News from the Centre – November 2015

Hello everyone,

This month we in BC shift back to standard time, meaning there’s light earlier in the morning and darkness coming earlier at the end of the day. November marks the beginning of celebrations of light, to keep the light inside us burning in the midst of the darkening time of year.

Our residential community is small but mighty, and regular activities continue, with the addition of a 12-week wildcrafting class.

Wildcrafting class in the forest

Wildcrafting class in the forest

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Taking a closer look

Ongoing events include Wednesday kirtan, Sunday satsang and monthly full-moon yajnas. There’s one more Yoga Getaway this month – last chance in 2015.

Tana on the mower

Tana on the mower

Tanner & Myriam in the kitchen; Mark hard at work

Tanner & Myriam in the kitchen; Mark hard at work

We recently bid farewell to Hamsa, our amazing karma yoga coordinator. We will miss her, and trust that we will see her again. We also said goodbye to Christine, the Centre’s housekeeping coordinator, in mid-October. She’s just a couple of ferry rides away, and we hope she’ll come by to visit. Blair, a new community member, is creating a downloadable album of kirtan from the summer’s Annual Community Yoga Retreat. Watch for it in your inbox soon! If you are interested in stepping into one of the available positions, please read the information on our website.

I received a wonderful surprise gift a little while ago – a package of archival material, including many copies of Offerings from earlier years, from the time it was printed and mailed to members. Anna, thank you! I’ve been reading these from cover to cover and sharing them with the community. Included in this newsletter is an excerpt from one of them: questions and answers with Babaji. This particular set of questions and answers comes from the summer newsletter of 1998. In all the years Babaji has responded to students’ questions, neither the questions nor the answers have changed.

I hope you will enjoy reading The Perfect Path, this month’s Satsang Community story by Peter Ashok Baragon. Peter is a graduate of the Centre’s very first YTT in 2002, and continues to teach here at Yoga Getaways and YTT, in addition to teaching classes in Vancouver.

I also invite you to read Kindness and Forgiveness, qualities and practices that can support us at all times. It’s all too easy to forget the natural loving kindness that is the core of our being. Here’s a reminder.

The Salt Spring Centre School will be holding its annual Celebration of Light on Tuesday, November 24 (formerly referred to as Advent, for those of you who remember it from years back), still led, as always, by Usha, who began this celebration with school students and their families in the earliest days of the school. Every child carries an apple with a candle placed in it, around spiral of cedar boughs and stars while the entire community of parents and friends sings songs of light – an uplifting community gathering, reminding us to keep the light shining in our hearts.

May the longtime sun shine upon you,
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.

Love,
Sharada

Kindness and Forgiveness

Babaji with babyBabaji says, “Love is a universal religion” and the Dalai Lama says, “My religion is kindness.” Kindness is the outer face of love, and forgiveness is a form of kindness to oneself which touches everyone around us.

The first two limbs of classical Ashtanga Yoga are Yama (restraints) and Niyama (observances). Of these, the first is ahimsa: to refrain from causing pain to any living creature, including oneself. Every action, word, or thought that creates pain to another – any thought containing anger, greed, lust, or attachment – is a form of violence. With perfection of ahimsa, one’s nonviolent nature and peace radiate to others. When one lives in a state of complete nonviolence, what remains is unconditional love which automatically manifests as kindness.

Amma says, “The first step in spiritual life is to have compassion. A person who is kind and loving never needs to go searching for God. God rushes toward any heart that beats with compassion – it is God’s favourite place.”

It is natural for us to be kind and loving. When we’re struggling with a difficult situation, we may forget, we may speak and act in ways that are not kind and loving, but when we do we suffer. The good news is that we have what it takes to step out of our negativity.

Painful thoughts are binding because the mind tends to dwell on them. When you have a hole in your tooth, it’s hard to keep your tongue out of it even though it creates more irritation.

