India - On an Agenda

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January 27th 2010
Published: January 27th 2010
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Gifts come in all shapes and sizes. Some you unwrap, others you simply receive with open arms. Tiruvannamalai, is a special place for Lucas and I. It is our home away from home and it is so difficult to describe the pull to keep coming back. Having said all of this, we must have left an impression because this year Daniel and Kelsey (Lucas’s son and daughter-in-law) decided to meet us here to see what it is all about.

They showed up on our doorstep on 29th, tired after a 7 week tour of the middle east and a long sleepless night of travelling. They showed up exhausted and with open hearts, ready to experience the Tiruvannamalai, we love.

The night prior to arrival Lucas and I created an agenda for their stay. We assumed that they would want to be busy seeing the sights and whatever other activities we could schedule. We assumed that they would not be particularly interested in meditating for hours….which is our favourite activity. So we set about scheduling our time together.

The agenda looked something like this:

Tuesday - Arrive
Wednesday - Ramana Ashram, Vegetable market, R&R
Thursday - New Years, Breakfast at Ashram, Caves in AM, Rest in PM, 7pm Sparsa dinner, Pradakshina
Friday- Lunch at AHAM
Saturday - Pondicherry
Sunday - Lunch with Suji and Panneer

My wise friends… I am sure you have already guessed that we assumed incorrectly and really what they were looking for was some quiet time in our peaceful Mecca.

Having said all this, despite some nasty bugs that fluttered through out stomachs and messed with our immune systems, we did manage to share the experience of Tiruvannamalai and Arunachula with our kids. What a beautiful gift!

It was a very auspicious time in Tiruvannamalai. It was the New Year, a full moon and Baghavan Sri Ramana Maharshi’s 130th Jayanti (Birthday). The place was jam packed with pilgrims, both western and Hindu. After a relaxing first day, we began New Years Eve with a 7:30AM breakfast at the Ramana Ashram. This is a tradition that has been going on since Bhagavan’s time. Visitors from all over the world are invited to share in the meals at the Ashram. Banana leafs are laid out in rows along the floor and hundreds come in for morning rice, sumbar, masala tea or coffee. In Bhagavan’s time no one was turned away and all ate the same food. Now you have to make a reservation to come for breakfast. The Ashram then feeds the needy at 11 am every morning. On Bhagavan’s Jayanti, no one is turned away.

After breakfast, Lucas, Daniel, our friend Peter and I, began the short hike up to the caves. (Kelsey, the first to experience the bug, was at home resting) These caves are hallowed ground. They are early dwelling places of Ramana Maharshi and to this day his presence is strongly felt. The first cave he lived in was Virapaksha cave. This cave has a long history. The core of the cave is hot and at the back of the cave there is a mound of ashes. The legend is that these are the ashes of Virapaksha, a holy man who lived in the cave hundreds of years ago. The story goes, that he sat in Samadhi (deep meditation) for such a long period of time that he self combusted and left behind this pile of ashes. The miracle is that despite the fact that these ashes are used for blessing or darshan, a hindu tradition, the pile has not reduced in size at all over the years.

The second cave is called Skanda Ashram and was a long time home for Bhagavan and his devotees. It was here that we came out of the cave to find Daniel peacefully reading a book of letters written by a Maharshi devotee. What a blessing to experience one of our favourite places with Dan. Daniel was quiet and still and the joy oozing from Lucas was palpable!! The only thing that made it even more special was a visit from a rare troop of Black Faced Monkeys!! They too, were a beautiful sight.

