Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Sound of the Tarpha Horn Beckons...

Every holiday celebration or ritual here in the jungle of Nimboli is full of surprise and wonder for us foreigner city folk and last Diwali was just that. We were invited to the village next door, Dadoraipada, to witness their games and competions and inevitably, see a slice of Adivasi or Warli village life that is over 5000 years old. This is the same village life that is seen the famous Warli paintings, such as to the above. Seven ambitious young men of Dadoraipada wanted to inspire their village to celebrate Diwali in a way that would bring out the best of each person. So, they devised many games for both sexes, and all ages. They were emphatic that this what not a party! The implied meaning was that a party involved alcohol.

We were shocked and delighted to be asked to judge the cook off contest for the women. We felt very included in their fun. Lucky for us, the six dishes were very good and obvious examples of local Maharashtran food. We really had no idea what we were eating except to say it was chicken, vegetables or dessert. The judging was quite easy for there was an obvious winner in each class. We didn't know any of the participants, so we were a good choice for their judging.
The young boys played running games and the young girls dancing games. But when all the games were played and the prizes awarded, out came THE HORN, THE TARPHA HORN! Oh My, what a haunting sound. Mesmerizing! Enchanting! Intoxicating!

And then I see my dance partner! She is a village lady about my age who I met last year at a neighbor's wedding reception. We discovered each other on that dance floor and "shook our thing" together--maybe I overstepped what is proper for a foreigner, but I had a fabulous time "letting go" with her. Probably could not have done this even if it was my husband, but that it was with another woman, it seemed acceptable. I did hear a little gossip about it later, but it seemed pretty harmless in the long run.

There we are in the outdoors, surrounded by a whole village of people I don't know. What have I got to lose? I realize I have to seize the moment! My friend is out on the dance floor with all of her friends, wearing the traditional Adivasi saree, wrapped like a tight pants suit. Maybe you have seen the style that the older village women wear. She is happy to see me and I immediately convince her that she has to teach me how to dance and join them in the dancing. She is very enthusiastic about teaching me and off we go into the middle of the dance floor. Amidst hoots and laughs, I find my dancing feet!
Please click on this link to the little video we put together of this magical event. The rhythm of the dancing, the clapping of the dancers, and the sound of the horn will certainly make you want to get up and dance. Come to Nimboli and join us next time!

In this Warli painting you see the Tarpha horn, the lead dancer with the stick that keeps the rhythm, and the sprial of dancers. If you look close, you can see me!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


JMH: One of the great gifts of living here at Fire Mountain Retreat Center is being visited by the most wonderful people, living saints, who inhabit this world with us. I never know who will walk through our gates so I am learning to greet everyone with "pani" or water, and "chai" or tea and then, to take the time to sit down and have some conversation and interchange with our guests.

In my busy American life back home, I would have not taken the time to be so gracious at a moment's notice. Instead I would have tried to keep to my "to do list" and visited with people by appointment only. I have discovered that this is not done here in India, and that relationships are much more important than items on my "to do lists".

In India, there is a sentiment that any visitor is God visiting your home. Consequently, to have someone visit your home is the greatest honor. I have to admit it is still taking me time to learn this quality of being a Welcoming Presence to each and every person. But then someone walks in unexpectedly and changes all of that................


She came to our ashram as the sister of a friend. The first unusual thing I noticed about her is that she was a bit troubled by participating in the commonly agreed upon social interacting of guest and host and “normal “ conversation. She was more interested in some other activity. Our friend, her brother, eventually in the stream of conversing, mentioned that she was a very good meditator. She spoke no English and all conversations were translated through her tri-lingual brother. I asked her to come and sit closer so we could discuss this subject of interest to me.

She and her brother misunderstood my verbal statements, and instead of coming to sit in a chair nearer to us, she choose to sit in lotus position on the floor of the veranda. Immediately, she went smoothly, quietly, and blissfully into complete and quietly astounding unification with her Guru/God/Essence/ALL.

We fell into alignment with this darshan, and experienced the most subtle, beautiful, exquisite divine descending of the purest, sweetest, most diving love and ONE Presencing.

Her Guru speaks no words. She, in her darshan, spoke nor thought not. She transmitted the Essence of undivided Essence/ALL.

What a gift!!! We hold awareness of this gift now in our inner treasure house - - it has always been there and will always be here - - a note, a state, a home, an access to GOD-DESS/ALL.

