Saturday, January 1, 2011


The fire is lit on Arunachala, November 2010

What is deepam all about?

According to legend, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma (not to be confused with brahman, the Absolute) once began to quarrel as to who was the more powerful of the two. While they were fighting, a huge pillar of fire appeared before them. Vishnu and Brahma gave up quarrelling and decided to find the top and the bottom of this pillar.
Brahma assumed the form of a swan and moved upwards. Vishnu transformed himself into a boar and started digging deep into the earth. But even after searching for centuries, neither of them was able to find the ends the pillar. When they met again in front of the huge column of fire, Vishnu said that he hadn’t been able to find it’s lower end. But Brahma had come across the flower Ketaki floating down from above and claimed that he had found the upper end and presented Ketaki as a witness, who confirmed, that she had been placed on top of the column of fire. At that moment Lord Shiva

appeared within the column of fire and cursed Brahma, because he had lied, that nobody would worship him and no temples would be build for him; and he cursed Ketaki, who had until now been dear to him, that she would never be used as offering in any worhip. And indeed, the Ketaki-flower is never used in rituals and there are only very few temples dedicated to Brahma - as opposed to thousands dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu - the most important one being the Jagatpita Brahma Mandir in Pushkar, Rajasthan

Then Lord Shiva “cooled down” and became the Arunachala Hill at Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu. Every year, beginning at the fullmoon in November, this year on 21st November 2010, for eleven nights a fire is lit on top of the mountain in rememberance of this story and of Shiva’s greatness.

There is a shrine in Shri Ramana Maharshi’s Ashram depicting this legend (left). Shiva in the centre, on the left Brahma with the swan and ketaki above ...

... and on the right Vishnu and the boar:

One could apply this story also to the so-called “spiritual" search: no amount of searching will lead to finding something. Anybody claiming to have found IT, can only be cheating like Brahma. Why?

Here in the video is the short, direct answer. The wordy version will follow soon. 

For every search we may consider four aspects: (1) the seeker or  the subject; (2) that which is searched for or the object; (3) the reason for searching or the motive; (4) how and where to search or the path. How and why does who search for what - is the question. Someone might answer: "I don't care, who I am  and why and what I'm searching for, but I'm just following this path and don't ask questions!" Another one may say: "I'm unhappy and I would do anything to get rid of that feeling." And a truly smart seeker might pronounce: "As long as I don't know who I am, everything else is irrelevant." And the devotee: "I don't care about all of this mental clutter, I don't know anything, I just do what my Guru tells me to do, because I trust, that he knows best." And the one who believes in advaita, non-duality, may have convinced himself: "There is no subject, no object, no motive and no path. All there is is this." Some advise us: "keep on searching" and others: "give up the search". And yet others: "there's noone to either keep on searching or give up searching".  But this is enough for now; to be continued later ...

Alright, then let's do pradakshina. This is walking around something clockwise. Thus, what you are walking around is to your right. Dakshina means right and South (and it also means donation, originally what a priest got for his perfomance of a ritual). South and right? Yes, because when people still began the day at sunrise, they stood facing East, worshipping the rising sun. Then South, the direction of death, was to their right. Its alright when you face the light! And today we are modern and scientific and all that, so we no longer begin the day at sunrise but in the middle of the night - not knowing which direction we are facing - and most of us fast asleep.

While searching is goal oriented and linear, pradakshina is circular and may give results indirectly. Like the planet earth which moves around the sun thereby producing life on its surface. And in Tiruvannamalai people walk around the monutain Arunachala in this way during fullmoon, when Shiva's eye, the moon, is fully open. When the night is as bright and light as it can get, and many start walking already during the day. But first, here is a map showing where in India Tiruvannamalai is located:

And now, here is a map of the pradakshina-path around the mountain Arunachala (in Tamil Annamalai):

Here is a slide show with pictures of Deepam 2010:
And here you can see the people walking:  

And people in the ashram are chanting next to the fire

The Full Moon in November 2010

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