Mitra Crane, a longtime Integral Yogi and Teacher Training staff member, passed away in April 2021 after a serious fall a short time prior. He was 80 years old. Some of you might not have had an opportunity to meet him or his wonderful wife and soulmate, Ambha. If you had, you would no doubt agree—like all of us who have known them—that they are two of the most radiant beings who emanate love, light, peace and joy.
Mitra was a unique person. Pictures of health and fitness, he and Ambha were competitive racewalkers as well as yogis. After practicing as a very successful stockbroker on Wall Street, he retired at the age of 39. For a while, he was a “house husband” and Ambha continued to work for a women’s magazine. He gently suggested that as soon as she would stop spending, she could retire too. So after a little while, she did exactly that and they moved to a wonderful retirement community in Florida that became their home for the next 22 years.
In the summer of 1999, Mitra and Ambha came to Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville to take the Basic Integral Yoga Teacher Training program. Although Mitra was an experienced and competent Yoga student, before the halfway point of the program, he realized that teacher certification was not for him. He continued to audit the program but instead of studying, he served every one of the 38 students in the course, offering encouragement, help, love and support. He served the staff, keeping the classroom clean and organized—not an easy task at that time since the Integral Yoga Academy building had not yet been built and teacher training classes were held in a small basement classroom.
For the next 20 years, Mitra and Ambha returned to Yogaville every summer to serve at the Academy’s teacher training programs. Sometimes Mitra would take a course along with Ambha, but never for certification. He preferred to offer support and service. The Sanskrit spiritual name “Mitra” received means “a friend to all” and he was! He was the first one to open the doors every morning before meditation after putting the classrooms in order. He would also clean out forgotten areas, fix sticky windows and doors and put the entire Academy building, including the student lounge, into pristine order. Then, every day he would drive the van of teacher trainees to and from LOTUS for noon meditation.
Over the years, Mitra would initiate some fun fundraising schemes with the teacher trainees to buy gifts for the Academy. He raised money to buy a harmonium, trees on the quad, a bench for the quad, on-demand hot water for the lounge, new props and eye pillows, and many more things. He also initiated the Lotus Guest House room upgrade program, where he completely upgraded a room that would be available to guests throughout the year. Many followed his example and upgraded the remaining guest rooms of the Lotus Guest House One building for the benefit of all.
Of course, Mitra’s ability to live his Yoga and put the yogic teachings into practice did not go unnoticed by the Academy. The Academy staff presented Mitra with an honorary Integral Yoga Teacher Certification during his 20 years of service and he was thrilled!
In Florida, Ambha and Mitra shared all they learned about Yoga with their wonderful community in Ocala. Teaching together as a team, they offered two free Hatha Yoga classes a week—Hatha I and Hatha II—and one Gentle Yoga class per month. They also taught a Chair Yoga at the local public library. They began writing articles on Yoga for local newspapers and before long they had a weekly spot called Crane’s Corner in their paper. This column was filled the yogic wisdom and practices that they both so beautifully personified.
Mitra lived in the golden present. He and Ambha would make every day a celebration. When he would interact with others, he was always totally present, listening, and giving of his full attention. When he spoke, his words were always positive, encouraging, loving, filled with praise, and almost never about himself. He loved to serve and loved to practice random acts of kindness.
In 2017, Mitra decided to honor all the racewalkers and runners who were over 90 by hosting a luncheon at the retirement community. It turned out to be a six-month project with 20 volunteers planning and running it and 101 happy guests! Another time, Mitra saw potential in a boy at church and decided to pay for his college tuition. Other examples of small but wonderful acts of joy and kindness were dozens of little notes over the years appearing on our windshield after morning meditation. One particular favorite of ours said, “Never fear, Mitra’s here!”In an interview with the Southwest Neighbors Newsletter for the retirement community residents, when asked what advice he would give to everyone, Mitra said, “Live mindfully, pay attention, slow down and be present. Be positive and be grateful for what you have!”
We have been gathering tributes from the Integral Yoga sangha. This one from Swami Asokananda (Integral Yoga Institute of New York president and senior Yoga teacher trainer) sums up the spirit of those:
“Mitra was possibly the most loving and loved teacher training staff member I’d ever seen. He was dedicated and enthusiastic about the trainees having the best experience possible. Many of these students were coming to an ashram for the first time; Mitra was a master at putting people at ease. He was clearly having a good time and it was contagious. He brought much joy to so many people, including me. And, in combination with his wonderful wife, Ambha, their light was exponentially expanded.”
We will miss Mitra’s physical presence but we can feel his constant spiritual presence with us, whispering in our ears, “Never Fear, Mitra’s here!”
(My gratitude to Satya Greenstone for contributing the section on Mitra’s service in the Academy to this article.)
About the Author:
Rev. Lakshmi Barsel is a senior Integral Yoga teacher. She has taught Raja Yoga, meditation, and scripture classes on the Bhagavad Gita and the Thirukkural. She has a Ph.D. in linguistic anthropology and presently serves as the director of the Satchidananda Prison Project and as the chair of the Integral Yoga Ministry.