A retreat in Dehra Dun
Dehradun Ashram is a sanctuary of peace - blessed by the great Swamiji and home of Babaji's decades of service and Tapas, where Babaji and Maa Ambaji continue to receive devotees from all over the world with such love and warmth.
A group of people from the UK made this pilgrimage in March. Meeting for the now-traditional breakfast at Heathrow Airport before the flight to Delhi, the anticipation was great at the thought of being with Babaji and Ambaji again. The flight and train journeys sped by - soon we were there, greeted by Ambaji's welcoming smile at the entrance to the Ashram. Her work had begun even before we arrived - lunch and smartly-prepared rooms were awaiting us.
We joined Babaji on His terrace later, sitting under the stars in the cool evening air, the Shivalik range providing a majestic backdrop. His radiant countenance instantly refreshing brought a deep sense of peace and happiness to all gathered around His feet. He was in His usual jovial mode, enquiring after everyone to ensure we had all settled in well. After a while He moved in to the meditation hall for the evening Aarti and satsang - a pattern to be repeated often during our stay.
Each day would start early in the morning with Babaji leading everyone to the Hanuman temple at the bottom of the hill at the back of the Ashram estate. Coloured in bright orange, the temple is nestled under the shade of enormous trees, with consecrated Shivalingam and Hanuman statues. In His melodious voice, Babaji performed the puja chanting the Mrityunjaya Shtrotram, inviting each person in turn to offer water to the Shivalingam. He then continued with the Hanuman Chaleesa, offering flowers and devotion at the feet of that great Master of yore, the exemplar of humility and devotion to one's Guru, Hanuman. We thought of our great fortune to have a living Master, an equally perfect embodiment of those same lofty spiritual ideals and attainment, right before us in the form of Babaji.
The retreat this year saw the group participate actively in the work of Babaji's mission, where each morning's task - after a healthy and satisfying breakfast - was the cataloguing of recordings of Babaji taken over the years of His travels. For the past ten years Babaji has travelled around the world - Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, UK and across many States in the US, accompanied by Maa Ambaji, who makes it all possible for Babaji to fullfill His Guru's wishes. Wherever Babaji has been He holds talks, meditations, question and answer sessions and devotional programmes, bringing Swamiji's Teachings to the world and new generations. Devotees around the world have faithfully recorded these talks and events. In order to organise and preserve this great wealth of wisdom requires the careful cataloguing and archiving of the material for present and future generations. It was a task everyone felt very privileged to do - spending hours listening to Babaji's talks or watching His videos - with some wishing they could do nothing but that all day, every day!
In the afternoons after lunch and a rest - and the eagerly-anticipated chai! - was a meditation period, followed by bhajans and chanting, leading into the evening Aarti and satsang with Babaji. The time with Him in these evenings was different each day; often He would be asked questions by those present, sometimes He would discourse on particular matters or at other times simply sit in silent repose.
This year the UK group were lucky to be present on two very special days. We arrived just in time for the colourful festival of Holi. In friendly competition local devotees and the visiting delegation chased each other around the Ashram lawn, covering each other in riotous colour as our beloved Guru watched over smilingly. Towards the end of our trip, we were fortunate to be present at the anniversary celebration of Swamiji's Mahasamadhi. Everyone did their bit to prepare the Ashram and joyfully spent the day with homas, bhajan singing and Aarati, led by Babaji and Ambaji, in tribute to His great Guru.
Throughout our time in the Ashram, Ambaji's motherly presence was there for us at every turn. The hours of organising and preparation for food and other needs, taking care of any special requirements, attending to anyone feeling under the weather - her tireless efforts in the background would easily pass unnoticed. In addition to her service to Babaji and making our stay comfortable in every way, she took charge of preparations for the forthcoming celebration of Swamiji's Mahasamadhi - as well as preparing everything for Babaji's and her forthcoming world tour. Ambaji took all of this in her stride, seemingly effortlessly, even making time to join us at mealtimes to regale us of stories of her early days with Seenu Baba, sharing her unique insight on life in an Ashram in general, and with Babaji and His teachings in particular, answering any and all questions with candour and wisdom. Indeed it is always a wonder to contemplate the scope of Ambaji's responsibilities at the Ashram, so numerous at any one time, and how she yet unfailingly makes a personal connection with everyone present. Her tireless service to Babaji and all devotees are a great teaching for each of us present.
In this way a joyful two weeks sped by, and all too soon the sad hour of separation arrived. Though it seems like a whirlwind looking back, each moment in the company of our beloved Guru and Maa Ambaji, so full of Peace and Love, was fully savoured and will remain vividly in our minds. With overflowing gratitude we took our leave, inspired to keep up our own sadhana with renewed zeal, and already anticipating our meeting again during Babaji and Ambaji's tour to the UK.