Radha's Life of Service VIII

April 19, 2008 by Lightwaves
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swamiradha.jpgSwami Radha settles in to her new home at Yasodhara and welcomes a few unexpected guests.

Click here to see a high-resolution picture of Swami Radha

Swami Radha’s ashram rests on the shores of Kootenay Lake in the wilds of BC’s Kootenay Mountains. The Ashram was a beacon from the beginning for both spiritual seekers and local critters.

In spite of all the work that needed to be done at the Ashram, the young men found time to put together a newsletter to send out to the friends that had been coming to classes and lectures, etc. in Vancouver and even in Montreal, plus people who Swami Radha met in her travels.

This edition of Lightwaves focuses on the local friends in the form of four-legged visitors who made their presence known.

From July 1963 Newsletter

“Swami Premananda (Joe) had a nocturnal visitor to his kutir (this may have been Red Cabin-(SwD) the other night in the shape of a very inquisitive porcupine. Nestor, the ashram ‘hound-dog’, who happened to be there at the time, was unusually quiet until the uninvited guests decided to depart. It was only after Mr. Hedgehog was well on his way that our canine friend mustered courage to investigate the whereabouts of the well-armed intruder.

In a Satsang dated July 23, 1983, Swami Radha talked about some of her experiences and surprises she had with animals of different kinds at the ashram in the early years.

packrat.jpg “Red Cabin was full of rats, and so was Main house, where we eat now. In one room in the back…there used to be a bed, and I would sleep there. It was not a bed in the true sense, but something I could sleep on—sort of. Once I heard a noise…in the night, something moving and banging. I had no idea what it was. I had never seen a pack of rats, so I said, ‘They have a funny kind of rabbit here,’ because it looked so wooly and bushy…The only rats I had ever encountered were in Sivananda Ashram in India…and they had very plain short hair….

“The rats here carried something from one place, and brought back something else. In Red Cabin they would shift our apples from one side to the other, but they had sunk their teeth into the apples so they were all spoiled because we were not sure of rabies.

“The first year of coming out here was not easy. In what is now (1983) our kitchen in Main House, the sink used to face the shed … and the pipe just went outside and ran down the hill. One day while I was washing dishes, suddenly it got very dark. I couldn’t understand what had happened. I looked up and there was a bear following my movements from one side to the other. (I remember Swami Radha telling us about this and she called on the young fellows to make noise to scare the bear away, banging on pots and yelling at it.)

“Behind Main House is a creek. In one spot there was a little water hole and that used to be my refrigerator. I kept butter and milk out there in old pots. I put a wooden board on top so they wouldn’t be tumbled over by the water. And then put stones on top of the board so the animals couldn’t get to it.

Raven.jpg“I was able to observe some animals that we don’t see any more. For instance, the beavers would sit there and get their little whiskers in order. Nature was just a miracle and a wonder and a surprise and a delight. For a couple of years, there were seven ravens and I called them the Seven Sisters. They would dive down on little chipmunks and hit them with their beaks, trying to collapse their lungs so they couldn’t breathe.

“I brought one of these little creatures in. (This was when Swami Radha often stayed in the cabin down on the beach before the Prayer Room was built.) I wondered what I could do with it? I knew they ate nuts, so I went and got a few almonds. Somebody had given me a box of Kleenex, which was a luxury in those days. I took all the Kleenex out, cut the bottom out and put this little chipmunk in with a tiny dish of water and the almonds.

“I pushed the box with the chipmunk under the bed because there wasn’t much space. This room was a library and all our meetings and every kind of activity was held there.

swra.kids.dog.jpg“Iris, one of the residents, was going to look for a job and have a little holiday in town. She had two little boys and she said to me, ‘Would you tuck the boys in at night and stay with them until they have said their prayers?’ I agreed to do this and that night Gregory, who was three years younger than Johnny, began to say his prayers and ended with, ‘And dear Lord, let Mommy find a job, and give her a good holiday, and tell all the animals that Mataji has a hospital under her bed.’

squirrel2.jpg“I think the animals must have heard this because one after another came. There was a squirrel, which got very tame and came inside and would look all around and sit on my lap. Sometimes he would hang on my finger with his teeth and I would swing him back and forth. He just loved it. Then I held an almond carefully between my teeth and he would jump up and take it very gently and sit and eat it.

Chipmunk.jpg“Once I was sitting at my table with a cookie in my hand and the chipmunk jumped up on my lap, on my arm, took the cookie and ran off. Then I saw him sitting on the balcony railing outside. And it was the funniest picture to see him eating from right to left, holding this big cookie with his little hands.

“But finally the animal population became too big, and I never knew who was in the house and who wasn’t. Sometimes in the middle of the night I found myself with some surprises. Little by little I put them out on the balcony and that served the purpose.

Porcupine.jpg“There were two porcupines and of course there quills can be dangerous but they laid them all back and I was sitting there, watching them. I asked, ‘Are you husband and wife? What are you doing under my house? Are you going to make holes, or do you just want to make a nest? Okay, if you’re not going to destroy my house, tomorrow you come back and I will put a nice big wooden box for you. There you can make your house.’ And they liked that, so they saved my house.

“It was an incredible time. I would not have wanted to miss it. But life was not easy. We didn’t have bathrooms; we only had outhouses. We had not a bit of hot water. There was some sort of box on the stove and if you had a fire, there was warm water. I had to make sure that there was wood in the firebox. Sometimes in life we need that personal experience. If any of you have to face that kind of experience, pick it up courageously. You will not have regrets because when you have everything, you don’t have the evidence that the Divine does provide to the degree that She did for me. The Power that created us can indeed take care of you.”

By Swami Durgananda


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  1. This has arrived at the most magically coincidental moment – a friend/part-time employee just came by to tell me she is going to leave her husband and her job to go homeless, because her life and work are sub-standard, depressing her, : can she use my shower. I listened, explored for a while and then referred to her feeling sorry for herself – she stomped off. She is enchanted by a couple of homeless people with pride, and wants to end her own “compromising with life” for shelter. Now I see she needed from me an inspiring story like this one, rather than a judgement. “Never take from the student the joy of her own discovery.”

    What would Swami Radha think about modern sensitive youth who see their lives of couch-surfing and dumpster-diving as noble, eschewing menial meaningless labour in the materialist system to demonstrate, to themselves and others “that the Divine does provide – the Power that created us can indeed take care of you.” Is this faith or delusion?

    Comment by Nola Landucci — April 20, 2008 @ 11:52 am

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