Sri Ram

                   Introduction to Letters from Arunachala

     Over the past quarter century, there has been an increased interest in

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, his life and teachings as well as an explosion of

Indian pilgrims particularly around the full moon, who come to be blessed by the

sacred hill Arunachala. Bhagavan was drawn to this sacred hill as a boy and left

his childhood home at Madurai in 1896 to be at Tiruvannamalai where

Arunachala is situated. He stayed at various places near and on Arunachala

before he eventually settled down at the foot of the hill where the present-day

ashram grew around him, and he remained there steadfastly for the rest of his

mortal life. He left his physical body in 1950. When he was still a young man he

would often walk around the hill and he also composed songs in its praise.

Arunachala was his guru.

     The following is a personal account of one with Western heritage

possessing an Eastern yearning heart, who came to Arunachala-Ramana

decades ago along with a steadily increasing trickle of other Westerners who felt

the call of Sri Ramana and the sacred hill.

     The journey is also our journey, for we all travel along a well-defined

path in our efforts to understand who we are and, in this instance, be absorbed

in that embodiment of Grace and Love, Arunachala-Ramana.

     My spiritual journey and the development of an understanding came

slowly over decades and now is shared with you. At times it was painful but I

would not have wanted it any other way for looking back I see how much was

learnt amid tribulation. This journey has not ended and I am still on the way. As

a devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi, I have learned, as much as my capacity

allows, to trust that higher power which guides all of us if we but recognize and

surrender to it. I was incredibly lucky to come under the auspices of Sri

Ramana Maharishi. I could not wish for more for anyone.

     As a young person, I read Somerset Maughan’s The Razor’s Edge. It

made a powerful impact on me and though it did not provide answers it showed

me that I was not alone in hungering for a greater understanding. This was a

great comfort for a lonely person. We all in our own ways are alone with our

thoughts and feelings which quite often are incommunicable and to know that

there are paths to self-understanding and peace and happiness, paths that

others are also seeking, is the ‘good news’.

     For those who have studied the spiritual paths of various religious

traditions, several important universal truths exist. Among these are: a human

birth is rare and that we should use it to the best of our ability. Another truth is

that there is a way out of suffering and there are infallible methods by which a

person can be released from the wheel of samsara.

     The intention of the following series of short articles is to assist readers

on their own spiritual journey. Each of us is unique and each has their own path

to travel. If we are true to ourselves, we are following our svadharma.

According to Hinduism, svadharma is our distinctive destiny that is moulded by

our past actions in a former life, what we expect to fulfil in this life and how

what we do today will affect our future. Chapter three, verse 35 of the

Bhagavad Gita states: “It is better to perform one’s own prescribed duties

imperfectly rather than to perform another’s duties perfectly. It is better to die

while performing one’s own duties, for executing the duties of another is

fraught with uncertainty.”

     Often, we do not know what is our svadharma and many of us spend our

lives enquiring as to what is our purpose in life. Another way to put the question

is to ask what is the meaning of my life? Anyone who knows their purpose in

life in general or more especially in a certain circumstance can endure and find

meaning in almost any difficulty. An easy example is a mother who sees her

child in physical danger. She will immediately without thinking do whatever it

takes to save the child. This is svadharma. What is it in our own lives that

motivates us to protect and nurture all that is best in us? What are the demands

on us to which we seek answers that may be hard and unpalatable? It is our

svadharma driving us.

     If we are fortunate, we come across a tradition or a teacher who can

correctly guide us. For those who seek guidance in the living teachings of

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, we could not ask for more.