In the heart of New York City's Lower East Side on Sixth Street near First Avenue there is a small rented storefront meditation center known as Arunachala Ashrama, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi Center. Over the years many seekers have come to this Ashrama, joined the regular practice of prayer and meditation, and then moved on to different pursuits. But Arunachala Bhakta Bhagawat has continued his spiritual practice in Arunachala Ashrama with or without companions all these years, knowing that disappointments come only to make us strong and fit for the future.
The history of this Center is the life-story of Arunachala Bhakta Bhagawat, the man who sits faithfully on the Ashrama floor chanting and singing devotional hymns every night, as he has done since December 7, 1966. He was the man inspired and inebriated with his dream of building a residential Ashrama in the open-air surroundings "where people from Wall Street can sit on the grass." Also, he dreamed of building a temple on Fifth Avenue in New York City in honor of the great sage of modern India, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
In the fall of 1970, a young couple from New Jersey, Joan and Matthew Greenblatt, each only 19-years-old, walked in through the New York Ashrama door and fell into the nightly spiritual practice with devotional fervor. Until then, the couple had no idea of the future awaiting them. Nor until then did they feel an inner awakening which filled their lives and turned their minds inward to the source of joy, which was to be the mainstay in their new life. Drawn by the practice of nightly recitation, chanting and sitting in silence, as well as the warm and simple devotional nature of their new friend, Arunachala Bhakta Bhagawat, Joan and Matthew would come again and again until their normal life and the life of service to the Ashrama merged.
In the autumn of 1971, an offer came for the gift of a small farm in Nova Scotia Canada. Without a second's thought, the Greenblatts became the instrument of Divine Grace in Bhagawat's life. Within twelve hours, the young couple was driving north in pursuit of land for a residential Ashrama. They drove straight to the intending-donor's home near Halifax, Nova Scotia, only to discover that his enthusiasm had meanwhile waned.
Encouraged by the friendliness of all they met, they went from door to door asking the residents if they knew about any farm for sale. Each evening they would return from their search to the home of a kind, elderly couple, the Taylors of Clarence (Nova Scotia). As the search continued, the feeling began to grow on the young couple that the farm house where they returned in the evenings for warm food and conversation would be their own home! The Taylors had been planning to sell their farm and return to town.
This is how Joan and Matthew, with hardly any money, made a token down payment on the farm of 130 acres at the foot of the northern mountain range in the peaceful Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia.
Soon after, the work of fund-raising was undertaken. The Greenblatts begged and borrowed from every person they knew and also those they did not know, but it was only shortly before their return to Nova Scotia that their efforts bore fruit. After they arrived in Nova Scotia the work began with exuberance for converting the farm into a residential Ashrama for all devotees of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. From the end of April, 1972, the young couple and a friend and fellow devotee, Dennis J. Hartel of Tonawanda, New York State, started working full time to make the farm a home for all aspirants and children of the Universal Spirit who came to its door.
The country Ashram is dedicated to the simple life of hard work, the practice of Sri Ramana Maharshi's teaching of Self-Enquiry of "WHO AM I?" and total surrender to the Divine Presence. Every evening at seven and morning before dawn, Sanskrit hymns and chants resound with the sweetness that comes directly from the Heart. This is followed by silence, then by the reading of teachings. The doors of the Ashrama, both in New York City and Nova Scotia, are always open to all.
We offer our infinite gratitude for the blessings showered upon our bodies and minds in this lifetime. All praises be to Life Universal in the form of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, who by Divine Grace has brought the dream of a man from the backwoods of India, Arunachala Bhakta Bhagawat, to fruition.