Monday, 7 November 2011

Spiritual experiences on Tirumala Hills

There are two ways in Devotion. In the first, we say to God -" I am your devotee " . In the second God Himself says - " You are my devotee ". Obviously, the second approach is the best.

Visiting temples on our own is the first approach, whereas, visiting them suddenly and without any prior planning is the second approach. In the second, we are simply led to some holy place where excellent arrangements and hospitality would be waiting for us.

Recently I visited Siva Temple of Kakani and Venkateswara temple at Tirumala. Kakani temple of Lord Siva, though in existence since long, has been developing at a fast pace in the recent times, especially after the installation of Rahu & Ketu idols. I went there last, about 10 or 15 years ago. In contrast to what I saw then, a perceptible improvement is visible in and around the temple now.

It all happened suddenly and without planning. A VIP invited me to accompany him to the temple and I agreed. We were surprised to see a traditional welcome from the temple authorities with Purna Kumbham and Temple Orchestra. The abhishekam to Lord Shiva was performed according to scriptural injunctions by the Archakas reciting Namakam and Chamakam from the Vedas.

Our trip to Tirumala also did happen similarly, suddenly and without any planning. With the depression in Bay of Bengal, the weather was bad and my friends from Tirumala revealed to me that it was pouring down on the hills. The weather was certainly unwelcome. In spite of the rough weather, we decided to go, as if drawn by some unseen string.

It was a sight to see the seven hills of Tirumala hidden behind the fog and rain, from the streets of Tirupati next morning. We started at 8.30 AM and continued our journey on foot via the Alipiri route, walked with a slow pace winding through the hilly slopes and reached our guest house atop the hills at 1.00 PM. It was raining all the way but we were safe, thanks to the concrete shelter built by the TTD throughout the walking path. At some places where there was no shelter, the umbrellas we bought at Tirupati helped us in the drizzle.

My son Madhav accompanied me in the walk and we discussed many things enroute. What is the goal of human life? Is there a purpose behind human birth? How to know it? What to do after knowing? What is the use of human life, if it is lived like animals do. What are the ways and means to be adopted in one's life to produce sages in one's family line? How to practice them? How can we transmit our divine knowledge to the generations down the line? All these topics rose during our discussion.

We talked about the secrets of Yoga and Vedanta, how to judge a horoscope with an eye on remedial measures to be adopted, what are the different kinds of remedies, how genetic traits are reflected in a horoscope from generation to generation, What are the blemishes that haunt a family down the line, How many are the kinds of Yoga, What are the secrets of Kundalini Yoga, What are its bases, What is the relation between the seven hills of Tirumala and the seven Yogic Chakras, What is the historic background for the Venkateswara legend of Tirumala, Is there any truth behind a legend which says that the idol of Lord Venkateswara is originally that of Divine Mother? so on and so forth. 

All the slokas of Vishnu Sahasra Nama were found embedded in the parapet wall all along the way. I explained to my son, the particular slokas/mantras which are highly effective against some blemishes of one's astrological chart and also taught him the way to recognize them.

We also discussed about the meaning of a particular sloka " महा वराहो गोविन्दः सुषेण कनाकान्गादी " and the beauty of Varaha Avatar of Lord Vishnu and why it is extolled on par with Lord Krishna who is praised as the Purna Avatar (the full manifestation of the Divine Lord).

On the way, we passed by a small temple of Sri Ramanuja, the prophet of Vishishtadvaitha philosophy. According to legend, Sri Ramanuja while climbing the hills rested at this spot for some time. A small but beautiful temple was constructed at this very spot in honor of the great saint.

Earlier, I did not have very great respect for Sri Ramanuja, though I used to revere him as one of the propounders of  three systems of philosophy. Being greatly influenced by Advaita Philosophy since my childhood, I used to consider him secondary to Sri Sankara. However, there was a radical shift in my thinking in the recent past and I began to understand the great significance of Sri Ramanuja's philosophy in day to day life. As my understanding of Vishishtadvaitha philosophy deepened, so did my reverence for this great saint begin to increase by leaps and bounds. 

I was sitting near this temple silently, immersed in my own thoughts on this great saint and his practical philosophy of Visishtadvaitha. Suddenly I was overcome by a strange emotion. Tears were about to roll down my cheeks. I felt a strange kind of bliss in my heart. I was unable to answer my son who asked me some question at that very moment. I waved my hand asking him to wait for sometime. He understood my condition and kept quiet. After sometime, when the embers of emotion cooled down a little, we resumed our walk. Then I explained him how great is Ramanuja in his philosophical heights, what are the similarities and differences between Abhinavagupta's Kashmir Saivism and Ramanuja's Vishistadvaitha philosophy. Lastly I summarized the whole discussion by explaining how Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda synthesized all the three paths of philosophy, the dualism, non-dualism and qualifed non-dualism so beautifully comparing them with the rungs of a ladder.

We passed by the statue of the great Poet-King, Sri Kulasekhara Alwar, and thought about his beautiful sanskrit composition "Mukundamala", full of sublime devotion to the Lord. We climbed the slopes of the sacred hill, discussing subtle and sublime topics and felt no fatigue.

