Finding Your Soul by the Sea!
The Arul Jyothi Peedam offers a silent ambience for seekers who want to just be. For breaks in between, they can hop across to the beach or listen to a rooster call out!
I was delighted when we made plans to travel to a spiritual centre in Tamil Nadu, not far from Pondicherry, near the sea. I really love the sea! I was happy that our luggage could be light as we wouldn’t need any sweaters or shawls there! An overnight bus journey from Bangalore dropped us off at Pondicherry, from where we took another bus, getting down at a place from Anichangkuppam. From there it was a short walk down a road that leads to the sea and we reached our destination: Arul Jyothi Peedam.
When we talk about spiritual centres, one might imagine a big campus with huts around. But Arul Jyothi Peedam, run by Fr. Atlas Saint Antony, also known as Arul Jyothi Ananda, is set in a pretty building in a village, with simple and very comfortable rooms. Some 20 people can be hosted at a time here. Set up in 2015 with the help of his family and well-wishers, Fr. Arul visioned this as a place where he could spend time in silence and meditation in solitude. He also opened his heart and the doors of the Peedam to spiritual seekers too. ‘”If seekers want, they will come here,’ he says in his soft-spoken, gentle and kind way.
At the Peedam, Jaya, the efficient caretaker, ensures that guests are served with healthy and delicious vegetarian food, from breakfast to supper. A sit-out that opens out into a little patch of trees and plants is where meals are generally taken. Birds and butterflies flit about as people eat their food in silence.
I particularly liked the informal spiritual ambience of the meditation hall, where Fr Arul leads the meditation in the morning at 6 and again in the evening, at 6.30 pm. You are free to follow your own practice of meditation or prayers as you sit silently. Evening meditation on the terrace gives you the chance to savour a view of the glorious sunset and then, when darkness sets in, you may be treated to a beautiful sight of the star-specked sky.
The Peedam is just around a 5-minute walk to the beach. You can spend hours walking along the coast gazing at the waves or watching the fishermen getting back from the sea in little boats. Colourful seashells and naughty crabs running in and out of holes in the sand on the shore can make you want to reflect more on the greatness of God! Observing the vastness of the sea, one can be led to reflect on how small we are and how infinitely big the Creator must be!
Another delightful aspect of staying at the Peedam is waking up to the call of the rooster! This fellow will follow his own timings. He could crow even at 1 am or 2 am too, so there may be no need for to keep an alarm-clock. You can get out of your bed when he calls!
Apart from the sea, the quietude, and the laidback and relaxed ambience of surroundings of the Peedam, among the many other things that I liked was the unassuming attitude of Fr Arul. He is very content staying quietly in his room. He does not seem to get perturbed over the future or about the disturbances of the world, sending out his positive message: “Be well, Be well. Be well”. His emphasis on silence can be a great blessing for those who may come to the Peedam in the hope of spending some time in solitude and quietness.
Located far from the urban madness, Arul Jyothi Peedam is a centre where people from different faiths and communities are very warmly welcomed by Fr Arul. Amidst the chirping of birds, the sound of the sea, the call of the rooster and quiet mealtimes under coconut trees, seekers can find their lost souls, spending time to reflect on life and its purpose and meaning.
For more details about Arul Jyothi Peedam, see http://aruljothipeedam.blogspot.com/