9 June 2006

My Secret Saint

I know a small story connected with this Shrine, but probably the Shrine has even a greater history than I can imagine.

It has always been a desire of mine to connect with a Secret Saint. For some reason I have had this fancy for a long time and recall how thrilled I was reading the story of Paramahamsa Ramakrishna meeting the disguised avadhuta in the Calcutta Temple.

The story goes that Ramakrishna and some accompanying devotees stood watching a wild, filthy unkempt beggar eating food left-overs from soiled banana leaves with a pack of mangy Temple dogs. Ramakrishna told his group that the seeming beggar was in fact an avadhuta and a great soul and he had adopted the disguise to hide his stature and thereby ensure his privacy.

Arunachala has always had the reputation of attracting rishis, saints, sadhus, devotees and pilgrims. And it is part of the Hills lore that at any one time there are at least several rishis (in disguise) present at this holy place. From my own experience I believe it is best to be careful how you speak to even the most seemingly innocuous of people whilst at Arunachala. Who knows who it is?

Anyhow, for over a year a naked sadhu used to live curled up in this little shrine (picture above). His only protection from the cold and mosquitoes was his lungi (cotton wraparound sheet worn around the waist) which he unfurled at nights and used as a cover. Mostly his cover fell off and left him naked and exposed to the elements; hot sun, driving rain or cold winds. He spent days and nights lying with his head and chest curled tight inside the shrine and his waist and legs poking out resting on the platform.

And thus it went, day after day with him remaining almost completely motionless. Sometimes other sadhus would come and place food nearby and somehow the food mysteriously seemed to disappear. But the timing of the recluse was perfect and it was as if he was invisible in the way he was able to leave his shrine and suddenly reappear.

Curiously for most of one full year he was left alone, even though his residence i.e. the shrine, is located on the outer pradakshina road at its busiest near the arterial NH-66 road to Bangalore.

In my mind and heart I adopted him as my Secret Saint and tried to be scrupulous not to disturb him. I would even walk on the other side of the road, as far from his shrine as possible, so not to worry or disturb his meditation with uncontrolled thoughts.

But all of a sudden pilgrims started to notice my Secret Saint and started to stop at the shrine to offer fruits, money and ask for blessings. Once it started, it remorselessly gathered pace, and slowly one could feel a certain frentic excitement and energy around the shrine.

And then all of a sudden; he was gone and never returned, my Secret Saint!

: he who has shed everything: a radical type of renouncer who often engages in unconventional behavior)


Divyakka said...

What a delightful story! If only everyone would be as sensitive and caring as you, your Secret Swami would still be there! But, never in India does that happen… once they even remotely suspect that someone is a holy being, they suffocate the saint with adoring affection, attention and gifts.

vs said...

Lovely one. I enjoyed reading this post.