I have been on vacation for two weeks to see my family in California. It is always delightful to visit them and usually I am pretty busy most of the time. But the last seven days of my trip, I am babysitting my nine-year-old granddaughter, Avalon, in Oakland. Other than the weekend, which was full with a soccer game, school carnival, and visiting friends, the rest of the days have been quite unique for me. Since Avalon is in school all day, I have hours of time just to myself. Oh my goodness, what a wonderful experience! I must admit, I am a doer, probably somewhat compulsive, however I am learning to slow down and I find that at 70 years old, my body needs more of this, still it feels very luxurious.
What I would like to share about in this newsletter is the book that I brought to read on my trip, it is the Sri Mad Devi Bhagavatam. This is a very long book, over 13,000 pages long. We read it primarily at Navratri time and I have read through it a couple of times over the last 25 years. I also have a copy of a condensed version of it, which is only slightly over 500 pages. It is called "Devi, The Devi Bhagavatam Retold", by Ramesh Menon. This copy not only fit in my suitcase a lot easier, it also reads like a novel, I find it hard to put it down.
As I read, I am transported to a different reality, one that I touch a fair amount during Navratri when my focus is primarily on the Divine Mother. And actually, one that I live in at the Ashram much more than when I am in a big city environment as I am now. Seeing people going so fast to make money and seemingly quite consumed by "Maha Maya" becomes a little mind boggling at times and I even sometimes begin to question my belief system. This first quote from the Devi, helps me with the above confusion.
It comes at the end of a wonderful story where Narada, the great wandering sage, asks Vishnu to show him Maya. Vishnu takes him to a magical lake where Narada is transformed into a beautiful woman, Saubhagya Sundari, and completely forgets his former life. She marries a king and they have many sons and grandsons and live a happy life. But then a neighboring enemy starts a war with them and most of her family are killed in the war, her husband, the king, narrowly escapes. As she goes to the battlefield, grief grips her and she begins wailing and screaming. Just then, Vishnu appears as a wise Brahman and he leads her to a sacred lake saying" Go and bathe now, just think, you have lived a million lives before this one. In each one, you had sons and daughters and grandsons. Tell me, for which of them will you grieve? All this world is an illusion, dear lady, more than you know. Embodied souls inherit suffering, anguish, and little else. Enter the water it will bless you with peace."
When she enters the lake, she is once again transformed, this time back to Narada. Vishnu began to laugh heartily and Narada said to him, "Maya is powerful indeed. But Lord, how did I lose my memory so entirely, when my soul was my own all the time? For, how else could I remember every moment of Saubhagya Sundari's life as I do?
Vishnu said, "There are more dreams and lives in your body than you realise, Narada. They all exist together, for the mind is a miraculous thing and it is much more than any man realises. The mind itself is Maya. Narada, when you sleep, do you rememer what you dream? Yet, while you are asleep all that happens in your dreams is real enough, isn't it? All lives are dreams of one kind or another. They are all the work of Maya, and Maya is inscrutable, even to me."
There are also several stories about the time that we are presently in called the Kali Yuga, the age of darkness. It is a time when humankind is in its most diminished form, when arrogance, wealth, and viciousness are prized as virtues and gentleness and truth are seen as signs of weakness. When asked how do men find mukti in this fearful time? How do they find peace of mind? Veda Vyasa, the composer of the Devi Bhagavatam replies, "There is no peace to be found in the Kali yuga, but the wise say that moksha is easier to have in the Kali yuga than in any other yuga. And the only way to mukti in the age of evil is through bhakti (devotion). Men and women have grown so petty, and their hearts are filled with such evil that worship is the only path to salvation. Indeed, no one in the Kali yuga can find mukti for himself, but only by God's intervention. It is told that the Gods are easily pleased in this sinister yuga, in which even the smallest lamp of devotion shines so brightly in the night of the spirit that engulfs the world"
The stories go on and on about devotion to the Divine Mother and how She is always there for Her children. I am so grateful that we have the Divine Mother, Haidakhandeswari, as our main deity in our temple at the Ashram. Time and time again when I seek Her intervention, She is there for me. When I read this last quote that I will share, it struck such a resonant note in my soul.
It comes at the end of another tale of Divine intervention when a king is receiving a Divine son after his long tapasya. Veda Vyasa says, "The wise say the bhakta never knows to what lengths God will go to please him. The devotee seldom realizes that it is the One he worships who puts some of his desires into his heart." And so it is and I am humbled.
In deep deep gratitude and love to you all,
Om Namah Shivaya
Ceremonies and Schedule
The full-moon fire ceremony this month is on Tuesday, November 12 and the new-moon fire ceremony will be on Tuesday, November 26. 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 daily small fire ceremony is at 6:20am. We do not have the small fire ceremony when we have our large fire ceremony on new and full moons. The Maha Lakshmi Shop is open every day from 9am 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.)
