27 January 2014

Paul Brunton and Arunachala

In the previous posting I wrote about the upcoming restoration of Paul Brunton's Cottage at Palakottu, west of Ramana Ashram and at the base of Arunachala. To read the posting go to this link here. Below is a short biography and extract from his famed book, "In Search of Secret India." 

Paul Brunton (1898-1981) was a British philosopher, mystic, and traveller. He left a successful journalistic career to live among yogis, mystics, and holy men, and studied a wide variety of Eastern and Western esoteric teachings. With his entire life dedicated to an inward and spiritual quest, Brunton felt charged with the task of communicating his experiences to others and, as the first person to write accounts of what he learned in the East from a Western perspective, his works had a major influence on the spread of Eastern mysticism to the West. He was also one of the first Westerners to first bring Arunachala and Sri Ramana Maharshi to greater public attention. 

Pencil drawing of Paul Brunton in his Cottage

The following extract taken from Paul Brunton 1936 book ‘A Message from Arunachala,’ describes the Hill’s appearance and antiquity in a way which has not been bettered: 

The Hill

"Somewhere in South India there is a lonely Hill which has been honoured with a high status in Hindu sacred tradition and legendary history. It lies near the same latitude as French-ruled Pondicherry, yet does not enjoy the latter’s advantage of catching the cooling coastal breezes. A fierce sun daily flays it with darting rays. Its form is uncouth and ungainly – a tumbled, awkward thing whose sides are jagged and broken. Whose face is a mass of jumbled rocks and thorny scrubs. Snakes, centipedes and scorpions lurk beneath the crevices of its multitudinous stones. During the dry summer months, cheetahs make their bold appearance with dusk, descending the Hill in a snarling quest of water. 

The whole peak offers no pretty panorama of regular outline, straight sides and balanced proportions, but rather the reverse. Even its base wanders aimlessly about on an eight-mile circuit, with several spurs and foot Hills, as though unable to make up its mind as to when it shall come to an end. Its substance is nothing but igneous and laterite rock. 

A geologist friend from America who visited me lately proclaimed Arunachala to have been thrown up by the earth under the stress of some violent volcanic eruption in the dim ages before even the coal-bearing strata were formed. 

In fact, he dated this rocky mass of granite back to the earliest epoch of the history of our planet’s crust, that epoch which long preceded the vast sedimentary formations in which fossil records of plants and animals have been preserved. It existed long before gigantic saurians of the prehistoric world moved their ungainly forms through the primeval forests that covered our early earth. He went even further and made it contemporaneous with the formation of the very crust of the earth itself. Arunachala, he asserted, was almost as hoary and as ancient as our planetary home itself. It was indeed a remnant of the vanished continent of sunken Lemuria, of which the indigenous legends still keep a few memories. 

The Tamil traditions not only speak of the vast antiquity of this and other Hills, but assert that the Himalayas were not thrown up till later. Untold centuries, therefore, pressed their weight upon this time-defying pile which rose so abruptly from the plain. 

And yet this unbeautiful and doddering greybeard among heights took my heart in pawn a few years ago and would not let me redeem the pledge. It held me captive in an intangible and indefinable thrall. It imprisoned me from the first moment when my eyes glanced at it till the last reluctant turning away of the head. I could no longer regard myself as a free man when such invisible chains clanged around my feet."


Divya said...

Now Arunachala has entranced and 'imprisoned' you also, under its magical spell of tranquility & spirituality!

Meenakshi Ammal said...

Its true Divya -- I am enthralled here under the magic of Annamalaiyar.

But it reminds of Sri Sathya Sai when he said that the reason he keeps people with him at his Ashram, is that those devotees need extra help!

If thats the reason I'm being kept here at Arunachala, totally okay with that!