Ashram

From Rikhiapeeth Satsangs 1, Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Ashrams are a very important part of the Indian psyche. The institution of ashram has existed here for thousands of years. No matter which religion came to India, the ashram tradition was kept alive. Whether it was Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam, Vaishnavism or Shaivism that became prominent, ashram life continued to be a very important aspect of society. The ashram tradition of sannyasins has continued uninterruptedly.

Even right now, millions of young men and women are attached to one ashram or the other, the Brahma Kumaris, Ramakrishna Mission, Rajneesh, and so on. Adolescents, adults and old people all go to these ashrams and stay there until they find their path. For millions suffering from hopelessness and despondency, ashrams are like hospices. Many people leave their businesses, homes and parents and go to ashrams. But of these millions, sooner or later, most leave. They go away because they find their path. The percentage of those who stay on, shave their heads and live as sannyasins for life is very small. Nevertheless, it is good to stay at an ashram for any period of time and at any age, as it helps overcome one's negative limb of society.

Acceptance is the core

There are millions of ashrams in India, big and small. They are able to survive because the Indian mind by its very nature helps ashrams. Every businessman, corporate house and individual who has a little money will donate to ashrams. It is natural for them, it is ingrained in them. If you were to ask them for donations, they would not be inclined to give, but when they are impressed with your work, you do not have to ask. This has been my experience. People only see whether Swami Satyananda is doing work which is good for society or not. Whether in Rishikesh, Munger, Rikhia or other places, I never asked.

An ashram is not run on a few dollars or rupees; it runs on people's acceptance. If an institution is not accepted, let it die. An institution which is not useful for, or is not serving society, which does not run on the principles of an ashram, should die. Those who run ashrams should remember that a sannyasin has no private life. He has no private account or land. I have never opened a bank account. I have never signed a cheque. I don't own property. If I have to leave this ashram today, I will leave barely with what's on me. I don't even have the money to purchase a train ticket. That is how a sannyasin has to live. And for such people, Indians will do anything.

—2004