North Texas Daily

Rudra Center provides spiritual studies to Denton for more than 40 years

Rudra Center provides spiritual studies to Denton for more than 40 years

April 08
14:15 2014

Matt Wood // Staff Writer

Silver Baker needed a second chance.

After combating drug use, becoming disenfranchised with the education system and losing his way, he needed a teacher.

That’s when he met Rudi.

Baker said he was saved by a short, bald man dressed completely in orange who walked across the street. He didn’t know it at the time, but this peculiar individual was Swami Rudrananda, the founder of the Rudra Center in Denton.

The Rudra Center for Enlightened Awareness is a nonprofit organization in Denton at 609 N. Locust Street. With an ornate, tranquil garden and an awe-inspiring building, the 15,646-square-foot center functions as a spiritual school or Ashram.

The center offers various programs and classes aimed to help people understand themselves.

“Rudi started this place as a place for meditation and spiritual study,” said Rose Kamego, owner and head instructor for the Yoga Hut, one of the businesses the Rudra Center provides space for.

In finding the center and meeting Rudrananda, Baker said he was put on the right course.

“When I came here, I was suicidal,” he said. “In one sense, my life was saved. You don’t really forget that.”

The center

As the current chief instructor for the center, Baker, 67, gives lectures to prospective or current students on various ideas of self-knowledge and understanding.

“I give my energy and time to this center to promote the possibility that somebody might show up and wake up to who they really are and make a difference in the world,” Baker said.

One of these people was Brett Thompson, who has been a student at the center for eight years. When he first encountered Baker, Thompson immediately took to him.

“As I’ve grown to know him, he impresses me every day,” Thompson said. “All of the different things he’s done, the people he’s met, the things he’s created. It’s mind boggling.”

He said the center provides a unique atmosphere and is a good place for people to learn to understand themselves.

“The center here really provides a space and an opportunity for people who are seeking something beyond what they already know,” he said.

Kamego said the first time she came to the center, she was overwhelmed at the garden and structures.

“I was just blown away. It was so beautiful,” she said. “I knew I wanted to spend more time here.”

She began attending Yoga classes at the center and felt welcomed by the people she met.

“The center has been a home for me,” Kamego said. “I was always attracted to the place because of the aesthetic. I started coming to Yoga and I made a lot of friends.”

Baker said his appreciation for Rudi and the work of the Rudra Center inspired him to continue teaching and helping others.

“They were willing to help me and they were patient, and I’m eternally grateful for that,” Baker said. “I’m still jazzed and juiced about doing this, because I see the difference it makes in peoples’ lives. And that’s extremely gratifying.”

Finding enlightenment

Baker has been with the center for 43 years, and is also its current manager and caregiver. He inherited the school in 1978 after chief instructor Stuart Perrin left the center.

After graduating from UNT in 1970 with a degree in education, Baker said he lost interest in the education system.

“I was really lost. I didn’t really have a mission after college,” he said.  “There was nobody telling me what to do. I was telling myself what to do and I didn’t have a clue.”

In 1974, Baker worked at a now-defunct record store on Hickory and Fry Street. While working, he saw a man enter his view through the window.

The person, Swami Rudrananda, wore an orange shirt, orange pants and orange shoes. Baker saw him walk into a vegetarian restaurant across the street.

“I didn’t pay attention at the time, but it really had an impact on me,” he said. “I kept thinking about this guy; I even had a dream about him.”

Curiosity got the better of him. A week later he ventured to the restaurant to inquire about the orange-clad man.

“The waitress said ‘Oh, that’s Rudi!’” he said. “And she told me how he came to Dallas from New York and they invited him to Denton.”

Baker said he was very taken by Rudi when they first met.

“That was the first time I saw energy around somebody,” he said. “I saw this light around him and I kept blinking my eyes.”

Building the center

The Rudra Center’s second, pagoda-style building was constructed in 1974 by Baker and several other students of the center. Baker said although the construction was completed in eight months, he has never stopped supplying additions.

“Artistically, I’m always doing something out there,” he said. “Adding some more beauty, adding another statue. So in one sense, it never has officially ended.”

The original, traditional-style house had existed since about 1915, local Denton historian Mike Cochran said, which was joined by the oriental one built by Baker and three other students of the school.

A previous head instructor, Stuart Perrin, bought the lot next door to the first house and told Baker to plan and construct a building for housing.

“I thought he was kidding, asking me to build a whole dormitory,” Baker said.

A month later, Baker said that Perrin followed up about the building, asking about the plans. When Baker realized Perrin was serious, Baker told him he had no idea how to build, but Perrin assured him he was capable.

“It was a nightmare,” Baker said. “There were four of us that built it and one of us knew how to build. Without him it wouldn’t have gotten built.”

Baker taught himself how to plan and construct the building by seeking out experienced carpenters in Denton to learn from them.

The group of four completed the physical construction and carpentry, but professionals laid concrete and installed air conditioning.

In regards to the style, Baker said he was always enamored with oriental art and lived in Japan for three years. When Perrin asked Baker to build an oriental-style building, he built a model using blocks of wood.

“Once we got a design we both liked, he said ‘that’s it, I want that,’’ Baker said.

To get supplies on a budget, Baker said the lumber and tiles they used were from companies who were going out of business and selling goods for next to nothing.

The building’s mosaic tile floors were the result of purchasing broken tiles and turning them into patterns.

“We just kind of made it up as we went,” he said. “I saw it as an opportunity to be artistic.”

The finished product is a five-apartment building that is still rented out today.

“Most of the time it’s students who study the spiritual work,” Baker said. “But sometimes it’s students who live in the city who go to the schools.”

The third floor of the building is the most lavishly designed room. He likened it to the king’s chamber in a pyramid and said it was designed for the chief instructor of the center.

“Over 40 years, there’ve only been two people who have been able to live there over a year,” he said. “The energy is just too strong for them. They usually go bonkers after a while.”

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1 Comment

  1. Kym
    Kym October 31, 22:36

    Rudra is an incredible resource. I’d like to spend more time there myself.

    Reply to this comment

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