The Willow River Community

From an Address to Teachers


Swami Veda Bharati

The Meditation Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota

June 20, 1998

Back before we bought this building in the early part of 1972, we bought Willow River. On the way to St. Cloud, we bought 250 acres of land, believe it or not, for $2500. [Audience: too bad we don’t still have it.] Yeah, maybe that would have been nice, but I don’t know. It was such an uneven kind of a ground – uneven and unkempt, uncultivated or something or the other – and we had, what was it, one or two week retreat there, two weekends at least, from one weekend to the other weekend. And before that we built two geodesic domes. Dennis Halloway, the professor of architecture, wanted to experiment with building geodesic domes, so we built two geodesic domes. One was actually fully built, that was Swamiji’s cottage, and then the other one, we built a base and a floor, but then we put a tent on top, because there wasn’t time and the money to complete the big hall that was a geodesic hall.

And we had the retreat. There was no water, and there were no toilets, and they started digging for water the day the retreat started, because the man who was the well digger kept delaying, procrastinating – “Yes, yes, yes! I’ll start. I’ll start soon. I’ll start.” – and he didn’t. And the day the retreat ended, water was found.

Otherwise, all these people – and in those days we had a lot of intellectuals, professors from the University and so on – they worked really hard, they fetched water for 250 people every day. We had a tent city. And they emptied the toilet privies and canned the thing out, to empty, every day. And Swamiji said, “Get out of here. Sell it as quickly as you can. This is no place to build a retreat center.” So reluctantly and regrettably, I said okay. Then we took some of that money and we bought this building.