Founding Member Feature: Sri Nivas
I first met Babaji in 1974 at the ‘Spruce Street House’ in Vancouver where a number of Babaji’s students were living. Ma Renu, the woman who had sponsored Babaji to come to North America, had brought him to Vancouver and dropped him off as she was going to visit friends on Salt Spring Island.
I went to see him with Abha and Mahesh and my wife-to-be, Kishori, mostly as an observer and out of curiosity. Although Kishori was enamoured, I was far more interested in the concept of community based on the principles of right living.
The next year we visited Babaji again briefly, and then in 1976 went to our first retreat on our honeymoon. I went to one yoga class taught by AD (Anand Dass), one of Babaji’s first North American (Canadian!) students.
For a number of years we held regular yoga retreats at Camp Hatikvah in the interior of BC. My way of escaping from the crowds was to do maintenance with Mahesh.
Prodding by Babaji led us to begin a search for land to start a spiritually based community. From the outset, buying land was a major goal of the Dharma Sara Satsang Society, and I became involved in the search. Our search ranged from Cherryville, deep in the BC interior – which we nixed because of the short growing season – to various places in the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island.
After searching over the whole province, we came across the ‘Blackburn Road’ piece in May of 1981; in early June we purchased it with donations from many members for the down payment and the knowledge that our store, Jai, in Vancouver, could meet the mortgage payments.
Kishori, our 3 month old daughter Mallika and I moved to the property next door to the Centre in September of 1981. The Centre farmhouse was quite run-down and had been abandoned for about six years. We began working on the renovations almost immediately. I continued to be involved in a major way – in fact I’m still working on renovations.
Kishori, Mallika and I moved our mobile home to the property when Mallika was four. After two years we purchased our own property and built a house.
The renovations continued. Room 108 – the main floor guest bedroom – was the only room in the house that was insulated. All the chimneys were falling down so the house had no heat. All the plumbing had long since frozen and burst. The lobby and most of the dormers upstairs didn’t exist. There was a lot of work to be done!
At the first yoga retreat on the land in summer 1982, we ran out of water and had to order tanker trucks for water. Originally there was only a dug well that didn’t supply nearly enough water. We called in a dowser who located the spot for our existing drilled well.
We bought haying equipment and for many years cut our own hay, which we sold at very marginal prices. Cedar fence posts were split, the garden area got fenced and a garden was started. We built an octagonal (hexagonal?) outhouse in the garden from scrap lumber from the house renovation.
Today, apart from the main house, the only existing original structures are what are currently the farm office and the tool shed, the latter known for some obscure reason as the Top Shop. They had been milking sheds from the original dairy farm.
For me, Babaji’s teaching is all about right living and creating harmony in the world. The Centre has been, and remains, a major influence in my family’s lifestyle and how we view the world.