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.
Later I asked Muniraji who decided that we should have the Divine Mother as our primary deity at the Ashram here and after some silence he said, "No one decided, Mother decided". I remember thinking, and still do; how important to have this Divine Feminine energy in America where we so need compassion and love. Another testimonial to the blessed events surrounding this Ashram.
A few years later, through the funding of Lawrence Rockefeller, the expertise of Fred Huffman, and under the guidance of Gayatri Devi our gravity-feed water system was constructed and the earthship and yurt were built.
In time, more buildings came with the support of many, many people: the hermitage, the greenhouse, the dormitory, the kirtan hall, Baba's kutir, Ramloti's hermitage, and here we are today, upgrading the now aging buildings. How the wheel of time turns.
So plenty of serendipitous events surrounded the founding of this Ashram and the wonderful thing is that they continue on a frequent basis. Just a few weeks ago I was surprised when an Indian business owner from our nearest largish town, Alamosa, called to ask how much more money we needed to complete our solar energy upgrade projects on all of our buildings. I told him about $8,000. Well, he has already organized over $6,000 of that from other Indian business owners all over southern Colorado. We are so well supported by many, many loving people. And more people keep coming. Just these last few weeks we had many new families come to the Ashram, they speak of the peace, love, and and Presence of the Divine Mother and Babaji they feel here. They say they look forward to their next visit, and we know that they will come, it is all the grace of Baba, Mother, and Hanuman.
May all of you experience the peace and love of the Divine in the New Year and may it spread through the whole world.
In Truth, Love, and Immense Gratitude
Ceremonies and Schedule
Our full-moon fire ceremony this month was today, January 1 and the new-moon will be on Tuesday January 16, the following full-moon fire ceremony is on Wednesday, January 31. All fire ceremonies begin at 10am 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, morning aarati at 7am, and the small fire ceremony is at 8:00am. We do not have the small fire ceremony when we have our large fire ceremony on new and full moons and during Navratri. 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 donate link to sponsor a fire or bhandara.)
Join us in Florida for programs between January 13 - 21
Soon Premanand, Richard Cahall, and I will be flying to Florida to do programs on the West and East coasts. We will be bringing Shri Babaji's turban that He wore with us. We are looking forward to joining devotees for chanting, puja, fire ceremonies, satsang, and aaratis. I will also be carrying goods from the Maha Lakshmi Shop, so if you have a special request, please let me know at 719-256-4108 or email@example.com and I will do my best to carry it to you. Here is where you can join us.
Sat & Sun, Jan 13 & 14 from 10am - 4pm - Makar Sankrant Celebrated in Treasure Island, FL There will be Paduka Pujas, Aarati, Fire Ceremonies, Potluck Brunch & Real Love Workshop in the afternoon. Call Sharda and Jeffrey at 727-363-0800 for information and location.
Friday, January 19 - Fire Ceremony, Chanting, and Satsang at Elaine Hereoux's home in Jupiter, Florida - We will begin at 11am and will end with a potluck lunch. Call Elaine at 516-277-8326 for more information and location.
Sunday, January 22 at 10am - Chandan, fire ceremony, aarati, and chanting at Harmony House in Del Ray Beach, Florida followed by a potluck lunch. Call Sarena at 561-274-0883 for more information and location.
Fire Ceremony in Decatur, Georgia - Thursday, January 25
I will be traveling to Georgia in January for a sacred fire ceremony on Thursday, January 25 at 10am. It will once again be at our friends' Pam and Kelly's home in Decatur, Georgia. I will also be sharing stories of Shri Babaji and chanting. We will complete with a potluck brunch. I will be bringing some malas, CD's, and books from the Maha Lakshmi Shop. If there is anything you would like specifically, please call me at 719-256-4108.
To RSVP and to get directions, please call Kelly at 404-271-3155 or Pam at 404-259-2586. We look forward to seeing you all there. Bhole Baba Ki Jai!
Fire Ceremony in Carlsbad, CA - Sunday, February 4 at 10am
Great news! Nirmal and Indira Sharma have settled in Carlsbad, California and have built a lovely havan kund where they would like to begin having public monthly fire ceremonies. Many of us remember the lovely ones they used to host in their home in northern California and are grateful that they will resume again in southern California. I will be in the area on February 4 to share this sacred occasion with them. They also have lovely murtis of Haidakhandeswari, Ganesh, and Kalbarav, which we will bathe and do puja to as well. Please join us and share some food afterwards. Please call Nirmal at 508-847-9135 for directions.
Shivaratri and Maha Samadhi - Wednesday, February 14
This year both Shivaratri and Shri Babaji's Maha Samadhi fall on February 14. We will begin with a paduka puja at 6pm that evening, followed by aarati. At 7pm we will have the first of our four Lingam pujas. We will continue with a Lingam puja at 10pm, 1am, and complete at about 3:30am with the final Lingam puja.
We will have the fire ceremony the next morning at 10am followed by an Indian feast. Please join us for all or any of the special sacred night of Lord Shiva. If you would like to reserve a room in the dormitory, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shri Babaji's Padukas Grace Kamalaya in Thailand
Recently, I received this letter from Kharku in Thailand:
"Dear Ramloti, We are finally building Babaji’s Kutir in the garden next to the temple in Kamalaya. I am praying I remember correctly that the Ashram offered to gift a pair of Babaji’s Padukas that He wore to Kamalaya. We will be initiating the Kutir on Makar Sankrant." As promised we sent our second pair of Padukas to Jamuna, Kharku's wife, who received them in Arizona and hand carried them to Thailand. Here are their responses.
"Bhole baba Ki jai, The Lord Arrived today and Jamuna is welcoming Him and caring for Him in our home in Arizona, bringing Babaji home to Kamalaya in a few days."
"Thank you thank you thank you soooooo much for this incredible gift you have so kindly and generously offered for our new kutir in Kamalaya. Shri Maha Prabhuji’s Padukas have arrived and are resting on our altar here in Arizona until I fly with them to Thailand and to Kamalaya. From a heart overflowing with gratitude - thank you. Jamuna"
"Babaji arrived in our home on Koi Samui, Thailand today where He will stay on our alter and we will love Him until the kutir is ready at Kamalaya. Thank you a million times…. Munirajji told me Babaji would visit me here and that Thailand and Kamalaya is where I could serve. When He arrived in Bangkok I wept and again today when He arrived in Kamalaya. I feel so connected and deeply touched by the Living Presence that comes with the devotion to His Lotus Feet. Bless you."
More Than We Expected by Bryan Whitt
In October my wife Elizabeth and I traveled to India for the second time. This would be, however, our first time visiting Haidakhan Ashram. Our plans were to go a couple of days early to India and “check out” Haidakhan for a night then meet up with a Bhakti retreat group and head deeper into the Himalayas. The one-day we spent at the Ashram was more than we could have imagined. Being semi-regular attendees at the Haidakhandi Universal Ashram in Crestone we were pretty familiar with Babaji, His Ashram and the many wonderful stories from his devotees. Now here, we were enjoying the temple, the 108 steps, the Gautama Ganga River, and of course on the Gufa side, the Haidakhan cave. After a refreshing dip in the river under the warm afternoon sun we had the most wonderful meditation in the cave. Having read “From Age to Age” we knew and felt the significance and energy of this sacred cave. A feeling that will likely last a lifetime.