Arunachala Shiva: Where I Burn, In the Fire of Wisdom

We all have a place we can journey to – be it physical, heartful – and/or in the spirit realm. A place where we Be. Where we wait, still – quiet. Stewing. Unassumingly anticipating what eventually reaches the surface. A ripeness. That we can truly drop into. With time and spaciousness. This dissection. A process of unravelling. And we work with it. So that it may ultimately, burn up. And dissolve. In the fire of wisdom.

Sometimes this sequence unfolds without any planning. Without any intention. We could very well be at home sitting on our comfy couch. And BAM. We are struck with a most profound opening.

At home or not, totally prepared or not – we initiate this distinct journey to probe deeper into ourselves. Into this Creation. Into the nature of reality. Into Us. There is no timeline amid this – practice. Pilgrimage. Vision Quest. Intensive. Retreat. Or whatever form this particular passage takes for you. It happens when we are really and truly ready to see clearly. And cut through. Even unwillingly, at first. Like even before the particular thought related to our intention actually appears in the mind. In those instances, the higher source is calling us, because at some level – be it subconscious – we are so ready.

At times this internal examination takes the form of us “kicking and screaming” for much of the process. And this inner struggle itself takes many forms that may include resistance, anxiety, insecurity, etc. – the root of which all, is fear. Stemming from some long ago story from when we were a child. That time when a seed of unworthiness was planted in us through our conditioning – be it familial, cultural, societal, etc. Or perhaps the story was sowed lifetimes ago. Ancestral wounding which has been carrying that false belief for hundreds of years. Perhaps even thousands.

There is a much larger force at play, that comes through us. Divinity. God/Goddess. Spirit. Creator. Whatever This is to you, She guides us. Reveals The Way. Including that which must come forth, in order for us to go deeper and become more expansive. In order for us to go towards our highest and truest potential. Our greatest, innermost calling in this lifetime. And we must be prepared to take full responsibility for what arises in this inquiry. Only by doing this can we authentically show up. And engage in the work of our imminent evolution that is quietly yet attentively nudging us to show up and wholeheartedly commit to the task. The question is, are we ready? Like really, truly, 100 percent – audaciously ready? Without a doubt, no short-cuts, no half ass’dness, no humming and hawing, no excuses – ready?


The Fire Element

For me, this place of profound magnification seems to be Arunachala Shiva in South India. One of my two heart and soul homes in the land of my roots. Where the fire element is high due to this holy mountain that the town of Tiruvannamalai (Tiru’) is situated around. It is a fire incarnation of Shiva. Arunachala translates as “The Unchanging Light.” Also known as: our True Nature/Satya/Pure Consciousness/Awareness/Brahman/Truth/Shiva.

me and arunachala 2012
Arunachala Shiva: “The Unchanging Light.” (Photo: Jean Cabanes)

Arunachala is also one of the five main Shaivite (worshippers of Shiva) holy sites in South India. The Arunachaleswar Temple, the largest Shiva temples on the planet which began construction in the 9th century, is located at the base of the sacred mountain. And was specifically built to honour Arunachala Shiva.

Arunachaleswar Temple.

It is believed that when Brahma and Vishnu began to argue as a result of being deluded by pride and egoism way back in the day, Lord Arunachala Shiva appeared before them in the form of a column of fire, and conquered their egoism by teaching them True knowledge. When Shakti, in the form of Goddess Parvati, wished to achieve a state in which she could commit no wrong, Lord Shiva sent her to Arunachala to perform her final tapasya (austerities), where she then merged and became one with him (forming the androgynous deity known as Ardhanarishvara). Like so, even to Brahma and Vishnu, Arunachala was Guru, and to Parvati it was the place where her separate individuality was destroyed.

By merely thinking of Arunachala, one will surely attain Liberation.” – Shiva

Such is the assertion given by Shiva in the Arunachala Mahatmyam about the power of

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Sri Ramana Maharishi.

the sheer thought of Arunachala, and this assurance has received significant confirmation from the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharishi, a renowned Indian sage from the 20th century, who lived and taught at Ramana Ashram, located at the foot of Arunachala.

In many of the verses Ramana wrote, he clearly explained that the role of Arunachala is the designation of the guru. In Aksharamanamalai he indicates that Arunachala roots out the ego of those who think of it; it conquers those who approach it as God; and destroys the attachment of those who come to it with attachment.

