The heat that surrounded me immediatelly after leaving the airport terminal was quite intense, but I didn't find it disturbing, more like having a bath, a bath in wideness or vastness, I would like to say lacking better words. Coming from Sri Lanka everything is so wide or vast here, the horizon, the landscape, the atmosphere, the feeling. I don't remember ever having experienced such an aliveness in religious practice as here in Tiruvannamalai in the most important Shiva temple of Southern India. There's not many normal tourists around, but lots of spiritual seekers, many of which staying since quite a long time, even decades. I'm actually staying in the house of some of these. I'm having the house almost on my own, it's in a quiet neighbourhood and the rooftop terraces (memories of the famous rooftop of the Freitag family coming up! Best greetings to Jena!) has incredible view of the holy Arunachala hill.
That hill doesn't look that impressive at allon pictures, but there's quite a special atmosphere surrounding it which made and makes millions of people consider it holy and come here every full moon and also some, nowadays especially foreigners following in the footsteps of 20th century saint Ramana Maharishi, meditate in it's stone caves. Ramana is an interesting person, having become suddenly enlightened at the age of sixteen and basically sitting in caves of that hill since that time. He didn't actually teach anything or consider himself a guru, but people followed him in big numbers, considering simply his presence to be enlightening. What people consider his "teaching" - he occasionally answered some questions of followers - is interestingly very close to that of Eckhart Tolle (even taking into account that all enlightened people were of course teaching the same, using different signposting words to the unspeakable). That kind of non-religious spirituality, combined with some notion of "enlightenment without effort", is obviously attracting the western crowds.
This foreigner's Indian spirituality is quite different from what I've experienced before in the Buddhist countries. The colourful Hinduism-based spirit seems to be attractive a lot more to freaks and crazy people on the one hand and older people, who have been trying all different kinds of New Age spirituality available nowadays, on the other hand. Compared to this, Buddhism seems to attract much more the meditating kind, i.e. the calm and quiet or those who want to become calm and quiet. Not that meditation is not being done here, but in a seemingly very different approach that seems to aim much more at drug-like peak experiences. Following partly the Ramana teaching, who basically taught self-enquiry, simply asking "Who am I?", particularly in this place at least there's also a lot of refutation to meditation, some even consider it an obstacle to enlightenment. While I can understand their reasons and I don't aim at judging anyone, I guess people are mislead going for an "easy enlightenment" that will in the end only to be happening in their heads. People who think they are enlightened - thinking it to be only a change in thinking - while they are obviously not, that's, if not a bad, at least a sad thing. Tiruvannamalai is, I guess, full of those.
Now for something completely different and banally worldly: Today I lost a dental crown, eating a chocolate cake. Is it in any way dangerous not to have one for a while, apart from the problem of brushing that tooth?