The Dehradun Ashram
The Dehradun Ashram is the spiritual home of Babaji's inspirational sadhana and Tapas, and the base from which He carries out His Guru's Mission. It is located at the foothills of the magnificent Himalayas, close to the famous pilgrimage towns of Rishikesh and Haridwar, where the sacred river Ganga (Ganges) flows. The Ashram is set in beautiful grounds, with a garden, fruit orchards, and a breathtaking view of the Shivalik ranges. Vibrations of serenity pervade the Ashram complex, which is surrounded by other Ashrams and temples on the Rajpur Road to Mussourie. It is here in Dehradun that the Divine Guru Shivabalayogi visited from 1966 until His Mahasamadhi in 1994.
Babaji's physical presence at the Ashram is today the greatest attraction for sincere spiritual seekers. In keeping with the informal and intimate atmosphere set by Babaji, the Ashram routine can change from day to day. The morning is often left free for visitors to choose how to perform sadhana (spiritual practice). Many spend the time in meditation; others join the worship or seva (service) at the Ashram. In the morning, Babaji performs a simple puja (worship) at the temple on the ground floor of the Ashram, as an example of bhakti (devotion) for the devotees who gather. He spends the remainder of the day in seclusion, while guiding the activities of the worldwide Mission. Before lunch, Babaji may decide to meet some of the new visitors to enlighten them on the basic principles of spirituality.
The evening programs usually comprise a one-hour meditation, bhajans (devotional songs), Aarati (salute with lights), and an opportunity to ask questions of Babaji. The answers given by Babaji over the years have cleared the doubts of many sadhaks from all over the world, who have thus been inspired to deepen their sadhana and overcome obstacles on the spiritual path. Babaji gives the highest teachings in Silence. When there is a gap in the questions, a gentle Silence descends. In the crisp Himalayan night, the sincere seeker is drawn into that Silence. Gaining a glimpse of the Supreme Peace of their true Existence, they become more determined to permanently establish themselves in That.
Another profound way in which Babaji teaches is through His life itself. Whether walking or eating with Babaji, observing His puja (worship), watching as He patiently guides sadhaks, every action of His becomes a teaching. Babaji often drops in to oversee the seva (service) being conducted in the Ashram, guides sadhaks on how to properly perform the seva to enhance their spiritual lives, and even joins in the Ashram activities. In this way, even simple tasks, such as cleaning the Ashram, working in the kitchen and placing stamps on envelopes, can be both a great source of enjoyment and serve as sadhana (spiritual practice).
To further understand how this physical place can have such a transformative effect, one needs to appreciate the remarkable history of the Ashram. The Ashram was donated by Maharani Kailash Kumari Devi of the royal family of Patna. After having the Darshan of Shri Shivabalayogi in 1966, she invited the great Yogi to visit her summer home with great devotion. Swamiji blessed and promised that He would definitely visit. Late one night, when Swamiji was with some devotees, He spontaneously suggested they try to find the Maharani's home. Combing the length of the Rajpur Road, they finally came upon her house and were surprised to find the gates unlocked. The household sprang awake and greeted Swamji with due honor. The Maharani had each day replenished the requisite supplies for the greeting ceremony, including garlands, fruits and flowers -- such was her faith in Swamiji's words. Eventually, this home became the Dehradun Ashram, which served as Swamiji's summer retreat.
Many years later, Babaji was sent to the Dehradun Ashram by His Guru, as the young Seenu aged twenty. The Maharani was always very affectionate to Seenu. He developed a very close relationship with her family, and acted as a local guardian for her grandchildren. Far from his home in South India, Babaji performed twenty years of selfless service at the Ashram. It is difficult to communicate the extraordinary effort this involved, but the following stories provide a glimpse. Shri Swamiji would grace the Ashram with His presence for two to three months a year. In this informal atmosphere Swamiji was always playful. He enjoyed sitting informally with and feeding the devotees who gathered. At the same time Swamiji would continue the process of rigorously training His devotees.
Shri Swamiji would wake Seenu – who would sleep on the concrete floor outside Swamiji's room – at 3.30am every morning. Throughout the day Seenu would serve Swamiji and the devotees who would gather from around India, without rest. After the evening meditation and kirtan (devotional singing) had finished and everyone had retreated to the ground floor for their dinner, Seenu would spend precious hours alone on the first-floor balcony with the great Shivabalayogi Maharaj. It was at these moments that he was able to pose deeper spiritual questions to his Guru. He would often play the tune to Lingashtakam (song in praise of Lord Shiva) and other simple bhajans on the harmonium while Swamiji sang (something He did not do at the public programs) with deep love to His own Guru. Seenu would wait until Swamiji directed him to go to bed, which was usually between midnight and 2 am. He would then be woken again at 3.30am by Swamiji. This cycle of work continued for two to three months.
After His Guru physically departed from the Dehradun Ashram each year to His base in South India, Seenu would carry out all the Ashram duties, from cleaning the premises, to performing the simple Ashram puja (worship), taking care of the Ashram office and accounts, and looking after a mentally-challenged boy whom Swamiji had placed in his care for thirteen years. After attending to his daily duties Seenu would quietly retire to a backyard fruit orchard or another secluded spot nearby to sit under a tree in meditation for 6-8 hours. He would return in the evening to attend to the evening programs and other work in the Ashram. This grueling routine of selfless service and meditation prepared Him for Tapas and Realization.
On 10 November 1994, after the physical passing of His Guru, Seenu witnessed the shining figure of Shri Shivabalayogi manifesting from the photo of Swamiji which is kept on the Dais in the meditation hall of the Dehradun Ashram. Shri Swamiji initiated Babaji into a vigorous Tapas in which He remained in intense and unbroken dhyana (meditation) for around twenty hours a day for five years. Devotees who came to see Babaji during that period reported a Peace that they had never before experienced or even imagined existed. Being unaccustomed to the experience, they would often prostrate and quickly leave the dark, dimly-lit room. Visitors to the Ashram today experience these vibrations as a deep sense of peace and security.
Visitors to the Ashram grow to appreciate the life-long teaching of Babaji's Tapas sadhana by sitting for the evening programs in the meditation hall in which the great Shri Shivabalayogi used to give Darshan, walking the halls and corridors in which Babaji perfectly performed karma yoga (selfless service) and bhakti yoga (devotion) for twenty years, visiting the meditation hut at the bottom of the slopes behind the Ashram where Swamiji used to regularly go for a walk and sit with devotees on the river bank while Babaji ran up and down the slopes serving them tea, seeking out the spots where Babaji used to sit for long meditations during his twenty years of service, and viewing the large photo from which Swamiji manifested and initiated Babaji into Tapas. Though simply physical objects and places, they enable spiritual seekers to visualize the singularly spectacular scene of two great Yogis working tirelessly for Peace. In this way, the sadhak grows to understand the sublime message They wish to give to the world.
One final story illustrates the spiritual significance of the Ashram. After asking Swamiji to bless the Shivalingams at the entrance to the Ashram on several visits, Swamiji finally agreed to Seenu's request on what was to be His final visit to the Dehradun Ashram. Shri Swamiji closed His eyes in Meditation, then opened them and gently tapped both Shivalingams with His walking stick, declaring:
Now life has come into them. Look, now I will always be present here.
Shankar Bhagavan too, with His blessing will always be present in this Ashram.