Travelling from Ananda Assisi, in our search for Gurubhais, after a few hours of travelling through the Padana plain and passing Reggio Emilia, the landscape gradually becomes mountainous, and we discover a part of the Tosco-Emiliano Apennines with its characteristic rocky hills and inlets as well as forests and torrents. The human presence, both past and present, is evident in the old farmhouses, small villages and numerous medieval castles.

These castles, associated with the legendary Princess Matilde, seem to symbolize the difficult relationship between the Papacy and the Empire, the sacred and the mundane. Even nowadays, within this relationship, the sacred aspect could very well prevail here, through the cooperation between men and women of good will.

Ishan and Pradip bought some land and an old building that used to be a water mill. Part of the house is already liveable. It houses Shanti, a small agricultural business run by Pradip, which wonderfully transforms and sells the products derived from the land. The other part of the structure is being renovated. Ishan, the architect, can already see what it will look like, and as he manages the construction site, he is putting forth the effort, together with his father and with Pradip, to make it manifest for us laymen as well. The goal is to create a sacred place dedicated to yoga and meditation as well as rooms for spiritual seekers who may be blessed by the holy vibrations.

Ishan, who can already see the end result, says: it should all be ready by the end of the year.

And we say: yes, let’s pray that it will be ready for the long Christmas meditation!

Since Ishan received his teaching diploma from the Ananda school of Raja Yoga, he has been tireless in his service. The pandemic has contributed to a more widespread use of online activities, so Ishan has now become a reference point not only for Reggio but also for Parma and Modena. The devotees from these cities gather weekly, online and in person, to meditate and study together.

Saturday morning we are able to spend some time together informally. We climb the Pietra di Bismantova (literally The Stone of Bismantova). As we meditated up there, surrounded by the sky, I realize, once again, the importance the mountains can have in a yogi’s life. The Master writes: Those people who can manage to meditate on a mountain top find it very quiet, and free from noise and the obnoxious vapors of the city. A high elevation brings the meditator to a rarefied atmosphere which is free from gross gases. On a mountain top the physical and Astral bodies of man become adjusted and dependent upon a finer atmosphere than the gross atmosphere of the valley.

Our expansive conversations touch subjects such as the role of dharmic business in community development; the experiences that have come by sharing the teachings; the challenges –always welcomed in a positive way- that come in the collaboration and interaction with others; the community life at Ananda, and many stories connected to the territory.

The first appointment is in Ishan’s study, a sattwic space opened up for the meditation group. With people online and in person, we explore the profoundness of the kriya yoga technique. The meditation after this satsang brings us to that peaceful place that cannot be perceived if not through the deep meditation facilitated by this sacred technique that we have received from the Masters.

We come back to the Padana plain on Sunday. Thomas and Maria Elena welcome us. They have provided us with a space in which they run their business, and we celebrate the Sunday service online and in person. It is as joyful and deep as it is informal. Thomas reads an excerpt on parallel passages from the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita regarding the infinite Christ. The ceremony is read by Ishan, who also leads the meditation, and by Archana.

Swami Kriyananda often said: God has many beautiful things to do on earth but he cannot do them for lack of willing instruments. God has, without a doubt, found these instruments in Thomas and Maria Elena. May their service open the doors to divine grace in their lives. Thus, a new place in Modena is open to devotees and spiritual seekers who are in search of the teachings that lead to Self-realization.

This trip to Emilia was brief but intense. Seeds have been planted in that area. Let us pray so that these may sprout and blossom into new plants of Self-realization.