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Founding Member Feature – Sanatan

sanatan at the ashram 2012
Sanatan at the Sri Ram ashram, 2012

I was already a seeker looking for a living master when I heard about Babaji in Ram Dass’ book, Be Here Now. Then The Yellow Book by Babaji showed up in my hands, and I was inspired. Around that time, Anuradha, my girlfriend from university, went to Vancouver and started studying with Anand Dass, one of Babaji’s first students in the west.

Shortly after that – in 1974 – we took a trip down to California to meet Babaji, who was living in the home of the woman who had sponsored him to come to North America, Ma Renu. When we walked in, I saw all the women sitting devotedly at Babaji’s feet. I didn’t feel drawn to sitting near his feet, so I sat back and observed. Later I realized something more had happened that I hadn’t noticed earlier. I had been deeply moved on a subtle level – I could feel it in my meditation that night.

My life was changing. I had been living up north in Fort St. John, and decided to move south to Vancouver. I was making wooden toys for kids at that time, living in my school bus that I had converted into a home – a mobile gypsy home. Anuradha and I moved the bus to the communal farm in Abbotsford to live with Sid and Sharada, Ravi Dass and Aparna and Anusuya, all students of Babaji’s, plus Stewart and Isha, who were also on a spiritual path. It was the beginning of a spiritual community. We lived there for two years, then moved to Aldergrove for four years, still living in community with other students of Babaji. We went to Vancouver each Sunday for satsang at our town yoga centre.

It was during that time we began the search for land. I was part of a group of seekers – spiritual seekers and land seekers – looking for a home for our community. We looked at land in Vernon, Kelowna, Whistler, Vancouver Island, Lumby, the Fraser Valley and the Columbia Valley. Eventually a place was found on Salt Spring Island that everyone liked. A bunch of us early Salt Spring Centre pioneers came to our new Centre to live. In those days, we just called it ‘the land’.

We lived on the land in our school bus for a couple of years, in the trees near Sharada’s house where the old barn was, where I set up a portable workshop. One of the first things I did on the land was put up a basketball pole.

Sanatan in his mobile workshop with some of the children from the Centre school.

I had been a karma yogi at the Centre for quite a few years when Babaji asked me to be Centre Director. I accepted the role and did it as well as I could till destiny called me to other things. My main focus was always the aesthetic improvement of the Centre, improving what was here, making the land beautiful. I spent fifteen years or so enthusiastically building rock walls with Babaji, including three years working on the fountain and pond.

Apart from being a karma yogi and working on projects with Babaji, I also really enjoyed sitting in darshan with him, embracing his wisdom and wit. I also love kirtan – and participating in Babaji’s practical jokes such as The Great Pie Fight and the Mr. Satellite Chronicles.

The game goes on. I’m still trying to accept the present moment, noticing how I distract myself from being content in this moment and knowing that regular sadhana is where it’s at and peace is all there is. As an elder, if there’s anything I’ve learned over all these years, it’s be still, be quiet and enjoy it.