India Supera, 73, completed her earthly life in Helena, Montana surrounded by her loving family on October 29, 2019.
After receiving a terminal diagnosis with bile duct cancer in July, she said she was filled with nothing but gratitude for the full life she lived and wouldn’t change a thing.
She was born Laurie Beth Supera on September 4, 1946 to Jules and Florence (Sumergrade) Supera in New York. Soon after, the family packed up and moved across the country to California in a ’32 Buick towing a trailer filled with ceramic supplies. She spent her childhood in Downey, California with her older sister VJ (Marsha). Her artist father and private detective mother provided a bohemian upbringing; so fittingly India decided at age 17 to quit school and start her life. Her father thought that was a great idea and ran away to Mexico with her.
From there she took the hippie trail with no money and no guide books, traveling overland across Europe and eventually to India where her sister joined her. On the way, she met her lifelong friend Howard Levin who became an integral part of her travels and life. Nicknamed India as a young child, she was drawn to the country and yearned for a spiritual life. She renounced all belongings but her toothbrush, even throwing her passport into the Ganges.
Her quest for higher consciousness led her to Sathya Sai Baba, an avatar and guru in Southern India. There she found a group of kindred souls with whom she remains deeply connected today, carrying with them his core teaching of “Love all, serve all.”
Among those kindred souls was Jermain “Jerri” Duncan, who brought India back to the U.S. to receive much-needed dental care. When Jerri was diagnosed with terminal lymph cancer, India became her nurse. Jerri unfortunately succumbed to her cancer in 1972, and left the Feathered Pipe Ranch, which she had purchased with the dream of creating a communal spiritual center, to India.
Not having any interest in owning property or remaining in the US, India planned to sell the Ranch, go back to India and meditate under a tree. In the meantime, India allowed William Staniger, a fellow traveler of the world and Helena native, and Janis Paulsen to hold a yoga retreat at the Ranch in July 1975. The three had a sweat lodge experience in which India had her vision of the Ranch, and they founded the Holistic Life Foundation (now named the Feathered Pipe Foundation), whose activities included a university in San Francisco, spiritual pilgrimages around the world, and seminars at the Feathered Pipe Ranch, which has for decades been considered one of the world’s leading yoga retreat centers. On her tours, India never let the itinerary get in the way of a better adventure.
At that same 1975 retreat, which was taught by Judith Hanson Lasater, an instrumental figure in the spread of yoga in America, India asked Laughing Water (formerly Paul Superak) to stay and cook for the Ranch and to start the Real Food Store, which has served the community ever since. They married in 1976 and gave birth to their daughter, Crystal Water, exactly a year later. India brought Crystal on her pilgrimages and trained her to be a citizen of the world.
In the 1990s India avoided empty-nest syndrome by welcoming Wintersong and Josh Safronoff into her home at ages 10 and 13. They instantly became part of the family and eventually became managers and caretakers of the Ranch.
India was in fact a mother figure and mentor for many people because she always saw qualities and potentials in people and helped them to be able to achieve goals through having confidence in them. Through unconditional love and acceptance she opened people to their limitless potential. Her mind and heart were both boundless wells. She always had the right words to comfort and inspire, and she gave the most eloquent and moving talks. Her advice to her own grandchildren, who helped care for her during her sickness, was to “find what fulfills you in your life and do it.”
She credited her own self-confidence to Sai Baba and the faith that things can be done “by way of mantra” and miracles.
She co-founded the Tibetan Children’s Education Foundation with Karma Tensum and VJ Supera in order to provide education, housing and support to the children of Tibetan refugees in India.
Together with Cree Elder Pat Kennedy, she helped realize eight Peace Encampments and a Cree language project. Bringing together tribal leaders with tribal members and the general public, Peace Encampments were held to raise awareness of the rich ceremonial traditions that hold their community together in the midst of incredible hardship.
Along with Wintersong and long-time friend, social activist and author Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, India pushed for a 5th World Conference on Women in 2022 in India. They have been petitioning the United Nations for many years for this to happen.
Locally, India was active in charities and non-profits like the Montana Artists Refuge, The Myrna Loy, work with local veterans and many other organizations and individuals who needed support. She believed in giving as much as she possibly could, sometimes even going into debt to do so.
When asked how she could be so fearless, she responded that she was afraid just like everyone, but to her it was more about kindness. When you are kind, you don’t have to be afraid because you will get kindness back. India was a giving and generous person. Throughout her life she practiced this, being kind to others and having an open heart. In her mind we are all interconnected and she never differentiated between helping friends, family or “strangers.” We are all one.
This love also extended to all sentient beings. While doing sweat lodges, she always prayed for animals, like her childhood pets. She fed the foxes, ravens and packrats from off her porch and bottle-fed an orphaned deer in her living room while a bobcat picked the bones of her Thanksgiving turkey outside her back door. And then there were her dear cats who devotedly attended her through her sickness and her wake.
India enjoyed many different spiritual practices and always said that she wanted to live her life in such a way that when she died, the God of any religion would take her. We are confident that she achieved this through her love, kindness and inspiration she gave to so many. During her sickness she had friends of all traditions sending out prayers for her: candles were lit all over the world in churches, her photo was brought to Mount Kailash on a pilgrimage, prayers were said in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and in prayer groups, pujas performed on the Ganges and around India and her photo placed on many private altars. She was actually excited to see what death and/or the after life brought because it is a journey to the unknown and that whetted her appetite for adventure.
India is survived by so many who loved her dearly as a mother, mentor and friend, including her daughter Crystal Water and husband Johnny Feron, her grandchildren Ilan, Luna and Zia Feron, her daughter Wintersong Safronoff and husband Michael Rudolf, her son Josh Safronoff and girlfriend MaryJane Ilgenfritz, her sister Marsha “VJ” Supera, her business partner and former husband Laughing Water, her Ranch family and friends from around the world.
Ways to connect and show your appreciation:
In honor of India Supera – dearest mother, soul sister, mentor, confidant, friend and inspiration for so many – Feathered Pipe Foundation hosted an online celebration of her life through the magic of Zoom, with many, many who loved her and were touched by her life mission. View A Life Well Lived: A Celebration Of India Supera’s Life here.
In lieu of flowers, her family requests donations to be made to the Feathered Pipe Foundation, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) educational organization. Her dream was to continue its good works long into the future. Donate at here.
We deeply and humbly thank everyone who helped India and her family during her sickness and throughout her lifetime of service.