The Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati ashram is located in the Banana Belt of San Francisco, one of the sunniest neighborhoods in an area th at is still home to the rough and tough part of SF, but currently it is on the verge of gentrification and change. It is fitting that the house that houses the ashram is an old yellow Victorian on one of the only streets in SF lined with large trees.
The ashram is an exciting and challenging place to spend your time. Bringing spiritual practices into your own life isn’t so complex, but put yourself in a community with 10 other people, 10 other ideas of how things should be, and you will easily see the challenges. Entering into a spiritual community where the main light, the Guru, has passed on is challenging in itself as well. No matter how much I read or learn from GuruJi I continue to ask myself, who is this man, how did he come to be the person he is, there is only so much you can grasp from his writings and voice recordings. Perhaps I need to get some video of Guru to start to fill in the pieces, the questions that surround him. Perhaps I should listen to his answers more closely, when I randomly find myself asking him what he would do.....
I feel a lot of similarities to Brahmananda as I am sure any good Guru reflects his students enough to be attractive to them. One of the closest connections to the Guru I feel, is that we have both walked the fine lines of our tradition, our modern culture, and our spiritual practice. Guru walked the line of Brahman and doctor, a collision course of East and West, this was already taking effect in his younger years when he found himself getting into trouble with his capabilities. I find this similar to myself, I grew up on a similar line, between my Jewish traditional magnetism, the knowledge of the modern world, and my own spiritual leanings (which I believe also walk the line between form and formless; non-attachment to the form, but respect and reverence for the tradition, an internal knowledge of the formless permeating everything.)
The ashram teaches unity and togetherness which is prevalent topics in Guru’s writings. The challenge of the ashram is to continue this feeling of togetherness as you move through the community, but that is not always easy. It seems that it is very easy to get caught up in what a person wants or thinks, so I always find myself questioning any policy or way of doing things, is this what the Guru thought, or is this a reflection of some individual desires (myself included.) How do we know what Guru would do?
Yes, Guru writes about the challenges of Ashrama life, but it seems that in our residence meetings we get stuck on this, yes there can be issues, but this is not necessarily the norm, in fact I believe Guru wrote it so it wouldn’t be the norm, so that love and understanding would prevail, not confusion and frustration. So we should not take every writing we read as relevant in the moment, there are many other moments when the writings are relevant.
I love that Guru puts special emphasis on the power of vibration, kirtan, sanskrit and chanting. I also feel a strong connection and appreciation for the book and the title “Pulsation of Godhood.” What an amazing feeling that is evoked from these words, the permeating effect of Universal Consciousness emanates from the words. I have personally experienced this same sensitivity to the energy of the world around me, I have physically seen the pulsation in the air, the mountains, the leaves of the trees. I feel it pulls all his teachings together, what a wonderful way to describe the collision of forces when Guru met his Guru, the pulsation of godhood permeates all things, brings all things into the level of love and togetherness. We are perfect right where we are, there is nothing wrong.
I am absolutely grateful for the contribution of this Ashram and Guru to my life, to the life of the community in SF and the global consciousness. This Ashram has something very healing happening that is hard to put into words (the showing of formlessness.) I am most grateful for the regularity of a meditation practice in my life, something I have sought after for many years. I am also very grateful for the space to fine tune my own offerings of yoga and kirtan ultimately bhakti, to deepen my own practice and knowledge of ancient texts, sanskrit and interactions with others. I have become a stronger teacher and a stronger person from my time at YSSF.