Let me ask a question to start with. What does Bharat — the Sanatana Bhoomi promise us ‑Blessed by the presence of so many mahatmas and with all the Innumerable Panths, Traditions, Shastra, Itihasa, Purana while holding seemingly opposite Darshanas together? Doesn’t it all converge into the Self and for a Divine life here and Beyond?
Looking to enrich the knowledge of the Self, we the Yoga Dharma Sadhakas from diverse backgrounds came to live at Anaadi Foundation ashram for 108 days. On the auspicious day of Makara Sankranti — Mattu Pongal started our journey.
The ashram is located at the feet of Periya ivyar malai. The Majestic looking hill, worshipped as Shiva, according to the legends has seen the Pandavas during the Vana vasa. Just a few hundred meters from the ashram we also have Chinna ivyar malai a twin hill that has the alayams of Ganesha and Murugan with huge caves which are home to a shrine of Draupadi Amman and noted by the archeology dept to be the tapastali’s of many Jain monks.
The day at Anaadi starts with peacocks dancing around the ashram to nature’s tunes. The Bhagavad Gita parayana starts much before sunrise and we all converge at 6:00 am to perform Guru puja at Kriya Dhyanalayam, seeking the blessings of Adishankaracharya, Kriya Babaji, and Agastya Perumal, proceeding with the aarti to Vigna Harta in the form of Yoga Vidya Ganapathi (the master of all the 32 vidya’s) and ending with aarti of our earthly mother Gau Mata at the ashram’s Goshala.
In a weeks time of our stay we all got an opportunity to seek the blessings of Palani Murugan, on the occasion of Thaipusam, when people from across the states of Tamilnadu, Kerala come over to pay their obedience to the Devasenapathi in his beautiful Navapashana rupa (made of 9 poisons) consecrated by the legendary Bhoga siddar. It was a 17-mile walk from ashram which was totally new being the city-dwelling youngsters that we are… but along the path we were charmed by the energy of devotees who were walking for days together to fall in the eyes of the glorious Vel dhari, this was a sight of inspiration for us, many devotees set up pandals offering us prasad all along the path, soon did the strain of walking turn into an Infectious joyful stride with melodious bhajans & gracious dance. Filling the air of Palani with the glories of the Mighty Lord Vel vel Muruga.. Vetri vel Muruga… Gnana vel Muruga… Shakti vel Muruga …Skanda vel Muruga… Vel vel muruga…we reached the temple with even more energy than we started.
In this yoga dharma sadhana we went to the core of everything looking at the tattva behind it all, and building it up from the core with the guiding principles in view, adapting to our present contexts guided by Matrushree Smrithi Maa and Shrimaan Adi Narayan Ji patiently ever-smiling to our innumerable musings… with the daily Gnana sessions, a clear and strong vision for the future was presented to us. A great part of our stay was focused on Gnana looking at the wide spectrum of Bharatiya gnana parampara (Indian Knowledge systems) with a very modern and scientific rigour while always holding the tradition high in esteem.
Our journey into Adyatma vidya started with Tattva Bodha, a prakarana grantha by shri Adi Shankaracharya
We were introduced to the Mahabharata Parvas, Puranas — Devi Bhagavatam, Shiva puranam, Patanjali Yoga sutras — Intro to Vedanta — Principles from Ayurveda — Yogic neuroscience — Indian Astronomy and Astrology through crisp sessions that provided an overview and kindled our curiosity to explore further.
Looking at it seems as if we are exposed to lifetimes of knowledge in such a short span. We were able to see that rooting oneself in Itihasas and Puranas can give us guidance on what to and what not to, the ability to decode life events in their cause, and clearly gauge their effect guided by Indian values systems — Purushartha framework.
Being introduced to Indian astronomy and astrology we became curious than ever towards the night, there was nothing that could stop us from reaching the stars, catching a glimpse of our Saptarishis, the stories of Chandra deva and his wives, calculating the time of sunrise and sunset, we were left stunned by the marvel and how these infinitely complex co-relations unfolding through planetary motions over 1000’s of years are noted — made sense of and presented in a simple way for practical daily application, the sharpest of our minds felt blunt before the vastness and richness of Indian knowledge.
There was a constant inner churning that was happening: a perenial Samudra Manthan.
Under the trees, shall the Universities of tomorrow unfold. It felt like what Shri Rabindranath Tagore imagined through Shantiniketan, we are witnessing it shape up here at Anaadi. With the upcoming Gurukulam and continuous and thorough reflections on Indian knowledge systems, it doesn’t seem long before it materializes.
