Satsang – Keeping the Company of Truth Seekers

We generally think of satsang as the gatherings where we get together and sing. It is that – and it is more than that. The word satsang refers to both the formal gatherings we hold, when we sing and meditate together, and to our spiritual community, our spiritual family.

Satsang is like a boat in which all passengers are carried away together to their destination. To a boat, no passenger ranks higher or lower. Similarly the teachings of satsang are equal to all. Singing God’s name together, chanting prayers together, performing spiritual rituals together – all of these activities are conducive to our spiritual development.

Sat means Truth. Satsang means being in the company of spiritually minded people seeking Truth.

Our minds are deeply affected by the people with whom we associate.

It is natural for people to gravitate toward people who radiate peace, compassion, love and truth. In the company of such people we are inspired and our own seeds of peace sprout. When we associate with people who live virtuous lives we find that we begin to live more virtuous lives.

A cotton thread can cut an iron bar if passed over it daily. If you work on yoga, yoga will work on you.

I hope you enjoy these satsang photos from Dharma Sara’s early years (1975-1995).

1975 – satsang on the rocks: Sudarshan, Sharada, Soma, Sanatan, Anuradha, Ravi Dass, Aparna, Daya, Lalita, Keshav

This was several years before we began the search for land. This photo was from a gathering at Belcarra Park near Deep Cove in North Vancouver where a couple of satsang families lived. A group of us spent the day there, complete with satsang, sauna and dinner.

1975 – Soma, Sharada, Karuna (and one person whose name I don’t remember)

This photo was taken at the raspberry farm in Abbotsford, BC where a few satang families lived. Every Sunday we gathered there for satsang , singing and spending time together.

1977 Oyama Retreat – Babaji teaching hand mudras

The first yoga retreat was held in 1975 at a camp in White Rock, BC. During the next few summers we held our retreats at a camp in Oyama BC in the Okanagan. Some people you may recognize in the above photo are BND, Mandira and Kalpana.

1982 – first retreat at the Centre – Badri Dass, Shyam (choosing a candy), Babaji

satsang during the annual yoga retreat in 1986

1991 – Sampad and Divakar with Babaji

Joel and Babaji, 1992

satang 1993 – men’s side – Madhav, Om PK, Ramesh, Divakar

satsang 1993 – women’s side – Anuradha, Mayana, Kishori, Anapurna, Bhavani S., Sharada, Chanchala,
Chandra Kala, Bhavani C.

1993 – kids getting candy from Babaji

satsang 1995 – Mark, Ashwin, Purna, Madhav

satsang 1995 – Karuna, Anuradha, Rajani, Mayana, Pratibha, Nayana, Radhika

For many years we were blessed with Babaji’s presence at our annual yoga retreats. Although it’s been a few years since he’s been here, his presence is everywhere on the land. Sunday satsang, Wednesday evening kirtan, ACYR (Annual Community Yoga Retreat), YTT (Yoga Teacher Training) and YSSI (Yoga Service and Study Immersion) continue to strengthen our spiritual foundation and spread the love and the joy of being together as a spiritual family.

Here’s one more photo of spontaneous kirtan on the mound at last year’s ACYR.

Madhav, Kishori, Radha, Harreson, Brian, Raven, Anuradha

Please join us for satsang if you can. If you live in the Vancouver area, you can connect with the satsang community there. Wherever you are, the song commonly known as the wedding song reminds us that “Whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name, there is Love.”

Jai Gurudev!

Contributed by Sharada
All text in italics is from writings by Baba Hari Dass


 

Sharada-Portrait-2016 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.

Jai Sita Ram! Jai Hanuman! Ramayana 1982-1999

Jai Sita Ram! Jai Hanuman!
Ramayana 1982-1999

You may have seen one of the Ramayana productions on Salt Spring over the years, or possibly one of the most recent Ramayana revivals in the Pond Dome at the Centre in 2014, 2015 or 2016. You may also have seen one of the spectacular Ramayana productions done by Mount Madonna School. The play is fun and exciting, and it also has deep meaning.

The Ramayana is an ancient story filled with symbolism. Rama is the God principle in everyone, while Sita represents human consciousness in the embodied soul. In the story Sita is abducted by the demon king Ravana, who represents the deluded ego. In the esoteric allegory, the individual soul loses contact with the higher Self when it is overpowered by material desires and, left defenseless, is kidnapped by egoism. In Ravana’s kingdom Sita tormented by demons, representing negative thoughts and tendencies. Hanuman, the epitome of faith and devotion, sets out to rescue Sita, with his army of monkeys, symbolizing the restless yet positive energies of the mind. In the inner analogy, the process of spiritual struggle really begins with the practice of spiritual disciplines to control the restless, scattered mind. When Rama arrives in Ravana’s kingdom, battles ensue. As in many epics – including Star Wars – the battles are between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. In the end, Ravana is vanquished and Rama and Sita are reunited.

During Dharma Sara Satsang’s first yoga retreat in 1975 we were entertained one evening by a group from Hanuman Fellowship that performed some scenes from the Ramayana – the first most have us had ever seen. It was colourful and fun, complete with costumes, props and music. Who remembers AD doing yoyo tricks in Ravana Court?

We were inspired, but it wasn’t till we had our first retreat on ‘the land’ (which is what we called the Centre in the earliest years) that we held our first production of the Ramayana, in 1982. People arriving from Vancouver and elsewhere were told they were going to be in the show and were given their parts – so not a lot of rehearsal time. That tradition has been revived in recent years.

The first show was held in the old hay barn (where the Garden House is now). The cast included Ravindra as Rama, Sanatan as Ravana and Kalpana as Mandodari. Ravana’s heads were too wide to get through the opening in the set so he had to come through sideways. Usha was taking care of the little monkeys elsewhere as there was no backstage area. Unfortunately it was dark and they got lost on the way to the barn. Madhav improvised for a full 5 minutes, singing “monkeys by the seashore.”

Ramayana in the barn: Barry as Aksha, Divakar as Ravana’s minister, Sanatan as Ravana.

Ramayana in the barn: Barry as Aksha, Divakar as Ravana’s minister, Sanatan as Ravana.

Photo by Raghunath (Rodney Polden)

Photo by Raghunath (Rodney Polden)

The next Ramayana performance took place in the upstairs of the school building. The fact that it was still unfinished turned out to be a boon; it meant that Vidyasagar as Sugriva, the king of the monkeys, could enter by climbing on the rafters overhead and dropping onto the stage. Here are a few photos from that year.

Waiting for the show to start. 1984.

Waiting for the show to start. 1984.

Caption for above photo: Daya (dressed for the moonwalk in Ravana Court), Vasudev (playing Ravana, but not yet in costume)

Daya (dressed for the moonwalk in Ravana Court), Vasudev (playing Ravana, but not yet in costume)

After that – in 1985 I think – we staged the Rock Ramayana, a 1950’s version of the classic story. Unfortunately, we don’t have any photos from that show. There was a video, but it seems to have disappeared. Varuna spent most of the retreat recording songs on a cassette tape for the actors to lip synch to. PK, wearing a blue suit, played a very cool Rama. Daya played Sita, wearing a full skirt with a crinoline underneath, and bobby socks – and chewing gum throughout. Rish was Ravana, a bad dude wearing a black leather jacket and riding a motorcycle. When he abducted Sita, he sang “Come and go with me.” When Rama arrived to rescue Sita, she sang to Ravana, “My boyfriend’s back and you’re gonna be in trouble.” People in the audience loved it! Babaji didn’t understand any of the cultural references and didn’t see what it had to do with the Ramayana, but he laughed and enjoyed it anyway.

The 1988 Ramayana was performed by kids and was held in the high school gym in town – Ganges, the main town on Salt Spring Island.

Babaji tying Arianna’s dhoti. She played the part of Rama in 1988.

Babaji tying Arianna’s dhoti. She played the part of Rama in 1988.

