Ashram Environment

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Everyone should learn to understand and appreciate the rules of the ashram. An ashram has a definite role to play in everyone's life. People may have a cantankerous attitude towards the ashram, the people and everything. Or they may have a jolly attitude towards everyone and everything. They may have an attitude of inspiration, or one of dejection. These are personal approaches, which do not in any way affect or alter the purpose and direction of the ashram.

Retraining

An ashram provides people with something which is not easily available in society. The ashram is not aloof from society. It is definitely a part of society, but it represents a specialized institution or organization, a place of training and learning of a definite subject.

This specialization is a training ground where one can learn to retrain one's entire being, personality and body in order to gain a deeper experience of one's actions, interactions and creativity.

From the time of birth, there has been nothing but an urge to attain status in life, name and recognition, as well as facing the ever-recurring experiences of pain and pleasure, dissatisfaction and satisfaction. However, in the ashram the individual learns how to stand back from these daily occurrences and develop a balanced, harmonious, positive and creative attitude through discipline, which is an integral part of the ashram environment.

Discipline

Discipline does not mean following a specific routine or schedule, but finding ways and means of controlling the dissipation and distraction of the senses, the karmendriyas, organs of action, and the jnanendriyas, organs of perception, and directing and guiding the activities of the mind. This is known as discipline and every external aid can be utilized.

Yoga should not be confined to the classroom environment or to asana and pranayama only. Every effort should be exerted to make yoga a part of one's life so as not be swayed by the normal destructive tendencies of the senses and mind.

Gossip and criticism are natural yet destructive tendencies, as are talking and thinking negatively. Feelings of hatred, anger or jealousy are other forms of negative tendencies. Discipline eventually leads us to sanyam, restraint, of the senses and mind. With sanyam one becomes a yogi, but it must be imbibed from the ashram environment.

Indriya sanyam, control or restraint of the senses, and man sanyam, control or restraint of the mind, are important aspects of ashram life and apply to everyone who enters through the gate, whether they are coming for the first time or have been ashram residents for twenty years.

Yoga should not be confined to the ashram environment, in the spirit of learning something worthwhile for life. If ashramites or guests are studying, writing or reading in the room or library, it should become a part of jnana yoga. If they are singing kirtan and listening to satsang, it should become a part of surrender and bhakti yoga. If they are working in an office or kitchen, cleaning or sweeping, with ambition or without ambition, it should become a part of their continued effort and part of karma yoga. In this way they can definitely make every moment of life a yogic moment. It is this spirit, concept, idea, this way of thinking and living which is to be absorbed from the ashram environment.

It is, therefore, necessary that aspirants know the importance of this ashram. It is neither a five-star nor a no-star ashram. It is not an ashram which is big or small. It is an ashram which tries to infuse certain ideals into the environment for everyone to understand. If people are able to absorb it, well and good; if not, they are the losers. However, while people are here, they must live according to the sanctity of the ashram.

2 August 1994, Ganga Darshan, Munger —printed in YOGA Vol. 5, Issue 6 (November 1994)