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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Letter From Tiruvannamalai

While in Tiruvannamalai in Tamilnadu, south India, last January, I was intent on exploring the sacred sites that abound there. The most important being mount Arunachala, which is considered the embodiment of Shiva. Tiru is also where the great saint Ramana Maharshi lived and where his ashram is located. At the ashram of another saint, Ram Surat Kumar, there was a kind of side chapel that had paintings along the wall of the great teachers and avatars, such as Buddha, Jesus, Vivekananda, J. Krishnamurti, etc. And then there was the painting in colour seen below of a fellow in the altogether who is smoking...something. Immediately I was intrigued. 

Turns out this was Sri Jyothi Mouna Nirvana Swami. A silent sage who refused to wear clothes and smoked cigarettes with abandon. When devotees visited some reputed saints of Tamilnadu like Yogi Ram Surat Kumar of Tiruvannamalai and Swami Gnanananda Giri of Tirukoilur they would direct their devotees to come to this Brahmavid-Varishtha, saying that he was an Ocean of grace in comparison with whom they were only waves. In the West such a one would be known to police, institutionalized and heavily sedated. In India he was revered as a great being. In the West we like our religious figures - and artists - to be Ivy League and properly credentialed. Tenure material. India has always had other ideas.

Part of my motivation for visiting Tiru was to meet with Salvadore Poe. I had seen him interviewed by Rick Archer on Buddha At The Gas Pump,  which hosts encounters with"ordinary" spiritually awakening people. I was impressed with the radical nature of what he was sharing and the down-to-earth, unaffected way he presented it.

I had read Sal's book Liberation Is and was subsequently in touch with him by email to inquire about meeting in India. We met, and he led me through what he calls inquiries. Quite simply, what his work is about is the end of the spiritual search. The end of seeking. I think it's fair to say that the spiritual search is not for everyone, and for very few at that. To be sure, even fewer spiritual seekers are willing to see it through to the end. As Sal points out, the long search is romantic, exotic, with ever more books to read, gurus to meet, temples to be awed by - and, alas, ever more subtle ways of feeling superior, special - and separate. Spiritual materialism, in other words. As he says, it takes a mature mind to see through all of that. If it remains at the level of a hobby, then perhaps best not to get involved with it. Unfinished business of this nature tends to haunt one.

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