This Chapter Is Taken From The book Hunting The ‘I’ (According To Sri Ramana Maharshi)- The Lone Star By Lucy Cornelssen
The map shows India as a triangular peninsula in the south of Asia. Jutting into the sea, south of the vast Ganges plains, is the Deccan plateau. With thousands of kilometres of railways and thousands of kilometres of metal-roads, carrying bullock carts as well as the most modern motor-traffic-vehicles, there seems to be little difference between this Indian Deccan and any other civilised part of the world.
The content of this book will soon reveal, however, that ‘India’ means still unknown areas, hidden depths beneath the surface of our everyday world, and, strange to say, these begin very near the soil under one’s feet.
There is a certain mountain, belonging to the Eastern Ghats, about 200 km south-west of Madras, named Arunachala, meaning ‘Hill of Fire’ or ‘Hill of Dawn’. The Puranas claim that it is the most ancient mountain on earth. Folklore, legend, fairy-tale? Well, geological research has confirmed the ‘fairy- tale’. It is generally agreed nowadays that originally the Deccan was not part of the main body of Asia, but represents the remnant of a continent now lost in the depths of the ocean stretching out over Malaysia to Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Celebes and the Philippines. The Himalayas are said to have arisen only in a later period, and the connection by the great plains between the gigantic geological formation and the Deccan to have been created by the sediments of the huge rivers coming down from those mountains.
Thus the feet of the Hindus, children of this country, and those of the foreign travellers do not touch merely rocks and sands and mud, but their minds are given to a long and awe- inspiring history of civilisation over many centuries, and their very hearts feel here the touch of a deeper mystery, though wrapped up for ever in the silence of an inscrutable past.
Nevertheless this unfathomable silence is not dead. Time and again this living mystery gives birth to great souls, who know something – if not of the secret of this lost continent, yet of the secret of its Spirit, which is the secret of Man.
Here in this region appeared once the great Sankara. It is generally held he lived between A.D. 788 and 820, but tradition has it that he flourished already about 200 B.C. was born at Kaladi, on the west coast in Malabar.
An equally famous religious teacher was Ramanuja. Whereas Sankara was the great logician, Ramanuja was the great intuitionalist, who stressed the theistic aspect of the Upanishads. He was born in 1027 A.D. a few miles west of Madras.
While the great work of Sankara was to draw out of the rich religious tradition and compose the philosophy of Advaita- Vedanta, the ‘One without a Second’, Ramanuja put against it Visishtadvaita, qualified non-dualism.
The opposite interpretation to Sankara was set forth by the Kanarese Brahmin Madhva. He was born in 1199 A.D. some 60 miles north of Mangalore and stood firm for an unqualified dualism.
Why, only three poor philosophers within a period of 400 years, long ago … what is there extraordinary in it? Well, there were many more of them, in each century. What we want to point at is that philosophy means in India not only theoretical and logical thought of scholars, but living religion, the life of the soul. It is the teaching of these famous Three which represents the living spirit of the man in the street and in the office, the woman before her small house shrine, up to the present day. It is not in their brains only, but in their blood and their life, because it is the secret of the Deccan, the land, lost in the sea.
This is also particularly the secret of Arunachala, the Hill of Light. In the language of the Puranas, it is the Heart of the World, and the ancient legend of its origin goes like this:
Brahma, the Lord of creation, and Vishnu, the divine sustainer of it, were quarrelling about their status, as to which one of them was the greater. As their discussion grew heated, things in the universe got into disorder, and the minor deities fell in fear and anxiety. Finally they resorted to Lord Siva, the All-powerful, for aid. Between the quarrelling Gods there appeared suddenly a gigantic pillar of light, the sight of which dumbfounded them for a moment. Out of this light came a mysterious Voice:
“He who shall find the upper or the lower end of Me shall be deemed the greater one.”
Immediately both of the antagonists put themselves to work. Vishnu took the form of a boar and started to dig deep into the soil in search of the lower end of the column of light. Brahma transformed himself into a swan and soared higher and higher.
Neither of them arrived at an end of the apparition. Vishnu, catching the idea that the mysterious Voice might have a deeper meaning, gave up and sat down, to find it in the depth of meditation.
Brahma, troubled by the idea that Vishnu might have been successful, became envious, and when there came falling just then a heavenly flower, he grasped it and decided to pretend that he had found it on top of the magic light.