Arunachala is the gross form of Supreme Truth, therefore to connect with it in any manner is considered satsang: to think, to see, or to live near this sacred hill. A way of engaging satsang with Arunachala is to do Arunagiri-pradakshina, which refers to walking barefoot around the hill, keeping it to one’s right side.  Because Arunachala is recognized as the ‘fire of knowledge’ (jnanagni), when the mind, which is saturated with worldly tendencies (vasanas) goes round the hill with quiet, inward contemplation, one’s tendencies gradually lose their control over the mind.

Entrance to Sri Ramana Ashram.


Satya Sangha

Arunachala Shiva is by far the largest concentration of Satya (Truth) I have encountered on Mother Earth. Sure Satya is everywhere, for it is our True Nature. What I am getting at is that the Satya sangha here is by far the deepest, most profound immersion on the planet that I have experienced. The immense Shiva vibration here is palpable. The frequency is elevated. And the fire element is exceptionally high. Karmic seeds burn up quickly here. And the burning takes many forms, some comfortable, and some downright painful. Arunachala Shiva’s Grace will surely prescribe appropriately. It rests on what is next for us on this journey of life. This path of really rising up to our awakening. Committing truly to that which is burning in us, to be revealed. Be it self realization. Or embodying this realization. Truly expressing love of God/Goddess./Self. Burning up that which does not serve us, nor our higher vision. It’s a place of emotional purification amid the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. It can also be a place to discover our gifts. How to celebrate and share them. And ultimately, how to serve. Whatever it is, Arunachala Shiva will bring it out, no doubt! It is like a melting pot here. I myself generally take my exit after three months. That seems to be a comfortable full cycle for me here. My edge just before the intense heat arrives. It’s often quite intense in this place of fire, fire fire. Yet it can also be really pleasant and your time here can be (unusually) light. Again, it depends on what is being called forth through you by Arunachala’s Grace. For Arunachala Shiva will always give you what you need. Even if it’s not what you think you need. Hah!

The town itself is like a temple. Folks are taking refuge in God/Goddess/Self. This is

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On Namah Shivaya.

simply the norm’ here, and the foremost. The material world has been left behind for now. Security, pleasure and status have fallen away for now (for some). For some it’s a place to really stop. To get an infusion. And then move on with this inspiration. For others it’s a place to deepen into their Centre. And for some it is truly home. A returning to themselves.

I have observed long-term couples come here for the first time, and break up within days or weeks. I have also witnessed beautiful partnerships forming here, including one of my own at one point. There is a natural openness among the people who live here, and those who come here for the season, returning year after year. An un-armouredness. And a beautiful vulnerability. All at the instance of “hello.” It’s a concentration of folks who know who they are at their very core (Satya/Truth), even if they haven’t assimilated it yet. But are in that process through self inquiry/jnana yoga. For it is their highest calling and  prime journey. Therefore most often the body/mind/ego stuff is blatantly checked at the door, and when it isn’t (which is also often depending where one is at), then the illusory/dreamscape is seen for what it is, quite immediately. And so, there’s no theatrical draw to the contents. Because vast spaciousness pervades. There’s a respect here for one’s True Nature. These Ones that know their fullness, completeness, perfection. That nothing outside of them can touch them. That nothing can be taken away from them. Nor added.

“Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, try as you may. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to prevent it. This is certain. The best course, therefore, is to remain silent.”
– Ramana Maharishi

Arunachala is a place of purification and cleansing. A place where invocations unfold almost immediately, in my experience. Where it is common knowledge that knowing your True Nature is the real Bliss. Dependent on no object. Therefore there is no chasing of the objects in samsara: security, pleasure and status. The foundation here is recognition of Self and Divinity, our True Essence. Not the name on our passport, nor the contents of our mind or ego. Where we honour everybody and everything in us, from this place. While working to dissolve patterning that holds us in fearful forms — that which does not truly and deeply nourish us.

I have been coming here for six of the past eight seasons, and there are still folks I see every year that I have never exchanged words with, yet we will always look into each other’s eyes and say hello in that silent, lovingly, knowing way. Or give an Indian head nod. Or touch our hearts in unison as we pass one another. (This is the common way of exchange in these parts.) There’s no need for words. We are all here for the same. Satya sangha. Awakening. Moksha. Bhakti. Jnana. In the form of communing with Arunachala Shiva and his Grace. The Truth. Our own reflection. Whatever it is, it’s our heart’s Truth. We are doing the work. Slow and steady. Day by day. Step by step. Breath by breath. And how beautiful it is! And really, what else is there to do? (When you clearly understand that security, pleasure and status are delusions of the material world.)