Babaji with some of the cast, 1988: Sunmoon as Sita, Arianne as Rama, Jaya as Lakshman

Babaji with some of the cast, 1988: Sunmoon as Sita, Arianne as Rama, Jaya as Lakshman

From then on – until recent years, the cast was all (or mostly) kids. Eventually the cast grew to about 70 kids – and almost as many on the production team and backstage.

Here is an assortment of Ramayana photos from 1989 – 1999, the last year of the Centre’s Ramayana performances until productions were revived in 2014.

The choir in 1989: Rajani, Anuradha, Hamsa, Kishori, Ramesh on guitar.

The choir in 1989: Rajani, Anuradha, Hamsa, Kishori, Ramesh on guitar.

1989 Ma Renu fixing Jatayu’s (played by Sunya) toes backstage.

1989 Ma Renu fixing Jatayu’s (played by Sunya) toes backstage.

Daya doing Nayana’s makeup for her role as Mandodari. 1995.

Daya doing Nayana’s makeup for her role as Mandodari. 1995.

Farishta as Surpanaka

Farishta as Surpanaka

Demon princes played by Hamsa and Jaya, with Sunmoon as Sita

Demon princes played by Hamsa and Jaya, with Sunmoon as Sita

Pavan, playing either Bonehead or Hooknose.

Pavan, playing either Bonehead or Hooknose.

Surpanaka and Ravana

Surpanaka and Ravana

Temple dancers: Leala and Mamata

Temple dancers: Leala and Mamata

Marich

Marich

Meghnad

Meghnad

Battle between Lakshman and Meghnad

Battle between Lakshman and Meghnad

Guha washing Rama’s feet

Guha washing Rama’s feet

Babaji tying Caleb’s turban. Caleb played the part of the hermit. 1999

Babaji tying Caleb’s turban. Caleb played the part of the hermit. 1999

Babaji wrapping Rama’s dhoti. Piet played Rama in 1999.

Babaji wrapping Rama’s dhoti. Piet played Rama in 1999.

If this leads you to wanting to watch the most recent Ramayana videos, here they are:


And come to the 2017 ACYR for more! Jai Sita Ram! Jai Hanuman!

Contributed by Sharada, with gratitude to Babaji for getting all this going, and to the many, many people who participated in Ramayana productions over the years – producing, making costumes and props, directing, choreographing, acting, singing, doing makeup, helping backstage, working hard and having fun. Bravo to all of you!

Our Centre Community: Indira/Uma/Cynthia Bennett

Mason, Meera, Cynthia and Angelica

Mason, Meera, Cynthia and Angelica

A dear friend introduced me to Baba Hari Dass when I was on my way back from my first trip to India in 1977. I had driven a van from London to Kathmandu and had been away from home for two years. I stopped in on my friend at her home in Hilo, Hawaii for a bit of R&R before facing the “real world”. She gave me the Yellow Book for the flight home and I read it all. Later that summer, I came across a poster on 4th Avenue in Vancouver, with Babaji’s face on it inviting anyone who was interested to come to a yoga retreat in Oyama, BC, so a few friends and I determined to go check it out.

Cynthia in India

Cynthia in India

1985 - satsang at the Centre with Babaji. Uma on left, holding Mason.

Satsang at the Centre with Babaji. Uma on left, holding Mason, 1985

When I met Babaji for the first time I felt very shy, even though I felt such a connection with him. I had been exposed to yoga before, TM, at high school, and Iyengar through a friend, however I found his teaching just what I was looking for, a balance of meditation, pranayama and asana, with common sense sprinkled in. I joined the Vancouver Satsang, and when the group started looking for land and moved to Salt Spring Island, I determined that I would move and raise my young family there.

Meera and Babaji, 1985/6

Meera and Babaji, 1985/6

My family was raised on the island with the Centre being the core of our lives there. My children, Meera, Mason and Angelica all spent every summer getting ready for the retreat and the children’s Ramayana. We made costumes, practiced the dances and generally spent a lot of time at the Centre. They all went to the Centre School, and had a wonderful foundation with Usha, Frances and the other teachers. When they tell friends now about their experiences at the Centre, and the people they met and the schooling they had many think it sounds idyllic, and it was!

Mason-Ramayana

Mason performing in the Ramayana, aged 7 or 8

Angelica1

Angelica at the Centre garden, 1992

I also cherish the memories of the other things we did at the Centre back then. Sid used to bring in amazing musicians, and we could sit in the main room and listen to these amazing artists so close. It gave all of us an appreciation being able to see and hear so close to the musicians. There was the Christmas Faire, with all of us hanging out for the weekend with our crafts and wares. There were Satsang dinners, and of course Satsang itself with singing and readings. Way back then Babaji used to come and spend time with all of us on the island. I also had the honor of having Babaji and his entourage stay at my home.

Meera-play

Meera (on left) in Macbeth, performed by Salt Spring Centre School students, 1998

When my grandson Devon was born, Meera and I went up to Santa Cruz to introduce him to Babaji. Of course Babaji stuck a lollipop into his mouth! This has been a tradition with all of my children and of course any of the children who visit Babaji. I don’t know if any my future grandchildren will meet Babaji, however his influence is in all of our lives has been profound and reliable. Therefore, he is in our hearts and that transmission from him to us will be there for them.

meera_oliver_devon

Meera, Devon & Oliver

mason and shelane

Mason & his fiancee Shelane

angelica and david

David & Angelica

Nowadays, I am living in the Los Angeles area, helping my elderly father. I think because of Babaji’s teaching I can see this part of my life through the eyes of a yogi, being of service to loved ones, and having it be a part of my practice. And I have started a business here as well. It is called Devon’s Drawer, after my grandson and my father. I design and manufacture organic and natural outerwear for children. All my kids are involved in one way or another, so I see it as a family enterprise. And Devon gets to try on the items to determine size and fit, and he gets first choice!

Over the years my relationship with the Centre has been one of family, and I always love to come “home”. I moved off the island and away from the Salt Spring Centre some time ago, but I am glad that the foundation years for me and my family was shared with my Satsang friends. I have used Babaji’s teachings in Ashtanga Yoga as a blueprint for my life. I am a beginner after all of these years, still working on perfecting the Yamas, and Niyamas. I feel that yoga for me is a practice of starting over again and again! After all it is a practice.

Our Centre Community: Glenda Saraswati Garcia

Beckoned by a Teacher and a Community

Saraswati

Saraswati

You might think that the remote, cold, north of Saskatchewan is a most unusual place to find a yoga Guru, but in the winter of 2008, that’s exactly what happened to me.

Living in Northern Saskatchewan

Living in Northern Saskatchewan

At the time I was living in La Ronge, Northern Saskatchewan, working as a dietitian and enjoying a sweet and humble yoga inspired life. Earlier that year, when I arrived for my post as Regional Dietitian, I had wasted no time to share my love of yoga, and in turn, to establish a yoga community. I started off by teaching fitness classes on the weekends at the local elementary school. Actually, the fitness classes were yoga classes in disguise, and the students were no fools to my trick. When I told them that I was actually showing them how to do yoga poses, which required not only physical movement but also connection with the breath and mind, they were quite interested and surprisingly started to ask for more. I openly started teaching yoga in the evenings at the community centres, and even managed to convince my boss to allow me to hold classes in the boardroom of the small hospital I worked at. I quickly became known as the “yoga lady” (there were no other yoga teachers in the area) and was teaching classes several times a week, and holding weekend workshops regularly. I also began teaching yoga programs for children in the schools, and later went on to create a diabetes prevention curriculum for elementary schools based on yoga and nutrition.

