Returning to an earlier time – August 1991, and my first Pwllderi holiday: meditations on Ramana and Krishnamurti, their dialogue in my inner life, within the coastal landscape. This post concludes with my meeting with AJ and what was to become the Ramana Foundation.
I was born with Sun in Capricorn and full-Moon in Cancer into a family of travelers along that spiritual coastal path. The coastal path is Sadhana. Capricorn is land and Cancer is the tide where ocean meets the land; the songs of old age and infancy in humanity.
20 August 1991
Last week I took my old canvas tent, two old sleeping bags and my bike to the Pembrokeshire coast, to explore a beckoning terrain. The sun shone, the breeze blew, and one day a great gust of sea-mist rolled in and tumbled everywhere among the rocks. I pitched base at Pwllderi Youth Hostel on the high cliff of a bay whose arms embrace the setting sun.
There is a way of life to explore, when tired and climbing a steep path, or pushing my heavy bike up the long hill above Fishguard. What is it?
“Lean back into the present moment, into the Now.”
An exhausting dissipation of energy otherwise, strives ahead. This instruction made me smile. I carried quite a lot of luggage – my house – on the bike. So I could lean back on that quite literally, while riding. To lean back metaphysically, slows down, even halts time. When I strive and struggle, I ache, I become blind, I want it to be over – I am immured in the toils of competitive pain. But when I rest into the NOW, what is there?
The relationship of foot to earth, yielding. The perfume of stones, peat and flowers. An alertness to maintain – the value of life; indulgent smile at my body’s efforts, aches and pains, giving due praise for small successes, encouraging her to the next enticing horizon … a dialogue develops.
You need not try so hard. A way is found, over and into the steepness of that path, which flows and rests into itself. Thus, my legs taking the brunt of sudden and continuous strenuous exercise ached, complained and wobbled, but I was hardly ever out of breath.
I met a guy right at the end of the great Dinosaur headland. He had ventured down onto rocks I considered to be my own domain, and he complimented me on my “daring”. This appreciative audience inspired me to bound up the cliff like a goat – all systems, all rhythms suddenly connect. The greatest stimulant is display.
To lean back into the present moment. Into Now?
Similarly, whenever necessary to bring the bodymind to heel (continually!) from various futile, complaint-filled and absent wanderings of her own – COME BACK, MIND! Come into “Here”. Lean into, sink into Here. It is like being poured into a vessel. Falling from her normal absent musings, feature articles and defiant or sad political lobbyings into silent perception of the landscape around – a flower begins to open. Yes: a silvery light of being from within, dewy and infinite.
A drop of water, a bud to open, a lens – the vesica in the overlap of two circles expands or contracts with the degree of focus. It is hidden but real. This path leads through heather and grey stones over a high volcanic tump that rises out of the sea. Strumble Lighthouse will soon appear from behind another. The air is bright with the sound of stone-chat birds that dart black and white, from fence post to furze. The heather here is intense magenta violet; never have I seen it so bright – shocking pink, sprinkled with the gold-dust perfume of gorse in flower in a dark-green prickly carpet. What a garden!
Let it “collapse” inward …
Self-enquiry: who is this dewy, infinite seeing space? What travels over the rocky place of colour and the wide, blue sky? A column of light? Or an I? – what wordless query, collapsing inward to the silver space flowing outward, dwells in the marrow, you bony goat?
My body is a shell, the thin and ruinous walls of the citadel around this elusive essence of …
only one conduit, among a myriad other forms, for Spirit like a source of spring of water in the hillside … loving as a goat does, this rocky path of life, which absorbs an immensity of sky, sea and sunlight. In the immensity, there sleep – for the sea is mirror calm today – a titanic display of rounded cliffs in pillow-lava, like the paws of a lion. The tide plays slackly around those furled, slumbering claws. The air is breathlessly still, mirror-still. The Spirit which my fragmentary citadel carries more or less gamely, through varying degrees of obscurity and up and down, is a little puzzled. She hopes for some stormy weather to lift the crests to play with. She wonders also at the mighty quiescence, the glory of heather with gorse in flower, and smiles in fraternal greeting with other sun-burned toilers on the coastal path. We travel under our burdens the way a snail transports its shell … in as straight a line as possible.
