Auspiciously, we arrived in Thiruvannaamalai the night of the full moon.Â It’s a city centered at the base of a holy mountain, Arunachala, and every full moon,Â 200,000 pilgrims walk barefoot 14 km around the mountain.Â Along the road people are selling water and food, making offerings to the fire god that is celebrated in this town, sadhus are chanting, people are talking on their cell phones…Â Â
Our new neighbor Shanti Deva invited us to come meditate with Shiva Shakti Â in the morning.Â But the next day, when I saw him he had taken a vow of silence.Â He motioned I could get on his moped, so I did.Â Â We rodeÂ down a dirt road, andÂ I didn’t really know whereÂ we were headed.Â But, of course, we ended up at Shiva Shakti.Â It’s an incredible adventure to get on a motorbike with someone you’ve met once who isn’t speaking and ride to somewhere you don’t know and then get to sit and meditate at your destination!Â I’ve been going to sit with them almost every day at 10 am and 5 pm.Â
I found a roomÂ between the ashram and the base of the mountain thatÂ has a shelf and a sinkÂ in theÂ corner and the bed is on the floor.Â It costs 75 rupees per night (about twoÂ dollars.)Â I putÂ my four books on the shelf that I’ve recently acquired and been reading:Â Â Eye Exercises to Improve Vision (this is pretty metaphorical), The Tipping Point (Malcom Gladwell), God Loves Fun (Ravi Shankar), and The Pilgrimage (Paulo Coelho, lent to me by a French/Kashmiri guy who owns a shop here.)
This place isÂ lousy with gurus.Â It’s wonderful.Â I was “talking” (he’s still under his vow of silence) to Shanti Deva about one of the Amma gurus (there are at least three) and I said, “Which one are you referring to?” and he motioned a hug, so I understood he meant Hugging Amma.
Everywhere I go, I’m being greeted with many joyful people eager to say hello.Â My friend said that walking with other westerners in India, he has not seen such a response from
the Indians as with me.Â I am finding people so warm and sweet (except the sadhu from this afternoon who tried to take and eat my Moleskine notebook) and I think it’s because of the numerous blessings I’ve been charged with carryingÂ andÂ sending to people here.