Vishnu, thus being deceived, complained to Lord Siva, asking why He had bestowed on Brahma the Grace of success. Thereupon Siva revealed Himself in the pillar of Light, and, blessing both of them, declared:
“I am Siva; I am Brahman, the mystery of the universe, and thus Atman, the mystery of beings. Nobody can reach Me by his own endeavour. But to those who surrender wholeheartedly to Me, to them I reveal Myself. You ask Me to stay on earth for being worshipped. Well, I shall stay here as Arunachala, the Hill of Light, and when during Autumn the Moon shall arise on the horizon at the same hour when the Sun is setting, there shall be a huge fire lit on the summit, radiating far around. To those who see the Light and meditate on it as the symbol of enlightenment I shall grant the highest Truth.”
Thousands of Indian legends and parables are at the same time veiling and revealing the living Truth about God, Man and World. In this legend of Arunachala, Brahma stands for buddhi, the reason, Vishnu for ahamkara, the ego of man, Siva for Atman, the secret of man’s true Nature. Neither reason nor ego can, of their own talents, reach the Supreme Atman, the supreme Self, the true nature of man; they have to submit. Only then the Atman reveals Itself.
This is the teaching of Arunachala…Siva, the Hill of Dawn, the Dawn of Wisdom. It is also the teaching of Arunachala Ramana.
Who is Sri Ramana, the Maharshi of Arunachala?
Another Voice of the Spirit of the land, lost in the sea, calling the spirit of the 20th century.
When India got her independence, she stressed her intention to play her part in the concert of nations as a secular state like all others, but did not proclaim any particular theoretical ideal. More gifted than others, she was able to personify her national intentions in a Triple Star of contemporary great souls: Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, and Sri Aurobindo, each of them a national and social beacon-light who at the same time stretched out a hand in friendship towards the world.
Let us remember: Swami Vivekananda laid the foundation of the first nationwide organisation for the social uplift of the suffering masses at home, simultaneously carrying abroad the rich spiritual heritage of his country, which was then practically unknown outside India.
Mahatma Gandhi brought the precious gift of national independence to his tortured native country by the proclaimed idea of non-violence, living himself as a personality of the highest human standard, so that the world bowed down to him in veneration when he laid down his very life in the service of his people.
Sri Aurobindo, too, who retired finally for the greater part of his life to Pondicherry in the South, had been very active in the struggle for national freedom, before he took his eminent place beside the other two by his Maha-yoga and his immense literary work, in which he propagated a Divine Life on earth as the goal of human evolution. A noble vision indeed!
The precious gifts of Gandhiji and Swami Vivekananda are present everywhere in modern India and form her life and blood, as it were. The radiance of the Triple Star of great souls, surely a national symbol as worthy as it is meaningful, covers the subcontinent… the mysterious land, lost in the sea… as an invisible triangle spreading from northeast to northwest and to the far south.
But during the time of that heroic and spectacular struggle, when those great souls did tapas and offered their very lives as yajna for the sake of the many who could not help themselves, the spirit of the hidden depths had already silently embodied itself in another great soul.
When Mahatma Gandhi’s political career as such might be said to have begun, with the founding of the Natal Indian Congress, at his instance and with his active co-operation in Durban in May, 1894, when Swami Vivekananda had his marvellous success at the World Congress of Religions in Chicago in 1893, the boy Venkataraman, the later Maharshi Ramana, was still a schoolboy, more fond of games than of mathematics and English Grammar. When on his return in 1897 the Swami started his triumphal tour in the same region of South India and prophesied in one of his speeches that South India was going to take a leading part in the spiritual regeneration of the world, that in the 20th century there was going to rise in South India a flood of atmic power, which would inundate not only the whole of India but the entire world, that same boy Venkataraman, then in his seventeenth year, had already given up school, home and family, past and future, name and personality, and was living lost in the unfathomable Silence of Arunachala, the most sacred Siva lingam, and in contemplation of the Great Experience that had led him there.
He never went abroad to preach the ancient wisdom of his race to the world like Vivekananda; he did not fight for political Independence like Gandhiji; he did not even dream of a future Divine Life on earth like Sri Aurobindo. His was a quite different way.
Those three Great ones form for ever the Triple Star who dedicated their lives to the uplift of the millions of their people. He remained a Lone Star, living the life of man’s true nature, a silent model for each individual who feels the agony of this age, when man seems to have forgotten his true nature. He remained the Lone Star of Arunachala, pointing steadily in the same direction, like the polaris, guiding the individual and therewith mankind to its highest destination.