Report from Tiru

Why do I come back here every year? UG used to say someone offered to buy him a house here and he said, “Madame, if you buy me that house I will turn it into a brothel.” Probably he was just describing the function of any good ashram. The first time I came here with the excuse of researching UG’s life. After all it was a significant piece of his story that he’d come to see Ramana as a man of 21 years. Then too there were always a few friends from my time with him hanging around. An added benefit was the mountain, a nice place and relatively clean for India, to walk up on paths to the  ashram where Ramana lived in a cave or around the entire width of the thing in a 3-4 hour hike. Now that’s not so easy since a few women were assaulted on that inner path. The other day I tried it and after scrambling through a series of diversions set up by the police, into thorn bushes, or worse, I wound up in a shitting ground. Still, you can do a lot on the mountain, lots of places to walk around.
When I land I rent a cheap motorcycle and a room or a house, also cheap, where I can write and paint. There are always some UG friends here to have a coffee or a lunch with. This time I brought a portable hammock from a camping store. That was smart, don’t know why it took so long to figure that out. Nothing like stringing it between a couple of trees and hanging up on the mountain away from all the swamis down below from east and west and lately in particular, from Russia, peddling all sorts of spiritual bullshit. I brought a nice translation of the Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga sutras this time. I ended up reading Samuel Beckett’s trilogy instead. Its such a fitting book somehow full of stories of lame bums wandering across landscapes with no idea why,  or characters trapped in a room or some other ill-defined space, with voices impossible to locate, telling stories about various other characters similarly difficult to locate. It reminds me of the hopeless battles of meditation. The characters resemble the sanyasins in orange robes I see every day, scattered around the mountain, staring into space, begging for a few rupees, waiting for the next meal, growing old by the side of the road, waiting for an undefined event to occur.
During the first years I went regularly to the ashram. I bought a copy of Ramana’s dialogues, read it all over again, having read it shortly after meeting UG years back. I read with great attention then went and sat in his room or in Skanda Ashram up on the hill. I walked around the inner path many times. People told me it would enhance my spiritual life, but frankly I liked the exercise and the beauty of the mountain at sunrise. The languor monkeys on the eastern rocks were always entertaining and by the time I finished the 3.5 hour walk I was done for the day. Eventually, over the years, I lost interest in the walk, or found other things to do. Everything changes, now the police have blocked it.
The great hall was a nice place to hang out, cool off and listen to vedic chants of an evening. For a couple of years I spent time in the library during the mornings. I even made the acquaintance of a German mystic who talked about his experiences for some time. After while that lost its draw. UG was always there in the background like a faint but persistent humming. Nothing diminishes that kind of impact, its a brush fire that goes on and on.
This time I got settled with the bike and a house out in some cow fields away from the hustle of town. In the morning the light comes into the bedroom softly with a distant call to prayer sounding off, followed by the chattering of a variety of birds. Later on Hindu chanting starts off from across the fields, a far off radio or temple. Then come the sounds of neighbours passing on a bicycle or motorbike and a farmer comes to peg his cows into the field next door and across the dirt road from the house. Next there is the clanging of morning chores and sooner or later the dogs start arguing, snarling and snapping at each other until a nearby farmer shouts at them and the scramble off. Then I hear a woman yelling at a kid next door who seems to cry a lot.
After lunch with friends I usually brave the afternoon heat and head up the path past the stone carvers plying their wares from the side of the path, into the boulders. It usually quiet, abandoned in the afternoon heat, with the occasional seeker solemnly treading up or down barefoot.  I dropped the barefoot business a long time ago. Now I prefer worldly sneakers, handy for climbing up into the rocks. The trees provide leafy shelter from the sun and there is the occasional breeze if you get high enough into a tree. I find a good vantage point, string up my ‘office’ and read Beckett for a while, then drift off for some time, staring up at the sky or a cloud morphing into a variety of faces over the peak of the mountain.
There is nothing like Tiru at dusk. I come down off the mountain around sunset past the people coming for the sunset show. Leaving town I head to rutted dirt back roads, scuttling between people, cows, piles of trash, children playing and a variety of vehicles until I get to the unpopulated roads and paths that lead to the unfinished ring road in the distance. At that hour the dusk blurs the colours into rich pastels.
Just before and after 6 pm the sun is a big red ball in the sky. It drops fast below the horizon fenced with tall palms, trailing a remainder of lingering glow over the flat land. In the distance you can see other ancient rock formations sticking up in a dreamy vagueness. Everyone is relaxed, and the world seems innocent at that hour. Even locals sit by the side of the road, watching the light fade, soaking up the brief quiet, the magic limbo between day and night. The mountain makes a big triangular shadow in the background, a solid beacon making it impossible to get lost.

