March 21, 2009

The Pagoda on Locust Street

Last week when I told you that the Pagoda on Locust Street inspired me to write about the north end of Locust, I promised to try to satisfy your curiosity about it.

Well, I must admit, I wondered about it for years before I ever gained entry to the first floor – as a student at The Yoga Hut – but I’ve never been in the apartments on the upper floors. Nor do I have a complete story on the Pagoda’s history, though I do have 3 pretty complete stories, two of which come to me from wise and nearly life-long Dentonistas.

One Dentonista told me a story of a family-style religion that took up residence and built the pagoda and an adjoining vegetarian restaurant, in the late 60’s early 70’s. (The last time I was in that restaurant, Enrique’s Mexican occupied it, and the woodcarvings and stained glass work were fantastic. Most recently, Jonathan’s Bar was there, but I never visited. You can see what’s left from the outside – look for the stained glass and wooden doorway on Congress Street, near Locust.) Apparently the food at the vegetarian restaurant was good, and all the members of the religion, mostly college students, worked there. According to this one Dentonista, many of these students dropped out of college, but did not notify their parents. They did turn their parent-funded tuitions over to their messianic leader. He eventually dropped out too, leaving them on their own…

Now, my other source, another wise Dentonista and yogini, told me the story of a “Kundalini Yoga group that bought up half the land around UNT, and built up that whole corner-- the ashram, the restaurant with the stained glass, and they had a bakery downtown-- all in the 70's. The Rudra Ashram. The leader, Rudi, was from NY. He had gone to India, obtained enlightenment, and founded two colonies – one in Denton and one in New York. Unfortunately, Rudi died in a plane crash in New Mexico, and two members split the property/followers, etc. Stuart Perrin got Denton and was not charismatic. As the 70's died, so did the Rudranandra ashram in Denton.”

A bit of easy research on your friendly neighborhood Dentonista’s part unearthed this additional version:

Rudra Center emerged in the early 1970’s out of the spiritual need of a small group of seekers in Denton Texas, who happened to meet Swami Rudrananda (Rudi) in Dallas Texas, while attending Swami Mutananda’s first’s tour.
After the…presentation, he was personally invited to Denton by this group. He obliged and the wheels of creation followed him, as he then offered to set up a meditation group for them and established an Ashram (place to study spirituality) in 1971.
To house this spiritual school for study, a small two story plantation house was pulled off the real-estate market at 611 North Locust Street… . He left the rest to be generated and paid for by the students. The work that followed created immense growth potential for all involved.

After Rudi left for his home in Manhattan, New York, the small group of students realized that it would be difficult to maintain these efforts by themselves, at this early stage, and requested a 'teacher' be sent to them to assist in their learning. Rudi then sent one of his leading disciples at the time, Stuart Perrin, to fulfill this role for him.

Rudi would continue to visit Denton, once or twice year, until his untimely crossing in 1973, to promote and assist in the Ashram’s spiritual growth and development. His guidance, and the demands that he placed upon all involved, were the inspiration and the light that nourished this seedling into growing and blooming into its present expression.

Upon Rudi’s crossing, Stuart Perrin assumed the full task at hand in Denton and continued to teach within and build the situation until 1978, when he passed the mantel to Mister Robert Baker (Silver Ra) who has maintained and continued to build upon it until the present time. As the present 'caregiver,' Silver Ra has incorporated many additional spiritual approaches, besides Rudra Meditation- the founding discipline, into the teaching format and has been the vehicle and focus of this Oasis of Awakening since that time. During Silver’s personal learning years with Rudi, his teacher often told him “to create a type of Spiritual University, where many kinds and types of spiritual work could coexist together”. Silver Ra has continued to build upon his ‘God Father’s’ vision to this day as chief instructor and guide for the Rudra Center for Enlightened Awareness.”

Fascinating, no? And, if you compare the three stories, you can see they’re all the same, all true – can’t you? They’re just slightly different versions of the same story.

In the years I’ve been here, the most significant external changes to the pagoda that I’ve noticed were the addition of a thunder bird to the roof, which I don’t think was a positive change, and the further cultivation of the gardens, which certainly is. To see it from the inside, why not check out a Yoga class? Or go to the oxygen bar? You could take some lessons in shamanism. Not for you? How about some purification in the sweat lodge? Or a pipe ceremony at the next full moon? No? At least go chill with some meditation - everybody could do with a little mind-clearing quiet time. Everybody.

Go on; ankle on over and bliss out on the myriad delights Locust Street has to offer, this gorgeous pagoda included!

15 comments:

Redbendad said...

I attended an NLP class there on 3/20/2009. It was an enjoyable group with an excellent teacher, Lane Pierce.

