Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Is an Ashram for Me?

by Swami Ritavan Bharati

Part 5.

(Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 linked at end of article)

Fifth in a series of articles on ashram living.

Ashrams are dedicated to the lineage of yoga masters, teachers and spiritual guides that have shared the wisdom of spiritual life. These streams of traditions have continued for more than two thousand years nurturing dedicated seekers. The teachings, though perennial and timeless, are conducted in the language and terminology of the contemporary civilization, yet always imbued by the spirit as the source of wisdom.

The universality of a spiritual tradition makes the teachings resilient beyond the confines of individual beliefs, faiths, or opinions. The focus of an ashram is spiritual discovery and personality-formation cultivating spiritual growth through transmission and transformation in awakened higher states of consciousness.

Yoga ashrams apply the art and science of self-transformation as taught in various scriptures, oral tradition, and life experience through such methods that promote mindfulness, awareness, amity and compassion, acceptance and forgiveness.

Through daily practice, the habit patterns of mind are formed in regularity, frequency, duration, and intensity that establish a baseline for observing progress in daily meditation and other yoga practices.  the sadhaka experiences the psycho-physiological rebalancing, healing, and transformation of personality, that can be measured in steadfastness of a peaceful mind.

Swami Rama would frequently remind us, "Acceptance and Forgiving are the very process of rejuvenation and growth. Living in the light of love and forgiveness will give you peace, and you will experience that sunshine that radiates within and all around you."

Many people have fears in coming to an ashram. They feel their deficiencies and inadequacies will be unmasked. They may think that the spiritual guide is completely aware of and sees all their faults, dishonesty, greed and anger. In reality, an ashram is meant for one to come face to face with one’s self, and thereby fosters an attitude of discovery. A student enters ashram life with full conviction and trust, placing the entire book of one’s life before the teacher for scrutiny. That is always expected of a good student. If one can accept that he is ignorant, he can be lead by a competent teacher because such an aspirant is open to receiving higher knowledge. At that point the student has a strong desire to "Know Thyself;" and accepts the unique ashram life and relationship with the knowledge-bearer under the disciplines of ashram life.

The teachings of the spiritual guide offer no criticism, no condemnation, and emphasizes acceptance and forgiveness for whatever deeds might have been done. Random sentiments and negative emotions are brought forward from the subconscious mind through the selfless actions performed daily in the ashram along with constant self-observation and introspection. The ashramite slowly begins to feel the blessings of humility and self-restraint as well as the blessings of unconditional kindness and compassion. Many of those things one does not like about yourself will drop away as one creates a positive attitude. One sees and accepts the responsibility of one’s actions and behavior in relation to others as mirrors for understanding and growth.

"The most unselfish thing you can do in the world is to attain peace and stillness within yourself, for only what you possess, will you be able to distribute." - Swami Veda.

While in the ashram, the spiritual seeker seeks a deeper self-understanding as a spiritual quest through the three pillars of practice, discipline and service. There is the difference between experiential knowledge and reading knowledge. The experiential lifestyle of an ashram in meant to apply the life lessons daily and slowly increase one’s capacity for self-understanding. There is a constant reminder, for in the greeting given to each is with bowed head and the word "namaste," (I salute the divinity that is within you), recognizing that source of light and love.

Editor's Notes:

Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 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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