With a group of yogis in the North

With a group of yogis in the North

Though I had been practicing asana for several years and had taken a 200 hour yoga teacher training, my own practice was just developing. As I dove into teaching a community of dedicated students, I realized that to serve them well I needed guidance. I feverishly read books on yoga and was diligent and dedicated to my daily practice, but I felt a void that needed to be filled by a teacher. There was only so much revealed wisdom that I could conjure in the cold, remote north! Luckily, one morning as I sat reading at my kitchen table, I remembered an excerpt from a magazine article that I had read a few years before. The article had been about Yoga Retreat Centres, and the excerpt had mentioned Mount Madonna Centre (MMC). It was barely a paragraph long, but it stated that the centre had a Guru teaching onsite. That morning I felt summoned to Mount Madonna Centre to meet Baba Hari Dass, even though I knew nothing about him. For some reason, I thought that he could help fill my void for guidance.

Mount Madonna

Mount Madonna

For the next six months I worked hard to arrange my life so that I could spend two months taking part in the Yoga Service and Community (YSC) program at MMC. In June of 2009, I arrived at Mount Madonna Centre and instantly knew that I had arrived home to my family. That first day I had dinner in the Community Building with Babaji and felt completely at ease. I knew that I had found the teacher that would guide me in sharing yoga with the world.

Devotion at Mount Madonna Centre

Devotion at Mount Madonna Centre

I filled my cup of knowledge with yoga, and after the two month YSC program returned to Northern Saskatchewan to continue teaching yoga. Empowered by my teacher and his teachings, I began to teach pranayama and meditation. To my surprise, these offerings were well attended and frequently requested. I will never forget the class when one of the native elders of the community came up to me after a discussion and said this about Ajna Chakra: “you know, that is the same point on the forehead that we concentrate on in our traditional rituals.” I realized the universality of the practice and why it could be so well accepted even in the remote north.

Mask making for ytt 500

Mask making for ytt 500

At the end of 2009, I returned again to MMC, this time for 6 months. During this time I was able to become even more integrated in the community and to learn even more about yoga. I was able to experience a variety of yogic celebrations, ceremonies, rituals, and classes. I also embarked on furthering my yoga teaching skills by enrolling in the first modular YTT 500 program at the centre.

Burning of masks at tantra ceremony

Burning of masks at tantra ceremony

That year while enjoying my time at MMC, I met Lakshmi McPhee from the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga (SSCY). She encouraged me to come up to Salt Spring Island and visit the yoga centre. She presented such a wonderful picture that I simply felt I had to go. That summer I ventured to the Salt Spring Centre and took part in the Karma Yoga program. Similar to my arrival at MMC, when I stepped onto the property at the SSCY, I felt Babaji’s presence and knew that there I was also home.

8 teaching ytt at SSCY

Teaching YTT at SSCY

 YTT at SSCY

YTT at SSCY

The following year I returned to SSCY as an assistant for YTT. It was such an honor be a part of that program, to see the transformation that students go through as they integrate the teachings of Babaji. The YTT programs at SSCY and MMC are so special, and I feel that it boils down Babaji’s inspiration. Though he is no longer teaching for these program, his presence is felt. I have had the amazing fortune of teaching at several YTT programs and am continuously amazed at the power of his teachings.

Ramayana preparing to be Sita

Ramayana preparing to be Sita

7

Birthday at SSCY

In 2011 I decided to move to Victoria, BC in order to be closer to my SSCY family. Since then I have dedicated myself to being of service both at SSCY and MMC. Additionally, I have dedicated myself to sharing yoga and starting up little yoga communities wherever I go. Upon moving to Victoria I started a workplace yoga program for the hospital I work at. I started humbly with one class per week, but filled up quickly and had to turn people away. The program successfully expanded to ten classes per week! Many of the students have been practicing with me for three years now, and we have created a community of yogis at the hospital. Babaji’s teachings present a foundation that resonates with the students and I am so honored to be a medium through which these teachings can be shared.

I feel that I have been blessed in being called to the teachings of Babaji and to the centres that he has inspired. This calling not only allowed me to further my knowledge and practice of Yoga, but it also united me with my spiritual family. The people at MMC and SSCY are my brothers and sisters and I love them immensely. In 2012 while at the New Year’s Retreat at MMC, I was also blessed to connect with Piet, my wonderful partner in adventure and fun. He is a beautiful soul who is a long-time member of the community, and devoted student of Babaji. We seem to be on the same path.

Piet and I

Piet and I

This year, Piet and I decided to become more involved with our SSCY community. He coordinated the 40th Annual Community Yoga Retreat (it was a blast!!), and I became a member of the board of directors. We have many plans for the future, and our connection to our MMC and SSCY families is always integral in them.

SSCY Board, 2014

SSCY Board, 2014

I am eternally grateful for that morning in La Ronge when I found my teacher and my community. With a heart full of love, I look forward to a lifetime of involvement!

Our Centre Community: Emily Vimala Rose

The story of my connection to Babaji begins before my birth, and is perhaps more of a story about my family than about me. My parents met in university, and upon graduation, they began to search for some land. Their dream was to build a home and start a farm, and in the fall of 1980, they purchased 104 acres in Quebec. My dad’s family was from Hawaii, so my parents would spend the winters there and return to Quebec in the summers to work on building their home. My older sister was born the year after they purchased the property in Quebec, and shortly thereafter, my parents read the book, Be Here Now, and met Babaji. A year later, they spent some time working on building the Community Building at Mount Madonna Center in California. They had been hoping to see Babaji but didn’t know that he returned to India at that time of year. My parents were both vegetarian and were studying yoga practices and philosophy already, and Babaji became their guru. I was born in Hawaii in 1984, and in 1986, my younger sister was born in the newly completed home in Quebec. That was the only full year that we spent in Quebec.

My mom and her girls, fall 1986

My mom and her girls, fall 1986

My childhood was spent between Texas and our beautiful home in Quebec. My dad had gone back to school to complete a master’s degree in Architecture and Land Development, and my sisters and I loved school and our activities during the school year. Every May, we would return to our home in Quebec. We worked hard during those summer months helping in the gardens and raspberry fields, and in whatever chores were invented for us. Our summer job was picking strawberries for a neighbor’s strawberry farm at 65 cents for a 4L basket. I remember picking berries for a whole season and earning less than $100.

Although we were working hard, we also had a tremendous amount of fun and freedom. We had a playhouse that my dad built where we would spend hours playing. The local children all spoke French, so we learned to speak French in a true immersion setting in order to have any friends to play with. Long summer days were spent picking wild strawberries, swimming in our pond, and having campfires outside under the stars. Our life was connected to the Earth and my parents were our teachers, sharing the yogic teachings with us. They were devoted and gave selflessly to me and my sisters. We were living in a happy, warm and loving family. On our return to school in the fall, we would occasionally attend the Toronto retreats, where we would participate in the kids’ program. I remember particularly liking the See’s candy sticks that Babaji always gave us.

Our home in Quebec

Our home in Quebec

We moved to Colorado in the fall of 1995, as my dad had started his own company there. We loved the access to the outdoors, and almost every weekend was spent outside hiking or snowboarding in the mountains. In the spring of 1998, my little brother, Johnny was born. It was such a happy change for our family!

I attended Smith College for my undergraduate degree in Massachusetts. This was my first time away from my family, and I was thankful to have my older sister also at the same school. My little sister also attended Smith a couple years later. It was during my third year at Smith that we attended the New Year’s Retreat in California at Mount Madonna Center for the first time. Babaji still gave my sisters and I candy like he had done at the retreats in Toronto, and seemed interested in our lives, asking many questions. This was the last time we would have a family darshan with him, all together.

Sisters

Sisters

After graduating, I taught Spanish at an all-boys school in Connecticut, and pursued a master’s degree the year after at Boston University in Education with a specialty in foreign language education. I moved to Dallas, Texas in the fall of 2008, and began an amazing job teaching Spanish and coaching. With extended family close by and an inspiring job, I felt challenged and fulfilled. It felt like I was exactly where I was meant to be for a while, and after years of moving constantly, I felt ready to put down some roots.

