Many years ago, while Swami Rama was still walking this earth in the form many of us knew and admired, I had the good fortune to visit his ashram, Sadhana Mandir, along the River Ganga, in the holy city of Rishikesh. The ashram had this incredibly lush flower garden, beautiful lawns and white-washed buildings. It was truly a place of beauty.
Rishikesh is where the Ganga first flows out from from the mountains, bringing it's life-giving refreshment to the millions who live on the plains. Many great teachers have had centers in Rishikesh, and their wisdom and love flows out refreshing the spiritual thirst of the world.
At Sadhana Mandir, not only did I almost daily experience the presence of the great Himalayan Yogi Swami Rama; I also had the good fortune to be in the presence of what I considered the "hidden-gem" there, Swami Veda Bharati.
At that time, Swami Veda was deeply involved in several projects. Every day he sat meditating, much of that time in his little grass-roofed hut where he practiced in the ancient manner of the Sages of old, before the sacrificial fire. I particularly remember one evening, after he'd been in his "fire hut" for hours. I was in his chambers and he came in, face blackened from the smoke and soot of the fire. Another student was there and we both looked at one another and broke out in laughter. He looked so funny, and we couldn't help ourselves.
In addition to his intense spiritual practice, Swami Veda also was carrying on a project where, from all over India and Nepal, he gathered together rare unpublished Sanskrit manuscripts, handwritten in their original form, to preserve these invaluable spiritual riches for posterity. He had a small staff of workers help him with this.
In addition to these projects, Swami Veda constantly tended to his students world-wide by telephone, fax and email (yes, even in India, although it was painfully slow), saw a never-ending stream of guests, and gave many lectures to people gathered at the ashram and at the Himalayan Hospital, which was down the road about 45 minutes drive.
For me, the time there at Sadhana Mandir was golden, and I had the incredible opportunity to travel and stay there several times. While most people my age went on vacations, I went on pilgrimage to Sadhana Mandir. Vacations, with their emphasis on recreation and getting away, seemed much less to me than going to a place of such love and fullness. I never missed them.
That was all long ago. Time passed quickly, and since then Swami Rama left his body and Swami Veda Bharati is about to withdraw into spiritual silence for five to seven years beginning in February 2013.
However there is an opportunity coming up in July for people in North America to experience this living-gem, Swami Veda, and the teachings of the Himalayan Tradition. Beginning July 1, there will be a series of retreats in the Twin Cities area, mostly at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, presided over by Swami Veda. There will be opportunities to partake in silence retreat, to experience talks with Swami Veda, and to learn from him and the teachers carrying on his work. This is an opportunity to come into the presence of a living sage, a person who is a living example of what in the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is called a sthita prajña, a person of stable wisdom, and to dip into the healing stream of the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Tradition.
I plan to make a pilgrimage to this event, and invite you to do the same. Click Here for information about the July retreats.
This is the last opportunity to experience Swami Veda in North America before he begins his long silence. I hope you will come, experience and learn from this great teacher and Tradition.