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Notes - 1

Posted by blue cowboy , 15 December 2016 · 268 views

I was brought up (made to go) in the Methodist Church (good and sincere people, I’m sure).  However, I literally could not take vow to join my family church, getting physically ill on that day. I dropped out at 13 and in school found the American transcendentalists - I was not alone!! After high school a friend loaned me Be Here Now by Baba Ram Dass. My roommate in college happened to be a kriyaban. He loaned me the Autobiography of a yogi. I was pretty depressed at that moment - Chapter One of the AY. I was lying on my dorm room bed. I'd been seeking happiness in many wrong outward ways and it had led to despair. My despair was only worsened by the tale of Master's parents finding their Guru, Lahiri Mahasaya, Master's healing thru Lahiri Mahasaya's grace. I put the book aside, and called out to God: "When will it happen to me? When will I have a Guru?" The response was immediate: "Now. Paramahansa Yogananda is your Guru." My friend had also given me a SRF Lessons application. I sent in for the Lessons the next day. That night I saw my favorite band: The Moody Blues. It all seemed planned - a divine celebration; I had found my Guru again!! I was on my way. I had found what I had been seeking, without knowing it, my entire life. From that day onward, I made meditation a habit. 
During the first month of my membership in SRF, Baba Ram Dass visited Atlanta and started his satsanga by chanting "Listen, Listen, Listen." My Kriyaban friend leaned over and said, "Gurudeva wrote that."  
My friend and I began attending the Atlanta Meditation Group - then held in NW Atlanta at the home of Mary Lou Edwards on Cave Road.  She had know the Guru in the flesh. She had letters from him that held his holy vibration. Of those early Atlanta group members, were the Pitchforks, Randy Bundy and James.  
Mrs. Edwards had met with the Guru right after WWII in California when she attended a lecture by him in San Francisco. During the lecture the Guru mentioned his new Golden Lotus Temple in Encinitas. Mrs. Edwards immediately had a desire to see that temple.  
A few days later Mrs. Edwards, along with her baby daughter, drove south along the coast of California. She was to travel via ship from San Diego to meet her husband, a Navy man, in Hawaii. Enroute to San Diego, Mrs. Edwards wanted to stop in Encinitas to visit the Golden Lotus Temple. There was no sign for the temple along the highway, and Mrs. Edwards at first missed the turn off. She got to Solana Beach and at first she dismissed her desire to see the temple; she thought "it wasn't meant to be." Then, suddenly, without a second thought, she robotically turned the car around, drove back to Encinitas, turned up K Street, and for an unknown reason turned into the driveway in between Second and Third Streets.  
At the top of the driveway, there stood our Guru with about five members of his hermitage - all there waiting to greet her. One whisked Mrs. Edwards' infant out of the car and took her up the stairs. Mrs. Edwards took off up the stairs after her daughter. There she found her daughter at the dining room table in an infant's seat, and there on the table was a banquet set out entirely in her honor.  
After the meal, Mrs. Edwards was invited to stay in the hermitage for the weekend. That evening the Guru called Mrs. Edwards into his study to talk. Mrs. Edwards recalled the Guru voice was like music and the wisdom coming from him was like a golden light. After a while, Mrs. Edwards noticed real light, spinning, sparkling clouds, and in the center of the spinning light, sat our Guru. The Guru predicted that before her life was over, a large SRF center would be built in Atlanta (and it did come to pass.)  
Later, after the household had retired, Mrs. Edwards sneaked out of her room, and went back into the study. She searched the shelves and around the room for the source of the mysterious light. She found none.  
The next day as she was bidding farewell to the Guru, they were joking about gurus and jinis and their mysterious abilities - specifically if they could grant wishes. Master asked Mrs. Edwards what she would wish for if she had three wishes. Mrs. Edwards said, "Well first I'd like to be able to get early to take care of my baby; secondly, I have so little time because of my baby, that I'd like to have naturally curly hair so I don't have to roll it; and I'd like to always be cared for financially."  
Mrs. Edwards said from that day onward, she awoke at 5:00 a.m. fully rested, her hair turned curly and required no care, and her husband always took good care of the family's financial needs. Her home reflected that - stately and nice and in NW Atlanta. 
I recall starting working the 3 to 11 shift after college specifically with the desire to come to convocation and on retreat in Encinitas. I bought a Chevy 6 van for $1500 and off we went in mid-July. We drove across the country from the East Coast. I recall we were in the Grand Canyon and we felt this pull as it was the first day of Convocation. We drove all day to get to the Biltmore on time. Hot day, no air conditioning thru the desert.  
We just knew it was in downtown L.A. but didn't know exactly where. As we drove the last few miles, we got out of our shorts and put on jeans - mainly at traffic lights.  
We finally just parked somewhere and started jogging. Everyone on the street was nice about pointing us the right direction, even if they looked different and we certainly did - long hair and all. We got there late and the ushers were dressed to the nines, well-groomed and showed us to seats. I thought they might not let us in; we were so hippie, rag-tag compared to them. The convo was not yet even big enough for the Biltmore Bowl, so the class was in the Cathedral Ballroom. And Brother Anandamoy was speaking about the Guru. I recall afterwards going into the Music Room (now the lobby) for meditation. There was a photo of Master's last smile in the spot he sat before his mahasamadhi. I recall the darkness and dim golden light in there - and the tinkling of the air hitting the chandeliers. 
