A blessed 2019 to all of you and gratitude for you all being in the life of the Ashram and in my life. The last year was a time of great lessons and growth and I am grateful. It has also been a year of continual growth in the amount of people who come to the Ashram. The Vision Statement for the Ashram is: "Every person touched by this spiritual community will walk with a deeper connection to inner Truth, Simplicity, boundless Love, and universal Service". We take this seriously and it means that we try to engage with as many people as possible that come here: finding out the "why" of their visit, sharing the "why" and the teachings of the Ashram, and finding out the "what" they would like to take away from their time here. It is a deeply rich interchange and sometimes after a full day, my head is reeling with the different stories and lives of the many folks that passed through here and my heart is burst open with love. And for me, this takes first precedence, as I feel that this is a primary purpose of the Ashram to be there for the people who are here searching for deeper meaning and connection. Turns out these days, many are young folks, not pleased with the world situation today, who are choosing to live differently, have different values, are wanting to make a difference in the world, and generally seem to walk their talk. I feel that as we walk into the new year of 2019, it behoves us to listen and learn from the wise ones around us no matter what they look like or what credentials they may carry. Babaji often said "Go to the wise and learn."
In the same vein of New Years, we also celebrated Makar Sankranti, which marks the beginning of the auspicious phase in the Indian year. This year it was on Tuesday, January 15 (normally it is on January 14). Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the sun into the zodiac sign of Maka (Capricorn), which is the holy phase of transition. It is the festival of the Sun God; the sun on this day ends its southward journey and starts moving northwards, and the days, which are regarded as the symbol of truth, virtue and religion become longer. The sun stands for knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom. Makar Sankranti signifies that we should turn away from the darkness of delusion in which we live and begin to joyously let the light within us shine bright. We should grow in purity, wisdom and knowledge just as the sun does from this day. The sun signifies light, unity, equality and true selflessness. These are the ideals of a karma yogi. Therefore, the sun is the biggest karma yogi, never asking for any rewards for all that it gives us. If we learn this one lesson from the sun, our lives will shine with the divine luster.
On Makar Sankranti from sunrise to sunset, the environment is full of divine energy. Thus a seeker doing sadhana (spiritual practice) can derive the maximum benefit of the increased spiritual energy. Shri Babaji said that it is one of the few days that all evil influences are made to leave the earth. Due to this, the day is very conducive for sadhana. In Haidakhan we would chant all night into Makar Sankranti and at 4am go to the sacred Gautama Ganga for our baths. We would then meditate, sing aarati, perform paduka puja, and have a large fire ceremony.
I have also celebrated Makar Sankranti at the Kumba Mela in Alahabad with Shri Muniraji in 2001, which looked like the above stock photo. The day before we all shaved our heads and that night we left for our sacred baths at about 1am in the morning, hoping to miss the other 12 million people headed over the pontoon bridges with the same intent. No such luck, but somehow we all had our baths, returned to the Haidakhan Samaj camp, meditated, sang aarati, performed paduka puja, and had a large fire ceremony. It was amazing to be with so many millions of people all with the intention toward purifying one's thoughts and deeds. The mantra came effortlessly, actually it was pretty impossible to even stop it since loud speakers were blaring 24-hours a day with chanting. It was a very auspicious time full of memorable events.
For the last 18 years, I have always observed Makar Sankranti in America. Wanting to take my special bath in a natural body of water (the creek here is frozen over in January), I tried a few years in California but eventually found that Florida was the warmest. So for that last many years, we have held this celebration at the lovely home of Sharda and Jeffrey Solomon on the Gulf of Mexico. If you have followed the newsletters, you have seen many photos of this lovely event. Here is a photo of a couple of years ago.
This year however, I decided not to travel to Florida. Instead I am taking a deeper plunge into more silence and taking care of our beautiful murtis in our temple here. The silence of a very snowy and cold winter at the Ashram has been very condusive to meditation and spiritual practice. I miss seeing everyone that come to all the Florida programs each year but I have spoken with many of you on the phone and I know that we are all close in our hearts of love and service to Shri Babaji and the Divine Mother.
In truth and love,
Ceremonies and Schedule
The full-moon fire ceremony for January is on Sunday, January 20 and the next new-moon fire ceremony will be on Monday, February 4. 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. 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 (indoor this time of year) 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, which is outside unless there is a storm. The Maha Lakshmi Shop is open every day from 10am until 4pm during the month of January and February. 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.)