The unfinished ring road is raised up, a platform providing high views of the flat surroundings. As a road its deliciously empty, half dirt, half treacherous gravel, with one stretch of paved road. Along this platform the farmers bring up cows from the field paths along the rice paddies and scrub brush parcels, leading them slowly back home. Women in saris wander gracefully along, with a couple of animals and maybe a child in tow. There is something of a dance to the way they walk across this scene. From the heights of the road you can glance into the little windows and doors of huts along the road where dinner is cooking.  People crouch on the threshold watching or talking. Coming back across to the busy main road, I pass a man in the fully dark background, silhouetted by a bright orange and red trash fire. His expression of indifference on a face burned black by the sun glistening in the dark is haunting.

Back at the house after dark the mountain looms in the distance with a cloud of fog enveloping the peak. Above the fog which has the appearance of a whirling shroud, a few stars hang in the cold deep blues, a reminder of the infinite spaces. Nearby a man is chanting into a microphone and my neighbours are watching a tamil movie. Someone is drumming somewhere. Wind rustles the huge leaves of the banana tree plant in the gardens behind and beside the house, a breeze pulls through the house back to front. I sit and swing in a wicker chair savouring the darkness.
There’s not much left to do now but wander around the world and pass the time. I write because the surroundings keep surprising me. I have an overwhelming urge to describe this vision, my existence, to someone out there in the dark. As fucked up as it is, life is a hell of a movie.

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22 Responses to Report from Tiru

  1. ugmadhu says:


    I felt like crying.

    The reality you described brings out fear, awe and loneliness from inside me.

    After all, that is what exactly me comprised of.

    The descriptions remind me of “Commentaries of Living ”

    Perhaps yours outclass JK’s.

    “I write because the surroundings keep surprising me” sums up everything of you.

  2. christna9 says:

    Dear Louis,nice to hear you after a long time.i liked the piece for sure.We really don’t know why we are here.Yes life is a hell of a movie.all the best,-BG BGkrishna 

  3. Louis,
    Once again a beautiful story about what it looks like from where you are.
    From one of the people out here in the dark, thanks for describing your vision.

  4. Ben Brimley says:

    Boring movie for the most part. I give it a 2/10 so far.

  5. Philip says:

    Of possible interest to the readers of this blog are two books that I read recently.
    The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self by: Thomas Metzinger. a very interesting look at where some neurobiologists are at in their thinking of the self and consciousness, some very close parallels to what U.G talked about.
    Blindsight: by Peter Watts, a SF novel about first contact with a race that has no understanding or concept of the self. if you like hard SF you will probably like this book.

  6. Ty says:

    Hey brother, I was just there, too. Funny to read your description of that place. Alot of russians. Strange mismatch of people… i like the coconut ladies. They’re solid.

  7. Braja says:

    Powerful writing, Louis…

  8. Praveen says:

    Good writing…
    I had visited Tiru in 2012. Its a wonderful place. Enjoyed your narrations 🙂

    Keep writing & Keep posting !!!

  9. Ben Brimley says:

    I’ve been reading some Crowley lately. It seems to me he was perhaps the best example of what UG said about how a very funny man could achieve this thing. He was also scientific like UG and rather than try to flame all religions like UG it seems to me he did a similar thing by trying to bring them all together and point out the stupidity of one man following this man and another following this man and bickering over phrases. The meditation process he talks of in “Psychology of hashish” seem to mirror almost perfectly the way UG talked about it. He ends the book thus;

    “One single trained observer with five years’ work, less money than would build a bakehouse, and no more help than his dozen of volunteer students could give him, would earn himself a fame loftier than the stars, and set mankind on the royal road to the solution of the One great problem. Scientific Illuminism would have deserved its name, or mysticism would have received a blow which would save another young fool like myself from wasting his whole life on so senseless a study and enable him to engage in the nobler career of cheating and duping his fellows in the accredited spheres of commerce and politics, to say nothing of the grosser knaveries of the liberal professions.

    But I have no doubts. Let the investigator study his own brain on the lines I have laid down, possibly in the first place with the aid of hashish or some better physical expedient, to overcome the dull scepticism which is begotten of idleness upon ignorance; it is useless to study the no-brain of another, on the strength of a reputation for fraud, as the spiritualist investigators seem to do. Your own brain is the best; next, the trained and vigorous brains of clever and educated men, in perfect health, honest and wary.

    You will get more from them than you will from some maudlin hysteric professional mountebank. All talk to the contrary is the merest froth; Mohammed was a great lawgiver and a great fighter; try your experiment with the sane, and not with the crazy!

    True, you will get hallucinations more easily with the unsound; but you will never, never, never find a woman or a degenerate who is capable of any trance of type higher than Vedana. Take my word for it!

    No! take my word for nothing: try all things; hold fast that which is good! “

  10. Ben Brimley says:

    Have you read the book of the law Louis? Supposedly it was dictated by an entity called aiwass to Crowley through his wife. He said he would’ve been sceptical of it but his wife was apparently not somebody who could ever produce poetry like that. According to Crowley this is a new stage in the spiritual evolution of man “the Aeon of Horus”

    Here are some snippets from the book of the law. You will be seriously surprised by how well this matches up with what UG said. Read it for yourself.