JMH: Her name is Shree Laxmi and she lives in Andrah Pradesh. Her husband died after three years of marriage and then she found her way into an ashram inspired by Ramana Maharshi. Actually, one of the great saint's disciples maintains this ashram who lives in silence and obviously transmits a profound love and peace that is so tangible through this devotee of his. When Dewa asked her to describe her meditation practice, she took a lotus pose and went into a very deep state, opening inner doors for us to join her. This was all on the front porch of Fire Mountain with the usual life happening all around us. I felt my heart opening taking me deeply into the Formless Ocean of All. I am so grateful for this silent and blissful Presence, which is such a gift to us. How she magically appeared in our life is so precious. One thing the Guru had said when we took this positon as Fire Mountain managers, "you will meet the most incredible people." Again and again, he proves to be right.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter Perfection at Fire Mountain Retreat

Winter is about perfect in Nimboli/Ganeshpuri: everything is green, the air is cool and easy, the plants are at their peak with color and flowers and fruit. It is magical to see papaya and banana fruit growing abundantly on our own trees. And the taste is divine. It has taken some getting used to the tropical weather. Hot, humid, monsoon. But the winter is the big easy! What a joy! Our friends back home in New Mexico are talking the snow. We are so thankful for merely this bit of coolness in the air.

The red surrounding the Om symbol is actually red leaves, rather like coleus. Flowers aren't the only way to get gorgeous color.

We've taken to collecting hibiscus. They grow easily here in this climate and come in an array of colors: violet, pink, fushia with blood red centers, white, double white, red which we are told that Ganesh must have, double red, yellow, orange, a gorgeous peach-salmon. We have tried growing hybrid roses but the stock plant always wins out. Luckily, the stock is a wild rose that has the most exquisite fragrance, something they make into Gulken, rose jam, which is suppose to be good for you according to Ayurveda. But just the fragrance alone can send you into a sensual ecstasy.

Bouganvillia or Paper flower grows exceedingly well here. Gold, white, varigated purple, magenta. They are not utilized for puja ceremonies but we are happy to have them grow up our walls and display a big spash of color.

We were so excited by our first bunch of bananas on the property. Soon, we found we had five trees producing fruit. The birds have discovered the fruit and we have had to lay claim to them first. We wrap them up in burlap and bring them into the house to ripen.

The fountain next to the Guru's chowk has now been outfitted with a fountain and a Shree Nityananda Education Trust bio sand water filter. The water filter is an attempt to keep the pond water clean and also illustrate how the SNET water filter actually works. Our visitors like seeing one in action. Last week we added some gold fish to the pond. So far they are getting along with the local fish from the river and we aren't finding any floating on the top. Hooray!

Watching the play of the evening light on the landscape can be quite mesmerizing. Last week a visiting meditation teacher remarked at how green and quiet Fire Mountain Retreat is. Since we are off the vehicle roads, there is no road noise. We can hear the temple bells ringing at a distance and sometimes the Brahmins chanting for 4 a.m. abhisheka. (washing of the Nityananda Murti). The soft sounds of the Nimboli village act as a gentle reminder of earthly life but are not distracting from meditation and contemplation. Fire Mountain offers a clean, comfortable and quiet respit from the busy western world and the hectic Indian cities.

Fire Mountain in Nimboli is now offering free shuttle service to and from Ganeshpuri, Guru Siddha Peeth, Vajreshwari, and Alkloli as part of its lodging packages. We've added a "one meal a day" plan for those who want the flexibility to eat in town after aarti at the Bhagawan Nityananda Temple. We are currently developing some "sadhana and seva" programs for visitors to participate in the culture of our local Adivasi neighbors. Please keep informed on these possibilities by readng SNET's website:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Divine Mother Opens the Door

Linda Horan of Los Angeles,California sent us this writing which we include as part of the celebration of NavRatri, the nine nights of the Divine Mother.

It was the Monday after our India retreat last February [2010] and I was milling around the ashram. Everyone had a free day to spend as they wished. Cynthia and Gigi were going to walk to the nearby Durga roadside shrine to say their goodbyes and Cynthia invited me to join. She asked if she should bring a flower to Durga. I said yes. Out came the scissors from her pocket and with one swift cut, she severed the rose from the Fire Mountain rose garden--a perfect, long-stem rose, the first flowering of Jeanette and Davhee’s meticulous loving attention. Uh-oh. Had I just given my encouragement to do that? Oh my.

