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A Walk Within - To The Temple of Heart
It’s been about 3 months now since I have been physically away from Arunachala. There are days when my body craves to walk girivalam, or simply to drive on my bike around the Mountain, and above all to walk into the Temple of my Father. But by profound grace and sheer love when I meditate these days I find myself standing at the entrance of the Arunachaleshwara Temple and drawn inside.
I close my eyes and I look within and I'm standing in Thiruvannamalai at the eastern tower of the Temple. I can hear the hustle and bustle of the busy town. I look through the Raja Gopuram and hear the call to walk from the chaos of the outside world into the inner world of the temple of the heart. In spirit I walk through the Raja Gopuram making my way to the Sanctum Sanctorum of my Father and Lord.
But I have many friends to greet on the way - the many forms of the One Divinity that lead to the Ultimate. I forget this is happening in the mind. I am there now in spirit.
I first greet Gopura Vinayagar, the Ganesha at the entrance - may he kindly grant me permission to walk in one of the holiest places on earth. I enter the Kambathadi Ilayanar Temple where little Muruga continues to grace devotees from the pillar where he appeared in brilliant light at the request of his devotee, Arunagrinathar. May he grant me light for the journey. Walking pass the 1000 pillared hall I remember the Lord who dances in the hall of the heart. I am now before the Ganesha who sits by the Siva-Gangai tank - may be bless the journey further. May Mother Ganga cleanse me. I see the big Nandi who sits majestically looking at Arunachala and I pray, "O Nandi, embodiment of love and strength show me the way to serve Shiva the Supreme".
I visit the Muruga who saves Arunagirinathar as he falls from Vallalar Gopuram - may he catch me when I’m falling - may he purify me and fill my lips with the sweet praises of the Divine. I ascend the steps through Vallalar Gopuram and look up and see Arunachala the Mountain in all his beauty getting closer with each step.
I pause at the shrine of the handsome Kala Bhairava - smiling as he plays within the illusory wheel of time. I pass the sandpit where Rokku, the beloved temple elephant, used to stand. "O Rooku, how grandly you led those processions of Lord Arunachala! What privileged place do you now hold in Siva Loka?"
I ascend the final stairs through Killi Gopuram - Arunagirinathar is still sitting there as the green parrot singing the praises of Muruga Peruman. My heart is beating faster - I'm closer - the most holy part of the temple - the Mountain expansively fills the backdrop - its power concentrating into the sanctum sanctorum.
I walk much slower now. Each step is taking me to God in the absolute state of being as the self-manifest Lingum in the inner sanctum of the Temple. I pause at Sambandar Vinayagar - my favourite Ganesha - shining like the sun - he’s a big God - no need to worry - he'll take care of everything. But I don’t have much to ask him except “please let me see Appa today again”.
I walk around the outside wall of the temple - my feet feel happy - I'm walking where countless seekers have walked for countless ages, crying "Siva Siva". My hands are raised high. Arunachala is consuming me! I bow before the little shrine to Arunagiriyogi - Shiva as the great yogi who perpetually sits under a banyan tree on the Mountain.
I step into the temple of Mother Unnamulai - small and gentle she stands - but don't let her petite appearance fool you! She possesses incredible power and with one glance from her, the world disappears in Arunachala. O she's beautiful - "Amma Ma" I cry!
A quick circumambulation of the Navagraha, the 9 celestial bodies, as I acknowledge the greater cosmos in which all of this is being played out. Everything interconnected in the divine play. May the forces of the Universe support me in the journey to the Source.
I pause now at Palani Muruga - the supreme renunciant carrying his stick and dressed in just a loin cloth - my Ramana. I look at him for a while and smilingly he reminds me that nothing is needed - just Arunachala!
I bow down at the Dwajastambam - the flag post - the sign of the power and authority of Lord Arunachala. Nandi is here again pointing the way. He is smaller now. He reduces as Shiva increases. "O Nandi, how often I've looked upon you with envy that you are stationed perpetually ready to carry the one who carries the whole universe - teach me how to carry him always in my mind and heart."
I've stepped into the most holy part of the Temple now. I'm so close. I try to walk slower but the heart is racing. He is just here! I can hear devotees shout “Haroghara!”
I restrain myself. I must walk around the final circuit. The 63 saints greet me. I greet them. I’m in the company of those who have loved and melted in love. I offer my salutations to the Sapta Matrika - the seven mothers - they offer me renewed sustenance and power for the journey.
And I look up and my beloved Perinayagar - the big Lord - is smiling at me - the image through which the grace of Lord Arunachala flows lavishly during the great festivals. He smiles now but nothing like the smile he beams with when he comes out of the temple to bless his devotees during the Deepam celebrations. "O Annamalaiyar, please let me see you in procession again! Let me walk in that swelling crowd. Let me shout “Harogara”. Let my heart melt at the sight of your beauty and light again. What’s the use of my life if I can’t witness the Deepam festival of Lord Arunachala? O my beloved Annmalaiyar, I love you! Really I do! It’s only your love that has caused me to overflow with love for you."
Then i see Ardhanarishwara - Shiva-Shakti - once a year only it dances - on Deepam before the Fire is lit. I've seen the electric dances that causes the fire to appear on the hill - every nerve is set on fire!
I smile at Venu Gopala playing his flute for the delight of Arunachala. No gopis to charm here - we all have passed through Vrindavan - we have danced the dance - now we want to burn in the fire - and dissolve in Shiva.
On the opposite side, on the back wall of the most holy place, is Lingothbhava - Brahma is flying up looking for the height - Vishnu dives down in vain searching for the depth and Shiva graces us from within the limitless fire. "Shiva Shiva! Hara Hara!" I must continue - I’m closer - just a few more stops...
Mother Laxmi receives my pranaams for her overflowing provision. Arumuga Swami - Muruga with six heads - blesses me. "O Kumara, you are my inner truth. Who but the son can enter the house of the Father?" A quick glimpse at Bhikshadana hiding behind the gates. He quietly begs for what already belongs to him. "Yes! I give it all, my Lord."
I bow before Swarna Bhairava, standing next to the Pallaiarai, the bedroom chamber, where Shiva and Paarvathi unite each night - where the soul and God become one at the end of the day of illusions.
One more stop and I’ll enter the most holy place. But the massive image of my beloved Nataraja holds me captive. He is dancing in blissful abandonment. Devotees are singing Theevarams. I am now transported to Chidambaram. "O dancer of Thillai an infinity of words cannot describe your splendour. Thiruchitrambalam Thillai Ambalam."
I’m in Arunachala again! The heat from that inner sanctum is felt. I'm melting with love. I'm anxious now to enter the Holy of holies. He is so close. This is it. I'm here before the Sanctum Sanctorum. I'm invited inside while thousands pass by with just a glimpse. Sheer grace! He is there - He is here - He is that which is beyond - He is that which is within. The pure fire of the blissful awareness of being, solidified as stone.
The heart melts in the sacred Fire of the Lingum of Lord Arunachala and the wax of the heart flows as warm tears down my cheeks. He is in the temple of my heart. "O Arunachala, Arunachala, Kumeran is forever standing here begging for your grace and melting in love. Where else can I ever go now that I have come here?"
A thousand times my feet have made this journey. Now in my mind it replays. In my heart it is true - the dream that is real. Forever, I am walking in the temple of Arunachala and forever seeking him in the inner sanctum of my heart.