Culture, Religion, Spirituality


Starting today (Prathama Tithi), October 20, 2017 and leading up to the day of Sura Samharam on Shashti is dedicated to Skanda Shakthi. The Skanda Rupa personified as the Skanda-Shakthi in the beautiful swaroopa of Shanmukha or Subrahmanya or Muruga, Karthikeya, or Kumara, is the personification of the total Yoga-shakti and Sadhana Shakti of the world.

Born out of the explosive Tejas of Shiva’s Ajna Chakra, (his Tejas having been built up over several years of deep meditation), Shanmukha is the Agni swarupa, the Jnana Jyothi.

The sparks from the Ajna Chakra flew through the cosmos and even the divine messengers Vayu and Agni who decided to carry him could not hold the Tejas and they dropped it into the Ganga. Even she could not bear the divine energy impregnated as it was with the Divya Tejas of Shiva and the Shakti of Parvati.

Ganga in order to save herself, shoved the divine energy onto the banks of the river, upon a shrub of reeds in a pool of water called the “Saravana Poigai” The divine shakti congealed into six aspects each lying on a lotus bloom. The Universal mother Parvati picked up the six aspects and that energy transformed into the aspect of Shanmukha in the hands of the Universal mother.

Symbolically, Shanmukha and his six faces represent the attainment of “Aparoksha Anubhuti” attained through the process of “Shat-Chakra-Bheda”. This is why Skanda is the destroyer of Ajnana, a concentration of supreme shakti like none other.

On the human plane, the Guru is the representative of the Skanda Shakti, because just like Shanmukha the Guru is our Senapati (commander) who leads us in the battle against our inner demons. Just as the Vel of Shanmukha destroyed the demon Surapadman, so also the Guru’s Vel tears asunder the veil of Maya and gives us a glimpse of the Divine.

Let the Shakti of Shanmukha permeate the collective consciousness of all Hindus. I also take this opportunity to pay my respects to all the Gurus who have guided me through my life.

“ॐ तत्पुरुषाय विद्महे महासेनया धीमहि !
तन्नः शंमुखा प्रचोदयात !”

“Om Tatpurushaya Vidhmahe Maha Senaya Dhimahi !
Tannah Shanmukha Prachodayat !


Photo; Source Credit:

Poems, Spirituality


Alagammal, Ramana’s mother decided to settle down in Tiruvannamalai sometime in the year 1916 and stayed there till her death in 1922.

Initially, she lived with Ramana and some of his fellow-sadhaks /friends, particularly Palaniswami in the Virupaksha cave. The son was the Guru and the mother his disciple. He taught her through his silence and she remained totally dedicated to her son/Guru.

When Kavya Kantha Ganapati Muni, the great Sanskrit scholar visited Virupaksha and announced to the world that “Here lives a great Rishi. I have found my Guru and for all of you, he is the Maharishi – Ramana Maharishi” crowds started flocking to Virupaksha and soon the crowds became unmanageable. It was then that one of Ramana’s disciples Kandaswami decided to build the “Skandashramam” further down the hill which would make it easier to manage the crowd of visitors. Also, many people, particularly the old found the steep climb to Virupaksha extremely difficult. The name “Skandashramam” is a play on this Kandaswami’s name and also a reference to Lord Subramanya.

Ramana’s mother ran the Skandashramam kitchen and things started to function with clockwork precision. It was also the time when Ramana slowly started to break his silence. It was soon after his second “death-experience” near the Tortoise rock not far from Virupaksha.

It was here that the mother’s spiritual progress took on a completely new turn – Perhaps the Maharishi realized that her end was near and he had to hasten the progress. He stopped calling her “Amma” and sometimes ignored her. When she wept, he told her “Now, every woman is my mother. So also every one here is your son or daughter” When Alagammal, started treating every disciple and every visitor as her own son or daughter, he resumed calling her mother. Alagammal thus became mother to everyone in the Ashram.