Silver Ra is also an amazing artist. His work hangs in the temple.

-Your Friendly Neighborhood Dentonista said...

Nice! Now what's NLP? Would you like to elaborate? And, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.

Travis said...

NLP is Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Take some time to look into it.. you may find it interesting.

Anonymous said...

Hello,
The last version is correct.
I bumped into the place in 1973.

mmednick said...

Not sure of the whole history...but Stuart Perrin is my Uncle, my mothers brother.....all I can add was that in 1979 or 80 Stuart was still there and had started a health foods candy company there (as part of the bakery). My mother and younger brother visted the ashram with my grandmother ( I did not go because at 13 yrs of age had two friends bar mitzvahs I wanted to attend here in NY), be that as it may, the ashram was alive and well and i remember beautiful pictures of the buildings....and there was a Peterbilt factory nearby that my younger brother must have visted several times because of his love of 18 wheelers at the time.......eventually my uncle left to return back to NY City and i do not know what happened to the beautiful ashram in denton Texas. Also the plane crash where Rudi was killed....my uncle was on that flight also but somehow survived the crash.

Anneliese said...

Thank you for posting this. I spent a lot of time at the Rudra center, meditating and going to the sweat lodges. I have been upstairs, too, so I thought I would tell you about it. Once was to get a massage from Ra's wife at the time, Taisha. Otherwise I was up there many days and nights because my boyfriend rented one of the apartments.

I love the ashram and long to go back to Denton just to attend there again.

Anonymous said...

Just to add a bit to the Pagoda entry from three years ago (yes, I'm late but just stumbled on this site), the restaurant was originally called Rudra in the 70s, and later Esalan in the 80s. The Rudra name also fronted a bakery operation in another part of downtown Denton, and the bakery operation was fantastic, so much so that it had the contract to supply the baked goods sold at the Neiman Marcus restaurant at Northpark in Dallas. Throughout the 80s you'd see the little Rudra bakery trucks making the daily run from Denton to Dallas on I-35.

Melanie Daniel said...

Does anyone know information on the apartments they have there?

Anonymous said...

Anneliese, I, too, fondly remember Tashina. She was an amazing Bodyworker, Iridologist, herbal studies student, musician, etc. I hope that she is still evolving as a healer wherever she may be!

Alan said...

I was getting my doctorate in psychology at UNT in the mid-70s and the ashram apparently had a dark side then. Don't recall the details but 'cult' and 'abuse' were often used when talking about the group there and their leader - keep in mind this was from psych grad students and not the rural locals. In the mid-70s psych students were the most open minded of the lot, so when they said it I believed it and still do.

Anonymous said...

I hired their construction company to finish my remodeling of my home. Never met Rudi but got to know Stuart and especially Bob, who ran the construction company. Loved Rudra Restraunt, the best Denton ever had.They were hard workers and very loyal to the ashram, Stuart, their teacher.. As for as my home they did an unbelievable job. Unfortunately years later someone burned it to the ground. I bought my entry doos, stained glass panels from their antique store. In their hay day they had several very successful venues.

Anonymous said...

I "bumped" into Stuart in 1973...hung around the ashram a lot in that era....been in all the apartments in the pagoda and lived in one in the old house in 1990....was married there by Ayahuasca shaman Don Augustine Rivas Vasquez in 1994....he cut our wrists, joined our blood, you know the "traditioanl" Amazon wedding.....no real cult activity to report...and I knew everything that was going on there....place has had its ups and downs...I've moved on to falun gong...a chi gong movement and meditation activity....but had many, many , many fond memories at the ashram and a couple of thousand people have been through there over the decades.....
TW Fort Worth

Anonymous said...

http://www.meetup.com/Meditation-Study-Rudra-Dallas/

Anonymous said...

I worked at the bakery in 1980-81 and have fond memories of those times. I haven't been back since i left in '81, but would like to visit and see how things have changed.

Jill Kerr said...

I just came across this after I googled it.

Rudra was a big part of my life - and my mother's from 1972 until 1978. We were there when Stuart started his antique store next to the Lane family ice cream parlor, which eventually became the Rudra. When I applied to work there, someone said I was the first non-ashram member to do so - and then was required to attend yoga classes.

My mother began to attend - and to dispel a lot of gossip about what went on in this unusual place. Denton was still a town of sweet Victorian houses, and the one on Locust street was remodeled in the fashion of pagoda.

In summer 1976 I worked the graveyard shift in the bakery and loved it! Not so much the yoga, which I found exhausting. My parents continued to eat there, and my mother attended classes and knew them all so well.

Jill Kerr