Suffering in Ashram Life

Swami Bhaktipoornananda Saraswati

In worldly life we tend to make things more pleasant and more comfortable for ourselves. Usually we manage to acquire those items which we consider essential or convenient to our comfort, and we develop an attitude of dependence and belief that those basic utilities will always be available to us.

Pain and suffering in the worldly life is caused mainly by events and disturbances such as death, divorce, family problems or heavy losses in business, which remove or incapacitate the most cherished objects of our attachment. At such times we are so greatly affected, that we often become sick or depressed, and sometimes even have a mental breakdown. These events may hurt us for the rest of our lives.

In sannyasa ashram, however, life is different. We only have what we are given, and those things remain with us only as long as they are given for. Such things that we would have been able to adjust according to our personal liking in outside life, we no longer control. Our food, sleeping quarters, work and position are given and taken according to needs and time. One may be shifted from a separate room with attached bathroom to a dormitory with five other inmates. Daily kirtan may be discontinued or changed to two hours work in the garden, or breakfast may be replaced by tea only.

Actually the physical effects of the changes do not really worry anyone. Perhaps you have to walk down the hall to the bathroom, or you can't sing or read as much as you used to, but these are not the real cause of your pain. The pain is caused by breaking the attachment to the routine you had set up for yourself, and the more attachment the more pain.

This sadhana of continued change teaches us not to be attached to any one situation or person. It is the one sadhana to which no one gets attached. It leads us to a state of detachment which leads to a state of contentedness. In this state where the mind is not disturbed by physical situations, spiritual progress is much quicker. The mind quickly becomes stronger and more one-pointed.

While living in the guru's ashram, we are led to this state by the situations and changes that are built around us and for us. Although at first we may be engrossed in feelings of pain and suffering, we soon realize how much easier it is if we don't identify ourselves with our situation. These painful changes serve as reminders to us along the path to samadhi and those who want to pick that rose of bliss must also be pricked by the thorns.