- Spiritual Centers
Following Shri Babaji’s example of love, simplicity and truth
by Gussie Fauntleroy
“Who can tell when the wind started to blow and the fire started to burn and the water was wet?” asked a great Vedic scholar. That’s how long, metaphorically, humankind has been seeking the divine. This innate, timeless and powerful impulse toward a higher source is known in ancient Sanskrit as Sanatan Dharma. It is how Ramloti, president of the board of directors and co-founder of the Haidakhandi Universal Ashram, describes the shared human experience that draws people to the ashram, set among 100 wooded acres in the foothills near Crestone.
The traditional rituals and Sanskrit words underpinning ceremonial and daily life at the ashram originated in India. But the essence of the Haidakhan community’s devotion and practice predates the term Hinduism, Ramloti explains: “It’s more about what’s in our hearts.” And at the spiritual community’s heart is Shri Babaji, a title meaning, “revered saint.” As a mahavatar, or manifestation of God in human form not born of a woman, Babaji is said to have taken on different human bodies throughout time, in order to serve humankind.
In one manifestation between about 1800 and 1922, he appeared to, and worked miracles among, many people in northern India. Then in 1970 he appeared again in the same sacred cave near the village of Haidakhan. This time he assumed the form of a youth of 18 or 20, yet with the spirit and wisdom of an old man. He left that human body in 1984. The Haidakhandi Universal Ashram is dedicated to Shri Babaji and to the Divine Mother, the universal divine energy. Emanating from these two sources—facets of the same gem—is timeless wisdom and all-encompassing love.
Ramloti, who grew up in southern California, first became familiar with Babaji in the mid-1970s through Paramahansa Yogananda’s book, Autobiography of a Yogi. She recognized this form of divine manifestation as the guiding light she had experienced since childhood. “It seemed far-fetched, yet it connected with my heart deeply,” she remembers. Then in 1980, while working toward a master’s degree in psychology at the University of Humanistic Studies in Maui, Hawaii, she learned it was possible to spend time with Haidakhan Babaji in India. “There was nothing else in my consciousness except getting there,” she says, smiling.
In 1981 Ramloti spent 30 days with Babaji and his devotees in India, followed by several months during the next two summers, when her two young sons accompanied her. She notes that Babaji had a special love of children, and a children-friendly approach continues at the Haidakhandi Universal Ashram. In her first meeting with Babaji he gave her the name Ramloti: one who carries God inside at all times. Being in Babaji’s presence was profoundly life changing, she says. “There was a deep recognition, a feeling of coming home at last.” She also knew immediately that she would abandon her university education and devote herself to the learning and transformation she could see already beginning within herself.
Ramloti and two other devotees (who have since passed on) founded the Haidakhandi Universal Ashram in 1986. She has lived at the ashram full-time for more than 22 years, while devotees Premanand and Jonathan have lived there 16 and 15 years, respectively. Countless others have spent a few days, weeks, months or longer at the ashram, while many visitors come for ceremonies or a quiet day of prayer, meditation and a shared meal. The beautiful facilities include a temple devoted to the Divine Mother, a dormitory, Ramloti’s dwelling, a large organic garden and greenhouse, and an earthship containing a kitchen/dining area and the Maha Lakshmi Shop. The shop helps support the financially independent non-profit ashram through the sale of devotional items, books, clothing and other items imported from India.
Life at the ashram is centered on following Babaji’s teachings of love, simplicity and truth. Every action and each moment is devoted to the Divine, Ramloti explains. The daily schedule includes morning and evening devotional services and chanting, simple living and the repetition of a prayer or mantra, Om Namah Shivaya, which translates as “I bow to the God within.”
Although it has been almost 30 years since Babaji was in human form, his gifts of insight continue to ripen within her, Ramloti says. Things she had no way of understanding in her youth now reveal depths of wisdom. In particular, awareness of surrender and gratitude in the moment has taken on greater meaning, and rendered unexpected blessings during the past three months as she has experienced emergency surgery, hospitalizations and recovery after complications from appendicitis.
Seeds of that lesson were sown for Ramloti during one of her visits to Babaji’s ashram. She remembers laughing loudly at the guru’s anecdotes simply because everyone else was laughing, even though she understood nothing of the language in which he spoke. Suddenly he stopped talking, turned to her and said, “You no laugh unless I tell you to laugh.” Ramloti now understands what he meant: Be conscious in everything you do. “That continues to be a teaching for me,” she reflects, her eyes smiling and serene. “I’ve had to learn to let people do for me, had to unlearn multi-tasking. It’s the idea of surrender, of being conscious with every step, every action, every word.”
The public is welcome at the Haidakhandi Universal Ashram. Fire ceremonies are held on new and full moon days, and the annual Family Week takes place July 23-26. For more information—and for details on making a donation to a fund to help pay for Ramloti’s medical care— call 256-4108 or visit babajiashram.org.