A Tribute to Sri Baba Hari Dass

Updated: Jan 5, 2019

Prayers, Blessings, and Gratitude on the Maha Samadhi of Sri Baba Hari Dass

By Shunyamurti

My first living spiritual teacher, as an adult, in the ancient path of Yoga was Baba Hari Dass. I had the great good fortune to meet him early on after he came to the United States. The Mount Madonna center did not yet exist. Meeting Babaji changed the course of my life.

Beloved spiritual teacher, Sri Baba Hari Dass 1923 - 2018

When I met him at a very small satsang he was holding in Coconut Grove, Florida, I sat before him and was stunned into silence. I was riveted by his powerful and loving presence. He was holding court every day that week in the home of a devotee, and I made sure not to miss a single chance to bask in his presence. He was a muni—he had taken a vow of silence many years earlier, so he answered seekers’ questions by writing very brief replies on a small blackboard he carried with him. The conciseness of his words made them even more significant. He got right to the core of every issue.

After a day or so, the usual reader-out-loud had to leave, and Babaji asked me to read to the group what he wrote in answer to the questions the visitors were asking. It helped me get even more in resonance with his sublime and joyous consciousness. I never wanted to leave him.

When I found out he was going to lead a longer retreat in the Everglades, I signed up immediately. He taught me many wonderful things there—mudras, mantras, pranayamas, bandhas, neti, and ways to enter into states of deep dhyana. He played outdoor Indian sporting games, led stick dancing circles, played Frisbee, and led amazing asana classes. One day he hung me upside down and pulled and twisted my body in various ways, and when I came back right side up, I felt better than ever in my life—the prana was flowing without kinks or blocks—I was as if reborn. Soon after, he gave me a spiritual name—Yogesh.

Perhaps the most important of his teachings was that of the inner messages of the many scenes in the epic mythology of the Ramayana—the imperative of integrity and commitment. He taught me what it means to be an authentic spiritual warrior. He encouraged all with his tireless giving and contagious joy.

Eventually, Babaji left. He had other sanghas to support, in British Columbia and California. Other famous yogis visited the area, and I had the opportunity to sit with Swami Muktananda, then Swami Sachidananda, and others. They had powerful presences also, but not like what I felt with Baba Hari Dass.

I had been planning to go to law school before meeting him.  I applied to a school in San Francisco, so I could be close enough to his satsang in Santa Cruz to visit him every week. I did go to law school, though I was continually considering simply dropping out and joining the new sangha that was building Mt. Madonna Center.

I participated in a number of events there, and got to know the other disciples—a few of whom had also come out from Florida to live near Babaji. But some power stopped me from doing so. I kept asking in my meditations if I should choose that life, but kept receiving the answer to wait, to finish school.

I continued to attend the Sunday satsangs, but I remained on the fringes of the growing spiritual congregation. To supplement my weekly encounter with Babaji, I took to reading the talks and writings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and those sacred words also moved me to higher states of consciousness. I felt Ramana and Hari Dass were intertwined energies that helped me connect with the Self. I also attended a weekday evening satsang led by Master Nome, a devotee of the Maharshi.

Once I graduated and began working at a law firm, I realized that I could not settle for such a career, and could not find a niche in the legal field in which I felt ethically comfortable. I went off to the mountains and did a private retreat, asking for higher guidance. A very powerful out-of-body experience was granted. When it was over, I knew I had to go to India. Another powerful nonordinary experience led me to visit an ashram in Rajasthan. Here I entered into yet another world of Raja Yoga. My view of Reality shifted radically, and I had to follow the call—deeper into meditative practice, but away from Babaji and into the vortex of another energy field, another teaching, another kind of growth.

I did visit Baba Hari Dass again, several times. And even after long intervals, he recognized me and remembered the spiritual name he had given me. There was something unbreakable in our bond of love.

I left the ashram and the path I had discovered in India some years later, because I found it did not hold the answers I was still looking for—especially regarding how to help people with complex Western minds and personality structures to let go of their neurotic tendencies and attachments to their symptoms of suffering. The approaches I had learned in India were not effective. Nor were those I had gleaned from Baba Hari Dass. I had been helped greatly, but I could not seem to help anyone else.

So a new chapter began for me—of study. First, I learned hypnotherapy and past life regression methods. They sometimes produced spectacular healing results, but did not always last, and did not work with everyone. I studied bodywork, Reichian therapy, then other forms of breathwork, including that of Stan Grof.  But they did not usually produce the kind of breakthrough I wanted to catalyze.

Then I studied family systems work, narrative therapy, and finally psychoanalysis and learned about the Oedipal and pre-Oedipal stages of development, and how to interpret their residues. I learned to read the subconscious messages of the submerged subject.

I also studied dreams and dreamwork—from a Jungian as well as a Freudian, Kleinian, and later a Lacanian perspective. I attended group therapy sessions, dream groups, and began a serious study of Lacanian theory in Quebec as well as Berkeley, including some seminars in France, and began a training analysis in the Lacanian approach. I was also experimenting with entheogens and developing my own style of transformational process, integrating all that I was learning. The results were excellent. But the inner work on the ego was still only a preliminary. The main course was always meditation and inner silence.

Samadhi—and the death of the ego—could not be evaded as the final phase of psycho-spiritual unfoldment. And the simple, beautiful presence of Babaji never left my heart as the purest example I had known directly in my life of a liberated sage.

Having just now learned of Babaji’s passing, I send blessings for the success of the ongoing projects he began, and for the work of those to whom he has passed the torch. He touched and uplifted the lives of countless thousands of souls, and remains the peerless role model of a karma yogi, a gyani, and a true raja yogi. If not for the foundation of purity and integrity he brought into my life, none of the later unfoldments of seva could have emerged or have been sustained.

Jai, Babaji! Jai Sita Ram! Hari Om Tat Sat!

Namastam, Shunyamurti

Learn more about Baba Hari Dass: https://www.babaharidass.org/memorial

Learn more about Mount Madonna: https://www.mountmadonna.org/

The slide show, "Baba Hari Dass - What is Guru" is a brief look at the life and teachings of Baba Hari Dass. The photographs illustrate one of Babaji's early aphorisms: "Work honestly, meditate daily, meet people without fear and play." These images are accompanied by the beautiful music of Snatam Kaur (www.snatamkaur.com).

This video from 2014, celebrating 25 years of Pacific Cultural Center, home of Ashtanga yoga Institute, shows where Shunyamurti used to attend satsang with Babaji in Santa Cruz.

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