Office Holiday Hours

Dear Friends,

The office will soon be closing for winter holidays. After December 19th, the office will be open on December 27 to 29th only, and will then reopen on January 2nd.

Please note that yoga@saltspringcentre.com and telephone messages will not be monitored when the office is closed. We thank you for your interest in the Centre and will reply to all queries in the days following our return.

Immediate assistance in specific areas is available as follows:

Chikitsa Shala Wellness Centre: You can continue to use our online booking system to book appointments at Chikitsa Shala, our Wellness Centre, and we ask that you pay the practitioner directly at the time of treatment. If you need to cancel your appointment, please do so promptly using the online booking system so that the practitioner receives as much notice as possible.

Karma Yoga Service and Study Program: Please send an e-mail to kyss@saltspringcentre.com.

Yoga Teacher Training program: Please contact Andrea Kalpana Tabachnick by phone at 604-279-5465 or email aktabachnick@aol.com for information about program content until December 26th. We will be happy to provide registration and administration information when the office reopens.

Yoga Getaways: Queries and registrations for 2013 getaways will be answered when the office reopens. Registrations will be processed in the order they were received. Thank you for your patience.

For general queries, please browse this website, where you will find detailed information on our programs, drop-in yoga classes, and other Centre services.

Sharada’s December update

The days are growing shorter and the nights colder, but our resident community of seven people and the many people in the community who don’t live at the Centre continue to keep the light burning in the heart of the Centre. During this time the work of running the Centre slows down somewhat, yet preparations are underway for the spring program season. Applications are coming in daily for various full season positions as well as karma yoga service and study sessions.

Satsang and yoga classes will continue throughout the winter, and if we can muster both cooks and cleanup crew, our monthly community dinners will also continue, following satsang on the first Sunday of each month; check the Centre’s calendar and yoga schedule for updates about this and any other events. At this writing, Wednesday evening kirtan is also continuing, at least for now, and possibly through the winter; stay tuned.

There has been very encouraging news from Mount Madonna Centre (MMC), our sister centre (‘center’ in the US) about Babaji’s recovery from a mild stroke in early November. He attended Thanksgiving at MMC and happily handed out candy to the children as always. Jai Gurudev!

As happens each winter, a number of people travel to MMC for the annual New Year’s Retreat, to see Babaji, gather with our extended satsang family, work and practice together and bring in the new year with prayers and songs for peace.

May our holiday season be a time of ease, connection and joy, remembering, when we get caught in the busyness of the season, to slow down and breathe. When we forget – which we do regularly – stop for a moment and be still. Let yourself relax, be kind to yourself. From Babaji: Life is not a burden. We create burdens by our desires, attachment and ego. If we accept life in the world, it creates contentment and all conflicts fall away. Wish you happy.

In peace,
Sharada

Greetings from the Board

The Dharma Sara Board (Lakshmi, Chandra, Jules and Divakar) with the support of the Panchayat (Sharada, Kalpana, Sri Nivas, Laskhmi, Chandra and Divakar) want to thank Shankar for his significant contribution as Centre Director over the past 4 years. The Centre during that time has played a most important role in the lives of many people as a place for spiritual development and personal transformation. The programs and events at the Centre have been very successful and the Satsang community has grown substantially.

The Board also expresses its appreciation that the position of Centre Director has now been filled by Meredith Paramita Knox.

Her education combined with her work experience, management skills and history with Babaji and his teachings are very suited to the role that she will now be playing. Our deliberations in selecting Paramita were conducted over a considerable period of time during which all the various possible options were taken into account and support from the Panchayat was provided. We feel very fortunate that Paramita has come on board at this time and we welcome her whole-heartedly.

As 2012 draws to a close, we also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed this year and over the years to Dharma Sara’s welfare both at the Centre and elsewhere. Babaji has provided us with very precious gifts in the form of his inspiration and his teachings along with a Centre where those gifts can be shared with others. It has taken the efforts of countless numbers of people (both staff and volunteers) over many years to bring us to where we now stand. Our main goal moving forward is to continue with our inherited yogic tradition for the benefit of future generations. We encourage everyone to continue to support Dharma Sara in whatever way that they can, be that at the Centre or wherever they may be. Donations for the Centre through Dharma Sara Satsang Society are most appreciated and enable us to contribute to and be part of this blessed project whether we live close by or far away. Donations for the Orphanage are most welcome as well. Tax receipts are available for these donations.

Best wishes to everyone for a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year’s as we move into 2013.

Om, Divakar

Accepting the Present is Happiness

Babaji, 1975

What would it take for you to be happy? What do you think you need?

Living in this culture, it’s very easy to get caught in thinking, “I need…” or “if only I had…, then I’d be content”. We get the message every day that we should be thinner, smarter, more attractive, have a better job, be in a better relationship, be cool, be better parents and still be cool. We should be kinder, more generous, less anxious – and on and on. No matter what we have, it’s not quite enough. These thoughts are based on the premise that there’s something fundamentally wrong with us and we need things, something outside ourselves, to make us whole. It is a false premise; we are fundamentally whole, complete, pure. We are not who we think we are.

In Everyday Peace, Letters for Life Babaji writes: It is useless to think, “Who was I?” and “Who will I be?” The most important thing is “Who am I?” If we dwell on our past, which we can’t change, or if we dwell on the future, which is indefinite and unknown, then we can’t work in the present. If the present is passing in peace, it will make a peaceful past and sow a seed of peace to grow in the future. The present is the most important thing in life.

Babaji says: Accepting the present is happiness. So simple, but not easy to do. We have so many thoughts about how things should be different from how they are in this moment – the “I should” thoughts and the “they should” thoughts. It doesn’t matter which, because what is in this moment is exactly what is.