Building our Next Hermitage
We have raised $8,000 in funds and pledges so far for our next hermitage of our long-time residents. Seven years ago, the Ashram Board of Directors voted to build three hermitages for our long-time residents. At that time we laid out the sites, installed the infrastructure for water and septic, and worked out architectural plans. We completed the first one in 2011 and Ramloti has been very grateful to live in it. After that, both Jonathan and Premanand did not feel a need to complete their hermitages as they were content living without electricity or plumbing in their simple abodes, and to use the earthship for their needs for electricity and plumbing. Here is a photo of the one hermitage which is complete, the proposed building sites under snow, and the building plan.
But as the amount of visitors to the Ashram keeps growing and with the earthship being one of the focuses of those increased crowds, it seems to be time to address the need for some comfortable personal space for both of them. We would like to begin this project this summer and the estimated cost for one hermitage is $81,000. Can you help us with this? You can make your donation by sending a check made out to HUA to P.O. Box 9, Crestone, CO 81131 or clicking here and scrolling down and make a donation via charge card or paypal.
Haidakhan Samaj Camp at the Kumbh Mela 2019 in Allabhad, India
The Haidakhan Samaj has set up a camp at the Kumbh Mela in Allabhad this year from January 10 - February 5, 2019. There is a temple tent where aarati is performed morning and evening, eating facilities, sleeping accommodations, and toilet facilities. This has once again been arranged by Shri Alok Banerjee, Chairman of the Haidakhan Samaj. For more information contact Shri Murli Krishan at +91 739 7170146.
Maha Shivaratri on the Horizon
The night of Lord Shiva will be celebrated at the Ashram on Tuesday, March 5th evening until Wednesday, March 6. Put the date on your calendars for an evening of late night chanting and the new-moon fire ceremony the next day at 10am. More details in the next newsletter or call the Ashram at 719-256-4108.
Spring Navratri - April 6 - 14
It feels also important to announce the dates of Spring Navratri as we are already receiving booking reservations for the weekends. In Fall we only had one weekend for Navratri and we were totally booked months in advance. Fortunately, we have two weekends in Spring since it begins on a Saturday, April 6 and completes the following weekend on a Sunday, April 14, so more of you will be able to stay at the Ashram. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 719-256-4108 to reserve your space in the dorm or for any other questions. It is always such a special time together honoring the Divine Mother. Jai Ma!
UV Installation Completed!
Our solar and UV expert, Luke Cristy, has finished the installation of the UV water purification in the dormitory, earthship, and temple. Now we no longer need to chlorinate our water, which has been a long-time major goal. We wish to thank all of the people that donated to improve our solar systems so that we would have enough energy to utilize UV filters in the buildings.
Karma Yoga at the Ashram
We continue to have so many generous people coming to the Ashram for various amounts of time giving great help. This month we had lots of help from our local teens and children preparing the temple and earthship for our Christmas celebration. We also had visitors from near and far helping with cleaning the temple, the dorm, the kitchen, cooking, clearing snow, and organizing the Shop. We have continued to have large turnouts for the our new-moon and full-moon fire ceremonies and we were grateful for all the help and support. We also received another order for the Maha Lakshmi Shop so we were busy restocking and cleaning the Shop. Our staff and Board members also give a lot of karma yoga doing trainings and planning. It has been a great month!
We are always grateful for all of the folks that come to the Ashram and help us with all the jobs that are necessary to make this place run smoothly and able to receive our hundreds of visitors. We really could not get everything done without you. You are all one of the reasons this Ashram is what it is. Thank you.
We ask each of you to look into your hearts and see what this Ashram means to you and to please donate as you are able. You may donate by clicking here and scrolling down (you can even set up a monthly tithe). We deeply appreciate all of you that do tithe monthly to the Ashram. You can also send a check (made out to HUA) to P.O. Box 9, Crestone CO, 81131. We are so deeply grateful for your support, love, and prayers. Bhole Baba Ki Jai!
1st Ashram Holiday On-Line Auction
Our smaller Holiday Auction was a pretty good success. We raised almost $3,000 toward our funding for the new hermitage. We wish to thank everyone for their support. We know the timing was difficult for some but others appreciated having some lovely items from the Ashram auction for gifts for themselves and loved ones. We will have our annual large auction in April or May. Thank you to all who participated for your support!
Celebrating Christmas Eve with several of our local families that are far away from their biological families has become a lovely tradition. After aarati, we sing Christmas carols around the manger in the temple. We then come to the earthship for dinner and sharing small gifts for the children. This year the older children came up early and cut the Christmas tree, decorated it, decorated the temple, and set up the manger there. It was a very special evening.