Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami and Senthilnathaswami began their sojourn in Phoenix, Arizona, with a satsang at the home of Chellappa and Banu Devi Deva on Tuesday evening. Here, Chellappa performs the pada puja, assisted by Vighnesh Sukumaran.
Bodhinatha gave a long inspired talk at the satsang, covering a wide spectrum of practical topics, including our Hinduism Today festival media outreach initiative, our fourth Hindu history lesson (covering 1850 to 1947) and some wonderful insights on one of Bodhinatha's favorite topics, "Work Is Worship."
Banu Devi was receiving calls all week from people who had heard through the grapevine that Bodhinatha was coming to Phoenix and having satsang at her home. No public event had been arranged, so people begged to come to the satsang. About 35 people showed up, much more than she originally planned.
At the end of the satsang, Banu asked everyone to introduce themselves to Bodhinatha and tell him a little bit about how they are connected with us. This was an amazing and precious moment as we went around the room. It is such a diverse group, yet unified in their love and appreciation for Gurudeva's teachings and everything we are doing at the monastery. Families, couples and single people from near and far, people who had been to Kauai and donate to Iraivan Temple, or subscribe to (and absolutely adore) Hinduism Today, or study one or more of Gurudeva's books, or study the Master Course in one way or another, or use Hinduism Today articles as teaching tools for local classes, and every combination of the above--they all gave such concise yet poignant testimony of how our work transforms them and those around them. It was a tremendous, touching outpouring of love from one and all.
On Wednesday morning, a group of eight took us on a drive up the Apache Trail into the Superstition Mountains for a cruise on Canyon Lake.
The cliffs are spectacular and ancient. Covered in cacti and other desert plants, the Sonoran Desert is actually the most lush desert, receiving an average of seven inches of rain per year.
Here are Aarthi and Mayuresh Rahavendran. They and their parents, Ravi and Sheela, drove out to Arizona from Carlsbad, California, just to be with Bodhinatha for a day and a half in Phoenix. Aarthi and Mayuresh are excited about coming to Kauai in June for the Innersearch Travel-Study Program (there are still a few seats available, by the way!).
Throughout the cruise, the crew pointed out the local wildlife as they spotted it on the cliffs. This family of Big Horn sheep was the most notable and beautiful. They were perched precariously on a precipice high above the lake where just a few weeks ago one ram fell to his demise.
Look at the horns on that ram on the right!
Group photo: Sheela Rahavendran, Jai Seecharan and wife, Mayuresh, Senthilnathaswami, Aarthi, Bodhinatha, Chellappa Deva, Banu Devi and Ravi Rahavendran.
Then it was off to Tortilla Flat for some Prickly Pear cactus ice cream (it was delicious!). This is still the Old West out here, as you can see. One of the bikers had a 45 on his belt! Apparently in Arizona, anyone can still carry a firearm, no permits required. Yikes.
Past the Superstition Saloon, back to the car. Most of the cars in the lot were from Canada and the Northern states, each one with the license plate from a different state or province, such as Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, Minnesota, Colorado, South Dakota. Banu Devi calls them "snow birds," the people who come to the desert during the winter to get away from the freezing snow.
The cacti for which the Grand Canyon State is famous
Back at the hotel, Bodhinatha had a wonderful darshan with the Rahavendran family before they packed in for their seven-hour drive back to Southern California. Thanks to everyone in the Phoenix area (and the Rahavendrans!) for all your hospitality, giving Bodhinatha such a wonderful time.