He would make fun of her orthodoxy and kept at it, till the time she dropped that too. However, there were times when motherly love overflowed and on one such occasion, Alagammal decided to make appalam (pappadum) specially for her son and asked him to help just as he used to do when he was a little boy. Ramana refused saying “if you are making it only for me, I cannot have it and since that thought has entered your mind you shall labour alone and then give it to everyone else…”

It was in this context that he wrote this “Appalam song” a brilliant poem on the science of realization. The English translation below and the original in Tamizh as an image (in the Maharishi’s own handwriting)

Verse 1
Here encased in the five sheaths of organs, Mind,
Intellect and Sleep of blissful-ignorance
And different from them, grows the kernel, the self, the abhiman felt as ‘I’.
Pound it with the wisdom-pestle of the enquiry “Who am I ?”
Reducing it to powder as “not I” “not I

Verse 2
Now mix the juice of the edible-cactus Pirandai
This is sat-sanga, the company of the elevating which removes discord
Add Jeera and Black-pepper which are Shama and Dama, equanimity and self-restraint
Toss in some salt of Uparati which is non-attachment
Round it off with Heeng which is good vasanas, the tendencies which free us

Verse 3
With an inward turned pestle of mind pound away ‘I-I’
Unrelenting at its stubborn out-going disobedience
Then with the rolling pin of Shanti, roll out on the platter of evenness
The Appalams and see for yourself !

Verse 4
Taking the bottomless vessel of endless-Mauna
With the wholesome oil of the One Self of all
Fired by the flames of wisdom’s enquiring
Fry the Papads without let-up
Till the questioning self reaches and remains The Source
Thus you can have the papad and eat it too !

Credits (For the English translation of the verses and the picture):


Religion, Spirituality


Some of the greatest rishis taught through silence. Dakshina murthy was the silent one. So also was Ramana, so too the great avadootha Sadasiva Brahmendra, the Kanchi Paramacharya was known to go into prolonged periods of complete silence stretching into days and it was during these times that he seemed to exude unparalleled brilliance. Sri Aurobindo called it that which one enters into, lives within, and grows within.

Silence is ever-speaking; it is a perennial flow of language; it is interrupted by speaking. These words obstruct that mute language. There is electricity flowing in a wire. With resistance to its passage, it glows as a lamp or revolves as a fan. In the wire it remains as electric energy. Similarly also, silence is the eternal flow of language, obstructed by words.

What one fails to know by conversation extending to several years can be known in a trice in Silence, or in front of Silence – e.g., Dakshinamurti, and his four disciples. That is the highest and most effective language.

Silence is the most potent form of work. However vast and emphatic the scriptures may be, they fail in their effect. The Guru is quiet and peace prevails in all. His silence is vaster and more emphatic than all the scriptures put together. These questions arise because of the feeling, that having been here so long, heard so much, exerted so hard, one has not gained anything. The work proceeding within is not apparent. In fact the Guru is always within you.

Silence is all, say the sages.
Silence watches the work of the ages;
In the book of Silence the cosmic Scribe has written his cosmic pages;
Silence is all, say the sages.

What then of the word, O speaker?
What then of the thought, O thinker?
Thought is the wine of the soul and the word is the beaker;
Life is the banquet-table – the soul1 of the sage is the drinker.

What of the wine, O mortal?
I am drunk with the wine as I sit at Wisdom’s portal,
Waiting for the Light beyond thought and the Word immortal.
Long I sit in vain at Wisdom’s portal.

How shalt thou know the Word when it comes, O seeker?
How shalt thou know the Light when it breaks, O witness?
I shall hear the voice of the God within me and grow wiser and meeker;
I shall be the tree that takes in the light as its food, I shall drink its nectar of sweetness.

Maunam is an important method of worshipping God. Maunam in this context does not mean merely silence. It is also the process of keeping the mind free of all thoughts. It implies that we should keep all our senses under perfect control, so that during the period of silence, the limbs may not move even involuntarily. Such a maunam will enable the divine spark within every one of us to become active in its progress towards the realization of the Paramaatma. The waves of thoughts that continuously rise and fall in our minds keep the all-pervading Atma hidden from us. Once the flow of thoughts is checked, the Atma begins to function. This kind of maunam is also an attribute of a muni.

That is why we have been enjoined not to think for a while every day – tooshneem kinchit achintayan तूष्णीम् किञ्चिन्तयन्.


Culture, History, Spirituality


The moolavar (main deity) here is Kalyana Venkatraman. The “Venkatraman” in my name comes from here. Located in Thanthondri Malai (Karur district), this is not far from Tirumanilayur; Periyar; Karur. The “T” in my name stands for Tirumanilayur the place of my forefathers.

