From Conversations on the Science of Yoga – Karma Yoga Book 1: Karma

What is the role of karma yoga and ashram life?

Swami Satyananda: Karma yoga means to act without any selfish motives. If a person can work with dedication and detachment, this is karma yoga and it will purify the dross of karma. That is why in the olden days, householders used to visit ashrams. They lived there for some time and participated in the ashram activities. They never received any money, remuneration, certificates or diplomas. In the ashrams, kings and ordinary men lived equally and in a natural and harmonious way. Of course, the ashram lifestyle was completely different to that which existed at home. It was specifically designed so an aspirant could purge his karmas.

A process of purging takes place with karmas and the mind in the same way that one gets diarrhoea after stuffing oneself with too much rubbish food. This may cause a lot of suffering and inconvenience at first, but it is a form of purification. When the mind is overwhelmed by thoughts, emotions, passion and excitement, one must understand that one is purging on the psychological plane. At this time, it would be beneficial to expose oneself to ashram life, where the lifestyle offers the possibility of bringing about inner purification.