Diwalli - Festival of Lights - Sunday, October 27
That special event of the year when we celebrate the light that enlivens our lives, will be celebrated on Sunday, October 27. We begin with the new-moon fire ceremony at which, we will bless our checkbooks. This is because in many parts of India, it is the beginning of a new year and the accounts are all blessed at this time. The ceremony is followed by chanting and a meal. The rest of the day we decorate the pathways, temple, and earthship with candles and luminarios. We begin aarti this evening at 5pm and at 6pm we share songs, poems, readings, chants, and dances of peace and light. At 7:30 our wonderful Indian families from around the valley and beyond will serve an amazing Indian feast to culminate this celebration of light. We hope you can join us.
The Next Long-Time Resident Hermitage Continues to Grow!
The next phase of the hermitage is underway. We have a crew consisting primarily of karma yogis and Bill, who many of you have met in our kitchen. Turns out he has also built four houses earlier in his career. They are all under the able guidance of Jacob Pesqueira, a local friend of the Ashram who is building his own home in Crestone. He and his family have been coming to the Ashram for many years. It feels very family-like and harmonious. Since it is the beginning of winter, we are not sure how much will get done but for sure it will be framed and closed in before the snow flies.
We can still use your support of this project. Please donate as you are able so that we can build the whole hermitage this year. Click here to go to our donate link You can pay with a credit card or paypal, or you can send a check to HUA at P.O. Box 9, Crestone, CO 81131. Thank you again.
Ashram YouTube Channel is Available to All: just click here
I was just watching some of these videos and was so touched again by the stories and mystery of Shri Babaji. Apparently others are too as there have been thousands of views and are now 862 subscribers. We also receive many comments, here are some of them. You can find them yourselves anytime on YouTube under Ramloti Wood.
"These videos are so important in my life... and Babaji should be known by all humanity, through these experiences"
"I love these stories. thank you for sharing and posting them"
"Inspiring and deeply touched"
"Wow what a wonderful raconteur!!! And what sublime blessings to be so close to the divine immortal master, teacher, Guru in eternity!!! Bhole BabBaji Ki Jai"
"This made me cry, she is transmitting so much love. Thank you"
"Amazing stories. I am hooked all day to your videos. BHOLE BABA KI JAI! Thank YOU!"
"I am Tara from Serbia, Belgrade and I live in Haidakhan last one and half years. Thank you for the inspiring video interviews you made with Babaji devitees. It meant to me sooo much and touched my heart. Bhole Baba Ki Jai"
"This is incredible ,Ii don't know how I came to find these stories but I enjoy them very much."
Consideration about the Needs of the Ashram
(We place this again because still people are not respecting the schedule)
The Ashram has been growing rapidly. It is a wonderful thing that so many people want to come and drink in the divine nectar of Shri Babaji and the Divine Mother‘s love and care. Those of us that care for the Ashram are grateful that so many people wish to come here. We also see that it is important that everybody participate in supporting the Ashram by abiding by the timings and rules of the Ashram so that the beautiful space, that is always welcoming and clean for each of you, can be well maintained.
Arriving punctually is particularly important for those who wish to come and utilize the beautiful five bedroom dormitory that we provide for overnight visitors that wish to participate in the Ashram schedule. We require that you be here by 4 PM. The reason for this is that from 4pm until 5pm we are happy to bring people to their rooms and orientate them to our solar way of living here at the Ashram that is quite different from most peoples' lives. We are also located in a beautiful wilderness area where there are bears, deer, mice, and lots of other wildlife. It’s important that we inform you about bringing all the food in from your car into the earthship so no bears break into your car smelling the food. We also need to alert you to bring in your luggage quickly during daylight hours, and to keep the front door shut so that evening animals don’t come into the dorm (or other buildings for that matter). This also gives you time to take your shower, dress appropriately, and be prepared for the evening aarati and chanting, which begins at 6pm.
In the past many people have disregarded or asked for exceptions to this request to be here by 4pm making it impossible for us to take our evening bath and prepare properly for the evening aarati and ceremonies. We are now letting everyone know that arriving after 4:30pm for an overnight stay will no longer be tolerated at the Ashram. This is for everyone's sake so that we can continue to provide the beautiful temple services taking care of the Divine Mother and Baba's home, while not be distracted by late arrivals or those unprepared for the evening services. Most everyone has Google Maps or some other device that can give you a pretty accurate estimate of time for driving to the Ashram allowing for traffic and construction. Therefore if you happen to be past 4:30 we ask you to get a hotel and come in the evening or the next morning for the services. There are many Air B&B's in Crestone. We appreciate your understanding on this matter.
Karma Yoga at the Ashram
Besides all of the copious amount of sewing done for Navratri, the other big projects this month were continuation of the building of the hermitage, repairing the drain on the faucet in the front of the temple, and deep cleaning in all of the buildings. Thank you to all who are helping with this as well as with the cooking, cleaning the temple, washing dishes, stocking the Shop, working in the garden, serving food, orchestrating fire ceremonies, and all the many delicious bhandaras.
We even had new families who were gracious enough to carry the new 2020 calendars to the Ashram so they would arrive before Navratri. (The magnificent calendar was printed by karma yogi, Satya Kothiyal, who also cooks non-stop during Navratri making the most savory foods. The photography was done earlier this summer by karma yogi, JD Marston. )
We really could not get everything done without you. You are all one of the reasons this Ashram is what it is. Thank you deeply from our hearts. Here are a few of the hundreds of photos we have taken.