The root cause (of negative emotions) is non-acceptance which is keeping anger inside. Intellectually one can say the past is past and now I’m in the present and there’s no need to dwell on those pains. But we are not separated from the past if it is coming in the present and creating its own reality. A person is beaten as a result of shoplifting; it is all forgotten, but once the person goes back into that place, the person will get beaten up again in his/her mind.

Sometimes it is not so easy to liberate oneself from past memories that are affecting the present. One may go through a process of wanting revenge, taking out one’s anger, doing penance for wrong actions, etc. When negative thoughts appear in the mind, dwell on the positive. If you play out the negative samskaras (tendencies, conditioning), it will make a deeper print.

Forgiveness is forgetting the past actions of some outer agency which created pain in life, and not feeling the least amount of anger or hatred toward the person.

The hero is not the one who wins battles outside, but the one who conquers the mind.

Being able to let go of the past is also a way to be kind to yourself. It lightens the burden of pain you carry around with you when you’re angry. In releasing the past you come into the present, the only place you can be in peace.

contributed by Sharada
all text in italics from writings by Babaji


Sharada-headshot

Sharada Filkow, a student of classical ashtanga yoga since the early 70s, is one of the founding members of the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, where she has lived for many years, serving as a karma yogi, teacher and mentor.

Questions and Answers with Babaji

Babaji-slate(From Offerings of summer 1998)

Q: How does one know if he or she is on the right spiritual path?
B: When the mind gets calmer and reduces its attachment to the world, that indicates that the path is right.

Q: Seems my sadhana (spiritual practice) goes through times of being hot and cold. How can I keep it strong?
B: In the beginning, when one starts sadhana, there is an excitement about achieving something. If that excitement is not backed by devotion and dispassion, then it fades away. As long as aim is not stabilized, the mind goes back and forth in sadhana. Doubt arises and aim gets weaker. If the aim is firmly established, then the will to achieve the goal gets stronger and devotion to God will get stronger. Sadhana practised with faith and devotion always brings positive results.

Q: What characteristics would a Master most want to see in students?
B: Desire to get real knowledge.

Q: What sort of feelings do you have towards your disciples?
B: Equality. Never think someone is a disciple, because we are all learning in this world equally. Different grades.

Spirituality is a positive way of living which brings peace and happiness. Non-spiritual way of living is an undisciplined life.

Q: What kind of activities constitute a disciplined life?
B: Regulating all activities according to time. Eating at the right time, the exact quantities. Sleeping and waking up at the right time. Doing things which are necessary for life at the right time. All the ten rules of yama and niyama create a disciplined life.

Yama (Restraints): nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, non-hoarding.
Niyama (Observances): purity, contentment, austerity, scriptural study, surrender to God.

Q: Sometimes my mind resists discipline.
B: Human mind doesn’t like to be controlled. Keeping a discipline means controlling the mind’s freedom. If there is no discipline in life, then the mind will have no object as a support and no aim to achieve. Yes, the mind will resist discipline and the seeker should force it to do the spiritual practice.

Q: How do we remove all conflicting thoughts in order to find peace?
B: When you walk on the edge of a cliff how many thoughts come in your mind?
Q: Not many.
B: When our mind finds out that one mistake will throw us down in the ditch of the world, then it becomes one pointed like a person who walks on the edge of a cliff.

Q: How long does it take to achieve liberation?
B: There is no time limit to understand the ultimate truth. You can get it in one second or you can take several lifetimes. When a person attains human form, he/she is close to enlightenment, but the sense of individuality becomes a big block if not channelled in the right direction. The human incarnation is at the door of liberation all the time but our ego is keeping the door shut. We can’t see beyond our ego consciousness.

Q: What is the highest good we can do?
B: To attain peace. Nothing is higher than that.

The Perfect Path by Peter Ashok Baragon

Peter Ashok Baragon, part of our Centre Community

Peter Ashok Baragon, part of our Centre Community

My “Salt Spring Centre experience” began in 1995 when I was introduced to the Centre by my friend John while visiting the island that summer.

