I suppose I should preface this post with notifying you that I am likely one of the last people who should be talking about what I’m about to write. I am merely here as an observer who has only scratched the surface and lacks any true, deep knowledge of the subject. I should also note that I am not a spiritual being, but I am able to appreciate and admire those who are. That being said, allow me to introduce you…
In the summer of 2011, just before Josh (the hubs) and I moved from Tempe, Arizona to Roseburg, Oregon I took a Yoga Teacher Training intensive course to become a certified yoga instructor. This program was wonderful because it not only taught you the physical practice of yoga which has become so popular here in the United States, but also a piece of the philosophy and history of yoga. One of my assignments was a group project in which we were assigned a lineage of yoga to study and present to the class. Our group was given Sri Ramakrishna. At first, it was hard to come by information and history, but we did find it…. and what a rich, interesting history was there to be found!
|Babaji Bob Kindler|
Flash forward two years later, I’ve graduated from the class and been teaching physical yoga in a classroom setting for about as long. My classes at the community college and YMCA in Roseburg focused mostly on the physical practice, but also included homework journaling assignments on philosophy. Topics such as non-violence (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), moderation (brahmacharya), non-stealing (asteya), non-coveting (aparigraha), contentment (santosha)… and so on. We meditated before and after class and discussed these principals.
I was in no way a qualified teacher of yoga’s philosophy, but it was a beginning and soft exposure for those who might become more interested. Through a friend from the college Josh began to learn about Advaita Vedanta with a focus on Sri Ramakrishna and grew curious about yoga beyond the mat. And that’s how we met Babaji.
Over the last few years we have grown close to Babaji, a qualified spiritual teacher of Vedanta, who was an American born concert cellist before taking up the dharma in his early adulthood. Babaji is the Spiritual Director of the Sarada Ramakrishna Vivekananda (SRV) Association, named for the three illumined beings: Sarada Devi, Sri Ramakrishna, and Vivekananda.
Although Babaji lives in Hawaii with his wife and oversees an ashram there, he comes to the mainland often for spiritual retreats, classes, and pujas in San Francisco and Portland. Babaji offers prison ministries while on the mainland and worship music is available online. Classes are free and the SRV Association exists off of donations from the community and sanga. We’ve both participated in classes and retreats learning a great deal about a piece of the world and faith not so commonly found in the west these days. The teachings are incredibly in depth and require many years of study and practice to fully understand, something I simply do not have.
One of the teachings that resonates with me is that they include all faiths without requiring someone of a different faith to switch paths. I have heard Babaji say that Vedanta can help Catholics be better Catholics, Christians better Christians, Muslims better Muslims. It’s a path which teaches compassion, love, and devotion. The idea that if God is in all beings, including ourselves, then to treat our fellow man with love and respect is to treat God with love and respect. This is such a minute sample of something so much deeper than I can explain. But I do know that Josh and I have both learned how to be better spouses for each other through patience and a kind of devotional love I never knew existed.
With all this in mind, Josh began working with the Community Education and Cultural departments at our college to see if we could have Babaji come out to tiny little Wyoming and give a presentation. Through the hard, diligent work of many people we were able to get grants and funding for travel, accommodation, and marketing for the event. And here we are!
On Sunday we picked up Babaji and SRV President, Annapurna, from the Denver International Airport. The last two days have been filled with them popping into classes on campus offering an introduction to what Vedanta is and the history behind it. So far, amazingly, it has been a warm welcome from students, instructors, and staff. Question and answer sessions have brought about fruitful discussions and participation.
Overall, it has been a successful trip in that we’ve had the opportunity to expose a small community to a different culture they otherwise likely would have never heard of. Babaji has a formal presentation on Wednesday evening and Annapurna will be delivering a lunch time class focusing on Women in Vedanta. The experience is going by quickly, but I know it was worth the energy to make it happen. Josh and I are both lifelong-learners and like to encourage the people around us to explore different viewpoints in the world – not to take the viewpoints on as their own, but to earn a better understanding of the world around them. Through education we can destroy prejudice, fear, and barriers between us and “them,” whoever “them” is.