We found the van - downtown L.A. late at night, two kids really. We asked some guy, "How do we get to the beach?" He pointed us to the freeways. We found Will Rodgers State Beach near Lake Shrine and parked the van; hey, oceanfront!  
In the morning, we swam in the blue Pacific and took beach showers (this was to be shower for a couple of more Convos too) before we found the nearby Lake Shrine - a different world indeed. The cops came by and asked us what was for breakfast and how old we were - 19.  
Every day, we'd go down to the Biltmore for the classes and meditations. I didn't even have Kriya.  
Convo was a magical time, followed by a week in the Encinitas Retreat. I'll never forget stopping by the gate, barefoot, long hair, jeans, T-shirts and being so welcomed. The lady (I think Mrs. Vickery?) was blown-away we had driven across the country in my van. I recall the shock when we were told we were to be in silence. "YOU MEAN WE AREN'T GOING TO SAY ANY-THING AT ALL?!" Thankfully, we weren't the only hippies in that retreat.  
In those days, the entire beach below the ashram grounds was one big nude beach. Very contrasting to the conservatism I found in SRF. Still, I felt at home and welcomed.
What next?  
Well, do you guys recall that book: The Spiritual Community Guide. It listed a place called Ananda as a commune of SRF members - which it was at that time. We left the retreat and drove up there for a few days before turning back eastward. I recall meeting some great people. One had a teepee I recall; his name was "Garth Gilchrist." What a great person. We swam in the Yuba River. Enough said - but this will come back to play later in the story.  
I returned to school, but continued to work with an eye to the next Convocation - the 1975 World Convocation. I "luckily" found out about a new SRF group being started in Atlanta by a transplanted NY devotee named Riley Gilliard. Funny, but Mrs. Edwards had been encouraged to become a minister with another path, and she took up that role. I can't recall all the folks I met at Riley’s, but I recall the joy was the same, always uplifting meeting with devotees. To this day, I love Riley and I think he loves me. His photo is with me in my profile - the handsome Black man. He was my spiritual father.  
He had lived thru the depression on the lamb, going from place to place looking for work and taking handouts. He said after the depression, he got two jobs because he was so happy to work. I think he worked for the Post Office and drove a cab in NY. He said when he got into SRF, his girlfriend gave him an ultimatum: "Either me or SRF! If you continue meditating, I will leave." Riley chose SRF. He said he told her: "I can't quit. I have to keep meditating." Oh! I recall Bob Arnett, "India Unveiled," attended the group then. We moved to a bank in Buckhead - I guess the real start of the modern Atlanta Center. We were only five or so then.  
At that time, SRF was having "World Convocations" every five years - which they would translate classes into at least three other languages. It was called a new high water mark for SRF Convocations - I think 3000 attendees? There's a foldout page in one SRM from 1975 with a photo of us all using a 180-degree camera. Sorry to tell you guys but that was the best Convocation since Master. Sri Daya Mata opened the Convo - held in this big rented "Hope Street Methodist Church" (since torn down) on July 25, 1975 - Babaji Day. Ma gave us all these beautiful photos of Master from the side - where his eyes look like diamonds. Other speakers included Brothers Dharmananda, Mokshananda, Anandamoy, Turiyananda, Bhaktananda. I recall at the closing Sri Soven Roy spoke on behalf of YSS, and Ma spoke a second time to close the event.  
Another talk was by SRF VP Mrinalini Mata called "The Guru Messenger of Truth." I was still wearing my hair very long and at one point I felt that she "looked right at me" and said "it's the squares (those trying to follow God's laws) who are in tune with God." That was the end of my hippie, rock-and-roll lifestyle. I left that class thinking, "I need to change; I need to find a way to be in tune with God." I didn't know it was a lifelong quest - I thought it would happen the next day.
This is the Convocation that when I wasn't in my van on the beach, I sleep on the roof of the Stillwell Hotel - the kind NY devotees letting me use their bathroom on occasion - God bless them! And this was the Convo where I heard Brother Turiyananda tell the story of St. Anthony of the Desert coming to the council of Alexandra to testify about Christ's divinity. Here's brother's version: "One side said Christ was human with divine experiences; and the other said Christ was divine. During the argument, St. Anthony got up and with the FULL FORCE of his realization said, "I HAVE SEEN HIM!!!" (Brother's fist in the air!) 
End of '75, my 20th year, and my life was to take unforeseen and unexpected turns in the coming year. Of course there were seeming choices? I grew restless of the friends I had, the loneliness I had when I stayed apart, not much spiritual company in Atlanta. I applied and was accepted into Ananda's Organic Gardening Apprentice Program. I paid them to let me work there while learning. But I wanted direction in my life and thinking that was a commune of SRF members I thought I wanted to be there - in a more spiritual environment. I drove out a couple of weeks early at the end of May, thinking I would volunteer doing gardening work at the Lake Shrine till time to head north to Nevada City. That was the plan. I was to join that program in June 1976.  
