A Tourist Observation on Tiruvannamalai
Corboy: note how the author scolds herself for coming across as being skeptical.
The dictionary definition of skepticism is a stance of doubt, of questioning. Of puzzlement or disbelief. One has not taken a statement or situation as given. One has not assigned an ultimate value statement, either.
One can be skeptical in relation to any and all stated beliefs. Or be skeptical in relation to a particular statement, belief, or in this author's case, skeptical about gurus, because of the ease by which someone can assume the guru role in Tiruvannamalai.
The author is not disapproving. She described some quite wonderful guru centered experiences in Tiru. But...she made a valid observation that it is easy, very easy to be regarded as a guru in Tiru---all one has to do is behave according to role expectations.
Though some sources will state that disapproval is synonymous with skepticism, I would say, not necessarily so.
It is worrisome that so many visitors fear that skepticism is somehow 'wrong'.
Skepticism is a stance of freedom. One is not harming anyone or oneself by remaining skeptical. Anyone trying to imply that skepticism is bad or wrong---they're the ones with the explaining to do--not the skeptic.
Further on, the author described a guru whose darshan she appreciated. But..she allows herself the freedom to ponder this experience from multiple dimensions. To question it, wonder about guru and what she does when not granting darshan.
I really looked forward to the shiva shakti and evening singing. They were both so peaceful and grounding for me. Sometimes I’d really meditate and get clarity and peace. Other times I was just chillin amongst the pack as a spectator, watching people’s elated expressions, for example when bowing as Shanti Ma entered the shiva shakti hall.
This guru woman is a trip. She is short and dressed in a fabric that almost matches her skin color and walks at a very slow shuffle. Her hand movements are almost imperceptible and her glassy eyes at times reach mine and give me that shakti jolt while all the while her smile stays in place; not like a happy grin…more like a contented peaceful half-smile. She paused briefly in her shuffle through the room to bring that slow motion blessing to each of the 70+ people in the hall. It was very calming and I saw her as this conduit of spirit sharing its love to the group.
I was really into it in the sense that I felt so relaxed and at peace at the end of the hour.
Inevitably my scrutinizing side reared its head on occasion and I wondered what Shanti Ma is like when not in this blessing trance state during her twice daily Shiva Shakti.
Does she also shuffle around her apartment with that trance-like gaze during her off time?
Or does she ever crank the bollywood tunes and dance around in front of her mirror?
Thoughts like this always brought a grin to my face, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because it made me appear almost in the elated worshipping stance like many of my cross legged neighbors in the hall.
This is skepticism in action--a freedom to muse and question and play with an experience, instead of taking it as 'given' and taking a prescribed devotional stance towards it.
The author is not disapproving of anything here. But...she has not slid into group think, either. It is interesting that she can report feeling moved by the guru's gaze, yet continues to regard the guru as a human person.
Skepticism is an adult and humane stance. It is a stance of questioning, of freedom, and from a stance of self respect that preserves the humanity of others while not agreeing with their opinions or value judgements.
Skepticism is not disapproval, even though some dictionaries have slid into stating that skepticism and disapproval are synonymous. I contend that skepticism retains its usefulness if we take care not to equate it with disapproval.
Corboy is going to make a passionate value statement.
If a situation or person or group tries to imply that you are wrong to be skeptical and that skepticism itself is wrong--beware.
You should consider that they have the burden of proof, not you.
Skepticism wrongs no one--except those who find autonomy unbearable or are determined to make a convert and dislike skeptical autonomy because it frustrates recruitment to their anti skeptical project.
] seems like anything goes here. If you would like to be a guru…YOU CAN! Just come to Tiru and print up fliers and post them in all the restaurants in the ashram bubble and host gatherings. Join the Jamaicans, French, Germans, Israelis, etc and host a “Satsang with Meenu”, “Enlightenment NOW! with Jackie and Frederique” or “Chakra Balancing Dance with Ranjii” etc. And if you have some pertinence in your message and teachings there is a good chance you will have a following.
Wow I am sure that I am coming off sooooo skeptical. Let me clarify. I believe most of these gatherings and teachings have huge offerings and pertinence, but I am also realizing that you do not have to be a 68 year old man from a holy town in Madhya Pradesh wearing a modest white longi and a turban to be a guru.
The persons observation concerning Tiru;
, February 07, 2008
rah rah! i've got spirit yes i do!
Tiruvannamalai’s ashram district is a bubble keeping devotees safe from most of the rigors of India. Once in the flow there I found it was much like being in an adult summer camp of spirituality.
I woke up every morning to watch the peacocks dance outside my balcony. Then by 9:30am I was seated in a small hall jam packed with cross legged meditators for Shanti Ma’s blessing at Shiva Shakti. Afterwards was breakfast which usually correlated with conversations with other travelers over fried eggs, toast and milk coffee.
The afternoons were like free time for walks around Mt. Arunachal, visits to the temples in town or siestas in one’s room. Interspersed through the day were chai breaks which also correlated with more deep conversations with travelers. If needing more blessings you could opt for an additional afternoon Shiva Shakti at 5pm.
Afterward is the 6:30pm singing mantra chanting in the big hall of the main ashram. Topping it off with dinner at the buffet restaurant.