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.

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.

Monks in Orlando

The three-day Hindu Mandirs Executive Conference came to an end on September 21. There were many thoughtful ideas presented about Hindu education in America, the subject of the conference.

Senthilnathaswami's Keynote presentation was the most beautifully crafted and acclaimed of the morning presentations. He had been asked to share how the monastery produces its books, resources and magazine, and his talk took everyone through the content collection, writing, proofing and design processes, with great graphics to make his points memorable. Big applause when it was over.

Like the day before, the swamis were a bit besieged in the hallways, so many wanting to tell us how they are using Himalayan Academy's printed resources in their communities, others wanting to share their latest academic paper or children's book for review in Hinduism Today. Clearly our publications and web resources have a bigger-than-you-know impact beyond Kauai's shores, in classes, in chaplain field work, in academic studies and more.

At the very end we were approached by Rahul Chandran, founder of World Hindu News out of Houston, Texas, for a brief interview on the work of the monastery and its global reach.

HMEC in Orlando, Florida

Our wandering swamis arrived in Orlando, Florida, for the three-day annual conference held by the Hindu Mandir Executives Council, a national body of the managers, owners and priests of temples in North America. This is the seventh year the monastery has attended.

About 200 leaders were present for an amazing array of presentations and sessions presented by women, youth, educators and more. In fact, the theme of the conference was "The Role of the Mandir in Hindu Education."

Sadasivanathaswami was asked to present our Hindu History movie in the inaugural session, and when it ended great applause filled the room. In the hours afterwards many came forward to get access to the movie for their teaching programs across America, and others told that they had already downloaded it and screened the film for 15 classes back home. Quite rewarding to see it being embraced so eagerly.

Sadasivanathaswami also offered a major Keynote presentation on the broader impact of HMEC in the evolution of the consciousness of Americans regarding Hindu thought, history and culture, offering ideas to the group on how they might move forward in the decades ahead now that there are more than 1,000 Hindu temples in North America.

Other presenters that night and the following day spoke of the many ways we convey our culture to the next generation, and some of the ways we are falling short in that effort.

The swamis were challenged to move through the crowds, since everyone wanted to stop them, say a few words about how important Hinduism Today is in their lives, how proud they are to have such a publication. Others offered ideas for articles, or books they have published for review in the magazine. One had just completed a peer-reviewed paper on Hindu Bio-Ethics and asked our monks to proof and critique it.

One Hindu chaplain shared from the stage how the Master Course has changed her life, guided her service, helped her find perspective on the difficult challenges of her work in the field. She told the audience she has torn out every page of Living with Siva, underlined passages, pasted the pages in reference binders and used Gurudeva's insights to help hundreds of men and women get through life, saying to us in the hall, "Swami, I am a living testimony to the work the monastery has been doing all these years and you should know it would be impossible to thank you enough for what your books have meant to me and to my work as a chaplain."

Before each of the meals, the chef called Senthilnathaswami and Sadasivanathaswami to the buffet and asked them to bless the meal with the Bhojana Mantram, while the staff of the Renaissance Hotel stood in amazement.

Satsang in San Diego

Our two swamis were deluged with affection and care in Southern California. After a visit to the home of Ravi & Sheela Visswanathan the monks sent to the home of Dasan and Shakti Mahadevan, their first visit there. Some thirty devotees joined for the evening. Dasan did a Ganesha puja with great affection and then another for the sandals of Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, after which all chanted Bodhinatha's 108 names in English and Sanskrit.

All adjourned to a lovely space with 12-foot high ceilings and as they gathered Mayuresh, just 12, played a tabla solo with great concentration, his graceful fingers revealing the drum's potential.

Paramacharya then told some Gurudeva stories and answered questions until it was time for the special dinner that all had prepared.

A joyous evening for all...

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