I have that quote on my fridge, and I remember my grandson looking at it a couple of years ago, saying, “But what if I don’t have what I want in the present?” That’s where we all get stuck. We may understand intellectually, but we don’t fully believe that it’s all okay right now, that we’re okay. Many years ago, Babaji wrote to me, saying (in capital letters): Don’t worry. Everything will be alright. All the worrying, all the anxiety didn’t help; it never does.

Accepting the present, accepting that what is, is, doesn’t imply lack of response to a difficult situation – but response from a place of acceptance of the present arises from a relaxed and open heart rather than from fear, anger, or any other kind of reactivity. Response moves forward naturally rather than fighting against what’s happening in the moment.

Life is not a burden. We make it a burden by not accepting life as it is. We desire everything. If we don’t get what we desire, we feel anger, depression and pain. If we do get it, then we get attached, jealous and discontented, which again causes pain. So the root cause is desire. If we put a limit on our desires, there will be a limit to our pain. Gradually we can reduce the limit, and one day the desires will be decreased so much that we will not even think of them. That state of mind is peace.

Contributed by Sharada

Founding Member Feature: Ramanand Chlopan

Ramanand, part of the Centre family

I grew up in a family of nine – my parents and six kids, 4 girls, two boys. I was third in the lineup. We were raised in a Roman Catholic family (although my father was Eastern Orthodox and had to get permission to marry my mother). We went to church most Sundays and I was an altar boy. I have a memory from when I was a kid – unrelated to church – of being able to sit in full lotus; little did I know….

I went through a period of partying when I was in my teens. When I was 21, still living in Sooke, I had the realization that if I kept up the party lifestyle, I would not make it to 25. I hopped a train to Saskatoon where my high school friend, Jeff, and I got a place. We had an older friend who introduced us to Ram Dass, meditation and Eastern spiritual philosophies. We led a very pure and chaste lifestyle and talked endlessly about spiritual concepts.

I was initiated into TM in June of 1977. In 1978, I got a letter from my sister, Cathy, who was living in a L’Arche community in Victoria. Among others, Vidyadhar and Trudy lived in the community. During that time my sister and Vidyadhar attended a yoga retreat in the Okanagan. Cathy talked about jal neti and funny skits, and said the guru was Baba Hari Dass. I put two and two together and realized this was the same Baba Hari Dass I had read about as a kid in my brother’s copy of Be Here Now in my parent’s basement. I was intrigued and wanted to meet this teacher called Baba Hari Dass.

Within the next year, I moved back to the coast with the intention of contacting Babaji’s satsang. On April 1, 1979, I confused the Dharma Centre with Dharma Sara and had tea with a very nice Tibetan Lama in Burnaby. I persevered and made it to a satsang at the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood centre the same spring. This is where I heard the kirtan, “Alakh Niranjana”. It felt so familiar.

Ramanand & Bhavani’s wedding at the Centre 1982, puja conducted by AD (Anand Dass)

I was living in Sooke, taking the summer off – which my best friend and I called the endless summer. I went to the Yoga Retreat at Oyama and met Babaji. He seemed like the genuine item so I endeavoured to make it to the New Year’s retreat in California. Babaji gave me my name, Ramanand, which means the bliss of God. Following the retreat, I moved to Vancouver to be with the satsang. I went to Sunday Satsangs, started singing and accompanying on guitar, attended pranayam class with our beloved Anand Dass and went to the full moon yajnas at the Hindu Temple in Burnaby. I remember them as brilliant glimpses of spirit.

Ramanand at woodworking school in Nelson, 1983

The following year, I made my way down to California and attended yoga teacher training. By this time I was “on the bus”. For me some of the highlights were times of being around Babaji – like the Maha Shiva Ratri when the first Mount Madonna program house burnt down, Babaji said “it doesn’t matter”, and immediately began leading a party of people to deal with the wreckage and move on to the next thing.

Dads & kids on the mound, 1989 – Rajesh & Mamata, Ramanand & Joah, Devendra & Serena

While Babaji is very serious about sadhana, he has a humorous side. He engineered pranks such as the women dousing the men with water as they were posing for photographs with Babaji.  The following year the men wanted to get the women back, so Babaji designed a puja outside the main house that was apparently intended to dedicate the mound; however, it was a set-up, complete with special mantras like “bring, fling”, a signal to the men waiting nearby to start flinging cream pies at the women.

Ramanand the rock star, with his buddies, 1996

Around the mid 80’s, I asked Babaji if I could do the pujas and he told me I could learn. I did my first puja in 1986 at Guru Purnima. The next year I was honoured to baptize about 30 or so satsangi kids ranging in age from infancy to ten, including my own son, Joah.

Ramanand & Kalen, 1996

A moment that’s precious to me is the morning after the Maha Shiva Ratri in California before the building burned. I spent a good part of the night overdosed on bhang (no longer done – this was in the early years). The next morning, when Babaji appeared, along with people singing “Hara Hara Mahadeva Shambho”, I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning after his night with the spirits. I cannot sing that song without feeling that elation.

Ramanand with Joah & Kalen, fall 2001

Although, on some levels we miss the shining example that Babaji has set with his own actions, I feel we are at an advantage in that we have to do it ourselves. Through our practices and satsang, the kirtans and the memories, it is up to us to create a sense of his presence. You can still find me at the Cente on most Sunday afternoon, singing kirtan and sharing in the hosting of satsang, as well as conducting full moon yajnas and singing and conducting pujas at Maha Shiva Ratri. As a long-time member of the satsang and a founding member of the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, I feel it is an honour to inspire others to a more spiritual life.

I would be remiss not to mention my cherished friends in the satsang family. We’ve been through so much together.

Jai Ram
Ramanand