We also devoted ourselves to Gita Adhyayana & paarayana — we are all now confident of chanting Gita shlokas with ease, some of us have mastered chanting few chapters from memory too. Likewise, an understanding of Ayurvedic knowledge of Vata Pitta Kapha Doshas in Prakriti, making us inwardly more aware and competent in analyzing one’s own body’s Prakriti and how it is being affected by the nature of food that goes in, the time of the day, and the Ritu (season/weather), our health is now in our own Hands!
Sessions on Yogic neuroscience and Yoga sutras were the most revealing in terms of how can our shastras guide the leading-edge research, guide a sadhak in the inward journey, aid a student in the Modern age of Information overload & hyper cognition
An unforgettable experience was to be a part of the consecration of Ashta Dik linga around the Periya Ivyar malai in a simple and glorious ceremony, this malai is held sacred by villagers, legends say that it has been home to a lot of Siddhas and is considered to be Shiva himself also called Turiyateeta malai, being right at the feet of the malai gave us the opportunity to do girivala pradakshina very often,the pradakshina’s were always very refreshing giving us a sense of tripti and fulfilment.
We also regularly went through Mouna Sadhana every month, these were phases of deep reflection and dhyana, they have thoroughly laid a strong foundation for the adversities this lifetime has in store for us!
Towards the end of the program on the auspicious Chitra Poornima day, we trekked onto the top of the malai and spent the night under the Bright moonlight with an umbrella of stars, with the devas looking over us, we were singing the glories of shiva. Early in the morning we were surrounded by vanara sena (the monkeys of iyvar malai) looking at us in amusement while we do our daily Yoga asanas — We could see how being bound by an asana routine for just 15 minutes a day, liberates us from most illnesses of the future, and also fill’s us with energy for a bright day,
That was the core of our learning, being bound by traditions is to Liberate you ! Through these 108 days, we were also able to master some of the toughest asanas like Mayur asana, shirshasana , which was unimaginable just a few months ago.
Palani being a Siddha Kshetra, we got to meet traditional reciter of Thirumurai which has been passed on from generation to generation. We also met several vaidyas who are specialists and keepers of the knowledge of herbs used specifically for spiritual, agamic and Ayurvedic purposes, they were able to show us the small area around the ashram has a lot of very potent herbs. We were very pleased to know of our traditional knowledge from the very sources, but they were all on their last foot, with newer generations turning away due to migration and less support for traditional knowledge.
Go shala being a big part of Anaadi housing 13 cows, We got a chance to also learn the foundations of sustainable life and organic farming centered on Gomata. We made Jeevamritam, Panchagavya, which we personally witnessed are soil-enriching & have life-giving essence in them, few plants which were mordant since the time we came to ashram began to spring back to life within days after giving them Jeevamritam.
We also did a lot of experiments with cow dung as it is one of the main elements of our Goshala and it is proven successfully to be a binding agent and useful for making cow dung bricks, logs for the fire, Varatti’s for Agni Kriya-Homa. We have grown a special relation with the cows at our ashram, going back home they would be the most missed, their gentle loving feel, calm and composed nature can never be replaced, maybe we shall lookout for the nearest Goshala in our cities- go feed them and spend some time with Gomata.
A confident space to express this Poornata was also provided to us. Various activities took shape, few took to Gau Seva with rigor, few have developed an interest in research on yoga and cognition how they can help us during the online world of covid, also conducting workshops to empower youth on sustainable development goals, Bodhi — a first-of-its-kind program on Indian perspective to Education Psychology also took shape from our musings at the ashram. The Ashram space gave us clarity of thought, energy in the body while also providing ample scope to express our Swabhava with intensity. Not only the classics, but we have also learned the basics of web design, poster making, research process — simple and straight ways to reach out to the world and prove your mettle!
I can go on and on! But still, my Anaadi mates would say I have missed out a lot more than i have captured about the time here What we have experienced here is invaluable, the best way I could describe it is through the timeless mantra
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते । पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
Om, That (Outer World) is Purna (Full with Divine Consciousness); This (Inner World) is also Purna; From Purna is manifested Purna
A very fundamental shift in actions…. From a lack to completeness — By being in the presence of Gurus, a glimpse of Atma Tripti is felt and thus we journey back with a heavy heart into the world, rooted more firmly in our Swadharma and with confidence to strive for Loka Sangraha.