4 January 2009

A Women’s Pilgrimage to Arunachala

“I was inspired to bring a small, intimate group of women to visit Arunachala for a spiritual pilgrimage in November 2008. The group consisted of seven women, who were all first-timers to India. Most of the women had a long-time deep desire to come to India for spiritual reasons, but were afraid to travel by themselves. They wished to travel with someone who had a deep connection with India and experience in making the journey.

The women came from a variety of backgrounds, yet had the desire to come to India in common. The group consisted of psychotherapists, yoga teachers, an acupuncturist, renowned author and teacher, body workers, a physical therapist, a banker and a housewife. We stayed at Sri Nannagaru Ashram, an ashram located down the road and within walking distance from the Ramana Ashram. (Although Sri Nannagaru never met Sri Ramana Maharshi in the form, he attributes his realisation to the direct grace of Arunachala-Ramana. Sri Nannagaru lives in his native place of Jinnuru, a small village in Andhra Pradesh and visits Arunachala several times a year, at which time darshan is regularly given to devotees and pilgrims). In my experience, Sri Nannagaru Ashram has the best energy of all the ashrams in Tiruvannamalai and has an extremely clean and peaceful atmosphere.

The intent of the pilgrimage was to bring the women to this holy place to experience its grace and magic. It was designed to be highly supportive for the women, but loosely structured so that the women could deepen in their own spiritual practice. During this two week pilgrimage, the first week was designed to escort the women to the various holy sites and teachers. The second week was designed for the women to follow their hearts and deepen their spiritual practices by revisiting the places where they had the most resonance. We had ample time together and also time for solitude. Each day began with breakfast together and an easy yoga practice.

The first week consisted of: visiting the Ramana Ashram and taking part in its daily pujas and nightly parayanas and meditation, visiting Arunachaleswarar Temple and participating in Pujas, attending satsang with various realized teachers at Arunachala, meditating in the Arunachala caves and performing full moon Pradakshina around Arunachala.

Virginia Lee is centre of lady group

One of the highlights was a temple 'tour' given by Meenakshi Ammal, publisher of Arunachala Grace Network. Meenakshi has given her life to learning about this holy mountain. She has researched, re-discovered and accumulated lost knowledge about the Temples and spiritual practice at Tiruvannamalai. The group was fortunate enough to spend a whole day with Meenakshi, learning much about little known temples and the deities associated therewith. She also arranged Vedic astrology readings and subsequent pujas for healing and empowerment at Adi Annamalai temple.

The women who travelled on this pilgrimage have had their lives deeply enriched as a result. Every one of them reports a radical shift in consciousness and deepening within themselves and their spiritual connection. Each had deep spiritual and psychological growth. I have no doubt, and it is my experience that visiting Arunachala will continue to deepen the lives of the women with grace as they return to their homes. Not only were the women enriched by Arunachala, but also Arunachala and a number of villagers benefited by our presence. As one of the intents of our visit was to be of service, some of the group members arranged to finance English tuition for the children (as without English the children have little opportunity to uplift their lives). The kids were also purchased bicycle in order to visit their visits to their English tutors. Others of the group made a ten year sponsorship commitment to send a child through school

Please stay posted for future articles about this pilgrimage, short articles written by the women themselves and their follow-up experiences. It is anticipated that the next Women’s Pilgrimage to Arunachala will be in November 2009. For more information or inquiries please contact me at bhakti.2u@juno.com.”

[Virginia Lee -- Ojai, California]


Claire Dawn said...

This sounds very interesting. I am particularly attracted to the fact that it is a secure all-women's group. Can you personally recommend this?

Meenakshi Ammal said...

We can indeed personally recommend this lady to facilitate groups coming to Arunachala. Met up with lots of Retreat groups and personal tour operators, but was very impressed by the level of expertise, commitment and friendliness shown by Virginia to all her group. It was a very successful Retreat and am sure that her future groups will be equally so.

Divya said...

Sounds like a wonderful idea and opportunity for the pilgrims.