The Song of the Morning Ranch Years
continue. Guru to disciple, Guru to disciple. When asked once whether he was a master or not he responded in the following manner. 'If Paramahansa Yogananda was the master we think he is he must have been able to produce masters as great as he is or he wouldn't be as great as we all know him to be.' Yogacharya was too humble to make any pronouncements concerning himself, but he would let you know in little ways that he was your Guru. After 1970 Song of the Morning Ranch became his primary outer work and his primary tool for training his disciples.
Song of the Morning Ranch is eight hundred beautiful acres in the northern lower penninsula of Michigan along the Pigeon River. The Pigeon River is dammed on the property which creates a small lake and allows the Ranch to generate electricity. When Yogacharya was alive the Ranch was not connected to the power company grid and the hydrogenerator was the main
source of electrical power. Yogacharya was a very practical, productive person. He would use the countless Ranchprojects for teaching & training. He would often say that 90% of what you learn is through the ends of your fingers. Of course, There was still time for Yoga & spiritual practices. We had daily group meditations in the lodge at 8 pm, daily hatha yoga classes in the lodge, and group vegiterian lunch & dinner in the main house. On Sundays we had a Meditation Service in the lodge at 11 am. The Sunday Service was conducted exactly as the Service in Detroit. After the Sunday meditation service we would have a wonderful turkey dinner with all the trimmings. It always caused great consternation among the hard core vegetarians. I always felt it had a two fold purpose; to teach the hard core vegetarians not to be cranks and to show average americans that yogis weren't too weird.
Yogacharya's image and role changed after the Ranch began to function. Song of the Morning Ranch became his ashram and he became available to all of us on a more regular and informal basis. Before this time he was generally only available on Sundays and special occasions. Once the retreat opened Mr. Black was there most of the time. He continued to travel back
and forth to Detroit each weekend for Sunday Service and one week each month he would spend the entire week in Detroit to take care of business. During the summer he was at The Ranch all the time. Later in his life, I think it was in the early 1980's, he stopped doing the Sunday services in Detroit, training some students to conduct the Services at the Detroit Center, and he stayed at the retreat all year around.
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It now became possible to visit him nearly any time you could and the setting was less formal. He attended most of the meals with the guests and he was almost always in attendence at the nightly meditations. Often the meals were long social affairs that many times became Satsangas. I found that even the grace before meals with Yogacharya became a
spiritual experience. The short meditation after the grace often turned into a profound spiritual journey that had to be interupted for food. Yogacharya was a cultured man, he often said Yoga was the highest culture, and he would use group meal times for teaching this culture. It was well known amongst the staff and regular guests that proper etiquette was the law and elbows on the table were not allowed. New guests were often treated to a quick refresher course in manners if they sat at the main table and put their elbows on the table. It was always done in friendship and to this day is a standing joke among Yogacharya's devotees at meal time.
decided to go to a wise fish and ask what water was. The wise fish gave a wonderful discourse on water, explaining the vastness of the ocean. That they all lived moved and had their being in the water. That it was above them, below them, to the right and to the left. That it was in them and around them. The school of fish all listened intently, nodded in understanding and swam away to their homes. After awhile the school of fish all got
Yogacharya would go through phases with teaching stories and quotes. Most likely intuitively designed to have the most effect on those surrounding him at the time. One of his favorite stories was a Sufi story we all called the 'fish story'. I can't even begin to count the number of times he told the story to all of us. It
Yogacharya was a practical western Yogi. His deep wisdom was always rooted in common sense. I found his common sense, often most uncommon among humanity, to be one of his most endearing qualities. His common sense and wisdom were so simple that they often were overlooked by those looking for more complicated explanations for God and the cosmos. One piece of advice he gave all his students was at once so simple, but yet so difficult to
May He protect us all.
May He nourish us all.
May we work together with great energy.
May our study be thorough and fruitful.
May we always be friends.
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'A Yoga Retreat of Excellence',
were established by
Yogacharya in 1970 and from then on became Yogacharya's life work. Of course as with all great Guru's their real life's work is the development of disciples into realized beings so that the process can
Frequently the evening time after meditations became a Satsanga also. The retreat became a training ground for students and disciples. The darshan was incredible and the training was very intense. For the staff, local residents and guests Yogacharya often described The Ranch
Tough, but yet effective in smoothing the rough edges.
became one of his trade marks.
'Once there was a school of fish. They got
together and talked and wondered what water was. After a while they
together and decided they still didn't know what water was.'
After telling the story he
would laugh uproariously and we would all join in his laughter even though we were the school of fish who didn't know what water was.
accomplish. He would remind mind us all when we left his presence
'BE HAPPY, STAY
OUT OF DEBT.'
Such wonderful simple common Sense Advice.
For a while in the late seventies one of his popular quotes was from the
The very last verse of the Katha Upanishads. I am not sure what translation Yogacharya used, but it always seemed appropriate to his work and those around him.