Aug 29 2012

Arthur Osborne – Arunachala

Published by at 9:45 am under Poetry

Arunachala
by Arthur Osborne

I sought to devour Thee:
Come now and devour me,
Then there will be peace, Arunachala.

You bade me give all for you —
Take now the giver too,
Survive alone, Arunachala!

Let now the deception end.
There was no lover or friend
Apart from Thyself, Arunachala!

Now that at last I know
All this a magic show,
Let it dissolve in Thee, Arunachala!

— from Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty, Edited by Alan Jacobs


/ Photo by mrbichel /

Arthur Osborne was one of the early Western seekers to write about Ramana Maharshi, one of the most loved and respected nondualist sages of India in the early 20th century. Ramana Maharshi’s ashram was (and still is) at the foot of Arunachala Hill, which, since ancient times, has been an important sacred site in southern India. For many devotees, Arunachala is considered an embodiment of the god Shiva.

So, when Arthur Osborne addresses this poem to Arunachala, he is addressing the mountain, the guru, and the God.

Arunachala!

There is something lost, I think, in Western forms of religion that tend to divide the divine from the land. In many cases, to address God in a mountain or a lake or a tree is considered blasphemous. Then add to that the modern worldview which further objectifies the land, defining it as inert matter, a possession, a subjugated source of wealth and resources.

Imagine how profoundly our lives — and our spirituality — can open up when we relate to the Divine, not just in a safely distant, hard-to-imagine heavenly otherworld, but also right here, in front of us, below us, all around us, materially. God in the air we breathe, God in the stream running along the edge of town, God in the solid ground beneath our feet.

In this way, all the world becomes sacred space, alive, inviting communion with every touch. We are no longer alien creatures in a sterile world. We are embraced by the immensity of life on all levels.

There is a disturbing intensity to this poem.

I sought to devour Thee:
Come now and devour me,
Then there will be peace, Arunachala.

Do these first lines seem shocking? Actually, we find this sort of imagery in many expressions of sacred poetry. One way to understand what is being said is that the spiritual seeker usually starts by attempting piece together a perfect concept of the Eternal. We read every book, study with every teacher, in the hopes of formulating a rock-solid definition of God. But this approach is, in effect, an attempt to contain the limitless Eternal within the limiting confines of the human mind… while keeping the ego-self intact. It is an attempt to “devour” God, and it is doomed to fail.

The mature spiritual aspirant comes to recognize that success is not in containing the Eternal, but in consciously merging with It. This is is what it means to be “devoured” instead by God. You can say that when the drop of water falls back into the ocean, it has been devoured.

But it doesn’t just happen. It requires preparation, and a courageous invitation:

You bade me give all for you —
Take now the giver too,
Survive alone, Arunachala!

The final two verses speak about a “deception”:

Let now the deception end.
There was no lover or friend
Apart from Thyself, Arunachala!

Now that at last I know
All this a magic show,
Let it dissolve in Thee, Arunachala!

There is an appearance of things, a “magic show” that suggests believable reality, but that ultimately “dissolves.” Here Osborne is evoking the nondualist vantage point where all apparent duality and separation is seen to be unreal. We typically relate to all of reality through the subject-object relationship, self-other, witness-observed. This even permeates the fundamental spiritual relationship: lover-Beloved, devotee-God. Nondualism points out that, at the moment of realization, even that relationship between the individual and the Divine falls away and the unity of reality is seen as it is. There is always and only the Divine. Everything else was just a magic show of light and shadow and shape.

There is only the mountain. There is only Arunachala.






Arthur Osborne

England (1909 – 1970) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Advaita / Non-Dualist

I haven’t yet been able to find out much about the life of Arthur Osborne.

He is the author of several books about the life and teachings of Ramana Maharshi, so I assume he was a devotee of the great non-dualist saint. Osborne also wrote a few other books on some other notable Hindu gurus, such as Shirdi Sai Baba.

Even the books Arthur Osborne wrote don’t include basic biographical notes about the author…

More poetry by Arthur Osborne

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Arthur Osborne – Arunachala”

  1. Karenon 29 Aug 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Beautiful, Ivan. Thank you so much. Both the poem and your commentary spoke to me deeply. Thank you.

  2. Bob Corbinon 29 Aug 2012 at 1:11 pm

    A nice poem, an incredible commentary, thank you.

    I love the fact that some great poets and other artists are unknown.
    The Tao Te Ching insists that the unknown leader/servant is the best.
    “Principles above personalities” is good advice for us addicted folk.
    And for the rest of you as well, if any such there be.

  3. kz roeon 29 Aug 2012 at 1:40 pm

    The more I ask to embrace the divine, the sacred, in all (within me/my consciousness and seemingly ‘outside’ in the world–whether a tree or a passing car), the more I intuit God, Truth, my original face, Luminosity, Buddha nature, Luminosity, etc. The more I pray to be ‘devoured’.

  4. Djanion 29 Aug 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Arunachala!
    Ivan,with what a powerfull, mysterious,magical,a super sacred name you came up today!and we all are his childrens,no doubt!It’s almost a gastronomic poetery.Miam miam it’s not only a human preocupation here but also divine.
    Having said that I find your commentary brillant,you point us who must devour who in the end. Arunachala!

  5. Rev Tomon 29 Aug 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Ivan, this is probably the best interpretation/insight I’ve read from you emails.
    …”In this way, all the world becomes sacred space, alive, inviting communion with every touch. We are no longer alien creatures in a sterile world. We are embraced by the immensity of life on all levels.”
    Bless you and thank you!
    Rev Tom Fogarty, CMH, OUnI – Interfaith Minister

  6. Joyceon 30 Aug 2012 at 7:24 am

    Lovely! Thanks, Ivan. For literature on the sacredness of the land, check out Martin Prechtel’s latest book, The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquiq. It takes you right into the Dreamtime!

  7. Jelenaon 31 Aug 2012 at 7:09 am

    Very intense. Very passionate and deep. We find this call of the Divine in our own religious culture: “This is my body…, this is my blood…, do this…”.

  8. Sylviaon 31 Aug 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Thanks so much for this poem Ivan.

    I though you and others may be interested to know that there is a movement afoot to nominate Arunachala as a world heritage site.

    http://www.causes.com/causes/789204-arunachala-world-heritage-site-initiative

    Arunachala!

    Sylvia

  9. janet bradleyon 01 Sep 2012 at 6:33 am

    Very well put Ivan!

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