And here, lying across the path upon a quick descent to investigate an enormous crag of violet sandstone that rose from the sea further south, suddenly – a snake, coiled in a petrified quiver of attention. It heard the questing thunder of my feet. What kind of snake? I stepped to one side and stood. A viper? Is that a V on its head? It is quite large – the colour of bracken, golden and brown. We wait in silence. Suddenly the coil of the snake is ended. It flows into the heather in a most admirable and gleaming ripple of straightness. Like an arrow.
It is very difficult for me to let it all collapse inward … to a reality which soars, which flows an unworded totality of attention like the eagle; like the snake; thought as one uncostumed movement, a ripple into that land. For I am taken with the beauty of the Scorpionic symbol – the concentrated water of life, its hidden “sting”. The water in the well is still. Eagle and snake converged spontaneously!
When I come to where land meets sea, and climb along the penumbra, I meet myself, and it is turbulent. When the inner weather is really heavy and I can’t find my moorings, I get out Ramana Maharshi’s Forty Verses from my bum-bag, like sips of water along the trail.
Before I came here, to my holiday on the coastal path, I was very busy writing a long story about my encounter with Krishnamurti in 1974. This led me to read, fascinated, Mary Lutyens’ biography of him. There was so much about him, and thence about my father and my upbringing, that I didn’t know or understand. I can now see and make peace with it all.
“Truth,” he said, “is a pathless land.”
This statement rings like a trumpet, through the cliffs and sea.
He was dissolving the ropes that tied him to the Theosophist Movement and expectation, which protected his body and the secret, sacred chamber of himself as a messenger, during his formative years. The groomed Messiah turns into truth. The ropes holding the boat from the open sea, were being dissolved by that very Sea in which they lay immersed. They were old rope, old bondage. The struggle of K’s “speaker” for freedom, was formative for that timbre.
What is K doing? He is opening the egg from within, each instant.
It goes much deeper than cracking the shell of Mama Besant. It applies to the evolving consciousness of the age. Between the world wars, he was doing it. It is flame and sword, but there is a lot of talking. It is also protected by an angel or force of direction that has no name. From the Theosophist Movement, heavy with description and dripping seaweed, it becomes the movement of itself. The boat travels loose and free in the world. The eagle sees through every film or mask laid over the unending question.
Movement is in and of the River. It has no beginning nor end. It is not for capture. Truth is a pathless land. It has no Master(s).
There is a photo of the young K dissolving the Order of the Star. He looks as if he is cutting a rope to launch a ship. It is also umbilical – the pain, the cleansing, the opening. His “process” afflicted him periodically, through life. It was a fire in the spine to prepare the ways. It looks like the clearing of fog from capillaries and nervous ganglia for the increment of a potent “blood” – the cosmic dimension. K was classically, a “channel”. He didn’t stop being one; he had some conflict with it. It was his nature, his training, and the way he spoke. His “process” is the dying agony of every moment to be born. And thus into beauty.
It is interesting that K, when due to have an operation, gave a pint of two of his own blood first, in case he should need a transfusion! I am intensely moved by K’s real story, and his being. He springs to life from the ambiguous authoritarian iconoclast in my childhood.
I see too, that with K there is so much talking; and with Ramana there is so much silence. If I put them on the Tree of Life, K is the warrior and Ramana the merciful of Self-enquiry.
It was essential for K to let go every hand that guided him, and never name the Source that channeled him – knowing simply that it is “sacred … beyond line or shape. But Ramana remained close to the well of Advaita (non-duality) as to the old and sacred hill Arunachala, within whose caves he is born and flows like a stream. He had no quarrel with the traditions or with his culture.
