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Founding Member Feature – Sanatan

sanatan at the ashram 2012

Sanatan at the Sri Ram ashram, 2012

I was already a seeker looking for a living master when I heard about Babaji in Ram Dass’ book, Be Here Now. Then The Yellow Book by Babaji showed up in my hands, and I was inspired. Around that time, Anuradha, my girlfriend from university, went to Vancouver and started studying with Anand Dass, one of Babaji’s first students in the west.

Shortly after that – in 1974 – we took a trip down to California to meet Babaji, who was living in the home of the woman who had sponsored him to come to North America, Ma Renu. When we walked in, I saw all the women sitting devotedly at Babaji’s feet. I didn’t feel drawn to sitting near his feet, so I sat back and observed. Later I realized something more had happened that I hadn’t noticed earlier. I had been deeply moved on a subtle level – I could feel it in my meditation that night.

My life was changing. I had been living up north in Fort St. John, and decided to move south to Vancouver. I was making wooden toys for kids at that time, living in my school bus that I had converted into a home – a mobile gypsy home. Anuradha and I moved the bus to the communal farm in Abbotsford to live with Sid and Sharada, Ravi Dass and Aparna and Anusuya, all students of Babaji’s, plus Stewart and Isha, who were also on a spiritual path. It was the beginning of a spiritual community. We lived there for two years, then moved to Aldergrove for four years, still living in community with other students of Babaji. We went to Vancouver each Sunday for satsang at our town yoga centre.

It was during that time we began the search for land. I was part of a group of seekers – spiritual seekers and land seekers – looking for a home for our community. We looked at land in Vernon, Kelowna, Whistler, Vancouver Island, Lumby, the Fraser Valley and the Columbia Valley. Eventually a place was found on Salt Spring Island that everyone liked. A bunch of us early Salt Spring Centre pioneers came to our new Centre to live. In those days, we just called it ‘the land’.

We lived on the land in our school bus for a couple of years, in the trees near Sharada’s house where the old barn was, where I set up a portable workshop. One of the first things I did on the land was put up a basketball pole.


Sanatan in his mobile workshop with some of the children from the Centre school.

I had been a karma yogi at the Centre for quite a few years when Babaji asked me to be Centre Director. I accepted the role and did it as well as I could till destiny called me to other things. My main focus was always the aesthetic improvement of the Centre, improving what was here, making the land beautiful. I spent fifteen years or so enthusiastically building rock walls with Babaji, including three years working on the fountain and pond.

Apart from being a karma yogi and working on projects with Babaji, I also really enjoyed sitting in darshan with him, embracing his wisdom and wit. I also love kirtan – and participating in Babaji’s practical jokes such as The Great Pie Fight and the Mr. Satellite Chronicles.

The game goes on. I’m still trying to accept the present moment, noticing how I distract myself from being content in this moment and knowing that regular sadhana is where it’s at and peace is all there is. As an elder, if there’s anything I’ve learned over all these years, it’s be still, be quiet and enjoy it.

14 thoughts on "Founding Member Feature – Sanatan"

  • Beautiful words! Thank you Sanatan

  • Great to read stories of old friends journeys towards inner peace and the evolution of the Saltspring centre. Such treasured memories you have shared…..Thanks

  • Thanks, Sanatan, for sharing. That was beautiful and inspiring. Om

  • Thanks for the insightful story Sanatan!

  • Love ya Sanatan!

  • Sanatan–I reallyenjoyed reading your story-I started getting involved through AD’s classes on 4th avenue–I remember going to the centre in those early days and what a laid-back joyous inclusive community it was in those days–I guess its evolved where it has to be but in some ways I wish for those days again-everything is just soo organized and rule oriented now- Anyway that where its at at the present moment at the centre-so c’est la vie-la vie en rosa–well hope all is well with you and hope to see you again at the retreat-ADIOS-de Catherine Ambika Shepard

  • Anusri (Rebecca Manring)

    Lovely story, Sanatan; very inspiring! I so miss the west coast satsang folks! Lots of good people here in Indiana, but I do miss regular satsang with others. Om Shanti, Anusri

  • You Are an elder now Sanatan! isnt it amazing how Babaji has helped us remove the obstacles in our paths and in sadhana? Welcome home brother! Jai Sita Ram!

  • So are you Mr Satelllite????

  • Wonderful story bro…Love You…Om!

  • What a delight to read about those old times and some history. Loved the photos too! SSC is beautiful and we all are grateful for your work. Love you brother! Dayadhar and Samyukta

  • I love your story, Sanatan, just like I love you. OM

  • These features about founding members are so lovely – it’s wonderful to hear the stories of our “extended family”. As an “honorary Canadian”, it’s great to share these memories.

    Now, Sanatan remembers among Babaji’s practical jokes the Great Pie Fight, yet neglected to remember the precursor of the previous year – the Great Water Trick, in which Babaji told small groups of ladies throughout the play of the Hanuman Olympics, “we will get the men” (he held his small slate close to his chest – “whispering”). At the traditional group photo at the end of the play on the Program House porch, it was fantastically successful.

    He had told us, “Ma Renu will call for a photo with only the men. They will puff up.” When Babaji picked up the corners of his robe and ran, this was the signal for us to rain buckets of water from above and copious quantities of water balloons hidden among the cars in the parking area: the men didn’t know what hit them!

    The Great Pie Fight was also carried off well, yet we knew something was up beforehand with the fake puja (something just didn’t seem right, and Babaji wouldn’t let Anuradha set it up in the “real” ritual spot). However, we were definitely “gotten” good with the shaving cream pies. And AD’s phony mantras, (“Visualize the Goddess with the mantra, “BREEENNG” – to bring the pies – had Babaji coughing, he was laughing so hard).

    Highlight memories, both. I love you, Sanatan.
    from MMC

  • Wonderful to read your history and thoughts — and a delight to see the workshop I remember so fondly. I’m so grateful to have had you around to look up to — and annoy! 😉

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