Ashram Life

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

The ashram cannot be a permanent abode for anyone. It is a place where you can go for a short or long period of time in order to accelerate your spiritual growth, such is the atmosphere created there. From ancient times, ordinary people as well as monarchs have lived in ashrams like sannyasins for fifteen days up to six months. During this period they would live in a simple way. They were actually trying to transform their personality. They would keep minimal possessions, sleep on the floor, not keep any money, ornaments or valuables with them, and eat only once a day. Thereafter, they would go back to their normal householder life and find that they were able to see the world from a better perspective and manage life in a better way. Their peace of mind and strength were greater.

Learning detachment

It is not possible for everyone to take sannyasa, but it is possible for everyone to enjoy and experience sannyasa life for at least fifteen days. When in the ashram, people must practise selfless service. In the olden days, ashrams had a lot of agricultural land and cows, but now ashrams are slightly different. Nevertheless, one must give oneself selflessly. One also develops detachment in the ashram. Although one lives and works with fifty or more people, at the end there is a realization that one is not at all related to them.

Detachment is an important qualification for a person who wants to acquire peace of mind and progress spiritually. Detachment is not carelessness; it does not mean that you do not love or serve others. In the ashram you learn to love, serve, work and enjoy without any attachment. Love without attachment is a difficult idea to understand, but when you live in the ashram in an atmosphere of peace, tranquillity and friendliness, you know how to manage and live with people without involving yourself in complicated relationships.

Canvas of the mind

In the ashram all the samskaras come to the surface. In normal life this does not happen as there are many ways to escape reality. There are so many objects of sensual pleasure and distractions that fears, anxieties, insecurities and passions cannot be seen. However, for ashramites or sannyasins, all the deep-rooted complexes that were being suppressed come to the surface. This gives them a chance to know exactly what is contained. It is an opportunity to bring the deep-rooted personality to the forefront.

In the calm, quiet and unassuming atmosphere of the ashram, you can also decide what you can be. Outside, this is not possible. If you see an artist, you want to be an artist; if you see a sportsman, you want to be a sportsman; if you see a boxer, you want to be a boxer; if you see a cinema artist, you want to be a cinema artist; if you see a politician, you want to be a politician. You have no knowledge of your reality. In the ashram, your mind is like clean canvas and you realize what you have to paint on it, what you are capable of and what you can do.

—September 1981, Zinal, Switzerland