Founders Vision From Jill Yogini Edwards Dated Feb 7, 2024


I am writing to share with you Craig Sastry Edwards vision as the founder of the Sri Shirdi Sai Baba Temple of Austin.  Many of you may know this history, but some may not so please bear with me as I unravel this story.

Craigji became interested in meditation at the early age of 16.  At that time in the USA, there were new Meditation Centers inspired by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of Transcendental Meditation ™.  Craig jumped in and quickly became inspired to become a teacher of TM – to help others start on the path of Enlightenment.  He attended teacher training at age 18 and was the youngest person on his Teacher Training Course in Switzerland in 1975.

From that time onwards, Craig was extremely interested in Enlightenment and spiritual development.  He attended college in Oregon for one year, and then transferred to Maharishi International University (MIU) in Fairfield, Iowa.  MIU integrated both traditional college courses along with spiritual teachings and meditation retreats.  This was the ideal college for someone keenly interested in spiritual growth!  Craig and I both graduated from MIU together in 1981.

At MIU, in 1978 I had the honor of meeting Craig and it was love at first sight.  Craig used to say that the angels wrapped a cord around us when we met, as we were destined to be together.  We got married in Iowa within six months.  I shared Craig’s passion for meditation and Enlightenment.

After some time, Craig and I worked for the TM Administrative organization in Washington, DC.  From there we got an offer to work on a spiritual project on Kauai, Hawaii.  We jumped at the opportunity to live in the tropical paradise of Hawaii!

Craig loved to read the magazine “Hinduism Today” which was published on Kauai at the Hindu Monastery.  From there he responded to ads to have pujas done to enhance his work and professional life.  He met Panduranga Malyala, the founder of the first Sai Baba Temple in the USA, located in Pittsburgh, PA.  He and Pandu became fast friends by phone and Craig invited him and his wife to visit us in Hawaii.  On the first day of Pandu’s visit, he performed a Mahalakshmi Homa in our backyard.  From that day onwards, Craig’s business life flourished and he was very successful.  Craig was sold on the power of Homas and Pujas!  Life was going very well for us with all the Homas Craig signed up for.

We used to go and visit Pandu and Mahalakshmi at the Pittsburgh Baba Temple to attend special Homas and Pujas.  There we became inspired to build a Baba Temple in our latest hometown of Austin, Texas.

Craig’s vision was to create a beautiful Sai Baba Temple that would be the spiritual center for those interested in Hinduism and spiritual growth.  He also had a passion for charity such as feeding the poor, education for the needy, and to create Veda Patasalas to train priests.

Every year, Craigji and I traveled to India to stay with Pandu and Mahalakshmi and participated in World Peace Yagyas at the Vedic Patasalas.  In the Yagyas, Vedic Pundits from all over India were assembled to perform Homas, specifically known to cut negativity and promote World Peace.  These Yagyas were performed annually for over ten years in India, with our help and monetary support for all the supplies and Pundit dakshina.  It was a great honor to support and be immersed in the Homas and Vedic chanting for ten hours per day, for up to 21 days each year.

So this is the history of our Craigji, founder of the temple.  Panduranga affectionately gave him the name Craig Sastry as he was fond of reading and discussing scriptures such as the Puranas.  He and Pandu used to discuss the Vedic stories for hours.  Thus the name Craig Sastry stuck and became known to all.

We were pulled to move to Austin, due to low property values and no restrictions on where a church/temple could be built.  There was no special zoning needed and no permissions required from the neighborhood as in Hawaii.  It was perfect for a Baba Temple!

Craig and I attended a public meeting for the formation of Austin Hindu Temple, and met Balaji and Padma Atyam through that.  They were also excited to help build a Baba Temple, as they had been participating in the weekly Thursday Arathis through the Shirdi Mayi group.  They soon became a part of the main team to plan and organize the temple construction in Cedar Park.

When Craigji formed the legal structure of the Temple, he did a lot of research speaking to other temple Board members who had been founders of temples in the US.  One constant caution he received multiple times from temple founders was to keep a non-membership structure with limited Board members.  Also, he was advised to keep control and not to have term limits for the Board positions, as it may lead to conflicts as people vie for the seat,  position, and title.  Craig followed this advice from his trusted mentors, and created the non-profit corporation in Texas in 2007 as a non-membership organization.

In the legacy of Craig Sastry lies a profound testament to selflessness, wisdom, and devotion.  His meticulous design of the temple’s legal structure was not merely a product of intellect but a reflection of his balanced heart and mind.  Craigji’s humility shone brightly through his daily ritual of cleaning the parking, a gesture that spoke volumes about his character and commitment to service.

As a way to pay homage to Craigji’s memory, let us also acknowledge the deeper purpose behind his actions.  His temple was not built on foundations of ego or greed, but on the sacred principles of selfless service and devotion to the Divine.  Through his example, he imparted a timeless lesson – that true spiritual evolution stems from setting aside personal desires, relinquishing control, and surrendering to the higher Self and the will of God.

In honoring Craig Sastry, we honor the essence of the temple he so lovingly created – a sanctuary where souls find solace, where hearts find peace, and where the Divine presence is palpable.  May we carry forward his legacy with reverence, humility, and a steadfast commitment to service, knowing that only through such devotion can we truly evolve spiritually and contribute to the greater good of humanity.

With firm authority, I conclude that the “ByLaws of Sri Shirdi Sai Baba Temple of Austin,” adopted as of June 18, 2007, are immutable and will remain unchanged. Neither I nor Craig ever entertained the notion of altering these original ByLaws. Our intention was solely to streamline and clarify the operational management responsibilities of the Executive Committee for the Temple’s day-to-day tasks. Any challenges stemming from the use of the term “ByLaw” in the General Body of Trustees operational document will be addressed through legal counsel to rename to an appropriate name, and the Board of Directors will notify you, and therefore the matter stands resolved.

Now, let us refocus our efforts on our sacred mission: “Love All, Serve All, Help Ever, Hurt Never.”