Krishnamurti at Saanen
K traveled over land and sea – a lover of mountains, rivers, flowers and wild creatures all over the world. In the valleys, he founded schools. He is a very young child, with the sword of sunrise. He sits when old, on the floor with children at one of his schools, listening to the school play. He is very little, empty and touchingly attentive. His white hair spirals obediently around his crown.
Ramana’s features spread wide, a kindly, craggy land of innocence as the sun sets over a mountain into the cup of the sea. The unfathomable imp of the Self, the I, looks out limpid through the windows, the caves of brown earth in the hills of these two beings – the hard sharp one, and the gentle one.
I wonder what their conversation might have been.
“Truth,” K said “is a pathless land.” In the pathless, unconditioned terrain, the snake I saw above the violet rock, travels unerringly straight over all of it, like the curve of water.
K’s seems like a young soul like a lofty summit, born into an empty cup without Earth’s long memory. Ramana’s is an ancient, rounded hill. He was born under the sign of the Goat: Krishnamurti under that of the Bull. This brings a lot of “sky” into Earth, during a dark age. The Goat climbs and grazes. The Bull endures the flies and grazes. The Goat is passing through the ultimate door. The Bull tastes beauty and is deeply sensuous, deeply keyed to sacrifice. They represent all the generations of the Twentieth century and beyond.
Flying over rocks
The morning after I got home from my holiday, a dream came to me, quite early, after sleeping.
“Consider,” it said “a landscape of good rock, mother-naked glorious, to scramble and clamber among.”
Yes, I can see it, I am there. It is like the cascade of “organ pipes” that falls diagonally over the southern flank of the Dinosaur, but a lot more of it.
“Those innumerable rocky citadels are formed, as your own body is, from the coagulate of a ripple or tendency of thought along the etheric plane. Every one of those citadels and rock fortresses is a thought, a device that hardened of itself, to conceal and forget the infinite distillate of the dew it arises from. Remember the snake? the way its coil, dense and watchful, slips suddenly away into an arrow, like water?
“Love laughs at locksmiths. It is free.
“Now. Listen carefully. The major weapon of the Devil – in the Tarot his intellectual prick, pride, genital mercury … mind, you see! – is Doubt.”
“….?” I say.
“Thus, the Devil besieges his customer with Certainty!”
Yes, I’ve got that. (Blearily writing it down in the dark, before the words slip away for ever. I hate having to prop my body into wakefulness during the night.) The apparent Certainty of the people, the houses, the ideas around me.
So what then, is Truth? What is truth, if not a kind of certainty?
This huge landscape of sensitive rock is making me nervous.
The True is … somehow “the Sword of truth is a gleaming, choiceless point of its Self along not just one place but everywhere(like light, like sun sparkling the sea) in every rock. You have no choice.”
That is the pathless land. The Reality is everywhere, like the light on the sea. The shimmering web dances up into the vivid radiance of its own Tree. I know in that instant, that there is no need to follow any one path of this light, for it is an all-pervading sparkle from crystal to crystal. It plays from depth unto depth. It is the lattice of Solomon.
Whence is my crusading belief? This line of rock is good, in front, but so are those ones here, and to each side and beyond – as good, as diverse and as firm. The tenor of Reality is good. No choice or prejudice can form. “Truth is a pathless, choiceless land.” To see this, safeguards me for ever, from limiting it to the “Certainty” (and fatigue) of any theological system.
When my dream spoke of the Devil, I was scared.
Fear. Entrapment, illusion … seductions, horrors, histories and tales of woe. Then I saw what to do. The abundance of the vein of vision is its own protection against the seeds of fear … and against all prejudice. Infinity within as without all manifestation, is the heart of the matter. To know this inner fact, plainly and impartially, like the face of the rocks, means I can never again be brainwashed. I shall not be persuaded into the shape of false coverings. All that is finished. See things as they are: it does not matter where I am. “I” is you, and everybody else, and we but die for short spells within the I… I. The clarity is received.
The truth is simple and wide. It needs no psychic adornment; there is no measure to its height, depth and breadth, when an outer garment formed of beliefs and patterns of words begins to cave in.
