Last night an incredible evening of joyous kirtan music (spiritual songs) took place at the Pacific Cultural Center (PCC) in Santa Cruz. The PCC is affiliated with Mount Madonna in that both non-profit organizations belong under the Hanuman Fellowship. The students of Baba Hari Dass established the Fellowship as a vehicle for the teachings of Yoga (Ashtanga 8 limbs of Yoga). The PCC along with the Ashtanga Yoga Institute, Kaya Kalpa Wellness Center, Sri Ram Orphanage, the Ashtanga Yoga Fellowship of Toronto, Salt Spring Center (in BC, Canada) and Mount Madonna all belong under the Hanuman Fellowship.
Because of the close connection with this community, it’s natural for monthly hosting of kirtan to be graced with the radiant voices of Baba Hari Dass’ students. The melody and uplifting joy that tonight’s music brought within me was healing for my wounded spirit. I’m feeling rather worn lately and I needed the lift and nurturing balm of the community satsang experience.
Here in Northern California, the sun sets later than it does back home. The glowing sunset over the ocean eases into finality around 6pm this time of year. A bonus to have an extra hour of daylight compared to our Toronto friends. Tonight the full moon shone brightly as the darkness settled over the valley. It made for quite the magical walk through the tall redwoods surrounding the Center and the Hanuman Temple. At 6:30am and 6pm each day at Mount Madonna, Aarti is performed in the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple. As explained on the wikipedia website, “Aarti is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja, in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities. Aartis also refer to the songs sung in praise of the deity, when lamps are being offered. Aarti is not only limited to God. Aarti can performed not only to all forms of life, but also inanimate objects which help in progress of the culture.” It’s about a 1/2 hour ceremony that involves chanting, Kirtan, the blessing of a Tilaka, Prasad offerings, and lots of ringing of bells and joyous invocations.”
It was an incredible experience surrounded by the thick smoke of incense. I must admit, the smoke irritated my already angry throat which made for an uncomfortable ceremony at times with hacking coughs to accompany the ringing of bells.