Founding Member Feature: Girija

Girija, part of the Centre family

I was born into a very loving family, in Montreal, Quebec. It was my parents’ influence that gave me the inspiration to explore life. In that atmosphere, and from a very young age, I met quite a few spiritual teachers, some pure, some not so pure. Some of these popular teachers got caught up in sexual experiences with their followers. Very quickly I could see through the game they were playing; that was not what I was looking for in a teacher.

Girija and kids with Babaji

I had a sense of what I wanted, having been exposed to Eastern philosophy from an early age, and gravitated toward it very quickly.

I came to BC in the early 1970s. I knew of Baba Hari Dass from Ram Dass’ book, ‘Be Here Now’, and knew that he was a teacher of repute. I was told Babaji was in California, so I headed to San Francisco. The man who gave me a ride to the airport couldn’t find the address where Babaji was staying, but when I jumped out of the car to catch the plane, I found the address under my foot! I hitchhiked up to Davis and managed to find my way to the house of Ma Renu, the woman who sponsored Babaji to come to North America. Unfortunately they had just left the day before for a retreat in Santa Rosa. Here I was, nineteen years old, hitchhiking by myself, not knowing where I was going – and I just missed him – so I headed back to San Francisco, then hitchhiked back to BC.

Atop Roger's Pass, BC

I was living a wild life, with no restrictions from my family, doing whatever I wanted. I don’t know how my parents managed me, but my mom would rein me in whenever I’d show up, and she’d tell me about the benefits of meditation over LSD.

There were several of us living communally in Belcarra Park, up Indian Arm, BC. That’s where I met Alan (later Shankar). A group of us were running Manna Natural Foods in Burnaby, living in a big house, but that’s a whole other story. After many adventures exploring raw foods, living in Mexico and Guatemala, always following our interest in spirituality and health, we ended up at the Swami Sivananda Ashram in Quebec, taking our Yoga Teacher Training at the same time as Janaki and Raghunath (then Penny and Rodney). Having been there twice before with my mother, at age 12 and then 14, I knew the teachings there were pure.

In 1974 I finally met Babaji, and that’s when he gave me the name Girija. I knew I could trust him and that he was a true yogi (along with Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnudevananda). There was no need for me to search anymore; I had come home. I could talk with Babaji so easily.

My kids

Over the years I’ve had four children, and all of them have been part of the love that I’ve received from everyone in my whole life, including Babaji. I’ve been fortunate to have him, and others, to show an example of living according to the principles I believe in, Ashtanga Yoga and Ayurveda, and other forms of the Vedic philosophies, passed down throughout the ages. With the guidance of my teachers, Babaji in particular for the past 38 years, I’ve been shown how we can live in this world. I consider Babaji my spiritual teacher, but I don’t put him up on a pedestal; he always taught that the guru is within us. If we live by the principles of Ashtanga Yoga, we will eventually become aware of who we are, our true selves, the true guru within us all. That’s the message I always receive from Babaji.

It doesn’t matter what you do in this life; it’s how you do it. That’s the essence of what yoga tries to teach us, and Babaji exemplifies this. Babaji supported me and encouraged me in pursuing my natural inclinations to study health care in one form or another, and introduced me to Ayurveda. I’ve studied western herbology, Native American herbology and Ayurveda. My interest in alternative medicine is a deep karmic thing; my father was a very good medical doctor and a medicine man in a deeper sense. When I’m helping others in their health pursuits, it’s a deeply satisfying feeling.

Ex-hubby sings love song to ex-wife and her new husband ... evolution!

In the 1990s, I was a paramedic, teaching yoga and preparing ethnobotanical gardens for the native community in Alert Bay, tree planting, doing triathlons and raising four kids. We lived in a small community, and help was needed on BC Ferries, so they hired me. I was working for the ferries and part time as a paramedic (not to mention all the other stuff), plus I had enrolled in nursing school, which Babaji had suggested for years. So what did I do? I became a marine engineer!