The Burning

Living here seasonally a half dozen times over the last eight years has been a profound journey in which many gifts have unfolded in many forms, including (as noted above) the seeming good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. It’s where past life connections have been remembered. It’s where I met my teacher, who shifted my entire orientation and life in a most amazing and deeply profound way, that I am so incredibly grateful for. It is a place where I have purified and cleansed, especially that first visit in 2010. (Running from the bed to the bathroom, peeing out of my ass while vomiting for a week. Ok, too much info, haha! And thankfully I don’t even get sick here anymore, knock on wood…) Ok, that was just one form of purification! It’s where I have fallen in love and learned much about the dance of loving and surrender. It’s a place that brought me back to a major motor vehicle accident I had 18 years previously, to the crash in Tiru’ a couple of years ago. When old wounding and stories came through in a deep physical form first via a most protruding and heated welt on my psoas (muscle of fear) that followed a treatment with a wellness practitioner, and later with the emotional process that ensued. An opportunity to heal the deeper layers of that which had not yet been healed over the preceding almost two decades. It’s a place where I have learned more deeply about ancestral burdens that had been carried by myself and my foremothers for some generations. And finally – this season, after a trio of years when this understanding was first revealed to me more clearly, it was lifted through working with the support of a gifted guide here. No more of that periodic tense neck pain I had had for nearly 20 years. And I am so thankful, wow. It’s a place I have gone into deeper layers of the grief around my 64-year-old mother’s sudden death a couple of years ago, as some of those close to me here lost their mother tragically just a couple of blocks away. It’s the place I was able to begin the Mother India chapter of leading Vedic Fire Ceremony – a gift I inherited from my dear mother, bless her spirit. It’s a place where I have been able to serve my teacher and sangha with some of the skills I have been graced with in this life time. Arunachala, where Kali finally exposed herself to me (after many years of evasion on my part, hah!).

Ramji (my teacher) and I.

Arunachala Shiva. Where I have faced tragedy, amid learning about another layer of compassion – when I advocated to stop a murdered friend’s children from being taken as slaves by the local mafia, and have their family home seized.

Arunachala Shiva. The land my father came to visit me at six years ago, when he met my teacher, and we attended his satsang together. Where I watched my Brahmin father touch my western teacher’s feet at hello, to acknowledge his understanding of the Truth. Where I took care of my father, as he’d just been in an auto-rickshaw accident in Delhi a couple of days prior to boarding his plane south. But still came any way (prior to my knowledge of any such accident). Where I spent time with my father knowing he had cancer, but kept quiet – as I wasn’t supposed to know. The same week I learned that one of my former karma yogis in a volunteer program I had coordinated on the west coast of Canada had just committed suicide. Of course, my moon time followed this series of events. I do believe it was full moon here then too. Phew, that was a particularly intense

Dad and I on Chengam Road.

week, yowza! I also see how that trip really connects my father with this extraordinary Shaivite pilgrim town. Each time I have been here since, he recollects moments from his time here, and relates to the stories I tell him over phone and e-mail with a familiarity and interest that would otherwise not be present if he hadn’t been here himself. He calls this place “a very religious town.” Haha. (He gravitates to “religious” as opposed to spiritual eh’.)

Arunachala Shiva. This power spot where I have received life lessons on love, empathy, God, the sacred, devotion, surrender, Satya — and the deeper refinements of discernment. Never forgetting what is True and what is not, even amid the most seemingly traumatic moment(s).

Where I have learned to let go and surrender over and over. To the point where it is so incredibly obvious at the outset of a seeming challenge/pain/teaching. That’s 90% of it right there. Can we truly know this? Can we walk with it? Can we practice this in those moments that feel like a storm, a fire, a roller coaster, a devastation, a tragedy? Maybe not in the first instance. But soon enough. This is my wish for humanity. More knowing, more discernment, more spaciousness. Less drama. Less resistance. Less anger. Less depression. And ultimately, less fear in all its various forms that include anxiety, resistance, contraction, anger, sadness, and so on.

This season so far, it’s has been a place where I have worked hard to dissolve old ideas, deep-rooted belief systems, on the subtlest levels – that no longer serve me. That only hold me back from stepping into my True potential. A place where old wounds are dissolving. Dissolved. Old stories. Old beliefs. Old ideas. Truly letting go. Each time a new, subtler layer falls away. Unworthiness, unseen, unloved, unrecognized, not valued. Falling away, away, away….OM SWAHA!

From the top of Arunachala. Elevation: 2,670ft.

To date this season, it has also been a place to soak in joy. A period that began a few months before I departed BC, and I will apparently continue to relish in for several more months, says a dear guide of mine from my other homeland. (And actually I recall a few years back streaming mostly a season of full joy here at Arunachala Shiva, albeit I was in the honeymoon stage of a fairly new relationship, hah!)

