Hi all, well I have arrived in Tiruvannamalai which is clearly a major Mecca for spiritual seekers from all over the world. There are many many western as well as indian people here attracted by the Sri Ramana Ashram, the sacred mountain Arunachala and the diverse spiritual type scene which has grown up around them.
For those who don't know Sri Ramana Maharishi is a highly regarded Indian Sage of the highest order. He came to this area as a16 year old boy after a spontaneous major spiritual awakening and stayed here for over 50 years until his body passed away in 1950. He never sought an audience but many people came, attracted by the magnetic presence he emanated which drew them powerfully inwards towards the experience of their own innermost Being - the Self.
He mainly shared in silence but when verbal teaching was requested he generally advised the ancient method of self-inquiry which involves inwardly posing the question 'Who Am I?' as an aid to cutting through the false identifications of the mind which cloud over the ever present experience of our true inner-most nature. Not an intellectual excursion but a turning of the awareness back upon itself towards it's source in Pure Beingness.
That may not make a lot of sense to some people but puts it in a nutshell. My own experience here is that there is a palpable inner (if not always outer) silence which can be felt, particularily in the old meditation hall where Ramana sat with people for many years (haven't been up the hill yet). I feel it like a dissolving process, an inner quieting which suits me very well. I can see myself spending quite a bit of time here.....................
There is quite a bustling town of around 100,000 people here which is not particularly attractive. The Sri Ramana Ashram is on the outskirts but there is still a fair bit of bustle and traffic noise (which in India includes a lot of horn tooting) nearby. Regardless, this is a special place. I am staying within the ashram for a few days where I intend to really focus on the ashram routine itself. After my alloted stay is up I will find other accomodation nearby and will explore the wider scene somewhat. There seems to be a real smorgasborg of various guru's and socialising going on.
I don't intend to get too distracted by all of the excitements but will certainly have a look since I am here.
On another note, the countryside approaching here is very beautiful. Without knowing too much the people seem to be living a very simple and traditional agricultural life. They may not have much materially but I imagine their lives could be quite peaceful and satisfying. That is in stark contrast to some of the filthy, disease ridden squalor I saw in Mumbai - not that it is all like that. Also got chatting to a couple of nice Indian fellows on the 4 hr bus ride here.