John had a picture of Baba Hari Dass on his fridge. I remember asking him, “Who is that man in that picture?” He replied, “Babaji. He is a yogi, he is enlightened and is the master teacher to the Dharma Sara Satsang Society”. John told me that Babaji visits the Salt Spring Centre and that in fact he was arriving next week!

Sitting on a chair - 2.5 years old

Sitting on a chair – 2.5 years old

As he continued with the story of who Babaji was and more about yoga, I became more intrigued. The next day we attended a beautiful yoga class at the Centre and I was instantly attracted to the magic of the land and the house. I remember telling John when leaving, “That was amazing – my first yoga class!” Over a week later I arrived back on the island and again visited the Centre as the Annual Family Retreat had just begun.

We arrived while Bhagavad Gita class was happening in the Satsang room. That room was so packed with islanders and visitors from abroad that it was hard to believe it was the same room I had taken a yoga class in. At the front of the room was Baba Hari Dass, perched on his low bench, wearing all white and using a small chalkboard to communicate. I remember as I walked in he looked over in my direction and I felt he noticed me, as he did when others walked in and out of the room. He was aware of everyone in the room and took note of people coming and going.

25 years old

25 years old

He answered questions using the little chalkboard, and I listened carefully to both the questions asked and his replies. Some of his replies were short and simple and others more complex, giving the group a moment to pause and ponder. I remember I felt confused, lost in this foreign topic and the devotion the men, women, and children in the room seemed to feel. As strange as this was to me, it resonated deeply and I knew I needed to learn more. It wasn’t my intelligence that wanted to know; it was my spiritual curiosity.

When we left that afternoon I eagerly asked John, “When can we come back?” He said, “Tomorrow, for Satsang,” I had no idea what that was, but again I was intrigued.

When we returned the next day, there was a huge crowd of people gathered in the main room again and Satsang had just begun. I was drawn in by the sound of the harmonium, drums and tambourines being played, and everyone singing the beautiful songs in Sanskrit. I didn’t know what my eyes and ears were taking in, but knew it was ancient and truly sacred.

That day was lifechanging for me. I left the island for Vancouver, knowing that a connection was there for me. I felt ready to return home and nurture my spirit and learn more about yoga.

Peter (Ashok), Bryan and Sarah strike a pose

Peter (Ashok), Bryan and Sarah strike a pose

I continued to visit the island and the Centre whenever I could to take yoga classes and sit in on Sunday Satsang, to absorb as much as I could, feeling like I had to make up for lost time in discovering myself, love, and a true devotion for spirit.

When I was asked in class one day by a student who was always beside me if I was a yoga teacher because of my dedication and continued attendance in class, I laughed and said “No, are you kidding…I don’t know how to teach a yoga class.” My teacher at the time overheard this and started a discussion that would peak my curiosity about the possibility of exploring teaching. The many reasons why I thought I couldn’t teach started with “I’m too shy, I don’t have the knowledge, etc.” In spite of all of the negative reasoning, I started to consider the real possibility of learning to teach, and through my personal practice it became more and more real.

In 2001, I decided to look for a yoga centre where I could complete my YTT and start teaching.

I looked as far New York and Quebec, but then realized the training was right here in my backyard, at the Salt Spring Centre.

I attended the first YTT offered at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, in 2002. I was part of a lovely group of men and women in the first program, to learn, and to deepen the path and our roots in yoga. It was beautiful. Some of the friends I met then are still with me.

With YTT grad Andrea Mueller

I visit the Centre as often as I can, to teach at the weekend Yoga Getaways and at the annual YTT program. Practicing selfless service, helping when I can, serving the spiritual community. Jai!

The wonderful stories that I remember from all my visits to the Centre flood my mind – the yoga classes, the food, walks on the property and through the garden, the people who arrive curious like I was, the cycle of karma yogis who come and go, the elder members I love to sit with and prompt them to tell their stories. I love the stories of the search for the land (near and far) and their inquiries of Babaji on what to do. What to do! My personal story continues from my heart and on my path… JAI!