It collapses inward. Into its Self,
Serpent egg 87
There are coves just south of the Dinosaur headland, where the ground falls suddenly away in a cataclysm of folded, broken cliff into a pool of violet pebbles and whispering sea, very far below. At the rim of one of the coves, a small deserted quarry into the rock becomes furred with lichens and new grass. Here above the sea, someone laid out in a spiral like a snail’s shell, a graded sequence of small rocks, flint and sandstone. They begin as a drystone wall, and fade smaller and smaller towards the centre – a few feet across. Its creator turned into the Quarry … Self enquiry. I recognized it, knowing already, that to descend into the depth, the violet pebbles and whispering sea is to dive into the Heart.
There is a pathway down. It is invisible till your feet are on it. It steeply yet safely descends a sheer precipice of couch-grass along the slanting strata of a grey Vulcan slab. Near the bottom, a landslide extinguishes it; but by then you are close enough to the pebble beach, to jump. And then you look up!
Behold, a vast cirque of the geologic record entangles dark igneous extrusions with glittering sandstone bookshelves alive and golden, in cataclysmic dialogue. Shattered cascades, dark grey and russet, of parents, children, angels and towns, are sculpted in midfall. The sacred quarry for titan architects reaches hundreds of feet to the blue sky. Near the top of the cliffs is another bulging efflorescence of that strange, soft purple rock. When I biked to St David’s Cathedral a day or two later, I discovered it is built of this purple sandstone, whose changing tints move me deeply. Nothing in sacred architecture antecedes the carving of the sea, and of the fire within the earth.
King Canute 87
While writing this, something wishes to clarify within me, the pathless land. What is its meaning, in the everyday clambering of life?
Face, and enter all that arises, without psychological comment. Receive the affronts of grief, mental error, external sounds like that buzz-saw trimming and wounding the trees, openly. Be here: let it be; do not flinch.
The attempt to run away, categorize or “fix” pain, causes pain to arise. It is a cyst of nervous alienation. I am ashamed of my painfulness, my pain-body, but an adventure opens, if I allow it to exist without fear … or description.
K’s teaching is an IMPARTIAL LAND. “Get out of the field!” Let every moment step out of the polarized “field” of chosen labels. Every step the field encloses, is blind. Every step out of it is Seeing.
“Get out of the field!” An individual carries like flame – impartially – the world Consciousness. He or she, stepping out of the field, influences and is the Whole. He or she, beginning that departure, is no longer an enclosed, imaginary province, but an opening flow into mankind: a droplet to the sea. It is not renunciation, death or hermitage. It is – paradoxically – the unconditional entry: the core, the living Self of the field.
Then the field is like a boundary or membrane which isolates each member of it until he or she sees and IS the field!
The practice of opening the gate into tendencies of pain, is to enquire of them steadily – “who is – who am I?” “The realized one,” says Ramana Maharshi “sends out waves of spiritual influence, which draw many people towards him. Yet he may sit in a cave and maintain complete silence.” Water diviners let their sensitive rods lead them to the Source.
Who made that spiral of broken stones in the little quarry over the sea? Thank you! It transmits to me like a beacon. It seems now to glow in a blue dusk on the cliff top.
I actually found this cove a couple of days earlier. From the base of a promontory near the Dinosaur, I’d clambered gingerly into it along a rotten rock traverse above the tide. The view overhead unfolded a dramatic collision of geologies, first one appearing and then the other. They were talking, like the late Quartets of Beethoven. One of the voices is rock solid – Must it be? The other is crumbling – “It must be!” They question and fuse sometimes in counterpoint. I passed through the remnant of a perfect “Norman” arch. A giant curve of uplifted flints supported Nature’s masonry. It seemed, broken off, to continue into the sky, like the open egg shells of Glastonbury Abbey.
