San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Grihapravesh: Hindu Priest Blesses Retreat Home

IN reverence to nature and as penancefor tearing up the ground, chopping treesand mixing sand and rocks into cement forthe construction of a luxurious retreathome, Ehud and Vatsala Sperling kneeledunder plumes of smoke and a persistentSanskrit chant in an ancient Hindu blessing.Ehud Sperling, owner and founder ofthe Inner Traditions book publishing companythat prints books on spiritual andsupernatural subjects, built the house onthe shore of Lake Arenal, on the outskirtsof Nuevo Arenal, at the breezy, rural footof active Arenal Volcano, in north-centralCosta Rica. It is an idyllic retreat center forthe writers in his fold who need time to finishtheir projects.Sperling married Vatsala after a longcorrespondence prompted by her responseto a matrimonial ad he had placed in TheHindu, an English-language newspaper inIndia. He is a Jewish-American who hashad a long-standing interest in India andHinduism, and the two of them thought itappropriate to inaugurate the recently constructedhome by inviting a Hindu priest toperform the blessing ceremony. The couple’scourtship is chronicled and beautifullyphotographed in a book they wrote entitled“A Marriage Made in Heaven.”Called Grihapravesh, the ceremony“simply reminds us to be humble, thankfuland grateful and to rejoice in nature’s kindnesswith our family and friends,” theSperlings wrote.“The ceremony dates back thousandsof years, when the people of Bharatrenounced the nomadic, hunter-gathererlifestyle and started living in settlementswith farms and buildings,” they explain.“These early people were well aware of thepowers of nature and designed ceremoniesto express their gratitude.”THE priest, Shubra, who studied withSwami Chinmayananda for more than 20years – a fact that means something toinsiders – chanted in Sanskrit for the betterpart of an hour, pouring drops of clarifiedbutter over a coal fire, kneeling and standingbetween the fire and the owners of thehouse, and stooping into the billows ofsmoke he occasionally provoked from thecoals.While he chanted, Hindu teacherPandit Kailashan explained the goings-onin English to the guests, who were neighbors,friends and writers.“It’s not just a ritual – we asked theearth we plundered and looted, but once weare here we will do good things,”Kailashan said. “It makes their lives morepurposeful and reminds them to live in acommunity and to share, to maintain innerstrength. Now they’ve done this ritual, andthis is a place to nurture community andfunction in society, so that spiritualitybecomes a way of life.“Every aspect of life becomes sacred ina way – it becomes divine – either throughritual or intention. The purpose is to connectwith the divine energy.”Inner Traditions recently began distributinga line of books here in Spanish. Oneof the better-known titles the publisher carriesis “Gesundheit!” by Patch Adams,M.D., the non-fiction inspiration for the1998 Hollywood blockbuster “PatchAdams,” in which Robin Williams portraysthe doctor.For information on Inner Traditions,visit, or

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