Monthly Archives: May 2013

Succession Plan: A Bequest to the Community

by Amala Cattafi-Heinlein, SVA Board President



While Swamiji plans to remain embodied and to actively teach, support and foster our spiritual development for the foreseeable future, she recognizes that how she does it will change over time. While she envisions herself teaching into her 80’s, she, along with the Board, is focusing on the sustainability of her teachings. Our teachings. We have created a Succession Plan.

Later this year, Swami Nirmalananda will unveil a program for those who wish to take vows. Her vision is clear: create a vowed order of teaching monks, who choose to live by certain standards and maintain a certain level of practice. This will allow her to take the vowed community deeper, through teachings and practices that require this level of personal commitment. Eventually, there will be a published list of authorized teachers, which Swamiji will hand-select from the vowed community. These yogis will be authorized to succeed Swamiji and carry on the teachings.

The vowed order will include several levels of vows, for those who want to deepen their commitment and practice, but plan to continue in their current home and relationships. All of this will is available within the model provided by the ancient sages. Details will be available at the end of 2013 or next year.

Ashram garden marigolds photo by Sarvataa Christie

SVA plans to invest in the monks that Swamiji is preparing for the next generation. This is about the sustainability of the teachings, not of the buildings. We have the house in Downingtown, plus we will likely purchase an additional building to house our public programs and provide resident housing for the monks and guest accommodations for visiting yogis. In addition, we recognize some people will choose to create their own home in the neighborhood, so we plan to choose an affordable neighborhood with access to public transportation. When Swamiji has left her body, SVA’s material assets will be liquidated, and the money will be donated to the authorized teachers who have set up their own non-profit organizations in order to carry the teachings forth.

Ashram garden marigolds photo by Sarvataa ChristieThis is just as Swamiji herself has done, and Muktananda before her — it is perfection! This is a labor of HER love for us, and for her Guru, as it will be a labor of love and devotion for those who follow.

None of this is happening immediately. The Succession Plan is a process—you’re getting a glimpse of what’s ahead so you can plan your process in conjunction. When the vowed order is ready to begin later this year, you will be invited to consider your participation in the level that works for you. I recommend that you dive deep and let it take you where it will. Whatever that is, it will be perfect!

Click here for the Board’s FAQ. If you would like to add a question, click here to email it.

For personal contact and questions beyond the FAQ, please click any of the Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram Board Member names below to directly email them. They are happy to respond:

Amala Cattafi-Heinlein
Bob Nogue
Rudrani Nogue
Kristine Freeman
Kanchan Mohn

What’s New–Plants & People

by Sharada Macdonald

Comings & Goings

Many of you have already noticed that I have a new name (Sharada). Now, I now have a new title at Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram, too: Business Administration Manager. This new name, just like my new Sanskrit name, is to make the outside match the inside. I started at SVA as an assistant helping out with the Amaya® Yoga Products and Downingtown Yoga Meditation Center.

Working at the Ashram every day, I saw how much Swamiji did (and continues to do) to serve Baba by supporting and serving all of us. Her dedication opened me to want to do anything I can to support her vision and mission of Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram. Every time I have seen her (every single time!), she is working to serve and support us. So, any time I could do more, I did. And being steeped in the flow of Grace makes doing anything easy! As SVA has continued to grow, I’ve been blessed with many new opportunities to serve Swamiji, the teachings and you. This new title names these specific ways that I am so blessed to serve.

As spring continues to unfold into the promise of summer, I am pleased to welcome a new gardener to SVA, Greg Hesselton. It’s easy to see how much he loves the earth—I have yet to see Greg (whose first day at the Ashram was on his birthday!) in shoes. Sweet & gentle, he appreciates the beauty of the native flora & fauna. He even asked if we could leave flowering weeds an extra day or two before pulling them so the bees could enjoy them. A camp counselor who lives in a minimal cabin for half of the year, Greg spends his mornings with camp kids and most afternoons caring for the Ashram grounds. Thank you, Greg!

Veggie Garden

Surprise! Wintered-over carrots

Surprise! Wintered-over carrots

Greg, who I mentioned above, has spent the last two weeks preparing the three raised garden beds that went in last year and has been planting baby veggies in them (more on that soon including a picture of Swamiji with a wagon!). Deep gratitude goes out to Dean Cilley, who helped build the beds, planted seeds and cared for last year’s veggies. Dean’s agricultural background and care has resulted in lots of delicious Ashram-shakti-filled veggies last year and—surprise!—a crop of recently discovered wintered-over carrots that were planted last fall. Much to the Ashram residents’ and chefs’ delight, they will be ready to harvest and enjoy soon! Thank you, Dean!


Now, here’s that picture of Swamiji with a wagon that I promised:

Swamiji loads the wagon with baby veggies.

Swamiji loads the wagon with baby veggies.

Baby veggies in their new home

Baby veggies in their new home

Swamiji sent me an email last week asking if we could play hooky for an hour or two and go get baby veggies from Jane’s Flower Patch (“Isn’t that a cute name?” Swamiji remarked. “She has 27 different kinds of vegetable starts!”). Swamiji and I pulled a wagon in between the rows of plants, and Swamiji loaded it with zucchini, yellow squash, green & yellow bell peppers, onions, a jalapeno and a banana pepper, Early Girl and Roma tomatoes, basil, flatleaf & curly parsley, cilantro, green & red lettuces, and swiss chard. Finally, Swamiji selected marigolds to ring the beds (in addition to being holy in India, they keep away pests and bunnies). You’re not playing hooky if you don’t get a treat, so we ended our veggie trip with a mango water ice (a Mid-Atlantic delicacy) and took the babies home for Greg to plant.