Meeting the love of my life… New Year’s Retreat 2009/2010

Meeting the love of my life… New Year’s Retreat 2009/2010

Our family returned to the New Year’s Retreat in California in 2009. On the first evening, I smiled at Gabriel, and we spent a lot of the rest of the retreat smiling at each other. It felt like meeting someone whom I knew already, as if a previously unknown space was filled in my heart. Six months later, in July of 2010, I moved to Vancouver to begin sharing life with Gabriel, and a year later, he proposed under the most beautiful sunset at my family’s farm in Quebec. We were married in 2012 in Mexico, surrounded by family and friends.

Our families at our wedding

Our families at our wedding

Now, Gabriel and I help with the Vancouver satsang on Sundays here in Vancouver. We are thankful to Babaji for his teachings that are part of our daily life. We enjoy the time we are able to spend at Mount Madonna and Salt Spring Centre, as these places will always hold a sense of belonging for us. And most of all, we hold our family in a special place in our hearts and in our lives, knowing that our loving and supportive families have brought us to where we are today.

Emily Vimala Rose, part of our Centre community

Emily Vimala Rose, part of our Centre community

Our Centre Community: Mark Om Prakash Classen

Om Prakash, part of our Centre community

Om Prakash, part of our Centre community

The first time I saw Babaji, I was seventeen years old. I was in high school, eating from the Hare Krsna Cookbook, doing hatha yoga using Richard Hittleman’s books, and reading Autobiography of a Yogi and Be Here Now. I was an annoyance to my family with my dietary demands, sleeping on a mat on the floor in an empty bedroom. One day I was walking past Flying Monkey Store in Toronto and saw a magazine on a rack out front: Dharma Sara #1. I thought it was free, so I took one. On the cover was the image of a man who represented my ideal of the Himalayan yogi, beautific in features with an ascetic bearing. After reading the magazine from cover to cover, I put it aside.

OmPK (age 19) with sisters Wendy and Carelyn

OmPK (age 19) with sisters Wendy and Carelyn

I was a student of Yogananda at the time and often visited Song of the Morning Ranch in Northern Michigan which was run by Yogacharya Oliver Black, Yogananda’s oldest disciple. On moving to Calgary a few years later, I began working in Ambrosia Restaurant where we were deeply interested in Findhorn, akashic records and Alice Bailey. I also became good friends with Terry Willard, who taught me about tipi living and Native American herbs. I heard a rumour about Salt Spring Island and loaded my tipi poles to visit.

OmPK at Shyamspace Ashram 1979 with Ravichandra

OmPK at Shyamspace Ashram 1979 with Ravichandra

I remember arriving in Vancouver and hearing that Babaji was in town before the Oyama retreat. I went to an address in Point Grey and knocked on Ravindra’s door late in the evening. I asked if I could see Babaji, but they said he was asleep (I was not a socially astute individual). After a short stay on Salt Spring at Tassaday Farm, and then on Gabriola Island I began living at the Shyamspace ashram in Vancouver. Mayana lived next door and she introduced me to the Dharma Sara Satsang. At my first satsang I heard Anuradha sing and that was it. I signed up! We were looking for land all over BC, when finally Sudarshan found the property on Salt Spring and we all chipped in for the down payment. That summer I finally met Babaji at the Camp Elphinstone retreat.

At a chai shop in Kulu with Govind Shyam

At a chai shop in Kulu with Govind Shyam

Pitambar and Sumitra started farming at the Centre and I moved onto the land soon after, staying for about six months. At one point Anuradha, Vidyasagar and I decided to make a tape in the Centre library of all the kirtan in the Wings of Breath book (which had recently been published) using two mikes and a cassette deck. We sold those tapes for decades. In the fall I fulfilled a dream and travelled to India, visiting places like Ladakh, Kulu, Rishikesh, Badrinath and Almora. I crawled into Hariakhan Baba’s cave in Pandukoli, met Lahiri Mahasaya’s grandson in Varanasi, and meditated in Yoganada’s attic in Calcutta.

My mother Savitri in the SSC garden

My mother Savitri in the SSC garden

My sisters and niece came to retreats over the years and my mother, Savitri, stayed on the West Coast for several years. She helped me buy a VW van and I decided to teach her how to drive. We were on Blackburn Road, trying to turn around when she hit the accelerator instead of the brake and we smashed into the big fir tree by the driveway entrance!

Oops!

Oops!

In 1985 I moved to Santa Cruz for a year, visiting Mount Madonna each week, learning to play beach volleyball, African drumming with Arthur Hull and building houses with Govind and his crew. I fell in with the artists down there and started taking drawing classes at Cabrillo College, finally returning to UBC to get my Fine Arts degree.

Vedic wedding with Sanjivani (Rameshwar pujari)

Vedic wedding with Sanjivani (Rameshwar pujari)

It was up at the Whistler retreat in 1988 that I met my wife, Sanjivani. We moved to Salt Spring and had our first child, Sierra, in a portable yurt on Rameshwar’s property. Sanjivani was the administrator for the Centre School and one year they needed a teaching assistant, so I applied. I liked the work so much that I got my teaching certificate and taught the older kids at the school for the next six years. Usha was my teaching mentor and influenced the foundation of my educational philosophy.

Teaching at the Centre School (stepdaughter Mamata front row right)

Teaching at the Centre School (stepdaughter Mamata front row right)

During that time, our family had a second daughter, Ashé, and bought property on Sky Valley Road while working daily at the Centre: I designed several of the buildings (the school, garden house and isolation cabin), did lots of plumbing and electrical, and served on the executive for a few years. I recall one year we had a big debate about dishwashing. I tended to avoid dish duty and researched the purchase of a commercial dishwasher, but suddenly there was a big resistance to this idea because dishwashing by hand was recognized as a social event.

Several satsang members were in a marimba band that played around the island and at Saturday Market.

Shungu Marimba with Bhavani (2nd from left in front) and OmPK (back right)

Shungu Marimba with Bhavani (2nd from left in front) and OmPK (back right)

My marriage took a sad turn and my ex-wife and children moved to Nelson. I went back to school to get my Masters degree and became a principal, initially in First Nations communities in Klemtu and Kincolith and then in Harrison Hot Springs. That’s where I have been working for the last seven years. I have been blessed with Rajani’s companionship for the last 16 years and we like to travel the world, tend the garden on a small property on Mount Belcher and spend time in the wilderness on our little boat. I stay involved with the Centre as a sound technician, facilitating events, and telling tales at the Latte Da Stage.

OmPK and Rajani, 2009

OmPK and Rajani, 2009

Although I was often on the fringes, I feel like the Centre has always been my root and my home community. I felt that Babaji’s teachings were simple, clear and concise. In the early years, I thought it was my duty to be “official questioner” during Question & Answer, but with time my mind settled down and I could abandon that compulsion. With the assistance of my Centre friends and the buffeting of life’s events, I feel that I have softened the arrogance of my youth and feel comfortable slowly becoming an elder.

Shraddha ceremony for niece Saxon 1994, daughters Sierra (left) and Ashé

Shraddha ceremony for niece Saxon 1994, daughters Sierra (left) and Ashé

Babaji demonstrates sword technique at SSC Retreat 1982, SN and Mahesh behind

Babaji demonstrates sword technique at SSC Retreat 1982, SN and Mahesh behind

Our Centre Community: Vikash Markus Knox

Vikash at kirtan at the Centre a few years ago (photo from the Driftwood - local newspaper)

Kirtan at the Centre a few years ago (photo from the Driftwood – local newspaper)

I grew up near Boston, Mass. with one brother and one sister. My parents are Episcopalians (similar to Anglicans). During my confirmation process at the church, I was not able to get satisfying answers to my questions.

Vikash (then Mark), age 6, with his sister

Vikash (then Mark), age 6, with his sister

As a young man, my first inkling of spiritual life came to me in high school, ever since I started to think for myself as a young teen. My interest in spiritual life grew, getting more focussed in my senior year of high school, largely through reading Thoreau. I started to see spirit in nature, seeing nature as sacred, and I rejected the modern, industrial world as a misdirected human endeavour. That was me in a nutshell at the age of eighteen. I took long walks in nature – for three, four, sometimes five hours.

