Over this Thanksgiving break, I had the chance to revisit a place from my childhood that is dear to my heart. Also, for the first time, I showed my wife and kids Mount Madonna center located in Watsonville, California — the community, school, and spiritual centre that greatly impacted me growing up. The “Land,” as we call it, certainly has changed on the surface level. Fewer children play in the wooded areas, and fewer residents live on the property (around 50 today). My dad is now one of those permanent residents. He is a home builder extraordinaire who could make a lot more money working in the city but chose to slow down and semi-retire by moving to the Land and putting his skills to use by helping to upkeep the large property (400 acres or so) and its ageing buildings.
When my wife, kids, and I arrived at the property, we noticed a small waterfall above the lake where we used to do log rolling as kids (a balancing game where you stand on a large log while moving it in the water and see who the last one standing is). So we decided to take a little stroll to see it closer. Underneath the small waterfall was a prayer area where I captured a picture of my kids. Later, my dad told me this is where some portions of the Shraddha ceremony are performed.
We then went to meet up with my dad at the community building. As kids, we always called it the C.B. for short. This large building houses the kitchen used for cooking meals for all the residents and the many guests who visit the property for retreats, seminars, or Yoga teacher certification. It was also the central area where Babaji would meet those gathered to see Him. After dinners, He would always enjoy passing out candy to us kids eager for His generosity (two small pieces or one big piece was the rule). Below is the room where I had my first legitimate spiritual experience during the darshan of Babaji, which I wrote about previously. Babaji always sat against the windows in this room, giving us all a nice view down to the water.
View from the C.B.:
Next, We enjoyed some delicious blueberry pancakes with fresh whipped cream, served to us by the head of the kitchen staff, Hari Priya. I remembered her immediately when I saw her; she’s been working in that kitchen non-stop for over 40 years. My dad is close with her now; she welcomed my family like we were her own.
After getting a tour of the C.B., we decided to see the Hanuman Sankat Mochan temple, which I had never seen before.
In 2001 some of Babaji’s long-time students brought back a Hanuman murti from India. Upon seeing this statue, Babaji said, “it needs a temple” he immediately walked to an area on the Land and traced out with His foot where The temple should be constructed. It was built on that very spot in 2003 when Babaji performed the Prana Pratishta ceremony, establishing the breath in the sacred image of Hanuman. Soon, the temple became quite famous. The line of cars waiting to get on the property to visit the temple would sometimes stretch for over a mile. Being good citizens and not wanting to inconvenience the neighbors surrounding them, the caretakers of the Land instituted a reservation system to gain control of the situation. On the day we were there, the temple was not open to the public, so we could visit it alone as there was no one else there. I could feel the peaceful presence of Babaji and the power of Hanuman. Here are some pictures that my wife took of the temple:
My dad (and his late brother Rabindra) contributed to the temple’s construction, including much of the tilework which adorns it. The pic below shows the granite pieces surrounding the inner sanctums windows.
Large granite window frame – Inner Sanctum:
My dad crafted and installed these. During the installation of one large piece of granite, it started falling when placed above this window. The weight of the piece falling was too much for my dad to hold on his own. So he used his head to figure out how to stop the granite piece from falling. They had spent a lot of time on that piece, and he knew it was meant to be a part of the temple, so he was determined to find a way to stop it from falling. When I say he “used his head,” I mean it literally. He thrust his head forward to use his skull to prevent the piece from falling, directly ramming his head into the granite piece to stop it from crashing to the ground before someone could rush to assist. He was almost knocked unconscious and immediately felt blood streaming down his face from the wound he had received. He tells that story with particular pride, which I understand. What wouldn’t we do to please our Guru and make Him proud?
After spending some time at the temple, we drove to my dad’s cottage. My wife captured a nice picture of My dad, my kids, and me.
At his cottage, my dad showed us some of the items he’s collected over the years, and he started giving us some of them.
One thing to note about Babji is he was a silent monk. Babji took a 12-year vow of silence at 29 years old, and when that was over, it had brought him such peace that he continued his entire life in complete silence (he died in 2018). I never heard Babaji utter a word in His life (other than in a dream). The peace you feel in front of an enlightened being is encapsulated in silence, and no words are needed to communicate that peace. No ears are necessary, and no language barrier matters when speaking the language of silence. I remember going to Satsang as a child and listening to the questions and answers portion of those gatherings. Everything moved slower because it took some time for Babaji to write His response to the questions asked. In that silence, the mind quiets down.
I don’t think I ever saw Babaji without his chalkboard hanging around his neck. It was as much a part of his identity as His white robe. The lovely lady Hari Priya I mentioned above once took a vow of silence for three years. She used a small pad to write on during that time. Seeing that, Babaji had gifted her His chalkboard that He had been using for some time. Hari Priya and my dad decided they wanted me to have that chalkboard, so on our visit to my dad’s cottage, he gave it to me, along with a small piece of Babaji’s chalk that was left over. I feel blessed and honored to have this sacred item in my home.
And when I got home that night, guess which activity was recommended through the Sadhana app push notification? See below: