The shrine of the master Ramana Maharshi was to the back of the ashram main temple whose doors opened to the faithful each and every day at six in the morning. My favourite time to go there was in the evening at around 8 pm when it was still warm, very warm more often than not. I would walk around the shrine as one of the crowd, barefoot, in silence, as an act of meditation. Sounds mainly came in the form of the rows of fans rotating high above, suspended from the temple ceiling. There were odd coughs from those dusty pilgrims who appeared each evening, seemingly out of nowhere from other parts of the ashram and further beyond and there were also the slowly encroaching sounds of the oncoming Indian night, sounds of heat, sounds of mystery.
I enjoyed the sensation of walking on the cool, smooth granite slabs of the temple floor which lay beneath my feet, the gentle swish of light, loose clothing worn by everyone so as to remain comfortable, but most of all I enjoyed the fact there were no words, no conversations carried on within the walls of the main temple, only walking, meditating, praying and quietly staring into space.
My first visit had been made by way of crisis, when I had pushed myself into corner and found there was nowhere else to go on trail of circumstance, hand of fate, whatever you wish to call it, left me with no other option but to walk around that shrine. My mind had been full of pain with a stream of thoughts so unremittingly negative it was close to make or break. There had been nothing else for me to do when I got there but to walk around the shrine by way of physical repetition, my body doing the silent dance of the again and again and again. Over the course of that next hour or so of shrine walking my mind emptied, came to peace and since then there has been no looking back.
The body, I realised, might be an unconscious slab of fresh and bone when it is without mind to illuminate it, but still it carries an ancient wisdom buried deep within the core. Sometimes it is important to listen to this body. That simple act of shrine walking comprised my first steps on the road to happiness, the land of permanent bliss. Oh I know I wasn’t enlightened, far from it, that was rare as a shooting star at noon, but there was now at least a chance of a twinkle in my eye whilst making my way through the rest of this life on Earth. Beyond any doubt I knew a door had opened the day I found that shrine, or to be more accurate, the day the shrine found me.