Once again en route, I was in nature and felt that pull - a call to my soul it seemed. I abandoned my backpacking hike - took an instant U-turn on a trail, got to my van and drove to Los Angeles. I slept in my familiar place in the Will Rogers Beach lot - I knew it so well. The next day I got to the Lake - little did I know this would be where I would spend my next four and a half years. Education, hard work, discipline - SRF members!!! Master works and fast.  
The Schober Brothers were going to build the stairs to the top level. I recall Charlie Mamburg and Dennis were pulling a tree stump out of the footpath to the top. They had a cable down to the parking lot where it was attached to a pick-up truck. I was 20 and in incredible shape as I was a cross-country and track runner. I asked them if I could help and they of course said yes, and I dug that stump like a mad-man. I was pretty much in awe to meet Bro. Dharmananda and Bro. Turiyananda. Bro. T didn't want to work with me though because I was a hippie kid, but Bro. Dharmananda was from Alabama and I was from Georgia so we seemed to hit it off. We cleared and widened the path to the top, and the Schobers came in and framed it for the stairs. Later a cement pumping truck came in and they poured concrete into the frames.  
Bro. Dharmananda offered me a job as gardener assistant working with Bro. Turiyananda. Bro. Nakulananda was going to Encinitas Postulant Ashram and they needed a replacement. Bro. D told me if it was him, he wouldn't go to Ananda. He didn't say anything against them though. He said I could learn gardening there, and be paid (a little) for it. I mentioned the fact that my parents were counting on me to complete this program; he said that I should meditate and make a decision which suited me - in my soul. I chose to stay at the Lake. We completed the stairs the built the retaining wall on the hill-side of it. We carried buckets of cement up from the parking lot to pour into the bricks so the wall would be strong. Bro. T warmed up to me and we started working together. He was tough, but he saw I wasn't giving up despite his discipline. (There's a whole post on Bro. T earlier in the blog.)  
I was living in my van for the first couple of weeks, parked on a helicopter pad behind the old Transendental Meditation Center. Dennis said I couldn't stay there permanently and I should put an ad in the Palisades Post for a place to stay in return for gardening. A lady called the Lake. I accidentally destroyed her number. She called again. Br. Lawrence/Bro. Vidyananda cut off my long hair. I had an interview. The lady liked me. She was going to Europe to visit her friend, J. Paul Getty - the richest man in the world, and she wanted me to live on a floor of her home and take care of the garden. I asked about rent, and she said there would be none. My floor fronted a pool and had a view of the ocean. I had been in California two weeks and had a pool, a floor of mansion, and a job at one of the most beautiful places on earth. Great are the blessings of a true Guru.  
The short-term plan was to hold the Boys Youth Program at the Lake on the top field - that's why the stairs. We also expanded the warehouse up there to include a kitchen, bathrooms and shower stalls. BYP was only about 8 weeks away and we were hustling - somehow it did come together even if we did shower the boys with hoses the first day while the grout hardened in the shower stalls. The new temple parking lot is where the old warehouse was. The boys stayed in tents on the upper field area by Br. Adolph's (an elderly disciple of Master) garden. What a magical time.  
Life at Lake Shrine: 
Mondays the Lake was closed. I'd start really early running the rainbirds on the hillsides. We ran all the sprinklers by hand then - one hour each, and we'd water around the lake by hose a lot too. I'd meditate around the Gandhi lawn, usually alone in the early a.m. light. Breakfast was on your own that day. We'd swim in the lake in the afternoon. Bro. T would do laps. Bro. Dharmananda had a blowup raft he'd take out, swim and then he'd lay on it in the sun on one of the temple paths. Oh, you couldn't talk to the brothers on Monday unless they talked to you first. They were in complete silence.  
Tuesday - Friday a.m. we had ee at 7:15; group med. from 7:30 to 8:15; breakfast thereafter; work at 9:00 sharp - better start early. Work ended at 5:00 p.m. followed by an hour of recreation - usually basketball in the parking lot. On Tuesdays, we'd go to Mt. Washington for a monk's class sometimes, and if not we'd have a meditation. Wednesday we'd do the same except evening was always group meditation. On Thursday, in the evening we'd go to the lecture - which was either Bro. T or Bro. D or Bro. Anandamoy, or at times a Br. in training from MW. Friday was long meditation night, and you'd think we'd be exhausted by week's end, but I always loved the Friday night 2 and 3-hour meditations. I'd sit by a window in the windmill chapel or over on the left side of the chapel under Master's last smile. Saturday a.m. we'd have the normal meditation, followed by an abbreviated work day. On Saturdays we'd need to be full-on because of the many volunteers we'd get that day, especially work party days. In the afternoon, about 2 p.m., we'd stop and play softball, basketball, or go surfing at Topanga Beach or Malibu. Saturday nights were open, and we could go out by the lake and meditate anywhere you wanted on your own. It was so quiet then.  
Sunday a.m. we'd go to service, usually sitting in the little kitchen in the back of the windmill. Sunday we'd have off, but usually we'd go to the 2-hour meditation Sunday night. In those days, monastics led every service - including meditations. It is really unbelievable that we'd hear those great SRF speakers talk at least twice a month - a Thursday and a Sunday each, and Bro. T would even lead a Friday night meditation now and then. Bro. Vidyananda was a maestro on the harmonium and so was Bro. T,; we'd always get the chanting going Friday and Sunday nights. I also reflect on the relatively small numbers that would hear those great souls - on some Thursdays the chapel which seated 125 would not be but 3/4 full??? Thank goodness a lot of what was said was recorded - all of Bro. Anandamoy and much of Turiyananda.  