I came to know that the "quick darshan" facility would not be open on Tuesdays and Wednsdays after 2 PM. So we decided to see the sacred places all around the hills like Akasha Ganga, PapaNashanam and Jabali Tirdham etc.

It was raining the whole day and the depression in Bay of Bengal was gaining strength. It was around 5 PM that we reached Jabali Tirdham. The curtain of darkness was falling quickly on the hills. The lonely path to Jabali Tirdham was about 1.5 Km long, winding its way through the thick forest slopes of Tirumala. A feeling of aloneness suddenly rises in the heart when you walk along these lonely paths in the dark forest listening to the cries of forest birds. You get a feeling that you are all alone in this whole universe. Suddenly, Time appeared to stand still in that area.

My daughter was talking something all along. So I whispered to her to stop talking and asked her to silently listen to the sound of raindrops falling on the forest leaves. She tried to listen and suddenly there was a deep silence. We four were silently walking in the drizzle, in the lonely semi-dark forest, through a winding path, to an unknown destination, listening to the rain drops all along. Later I said to my daughter that this is a Zen meditation and explained her how to do it.

Silently walking, we suddenly stepped into a plain land in the middle of thick forest and there stood before our vision a small but beautiful temple of Lord Hanuman, silently standing beside a placid forest lake, as if it is in deep meditation. The weather was so pleasant. The incessant rain, the canopy of darkness, the place far flung from the din and bustle of ordinary life, the cries of forest insects -- all this induced in my mind a kind of supernatural silence and bliss defying expression. I felt I was somewhere above this world.

We stayed for about half an hour at this beautiful holy spot. The priest and another swami were staying in a small tiled house nearby. There were a few shops in the vicinity. There was no movement of life anywhere around us, but the silence was pregnant with a deep and vibrant liveliness. 

Shattering the divine bliss we were enjoying, a swami from North India, who might have arrived there some time in the day, started shouting " Anjaneya, I have arrived ". I felt irked by his shouts, disturbing the peace reigning around us. My daughter whispered to me --" Dad. What is this? He is calling the Lord by name as if the Lord were his classmate or something". I smiled. There are many such people who want to show off. What to do? When will they realize that the Divine Lord responds more quickly, when called silently and sincerely from the bottom of one's heart?

The priest told me that the place got its name from "Jabali Rishi" who did penance in that place thousands of years ago. Rishi Jabali was blessed by the vision of Lord Hanuman at this very spot. I was not sure whether this rishi is the same person called Satyakama Jabali of the Vedas. JabalPur of Central India was named after this rishi of the Vedic Lore. The original name of Jabalpur was "Jabali Puram", "pur" and "ur" being the oldest known names for a habitation.

It is a fact that even today there are quite many Rishis and Siddhas sitting in deep meditation in the interior depths of Tirumala Hills. About 50 years ago, there was a Sage named Swami Asangananda ( Popularly known as Malayala Swami) who lived near the "Gogarbham dam" area practicing meditation in the deep forest. He lived for 8 or 9 years in this forest all alone in penance. Tigers, Lions and Bears used to roam freely around him when he sat motionless in deep meditation on a forest rock under the sky. Later he used to say -- " It is impossible for a common man to reach the interior depths of this forest. Unless one is established in utter fearlessness, celibacy and strength of sadhana, he is sure to be killed by these savage beasts". 

He was a real Vedanti and a true Rishi. He used to revere Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda with great admiration and devotion. His disciples also are real Mahatmas and Sages. My guru Swami Nandananda of Ramakrishna Order had high respect for Malayala Swami.

( Rest in next post )


  1. Thats a really wonderful experience Shri Sharma. And a befitting Post to start the new Blog. May more of your experiences come alive exuding the nectar of your wisdom.

  2. Thank you Zilebi for your encouraging comment. Feel free to ask your doubts.

  3. Dear Sarma gaaru,
    Eagerly waiting for the next write up on your experiences in Tirumala Guruvu gaaru.
    I remember once the pradhaana poojari of Tirumala have said that, during the mignight when the temple is closed many saints will come in "sukshma roopa" to the darshan of perumal.
    Kindly enlighten us if you are aware of any such experiences.

    I wanted to write in Telugu in your original blog, but the comments are disable there. I am writing in English here, as that is your intention to keep this blog in english.

    With Regards,

    Jai Srimannarayana!

  4. Dear Vithal,
    I will write the second part in a day or two.
    It is true that many elevated souls come there in their subtle bodies to have darshan of the Lord.

  5. Dear Sarma garu


    Thank you for writing in English.

    I skipped reading this post when my mother showed it to me. When i was doing puja, i got the strong feeling that there would be 2 hints for me in it and i had to read it. It has turned out to be true.

    I would look forward to your posts on prajna surabhi

    Best Regards,

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  8. Thanks sarma garu! your thoughts and perceiving the world is inspiring!

  9. Thanks Guruvu garu,

    For sharing such a wonderful experience with us


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