The Call of Arunachala

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Parama Pujya
Shri Shri Nimishananda Guruji

Today, we go on pilgrimages to many holy places, but some centres of divine power attract devotees in millions like the Holy Hill Arunachala in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu. Since circumambulation of the Hill or Giri Pradakshina during the full moon is considered extremely auspicious, more than five lakh pilgrims walk barefoot on the 14 km path around Arunachala on every full moon night. What makes this Hill such a powerful spiritual magnet?

The Scriptures tell us that while Mount Kailas is sacred because it is the divine abode of Lord Shiva, the Holy Hill Arunachala is Lord Shiva Himself. That is why it exerts such an irresistible pull on us. The Shiva Purana says that Lord Shiva manifested here as a Tejoling or subtle column of the blazing light of knowledge. In the Satya Yuga, the first epoch of creation, Arunachala was brilliant gold. In the Treta Yuga Arunachala took on the mellow hue of Panchaloha and in the Dwapara Yuga it had the lustre of burnished copper. In the Kali Yuga, Arunachala appears like a rocky hill with bristles and thorns, but its incredible power remains undiminished.

The Shiva Purana describes Lord Shiva as the source of power because He contains the energy of the whole Cosmos, but remains unmoving and stable by destroying all the negative energy. Shiva is static, potential energy and Shakti is dynamic, creative energy and the cosmic dance of Shiva and Shakti creates, sustains and dissolves the Universe. However, while “Nirakaar” or Divinity in this formless state can be easily experienced by Enlightened Beings, most of us find this too difficult to comprehend. So, Arunachala, the subtle column of light being still and ever existing knowledge froze into a static form so that everybody could get its grace. A huge lamp called Bharani Deepam is lit on its summit every year during the Kartik month, when the star Bharani rules the heavens. This blaze which is a manifestation of His knowledge burns brightly on the austere, majestic Hill. It is said that those who obtain a darshan of the Bharani Deepam will receive Lord Shiva’s complete Grace in the form of total awareness of the Self. He blesses each seeker saying – “Let the karma and thoughts of this being be dissolved and let the radiance of his Soul be unveiled.” So this flame represents our own Atma Jyothi or the effulgence of our Soul.

How does Arunachala unveil the light of our Soul? Normally the mind conceals our Soul with an opaque mantle of thoughts and traps us in the zone of time and space. Also the constant chattering of the mind prevents us from experiencing the sound of silence and bliss of the Soul. Arunachala splits our minds, segregates our thoughts and burns them in His fire of knowledge one by one. So, when we enter the vibrant aura of Arunachala which pulsates with serenity and tranquility, our thoughts disappear revealing the effulgence of the Soul. “Aruna” means dawning of light and “achala” means unmoving or still.

All of us experience a pull towards Divinity sometime in life. This pull becomes a propulsion, a constant motion that generates a divine vibration which makes us aware of our Soul. This is when we get the call of Arunachala. The Shiva Purana emphasizes that we can go to Arunachala only when we get this call. The Sages assure us that when we circumambulate the Hill with complete surrender, Arunachala dissolves the ego by burning our thoughts one by one, as thoughts also form a base for ego and liberates us from the cycle of birth and death. This glowing beacon of Jnana or knowledge activates our souls and liberates us from the shackles of time and space forever by making us aware of the limitations of our body and senses. The Holy Arunachala is the answer to every seeker’s quest.