Rohini Ralby began walking home early, not quite sure where or which way to go. Until she could find the right teacher, she had to rely on her own effort. By the time she was 21, dance was her main focus. Her teachers at Washington University in St. Louis, especially Annelise Mertz and Leslie Laskey, stripped her of her superficial notions about dance, art, and architecture. Graduate school took her to the San Francisco Bay Area for a Master’s degree in dance at Mills College. The search for her movement, her authentic expression, led her to Tai Chi Chuan, which she studied intensively in Berkeley with T. R. Chung, a student of the great master Kuo Lien Ying.
After graduate school, Rohini returned to her hometown of Boston and opened a successful Tai Chi Chuan school in Cambridge. She also studied Chinese language and earned a degree in acupuncture. While practicing Tai Chi Chuan, she had a powerful experience of floating, wholeness, and freedom; when not practicing, she felt small and incomplete. She wanted the experience she had practicing Tai Chi Chuan all the time, even when grocery shopping or cleaning the toilet. Every year she spent a month in California studying with Chung. On one visit, as soon as she walked in the door he told her, “You’re finished here. Go to him.”
“Him” was Swami Muktananda. Rohini’s eight years with Muktananda, affectionately known as Baba, taught her exactly what she was looking for. She was determined to work only with him, so she made sure that she could be with him most of the time during those eight years. She was in charge of security for the ashram in Ganeshpuri, India, she stood with him in the ashram courtyard, and she was his appointments secretary for most of his second world tour. All these roles taught her how to deconstruct her old ways of operating, and how to relate with the world appropriately.
Where Rohini mainly learned the practice was at the back stair of Baba’s house in Ganeshpuri. For years, every day after lunch, her job was to stand by Baba’s back stair. He would come out and sit on the steps. She would stand a few feet away, ostensibly to protect his privacy but really to learn from him. Though from the outside it looked as though nothing was happening, inwardly he was teaching her. She learned how to be aware of the outside world while constantly boring into the core of her being. Then she would rest there, as deep in as she could go at the time. Baba also spent hours in the courtyard, and Rohini’s job was to stand nearby in case he needed something. There, she practiced what he was teaching her. Silencing thoughts and vibrations. Being still, so that she could just be.
After Baba left his body in 1982, Rohini returned to America. Baba had taught Rohini the practice; now she simply needed to do it, burn up the ignorance that was preventing her from knowing who she really was, and again experience the bliss she had felt in Baba’s presence.
For many years, no matter what happened on the outside, whether giving birth to her two sons, helping them to manhood, or enduring and then leaving an unhealthy environment, Rohini just practiced, knowing that whatever God does He does for good.
For the past two decades, Rohini has quietly worked as a spiritual director, passing on the internal practice taught to her by Muktananda. She also teaches exegetical classes in the Yoga Sutras, the Siva Sutras, the Upanisads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Pratyabhijnahrdayam, the Vijnanabhairava Tantra, the Bhakti Sutras, and the Philokalia. For each text, students examine and reflect on different translations and commentaries, but above all they are led to experience directly what lies behind each reading.
Everything Rohini teaches she owes to Baba. Through all the years, he has been with her, guiding her on her walk home.