I went to to University in Massachusetts, wanting at first to be a medical doctor; two of my relatives were doctors. After two years I changed to wildlife biology. While at university I met the Hare Krishna devotees. I loved the chanting and the food – and they were able to answer all my questions.

I made the choice after two years of university to live on a Hare Krishna farm in West Virginia. My parents were not happy about my choice, but they respected my freedom to choose. It wasn’t easy for them. Regardless of how difficult it was for them, especially my mom, they still visited me there a couple of times. On the Krishna farm we lived a very disciplined and austere lifestyle. What kept me there for two and a half years was the fact that I felt a genuine spirit of devotion. Eventually, however, the dogmatic nature of the teaching, along with the rigors of the lifestyle, prompted me to leave in 1979.

Vikash's parents

Vikash’s parents

A year before I became a Krishna, I got my draft card. I was fortunate enough to narrowly miss the mandatory draft by about six months, so I didn’t have to go to Vietnam. Instead, the Krishna farm was a spiritual boot camp for me.

After I left the Krishna farm, I went on a two month, 600 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail, from central Mass. to northern Maine through four states: Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, then Maine. This was primarily to reorient myself; I was so inculcated in the Krishna farm that I wanted some time to reorient, to see what my life would be now.

I made a decision to study Comparative Religion at UC Santa Barbara, and do what was needed to establish residency in California. My old roommate from U. Mass. had moved to Santa Cruz, so I landed there and got a job at Staff of Life. After about a year of living there, I saw that there was so much living spirituality around me – Zen buddhists, Tibetan buddhists, master yogis, Native American teachers – I realized that this living spirituality was richer than sitting in a classroom, so I never enrolled in UC Santa Barbara. I did, however, become more interested in Baba Hari Dass. This was in 1983. It took time because I was disillusioned with Hindu gurus; the strong link was the beautiful kirtan.

At first I came to only the kirtan hour of satsang in Santa Cruz, but slowly I began listening to what Babaji had to teach. I found his view far more universal than that of the Krishna doctrine, so around 1986 I started going regularly to the whole satsang.

During my stay in Santa Cruz, I took a year off to travel around the world and spent time in India. I found India to be deeply spiritual, emanating from the land itself, though I was uncomfortable with the chaos and pandemonium of the modern culture of India. I visited with my parents upon my return, and then went back to Santa Cruz.

It was not obvious at first, but I found out that Babaji had a centre in Canada. Also, a friend was hosting a gathering on Salt Spring Island. In 1987 I travelled with a friend from India to Salt Spring where I attended the Celebration of Life at the Salt Spring Centre. I was enchanted by the beautiful grounds and the easy-going vibe of the people at the Centre, and decided I would like to move there. Meanwhile, I returned to Santa Cruz, moved to Mount Madonna Center in the fall of 1987, lived there for the winter and worked in the garden. On the spring equinox of 1988 I moved to Canada to live at the Salt Spring Centre, where I resided for two and a half years, living in the Phoenix Cabin (before it burnt down and got resurrected.). I must say I loved my time living in the Centre community very much, and enjoyed managing the garden.

1988 at the Centre - Vikash fingerpainting with Soma

1988 at the Centre – Vikash fingerpainting with Soma

In the fall of 1990 I was invited to live in a community in Maui. Because I didn’t have legal status in Canada – and because it was Maui – I decided to accept the offer and move there. I got work gardening on Maui and I built a rustic cabin, thinking I would live there for many years. However, towards the end of my stay in Maui, my daughter was born. Since things didn’t work out with her mom, I moved back to California; my daughter and her mom moved to the northeastern US to get support from my parents.

Vikash's daughter, Mahina (probably around age 6 or 7)

Vikash’s daughter, Mahina (probably around age 6 or 7)

I lived for two years in a remote, isolated commune in northern California called River Spirit, where I learned how to turn deer hides into clothing and make fire by rubbing two sticks together.

There were 11 adults and 11 children living there, and eventually I found the small number of adults to be socially claustrophobic. After getting a letter from Sanatan, I thought of Salt Spring and how I had enjoyed my life there. In June of 1998 I moved back. Sanatan found me a small room in Fulford village – a small, cement, basement room in the house Satya was renting. After several more moves, one of which was in Sanatan’s bus, I eventually landed at the “goat shed” on Weston Lake, with a beautiful yard and great landlady, where I lived for over ten years.

Claire and Vikash in front of the goat shed (where they lived)

Claire and Vikash in front of the goat shed (where they lived)

Vikash, Kamalesh, Henri, Sanatan, 2003

Vikash, Kamalesh, Henri, Sanatan, 2003

During these years I learned how to make beads out of rose petals. It came about as a need for livelihood in the winter season as my gardening work was largely over by the fall. After a false start making rose beads, a friend told me about a recipe for them, which I tracked down. I had success with that recipe, and rose bead making has now been my main livelihood for about 13 years. The beads are quite unique, and carry the fragrance of the rose for an amazingly long time. In fact, the term ‘rosary’ comes from the time the Catholics got the beads from the Muslims in the 1500s. The beads originated in India before Christ. I still sell the beads at the Saturday market, and I’m just setting up a website: www.rosepetalbead.com.

On August 22, 2012, I married Claire Ryder and we bought a house together in the south end of the island. My daughter, Mahina, has become very close with Claire’s daughters, Rose and Dorah. Claire and I go to satsang regularly and support the music with voice, me on drums, Claire on harmonium. We also host a Wednesday evening kirtan circle at the Centre.

Vikash and Claire a few years ago (before they were married)

Vikash and Claire a few years ago (before they were married)

Babaji’s teachings and presence over the years have enriched my spiritual life. I receive teachings from other spiritual teachers as well, and find the core message the same – the non-dual path of awakening, which is closest to my heart. I find myself a pretty grateful guy as to how my life has turned out: a great partner and family, a close-knit spiritual community and an extra beautiful environment. I have been a seeker for much of my life, and now I’m a finder! OM SHANTI

Our Satsang Family: Jeramiah Rajesh Morris

Jeramiah, part of the Centre family

Jeramiah, part of the Centre family

I was born in Florida in 1979 into a family of three sisters and my Canadian mother, Jeanine Paquet (Mamata). We left Florida when I was still a baby, to move to coastal British Columbia. My mother and I, along with her two sisters and their children all lived in a big house in Cloverdale.

the famous haircut, 1983

the famous haircut, 1983

In 1982 my mother saw a posting on a community board in the local health food store about a retreat with Baba Hari Dass on Salt Spring Island. This was the first she’d heard of Babaji, the Salt Spring Centre, and the island … and it was the beginning of my long experience with the Centre.

As long as I can remember the Centre has always felt like my home. After attending that retreat in 1982 my mother decided to move us to the Centre, and we became the first family to live on the property. Shortly after, Sid and Sharada moved into their home along with Nayana and Daya. Mangala came later with Ariel and Caleb, and Maya and Piet lived there for a time with their dad, Marc. My mother and I lived in the main house in various rooms upstairs over the years.

Nayana and I were the best of friends in those early years, and we had the run of the whole land all to ourselves. I would frequently wake up at the crack of dawn before everyone else, run down to Nayana’s house, and steal her clogs (they were made of blue transparent plastic). Well, they were attractive and I liked wearing them! Each time I did this my mother insisted I return them before receiving breakfast. When I was two or three Nayana and I decided to get married, and she wore a twist-tie wedding ring to show it.  I believe we later divorced.

Caleb, Ariel, Jeramiah, 1985 or 86.

Caleb, Ariel, Jeramiah, 1985 or 86.

Growing up at the Centre was like having a very large family, which was a gift to me as most of my family lived across the country and were not a part of my life.

In 1984 I began my first year of school at the Centre School, where I continued on for at least half of my primary education. Back then, there were a dozen or so of us downstairs in a large room, which has now been divided up into KY quarters.