    II,5: Behold! the rituals of the old time are black. Let the evil ones be cast away; let the good ones be
    purged by the prophet! Then shall this Knowledge go aright.

    II,10: O prophet! thou hast ill will to learn this writing.
    II,11: I see thee hate the hand & the pen; but I am stronger.

    II,18: These are dead, these fellows; they feel not. We are not for the poor and sad: the lords of the earth
    are our kinsfolk.

    II,23: I am alone: there is no God where I am

    II,25: Ye are against the people, O my chosen!

    II,21: We have nothing with the outcast and the unfit: let them die in their misery. For they feel not. Compas

    sion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched & the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law
    and the joy of the world. Think not, o king, upon that lie: That Thou Must Die: verily thou shalt not die, but
    live. Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever. Nuit!
    Hadit! Ra-Hoor-Khuit! The Sun, Strength & Sight, Light; these are for the servants of the Star & the Snake.

    To worship me take wine and strange drugs whereof I will tell my prophet, & be drunk thereof!
    They shall not harm ye at all. It is a lie, this folly against self.
    The exposure of innocence is a lie. Be strong,
    o man! lust, enjoy all things of sense and rapture: fear not that any God shall deny thee for this.

    Love one another with burning
    hearts; on the low men trample in the fierce lust of your pride, in the day of your wrath.
    II,25: Ye are against the people, O my chosen!

  11. philip says:

    Of possible interest to the readers of this blog is the new documentary about U,G. the link below

  12. Mind Fever says:

    Louis. I’m in Rishikesh now. First time India. Any places to recommend? North preferably.

    Thanks for your articles. I somehow feel I really get what you’re trying to convey. This state you are in, the after effect of U.G.

    • louisbrawley says:

      Dear Mind Fever

      North? Hmm… I am not so familiar with that region. Mostly i have spent time in Tamil Nadu … I did have a nice trip to Rajasthan the first time I went… the colors were amazing (fabrics and so on)… there is a golden temple up there somewhere i heard is very nice..

      good luck,

      • Mind Fever says:

        Hi. Ok thank you for your reply though. South I won’t go this time, I won’t be able to stand the heat and I want to see mountains. Next time I will go there. That is where UG used to stay isn’t it? Did it have some special meaning for him?

        Anyway strange being here with UGs words in the back of my head. I mean it’s everywhere here, the whole quest for spirituality, and to such an immense extend i could not have forseen. Saddhus, Sanyassins, yogis gurus name it orange everywhere. All looking for that thing. And him saying they are all completely deluded. But he had that authority to say that you know. I have similar feelings about it now, but I could never say it and be serious for that authority I just don’t have. It’s puts me in a strange position you know what I mean?

        Anyway apart from all that wonderful being here, lively madness this is truly another world.

      • Mind Fever says:

        P.s. I meant of course to ask if Tamil Nadu was where he used to go, not the South in general.

        Also I realize that I just don’t really truly understand what he was saying. Evidently that has to be the case.

  13. louisbrawley says:

    I don’t know what I understood of what UG was saying but since I spent time around him and now that he’s long gone it continues to amaze me what is going on out there. I feel like what ever blinders I once had are continually stripped away. What is left is not so pretty. At the same time my life is so much more interesting in a marvellous and completely useless way since he came in and scrambled my egg-brains.
    That said, and with what you are saying in mind, I just looked at the website sent to me by a friend staying in Tiru. Another of the countless gurus in Tiru these days promoting himself. Yikes! The things people say with total sincerity! Are they not kidding?? The simple minded ness and predictability, (not to mention criminal tendencies), of these exploiters continues to shock me. Its so hard to face it without getting worked up. I really liked Tiru for a bunch of reasons mostly having to do with cheap living, crazy setting, beautiful country, riding a motorcycle in the countryside at dusk… all these things. Ramana was a real deal and I think the reason UG refused to go there was the instinct he had that it was not a place for him. He spent time where he could meet people either one on one, or in small groups to assure that he was not turned into a cheap cottage-industry holy business. The sheer lack of integrity of these interlopers surprises me but there is money to be made so … what could anyone expect?
    Life is meanwhile so full and unpredictable… wow…

    • Mind Fever says:

      No I agree the amount of spiritual conmen is staggering. But that is everywhere nowadays. Just check on this guy Bentinho Massaro, I mean that is just scary, the fact that there are people that fall for that. Makes me lose all hope.
      But I meant that in India the culture around the search for enlightenment is so profoundly present, visible. You know, really a deep element of the culture. I found it difficult to dismiss all of it as hogwash. Some of it must have meaning I felt. But perhaps I didn’t know how to approach it. On the other hand what was there to approach? I could have seen Mooji, but I find that guy so uninteresting and boring. Osho centers all around but I don’t care for that either. Yeah over all I could say it was all quite disappointing, just a lot of ritual rehearsal and cliches left and right. The music was great though (except hippies singing mantras, vomit) And there was some sentiment now and then that filled me deep wonder, something deep about India, hard to describe, but buried deep beneath all the rubble.

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