Today is the birthday anniversary of my own Sadguru, Sri Sathya Sai Baba. If he was still in form he would have been 90 years this day. Swamiji loved Arunachala and in fact his very first spiritual teaching made when he was 14 years old was to sing “Manase Bhajare Guru Sharanam” to his devotees.
In this bhajan Bhagavan exhorts devotees to worship the feet of the spiritual preceptor and explains that there is no difference between the Pranava Om (which pervades the Universe), Arunachala and the Lord. Bowing to one is as bowing to all.
Manasa Bhajorey Guru Charanam
Dusthara Bhava Sagara Tharanam
Guru Maharaj Guru Jai Jai
Sai Natha Sad Guru Jai Jai
Om Namah Shivaya, Om Nama Shivaya,
Om Namah Shivaya, Shivaya Namah Om
Arunachala Shiva, Arunachala Shiva,
Arunachala Shiva Aruna Shiv
Om Omkaram Baba, Omkaram Baba,
Omkaram Baba Om Namo Baba
"O mind, worship the Lotus Feet of your God and Supreme Teacher that will take you safely across the ocean of life and death. Victory to our Lord and supreme Teacher, Sai Nath!
Mind, also chant and worship; the Divine name of Lord Shiva and Arunachala mountain (which is no different to Shiva) and Baba whose form is OM."
Since that early age of 14 years and his first teaching, Sri Sathya Sai Baba often encouraged, suggested and even ordered devotees to come to Arunachala. As well as his love of this Holy Place, Sri Sathya Sai Baba often guided people (as did Ramana Maharshi) in the method of Self Enquiry.
"All agitation will cease the moment one enters on the enquiry. 'Who am I?' This was the sadhana that Ramana Maharshi achieved and taught to his disciples. This is also the easiest of all disciplines." [Sri Sathya Sai Baba]
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The following is an abridged extract from a letter written on May 8th, 1985 by Eileen, (a devotee of Sri Sathya Sai Baba) to her family in the U.S. She and her friend Barbara had been staying at Swami’s Puttaparthi Ashram and were visiting Tiruvannamalai for the first time. The letter is particularly interesting in that it conveys Eileen’s first impressions of Tiruvannamalai and Arunachala and also tells of her meeting with the great saint Swami Ramsuratkumar.
After spending a number of years living in India, Eileen returned to the United States and is currently working and living in California. As of this date she has not yet returned to Arunachala.
Letter From India
“Barbara and I left on the 2 PM bus to Tiruvannamalai. We arrived and were let off at the Ramana Maharshi Ashram at about 6:30 PM. We were showed around, got a room and had dinner there. It’s a place of Peace . . . the huge Arunachala mountain paints the background, beautiful. The ashram itself has a few one-story buildings, tiny office and bookstore; bare dining room and kitchen, the main temple; a meditation room, etc.
Since the Arunachala Hill is Siva Himself, Siva is the One worshipped here, mostly in the form of the sacred Lingam. Nandi the bull (Siva’s vehicle, said to be Siva’s first and most devoted follower) is everywhere, always facing Siva or Lingam. Strong vibrations in the Temple, very high.
We stayed in the ashram accommodation rooms that are in a walled-in compound outside and across the street from the ashram itself. Our room, #7, had two beds, a writing table, closet, fan and separate toilet (Indian style) and shower rooms. Luxury!!!
Nothing costs anything at the ashram – you get a room, are served breakfast, lunch and dinner, and are given guides, all completely free. But then at the end of your stay, you can give a donation. Anything you want but we were told by people who had visited there, that Rs. 5/- a day was fine . . . .
The program there is mostly only Vedic chanting and pujas in the temple—that’s it. So you’re not as occupied as in Parthi. But you do get Darshan—Darshan of Arunachala. One Sai devotee said, “I went there and had Darshan of Sai,” and it’s true! The mountain is so sacred, so worshipped, powerful and special—it is like having Darshan of Sai. No kidding.
The next day the 4th, we planned to go around the mountain. A Sanyasi friend, Sathya, had had a bad staff infection on her foot, very painful, and she said going around Arunachala was the only thing that made it feel better. So, so much for my bad-foot excuse! Well I wanted to go around the hill anyway, it was so special.
It was a full moon night, the most auspicious month in the Tamil year and a full eclipse of the moon from 12 midnight to 3 AM! A group of 20 of us trekked off around 11 PM, so we could go around during the eclipse. Usually takes about 4 hours to go around—it’s 8 or 9 miles.
But this group, they stopped a few times, once even for half-an-hour. So it took longer. By like three-quarters of the way through, Barbara and I were leading the way, far ahead of the rest. As for me, I needed to keep up a fast pace because when I slow down, I get lazy and tired. My foot didn’t hurt at all the whole way - ! But my legs started to hurt for the last half-a-miles.
It was wonderful—so sacred. Real blessings. The next day I felt a definite change in me—can't explain but something had happened. Special.
We finished at around 4:15 AM. Slept for a few hours then up for the day (the 5th).
Forgot to say, before going around the mountain Barbara and I went up the hill to a cave where Ramana Maharshi spent over 20 years, meditating, remaining in bliss. They’ve built a small temple over the spot (rather, an entrance to the cave). Very high, peaceful vibrations.
