In 1985, after 14 years in Canada, I wrote a feature for The Toronto Star about attending a week-long yoga retreat with Baba Hari Dass, a silent monk who communicates by writing on a small chalkboard. The retreat was held at a YMCA camp several hours north of Toronto. I attended with my then-wife and our two children, ages 8 and 14. That was the story: What is it like for a married couple and their children to do “yoga,” chant, meditate, listen to talks on Ashtanga, or Eight-Limbed Yoga, and experience a new way of being together as a family?
As I understand it, one is either a monk who dedicates him/her self full-time to the discipline, or a householder. Husband to four wives, father to five children, my karma is what it is. But I’ve long been fascinated by that intersection, that tension between the sacred and the insane. Sorry, meant to say profane.
Apparently pleased with the article, Baba Hari Dass’ people invited me and my wife, a visual artist, to teach at Mount Madonna School in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Later that year my then-spouse returned to Toronto and I stayed on at Mount Madonna. What to do? I began by seeking advice from the silent monk who I’d come to like and trust.
“How come she left?” I asked.
“She found you boring. She wants fun,” he wrote on his small chalkboard.
“Am I boring?”
“No, you have different natures. Women leave you because they want excitement. You are a writer. You live in an abstract world which doesn’t excite them.”
“False expectations is the cause of ‘broken heart,'” he continued. “Nothing is permanent. But we are looking for permanency.”
Here’s a man who’s never been married, I thought. Would I trade places with him? Better celibacy, I decided, better the life of a monk than the hell of what one goes through with a divorce. That was then…
People ask: Does it get easier, breaking up… then breaking up and going through it again? I just shake my head.
is a silent monk who has not spoken since 1952 and communicates by writing on a small chalkboard. This verbal silence is a process which gradually quiets the mind and eliminates unwanted thoughts. While this concept may be initially difficult for most of us to understand, the example of Baba Hari Dass is ample expression of the potential for peace that lies within each of us as the result of spiritual discipline and devotion to helping others. Babaji is first and foremost a master yogi, having practiced the disciplines of yoga from childhood. In addition he is an accomplished author, builder, philosopher, sculptor, and proponent of Ayurveda (the ancient Indian system of health and healing).
Ashtanga Yoga, also known as Raja Yoga, is the scientific method of enlightenment propounded [more than 2,000 years ago] by the ancient sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. It is the Yoga that Baba Hari Dass has practiced since childhood. Since his arrival from India in 1971, Baba Hari Dass has been active in training students and teachers of Yoga in the United States and Canada. Through his compassionate example, young and old alike are learning the gentle art of peace.*
Because there has been much confusion over the past few years regarding the term Ashtanga, we wish to be clear that we do not teach a contemporary method of asana that has come to be known as “Power Yoga” or “Ashtanga”. Though asana (seat, or posture) is but one limb of Ashtanga Yoga and Hatha Yoga, it is often identified as Yoga.
We present the classical Ashtanga Yoga set forth more than 2,000 years ago by Patanjai in the Yoga Sutras. Ashtanga means Eight Limbed (ashta meaning eight, and anga meaning limb).
The eight limbs* are:
Scriptural Study (Svadhyaya)
Surrender to God (Ishvarapranidhana)
Posture, Seat (Asana)
Breath Control (Pranayama)
Withdrawing the Mind from Sense Perception (Pratyahara)
Higher Consciousness (Samadhi)