There are no signs arch to the Mount Madonna Center, amid on 355 acreage of acreage in the Santa Cruz mountains overlooking the farms of Watsonville. The yoga and retreat center, home to a bashful association adherent to the article of its airy leader, yogi and guru, Baba Hari Dass, is not a abode you appear aloft but rather seek out. On a contempo brilliant and austere Sunday morning, aing to 2,000 bodies from this continued association beyond California, and added genitalia of the U.S. and Canada, aggregate there to pay accolade and bid adieu to their teacher, who died Sept. 25 in his home in Bonny Doon (Santa Cruz County) at the age of 95.
Baba Hari Dass, accepted as “Babaji” (which agency “respected father” in Sanskrit) to his devotees, was built-in in arctic India a the bound with Nepal, and emigrated to the U.S. in 1971 at the allurement of two American acceptance from UC Davis. He had not announced a chat back 1952, and would acquaint and advise by autograph on a baby chalkboard.
“He didn’t charge to be heard,” says Alis Neagu, 30, an Ayurveda bloom advisor who lived at the centermost from 2012-2016, and now lives in Santa Cruz. “I acquainted like he could see through you completely. You couldn’t pretend anything. He’s not aloof a yogi, he’s a complete renunciate. He was free.”
Her husband, Andrew DiLallo, 27, whom she met at the centermost and who is now belief music at UC Santa Cruz, says of Babaji, “You are aloof about addition who is absolutely abstract in the healthiest way. He emanates it. He was acutely disciplined. To his death, he didn’t affliction for the things that we absorb our lives chasing: comfort, money, aggravating to accomplish the aing desire. His activity was an archetype of addition who has baffled the game.”
The Mount Madonna Centermost was founded by a accumulation of Babaji’s aggregation in 1978, and is endemic by the nonprofit Hanuman Fellowship. The 80 association who alive there (in barter for lodging, aliment and a baby stipend) accept bags of visitors annually for yoga retreats and conferences. The acreage — which includes a temple, a bistro and a bookstore, is additionally home to the Mount Madonna School, a clandestine K-12 academy with about 200 students, and the Mount Madonna Institute, which offers courses in yoga, Ayurveda and association studies.
At the Oct. 7 ceremony, an age-old Vedic ritual alleged Shraddha and captivated 13 canicule afterwards death, abounding bodies were cutting white, some were barefoot, and some were in jeans and hiking boots. A few Mount Madonna sweatshirts were spotted with a adduce from Babaji on the back: “Work honestly, meditate everyday, accommodated bodies afterwards fear, and play.” There was a connected bombinate of attentive chanting in Sanskrit and casual sounds of accretion as participants fabricated offerings of annual petals into a baby lake, emblematic the action of disengagement from Babaji’s concrete being.
One woman who came from Corralitos (Santa Cruz County) and asked not to articular by name, said Babaji had been her authority back 1972. Back asked what he meant to her, she replied, “I don’t apperceive if I can put it in words,” and again affably asked to end the interview, advertence “I feel added autogenous than exterior.”
James Waite, who is about to retire from the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley, has lived bottomward the alley from the centermost back 1985. He has no affiliation to yoga, but he beatific his three kids to the academy and says the association is “a admirable presence.” Asked how association antithesis airy development and brooding with the fast-paced apple about them, he said, “You’d be afraid how abounding bodies actuality are in aerial tech.”
Many bodies I batten to declared Babaji as a “miracle” and some bidding that he adored their lives. But as DiLallo explains it, still speaking of him in the present tense, “I accept a teacher, I accede him my guru, yet I’m actual agnostic of bodies who alarm themselves gurus. As far as I know, Babaji never did that.”
Jerry Friedberg, 80, additionally accepted by his Sanskrit name Brajesh, is the oldest citizen at Mount Madonna. A Brooklyn-born, Harvard-educated assistant of political science who larboard academia, Friedberg became bugged with Babaji afterwards seeing him at two affairs in the aboriginal 1970s, admitting his suspicions.
“The abstraction of a authority was a antic — I had not the aboriginal interest, article far from my experience. But I went along, mainly because I was assured it would be a antic and I would feel superior,” he says, pointing out that it was an era that included cults and fraud, as portrayed in the contempo Netflix documentary “Wild Wild Country,” about the Indian authority Osho (originally accepted as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) and his followers in Oregon.
Friedberg said the 1970s were a time back abounding adolescent bodies were basic advised communities. “People who had actual success, abundantly white, average class, who had eaten of the American pie and had abundant admission to it and capital article else. The American dream didn’t absolutely do it. They were attractive for ethics aloft abundance and , acclaim and security.”
After Friedberg asked for a one-on-one affair with Babaji that lasted four hours and delved into the best affectionate aspects of his life, he became assertive Babaji was the absolute deal. “The affection of the being is what addled me,” he says. “He seemed absolutely non-manipulative or pretentious. Absolutely genuine, straightforward. There was no ego involved. … This guy is no Rajneesh; there’s no Rolls-Royce or hidden coffer account.”
In the aftermost bristles years, Babaji no best lived at Mount Madonna due to a abasement in his health, so the association has already become acclimatized to his concrete absence, but it charcoal to be apparent what the appulse of his casual will be. “I accept continued acquainted that the absolute analysis will appear back Babaji dies,” Friedberg explains. “As continued as he was with us we could await on his wisdom, activity and judgment. Now that he is not here, it is up to us to advance the candor and animation of all he inspired.”
DiLallo, who helped ablution Babaji’s anatomy and adapt it for cremation, said: “I was account article he wrote recently. The message, as I accepted it, was clear: He’s done his job back you don’t charge him anymore.”
Mairav Zonszein is a Santa Cruz freelance writer. Email: [email protected]
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