Yosemite Park

"When I entered the sublime wilderness the day was nearly done, the trees with rosy glowing countenances seemed to be hushed and thoughtful, as if waiting in conscious religious dependence on the sun, and one naturally walked softly and awe stricken among them. I wandered on, meeting nobler trees where all are noble, subdued in the general calm, as if in some vast hall pervaded by the deepest sanctities and solemnities that sway human souls."
John Muir

After the intensity of Orlando, Boston and Loveland, we two wandering sadhus were hosted for a day at America's First National Park, Yosemite, decreed as such in 1864 by Abraham Lincoln. The geology was a combination of the uplifting of the Sierras some ten million years ago, followed one million years back by glaciers (up to 4,000 feet thick) which carved the valleys as they moved.

It's an amazingly beautiful area, startlingly so. We camped with simple tents and were kept warm by a small campfire that Sadasivanathaswami tended, with all gathered around to keep the cold at bay.

How cold? We were at 9,000 feet elevation and it snowed on this last day of the 2014 camping season. The ten-year-old twins had seen snow but never been in a snow storm, and Mayuresh had not seen or touched snow before. He made his first snowball, as you can see below.

Dasan Mahadevan was our hero and Noble Leader, bringing important survival gear and guiding us along all the best trails, including along the mountain river.

Chandran and Sahanadevi drew on their many camping years, and created foods more like a gourmet restaurant than a forest dwelling. Their boys, Bhajana and Jeyendra, provided stability and the spirit of helping others, while young Bodhi and Bela, just turned ten, gave the joy and wonder to the adventure.

Ravi Visswanathan and son Mayuresh were on their first camping outing ever, and so every part of the experience was new. Ravi, especially, proved a strong right hand for any task that needed to be done.

Note to self: Take more than tropical sandals when camping above 8,000 feet in the fall, and maybe even think of packing gloves and a jacket.

Thank you, everyone, for a quiet moment in the midst of our busy mission on the Very Big Island. Off next to San Francisco.

Family Visit

John and Judy Davis are visiting from Wisconsin's Fox River Valley. They will be spending a week with their son Nirvani Nilakanthanatha. Both are retired. Judy is a master gardener while John is an accomplished carpenter.

Off to Colorado

The traveling monks felt much smarter following a short visit to Harvard University, where we were taken into a vast genetics laboratory where advanced research is being done to make the world a healthier place. We would explain just what the scientists and technicians were doing, but that would require us to understand the things they told us.

Next, we crossed the plains to Loveland. Colorado. Loveland? That's right. This little town an hour north of Denver is America's foremost sculpting and bronze casting region. There are over 300 sculptors here, five major foundries and dozens of teams of craftsmen. So, it is not surprising that this is where our Iraivan Temple Builders' Tribute is being made.

Rajkumar Manickam drove up from Eagle, Colorado to spend the days with us, and Rushika Suriyakumar flew in from Concord, California, and Holly Young flew in from the Big Island to meet the team. Together we all took a day-long tour of the four major shops that are involved in the making of the bronze statues.

First, Page Bronze where Bobby and Kathy Page showed us the wax model of Holly's next masterpiece, two silpis sitting back to back on a stone, one doing the rough cutting and the other smoothening the stone. Kathy had duct-tapped the pieces together, so we could review the sculpture. It's amazing, a powerful depiction of the silpi arts. Rushika was conscripted into placing a square, hammer and several chisels which will show visitors in the future the different types of chisels used for different tasks.

Then off to the foundry, where Chris took us into a never-never land of 2000 degree metals. He had arranged for a pour to coincide with our visit, so we saw the whole thing.

Next, we stopped at Debbie Bakels Patina shop where the all-important colors are added to the metal. Debbie gave us a Chemistry 101 course during which we learned that she makes her own iron oxide with rusty nails that she rusts herself. Seems the store-bought iron oxide does not bond as well with the copper in the bronze. Finally, we visited another Debbie, who crates and ships the statues.

That evening we all came together at a local restaurant for a Celebratory Dinner. This team which works so closely still had never gotten together socially, and the presence of Holly and Rushika made it an historic dinner. Sadasivanathaswami had prepared a 20-minute slideshow summarizing the past accomplishments (we have finished five masterworks) and looking to the work ahead (we have three to go)

Each one of the craftsmen was called to the podium to speak of her or his experiences in making the works (especially Gurudeva's), and their stories were remarkably similar and surprisingly spiritual. Seems their lives and even their businesses have been transformed in the past four years as they work on the tribute pieces. It was a delightful gathering to be remembered far into the future of futures.

“Devotees’ Love” English Version of Natchintanai Anbar Anbathu

Satguru Siva Yogaswami

Years ago we had a number of Natchintanai songs in English. Because those translations were inaccurate, we have not been promoting them. But the demand to have these songs in our modern vernaculars is very high. Sannyasin Brahmanathaswami has been working closely with a small team to bring out new, accurate versions. The goal is to have lyrics that have a poetic quality and sing well. At the same time we must be as true as possible to the original Tamil. English is not as flowing as Tamil so this can be challenging. On the other hand we do not have to worry about long or short vowels in English. Sheela Venkatakrishnan and Gayatri Rajan helped with an initial lyrical rendering. Swami worked on this some more and then reviewed it carefully with Rishi Thondunathan, who in turn sorted out some verses with V. Muralitharan, the present caretaker of the Sivathondan Sociey in Jaffna. Murali was close to Sivayogaswami's senior devotees as a young man, at a time when they would discuss the Natchintanai songs and so he has good insights into the proper meanings. So now we have a very authentic English version for all to learn. Click here to get the lyrics and follow along. Devotees' Love

Monks with Computers

This afternoon, the Ganapati kulam is hard at work on their digital and publications fronts. Currently, the next issue of Hinduism today is on the horizon as pages are being written and articles edited. More energy is being put into our digital efforts as well. Our Himalayan Academy website is getting some attention with the updating of old content and the gradual addition of our vast stores of media, including music, artwork and historical audio and video.

Archives are now available through 2001. Light colored days have no posts. 1998-2001 coming later.

September 2014
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