My mother and I moved off the centre property, only to return a few years later for another stint when I was 7 years old. Whether we were living at the centre or elsewhere on the island, the Centre continued to play a major role in my life. I attended school and we participated in weekly satsang and regular retreats.

With Babaji at Blackburn Lake (when we had access to the lake from the Centre), 1986

With Babaji at Blackburn Lake (when we had access to the lake from the Centre), 1986

Of course, as a child, satsang and retreats just meant really awesome extended play time and visits from Babaji! He was like a grandfather to us as children. I remember getting so excited to receive the daily Prasad candy. One time I stood at the foot of the stairs outside of the kitchen – I couldn’t have been older than 3 or 4 – with Anuradha and Babaji at the top of the stairs looking down. I insisted that I hadn’t received my daily candy yet (which I believed to be true). I was devastated when they both agreed that I had already had my candy for the day and denied me any more! I was sure they were mistaken, but Sharada says Babaji always kept track and was surely correct.

I remember there always being so much going on in those early days of the community. I remember epic Halloween parties (there are photos in the library to prove it), retreats, countless festivals, and of course who can forget the original Hanuman Olympics?! Sack races, tug of war, obstacle courses … it was undoubtedly one of the highlights of every year for all of us.

In my later years at the Centre school our classroom was upstairs in the Satsang room and the library (which we called the piano room back then). There were no permanent fixtures in the classroom, only bookshelves on wheels that got turned around for weekend programs. Usha, being the teacher that she is, didn’t need any extra gimmicks!

School photo at Usha's house, 1987

School photo at Usha’s house, 1987

There were about 14 of us as I recall. Usha was an innovative and passionate teacher who brought us an education unlike what most kids would experience in public schools. In particular I remember being taught peaceful resolution to conflict. Each day we would sit in a large circle and Usha would dip into our ‘feedback box’ and pull out any slips that had been deposited by us kids. She would read the slip aloud, and the parties involved were coached on how to communicate their feelings and resolve the conflict with each other.

At lunchtime we would all run around the property with great excitement and complete freedom. We created forts, which soon turned into a full blown village called ‘The Bunny Homes’, complete with real estate agents, shopkeepers, police officers, restaurants and our own currency. Apparently the Bunny Homes still exist today, although the form and location has changed. We would also run down to the creek when it flowed in cooler months. Inevitably at least one of us would fall in each day, and would spend the afternoon wrapped in a towel in class while our clothes dried in the dryer.

When the school bell broke (it was a handheld old style metal bell) Usha would come outside at the end of lunchtime and sing, in her beautiful Usha style, ‘Ding-aling-aling time’. We would all protest and beg for ‘5 more minutes’! Occasionally, but not often, our request was granted.

In 1990 I left the Centre School to attend French Immersion at Salt Spring Elementary. I can recall feeling a little out of place in such a traditional setting, and it took some time for me to adapt to the normal schoolyard bullying and games that simply didn’t exist in our Centre School.

In 1992 we left the island to move to Kaslo in the Kootenays where my mother had purchased land and a home. This began a long gap in time where I didn’t see much of the Centre. I kept in touch with some friends, and occasionally would come back for visits, but we didn’t attend retreats for many years.

It was in 2002 that I re-established a strong connection to the Centre that has endured until today. I had been living in Vancouver attending college and working, and then living in Florida for a year. I moved back to BC at age 22 with a broken heart after ending my first relationship. Being in a state of pain and loss, I began to explore my own spirituality for the first time as an adult.

That year I attended the retreat as a participant and Karma Yogi for the first time. I attended my first asana class with Lila, an elder who taught well into her eighties. I will always remember her words in class, spoken in her gentle German accent, ‘Your body loves to be loved. Give your body love. There are no real excuses. Why wouldn’t you practice asana and give your body the love it wants to receive?’ This was the beginning of what would become a deep and disciplined yoga practice.

During the retreats of 2002 and onwards I reconnected with many childhood friends. In those years Babaji was still attending the retreats, and I did KY on rock crew on all of its many construction projects. I also worked in childcare and dish crew.

School reunion,2003

School reunion,2003

In 2003 I attended the Yoga Teacher Training program at the Salt Spring Centre thanks to a very generous scholarship from a longtime satsang member. This was an incredible education into all aspects of ashtanga yoga as taught by Babaji, and it shaped my yoga practice and my life thereafter. Later that year I traveled to Mount Madonna Centre in California to attend a two-month Karma Yoga program.

Yoga Queen by Babba. YTT talent show, 2003

Yoga Queen by Babba. YTT talent show, 2003

Getting to know Babaji and his teachings took on a whole new form in that period of my life. As a young adult I was eager to learn all that I could from him. It is perhaps the greatest gift of my life to have known him from such a young age: to have sat beside him at mealtime, to have heard his teachings in Gita class, and to have worked with him on rock crew and other projects. Because of this, yoga has always been an integral part of my life and I don’t remember a time that it wasn’t, in some shape or form.

In 2003 I also began a career at lululemon athletica which would span nearly 10 years. When I began it was a small startup company based in Kitsilano with 5 stores in Canada selling yoga apparel.

I began as a salesperson on the retail floor, and I expected to remain for only a month or two! I later became a valued member of the senior leadership team based in the Vancouver head office and traveling across North America. In the early years of the company we created a company culture based on many aspects of yoga, including ego awareness, communication, asana practice and more. My yoga practice and knowledge that I had learned from Babaji’s teachings was a great asset and influenced my leadership at lululemon. Without it, I’m not sure I would have progressed as far as I did with the organization.

By 2010 I was beginning to see that my time at lululemon was coming to a close. I yearned for a life more like the way I had grown up and also more consistent with Babaji’s teachings of living simply. It was a great spiritual yearning that became stronger and stronger, and soon could not be ignored.

Jeramiah7

With his mom, 2003

With Usha, 2003

With Usha, 2003

That same year I met a beautiful yogi. Michael grew up in North Saanich and spent years living overseas and traveling in India before we met. The next year, in 2011, Michael and I were together living in an apartment in Vancouver.

We shared a yearning for a simpler life, and in February of 2012 we moved to Salt Spring Island. Later in the year, I bought a 50-acre organic farm on Starks Road which is our home today.

As we were pulling blackberry brambles and reclaiming parts of our pasture this spring, I was struck with great respect for all of the work that has gone into the Salt Spring Centre over the years by so many people. In the 30 years I have known it, it has truly transformed and evolved in such a beautiful way.

My mother once told me that a guru’s energy can be felt long after his departure from his centre or ashram. I know this to be true at our Centre because I feel it always when I am there. It continues to be a place of peace and restoration for me.

I have great gratitude for Babaji and for the many satsang members who helped raise me. We are family! Thanks most of all to my mother for having the wisdom to take us to this special place.

Love,
Rajesh

Sharada & Jeramiah, 2013. (Jeramiah crouching to be closer to Sharada's height.)

Sharada & Jeramiah, 2013. (Jeramiah crouching to be closer to Sharada’s height.)

Our Satsang Family – Chandrika Lajeunesse

Candrika Lajeunesse, part of our satsang family

Candrika Lajeunesse, part of our satsang family

I was born on February 12, 1950, the same day as Abe Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Can you believe that those two were actually born in the very same year as each other? 1809, one in the USA and the other in England.

I grew up in Montreal with my brother who was five years older than I – Jerry (AD [Anand Dass] Tabachnick) and our mom and dad, Vivian and Louis. I have strong memories from our childhood, of playing scrabble with AD in his room, which usually had many orange peels lying about. We would also play a game of fast breathing – unbeknown to us at the time we were doing kapalbhati!

Chandrika and brother, AD

Chandrika and brother, AD

I recall AD inviting me to meet Ram Dass at a dinner, and shortly after that AD went to India to study with Babaji. I drove him to the train station. He was heading to New York, and from there to India. In typical AD fashion he had his belongings in only a large paper bag.

AD has always been a teacher for me. When he came back from India, he’d talk about yoga very naturally in our conversations, and I always appreciated that he shared it with me.

