Headlines are to impress. And I’m sure this one does. When one thinks of Mount Arunachala, Ramana Maharshi’s name occurs simultaneously. They’re both the same, the same guru tatva (essence), the same absolute reality. All these efforts to describe the indescribable are like meditations to reach a point where there is no meditator. And perhaps even after a point where there is no meditator, what will this body mind do other than praising the supreme self?
Ayya Swami is another representation of this supreme self. I first came across the picture of this saint a few months ago when I was having a meal with a dear friend Sharath at Auro Usha.
I asked him about an alluring picture of a saint and he told me it was ‘Ayya Swami’ and his story… He lived for 18 years at the summit of Arunachala, yes you heard that right. And he lived only on a cup of tea and a cup of milk every day, for 18 years! Sharath had met him a couple of times and then I read a little about him on these two blogs- Jahnava Nitai Das’s account and on Arunachala Grace.
And as it usually happens in Tiruvannamalai (and everywhere), stories unfold at their own time. It’s just that in the land of Arunachala, a thought and its manifestation happens instantaneously, in surreal ways. This is probably true of all spiritually charged places. Tiruvannamalai being one of the power centres, this is bound to happen. A day or two after I heard the story, I was taking a few friends to Virupaksha cave but it was closed due to covid restrictions and our footsteps naturally walked a little further downhill to land upon a beautiful meditation hall/hut.
The cave is a little ashram setup by Ayya Swami’s devotees and is welcoming to meditators. I’ve gone there a couple of times since the first time I came across it and this time, I mustered up the courage to act upon the instinct of clicking a photograph of the hall (using the phone is strictly prohibited in the cave). The thatched hut which has an altar of Ayya Swami (Narayan Guru) in the middle has huge windows and is extremely conducive for meditation. His blessings through the picture are palpable and I’m grateful to have come across the sage.
18 years on the top of the hill (probably 1987-2005) is astounding but once a person is beyond the body-mind construct, it all seems pretty normal. The story goes that in 2005, the forest department asked him to relocate because the mountain was made a part of a reserved forest and he complied to move down and stay in a college premise some 5-6 km from the foothills of Arunachala. As things would turn out, an exception was made for him and he moved up the hill in a week but then his health took a downturn.
He was admitted in a hospital for 12 days and after stepping out, he uttered one word “Narayan” and that’s how the name Narayan Swami also came about. Before his departure from Rangammal Hospital on July 29th, 2005, he had remarked:
“I have been sitting on Arunachala Hill for all these years allowing people to serve me, now it is time for me to stand up and serve others.”
Some more research also brought me to this post which links Ayya Swami as the father of Nirahara Samyama where one lives on the cosmic energy (without any food). The infamous Swami Nityananda has also cited Narayan Swami as an inspiration for his programs developed to free people from the cravings of food.
Not stepping into gossip territory, the point of this post is to bring forth the story of Ayya Swami as an inspiration for us. Because this is a story of the current times, there are highly elevated souls living amongst us, these aren’t stories of ancient times.
Realisation is in the moment. The truth is happening now and in every moment. Truth alone is. Om.
Read more about Tiruvannamalai: Travel Guide and a beginner’s guide to Who Am I?