We celebrated Shivaratri at the Ashram toward the end of February, it was a difficult one for me because I was quite sick with a deep cough, headache, and body aches. It took me extra time to recover from this illness with lots of rest since then. It also gave me quite a bit of introspective time asking myself and others if they are better people because of the all-night chanting and denial of sleep for one night.
My introspection has led me to review in my mind as many Shivaratris as I can remember as I have been observing them quite regularly since 1981 when I met Shri Babaji in India. I cannot say that my career with Shivaratri had a glorious beginning. As I have written about in the past, when I heard Babaji was in physical form and available to be visited in Haidakhan, India, I went as quickly as possible. I did not wait to write the letter that was required asking permission of Babaji to come. I just went with very little preparation, knowledge, or money. Arriving in Delhi and finding out that Babaji had traveled to Wape, Gujarat, I made my way there, which took another 48 hours or so and most of my money. I never thought to question why Babaji had gone to Gujarat and the answer, that He traveled there with devotees each year to celebrate Shivaratri, would have had no relevance, since I did not have a clue what Shivaratri was. As I said, I had no knowledge of Indian tradition I just knew in my heart that Shri Babaji was my Lord.
My arrival in Wape, finally at my Lord’s feet, is another story to be shared some other time, but after some ordeal I was given a place on the living room floor of a small house that the other Western devotees were occupying. After a day or two, I was becoming a little accustomed to the intricacies of Indian bathing in a petticoat from a bucket that you filled up in an outside faucet in the wee hours of the morning so I could arrive to receive chandan from Babaji at 4am in the morning. All of a sudden one morning, something changed dramatically, what was a line at the faucet of 12 people swelled to hundreds and people kept stepping in front of me to fill their buckets. The end result was that I never made it to chandan that morning and when I finally got a bath and went to aarati, there were thousands of people, nowhere to sit, and mass confusion seemed to pervade the atmosphere. After aarati and fire ceremony, and lunch; I went back to my little space on the floor in the living room for an afternoon rest, to my chagrin it was filled with what seemed like hundreds of people all spread out for their naps. This was all too much for me and I decided to go into the town of Wape and get a hotel room for the night so that I could at least get a place to lie down and take a bath. (That is about all that was in a hotel room in this small Indian town in 1981!) I remember as I was walking I saw Radhe Shyam in the distance but I did not feel like he would have time to hear how I was confused, disorientated, or overwhelmed, so I said nothing and went on my way reckoning that no one would even notice that I was not there in such a crowd of thousands.
Little did I know that the reason that thousands of people were converging on this place in Wape was because it was Shivaratri, the night of Lord Shiva and Shri Babaji, Lord Shiva manifested on earth, was there. The next morning, when I arrived back for aarati, I found out that Shri Babaji had asked after me and people were searching for me in the fields nearby fearing some mishap had befallen me. I then was told the significance of the night I had missed and that Shri Babaji had even allowed people to pour milk over Him, like a sacred murti, for this special occasion. I could barely even grasp the magnificence of what that would have been like. After aarati, fire ceremony, and bhandara, the throngs of people began to leave and I cleaned and settled back into my little space on the living room floor.
So in considering this first Shivaratri, I see that I was in a lot of fear around not being good enough to be there. The other westerners had traveled there with Babaji, knew what was going on and how to do things right, while I did not even have a clue and did not even feel worthy enough to ask anyone for help and support. Who knows if I had been there for this holy night, if I would even have had the courage to push my way through the crowds to pour milk over the sacred body of my Lord? I feel my fear would have prevented me from doing this.
This reminds me of my next trip to Babaji with my children in the summer of 1981. Shortly after our arrival, my eldest son, Jacob age 10, began going down to the river with a few yogis to give Babaji His afternoon bath. After wondering about this for some time, I finally asked him who had given him permission to do this very special and honorific duty. He told me no one! He said he had seen a few others doing this and decided that if they could do it, why not him? He seemed to have had very deep experiences during these baths and one time he told me that I could not even imagine what it was like to rub the lotus back of Shri Babaji. One afternoon Babaji gave Jacob His silk lunghi and kurta and even wrapped him in it coming up the stairs with His arm around my little boy whose face was filled with bliss. It appears that the crippling fear that kept me from spending the night honoring and bathing in milk Lord Shiva in His Human Manifestation was not part of his 10-year-old's reality! What a blessing.
So as I unravel the mystery of my yearly participation in Shivaratri for probably 30 years, I do have to ask if my devotion is driven by the fear of not being good enough, not fulfilling my duty, my fear of putting too much burden on other’s shoulders, and needing to pray, fast, and stay up all night to make myself okay in God’s eyes? And the answer to this question has been sadly yes many times, particularly this last one when I should have stayed in bed and taken care of myself. Oh what life would be like to have the fearlessness of my 10-year-old son!