Early 80's, ("I still can't play this -- one day!")

Early 80’s, (“I still can’t play this – one day!”)

I graduated from McGill with a BA in psychology and then moved to the Gaspesie to do homesteading with my French Quebecois boy friend and close friends. During this time I attended a yoga retreat with Babaji in Ontario. I flew out to attend Dharma Sara’s first yoga retreat in White Rock, and AD and Ravi Dass met me at the airport; they were sitting on the ground in lotus position. That felt very natural to me as I was living in a French hippy community in the Gaspesie at the time.

When I met Babaji at the retreat, it was clear to me that there was a special energy in his presence. Several years later I moved back to Montreal from the Gaspesie, then came out to BC to attend my brother’s wedding to Kalpana, and remained in Vancouver. I worked at Rainbow’s End daycare centre which Dharma Sara Satsang had opened. Around that time I met Harvey Lajeunesse, my wonderful husband, while tree planting in BC. In 1983 I attended SFU for my teaching certificate program.

Chandrika and Harvey get married, February 1981

Chandrika and Harvey get married, February 1981

Chandrika at the start of her teaching career, 1985

Chandrika at the start of her teaching career, 1985

When AD passed away in August, 1988 we were devastated but on the very first year anniversary of his shradha memorial, our son Jarrad was born, and this eased our grieving. Named after Uncle AD, we turned Jerry into “Jarr”, added AD to the end; that is how we came up with that particular spelling of Jarrad’s name. Lisa was almost 3 years old and from day one she adored her brother, and they still are very close and great friends. Lisa, almost 2, had been present to say goodbye to Uncle AD in his hospital room where he died.

Camping, a Lajeunesse family tradition

Camping, a Lajeunesse family tradition

Jarrad with his girlfriend Emily, at the airport on his way to art school

Jarrad with his girlfriend Emily, at the airport on his way to art school

A couple of years later, on AD’s birthday – June 29 – I decided to make some copies of tapes in which AD was discussing the brain and yoga. As a child AD was a great yoyo player. So there I was, very emotional, trying to choose which cassette tapes to buy to make the copies. I was looking all around in London Drugs when I came upon something that blew me away. I had never seen anything like it – a large barrel full of blank cassette tapes from California, arranged in packages of 3 cassettes, each with a yoyo, all wrapped in cellophane together. I looked up towards the sky and said – ok AD, I will buy these cassettes, thanks for the help. When else did they ever sell cassette tapes with yoyos?

Our children Lisa (Sushila) and Jarrad (Raman) were raised going to satsang in Vancouver and attending various events at the SSCY during the year, including the annual yoga retreats. What a wonderful way to raise children! We all feel it is such a privilege and blessing to have been in Babaji’s presence so many times over the years, the kids catching candy prasad from him – so special.

Being given the name Chandrika (moonlight) had extra meaning to me because I had taught myself about the moon cycles back in the 70’s sleeping on the beach in Mexico. The waxing moon follows the sun towards the west and the waning moon leads the sun towards the west. I figure the moon rises about 48 minutes later each day (24 hours divided by 30 days = .8 and .8 of an hour = 48 minutes.) Yes?

Chandrika and daughter Lisa, Guru Purnima MMC, 2005

Chandrika and daughter Lisa, Guru Purnima MMC, 2005

Seeing the Centre evolve from the time of purchase in 1981 to its present state is a testament to the teachings, leadership, hard work and profound community spirit. The teachings, the magic of the retreats – talent shows, Hanuman Olympics, asanas, pranayama, meditation, enormous meal circles, fabulous food, reverberating Om’s, chants and music, Ma Renu, all the people, the gardens, the mound, Latté Da, the rock wall construction, Babaji’s omnipresence. I am so very grateful to have experienced all this. Working on the kids’ program at retreats was always great. Sharada used to give me long lists of supplies to get on the mainland. For a couple of years way back, Harvey and I hauled the high jump mat (several feet thick) to the Centre in our truck.

Having led many kirtan chants at Vancouver’s satsang was also so special. Another very important influence in my life is being part of this community in which age was not a factor. I have strong images of people teaching and working hard in this community well into their 70s and 80s. And so at 63 I continue to teach music and French at elementary school in the Coquitlam area. I love doing it – part time now – and haven’t felt the need to “retire” because of the strong image of people of all ages working together at the retreats at both SSCY and Mount Madonna Center. My aunt is 76 and teaches yoga in Montreal to seniors.

Jarrad did his Yoga Teacher Training at the SSCY in 2010. For me on an emotional level this completed a beautiful cycle – for our son – AD’s nephew – to be taught by several people who were AD’s students and friends, and Auntie Kalpana. I am so grateful that Jarrad had this opportunity to learn about his uncle whom he had never met and that everyone made personal connections to Jarrad regarding Uncle AD.

Jarrad and friends at the rock wall

Jarrad and friends (including sister Lisa and her now-husband Eric) at the rock wall

We have great Lajeunesse family parties and yearly camping gatherings with Harvey’s brothers, sisters-in-law and all our young adults and kids. I discovered a number of years ago that my sister-in-law, Gayle, has an aunt whose son lives at Mount Madonna. How incredible – quite the link from my husband’s side to our Babaji side. Madhukar is Gayle’s cousin, and his mother of 90ish years had been AD’s student back in the 70s. And my other Lajeunesse sister-in-law, Marnie, has a brother who lives on SSI and works with Ramanand. Small world!

My mother of 89 lives with us, and we feel it is an honour to care for her at this stage of her life. We all refer to her lovingly as “G-ma”. Still intelligent, loving, with a great sense of humour, she needs assistance because of memory issues. My kids always found it awesome to have a grandma living with us (15 years since my dad passed away). She is the epitome of “be here now” because her short-term memory doesn’t permit her to be anywhere else but in the present moment. We are continually learning from her; we see how she embraces her memory shortfalls with laughter – and that’s a good teaching I hope I can hold onto!

Ad and Chandrika's mom  Vivian (89), her sister Ruth, Chandrika and kids Lisa and Jarrad

Ad and Chandrika’s mom Vivian (89), her sister Ruth, Chandrika and kids Lisa and Jarrad

And speaking of grandparents, we are all so excited for the upcoming birth of Lisa and Eric’s baby boy in July. Naturally we will look for that little bit of Uncle AD again in his “great nephew” to be. Will this child carry on some of those “eccentric behaviours” known to our family?? I’m sure we will spot a few over the years to come.

Playing the recorder in the yard

Playing the recorder in the yard

With much love and gratitude
OM
Chandrika

Founding Member Feature: Mamata Kreisler

This month’s Founding Member Feature is not a founding member, but is by the daughter of two longtime students of Babaji and former residents at the Centre – and the only child born on the land (at least while it’s been a yoga centre) – Mamata Kreisler, daughter of Rajani and Rajesh. Read it and learn what it was like for her to grow up in a yoga community – definitely worth reading.

Growing up at the Centre

Mamata and her mother Rajani

Mamata and her mother Rajani

I was born at the Centre in 1985 – in the cabin that later became the Phoenix Cabin – and I grew up there. It was my home for 12 years. It was a great place to grow up. 70 acres as your backyard, other families living just minutes away and fun trails to lakes and creeks never left a dull moment. I have so many memories of being a kid at the Centre:

At the piano, 1986

At the piano, 1986

Most mornings when I was really little, I would wake up in the cabin alone and have to walk up to the main building to see my mom, who managed the kitchen and was always up early getting breakfast ready – or go to Sharada’s to bang on her piano. Having sleepovers with Sammy and Leala (Satya’s daughters) in their teepee down by the woodland trail was a great memory, and walking through the orchard to see my dad at the nursery was a daily occurrence. I remember riding my bike down the mound – when it really was a mound – with Leala, each of us sticking one leg out and thinking we were so cool. I liked the mound like that. Many of you won’t even know what I’m talking about, but what we call the mound now is nothing like it used to be. It really used to be a mound, that is, a big hill. That’s before the rock walls were built and the top was made flat.

