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Swami Durgananda in Spokane

March 26, 2010 by Swami Durgananda

Swami Durgananda, who is residing in Spokane, WA for the winter months, updates Lightwaves with what she is doing now while living at the Radha Centre and shares some of her memories of being with Swami Radha during her final years.  Her tender stories resonate with a quality that reminds us of the sweetness of the relationship between teacher and student. This Saturday, March 20, under skies of blue, radiant with sunshine, we at Yasodhara Ashram celebrated Swami Radha’s 99th birthday. It was day overflowing with gratitude for all that she manifested in her life, a legacy that we are the beneficiaries of.

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SATYA AND I WALK OUTSIDE THE RADHA HOUSE in Browne’s Addition, a section of Spokane that has lovely homes nestled in tree-lined streets. It is 9 a.m. and we are going to the Peacock House, named for its peacock blue shingles. It is a home that Swami Radha bought to live in, the first floor apartment.  The office for Timeless Books and other business affairs is located in this building. We are coming over to clean Swami Radha’s apartment. It is important to keep her place the way she would have liked it.

We both look forward to this as it brings back our time with Swami Radha when we helped care for her in 1995,  the year she died. The first thing I notice is the fireplace with a beautiful carved wooden mantle piece. It brings back a memory of being with Swami Radha the first time she walked into the apartment after she purchased the house. I recall her walking over to the mantle piece over the fireplace and running her hand over the entire length of it. I thought about her early life in Berlin where she must have had beautiful furniture with details like this dark oak mantle piece. The apartment has many lovely mahogany touches and this made her feel at home.

I am not involved in the day to day teaching, but I did present a workshop on The Wheel of Life and offered an author reading one evening from my book. I have also been helping out in the Radha Center library. I am enjoying the time and space I have for some of my own projects, one of which is reading my own diaries and thinning out entries I don’t want to keep. I have more time for my practices, Hatha Yoga every morning and chanting in the afternoon.


On Sunday March 7 at 7:30 p.m. seven of us in the Spokane group met together in Swami Radha’s apartment to have an  evening of honoring Swami Radha. We started with chanting Hari Om with an ancient harmonium that had a creaky note which didn’t stop our enthusiasm. Neil Claflin brought his camera and there were group shots with an amazing photo of one of Swami Radha’s statues on the altar, Sitatapatra.  She is regarded as a female counterpart to Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.

Sharon Wobker, Swami Durgananda and Neil Claflin holding Krishna's flute

It seemed like the stories about times with Swami Radha opened up naturally and we all enjoyed hearing about her. I did a reading from my book, In Durga’s Embrace, and then the book was passed around for others to open it at random and read what was there. Neil found a picture of Swami Radha sitting in the same chair he was sitting in and he put it over his heart. Deborah Rose took orders for tea and cookies which were brought out. What was missing was the box of Black  Magic chocolates and the story about them was retold. Swami Radha had a gathering of a few residents one evening to welcome a good friend and his wife who was new to the Ashram. After a period of catching up on their news, Swami Radha said, “I think it is time for some Black Magic”, and a startled look on the face of the friend’s wife revealed that she didn’t know about Black Magic chocolates. I was not there so I don’t know what happened, but the story made the rounds after that.

We all appreciated our time in her apartment and it brought back memories of sitting across from her at her desk, a big table with photos behind. I am sure we will have other gatherings in her apartment from time to time.


Swami Durgananda


Editor’s Excerpt from In Durga’s Embrace by Swami Durgananda. For more information on Timeless titles, go to www.timeless.org.

September 28, 1989

This is a special day, as we have a ceremony on the temple site to celebrate the completion of the raising of the eight main arches .  They are huge and building them was  a big undertaking, but they are up now and will offer great support to the temple and its dome.  We all gather around Mataji amid the plywood and tools and unfinished walls.  She talks about the temple as the Temple of Light, of the Light in all religions.

“Here we want to be together in the Light. So the temple will be open as a Temple of Light, for those who want to find the Light in their own religion.”

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