to the Sivalingam.
Coconut milk, cows milk, ghee, bilva leaves and flower petal are offered in turn.
Lingam after Puja
After the Puja here is the broken coconut.
The lingam is covered with bliva leaves and flowers.
Dawn over Arunachala after Mahasivaratri night
Richard and Carol were up most of the night, listening to recordings of chants, and spiritual discourses from their teacher, Nome.
In quiet times we meditated. For us this is a most holy night.
Altar at dawn
Here is the altar at dawn. The lingam has been put back in its usual place, and wrapped with a flower mala.
Now we will go downstairs and go to sleep. This is along night, but spiritually fulfilling.
Philosophy of Sri Raj Mata-Ji
Sri Raj Mata-Ji is one of my earliest spiritual advisors and counselors. Here are some of her sayings in Hindi and Punjabi that I have translated into English.
Life is fleeting. Do something for yourself as well as others.
Grab some happiness when you can.
Happiness is having a caring family and cooking for them.
Happiness is having good friends and good neighbors to talk with.
Happiness is a state of mind.
Some people have everything but they are not happy. It’s a pity.
The secret to happiness is in giving.
If you serve others sincerely, you will be happy.
Nobody cares for the weak. Be strong.
You can only help and serve others if you are mentally strong.
Pray and ask God to make you strong.
If you eat too much, don’t complain afterwards.
Go take a walk after a big meal.
Take care of yourself. Nobody else can in the same way.
Make an appointment with the doctor and get a complete check-up.
Help others who need it. It will be good for you.
Give to charity whatever you can afford.
Make friends with your neighbors. Go shopping with them.
Stay active getting older and be part of a community.
Look for friends. They are looking for you.
Don’t look for perfection in others.
Life is a compromise.
You are better off than a lot of people.
Do the best you can and trust in God.