A Day in a Greek Ashram

Gyanavati, Greece

Ever since 1976, when Swamiji sent Swami Sivamurti to Greece to spread the message of yoga, the people there have been getting familiar with ashram life, sannyas tradition and karma yoga. Now, after six years of hard work, more than fifteen swamis along with karma yogis work in Satyananda ashrams and yoga schools.

These function in a similar way to Bihar Schools of Yoga in India with differences due to climate, temperament and historical background of the country.

Early in the morning the swami in charge of waking up, will ring a little bell outside every ashram door. Then swamis and other residents get up, practise their sadhana if they can find a quiet place, and start their cleaning duties. Another bell will ring at about six o'clock for breakfast, which is served quickly in the kitchen.

Morning hours are quite peaceful, with only swamis and a few karma yogis in the ashram. Students come later on for guidance. There is always the possibility of forming a positive relationship between people who are drinking salted water happily together.

Between eleven and eleven thirty, lunch is served and everyone sits on the floor in the big asana room in a circle to take food. Afterwards there is karma yoga until tea time. From two o'clock more karma yogis arrive, classes take place, appointments with the director, private lessons, cooking dinner and all the usual ashram activities. Diet is basically ashram food with a few more complicated vegetarian recipes including sweets occasionally. Dinner is served at five o'clock in the kitchen if evening classes are still going on in the large asana room.

Fasting and mouna are sometimes practised combined with karma yoga. Karma yoga in Satyanandashram varies from cleaning, watering plants, washing and ironing, mala making, carpentry work, reception work, correspondence, etc., to developing yoga magazine films, filing, library work, typing and printing yoga publications.

Evening kirtan and satsang provides an opportunity for new people to come. After singing kirtan loudly with many instruments, questions are answered. Greeks are great karma yogis and bhaktas, but the philosophical touch is evident especially in the Athenian Satyanandashrams. Questions like, 'Which is the quickest way to samadhi?', 'What type of meditation is better?', 'What is karma?', 'Do you believe in astrology?', 'What is kama?' are answered. Kirtan follows and Shanti Path ends the day.

Then the visitors, students and most of the karma yogis leave and by nine thirty everybody is supposed to be in bed, or rather on a mattress spread on the floor. If a seminar is going on, the room is shared with others. In cases like Swamiji's long awaited visit, sleep becomes a rare luxury because of working for the convention day and night.

Before turning off the lights, you can always turn to Swamiji's or Amritanandaji's picture and say Hari Om.