Jane Adam’s trip to Arunachala
K arrives for the last talk at Saanen, carrying the questions
This post is the concluding part of my Coastal Path memoir in 1991 – Krishnamurti and Ramana’s teachings, where land meets the sea. (See my mid-August posts: With Ramana and Krishnamurti on the Coastal Path; On the Coastal Path – Travellers’ Treasure; and Parc y Meirw – the Field of the Dead.)
For this post’s illustrations, I raided my daughter’s photo album! She was 17. She took her tent to Pwllderi and Strumble in 1994, and later on, she went to Ramana Ashram on her own. These are pre-digital snaps on her Instamatic in the mucky rucksack, yet her views say what I feel and see, and didn’t write.
Older photos are like paintings: we use our imagination a bit more.
The conversation with Ramana and Krishnamurti by the sea and afterward, was a catalyst. From it unfolded, later on, my involvement with Ramana Foundation UK, and editing the journal Self Enquiry. Who could have known! Different time frames converge here – 1991 on the coast at Pyllderi, ’93 /’94, journeys to India, and then today: hindsight and some new drawings.
Pwllderi stones and low tide
26 August 1991
The Soviet iron curtain fell. A global tremor!
Ideology’s dead fruit fall at last from the great tree of Mother Russia. Whatever next? The Soviet empire reached the classic three-score years and ten. That child of the October Revolution, an ultra-material religion, held those continents of the world in irons, for the span of man – one lifetime. It was made of human, of the collective mind. It came forth and was acquiesced to; it created liberation here and suffering there, moved its economic ballast around, and fed on the fear of death. Like the birth and death of all people, it will prolong the memory of those it grasped, and be irrelevant to those it did not.
An idea rises and falls with extraordinary power. In the end, it is dust – It seems never to have been. There flows forth from under its grip, a river; and they call this river “the people”. It reached a tide, a crest of maturity into which it must deliver itself … into the world as a whole.
Pwllderi sea-weathers: looking towards St Davids head
Politics, moments of history, local convulsions, even those which inflict unspeakable pain upon whole populations, are tides of the sea … the pendulum.
J.Krishnamurti said, “Get out of this field!”
The field of the world is the tide carrying back and forth our baggage – time, greed and political polarities. Stirring up the excitement makes the bath water in my tub surge up and down! The feeling is turgid and complex. It dims my ability to see.
But it is another thing, like seeing a phrase of music, or the way the wind lifts a branch, to watch in me the field of the world, without comment or belief.
To suspend belief in any part of it is to remain an open place.
From Pwllheli dinosaur headland
If I wrap “the field” of any phenomenon or belief around me, it is like going into a house and shutting the door. But if I in that moment look and listen, a deeper arena opens. Then I have sight of the house, and other houses on the wind, like the ripples in a golden field of wheat.
Journalism has no place here, nor has any opinion.
But there might be love. Love – the response to life – opens red poppies in the field, and sky-blue harebells. Can I observe it impartially? Can a scientist see beyond measuring his own condition? How to see objectively, the world? – for it is me! Upon the dual fulcrum of “I” and “It” strives division and diversion for a pastime.
The pastime is false to the deeper question.
The field is space for evolution … the journey ever into “I” dissolves the “…I”.
pwllderi heather: Strumble “lions’ paws”
As I am, in this way, humanity, what do “I” contribute? A particle, a drop of water, contains the universe. I have no sight or function that I know of. I cannot see what I am. There is no answer to the question that I am asking. Deep into the silvery ocean depth, the essence of joy and sorrow, I dive towards the golden note of “let it … being”. It unfolds space within space forever.
The question mark is the curve of a dotted I turned upside down. There is no departure, no isolation from what I call “the world”. It is the same for hermit or politician. There is a mysterious transcendence at the heart of it all. To “get out of the field” is to dive deep into it, dissolving the outlines of my bondage. I see the global landscape only from the point where I was born. The energy bound into making a fuss is conditional to my own security and to patch a fabric. The balance of power, the stabilizing of hostilities among countries, the environmental crisis, the pain of famine, suicide and tyrants that people suffer on so great a scale – so rapidly communicated – the spillage of fuel and the parturition of conscience … all engender hopes and fears, which boil down honestly to my very local interest. I want an answer to suit ME.
Such “answers” are formulations of belief. They solidify collectively and nourish the merry go round. Or … bored with itself and dying, the answer drops away like dead skin cells.
The other side of the coin, I surrender to a strange reality: the creation of a un-thought inward – Who? – generates, but never entraps the adventure of living. I drop away not into dead cells, but into being.
Again I seek ground! Belief! What is the truth? Who are you?
Vishnu-Siva, the dance of Creation. Krishnamurti sees Creation as divine destruction.
