November 05, 2018

Photo Essay: Gateway to the Divine on Sulphur Mountain, Ojai

Perched atop Sulphur Mountain in Ojai, there's a gateway to the divine.

Founded by Agnes Baron in 1946... burned all of it in 1985, leaving only a chimney from the guesthouse and no structures.

That's where India-born spiritual master Meher Baba stayed when he sanctified Meher Mount in 1956.

Followers of "the Avatar" (a.k.a. God in human form) make pilgrimages to the spiritual sanctuary...

...not only to see the ruins...

...but to connect with his spirit.

Open to people of all faiths and spiritual leanings, Meher Mount offers 176 acres for meditation and mindfulness...

...including picnic areas...

...wildlife (like a very vocal acorn woodpecker)...

...and coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia).

At the end of "Baba's Path," there's one particular such tree that serves as a touchpoint for followers of Avatar Baba...

...a huge coast live oak that the Avatar enjoyed sitting beneath during his stay on his namesake mount.

The 2017 Thomas Fire ravaged the already-fragile tree, the flames consuming much of its dry branches and the wind knocking down much of the rest.

Although much of "Baba's Tree" was lost, it's only mostly dead. Some of its wood was reclaimed to build some benches now installed by the tree, but new sprouts have emerged from part of its trunk.

Near it, wildflowers grow in November—despite the fact that it is either very late or very early for wildflower season.

And regardless of what eventually happens to "Baba's Tree," its location marks a vista point where you can take in the majesty of the landscape...

...look out as far as Santa Paula and the Channel Islands...

...and contemplate life, death, and reincarnation.

Meher Baba's influence has surrounded me for a long time—way before I'd ever heard his full name or philosophy. Bobby McFerrin's song "Don't Worry Be Happy" is based on one of the Avatar's most popular quotes. Pete Townshend dedicated The Who's Tommy album to Meher Baba and, in part, named the band's song "Baba O'Reilly" after him.

I'm not sure any of those will have anything to do with reaching my highest state of consciousness. And I'm not sure one visit to Meher Mount will help separate my false self from my true self.

But I'm not sure it would ever happen if I didn't go, either.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Circumnavigating Meditation Mount, Ojai
Photo Essay: Taking Pause at Serra Retreat
Photo Essay: Lake Shrine

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