Arunachala: Sacred Mountain of Light – Sat Yoga Ashram (San Isidro del General, Costa Rica)September 23, 2010
Whenever Sri Ramana Maharshi was asked if he visited any of the many holy mountains in India, he responded that he visited them all the time. Although he headed for Arunachala soon after realizing enlightenment at the age of 16, Sri Ramana was quick to remind us that Arunachala was everywhere, and in everyone. Arunachala is now being recognized in Costa Rica, on the land where the Sat Yoga Institute presently builds an ashram. Only on the mountain of God, also known as the Mountain of Light, do we come to know the true Self that sits in the Heart, the pinnacle of human manifestation and expression on the spiritual map.
Long before we learn to pronounce it, Arunachala is within us. Some of us are immediately drawn to it upon hearing the name, stirring emotions of peace, joy and tranquility, like the sound of a lullaby to an infant. Arunachala is The Mother that calms all of our fears, heals our wounds, and instills deep seated happiness and completeness in the power of Her stillness.
On the horizontal, physical map of the phenomenal world, the Sat Yoga Ashram is located in the mountains of San Isidro del General on the San Marcos Ridge. Departing from San José, the Sierra de la Muerte is crossed (The Mountain of Death) on the way to Arunachala. Thus it was with Sri Ramana Maharshi, who, upon experiencing death of the ego, attained Liberation. This is the blissful reward of all those who are willing to die to the ego, while the body is still alive.
The ashram land bathes in divine light and mist clouds; holy water showers it year round.
In Costa Rica, Arunachala manifests as an evergreen rainforest comprised of approximately 100 hectarias, or 250 acres, blessed with an outpouring of bio-diversity.
Epiphytes, orchids, and ancient tree ferns are among the thousands of species found on Arunachala. Purusha through Prakriti expresses its majesty in exuberance on the ashram property.
Water abounds on this holy land. From above and bellow, the power of love´s nurturing force flows in divine beauty;
the wonder of God´s expression, often too subtle to be captured by normal sensory perception.
The design is too grand and perfect to deny. The most minute details are perfectly interwoven. And each part is cared for, impeccably. And each is always reflecting the whole.
Although the true Master Plan is a mysterious unfolding directed from above, its revelation comes to light through human thought and actions on earth. When it was time to create a master plan for the Sat Yoga Ashram property, great thought was also given to the needs of the whole, as well as to those of the individual residents and guests. Most suited to help us with the task of creating a master plan for Arunachala was Deppat´s professional services, a company with many years of reputable experience in the field of master plan design.
With our feet at the gate, we embarked to explore the land´s potential and inevitably found God´s planning far ahead of our arrival.
Instead of steep inclines typical of Costa Rica´s mountainous ranges, Arunachala was landscaped to meet all the needs of an ashram. Rolling hills with alternating terraces provide natural divisions for the different resident categories befitted to ashram life, from sannyasis, also known as renunciates, to occasional visitors.
Two gates access Arunachala. Shunyamurti recently renamed them Shiva Gate, and Vishnu Gate.
With great joy we follow the path, committed to peeling away all layers of the ego, the only obstacle to divine freedom. We may choose to enter the Mountain of Light through Vishnu Gate, the Bhakti path of spiritual devotion to Vishnu, the Archetype of sustenance, or through the portal of Knowledge offered by Shiva, the God of transformation and redemption of the true Self.
Those who choose the Vishnu path seek joyful communion with God through devotion in thought, word, and deeds. This includes celebration and engagement in Karma Yoga, selfless service. The true worshippers of Vishnu are committed to breaking through the barriers that separate them from union with the Supreme One.
For those who seek the most direct path, the deep and narrow entry into the mystery of the unknown Self that lies beyond duality, who are willing to silence the mind and dwell in the aloneness of the All-one, known only through the slaying of the ego illusion, the Shiva gate is the preferred way in. Their joy is equal to those who sing and dance with Vishnu, but it is a quiet, subtle joy of the inmost Heart. However, they come out to walk their talk with sword-like efficiency in all Karma yoga that they perform. And, like the power of the genie that comes from being locked up in the bottle, their radiance, wisdom and love, is transmitted to all others. Sri Ramana serves as a great example of this path of Gyana yoga.
Besides the two paths into the Sat Yoga Ashram, four categories of residency are available: Sannyasis (monks both male and female) and swamis, the most committed to transformation and spiritual liberation; disciples who are eco-villagers, who may only live at the ashram part-time; visiting retreatants who come for short periods to recharge the soul´s energies; and volunteers, who come for work/study opportunities. For the sannyasis, we will be building a neighborhood of quiet hermitages, in the furthest northern reaches of the property.
Shunyamurti has explained that, ¨Today, it is extremely unfashionable in the Western world to adopt the lifestyle of a sannyasi, or a monk. People are fearful of what they mistakenly perceive as extreme asceticism and loss of autonomy. But the life of a monk in a monastery or ashram can be a truly fulfilling and sublime way of living. It is the only life style that offers true autonomy, rather than the superficial appearance of autonomy that is actually enslavement to a godless system.¨
For those who feel the call of Arunachala, the opportunity to live a blessed existence in a true ashram refuge becomes an irresistible attraction, as soothing as mother’s milk to a hungry baby. The life of divine simplicity, offering sufficient amounts of time to contemplate God and attain the Supreme Liberation, is a priceless and rare option in our hyperactive world.
With ethereal views to mountains, forest and ocean, the monk´s enclave is the cave that draws out the deepest reaches of the soul. Where the two meet, union is achieved. The journey inward, to the heart of the matter, the Mater, the Matrix, the Mother, is destined for all, at some point and time. At the Sat Yoga Ashram, space is offered for all those whose time has come to return to the Light.
