Sharada’s November Update

Hello everyone,

We are enjoying the last days of fall before winter sets in. The days are gradually getting shorter, nighttime coming earlier. During these months, we need to remember to keep the light burning inside our hearts.

Our Thanksgiving gratitude circle and vegetarian potluck was wonderful, as always; we have so much to be thankful for. Our meal circle was large, reminding me of summer retreat circles, although this one was in the satsang room rather than outside. For the Americans reading this, warm wishes to you for your Thanksgiving later this month.

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Dinner around the wood stove. David, Tana, Jenn and Leah.

The karma yogis at the Centre enjoy our delicious fall meals sitting around the fire in the satsang room. By mid month, after the program season ends, most karma yogis will be leaving, moving on to their next adventures. As happens every year, only a handful of people will be left at the centre during the quieter winter season.

A karma yogi cuddle puddle

A karma yogi cuddle puddle

The farm will soon be put to bed; the front field will be plowed and planted with a cover crop. The field below the house still has vegetables growing in it, with a greenhouse full of greens for salads and for steaming.

salad greens thriving in the greenhouse

salad greens thriving in the greenhouse

I wanted to take a photo of the trees wearing their blazing golden leaves, but I waited a bit too long, so here instead is a photo of the next phase of the changing colours.

The changing season

The changing season

As the seasons change, we are reminded again of the ongoing cycles of nature. If you’ve been receiving regular updates you know that Babaji’s health has declined. As I write this, the current report is that his condition has stabilised and he remains peaceful. He is being well cared for by a dedicated team of caregivers. Regular updates are available on our website, Baba Hari Dass health update, listed under News and Update.

This is a time of reflection for many of us who have spent our adult lives with Babaji as well as all the other people who have met him over the years. Many of you, whether you’ve met Babaji or not, have been touched by his teachings in one way or another. The Centre exists because of his inspiration and guidance, and his teachings permeate the place. To honour him and all spiritual teachers, I invite you to read the article called Honouring the Teacher.

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Karma Yogis Christine, Sherri and Ryan

Other articles offered for your enjoyment and learning include Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit by Pratibha, an Ayurvedic perspective on cooking beans of all kinds (and making them digestible!), including a simple recipe for kitcheri, a balancing meal that works well for everyone. This month’s Asana of the Month is dandasana (staff pose) contributed by Varenka Jeevani Shwartz. Varenka uses this pose to begin a series of sitting poses, and in this article she adds several variations.

Also this month we continue introductions to some of our karma yogis in the article Meet our Karma Yogis, the focus this time being on three of our full-season karma yogis: Christine and Sherri, two of our farm yogis who have been here since March, and Ryan, a returning KY from last year who has been working all season in maintenance and landscaping. The ‘Our Centre Community’ feature will return in December (I hope).

Halloween math - guessing how many seeds are in the pumpkins

Halloween math – guessing how many seeds are in the pumpkins

The school, as always, is a busy place. Special events in November include a Peace Day celebration on November 12 organized by the Owls (the oldest kids in the school), the beginning of six weeks of yoga classes in the Garden House, as well as the annual Advent celebration led by Usha, a school tradition since the early years of the school. If you’re on the island on the evening of November 26, please join us – children, parents, community – to sing songs of light as the children walk through a spiral of cedar boughs and stars to light their candles and place them around the circle. It is a very uplifting occasion, reminding all of us to keep the light burning.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Love,
Sharada.

Honouring the Teacher

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At this time of year, with Canadian thanksgiving in October and American thanksgiving in November, the theme of thankfulness is in the air. The recent change in Babaji’s health (see Baba Hari Dass updates on SSCY’s website) is an additional reminder to reflect on the gifts we’ve been blessed with.

Of the many, many things I have to be grateful for, my meeting with Babaji is at the top of my list. At the time, I didn’t understand how that would change my life. I wasn’t looking for a guru, didn’t even consider myself a spiritual seeker. However, something happened then that I didn’t understand till much later.

I’ve told the story of my first meeting with Babaji many times; all of Babaji’s students have stories of their first meeting with him, and in every case, it seems something magical happened.

When we – that is, Babaji’s early students from the Vancouver area – began to form as a group, we became a family. It wasn’t all peace and harmony, but it was family; we had a lot to learn and many edges to wear away. What’s striking is that we kept doing it, whether we agreed with each other or not. There was an underlying trust that this was what we were meant to be doing. Perhaps others had a clearer sense of direction than I did; I was happy to be part of this satsang family and do what we were doing because it gave me a sense of purpose. Babaji said to hold a retreat, so we did. That was enough.

If you have faith in a person who is on the spiritual path, whose life is a model for you, whose teachings are acceptable to you, whom you can trust, and for whom you feel devotion, that person is your spiritual teacher.

Babaji taught us to be karma yogis by his very being. He taught, worked, played when each was called for. He encouraged us to learn, work, practice and play, prodding us when we needed it but otherwise trusting that we could do our part.

The aim of life is to attain peace. A guru or spiritual teacher teaches how to attain that peace. A guru doesn’t teach much except how to live in the world with truthfulness, with nonviolence, and with selfless service to others. The guru either presents these teachings in words or through the way they live their life.

I can’t truthfully say that I always followed Babaji’s direction, but when I didn’t, I eventually found out that I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I’d listened to him in the first place. Listening and learning take time to develop. The teacher’s role is to show the right path for attaining peace and to point out that another path goes in the wrong direction. In both cases you have to walk by yourself.

Babaji has been patient with us over the years, answering the same questions for 40 years, often with a smile on his face. He could be tough when it was called for, but always with love. He kept reminding us that we had to do our own work. He could point us in the right direction, but we had to walk on our own.

Faith, devotion and right aim are the three pillars that hold up the spiritual life. I don’t claim that I can give enlightenment. I say that anyone can attain it by their own effort. As long as we are not responsible for cleaning out our own garbage, we carry that garbage with us everywhere we go. No one is going to clean out our garbage for us; we have to do it ourselves.

The most important thing is the perfection of aim. When you are determined to attain God, then all your work will start channeling toward God. Your garden will be God’s garden. Your hiking will be for God. Your family will be God’s family. The ego of me and mine will disappear. Whether you work for your family or for society does not make any difference because it is also God’s work.

It’s in your hands to dance or to sit. If you feel like dancing then dance. If your aim is firm everything is for God. In dancing you’ll dance for God, in working you’ll work for God, and in meditating you’ll meditate for God.

Devotion to a teacher is to respect and love that teacher. Attachment gets so dense that a person doesn’t feel the difference between God and guru. And truly they are not different.

Sudha, one of Babaji’s long-time students and part of our satsang since the 70s, whose body has been affected by Parkinson’s disease for years, recently wrote about her relationship with Babaji, whom she has not been able to see for many years:

“I am with him 24/7; and he is with me, supporting me, encouraging me, helping me to keep going no matter how difficult things get. When my whole body is tight and cramped and I can’t move even one finger, he is there, smiling, reminding me that I am not this body.”

Nisargadatta Maharaj, in “I Am That” says, “Steady faith is stronger than destiny.”

Babaji reminds us: All answers are inside us and we have to realize them by ourselves. When one realizes that knowledge can be attained through one’s own sadhana, one’s own Self becomes the guru. Everything becomes clear step by step.

My life has been affected in every way by having met Babaji all those years ago, and I am eternally grateful for this gift. My job – our job – is to keep walking the path of faith, devotion and right aim.

Jai Gurudev!

contributed by Sharada