I got to do lots of things that other kids would never have had the chance to do. My dad taught me to drive the ride-on mower when I was four years old and I used to mow the grass all over the land. I remember getting into trouble when I let other kids ride on it with me when I was mowing.

Wheelbarrow full of kids, 1989  Joah, Chrisana, Mason, Mamata, Soma

Wheelbarrow full of kids, 1989 Joah, Chrisana, Mason, Mamata, Soma

Some other special memories are of Leala and I sneaking into the walk-in cooler – with the lights off – to scare ourselves, which is ridiculous because I’m afraid of the dark. Another daring escapade was when Lisa (Chandrika and Harvey’s daughter) and I snuck into the staff kitchen during the summer retreats to make mint tea with Inka (now called Krakus); we thought we were cool because we were sneaking around.

My other “jobs” at the centre always included helping. Sharada used to joke that one day I’d run the Centre because I liked to walk around with a clipboard. I liked to organize things (still do) so people could actually find them when they needed them. My mom taught me how to do facials for Women’s Weekends, so I could help when there weren’t enough therapists. I also helped her build the swedan box, and I remember the building of Chikitsa Shala.

On her bike, 1990

On her bike, 1990

I remember the mama cat who showed up one day and had kittens in the top shop. Asia (Bhavani Chlopan’s daughter), who was around two years old at the time, named the mama cat Dipsum, and I named all the others. We gave most of them away at the Saturday market in town, but we kept Dusty and Smokey. Lots of you may remember Smokey because she lived in the main house. Dipsum and Dusty eventually moved in with Sharada.

It’s almost Shiva Ratri time at the Centre again. Shiva Ratri was one of the kids’ favourite times. Sammy, Leala and I, along with Mason (Cynthia and Peter Bennett’s son) and Joah (Ramanand and Bhavani Chlopan’s son) – and later Jesse and Ayla (Savita’s daughters) – got to have a big sleepover in the yurt. The adults were staying up all night, so we stayed up, too. I remember it snowing on Shiva Ratri and going outside during the night to dance around and make snow angels.

Leala and Mamata, temple dancers in the 1991 Ramayana

Leala and Mamata, temple dancers in the 1991 Ramayana

Another thing we all loved was Ramayana. I started out at age 5 as a temple dancer in the invocation to Saraswati, the first scene at the beginning of the play. I played other roles over the years, dancing and acting. We all looked forward to getting bigger parts each year.

I went to the Centre School from grades one through nine. We did lots of theatre in school as well, ones we wrote, lots of Shakespeare and lots of musicals. I got to play Maria in the Sound of Music and Wendy in Peter Pan.

Mamata and Asia, May Day at the school, 1995

Mamata and Asia, May Day at the school, 1995

My mom was the school bus driver (yes, we used to have a school bus), and I’d go on bus runs with her. Our bus only went down Cusheon Lake Road and Beddis Road. For the south end route, though, you’d have to connect with the public school bus to go further. I did that once in awhile when I was going to the south end to my dads. I sat next to a kid who asked me, “Why do you go to that school?” I think he thought it was weird, but that had never occurred to me. It wasn’t weird; it was fun. Apart from the regular school stuff and theatre, I played a lot of sports. I was a tomboy and played mostly with the boys.

Mamata as Pippi Longstocking and Sharada as a clown, Halloween 1993

Mamata as Pippi Longstocking and Sharada as a clown, Halloween 1993

In 1993, when I was 8 years old and in Usha’s class, someone came to the classroom to get me, saying something had happened and I was to come right away. They took us to the cabin – the one my mom and I had been living in, the one I was born in. There had been a fire. My mom was already there, and so were the firefighters from the Fire Department. There was a strong smell of smoke. Even now, the smell of smoke reminds me of that moment. After that, we lived in the main building until a new cabin was built for us.

Summer retreat at the Centre was so much fun! When I was really little I was scared of getting candy from Babaji, but it got easier as I got older. The kids were always excited for tea time when Babaji would give out candies. You’d get to hang out with Babaji and obviously (in our world) we felt cool when we got to sit next to him. The other thing about retreat time that made it so much fun was that all our cool, older guy friends (Toby, Jai, Susheel, Jesse, PK, Yogi, AJ, etc.) came and did Power of Pranayama demonstrations, and hung out with us. We played Capture the Flag every night. (AJ, if you’re reading this, I hope you are sufficiently honoured to be included in this group of cool guys). Volleyball was always a must and basketball tournaments became a regular occurrence for awhile. I thought for sure I was going to be trampled on multiple occasions during those tournaments but somehow, I made it out of them alive.

Hanuman Olympics was the highlight of the retreat. It was held in the front field (before the garden went in there). The big tent would be set up for the event. There were so many events – real events that everybody competed in. So much fun! In the evening there’d be a big talent show. My friends and I always did dances.

My memories of growing up at the Centre mostly have to do with having fun. I didn’t really take advantage of the learning possibilities, as I didn’t realize the “outside world” wasn’t the same and not all people grew up that way.

After we moved off the land, I went to high school, got into dance, and began to learn about the “real world.” I was planning to go to university to study dance, and then I got into a car accident. That was on October 1, 2003. My ability to continue what I thought my journey was going to be changed completely. I was unable to do anything I had put my mind to for the past few years, and my excitement for the future slowly vanished. I couldn’t picture what I was going to end up being able to do.

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I stayed on Salt Spring Island for another year and a bit, did physiotherapy and other treatments, but nothing seemed to work. I moved to Victoria, enrolled in a business administration program and got a government office job. That was it for a while. Then my friend started talking about yoga, asking all sorts of questions about how I grew up and wanting to know more about what asanas can do for you. So I agreed to take him to a yoga class at Yoga Shala, and slowly but surely I started to realize how much I enjoyed asana, and how much I could simply focus on my body instead of everything around me. I started going more and more often. It was hard at first because I found myself comparing my current flexibility and strength to how I was before the accident, but that changed over time. When I got a roommate to start practicing with me, I quickly noticed how much her attitude started to shift, becoming more positive. This gave me a huge push toward wanting more yoga in my life – and the possibility of sharing that positive lifestyle with others.
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In 2011 I decided to do Yoga Teacher Training. I was so excited – until I got to the airport, at which point I sort of freaked out. I had never done anything on my own before. I was going to a place in Costa Rica where I knew no one, and I don’t speak Spanish very well. It turned out to be the best time of my life – a huge shift for me. I opened up and allowed myself to really let go and to get in touch with my emotions and explore how I really felt about things. I actually made myself – with the help of my two wonderful roommates – spend time alone to see what it was really like. This, of course, didn’t happen too much as I quickly got to know the group I was surrounded by and loved every one of them. I got to share it with people I hadn’t known before, and with whom I’m still in contact. As the month came closer to the end, all I was missing was my boyfriend, Kris, and would tell him, when there was finally internet service so we could connect by skype, to fly down and bring my bed.

With Kris and their dog Biggie

With Kris and their dog Biggie

Kris and I have been friends for six years, but we haven’t been together that long. Last May we went to California and I took him to Santa Cruz. On our last day there we went to Mount Madonna Center and were lucky enough to see Babaji, again. I had seen him the previous year, and he still remembered me.

Sammy, Leala and I still talk about Babaji, and wonder what will happen when he passes away. I can’t imagine him not being here. For me and for all of us kids, I think this has been the best way to grow up.

Teaching yoga

Teaching

Currently I’m still living in Victoria, in a cute little house we bought last year, and now we have a dog, Biggie. I don’t think we will stay here, but where we will go hasn’t been decided – somewhere smaller, more community based. I’m teaching three yoga classes a week in Victoria in addition to working full time for the government. Yoga alleviates the stress of my government job, and teaching yoga doesn’t feel like work. I like to help people, to support them in accepting themselves as they are, with whatever they can do. It’s a joy to be able to share yoga with those who are open to receiving it.

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