As 2017 comes to an end, I am filled with gratitude for all we have here at the Ashram. As I sit in the temple each morning and evening singing aarati, I am flooded with all the special occurrences, actually miracles, that went into creating this magnificent Ashram, truly a beautiful jewel in the mala of Babaji Ashram's around the world. It feels important to narrate the sequence of some of the events, as I can remember them, as the Ashram completes its 31st year of existence. I am sure there are many stories that I do not know, remember, or that happened way before my time, since Baba's hand has been at work in all of this forever. I will do what I can here and perhaps others can fill in more details.
I shared last month how I was miraculously brought to Shri Babaji's feet in February of 1981. This trip along with my other two trips in the summers of '81 and '82 had many small vignettes, which in the moment seemed to make no sense, but later became apparent that Babaji was showing me things for my future life and work at the Ashram. A small example would be when Baba was standing alone in the kirtan hall and I walked in. He called me over to Him and I pranamed (bowed) to His feet. All of a sudden, He said: "You lift Me." Needless to say, I was more than a little shocked, but without thinking further, I just wrapped my arms around His legs and lifted Him and He went straight up in the air and actually felt very light. It was not until my mind began to think thoughts such as: Is this repectful? Is this possible as He is much heavier and bigger than I? What if I drop Him? that He became incredibly heavy and I had to let Him down. He then left the kirtan hall and I was left there a bit dazed by the whole experience.
Years later at the Ashram, this experience came to mind as I was carrying Babaji's large photo to the fire ceremony. I had a lot of weighty Ashram decisions on my mind that morning and the photo felt very heavy and seemed to get even heavier as I walked. I suddenly remembered picking Babaji up that day in 1981 and that when I did it with faith rather than with my mind, it was effortless and He was so light. I realized He was teaching me about having faith in Him to help with all the decisions of the Ashram and to let go of my heavy mind. As I did that, the photograph suddenly became lighter and lighter until it was truly effortless.
So these many experiences I had with Babaji helped pave the way for my work at the Ashram here in Crestone. Other devotees like: Lok Nath, Kamalu, David Davis, Lorain Fox-Davis, Gayatri Devi, Shila Devi, Radhe Shyam, Makhan, Sondra Ray, JD Marston, Paul Gessler, Martha Russo, Kailash, Betsy Hill, James Gaur, and many others were all having their individual experiences with Babaji that set the stage for their participation in the early days of this Ashram. I will share one experience of James Gaur's which will answer the often asked question, "How did Babaji's Ashram end up in remote Crestone, Colorado?"
Well, James went to Haidakhan in 1984 arriving just after Shri Babaji took Maha Samadhi. After this initial disappointment of not being able to meet Babaji in physical form, James began to experience the profound energy of Haidakhan. On the way home from India, he became keenly absorbed in wanting to help find the right place to build the major Babaji Ashram in America. When he arrived home in Berkeley, CA, a series of unusual coincidences followed, all pointing to southern Colorado, so he decided to travel there. Arriving in an old town in the area he was told about Crestone, to where he traveled next. Arriving in Crestone, population about 85 people in 1984, he met David and Lorain Davis who were living there and had been to Haidakhan with Babaji in 1979! Now that was not only interesting but also very unusual since only a couple hundred people in all of the US had met Babaji this incarnation. James traveled back to Berkeley only to meet the iconic Hopi Elder, Thomas Binyaca, who was speaking at Cal Berkeley where James taught. When James asked him about where to build Babaji's Ashram, Thomas directed him right back to Crestone and to Hannah Strong who was starting a "Refuge for World Truths" to bring together and preserve the ancient traditions of the world! So long story short, James called me and told me about all of this. I was president of the American Samaj and was in charge of setting up locations for Muniraji and Shastriji to visit in America on their world tour in 1985.
So I jumped in a van with James, Betsy Hill, Paul Gessler, and Pujari from Holland and drove from California to Crestone to meet Hannah Strong and set up the groundwork to host Muniraji and Shastriji. Shortly after that Lok Nath and Kamalu moved to Crestone and orchestrated the rest of the preparation for the tour to come to Crestone.
The May 1985 gathering in Crestone was wonderful with a couple of hundred people attending. We rented the townhouses, the bistro restaurant, and the Aspen Institute seminar building for a temple. We dug a fire pit for daily havan ceremonies and it seemed everyone loved the area.
Shri Muniraji and Shastriji came back the next May and even more people gathered. This time we voted to build an Ashram here and Hannah Strong showed us a couple beautiful pieces of property. We chose this land and Shri Muniraji and Shastriji showed us where to build the temple, where to construct the havan kund, and blessed the land for us. He also named the Ashram, Haidakhandi Universal Ashram, when I asked him about the name later, he said he knew that people would come here from around the world. He also told me that is why he told us to build such a big temple, for the many people that would come. It was all so amazing and powerful. A few months later, Radhe Shyam, Shila Devi, and I all moved to Crestone in August of 1986 and began the work of building an Ashram.
These early years were not always so easy, so I was often looking for confirmation that we had made the correct decision to build an Ashram here. I was grateful to learn that before the Ashram came to Crestone, William Irwin Thompson, the founder of Lindisfarne Association who owned the land on the other side of Spanish Creek from us (now Crestone Mountain Zen Center) had crossed the creek to our side. He sat in meditation approximately where our temple now lies and was astonished when Shri Babaji appeared to him as large as a mountain. It seems that Baba had reserved this land for His Ashram long before we arrived. Knowing this, gave me extra faith that we had made the right choice to build an Ashram in Crestone. Another wonderful event happened. In 1986, Hanuman appeared to me in a dream just before morning. He handed me a yellow flower in the vision and when I asked Shila Devi the next morning what the significance was, she said He was offering me a boon or blessing. Since things were somewhat challenging at the time, I asked Him to help us. To this day, when we sing the Hanuman Chalisa daily, I see Him there offering me a yellow flower and I know He has been right there through all of these years with Mother and Baba making this place what it is today, in all of its splendor.
Not so long after this we began the excavation for the temple. Shri Muniraji had told me to build it like the big temple He had built for Babaji in Chilianaula. We even sent our architect, George Whitt, to India to study the Chilianaula temple. Shila Devi led the ground breaking ceremonies with Hannah Strong, Radhe Shyam, Hanuman, and I as the main participants. We buried sacred objects in the ground according to vedic tradition. A bit later, Gayatri Devi's parents donated a large amount of money to enable us to complete the smaller original part of the temple.
As we were completing the temple, we received the news that a beautiful life-sized marble murti of the Divine Mother, Haidakhandeswari, was on its way to us from Jaipur, India. Astounded that this gift had been organized for us; myself and Martha Russo drove our truck to Denver where we cleared customs. When we opened the crate, I almost fainted with Her beauty and majesty. She is the largest standing murti of Haidakhandewsari that was ever carved, I believe, and Shastriji told me that he would go to Jaipur from his home in Rajgard to over see the carving.