Pilgrimage to Saint Ramalinga


Siddha saint Ramalinga was one of the most illustrious saints of India during the late 19th century.  Pal Pandian related a story of Saint Ramalinga:“There was a wealthy landowner and village leader who lived just 20 kilometers outside of here (Tiruvannamalai). He had two young daughters and both were afflicted with some entity, what people today call possession. Hearing of Saint Ramalinga he took his daughters to see him. Of course, back then they had to travel by bullock cart and, as you know it is a long journey. After such a long and hot journey they finally arrived in Vadalur. As the cart pulled into the small courtyard, Saint Ramalinga emerged from the house and stared at the oxen that were hot, tired and tied to the cart. Yet to acknowledge or even glance at the man and his daughters, Ramalinga immediately carried water and offered it to the oxen. After caring for the animals and quenching their thirst, the Saint greeted the travelers and of course, in time he healed the girls of their affliction.”This story is well known by the people of South India and Ramalinga is revered as a great Siddha. His teaching has two dimensions. The first is Parapakarm, which means:  Love of all living beings which is enacted by doing some service in an appreciative way that recognizes the Life Force in them. It is this exact recognition of the Living Force in all beings that is reflected in the story Pal related to me. Upon emerging from his house Ramalinga immediately recognized all the beings in his presence, as well as the ones suffering the most in that moment. Thus, he gave water to oxen for whoever is in the most need is the one to be cared for.The other dimension of Saint Ramalinga’s teaching is Sat Vicharam, where Sat means Self/Beingness and Vicharam is Inquiry. Thus, Sat Vicharam is the wisdom aspect (Self Inquiry), of his teaching. While the countless miracles and profound compassion of Ramalinga are what most are familiar with, it is his teaching of wisdom that he proclaimed to be the supreme path to liberation.Several weeks ago I got to experience both of the dimensions of this great Siddha firsthand. Arriving in Vadalur one morning with my friends Ravi and Volker, we slowly approached the Wisdom Hall where Ramalinga had spent time instructing. All three of us were in for a most pleasant surprise.

Wisdom Hall

I have been to numerous samadhi shrines, holy places and “power spots” in India, so I thought I would be familiar with the Stillness that surely awaited. But, this place was like none I had ever visited. Sitting on the floor while facing the large gold doors, we three were the only ones present. Immediately upon sitting down I was struck by the most profoundly sweet and cooling presence. The stillness and silence pulled all attention inward and engulfed the senses. A chord was struck. The same still and silent presence resonated within me. Inner and outer lost all meaning.Each and every samadhi shrine I have visited has had its own distinct flavor and each one beautiful. This one however, has the most uniquely felt quality I have yet to experience. One of profoundly tender, yet penetratively deep wisdom. The most harmoniously sensed presence of divine love. It was just like…wow. The way it set off a resonance of the same qualities hidden within my own being felt like a gift by the Siddha.Rising from the floor after some time the three of us slowly made our exit. After a time we ventured to speak, but already knew what the others were feeling, as our wide yet relaxed eyes and faces filled with amazement said it all.“I didn’t want to get up and leave,” Volker said.Ravi and I agreed to feeling the same. Standing and staring for some time, we finally made our way to the shrine where Saint Ramalinga had his mahasamadhi.Here the door is smaller, yet also covered in gold. This time the Presence, while still as caressing, had a slightly different flavor. As soon as I sat down – bam! The mind was softly yet firmly held in Silence. The only other aspect that I could put words to, would be the sensation or awareness of a gentle unmoving flame.


Hall of Light

It is behind this door in a little room where Saint Ramalinga took his mahasamadhi, in that most unusual manner of the Siddhas, by taking a light body.

During my visit to these two holy places the Presence of Saint Ramalinga spoke clearly and did so in a way that perfectly vibrated with the twin aspects of his teaching: Love and Wisdom.

Stephen Grissom


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