Now that Greg has finished planting all the baby veggies, he will build a fence around the raised beds to protect them from critters. Stayed tuned for pictures of the fence and Ashram harvest later this year!

The Ashram Nursery

by Kusuma Sachs

I love plants! You get to know that pretty quickly if you have spent any time at the Ashram or in the Exton Studio. I have plants that have moved from Rehoboth Beach to 3 different living locations in PA, and they are still thriving. One of the sevas I do at the Ashram is taking care of the plants.

African violet babies gather the Shakti

African violet babies gather the Shakti

Because of this seva, the Gardening Team asked me to make African violet babies for a project later in the year! Until they asked, I had never considered propagating anything besides a few stands of philodendron. In addition, I have always felt intimidated by African violets and really had no idea how they grew or what kind of care they needed. The ones I have bought over the years have thrived by watering when dry and not letting water get on the leaves. Despite being intimidated, every time I go to the local plant store and see African violets that are in the ‘marked down section’ (what I call the ‘infirmary” which really means they are on their way to being compost if someone doesn’t save them soon!), I buy them and save them. Periodically, when I need a plant fix, I come home with a few slightly sickly-looking African violets, which flourish beautifully in the Shakti-filled Ashram, even when I forget to water them or when they dry out in the sunroom quicker than I expected.

At first I was reluctant: Really?…all you have to do is plant a leaf and it will propagate into a whole new plant? I was an intimidated yet curious indoor gardener. I went online and found a plethora of YouTube videos on propagating African violets. You can propagate not just from leaves, but also by splitting the plants up; they grow babies all by themselves if left to their own devices. In one video, there was a pathetic-looking 3-inch pot of straggly African violet, but it turned out to be 7 separate plants growing in that one container. I was fascinated and motivated!

I excitedly took on the challenge, bought supplies and happily collected leaves from the 15 or more plants around the Ashram. I made up special potting soil and filled plastic serving cups gifted by the Ashram cooks. I stuck one leaf in each of 60 cups, adding a bit of rooting compound before planting them. They looked just like the YouTube videos!

Jade, too!

Jade, too!

The baby nursery continued to grow over the next few days until I ran out of African violet potting soil. Then I remembered that the second part of the memo from the Gardening Team was about making jade plant babies. We had one jade plant in the Ashram, so now there are about 20 potentials. I went on YouTube for these guys, too. You can propagate jade plants from the stem, or a leaf, putting it halfway in or even on top of the soil. I tried a bit of each.

The original plan was to set up grow-lights and a timer in the basement, for the babies to incubate, so I bought the supplies. The day I planned to set it up, Swamiji walked by the nursery on one of the dining room tables (my workstation) and said, “Let’s keep them here so we can see them and let them fill with Shakti from the Ashram.” Yea! They get natural light here, and we stop by and visit them throughout the day. They are doing well so far. The African violet leaves have not withered, and the jade looks healthy, although the leaves on top of the soil don’t seem to be doing anything.

You will be able to buy these Shakti-filled African violet and jade Ashram babies at the Svaroopa® Yoga Conference in October. By then, I expect many miracles will have happened with these babies. Ashram guests, residents and staff stop by and spend time with them many times a day. When I stop I feel just like a parent looking at their kid through the nursery window. These babies are in their own yogic way very fascinating and full of potential!

Seva: Something I Can DO!

by Devapriya Hills

Sometimes you bring your inner depth and vastness to your seva. Other times you are reminded of your expansiveness by doing your seva.



Sarvataa recently blogged about seva at the Ashram, packaging sacred ash to send to our Monthly Donors.  Her experience was full of depth, vastness and expansiveness; seva is like this.  Seva is a profound yoga practice all its own.

You begin, thinking you’ll support the Ashram, but then you discover you’re the one being supported.  Sarvataa described how she and Kristine’s donation of time and service supported them in diving deeper into consciousness, yet it supported the Community, especially those that received their beautiful ash-filled marble gift box.  It also supported the Ashram and our Guru all at the same time. How divine!

When my other yoga practices have become difficult for me, I find that I still have my seva. Sometimes I can bring my vastness to my seva practice, but when the tough gets in the way, seva is something I can DO. It is a practice that my mind has listed under “acceptable activity,“  precisely because it is an activity. My seva has the power to fulfill me and bring me closer to my stillness and my vastness.

You are all invited to expand your yoga practice by participating in Divine Seva. We have many different seva opportunities to pick from:

  • The Special Events Team will soon begin the planning for a Japa-thon on Muktananda’s Mahasamadhi in September. This surely promises to be a divine, expansive event.
  • The Gardening Team will be planting at the end of May. Many are bringing plants from their home gardens to the Ashram. Maybe you have plants to share or you can help with planting.
  • The Sound Editing Team has room for another sound editor.  Listening to and editing Swamiji’s teachings and Satsangs is full of Grace and Shakti.
  • If you are interested in helping keep the Web up to date or Blogging there are more opportunities for the practice of seva and an offering of your Self and your story.

The Grace that flows when you do seva is amazing. It is another opportunity to live in the flow of Grace.

Contact Devapriya at Fill out our 10-minute Seva Skills Survey to be expertly matched with your seva.