My grandfather moved from here to teach English literature at the St. Joseph’sArts and Science College, Bengaluru, many years ago when the British still ruled and the state of Karnataka was not yet formed. I was born in Bengaluru and so was my father. Therefore for all practical purposes Bengaluru is my native place.

Our Kuladeivam however is this Kalyana Venkatraman a “Swayambu-Murthy”. This Perumal stands majestically inside a little Kudavarai (cave) on top of this west-facing hillock called Thanthondri (Thandoni) Malai. The cave was artificially deepened and a stage erected over and around the Swayambu Perumal. Here Arulmigu Kalyana Venkataramana Swamy poses with his consort Lakshmi on his chest. This is one of the few temples where there is no separate sannidhi for the “Thayar” (Mother Goddess).

According to the Sthala Puranam, Adiseshan prevented Vayu from entering Vaikunta at a time when Thirumal (Vishnu) was in conversation with Thirumagal (Lakshmi). They got into a fight and the Lord in order to put an end to the fight organized a contest – a test of strength, he asked Adiseshan to wrap his body around the Tiruvenkata Malai (Tirumala) and asked Vayu to use his strength to dislodge the mountain from the coils of Adiseshan. Vayu lost the contest. He however waited for Adiseshan to relax his coils, turned himself into a great cyclone and blew so hard that a piece of the mountain dislodged and landed at Thanthondri. This is why Thanthondri malai is also called “Then Tirupati” The Tirupati (Balaji) of Tirumala decided to make Thanthondri also his residence and declared that this hillock would possess the same holiness and divine shakti that Tirumala possesses.

During the month of Puratasi (Kanya Maasa) it is our family tradition to worship this Kalyana Venkatramana Swamy on one of the Saturdays of the month. For the puja a “Maa Vilakku” (a lamp made of rice powder and in which ghee is used instead of oil – this Maa Vilakku is then taken as Prasad). Today (September 30, 2017) was the day of that Puja. A few photos of the puja and also of Tanthondri malai.


Photos of Arulmigu Kalyana Venkatraman, courtesy:

History, Religon


What is the name of the religion that is practiced in the land of Bharatha? Some call it Hinduism, some Sanatana Dharma – but isn’t Sanatana Dharma an overarching term that refers to all the religions that are Indic in origin? And, is Hinduism really the name of this ancient religion. The Paramacharya of Kanchi Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi calls it the nameless religion. Why? Because it is the most ancient religion – the mother ship, the fountainhead of all other religions. The Paramacharya asks – “If there was only one religion that existed all over the world, why would anyone need to give it a name?” Below, is a summary of the Paramacharya’s views on this question.

Our religion which predates all these (other religions) had spread all over the world. Since there was no other religion to speak about then, it was not necessary to give it a name. When I recognised this fact I felt at once that there was no need to be ashamed of the fact that our religion had no name in the past. On the contrary, I felt proud about it.

All religions barring our own were established by single individuals. “Buddhism” means the religion founded by Gautama Buddha. Jainism was founded by the Jina called Mahavira. So does Christianity owe its origin to Jesus Christ.

In none of our ancient sastras does the term “Hindu religion” occur. The name “Hindu” was given to us by foreigners. People from the West came to our land across the Sindhu river which they called “Indus” or “Hind” and the land adjacent to it by the name “India”. The religion of this land came to be called “Hindu”. The name of a neighbouring country is sometimes applied to the land adjacent to it. Let me tell you an interesting story in this connection. In the North people readily give alms to anybody calling himself a bairagi. These bairagis have a grievance against Southerners because they do not follow the same practice. “Illai po po kahe Telungi” is one of their ditties. “Telugus do not say “po, po” but “vellu” for “go, go”.”Po” is a Tamil word.

Then how would you explain the line quoted above? During their journey to the South, the bairagis had first to pass through the Telugu country (Andhra); so they thought that the land further south also belonged to the Telugus. There is the same logic behind the Telugus themselves referring to Tamil Nadu as “Arava Nadu” from the fact that a small area south of Andhra Pradesh is called “Arva”. Similarly, foreigners who came to the land of the Sindhu called all Bharata beyond also by the same name.

However it be, “Hinduism” was not the name of our religion in the distant past. Nor was it known as “Vaidika Mata” (Vedic religion or as “sanatana dharma” (the ancient or timeless religion). Our basic texts do not refer to our faith by any name.


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