The Work Returns

The Work Returns to the Salt Spring Centre
April 13-15, 2012

After practicing meditation and yoga for decades, I am still amazed at the multitude of thoughts that arise in my mind, and at how disruptive they can be when they remain unquestioned. I was drawn to attend Caitlin and Kim’s workshop after reading Stephen Mitchell’s comment about The Work in the interview at the end of his version of the Tao Te Ching:

“[Byron Katie’s] method of inquiry taught me how to question the stressful thoughts that are the only obstacles to happiness. It was humbling to discover where I was still arguing with reality after decades of inner work.”

I feel very fortunate to have attended two retreats in The Work facilitated by Caitlin and Kim in 2011, and would wholeheartedly recommend their upcoming retreat at the Centre to anyone who is interested in bringing balance, peace and poise from the meditation seat and yoga mat into the other hours of the day and night. As Byron Katie says, “I don’t let go of my thoughts. I meet them with understanding and they let go of me.”

~ Vivian

Shankar’s February update

The year 2011 was significant for the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga with the centennial celebration of the main house and thirty years of its use for our Centre. It has been an extraordinary period. In an era when many spiritual and healing centres were much talked about and a far smaller number actually started, the Centre has become the longest-running spiritual retreat centre on Canada’s west coast. It is not that our group had more skill, enthusiasm or money than others; the difference undoubtedly comes down to our great fortune in having a guide whose wisdom, vision and boundless energy unified a disparate group of young people looking for a better way to live.

As Babaji approaches his ninetieth year, he no longer travels to Salt Spring Island, nor even to his beloved ashram/orphanage in India. He has been slowly withdrawing from many of his regular activities at the Mount Madonna Center, but nonetheless still gives freely of his time to the increasing number of visitors, many of them Indian families, that seek his darshan on those days that he still attends MMC. Though he is occasionally forgetful (like many of us now!), and his legendary energy has diminished, his health is good.  Many of his Canadian students continue the annual visits to California to see him, and report that he radiates the peacefulness that he has long urged us to seek. We continue to be in awe of his effect on our lives and the lives of those who pass through the Centre. We offer him our love, respect and appreciation, and wish him continuing health in 2012.

Though the winter months are often a quiet time at the Centre, the last two months have seen great activity. The old tractor shed, long overdue for a facelift, is being upgraded for improved storage and workshop space. Last winter’s renovation of the upstairs of the main house is being completed with more cork flooring and paint. On the main floor the kitchen has been completely dismantled and the counters, cabinets and shelving will be replaced. This gave us the opportunity to remedy one of the long-standing issues of a hundred year old house – soundproofing between the kitchen and satsang room. This renovation also prompted a rethinking of the walk-in cooler in the basement, and, as so often happens with renovations, one thing led to another, and we now have an essentially new cooler. Adding to all this we have also made improvements to our karma yogis’ accommodation. The winter resident KYs have been very busy under the experienced eye of SN who has probably worked on every building at the Centre. Many thanks to SN who is being profiled this month in our Founding Member Feature series.

With the start of the 2012 season only weeks away, almost all staff are in place, the Yoga Teacher Training Program is filling well and karma yoga applications are steadily arriving. Shiva Ratri will be celebrated on Sunday, February 19th (note that satsang will be cancelled on that day). We look forward to another great year. In closing we wish Dharma Sara’s long-serving president, Divakar, a speedy recovery from his recent double hip operation. Email of the month award goes to Vivian, who on hearing of the success of the operation, emailed “Hip, hip, hooray!”

In peace

Founding Member Feature: Sri Nivas

Sri Nivas (SN), part of the Centre family

I first met Babaji in 1974 at the ‘Spruce Street House’ in Vancouver where a number of Babaji’s students were living. Ma Renu, the woman who had sponsored Babaji to come to North America, had brought him to Vancouver and dropped him off as she was going to visit friends on Salt Spring Island.

I went to see him with Abha and Mahesh and my wife-to-be, Kishori, mostly as an observer and out of curiosity. Although Kishori was enamoured, I was far more interested in the concept of community based on the principles of right living.

Gathered around Babaji, with SN standing on right

The next year we visited Babaji again briefly, and then in 1976 went to our first retreat on our honeymoon. I went to one yoga class taught by AD (Anand Dass), one of Babaji’s first North American (Canadian!) students.

For a number of years we held regular yoga retreats at Camp Hatikvah in the interior of BC. My way of escaping from the crowds was to do maintenance with Mahesh.

