There’s always a sense of expectation when Harbin’s founder, Ishvara, enters the room. He’ll be 80 this month; his limp is more pronounced, his posture less upright, his hand has a slight tremor and his voice rasps. His eyes, however, are as clear as ever, piercing blue, kindly and formidable at the same time. For those of us who have lived here awhile, the impact of Ishvara’s creation on our lives summons respect and reverence. For new residents, he and his creation are an enigma, and they wonder whether they should stay, whether Harbin will live up to their hopes and ideals. Especially the younger ones are full of questions about community and the 9,000 acres of land that Harbin caretakes. They look at Harbin’s perceived shortcomings and look to Ishvara for answers. Such a group of new residents was present in the Ministers Training class that met with Ishvara recently to discuss his book, Oneness in Living.
When I came to Harbin 26 years ago, I had the same trepidation that the newbies do now, so I recognized the veiled and careful form of the questions that were put to him. “How does Harbin live up to your original vision? Is there anything that disappoints you?” I surmised the questioners were really saying what they say more openly to each other: “Why isn’t Harbin solar? Why don’t we grow more of our own food?”
In the past, Ishvara would have understood the implied criticism. Depending on his mood, he might even have been defensive. But time has softened him, and the firebrand of old has become a mellow man. I knew this, but I was not prepared for his reply. His eyes filled with tears and his voice choked. “Harbin is so much better than I ever could have imagined,” he said. “Especially the people. I never imagined such good people would come here.”
With those few words, his audience suddenly saw through his eyes the magnificent and impossible changes that had gone before, the dilapidated resort around a sacred springs that Ishvara bought in 1972 and has become an unsurpassed place of spiritual healing.
Some of the young people in the Ministers Training that night will stay at Harbin and are destined to make more magnificent and impossible changes happen. It is their vision and ideals that will shape the future, inspired by and building on the accomplishments of the past.
Happy 80th year, Ishvara, and thank you so much for creating Harbin.
~Ann Prehn, Editor of the Harbin Post