On the 5th, we went to the Arunachala Temple in the village. It’s huge, huge—hundreds of years old. It was much bigger than the huge Temple we went to in Madras, the famous one we were living by.
We went to the innermost shrine where a huge Lingam was installed. It was smoky from incense, very, very hot—the priests all around chanting the Vedas and mantras and were soaked in sweat—all adding to the effect. I had the feeling of coming into the presence of something huge and powerful, beyond my comprehension. The image of the black lingam seen through thick smoke, accepting the worship and adoration being poured on Him, stays in my memory. What an experience!
We were told about a saint living nearby, Ramsuratkumar. Personally I'm not much for seeing saints but I got a intuitive, special vibration when I had heard about him, so we had decided to see him. For days before, I had been thinking that I have nothing to ask or tell him, no questions or anything. But then, there was a big question of whether I should return to Puttaparthi. I had planned to stay at Ramana Ashram and either ask permission to stay longer or go straight to Madras to the Theosophical Society.
So anyway, after the Temple, we went to the saint’s house. We got there and he let us in. He’s short and chubby, with a white beard going down several inches. An air of joy, his face shines. His small, intense eyes pierce through you—very, very good vibration. I felt right at home in his presence. He had us sit on the porch/parlour, inside the door. He also sat, a few feet away.
We were with him maybe 20 minutes. No others, just us. It made me think of the high saints Yogananda had visited. Yogi Ramsuratkumar had a fan and would fan, or point it at us as if doing something on the astral plane—sometimes put one hand up, sometimes would look like he was shooing away entities that had come near him. He went into several long silences. He controlled everything—the questions, what subject, when to be silent.
He asked us about our education, jobs, if we had a guru, how long we had been in India. When he found out we had been with Sai Baba for five-and-a half months, he said, “Very lucky, very lucky.”
Everything he said seemed to have a subtle meaning also, no question was taken by me to have only been on the physical level. He seemed beyond that—deeper meanings.
It was nearing the end and then out of the blue he asked, “And how long will you stay in India?” He pointed to me and said, “she’s staying three months but doesn’t know where.” Ramsuratkumar turned straight to me and said, “YOU will stay with BABA.” ‘Baba’ he said with a normal voice but suddenly, the whole room was flooded with love and peace—GOD Himself had entered. It was like a huge wind, we were completely blown away from the vibration. All from the one word ‘BABA’.
Soon after that, he got up with hands in blessing saying, “Barbara and Eileen, my Father blesses you,” and repeated it (before, he had asked our names and how to spell them). Then he saw us to the door and we got in the bicycle rickshaw and drove past. We gave him the “namaste” hand pose and he put both of his hands high in the air, in blessing, with a smile too (standing on the porch watching us leave).
The next day, I spent a lot of the time in the Temple and Ashram pujas and meditation room. Barb climbed three-quarters of the way up Arunachala. Then at 9 PM went to get our 9:30 PM bus. Delays, super-crowded. Almost unbearably high seats that didn’t go back. Constant noise. Bodies filling not only every seat, but bodies also sitting and standing packed in the tiny aisle. Along with that, the luggage—filling every space. Crying babies, kids lying across their parent’s laps; constant rumbling of Indian languages; loud rock-like Indian music blaring away.
Bodies everywhere. We were putting our knees up on the seats next to us, to try to sleep. Our feet weren’t touching the floor, but were dangling a foot or so above it. Then I felt flesh underneath and found that a boy of like 12 or 13 years was sleeping under our feet! A village lady’s elbow was pressing against my shoulder and a man’s side was mushed against my leg.
Long stops and fights with still more people who wanted to get on but couldn’t. Impossible to get out (to stretch legs) for the whole trip. The most you could do was move an inch or two to the side. It was a 6½ hour ordeal (remember it took 4½ hours to get there).
We arrived back at Puttaparthi in time for evening Darshan (May 7th). Met with stories of Sai Baba not coming out at all for two Darshans, during the short time we were gone. We both got 1st row for evening Darshan but He was giving a discourse in the Mandir to His school kids (college/Jr. college) and didn’t come out at all. I had never seen such a thing—all the Mandir doors and windows were closed. He spoke over an hour then bhajans started, didn’t come out at all during bhajans. Then at arathi He slipped out and into the interview room. Luckily, I saw a glimpse of Him.
Next morning, I was the third-to-last person in the last row to get in—everyone was packed so I stood outside the wall. Sai came. He walked in a direct line to me with the most intense, powerful, Siva stare I have ever experienced. It was to the point of beyond all the three worlds of existence and consciousness. I was completely blown away, as if a storm had overtaken me. I cannot imagine anything closer to the formless Divinity itself, being experienced through the physical body of Divinity—of Sai. I felt almost as if Sai Baba had gone to the utmost limits of what He can show of His Divinity, in the physical realms.
He approached me staring straight into my eyes—as God, as Power, as Siva Himself. I was experiencing power and energy radiating all around and out of Him—all energy, all power.
You know there’s love between us all so let us just do His will . . . I say I'm a child of God but I'm really just a puppet."
OM to you.