Pwllderi – volcanic rock near Strumble
Mrs. B came to visit. She saw on a wildlife programme, a baby zebra who lost his parents and tribe. He stands by the water in his stripy coat with his big, dark baby eyes, about to die. Then he lies down on his side quietly by the water, and he dies. He is given to the land. The vultures come, gathering in the sky, to swoop and feed and clean. My friend rejoiced suddenly in the co-existent beauty of creation/destruction, Vishnu-Siva … we’d been talking of Krishnamurti, the way thought self-destructs to awaken. I see in the baby zebra’s dark eyes, the vultures, the translation of innocence. That is it. Every new instant is innocent.
The vulture is the baby zebra.
Pwllderi looking south, strata change
Krishnamurti sees, is, walks among the divine beauty of destruction, without intermediary or describing. Vedanta calls it the cosmic dance. K knows this without symbol or spiritual shelter. It seems his hands are untied.
K at Saanen in 1985
But is the symbol a mere “Ah! A shelter at last!”? Do those who intuit and understand the symbols really regard them as permanent?
The symbol is a musical key. It is alive. It is there not to ritualize, but to open perception into the Self. My embodiment walking around is a symbol.
K regards symbols and hieroglyphs – occult or divine – as crutches. I think he doesn’t know, they are not truly used that way. The wise use them – the way language comes to hand – as tools towards the timeless flower: the Inner Revolution. Eventually, they are no longer needed to open the heart. As they inspire and enkindle love – and love is gratitude for Life – K encountered that same benediction when he walked among mountains, trees and wild animals at dawn. He wrote in his notebook. It bathed his inner “process” in radiance. He preferred to call it by no name; for so many divine names had spawned him. But he said it is sacred beyond thought or form. Where he walked, he loved.
In K’s own private mystery, it is not by naming that he truly sees the world/himself.
K in 1953 with Rosalind Rajagopal’s granddaughter Tinka
This makes him seem to close the door just when the seeker sees it begin to open. The door opens inward to his or her “meaning”. K seems to speak from the other side of a river which the seeker is suddenly required to have crossed and “destroyed” already.
Yet, this courage of K to go it alone, to lodge his person in no sacred hill, but expose it to the worldly frets, frustrations, and ignorance – the fluctuating mood and encounter of secular life – is an extraordinary spiritual sacrifice.
It is said that K had no ego. Maybe so. The interest the mind has in maintaining its province did not in him exist. He described it as “empty”, vacant, without memory, without the sense of things past. As there was no past tense in his consciousness, there were no “answers”. Yet he was passionate to reform education.
So what is an answer? A kind of verb. A doingness, a beingness, being still or in movement. Many are the ideas which obscure the inexhaustible inner fact.
K is himself, being visible, a symbol.
Ramana is a symbol.
Invocation from his Forty Verses:
(1) Can there be a feeling "I" without that which exists always? Free from thought it exists, the Inner being, the Heart. How then to know what is beyond the mind? To know it is to abide firmly in the Heart. (2) They lose at once their "I" who, from fear of death seek refuge in the Lord, conqueror of death. Then by nature they are immortal. What is to them, the thought of death?
pwllderi rough sea
Looking outward, I see the surrounding furniture and seek identity. Let this collapse inward to center, inward to this kind of “Am”. From the core, a pulse – the attention – emanates subtly outward. First, there was a fence around existence, and existence was that fence. Then the attention is removed from the fence, to “here” within. There is no fence. There is a root – the ‘I-thought, creating the appearance of the world.
If you hold that feeling by the stem as it dissolves, you are led to the Source behind the beginning and beyond the appearance of time.
In Ramana’s experience, the Heart or seat of Self-reflects the physical heart: to the right of sternum can be found the spiritual pulse or sphurana. To search and feel and focus into this tentative center, is a kind of tickle, peculiarly restful. It may be leaned back into. It feels like a depth or center of gravity into which I take a brief tumble. The “Intense” here is a query with no castle wall.
pwllderi rough sea 2
There is no wall around Ramana either. There’s a contour suggesting a hill that all may enter and ascend. There are on the hill, those caves of brilliance, his eyes, to delight in. That is what “I am” in sky and earth, in shy fox and flowering heather.
And there is a living veneration, which does not generate attachment or cultus. Why? because he said when dying: “I” am with you always. Where can “I” go? His figure opens the way like a landscape by the sea. The light plays around it … as over pre-historic rocks.
Ramana ashram ’94, by the Mother temple
These are beginning sort of things.
Till now I’ve found it difficult to “be still” regularly. There are so many things to concentrate on. There is work in watering my garden in every direction, to keep refreshed. There are so many places – like the one between the eyebrows? –words, tones, and colors to resonate. I need to nourish the vast symbolic wealth with my creativity. All of them are doors opening, and all are potentially exhausting. Anxiety stalks an over-prolific garden.
But concentration is not upon the fence, not upon things.
near Arunachala, to the west: portal
Concentration is the flow, the breath of itself.
The best way then is simple. Ask only into the essence of being; with no room nor need nor expectation. The rest will follow or flow from that. The Great Rose, or whatever else.