A lot of effort, a lot of service, a lot of fun....
I can't recall the order of the projects I worked on while at Lake Shrines, or timeframe. I do recall we built Krishna Falls later in my stay there. Oh yea, I became "a resident" approximately one year after I became an employee, and I'll tell you now how that came about: 
Back to that first summer: As I said, Bro. Dharmananda was in charge of Youth Program which was going to be held at the Lake for the first time. The first day we hosed the boys off as the showers weren't ready. They set up a propane gas stove as the kitchen wasn't ready either. Somehow, some way, we made it work. In those days it was common to stay up at night, working and serving. We were young and were willing and would do anything for Master. We had crafts sessions, meditations, beach time, work, classes, etc. with the boys. We had galas, and satsangas too.  
When I got back to my house after BYP, I was exhausted. The lady, my landlord, had returned from England while I was at BYP. She felt I had "abandoned" her garden, even though I had come by to water. She moved all my stuff out, and basically told me I was no longer welcome. Was the magic wearing off? No, I had to believe. I drove back to the Lake and was about to pass out with exhaustion. I didn't know where to park, but I still had my van. I got to the Lake's maintenance area and grabbed a book from a shelf above the washer-dryer - I think it was the Bible, and I was looking for answers. I opened it and read: "Blessed is he that seeks shelter in the Lord." Bro. T walked thru the shop and I told him what had happened. He said, "don't worry about it. This was going to work out because since the top area had been built, they felt they needed someone up there at night to watch it." So, I parked my van up where the retreat now stands, view of the pacific. I used the bathrooms we just had built in the warehouse. I was home.  
Oh yea, back to the projects - besides the BYP, Pilgrimage Tours, Dedications and special events, those work projects we were involved in, starting in the parking lot by the gift shop and working around: 
Rock wall along path on right, rebuilt. Stairs and wall. Planted that hillside and put in irrigation. Cactus garden on left remodeled. Christ statue hill replanted, and remodeled. (Plantings pretty much everywhere - and trimmings pretty much everywhere - pruning by chainsaw most of the time.) Krishna falls and statue placed. Meditation areas and terracing along path. Dug reeds out of the lake between Krishna and houseboat. Cement slab to support path at top of the rise past houseboat. Secret mission in storm drain under Sunset adjacent to the chapel. Terracing down toward the lake past the chapel - rock walls. Remodeled rose garden, and Court of Religions, sunken garden.  
I don't know.... something, somewhere
Some things of interest while at the Lake:  
After about nine months of living in my van and warehouse in the top area, I moved into a room that was part of the gift shop (a wall was knocked down and the gift shop was made larger). The room was 5 feet wide and 12 feet long. I loved that little room. In the winter at night I'd go into the museum and turn on the gas fireplace and meditate there. In the spring and summer I'd meditate by the lake. I was assigned to throw out intruders at night - mainly couples and fishermen. They were always cool as I showed them out the gate at all hours.  
Bro. Dharmananda had a great affinity and intuition about people. He was a trusted and loyal friend from the beginning. When Bro. T was seemingly very upset with me, Bro. D would make everything okay again. I asked him if I should finish college, and he said "this is your college now." He always supported the notion that I was where I belonged and was doing what I should be doing. Once when I was attempting "official" ashram admittance (moving out of my van), one of my hometown references failed to respond to the inquiry. Bro. D ended up writing a reference for me. Still, with his ladies and men's groups, guided meditations, etc., he continues to inspire devotees on their homeward journey. A recent quote from his men's group: "as sure as you're sitting there, a veil has lifted and I'm sitting in midst of the Holy Om Vibration." 
At the end of that first year, with me living "unofficially" in my van on top where the temple is now, we got Bro. Anandamoy in a trade with Encinitas. Brother D, being an engineer, was to work on the bluff - cliff. So, for the majority of my stay at the Lake, Brother Anandamoy was the Minister-in-Charge. The deal with brother's talks is he'd take a subject and start from an angle that maybe you thought of, and then he'd take it deeper and deeper. They were talks and classes from a realized state. Once my mother called to wish me happy birthday. She ended up talking to Bro. Anandamoy. She didn't know who he was but she called him "the sweet-voiced man." Brother and Brother Bimal would call themselves "Master's biotzos," and he told me this meant "clowns."  just one of Master's clowns myself - a lifetime of mastering that!
I recall my interview to enter Lake Shrine as an official ashram resident.  I was sitting in the bookroom one evening talking to Brother Anandamoy.  My back was to the Court of Relgions and Brother was looking at me, and beyond me was the court and the lake.  Brother was saying because of certain rules and requirements that i could not enter for a while, but almost in midsentence, as brother looked out beyond me onto the Court of Religions, he changed and abruptly said "yes you can be a resident," and warmly welcomed me.  It was so strange I had to believe Master had interceded for me; unfortunately I never asked Brother Anandamoy why he had changed his mind so abruptly. 
Copyright © 2014  Jonathan Ansley Ward