Creeping along strange up-ended strata like the bunched leaves of wet books set perpendicular to the sea, I knew I am “home”. The Hartland coast of North Devon has those same spectacular cliffs of buckled sandstone, and great round boulders along which to run and jump; the sweat of sun-heat burning, the smell salt and tart of the sea’s music, the flora in tidal pools – I eat it all; a chamber, a FIELD of the sacred art.
In the ruined labyrinth of the Bishop’s House by St Davids Cathedral next day, I found little spiral stairways up through stone towers. They are built in an ascending spiral of flints, like the setting of feathers; like the teachings – the Hard Sharp one and the Soft one – in the natural ampitheatre.
The spiral is a mandala, produced into three dimensions through space and therefore time.
The spiral stairways are wings of a bird set in stone.
I met in the Bishop’s Palace, a sculptor working on the circular movement of the wings of a bird in flight. He had carved one in soft stone, and was now having a go in harder stone. He would like to leave the form of the bird just semi-released from the block of stone into which he carved. “That is so suggestive, like resurrection of spirit from material,” I said … or the feeling of climbing a steep hill.
Several artists worked in the Bishop’s Palace. A woman carved a tree into a seated dryad. I was invited to sit in her with my arms upon hers gently, for she was a chair, a goddess, and through her flowed dramatically, the grain and great splits in the wood. She was a spirit of arresting awareness. She sat, golden and brown with sap in a chamber of stone, open to the sky. I thought she was glorious. The sculptress began to carve into and around her back some dryadic leaves, flowers and fruit. The grounds of the Bishop’s Palace were dun-coloured gravel and green grass. In medieval times it was very busy with artists and learning, kitchens, spits and dungeons. After wandering through it, and up and down its towers, I came again to the violet face of the Cathedral, the proportion around its great West door. I was moved inexplicably to tears, by such beauty.
This Celtic Cathedral – the smallest in Britain – is moored carefully like a great grey boat to a hollow in the land. The land around here is a green and golden undulant, like the sea. It is harvest time. The square tower is shy to show itself above the fields. I saw somewhere a postcard of it, peeping above a meadow of scarlet poppies.
Seeking a way out of the cove where Vulcan lava and sandstone combine and dance – for I didn’t want to risk again the ruined traverse – I was blocked by a gigantic purple pillar that stood upright in the sea. I hoped to embark a daring and attractive route up another contour alongside it, but it was too dangerous; there is joy no longer, and my cautious creature loses tone and balance. At last I tackled the grassy precipice direct, flowing three-point feet to hands over its tough tufts. Nearly halfway I came upon the miraculous hidden diagonal route, and walked up the rest. Perhaps it was once a wreckers path?
Life on the cliff path, dipping into shadowed pools of sunlight in the coves, clambering out and over and down into the next, is a life of enquiry and often forgetting, on the wave. The prana floats, and casts my writers’ moorings. The deep water is rather overpowering, and frightens me. I am vaguely seasick. What should I really be facing?
Alas! Easy it is to declare – “This is MY cove, my secret place, it belongs to my homeland, my childhood” and capture it into the web of sentiment and woe. I’m a visitor only to its body and teachings. There is no place for a patriotic conqueror, planting a flag and planning a speech about the splendid baptismal swim I had there. You see, I didn’t swim there. I wish that I did, so as to “have” it more fully! Fool!
If I possess it, I begin to forget what it is, and to become heavy, lonely and sad. It is easy to lose the key. The magic happens when it is new, when it surprises and fills my eye, my hands and feet.
But I brought home some stones from that chamber. In them I see the Cathedral. They are dark violet, grey and veiny white. One little flecked paler purplish one is smooth and looks translucent, like a bird’s egg. When I picked it up, it was alive and warm with the heat of the sun.
Ramana light and shade
23 August 1991 MEET RAMANA FOUNDATION UK
The smile in Ramana’s eyes is the land and the sea. I have a picture of him now, which I framed and put in my living room. When I got back from my holiday, I went to make contact with Ramana’s “people”. I’ve been getting to know his ways intermittently, by myself, for just a year. The Self in his eyes guides me, often lost, often found. In Hampstead village, a slim man with big hands was working on the roof of his house. He came down the ladder, went to put on a shirt, and asked if I would like a glass of orangeade. He made it rather strong, and we sat in a long cottage room, cool and dark like a cave.
