KARUNA: RISING FROM THE EMBERS BY JEFF MORGAN
Dr Balkrishna Born in Mozambique and growing up in India, Balkrishna was already pulled to help others, setting about studying for a medical degree, yet in his final year he felt the authority of the white coat was not the path he should pursue choosing to quit his studies and to return to India. A three year meditation retreat followed by one and a half years solitary retreat Bal emerged with a path to study Chinese medicine before beginning building the Karuna Retreat Centre in 1992. Twenty-eight years in the making yet decimated to a pile of ashes in just a few short hours by the devastating Monchique wildfires in August 2018, Karuna was one of the many victims. Karuna was the spiritual retreat for hundreds of people from around the world and home to Dr Balkrishna Maganlal. “When Karuna was burning I was in India, I was in a place of retreat and was receiving tens of phone calls from people, some enquiring, some crying, some desperate, some offering help, even offers from others to sell their own land and give to us the money so that we could continue. I was told through phone calls during the night that even this place is burnt. It was emotional.
"I determined that I must have the energy as if I am 20-years-old to rebuild this place" After the fire
Karuna being rebuilt
If this was my house and my swimming pool, I wouldn't have been doing anything at this point but since so many people asked and have taken an interest in the regeneration, I was determined that I must have the energy as if I am 20-yearsold to rebuild this place. So the strength we have now come from the good wishes of many people who sent support or who came to offer help.” No sooner was the mountain declared open that volunteers began to arrive and begin the hard physical labour on cleaning up the massive mess from the burnt out buildings and working on restoring the centre such is the love that Dr. Balkrishna has earned through his devotion to helping others find a path to inner joy and peace. In just a few short months the Temple is rebuilt, the pools and gardens regenerated and the hosting facilities nearing completion are already once again ready to accept staying visitors. “Transcending all religions people have come with open hearts which is really, for me, very good because we are divided and separate but this move I saw here was a united one. That is something that we have learnt, that we are all connected and never alone.”
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With buildings made of very simple construction, the clean air, clean water and peaceful sounds the purpose is to offer people whose lives are forever chasing an external happiness a place to reflect and learn that happiness comes from within. Bal is a busy man who holds a traditional Chinese medical clinic in Porto three days a week, surgeries across the country before returning to Karuna for the remainder of the week. Not content with this life Bal also has a project involving teaching in the villages and overseeing the building of new homes in Nepal for those even less fortunate souls who also suffered a devastation after the 2015 earthquake. Karuna means compassion and is aptly named as Dr Bal oozes compassion from every cell of his being. Offering yoga, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, acupuncture treatment, meditation courses and healthy meals from produce mostly grown at the centre by a dedicated staff, Karuna offers a place for those seeking to find that elusive inner peace and is worth the trip for a day or even longer like one recent visitor who remained on retreat for nine months. Sitting in India, learning of the wildfires, Balkrishna contemplated his memories of leaving days before and his feelings as he rationalised coming to terms with the news, he wrote: "Today I see dark with the memory of the green Tomorrow green with the memory of the dark In the dark and in the green Karuna remains the same" ― Balkrishna To find out about Karuna or how to go about donating practice items, money or your time visit the website.
+INFO: www.karunaretreatcenter.org karunaretreatcenter