Doorstep mandala at dawn, Tiruvannamalai ’93
Dare I hope? What solidarity of the ‘open’ way into the Self, how encouraging to have met, or be about to meet “the others”, some others who are doing it too!
Last week – I don’t remember my dreams very much, for the work with them is done – I dreamed I was in central India traveling. There was something very real about that, and the people I met.
There isn’t anything truly real about things in life, which continue to agonize, upset or pull me into spirals of imbalance. From within their coils even, I see how illusory, how “Maya” is the waning momentum of the manufactured complaint, how absurd it all is. This is indeed strange, for to lose my center feels at present worse and more painful than ever, like an irrevocable back-sliding. Yet, the trouble, acute at the time, is quickly forgotten, like the labor when giving birth and feeling stuck. It is all in the mind, the carrier of the evanescent. The mind is that valuable passenger to Alchemy. Thus I live in the world, not on retreat.
“You can keep your head cool in solitude while your hands are busy in the workplace,” Ramana said. From the Centre which is transparent flows (through a mental prism) the rainbow Universe of color and form.
Cows near Arunachala
I want nothing.
What a vast variety of curves, of hues of “I”, fragmented or whole, knowing or unknowing, refracted or reflected, sore or joyful: individuals.
Pond near Arunachala
Tonight I went to visit Princess Helen. She wore a white gown. The walls of her palace are white, and the furniture is thoughtful. She kindles her oasis in the paintings she buys, in the extension she is building out into her garden, the Transcendental Meditation she does, the fine young Italian who services her, the deep impressions and sudden visions she relishes or is infuriated with … the uncompromising creation and destruction of her inner world week by week, and the spaces – palaces – she builds and furnishes for her clients to live in. Just now she is developing a residence in Park Lane.
I found her pouting sultrily over a tall glass of dry Chablis. She had been down to Soho and bought a dozen huge glass jars. She filled them with Indian spices of unusual autumnal color, like leaves in fall, for the Park Lane palace … no, not to eat! (a kilo jar of chili powder?) but to feed the eye – look how beautiful they are, ochre and sienna, and to lift up the lid and sniff? Her clients are rather overwhelmed by these personal touches. They do not understand the paintings Princess Helen chooses for their palaces, but they feel cared for. We began to sniff the spices ourselves. We took rather a long snort at the red chili and both began to sneeze.
Ochre spice, Sienna and white, near Arunachala
We had supper in a boat on her “river”, drank more Chablis and talked of this and that.
She began to wonder about the wide arena within which human pollution struggles with itself. What movement in cosmos does this happen relative to, what kind of consciousness is being formed? Do microcosmic terrestrial developments reflect such things? She got quite carried away, and her eyes began to glow with the miraculous scent of Providence. She got out some tasteful utensils from M&S – “there IS conscience in the business world! Look how this is designed – and even this packaging for washing powder, it’s so neat and pretty, you could put it on a shelf – AND it’s recyclable, yes, it’s all changing so much, isn’t it? And do you know,” she told me, “they said the other day, about the ozone hole you know? they’re finding evidence that dust from volcanic eruptions is being “utilized” to heal and close it! Think of that! Isn’t it EXQUISITE? – marrying volcanic lava from the earth-core to ion replacement in its aerial outer wrapping. How exquisite, how IMMENSE it all is – the poetry of the checks and balances, we have no idea. Don’t you think it’s beautiful? – alive it is, great organic creature, maintaining itself, our human stuff and suffering on earth, just a scratch.”
ramana ashram monk
Be that as it may. When the Buddha and his colleagues walked the earth, was there a hole in its skin, letting through rays of strange nature? – the ageless wisdom warms up beds of strata deep, deep within, and people on top are scared. What things seem to be, is never what they entirely are.
How immense it is.
As the body heals and renews itself every day, beautifully … the organic rhythms throughout a body like the Solar System – or even a galaxy – are too vast for the scratchy inhabitants of the skin of one of its planets to comprehend.
Ramana ashram Arunachala ‘94
But … a Buddha can see it. A Buddha can see the interplay of cosmic livingness … including consciousness on other planets, whose forms our sensory spectrum cannot detect. A Ramana can see it. How? Because they themselves are that.
And therefore so am I and you.
Without doing more than hold up a daisy, or a smile of silence, the being testifies to Grace in which all “I” am healed and whole; to a Grace beyond the bounds and toil of my knowledge of the time.
Another try, this time in charcoal`; I want my drawings to loosen up, and to have authentic expressive distortions. Ramana really is a mountain or a late-Beethoven quartet: the human grandeur and beauty beckon anew, as I approach. Next, I shall try turning the photo round, and draw him upside down. That usually gives a truthful draughtsmanship.
And now, a few more Ashram impressions from 1994:
Friends: Bharati and Anna Kim
A torn tree of the soul: Arunachala inner path
Pradakshina: He wears His shawl
By the way, she loved India and Siva – and “the guy who pours the ghee” (Sri Sundaram) – but is not a devotee.