He told me it is like coming home. One climbs a step and here at last one is. He is gentle, rather droll and very British. There are meetings for meditation, discussion and friendship once a month, in London. The Ashram at Arunachala in southern India, is lively and discreet with Self enquiry, and doesn’t try to convert people. He gave me a spare picture of Ramana, and a copy of their journal The Mountain Path – this summer’s issue. I am delighted, amused and touched, to find this issue is devoted to discussing the teachings of Krishnamurti and Ramana. So many seekers, it seems, come to the one through the other. It is full of pictures that make me laugh, of these two white-heads, the one so very naked, the other so neatly dressed. Each asks the same question in his own inimitable gesture.
If one goes to Arunachala in winter – he said – it is like summer here, mosquitoes are not a problem. One can stay as long as one likes. The food is very good indeed, as Ramana was the chef. One of Ramana’s very few instructions is that Vegetarian is better, for quieting the mind. The other is the seat of the “Heart” for meditation, surrender and Self enquiry, on the right side of the chest, two fingers from the centre sternum.
I have been trying this. It is helpful. It centres and opens. The focusing of the Self here (as good as anywhere) pulls the ego or thought into it, to be eventually consumed – like the stick that stirs the fire.
I felt once, for a few minutes, a spillage into a sense of tallness and straight living … an intimation of peace, that way of resting. “It is worth following Ramana’s very few rules to the letter, because he is not Tom, Dick or Harry. This is a safe way. It allows for personal rates of progress, because the Inner Ruler directs it.“
This was very interesting, coming so soon after my dream about all that rock, so sound and good, upon whose threshold I stood.
What a careful little goat I am, really.
The conversation included some ways of Kabbalah, Hermes Trismegistos, Buddha, an ancient link of Brahman with Ain Sof, and other familiar landscapes. They all arise from and lead to the cosmic Rome. My hero Mouni Sadhu is indeed by now dead, having been one of the original great devotees – “did you read ‘In Days of Great Peace’?” The older generation has passed on, the new one rises – Ramana’s children. How interesting it is, to meet ourselves.
The shyness. Slender hesitancy, and no judgement. He says he struggles with The Wandering Perverted Mind. And then, over about an hour of meeting, the common language and commitment found, and taking hold: the delight of this. I meet the Egregor – the children of the Master – evolving a life of its own. A big quiet cave of a living room, like an untidy rose, cool in the summer, full of books; a Star of Solomon in aura colours upon a desk signals Yes to me; and Ramana’s portrait unobtrusively, here or there.
Chewing gum is offered. “Oh yes, I gave up smoking too, last year. Wasn’t it dreadful!” “I used Nicorette.” “I did it cold turkey, Allen Carr’s book The Easy Way to Stop Smoking. It was terrible. But I got through.” More fruit juice to drink.
What might hold us all together? Love for and with that friendly Ramana, within those eyes, a mountain. Love yes, a private, common ground. The pulse of love ever rises from within the well of the world. The Self is boundless. How often do I remember to look for and see the hidden well, whether I move or am still? A sage whose life is that transcendent well, is quintessential after he is dead. Love generated from all directions to him there, to that “I” creates his smile like the blink of sky over sea. I can see pilgrims gathering. The sage was a shape around the Self. The Self is ever alive, I to I, as clear, quiet water.
Krishnamurti: “Be the disciple of your own understanding… Good is that of which you are not afraid, evil is that which you fear. So if you destroy fear, you are spiritually fulfilled.”
Many feel that K closes the door as you come to it, making it very difficult …
Wiped clean of “knowledge”, does he address the “ignorant”?
Krishnamurti at Rishi Valley School
My adventure invites fellow travellers. I am a poet, an artist and a seer. I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.
This blog is a vehicle to promote my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books) – along with many other creations in house.
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