While Bodhinatha and the two swamis are in Chicago, Sadasivanathaswami and Senthilnathaswami are in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their work began with a day at the Dharma & Yoga Fest, a somewhat historic event sponsored by the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and the two major local temples in Livermore and Sunnyvale.
Our swamis gave several Keynote presentations during the day, first in Pleasanton at the Alameda County Fair Grounds and then hours later in Santa Clara.
Sadasivanathaswami spoke in both places on "Yoga: Promise & Peril," taking those present through an information-rich tour of yoga's evolution in America and a section on some issues, including the premature awakening of the kundalini. Turns out highly uninformed yoga teachers across America are working to arouse the kundalini, without knowing the consequences. Senthilnathaswami spoke on bhakti yoga as a true and profound sadhana, something quite different from the kindergarten view of worship that is sometimes described.
The Fest in Santa Clara was much bigger, taking place at Mission College (a nice community college with a bunch of wonderful, new facilities). The Indian population in the South Bay has skyrocketed in the past 10-15 years because of IT worker immigration to jobs at Silicon Valley companies.
Then back to the VIP room which had been transformed for a press junket, at which we sat at the table with a bunch of TV cameras pointed at us. Mostly the organizers spoke. The local mayor and his wife were there. .
Next, all of the dignitaries gathered on the main stage in front of 4,000-5,000 people, a big crowd. The swamis spoke briefly with Tulsi Gabbard who gave a rousing speech which began with "Jai Sri Krishna!" She has a great presence and is a gifted public speaker. She was very happy to see the swamis from her native Hawaii there, and her right-hand man pulled Sadasivanathaswami aside at one point and bubbled over with praise for the monastery's work for Hinduism and contributions to the island, which they are well aware of and highly appreciative of in DC.
The swami then joined the HAF 10th anniversary dinner at the beautiful, new, modern Indian Cultural Center in one of the ubiquitous business parks of Milpitas, 15 minutes away. Tulsi Gabbard had gotten a head start and was the star of the show there too. There were some great talks by California and Federal senators and congressmen, who really understand and support what HAF is doing, which is nothing short of amazing. Tulsi gave a lengthy, heartfelt, highly insightful talk. It was both informative and touching. Thus ended the first day on the road.
We spent most of our second day in California at the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment.
It was a Sunday morning at a special place in San Jose, and it was the fulfillment of an invitation from Yogacharya Ellen Grace O'Brian, a.k.a. Uma, who chaired the panel on yoga's Hindu roots that Bodhinatha spoke on at the PWR in Melbourne (which she lovingly appropriately pronounces "Melbn") four years ago. We finally made it.
Uma is a disciple of Roy Eugene Davis, a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda. Being with this group, which is in the family of SRF, Ananda and the other groups in the Paramahansa Yogananda lineage, was such a wonderful and rare experience. It seemed as if two great rivers were merging. When we explained to the group of seminarians that Gurudeva had personally visited Yogananda twice in the mid 1940's, they were moved deeply, moved also that all these decades later the lineages were reconnecting.
We attended the Sunday 11am service. Uma's sermon on abundance consciousness was delightful, articulate and profound.
Afterwards we had a tour of the grounds, which were once owned by the Unity Church, then lunch with Uma, her husband Amarnath and senior minister in charge of publications, the animated Sundari. We talked publishing and offered to help with their ePub work.
But the really special part of the gathering was to come. Uma brought together some 25-30 of her ministers, seminarians and directors to hear us speak. We offered some small gifts, a signed Guru Chronicles (explaining it is our version of Autobiography of a Yogi), and a special rudraksha mala from Kauai.
Paramacharya spoke first of monks' life and sadhanas, challenges and of Gurudeva's wise ways of living together. Then he gave a Keynote on Yoga: Promise or Peril, followed by lively Q&A. Senthilnathaswami then gave Bodhinatha's popular "Which Yoga Should I Follow" Keynote, again with Q&A.
We were deeply moved by the discipline in the group, the dedication. It is not often that two spiritual groups get to share their life and experiences with one another in open dialog and trust.
That afternoon we drove to San Francisco to our new home for four nights, stopping on the way to have dinner with our members.