Prodding by Babaji led us to begin a search for land to start a spiritually based community. From the outset, buying land was a major goal of the Dharma Sara Satsang Society, and I became involved in the search. Our search ranged from Cherryville, deep in the BC interior – which we nixed because of the short growing season – to various places in the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island.

After searching over the whole province, we came across the ‘Blackburn Road’ piece in May of 1981; in early June we purchased it with donations from many members for the down payment and the knowledge that our store, Jai, in Vancouver, could meet the mortgage payments.

The house in 1981 (where the main entrance is now prior to the addition of the lobby). "There was a lot of work to be done!" - SN

Kishori, our 3 month old daughter Mallika and I moved to the property next door to the Centre in September of 1981. The Centre farmhouse was quite run-down and had been abandoned for about six years. We began working on the renovations almost immediately. I continued to be involved in a major way – in fact I’m still working on renovations.

Kishori, Mallika and I moved our mobile home to the property when Mallika was four. After two years we purchased our own property and built a house.

The renovations continued. Room 108 – the main floor guest bedroom – was the only room in the house that was insulated. All the chimneys were falling down so the house had no heat. All the plumbing had long since frozen and burst. The lobby and most of the dormers upstairs didn’t exist. There was a lot of work to be done!

Building the greenhouse in 1984 (SN standing second man from the left)

At the first yoga retreat on the land in summer 1982, we ran out of water and had to order tanker trucks for water. Originally there was only a dug well that didn’t supply nearly enough water. We called in a dowser who located the spot for our existing drilled well.

The hexagonal outhouse in the garden

We bought haying equipment and for many years cut our own hay, which we sold at very marginal prices. Cedar fence posts were split, the garden area got fenced and a garden was started. We built an octagonal (hexagonal?) outhouse in the garden from scrap lumber from the house renovation.

Today, apart from the main house, the only existing original structures are what are currently the farm office and the tool shed, the latter known for some obscure reason as the Top Shop. They had been milking sheds from the original dairy farm.

For me, Babaji’s teaching is all about right living and creating harmony in the world. The Centre has been, and remains, a major influence in my family’s lifestyle and how we view the world.

Shiva Ratri 2012

ShivaJoin us at the Centre on February 19-20, 2012 for Shiva Ratri, an all-night vigil of chanting and prayer. The celebration begins in the morning with the making of 1008 clay lingams, representing sahasrara chakra, the lotus of a thousand petals. An all-night ritual begins at 7pm and is our collective sadhana and offering. In the morning the lingams are taken in a procession to the pond where they are offered into the invigorating purifying waters. We hope you will join us! All are welcome.

Approximate Schedule:

9am-12pm – Lingam Making (One must fast from food for 24 hours prior to making lingams)
12-7pm – Set Up
7pm – Kirtan
11pm – Forgiveness Asanas
12am – Shivaratri Puja, followed by more Kirtan
4:30am – Sun Salutations
5:30am – Mahashivaratri Puja Yajna, followed by procession to the pond to offer Lingams.

Cost: There is no charge, but a donation to cover costs would be appreciated.
Lingam Preparation: If you would like to help with the lingam preparation or would like to offer at one of the Shiva Pujas, please contact Rajani Rock at (250) 537 9537 or Please note, you will be required to fast for 24 hours.
Special room rate: If you wish to reserve a room at the Centre for the night, there is a special rate of $25.

Contact Rajani Rock at (250) 537 9537 or

About Shiva and Shiva Ratri

Shiva, the destroyer, Brahma, the creator and Vishnu, the preserver, make up the supreme trinity of the Hindu pantheon. Shiva is known as the deity responsible for all forms of destruction. While this can be terrifying when one is attached to the world of form, Shiva, as the god of yogis, is also the destroyer of ego, that illusory entity that identifies with form. In reality, Shiva is the destroyer of all illusion; all that remains is Shiva’s true nature, the formless essence out of which all forms arise, but which is itself timeless and unchanging. As satyam, shivam, sundaram or truth, goodness and beauty, Shiva represents the most essential goodness. This is also our true nature.

Shiva Ratri, the fourteenth day of the lunar fortnight when the moon is waning and the sun is in the sign of Pisces, is the day when devotees of Shiva around the world gather in communal sadhana. This may take many forms including prayer, ritual, kirtan and the austerities of abstaining from food and sleep. These are all aimed at attaining the dispassion and peace that arise with the reduction of egocentric desires and attachments that keep us from knowing our true nature, the essence of Shiva.