In Truth and Love,
Ceremonies and Schedule
The full-moon fire ceremony this month was today Sunday, March 12 (over 70 people!) and the new-moon fire ceremony will be on Monday, March 27. The following nine days, March 28 - April 5, we will have daily ceremonies celebrating Spring Navratri. The fire ceremonies begin at 10am and are followed by a meal. Please arrive ten minutes early, freshly bathed, in a long skirt or pants with shoulders covered, and having fasted from grains, cereals, meat, eggs, garlic and onions. Fruit, yogurt, unsalted nuts, veggies and tea or coffee are fine to eat before. Also, if you have a dietary need for something more hearty before our meal at 11:30 or so, please partake.
Our evening aarati is at 6pm and morning aarati at 7am and the small fire ceremony is at 8:00am (usually done indoors this time of year). We do not have the small fire ceremony when we have our large fire ceremony on new and full moon. The Maha Lakshmi Shop is open every day from 10am until 5pm. We love to see you.
If you would like to participate by sponsoring a fire ceremony or a bhandara (feast), we would be happy to send you a blessed item from the fire ceremony if you request. They are:
$27 sponsorship - Copper, brass, nickel Om Namah Shivaya bracelet
$54 sponsorship - Rudraksha, Rosewood, or Tulsi Mala
$108 sponsorship - Rose Quartz Mala or a copper, silver, brass Om Haidakhandi bracelet
(Click here to go to our Paypal link to sponsor a fire or bhandara.)
Spring Navratri - Tuesday, March 28 through Wednesday, April 5
Nine days honoring the Divine Mother is just around the corner, what a blessing. Each day there are touching pujas, extra chanting, big fire ceremonies, inspiring discourses about Mother, and lots of sharing and karma yoga. It is a magnificent time. Please join us for any or all of the days. We have folks coming from around the country as usual, even two of Shri Muniraji's granddaughters. It should be a very special time together. The weekend is practically full already so call or email as soon as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-256-4108. If you are not able to make it in person you can still sponsor a fire ceremony or bhandara by clicking here. Jai Ma!
Paduka Pujas in Denver Area - Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, April 21, 22, and 23
Shri Babaji's padukas will travel to the Denver area with Ramloti the weekend of April 21 - 23. They will visit the homes of four devotees. Here are the times and dates for puduka pujas, aarati, chanting, and Indian feasts. All devotees are invited but please call the host and hostess so they can prepare for your visit. We hope you can make one or several of the events. Bhole Baba Ki Jai!
Friday, April 21 at 7pm - Rahul & Ashwini Nipunge at 11016 Valleybrook Cir, Highlands Ranch, CO 80130. Puja begins at 7pm followed by chanting and dinner. Please call call 720-308-7873 or 720-201-8583.
Saturday, April 22 at 11 am - Sudhir and Alka Deshpande at 15237 Delhi Ave, Parker, CO 80134. Puja begins at 11 followed by bhajans and lunch. Please call Alka at 720-936-7855 to RSVP.
Saturday, April 22 at 6pm - Ajay and Sabina Pradhan at 4834 S. Eagle Circle, Aurora, CO 80015
Puja begins promptly at 6pm followed by chanting and dinner. For more information and to RSVP for dinner call: 720-732-6141.
Sunday, April 23 at 11am - Ami and Chairag Parekh at 15080 Jakarta Circle, Parker, CO 80134. Puja begins at 11am followed by chanting and lunch. Please call 848-565-4470 for more information and to RSVP for lunch.
Ninth Annual On-Line Fundraising Auction - April 28 - May 7
It has been a huge support to the Ashram to have this on-line auction each Spring for the last eight years. The funds raised each year have helped us pay off the loan for the kirtan hall, build Ramloti's hermitage, and make many improvements and repairs on the Ashram. This year we will dedicate the funds to improving our electricity supply at the Ashram so that we are able to change our water purification from chlorine to UV filters, have more dependable refrigeration, and a stove that does not leak propane. We are so grateful to all who participate by sponsoring, donating items, and purchasing items, you make this all happen. If you would like to donate an item or items whether you have donated before or not, call me at 719-256-4108 or you can add it to the auction yourself at this link. Sponsors totally underwrite the auction so consider this option, it is also an excellent way to share your website with others. Once again, you can call me or go to this link to put up your sponsorship. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
A few of the over 110 items we already have up is a wrist mala made with a Lotus Seed from Shri Babaji; a Lunghi from Shri Babaji; a matted, mounted, and framed poster of Shri Babaji, and a signed basketball from the Los Angeles Lakers . To view all of the items click here.