Over the hill and south from the monk´s homes, a communal temple is foreseen on a sphere-shaped terrace with views to the shoreline.
The communal temple area sits as a cup in a saucer with a forested cliff protruding as if in support from behind, outpouring from the front into infinite sky, across the valley bellow, into the ocean. The perfect site to take off in the flight of Enlightenment, whether in spirit, or aided by a flying saucer´s mystic launch.
Moving towards the center of the property we find plans for retreat cabins, a hotel, and a restaurant. Retreat cabins are now going up near the meditation center, already built for us by the previous owners.
Mahatma Lodge, the future meditation center, is presently serving as the lodging for our karma yoga trips. It needs only minor adaptations to serve as a meditation hall. The ample space can seat dozens of great-souled yogis, while its glass walls attract the sun’s living energies into the indoor space where retreatants will transform into mahatmas (great souls).
Six two-story retreat cabins are nearing completion. Our interior design committee is presently planning out the details of tiles, furniture, and paint colors that will aid retreatants to realize the perfection of their own colorful lives in the light of God’s Presence.
Postulants’ homes find their niche between two forest springs. Alone, or in groups, candidates for discipleship will come to contemplate on whether they are called to the blessed life of an ashram dweller. The art of discipleship means integrating the fragmented ego-mind into a higher unified order by following yogic principles and practices.
The vows include commitment to non-violence, both in act and in aggressive thought; not to covet what belongs to others; to refrain from lying to ourselves and others; to sublimate lustful thoughts into the drive for oneness with the Absolute; not to steal from others or ourselves, which ultimately includes the theft of integrity from all beings when the true Self is not seen in the other.
The vows also include maintaining inner and outer purity, the practice of contentment, daily deep meditation, the study of wise words of the sages, and the surrender of all actions to the Supreme One.
Discipleship entails the practice of locating and reuniting our projected fragments of fear and desire, and transforming them through Agape (Divine Love) into higher Wisdom that leads to ultimate Liberation. During the period of postulation, the soul explores its readiness to commit to these goals. Are we wiling to accept a higher mode of living to reap the benefits that may be gained for our souls?
In many religious orders, the period of postulation was symbolized by the new habits worn in the form of clothes. These varied slightly from the habits worn by the committed and confirmed monks. Postulants commit to temporarily storing away their old habits (ego woven), and to replace them with the new fabric of the yamas and niyamas. If they change their minds, their old clothed ways, kept in reserve until a final decision is made, can be retrieved for a return into the ego world.
Those wishing even more solitary quarters during their time as postulants, or as disciples, will find their place in more hidden enclaves throughout Arunachala.
Entering into an ashram is to retreat into the cave of the heart in order to find peace from which radiates both light and joy. Reuniting the mind with the inner power of silence becomes the foundation of stability and harmonious co-existence. Silence is the womb where peace resides, and Love the om-niotic fluid that sustains it. In the peace of solitude, the Atman which contains our consciousness is realized once more. The hermit, when she is ready to come out of her cave reborn, can refund the regained wisdom to the world.
A research library has also been planned to house Shunyamurti’s large collection of books. The building will sit across the way from the meditation hall, offering Arunachula the written traces of the great wisdom of the ages. Thousands of books, encompassing many fields or knowledge, from the most ancient spiritual traditions to the most cutting edge research in quantum physics, psychoanalysis, and other disciplines, will be available to all interested in the search for Truth.
An administration building and welcome center will be situated above and to the side of the library. From within its glass walls, visitors and karma yogis will have front row seats to view the food-forest below.
For many, the eco-village will serve as a wonderful retirement community. Living close to the vibrant ashram, committed to an ecological lifestyle, with a cultural center, theater, music hall, and sports facilities next door provides many benefits that may well make this barrio a most sought-out homing destination.
The views may be an additional reason for choosing the Eco-village neighborhood. Beautiful views of forested rolling hills accent the whispering of the river running alongside the property boundaries.
A biological corridor was delineated and reforested, joining the river to the property springs. The biological corridor will soon facilitate, and increase, the movement of wildlife around Arunachala.
Our sisters and brothers from the animal and plant kingdom are protected at the Sat Yoga Ashram, as are all beings who enter its gates.
Unconditional love knows no bounds. Life at Arunachala is based on the Source of All, seeing through all superficial differences, such as creed, race, gender, and color. An ashram is the ultimate experience in integrated living through the realization of our Oneness.
In the creation of an ashram, love and play in karma yoga rules the day. The development of a master plan for the ashram property becomes an opportunity to move pieces around on a board game in order to serve the highest goals for human communal living.
Here, we hop on quadricycles, to collect plants for the ashram gardens.
And we take time to check the view from the cabins that rise to the height of tree houses.
Every meal is cooked up in creative, delicious, nutritious ways that delights the soul…
…except a handful of potatoes from the cook´s pot to plant for next year´s crop.
Hands get dirty, making mud pies while planting what the kitchen will cook, and the residents will delight in.
We commune with the foals,
becoming farmers in retreat, as sons and daughters of modern city dwellers return to the humble work of the fields.
Some develop into fledgling carpenters, building duck houses, while the pros construct the cabins behind.
We gather in story telling circles…
and escapade to the river´s beach on a hot, sunny morning,
…or make excursions to the hill tops.
Arunachala, blessed be thy name, the Source from which the formless manifests into form. Through God´s Grace, in the building of the Sat Yoga Ashram, the process of becoming a divine sangha-community reveals itself. A master plan for human transformation and transcendence, if ever there was one.
Namaste. God Bless.