[The Durga Temple, or Gau Devi Temple
as it is known in Nimboli. On the pathway to the RakHadi Baba Temple ]

Cynthia handed the flower to Gigi and the three of us proceeded along the path. I took a few photos of the children in front of the tiny temple. Then I snapped a shot of Gigi as she was about to offer the rose in front of the shrine door. When it was my turn to offer my prayers, I would, as before, take a photo of Durga through the iron grill.

Then from the direction of the Hanuman Temple came the old priest with the bent back. To my amazement and joy, he proceeded to unlock the door and go inside to do puja. In the years I had visited the Durga shrine, I had never seen it unlocked.

As the priest performed his rituals, Gigi went inside and offered the rose. Then Cynthia. Then me.

It was as if Durga opened her door to receive the Fire Mountain rose. They were inseparable. I took my photos and took my leave.

Happy Navratri.

Blissful in Nimboli, Linda Horan

What is Navratri?

'Nav' means 'nine' and 'ratri' means 'night'. Thus, 'Navratri' means 'nine nights'. There are many legends attached to the conception of Navratri like all Indian festivals. All of them are related to Goddess Shakti (Hindu Mother Goddess) and her various forms. It is one of the most celebrated festivals of Hindu calendar, it holds special significance for Gujratis and Bengalis and one can see it in the zeal and fervor of the people with which they indulge in the festive activities of the season. Dandiya and Garba Rass are the highlights of the festival in Gujarat, while farmer sow seeds and thank the Goddess for her blessings and pray for better yield. In older times, Navratri was associated with the fertility of Mother Earth who feed us as her children.

The first three days of Navratri are dedicated to Goddess Durga (Warrior Goddess) dressed in red and mounted on a lion. Her various incarnations - Kumari, Parvati and Kali - are worshipped during these days. They represent the three different classes of womanhood that include the child, the young girl and the mature woman. Next three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity), dressed in gold and mounted on an owl and finally, last three are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati (Goddess Of Knowledge), dressed in milky white and mounted on a pure white swan. Sweetmeats are prepared for the celebrations. Children and adults dress up in new bright-colored dresses for the night performances.

In some communities, people undergo rigorous fasts during this season that lasts for the nine days of Navratri. The festival culminates on Mahanavami. On this day, Kanya Puja is performed. Nine young girls representing the nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped. Their feet are washed as a mark of respect for the Goddess and then they are offered new clothes as gifts by the worshiper. This ritual is performed in most parts of the country. With commercialization, the festival has moved on to be a social festival rather than merely a religious one. However, nothing dampens the spirit of the devout followers of Goddess Durga, as they sing devotional songs and indulge in the celebrations of Navratri, year by year.

Sharad Navratri: October 8, 2010 to October 17, 2010.
Here is a link for a gorgeous youtube video that Linda sent us the link for:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Swami Buhravananda-- small body, BIG Presence

Look at him. He’s a small man, a vintage being of 70 years. But he exudes a Big Presence. What Kind? Well, a Big Presence, soft and gentle, like a soft, deep pile blanket of warmth and honesty. . Look into his eyes - - tunnels of depth beyond description with no attempt to hide or cover his internal consciousness - - open. He reaches out to touch you - - places his hand softly on your arm and includes you totally in his consciousness - - you might melt and want to be close to this soft fire - - get warm while you can. He is attended by and flanked by his devotees - - young men who are internally lit by love and devotion to his God devotion. He speaks of the Vedas and how God consciousness is a science explained by the Vedas which are accessible to all - - of how there should be nothing in the way of approach to God - - of how each and every sound and thought are a mantra of power invoking some intent, and how the Vedas are a map of correct intent. If you are like me, it might not matter so much what he says - - what matters might be the truth expression that emanates from his being. He is a devotee of Poorananda who is a devotee of Rakhadi Baba who is a devotee of Nityananda Bhagavan, making him of a cousin lineage to our lineage from Nityananda to Muktananda to our beloved guru Mark Griffin.

How wonderful he has come to Fire Mountain to sit in the garden and have tea and a lovely time with us. The tea is unusual for India - - it is black tea with lichee - - a high and sweet vibration. He is making a pilgrimage to visit the Rakhadi Baba Murti, Homa, and Temple next door, as he does on occasion. Kamalakur Swami, who lives at the Anusuya Ashram that Bhagwan Nityananda built for Rakhadi Baba, relates how Buhravananda Swami does wonderful pujas where he explains the meaning of the different parts of the puja so that everyone can understand what is being done. We, as novice puja practitioners express appreciation for this provision of understanding for the participants. Buhravananda Swami is encouraged to do a puja here at Fire Mountain, and he accedes to this request with a date set after late November some time.