Even the tail-end of a bacterial eye infection I am just getting over as I write this, has not altered that stream of joy. Because when we have been through so many teachings in the form of darkness/challenge/pain in our lives as noted briefly above, we eventually cultivate a clear-seeing of the process around challenge as it’s unravelling before us. In us. They are in fact opportunities to go deeper and become more expansive. To purify. Dissolve that which does not serve as we flow forward on The Path. So these challenges, aka: teachings (or as the gurus like to say, tests), are like lumps of coal that contain shining diamonds. Which are actually always in our pocket. And represent the effulgence of our True Essence: Satya (Truth/Self). And so when a challenge arises, we can be in the vast spaciousness we have cultivated through various practices (self inquiry, stillness, breath work, healing arts, long stretches of time immersed in Mother Nature, etc.), and observe the arising of the challenge as it is forming in us, amid all our depth of stillness. Not getting drawn into the more dramatic and reactive forms.

Depending on the form of challenge, we can be pro-active and take rapid steps to get the “remedy” necessary. Then rest, replenish, rejuvenate in various forms that suit us in a most ease-full way. (This may look like cancelling our work and social schedule, getting food and supplies delivered, asking for help from friends/loved ones, getting quiet, connecting deeply with Mother Nature, etc.) And then. We wait. And in our waiting, we inquire. Inquire into the root of the challenge, which is essentially a dissolving of fear in some form that must take place. Typically it’s through the journey of surrender. The letting go of our ego trip. Our wants, needs, old stories and beliefs – essentially the conditioning that only holds us back from going deeper. Although the aforementioned obstacle may feel like pain, darkness, struggle, etc. – it is surely Grace leading us to the next level. The next layer. The next deepening. Perhaps our next incarnation. Resurrection. Rebirth. For this Creation is a seeming spiral, we are always coming back to that which requires us to go deeper. Grace of the Goddess does not always feel bright, blissful, light, and glorious all the time. Sometimes her form feels hard, dark, challenging. That moment when we sit with what Is. Also known as (Aka): not resisting the seeming reality before You. Aka: a ground of ease amid the illusive storm unfolding in You. Aka: making peace with what Is. From this grounded foundation, we can flow amid whatever life springs forth.

It was Pema Chodron who said that the same teaching will return over and over again, until we truly get it. That is precisely when it will dissolve. And every dissolution is a springboard for our time of rising. Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes. And as Mr. Chopra said, “all great change is preceded by chaos.”


The Crucial Question

There comes a point where we have to answer an obscured question. A question that has been subtly forming for some time. For me at present, it’s been through various life messages for the past several weeks. It has confronted me in such a concentrated way that I cannot simply walk away from it. That is clearly not an option. And it is so incredibly obvious. The last time I recall receiving a concentration of Divine messaging of this caliber was when my mother left her body suddenly a couple of years ago. Another time time of transformation, initiation and rebirth.

This latest potent sequence of messaging has come in the form of people, opportunities – and Mother Nature. Certain symbolic creatures appeared at my doorstep and stayed all day, until I finally sat down and had a chat with them and finally proclaimed: OK. I GET IT. YES, I AM READY. And sure enough, I never saw them again. A bacterial eye infection a few days ago only sealed it for me. What was already being conveyed right before me, yet still — I was not taking any type of action. So today is the day I start taking action. That I rise up and say, YES. Yes to what is wholehearted. Yes to what is coming through the deepest part in me. Yes to what the Goddess is gifting in order for me to move flow into the next incarnation of this seeming lifetime. For there are many. We know this. This is not just one birth for one lifetime. Rather many births amid this one seeming life that may last 5, 6, 7, or 8 decades. Maybe less. Maybe more. Who knows. But what we do know is that we must step up for what is being called through us in order to awaken humanity together. We must do our part in this important work. It takes a planet in all its colourful forms of life to carry out this significant, necessary, and immense task. With our very sincere breath, heart, and soul.

So share, celebrate and offer your gifts. This is how we can serve. And ultimately, as Ramana Maharishi said, “the greatest contribution you can make, is your own Self Realization.”

And before that, it was Lao Tzu who said something to a similar effect: “If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself, if you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

And so I leave you with This. The greatest lesson of these last days leading up to this seeming Be Day (re: birthday):

Can we finally just declare a wholehearted, soul-FULL YES to what we’ve been subtly avoiding for years?

I say yes.

What about You?

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On the trail of Arunachala.


Article Reference: Arunachala ~ Fire Incarnation of Shiva


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