What is an Ashram?

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

An intentional community, based in shared spiritual practices, is an extraordinary place to live. The support of scheduled practices, communal meals and like-minded housemates is  wonderfully intensified by the energy of the tradition and the teacher who leads it.  I’ve lived in Ashrams under different spiritual heads, each with their own personality and quirks, yet found them all to be a catalyst to powerful transformation and spiritual advancement.

When you do yogic practices alone, you get guaranteed results, but they are much more powerful when done within an engaged community.  I know because I’ve lived in Ashrams for almost 30 years.  It’s actually the time that I’ve lived outside of an Ashram that makes it clear how purposeful Ashram living is.  Each time I’ve found myself “out there,” living on my own again, I missed the energetic support the Ashram provided, even more than the familial interactions and social structure.

The energetic support comes from the one who leads the practice.  Traditionally, the head of the Ashram must be authorized to serve in this role, due to their mastery of the teachings and practices.  In Buddhism it’s called “dharma heir,” with many of the classical traditions now acknowledging Western-born teachers at this level, both men and women.  Similarly, the paramparas (ancient lineages of India) have now “authorized” many in the West.

Most Ashrams offer public programs, though they are the tip of the iceberg.  What goes on in the wee hours of the morning, throughout the Ashram’s day and at day’s end fills your heart and deepens your soul.  Each member of the group who delves so deeply contributes to the others, which overflows to those who participate in the public offerings.  It’s easy to tell the difference.  Simply meditate in a group of Ashram residents and compare that to meditating in a group of seekers who live independently.  Wow! This week we celebrate the 10th birthday of Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram.  We’ve been doing practices in Downingtown PA since 2009.  Please join us at our free meditation programs (click here).  We’d love to meet you and support you in your spiritual development through yoga.  That’s why we’re here.

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