Shankar’s September update


The Centre rarely hosts weddings but this past weekend was an exception. In bright sunshine on the flower-strewn mound, we celebrated the marriage of Sean Crabtree and Melinda Quintero. Lakshmi’s son, Sean, who was born on Salt Spring Island, has been associated with the Centre community all his life. He was already working at the Centre when Melinda came as a KY two years ago, and they have been together ever since, so it made perfect sense for them to celebrate their union back at the place they met. It was an occasion for many long-time members of the Dharma Sara community to reconnect, but it was also an affirmation of the continuing vitality of this community. Who knows how many more generations of Babaji’s students will grace the Centre with their wedding celebrations? It is so heartening to see the next generation deeply committed to the spiritual teachings and, despite busy lives, not losing touch with their community. As well as the many children of the long-time members, there are also grandchildren, and the wide age range was again evident at the 38th Annual Community Yoga Retreat. Add to these the steady influx of young people who have no parental connection but join the large, extended family by living and working at the Centre, and there is a vitality and energy that bodes well for the future.

Despite the warm, sunny days, there is a coolness to the evenings that reminds us that it is indeed September again – time to process the extra food from the farm, to store and juice apples and to fill up the woodshed with the split logs harvested in spring from the aging broadleaf maple trees at the front of the property. The summer KYs have departed and the resident community is smaller now as we move into the final third of the Centre’s season. There are opportunities for guests to enjoy this quiet phase with three more Yoga Getaways and many openings for Personal Retreats. Visit our website for details.

In peace,

Defending the ego

Babaji teachesThe fundamental spiritual truth is that underneath the superficial differences, people are identical in nature – it is the same spirit or universal awareness that animates our seemingly distinct selves. Thinking that we are separate individuals is then a basic contradiction between who we truly are and who we think we are. Arising from this profound inner conflict is a kind of background fear lying deep in the psyche, the fear of ego death. The existential philosophers had a word for it: angst. Unlike normal fear which is usually fear of something, angst is a broader, background anxiety, without any obvious cause. Edward Munch’s famous painting “The Scream” seems to represent this archetypal feeling; perhaps this is why it recently fetched the highest price ever paid for a work of art at an auction and why it has become a cultural icon. (It can even be found on the cover of the August issue of Common Ground.) To protect itself from this fear, the ego builds a complex entity around the separate sense of “I.” It consists of the “I am the body” idea but also has its roots in the mind in thoughts involving possessions, relationships, beliefs, profession, skills etc. This “I, me, mine” story is under constant threat as people and circumstances conspire to undermine it. Criticism, disease, ill fortune, loss of possessions or family, failure of any kind, all diminish the sense of self. It is as if the ego, unable to face its demise, has fragmented the fear of its death into many small parts – as Babaji says: “All fear is the fear of death.” When any of these faces of the ego are diminished, it tries to repair the damage with self-enhancing strategies: pride, judgement and criticism of others, complaining, seeking recognition, making the body more beautiful or athletic, being right, talking about oneself, justifying one’s actions – the list is almost endless.

For those who practice yoga, or indeed any spiritual discipline, Babaji explains the importance of understanding this inner dynamic: “Because we are separate from others, we always defend our individuality by our actions, thoughts and speech. We are like guards who are watching the bank; they are always ready to shoot anyone who tries to loot it. This act of defending individuality is itself an act of violence.” In other words, Babaji is saying that when we act in any way to defend the ego of individuality, we violate ahimsa, the cornerstone of yogic behaviour. So, if we think we have eliminated violence, there is still plenty of inner work left for us to do. What does this work look like? First, of course, is Babaji’s consistent advice: “Regular sadhana!” But we can continue the work during other hours of the day too. If we watch the mind, particularly its conditioned responses to perceived external threats, we can, with practice, choose not to defend ourselves. If we are wrongly blamed for something, if we are criticised for any action, or if we fail in any venture, we can watch our ego defence – anger, judgement, criticism, rationalisation and so on – arise and not give it any energy; without support it will subside. Over time after repeatedly starving this conditioned response by watching it rise and not feeding it, it will lose its power and eventually dissipate. This allows a fresh response to situations: rather than replaying an old behavioural tape loop from our childhood, we can become genuinely spontaneous. Those around us may appreciate the freedom it gives them, for we are less likely to trigger their defences.

It may be hard for some to imagine a life with little fear, but this is one outcome of our spiritual practice. As the ego of individuality diminishes we develop equanimity and are less vulnerable to circumstances that previously used to threaten us. By weakening the smaller diverse fears we begin to lose the fear of death itself. The “self-created cocoon of individuality” that we have woven with our attachments and defensive conditioning, slowly unravels and eventually “the ego of individuality will come out naked, with no self interest, abodeless, free from all mental and intellectual limitations, and the ego will transcend to its universal form. This is the merging of the embodied soul in the supreme.”

