Radha's Life of Service – Part VII

March 21, 2008 by Lightwaves
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swd_home.jpgIn a continuing series of articles, Swami Durgananda will present her research into Swami Radha’s life before and after she met her guru, Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, India. In this installment, Swami Radha makes the move from Burnaby to Yasodhara Estates – the home of her new Ashram.

The Ashram property was located and the papers signed. But this brought more issues. In Swami Radha’s words, “So now was getting the rest of the money. And there was a mad race for me.”

swd_1.jpgAnother problem was moving the furniture and other things from the Vancouver property to the new location. Joe Gnilka had an old 2-ton flat-bed truck to do the job. He was the young fellow who accompanied Swami Radha on her world-wide Yoga trip in 1958 and who received an initiation into sanyas from Gurudev Sivananda, becoming Swami Premananda.

Swami Radha stayed with friends in Vancouver during the winter of 1962-63 and also traveled part of the time giving workshops before coming to Kootenay Bay.

Joe tells of the move, using the old truck. “The first thing to come out here was the tractor, which I had bought. It was a good front-end loader. We came out here with it sometime in September or October. That truck had poor tires, and I must have fixed 3 tires on the way out here. Every time on the road there was some break down with that old machine. I got used to it.

“Eventually, it took six trips. Christmas I was able to spend in the Burnaby Ashram, which by then was pretty well empty. I had taken all the beds, the closets and shelves that could be taken apart, and boxes and boxes of books and trunks and photographic equipment. I knew that the houses were going to be demolished and an apartment was going to be built on the place. The builder said to me, “Take what you like. I don’t care.” So I really did. The truck was always well loaded.

swd_7.jpg“The last trip Swami Radha got the idea that we needed a dog out there. So she went to the pound and got a beautiful collie dog called Nestor. He hadn’t been with any master for any length of time, and he didn’t obey anything. He was his own master.”

Joe tells of a rugged adventure in the bitterly cold weather in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Around 11 pm the truck broke down for good, the motor blew up in the middle of a bridge. Finally somebody came who pulled him off the bridge and he coasted the truck down the hill all the way to Christina Lake, with just the brakes, no motor.

He had to find a tow truck and this was an adventure in itself as Joe and the dog had to walk for hours in the bitter cold to find a local tow truck operator. In the end, the old truck was towed all the way to Kootenay Bay the next day.

Swami Radha wrote about this adventure in a letter to friends written January 31, 1963. “Joe had left (Vancouver) with the last truck (load) after building the third motor in last Tuesday. It took him until Friday and he had to have the truck towed. I just got an SOS letter from him. The chain of the tractor holding the firewood on the back was broken. Today John sent him the chain and I sent some money.”

swd_4.jpgSwami Radha had her challenges as well with the amount of work needed to make the place ready for guests. In June of 1963 she wrote from the Ashram to a friend: “We are now busy fixing up the old buildings for accommodation for visitors. One of the old buildings is a 3-room house with water but only an outdoor toilet, big cooking stove, and electric lights.”

And to another friend: “I am very very busy. Took me three solid days, morning to night to get that old wallpaper off in the old house. Everything is crooked. Joe is two days paper-hanging in a small room. It will not be perfect, but clean.”

swd_6.jpgSwami Radha wrote to Swami Sivananda in June 1963 to inform him of the change in plans and how they located this place in Kootenay Bay “more or less by accident. To our surprise the area was registered with the Land Office by the name ‘Yasodhara’ around 1880…. We were shown the old plan and kept the name and have now moved out here permanently. It is like the Himalayas. The mountains, which surround us, are 6,000 to 13,000 ft. high. The property being on the lake, makes it an ideal place…. We are carrying on the work here on a much better basis…. In Vancouver it was easy for everyone to just pick up the phone…. And very important, we have no more debts. With the sale of Burnaby we can pay for this place with a difference of $2,000…. In the country things can be more simple and taxes are not so high: $85 against $650 in Burnaby. Please pray for us, for the spiritual development of this place and that it may be a help for many people.

“At your feet, in your service,

“your child, Radha”

It is interesting that it was in July 1963 that Gurudev Sivananda passed into the Light. This was after Swami Radha had found the right place for the new Ashram. Swami Radha had feelings of sadness, that she couldn’t understand, starting in May and some dreams, but she never received notification of his death from the Divine Light Society. A friend informed her about it through a dream she had of Swami Sivananda telling her to give his warm coat back to Radha, (the one she had brought him as a gift in 1955) as he didn’t need it any more.

In next month’s account there will be more stories about what it was like to live in this new ashram in the wilderness. It took courage and commitment and stamina but also appreciation for the opportunities to learn something new.

Click to see full list of Radha’s Life of Service articles.


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  1. Hey! you guys should put the hi res photos on this column! When you click on the image, it should open up a hi res version…. this stuff is amazing. You gotta show it!!

    Comment by Andrew Wedman — March 21, 2008 @ 11:01 pm

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