Later that day Lucas, Daniel and I headed to Sparsa resort for a New Years Eve buffet. I have mentioned Pradakshina before which is the circumambulation of Mt. Arunachula. New Years Eve is a very auspicious night at the best of times but this year it fell on a full moon, and Bhagavan’s 130th Jayanti (birthday). The perfect excuse for the massive number of visitors and locals to do Pradakshina. Daniel and Lucas joined the throngs and made the walk in record time, Making it home in time to bring in the New Year with Kelsey and I. Another blessing for Lucas to be able to spend New Years with Daniel,

With Kelsey’s health improving we decided to set out on Saturday for Pondicherry. Pondicherry was settled by the French and still shows a French influence. Pondicherry is a waterfront city on the Bay of Bengal. We arrived at about 9am and after breakfast , we walked the promenade and the old French quarter. We did a bit of shopping and then headed to the Aurobindo Ashram and townsite. The Ashram is noted for it’s handcrafts and baking and we experienced both while there. It also reflects the dream of the late Aurobindo and is companion Mama to create a place where all ethnicities and cultures could live together in harmony. To this day people and families from all over the world, live and work together in this communal atmosphere. At the center of the ashram is the Matridome, conceived and built by Mama as a place for contemplation. It is a large gold ball surrounded by beautiful gardens. It was unfortunately closed to the public, so it remains on our hit list for places to meditate.

Another highlight of
Lucas and DanielLucas and DanielLucas and Daniel

New Years Pradakshina
the trip was a lunch and dinner with Suji, Panneer and family. It was a real blessing to be able to share our friendship and connection with Suji and Panneer with Daniel and Kelsey. One of my favourite experiences of this trip will be our two families, sitting around the dinner floor, laughing, chatting and just sharing the love and respect we have for each other. Their tradition is to feed guests first, with the family eating separately and Suji serving and cleaning after all before she finally eats. I asked Panneer if we could make an exception for out last dinner together. He agreed, with some trepidation. At the end of the meal, after much laughter and fun, Panneer looked at me and said, “Now I understand why you wanted to do this!” It was such a gift to be able to experience, a family dinner like we have at home with them and to have them all appreciate it with us.

Dan and Kelsey’s nine days in Tiru were full of satsangs, lunches at AHAM, more walking and even a bit of meditation. It was a beautiful and auspicious time for all of us. Check out their
An Ancient Banyan TreeAn Ancient Banyan TreeAn Ancient Banyan Tree

At Aurobindo's Ashram
blog for the other side of the story.

Thanks Daniel and Kelsey for a fabulous time!

With much love and gratitude

Lucas and Cheryl

Additional photos below
Photos: 12, Displayed: 12


The Matridome The Matridome
The Matridome

At Aurobindo's Ashram.... for contemplation and meditation
Indian Dinner TableIndian Dinner Table
Indian Dinner Table

Cheryl and Lakshmi
Our Indian Family ExpandedOur Indian Family Expanded
Our Indian Family Expanded

Ravi, Lakshmi, Daniel, Kelsey, Goapa Suji, Cheryl, Lucas, Panneer
Panneer our Temple Tour GuidePanneer our Temple Tour Guide
Panneer our Temple Tour Guide

He got us into the inner sanctum

27th January 2010

Daniel,Kelsi visit
Have so much enjoyed sharing your experiences over there. Daniel had previously shared ,via his travel blog, his/Kelsi's heartfelt time with you and it clearly made a deep impression on them. Helene and I are doing well. Mild winter with sunny days and it appears an early spring around the corner. Lot's of buzz over the olympics which commence soon. Love Al and Helene
27th January 2010

beautiful pics.
Thank you for sharing your exp. and pictures they are lovely and I can almost smell the meal at the Ramana Ashram,.. and so many blessings,... to have your kids there,.. much good Karma for their lives ( more than they can ever know),.. I am sure you know of Ramana's diagnosis by now,.. but if not contact Jan or Vivian. Take care and watch out for those nasty bugs,.. Namaste' love from, mary
28th January 2010

I'm in awe!!!
Sounds like a place you would want to stay for a very long time indeed!!!! When do you come back to Canada?
28th January 2010

Simply Amazing!
I'm so connected with your words and experiences. What a great time you have shared and Dan's story, simply amazing! The gradititude is welling up inside this body, thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful trip back
19th February 2010

Wish I were there...
What else can I say? You write beautifully and the beauty of your experience and the love you share flows from your pen. XXLL

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