Before meeting Babaji
Prior to meeting Babaji, I was a wild child: I owned a motorcycle, I skydived, and I did lots of illicit drugs – but I was looking for something else. When I was around 20 or 21, I listened to a recording (vinyl record) of Be Here Now by Ram Dass. A little later when I got the book, I opened it up to the photo of Babaji, and I thought, “What an interesting face. I’d like to meet someone like that.”
In 1972 a friend of mine told me about her aunt and uncle, who lived on Barnston Island. She said they were very reclusive but drove every week to UBC to go to a yoga class taught by a fellow named AD. The Barnston Island couple were Abha and Mahesh, still known then as Raye and Roy.
Meeting Brian (Sri Nivas)
Brian was a young man who lived with Raye and Roy. The first time I met Brian, he’d been working on his car, a Triumph. When he stood up I saw he was wearing pants that were way too short and tied up with binder twine, a torn tee shirt with oil splattered all over it as well as his face. He had a big, bushy beard and long hair tied up in a pony tail. I looked at him and thought, “Yuck!”
I, on the other hand, was a secretary in a large engineering firm and had a brand new car and my own apartment. Brian was definitely not what I was looking for. I went to visit Raye and Roy every month for about a year, but didn’t pay much attention to Brian.
One day when I went to Barnston Island, Raye and Roy weren’t there, so I started to leave. Brian said, “You know, you don’t have to leave. Do you want a cup of tea?” We went for a walk and I liked the way he walked – with ease and confidence, like he knew where he was going. Three days later he asked me out; three weeks later we were talking about getting a place together; three months later we moved in together.
In the summer of 1974 Babaji came to the Spruce Street house in Vancouver. The first time I heard kirtan, I thought it was weird; all the women were in front, shaking their heads, waving their arms, banging on tambourines; it was bizarre – but I was intrigued by Babaji.
We didn’t go to the 1975 Yoga Retreat in White Rock because we thought you had to be really advanced to take part, and we didn’t know much about yoga. In August of 1976 we got married and went to the Yoga Retreat in Oyama on our honeymoon. I was sitting next to Babaji when there was an announcement over the PA system, asking for karma yogis to clean toilets. I started to get up, then thought it would be disrespectful to Babaji, so I started to sit down again – but then I looked at Babaji, who waved his hand to say, “Go!” So for our honeymoon I cleaned toilets and Brian fixed vehicles and hauled garbage.”
At the 1980 Yoga Retreat SN and I were uncomfortable about how a lot of the kids were behaving, and SN asked Babaji several questions about childrearing Babaji grinned and asked, “Do you want to have a child?” SN admitted that we’d been thinking about it; Mallika was born the next May.
Life on Salt Spring
The Centre property was purchased in June of 1981 and we were the first satsang family to move from the mainland to Salt Spring Island. The Centre house was a mess; when I looked at the place and realized how huge the job would be to get it into shape, I couldn’t see we how we could get it ready for a retreat. Once we did get it up to snuff and started running programs and retreats, I was on the housekeeping crew of two – Anuradha and I. For years it was that way; we did everything; it was a huge job. During this time, I also managed Artcraft for 5 summers, and then Waterfront Gallery for 10 years. In addition I was on the Salt Spring Centre school board for quite a few years.
During all those years, probably the most important thing that Babaji taught me is that you don’t have to be tough to be strong, that there is tremendous strength in softness. He also taught me that supporting projects behind the scenes is every bit as important – and maybe more important – than leading them. The biggest lesson of all is that love and devotion are the way to God. Even in the parts that were hard, Babaji was always there to catch me. I finally got to retire from housecleaning, and now my role is behind the scenes – supporting SN in his role at the Centre, teaching pranayama, meditation and restorative yoga, kirtan, and arranging flowers for God. I feel incredibly lucky. I have a fantastic marriage of 35 years, a wonderful 30 year old daughter, a beautiful home, and best of all, we have satsang and Babaji in our lives.