His phone rings and we learn that the car has arrived to take him to his next visitation. Warmth, love and happiness from us follows him out the gate as we watch the orange robed figure disappear down the path. May he come again soon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Greener Than Green at Fire Mountain Retreat

Morning meditation ends - - the rain is falling again in blankets - - it stopped for 3 days - - long enough for the villagers to celebrate the coming and leaving of Gauri (an aspect of Parvati, Shiva consort/wife, goddess of fertility/harvest/abundance - - the rice crop is coming in nicely so far this year) - - they have been drumming and singing and dancing for 3 days now and our staff has not come during this time. Yesterday they took the murti of her to the river with music and drum beat and dancing and procession. The air is heavy with the oceans gift of bringing itself on shore - - the plants everywhere have jumped out of the ground - - there are crowds of plants everywhere jostling for survival-unfoldment, like pieces in a puzzle, greener than green and luxuriating in the moisture denied them during the dry time. the plants at Fire Mountain Retreat are not all wild native and some are struggling under the downpours and have to be covered with shade netting which disperses the blows of drops falling at terminal velocity from above - - the native plants are all reaching for the sky, almost noisy in their growth - - the frogs jump, the birds chirp, the crows shake off the moisture and hang out on top of the Guru chouk waiting to get the remnants of the left over dog food. Everything slows down and is more viscous, more like when scuba diving in the the ocean - - the roads are a mess of monsoon pot holes, the infrastructures are taxed and somewhat intermittent -- people stay home inside and adjust to the rains - - a time of the interior where the exterior is dampened. The rain has stopped again - - during monsoon it turns on and off like a faucet -- when outside, if a few drops fall, it means in a few seconds/minutes it will fall in sheets, so get to shelter or whip out the umbrella if you want to stay dry. Shortly we will do the morning puja with the staff (if they come) and the arati of the Guru Chouk, the grounds and the dome. Breakfast in the garden enjoying the trees plants and loving complex Spirit. Just a quick note to give a taste of life in Nimboli. love and ocean coming on shore d and j

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ice Cream in the Jungle

Vanita churns out love ......

Everyone wants to be near her.

It ain't Baskin Robbins , Jungle Ice Cream - - tis soooo much better. Deprived of such luxuries for over a year, we all eagerly awaited some cool licks. Vanita (our beloved cook-and-everything person) spun that ice cream machine handle for hours to no avail - - in this heat, we never got off the launch pad.

We tried for three days to get the first successful batch, and even with the help of the baby, and bhiwani the dog and raja the puppy (see pic), it was cool soup, no dice, no ice - - - - but wait! Jeanetta figured out how to pre-cool the precious ambrosia and bingo, Vanita whipped up the tasssttieeesssst treat - -

Snicker Doodle ice cream - - a divine yummmm in the tummmm, with the enjoyment much heightened by the wait. Yeah Ice Cream Team!!

Important to the superb quality is our new milk Lady, (about whom we will write soon - - don't miss her pics - - she's a 1 of kind village milk matron) - - and her cows, which we've yet to meet, put out the creamiest milk ever to slide over your tongue. I guess Indian cows, being divine, naturally produce divine Self Idealized dairy.

This slick new ice cream making machine is the generous gift of generous Lee Schwing, who is not unfamiliar with such luxuries and the difficulty of producing them in rural India. Blessings to/for Lee!

??????., guess what's the plan for the next batch?

Well - - Jeanetta was strangely hankering for a childhood favorite - - candy cane ice cream without any expectation of evvveeerrr getting it here, when - - voila! - - hardlight loved ones showed up with the candy canes and the ice cream maker!! If that ain't a miracle!! So if candy cane ice cream can show up in the jungle, any wish can be granted - - caution. Of course we don't ever desire anything here.

To be sure, the next time you are here at Fire Mountain we will make your favorite - - bring your beloved flavor goodie - - we got the cream, we got the jungle, we got a shady garden in which to enjoy - - we got a handle for you to turn, we got the above pictured team to help..

Love in 108 flavors dewa and jeanetta