 All rights to this blog (BC's blog) are reserved.  No part of it may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission from the author – Jonathan Ansley Ward srfrjon@gmail.com .

Dec 16 2016 01:22 AM

Thanks for sharing, Jonathan, it's a joy and inspiration to read!

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blue cowboy
Dec 16 2016 02:39 PM

Thanks for sharing, Jonathan, it's a joy and inspiration to read!

Thanks LF.  I was watching a DVD of Sri Daya Mata talking about Master, saying writing was his hobby.  She was transcribing his journals - sublime.  So, I am going to try to make writing more of a regular hobby as I have time, now and then.  Thus, I'll add more notes.  All Day Christmas Meditation tomorrow and I'm going to Escondido Center - Brother Ishtananda will lead.  Should be a blessed day, and hope you have the best yet.  *********

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Thanks, bc!

I really resonated with your stories of Brother Dharmanandaji. I also became very close to him and received lots of help from him...he had a very loving vibration his last few years of life.


And reading the stories of Master with Mrs. Edwards brought tears to my eyes. Master could and does (somehow) welcome us all with a banquet. Interesting that she left--did she actually leave SRF? Master must have foreseen that and gave her unconditional love anyway. If she did leave, she'll be back.


Keep up with the writing. It is awesome!

Thanks, and IDF, Bryon

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