All in all, I have found the basic understanding of one’s self is the most important. No matter how many marriages, children, and careers I’ve had, mountains I’ve skiied, retreats I’ve attended in the jungles of South India, looking into how I conduct my life, ‘self inquiry’, is paramount. Understanding gratitude, learning from each experience, good or bad, that is my journey. Allowing the Truth of who I am, not the person next to me, but MYSELF, is the greatest gift I can give to humanity. When one sees the Truth of your own Realized Self, you will always shine and give, naturally. This is what Babaji has allowed me to witness through His example.

3rd Engineer on BC Ferry's Queen of Surrey

I am honoured to have known Baba Hari Dass and wish only to continue developing myself to allow my inner Truth to reveal itself and bring me back to my natural state, Self Realized Awareness. With that knowledge I can never judge, nor never criticise, and only support and love all, no matter where I live, work or play. This was Babaji.

Girija in South India

My involvement at the Centre has always revolved around the teaching of Ayurveda. I still enjoy working as a marine engineer, I enjoy the people I work with, and I’m also still studying, practicing and teaching Ayurveda. Ayurveda and Ashtanga Yoga are my life.
I hope I will have the pleasure of meeting everyone, again, at the Salt Spring Centre.

Girija and son, Adrien, after, Girija's run with Olympic Torch, 2010

Om Shanti Om,
Girija

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6 responses to “Founding Member Feature: Girija”

  1. Bhavani says:

    I love reading your fascinating story, of which I have been a part – for all these 38 years! You have always been a bright point of light in my life – through your teaching, your guidance, your elegant style, your shining example of living a service-full life, yet most of all, your loving presence. I am honored that we have been, and continue to be, Satsang sisters.

    Much love and many blessings,
    bhavani
    from mount madonna

  2. Paramseshwari says:

    Thanx Girija for sharing the whole story. I too have been a part of this story with you for 35 years and have felt the same way about having the opportunity to spend time and learn from such an honest pure Guru. Babaji has been an integral force in helping us to create such a strong standing community for so long. Our Satsangs, BC, Toronto and California have been a family for myself and so many people. You have been a sister to many us, for that I am grateful. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

    Abrazos y Besos

    Paramseshwari

    Miami/ Santa Cruz

  3. Girija you are such a shining light in these Kali Yuga times!! From the moment I met you at my first retreat in 1981, you have inspired me with your modern day yogi ways. I remember how you would always be in a good mood no matter what else was going on, and how even with small children you were up doing your sadhana in the pre-dawn. When I had a hard time waking up so early you told me just to dump a bucket of cold water over my head at 3 ;30 am and that would work!! Well it did and I have been an early riser ever since!!
    Your love and dedication to Babaji is so beautiful to witness, you have taken his teachings to heart and spread them around and embodied them with the love of your own heart.
    And I love how you are glowing older instead of growing older!! Thank you for sharing such joy, love and laughter over all these years.
    your forever sister in the heart,
    love you eternally,
    Rainbow

  4. rose says:

    hello girija – i knew i knew you when i saw your photo – we met at the potlache for eva’s father, and then bumped into each other in a public washroom some years ago – i so enjoyed reading your story and re-connecting again – you are a light of love : )

    peace and joy, rose

  5. Rajani says:

    Ahhh yes sweet sister Girija….We too have been connected for some 30 years now…you are definitely a bright light and a woman of so many amazing tales and talents.
    I have such fond memories of you, your family, your children and our journeys together….We are so blessed to have Babaji in our lives, his teachings, his wisdom and his playfulness.
    You, my friend are a rare gift, one that I cherish deeply.

    Blessings…

    Rajani …. still on Salt Spring Island.

  6. Mothe (Mo-tay) Gyaneshwar says:

    you know it would have been a lot easier if you just mentionned the things you HAVEN’T done! I couldn’t believe you were/are a backcountry skier. I’ve done a few backcountry ski trips to Rogers Pass area; Balu Pass, Bostock Creek, up the IIlecelewat Glacier, staying at the Wheeler Hut etc., great area…as long as you stay on top of the avalanches. It’s obvious that all the Ashtanga Yoga you’ve done over the years has had a real powerful effect on you, I couldn’t believe you bent that thick solid iron bar into a horseshoe shape bolt in that marine engineer photo, and kept smiling the whole time. It was great running into recently at Kits pool, and talking about web page/site building etc. Hope to see you at retreat

    Mothé Gyaneshwar

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