Founding Member Feature: Mahesh and Abha (Roy and Raye)

By Mahesh, dedicated to Abha

Mahesh, 2000

I was born in Vancouver in 1934. As a child, I stuttered and was very shy. I grew up in Vancouver, Westminster and Squamish, living with my grandparents. My grandmother taught me a lot about spirituality. Raye was born in 1935. Her mother died when she was very young, and she was raised by her aunt and uncle. She grew up in Vancouver, but interestingly, spent a year on Salt Spring island with her aunt and uncle, going to the Isabella Point School. Both of us had spiritualist upbringings.

Before I met her I was selling real estate and doing log salvaging, so I was pretty busy. I had also been drinking heavily and doing a lot of shady things. My doctor told me, “If you continue drinking, I give you six months to live,” so I cleaned myself up.

That’s when I met Raye. I was 20 and she was 18. I told her I would marry her in two years – and that’s exactly what happened. From the first moment I saw her, I was devoted to her. I followed her everywhere; these days I’d be charged with stalking. I wanted to be with her all the time. She had been very cloistered and had probably gone on only one date before she met me. All the girls in the typing pool where she worked warned her about me. At that time I was going around with five different women, and two of them thought I was going to ask them to marry them. I have no idea why Raye stuck with me. I most likely wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her. I wish she was still here.

Abha & Mahesh, just married, 1954

Back then I wore very colourful clothes – red, pink, bright green, shirts with ruffles – and Raye didn’t like them. Because I wanted to be with her I surrendered, and ended up wearing browns and greys. There were things she gave up and there were things I gave up. We had disagreements, of course, but we always worked things out. We always ended each day with a hug and a kiss, regardless of what went on during that day.

I told her I didn’t want to have any children. She laughed at me – as if it was up to me – but we didn’t end up having children. We spent 3 years (1960 – 1963) camping in Europe in a Bedford camper (a car that I had camperized).

In the early 70’s when we were living on Barnston Island, we went to hear Ram Dass speak in Vancouver. There was a poster on the wall, with a picture of AD (Anand Dass), about yoga classes. I said to Raye, “We should go to that.” She said, “You’re not interested in yoga,” but we did go to the class at 6:30 in the morning. I had never gone to a yoga class before – and I never stopped after that.

Mahesh and Babaji – mid 70’s

In 1974 Babaji came to Vancouver and stayed at the Spruce Street house for 10 days, and we came from Barnston Island to meet him. We stayed for several hours, playing lots of games with Babaji.

During the years that followed there were retreats, satsang, and the search for land which took us all over BC. There were also lots of meetings about raising money to buy land. In the process, the Jai store was started; Abha was a driving force in the store, serving as the buyer, first for the 4th Avenue location and then the Broadway store.

When the land was purchased, SN and Kishori moved from Barnston Island to Salt Spring Island. Abha and I also left Barnston, but we moved to Vancouver. We lived above the Jai store for a while, then moved to a house on 21st and Blenheim. At first we’d go to Aldergrove for satsang (where Sid and Sharada, Sanatan and Anuradha, and various other people lived), and later to 4th and Burrard in Vancouver behind the Jai store. It was during that time that the land on Salt Spring was purchased.

Mahesh, 1994

I remember getting people together to pledge money for the land. I matched everyone’s donations, but there wasn’t that much at that first meeting. Abha thought I was crazy the way I threw money around. When the property was bought, I told Abha that as long as Babaji is alive, I’d always help the Centre, but after that, who knows?

We moved to Salt Spring Island in 1990, having had property on the island since the 70s, but we never lived on the land.

Over the years I’ve supplied and run heavy machinery and helped with the rock walls. A lot of the rock for those walls came from my property. Meanwhile, Abha was totally involved in the Centre. She went to a lot of meetings, and she procured beautiful things for the Centre. She loved to make things beautiful.

Stuck bobcat – 2000

I got annoyed sometimes about how the Centre administration chose to spend money. I have a business background, and have a different approach to money than some others. I also have a habit of just doing things without going through the proper channels, and nearly got banned from the land when I started making the driveway. (For those who don’t know, the driveway to the school was begun by Mahesh; vehicles used to drive right through the property in front of what is now Chikitsa Shala). Later someone was hired to complete the job – too bad – I could have done it for a tenth of the cost.

All those stories are in the past. My involvement in the Centre is to see it function, and if help is needed, I’ll be there.

The memories I treasure are of Abha. She always looked so beautiful out in the garden. She was in nature and became one with nature in the garden; it was her sanctuary. Her dahlias still bloom every year in the Centre’s garden.

Abha with flowers, 2000

Abha, 2000(?)

Abha was always with me and I was always with her. We did our own things, but we were devoted to each other – a relationship that I wish everybody had – one of total trust. It was a wonderful trip. To have her interested in the spiritual path like I was was absolutely beautiful.

The original DS members put in karma yoga time and money for the Salt Spring Centre. It was just like bringing up a child. To walk onto the property as an old man and see all the shining faces and bright smiles brings joy to my heart – like seeing a child who has succeeded.

Mahesh, 2000