Reported by Matrika Gast
On September 28, 2009, our Ashram came into being. We celebrated on a conference call last Saturday evening, with a Japathon. Together, we repeated our mantra more than 500 times, and then Swamiji guided us into meditation. When Swamiji spoke, she beautifully emphasized that we were celebrating our joint birthday as a community. She closed saying “Happy Birthday to us!”
Here, many community members share what the Ashram means to them:
Priya Kenney shares:
The Ashram is my spiritual home, the place I go to drink from the well. It is also the abode of the Guru, my spiritual guide and teacher. Swamiji’s presence and the buildings are the physical location from which everything flows as the grounded source of Grace and Consciousness. That is the well I gratefully drink from, regardless of my location. As the source of my upliftment and my progress on this path, it sustains me.
Swamiji tells us that the Ashram itself is also the body of the Guru. I experience that whenever I am at Lokananda or the Ashram, by being reliably propelled into the knowing of my own expansive Self. I love the moment when Swamiji enters the Meditation Hall, answering my longing with her presence. The edges of my mind dissolve in the powerful flow of Grace, and I know my Self as Consciousness-Itself. As in all homes, the kitchen is another favorite place. It is full of deliciousness and the warmth of other yogis.
When I leave, I take with me the portable form of the Guru, the mantra. It’s important to me to stay connected to the Ashram even while I am thousands of miles away. I do that by repeating mantra, the sound form of the Guru. I do seva and tap into the wellsprings of Grace in all the website resources. Through monthly dakshina I am grateful to be able to support that grounded well of Consciousness that gives me everything. I am ever grateful for the Ashram and the Guru.
“Happy Birthday, Dear Ashram, Happy Birthday to You!” writes Sri McNeill. Thank you dearest Swamiji, donors, Board members, and kula for making Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram possible. There are so many aspects that I love and appreciate about our incredible ashram. Physically, just being on the grounds or within her walls, particularly in the Meditation Hall in the presence of the Gurus and the murtis — that’s pure joy. Then again being at Swamiji’s feet for darshan after satsangs — that’s also pure joy. And finding the perfect article or talk in the online freebies — that’s pure joy too. So many ways to receive so many benefits and blessings. Jaya!”
Tirtha Richards declares, “Happy Birthday, Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram! I am ever grateful for the Ashram first and foremost because it houses our beloved Guru Swami Nirmalananda. How fortunate we are to have Swamiji right here, offering us all what we are ready to receive. Just stepping in the door brings me to a more grounded and deep place internally. Her Grace permeates throughout, allowing us to shift into the Self and carry our opening to Self with us when we return home. If we find we have forgotten how to access it ourselves, we simply have to listen to her online teachings or return for a visit. Grace is so close and so easily accessible. Thank you dear Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram for the most precious gift of all!”
“Celebrating the birth of the Ashram makes utter sense to me,” explains Aanandi Ross. The Ashram and all its facets — whether chanting in the temple, having lunch with Swami, or partaking of the virtual yoga community in so many ways — has become the most significant aspect of my life. All that this Ashram represents is what births me into my Self, more and ever more, deeper and deeper. I’ve heard Swamiji say so many times, ‘Baba gave me my Self.’ This is the most precious gift. In turn, Swamiji so freely and abundantly offers this gift to so many. I don’t even fully comprehend all that I know I’m receiving. She gives me my Self. I am getting to know my Self. With great love, I thank you, Swamiji. ”
When Guruji planted the shakti at the Ashram,” describes Dhananjaya King, “it was established as a holy site of pilgrimage. When Lokananda opened, another holy site emerged. It doesn’t matter whether I go to the Ashram or Lokananda, each offer the spiritual foundation that my feet need to stand on. I don’t even have to have arrived yet at the Ashram. Beginning with the intention to go, things start to change; my world vibrates differently. My six-hour drive becomes a mystical tour. The car seems to drive itself. Time flies by. People I meet on the way look at me differently. When I arrive, it all comes together. Whether it’s a retreat, B&B weekend or satsang, I am forever changed with each visit.”
Sumati Morrison vividly recalls the email Swamiji sent out announcing that she was founding an Ashram, virtual to begin with. Sumati says:
How excited and happy I felt. I responded immediately, ‘Oh joy! What can I do to help?’ I realize now that I didn’t really know exactly what an Ashram was. Yet I was pretty sure Swamiji would begin focusing more on meditation, which I had been craving for a number of years.
With the acquisition of a building, I was particularly glad that Swamiji would finally be able to ‘plant the shakti’. Again, not truly understanding, I was primarily glad for her. I think I thought of the shakti as sort of this huge load she had been hauling around and trying to somehow contain. And, I primarily conceived of the Ashram as a sort of ‘retreat center.’ What I came to understand was that although I could physically retreat, really I wanted to retreat from my issues that came with me no matter where I was.
Even with a building now, the virtual Ashram has continued and expanded. Now with the multitude of free online offerings, phone programs, Swamiji’s visits to Svaroopa® studios as well as Lokananda, Swamiji and her teachings are actually available 24/7. Still, there’s nothing is like being with her — in her presence! That is truly what the Ashram means to me — wherever Swamiji is, that is the Ashram.”
“Happy Birthday, Ashram! The gifts I receive from you far exceed the gifts I offer to you — Om Namah Shivaya,” says Gayatri Hess. “Through the Ashram, Swamiji makes herself and the teachings available in so many ways. She brings them to us through an amazing network of programs offered at the Ashram, online and by phone. I personally love the availability of writings and talks on line. I read the monthly contemplation and then listen to the corresponding online Satsangs prior to my morning meditation. I make regular visits to the Ashram. I love personal time with Swamiji, whether at lunch or one-on-one time through B&B weekends. The year-long phone course offers me the opportunity to take in the deeper teachings with direct feedback from Swamiji. This program also gets me closer to fellow yogis. The vowed order supports my yearning for the more, the Self. I bow again and again to Swamiji and the Grace of this lineage. I am blessed by the Ashram that gives so much.”
OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah