Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Is an Ashram for Me?

by Swami Ritavan Bharati

Part 4.

(Parts 1, 2 & 3 linked at end of article)

In the previous three articles, a background was provided for ashram living through the 3 principles of practice, discipline as mental purification and selfless service, nish-kama karma.

In this fourth article, we look at relationships within our ashram as training lessons and opportunities to refine attitudes on the path of mental purification leading to moksha-liberation in this life.

Our ashram is a testing ground that uses relationships as a tool for self-awareness and mindfulness, and to break free from "non-conscious" mimicry. Outside the ashram, these habits have a greater tendency to morph into the unhappy and confused states of mind. Such unconscious reactions such as gossip, fault-finding, and complaining express unfulfilled ego-based desires. The unconscious habit becomes a vicious circle for when confronted, one again reacts with denial or justification thus burying the opportunity for mindful recognition of one's mistakes or faults. Through practice and service, one begins to deepen self-observation and choose feelings or emotions independently rather than unconsciously through mirroring or mimicry. The tools of self-regulation taught in the ashram allow personality to be grounded in a purer, or natural state of mind based in the brahma-viharas: friendship compassion, joy, equanimity. Ashram life is an opportunity for practicing selflessness and sadhana. These tools of self-observation and self-examination lead to self-pacification, a more natural state of pleasant mindedness. Thus, relationships from a spiritual perspective serve both as tests and opportunities for growth and transformation.

Ashram living is also meant to introduce us to the inner guru. The inner guru is an actual force. We learn to tune into it through active participation in practice (abhyasa) and pacification (vairagya). This is why we are here, and why you have chosen to live in an ashram. Daily, we maintain this sankalpa to sow the seeds of pleasant mindedness, sattvic-pure attitudes, selfless actions, the let the fruits mature without judgement or expectation. It is not a time for planning for the future or hoping to meet someone for an emotional relationship. It is a precious opportunity for pure meditation, self-study, contemplation, and self-less service. Slowly the fruits of practice bring contentment and releases one from the "me" oriented habits. Daily participation through regular and frequent meditation strengthen shraddha - faith and confidence in the intuitive guidance of the "inner-guru".  Relationships in an ashram are as family, brother-sister, kalayana-mitra - noble friend. These treasured relationships allow the reflective nature of mind to transfer the states of truthfulness, sincerity and peace to each other rather than emotionally charged, ego-based desires seeking emotional satisfaction.

Ashramites are seekers of "svaatantrya", relationships based in the self-governing ideals of the buddhi. This faculty of pure-intention reflects innate wisdom as the voice of one's own atman.  The spiritual Self, free of psychological conditionings and reactions from external stimuli, becomes the anchor for independent and willful decisions. For an ashramite, when emotional states are recognized, one learns to dive into the deeper sources of being using the resources of relaxation, breath awareness and self-observation (witness) and thereby smoothing the minds "wrinkles". This more tranquil state and sattvic nature of the mind, opens the reflective nature of buddhi. The intuitive nature of the buddhi-mind carries an awakened capacity for empathy, compassion, patience and humility, with harmony and peaceful co-existence becoming the natural motivation within relationships. "Is an Ashram for me?" means one is prepared and committed to these guiding principles for self-transformation.

In the next article, we will explore the relationship of "inner guru" as guide reflected in the teacher-student relationship, and the role of the Ashram guide as a spiritual guide and kalyana mitra for the purpose of cultivating spiritual growth and self-transformation leading to freedom for all fears.

Editor's Notes:

Parts 1, 2 and 3 of “Is an Ashram for Me?” by Swami Ritavan Bharati can be read at this link: http://ahymsin.org/main/ritavan-articles/is-an-ashram-for-me.html



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