In India, ashrams have existed for thousands of years. They are widely mentioned in the ancient texts such as the Bhagavat Purana, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Upanishads. They have always been the guardians of mystical teachings such as yoga.
Ashrams range from one-person establishments to places with hundreds of residents and different ashrams emphasise different paths of yoga. The aim of an ashram is to encourage and support those who wish to go deeper in their practice. Nowadays, an ashram is widely understood to be a kind of community or some kind of seminar cum retreat centre. Though this is partly true, there is more to an ashram: the transformation of our body and mind so that they become a vehicle for the realisation and expression of deeper understanding, wisdom and joy.
In an ashram, dogma, narrow-mindedness and rigidity should have no place. There is an open-ended attitude towards spirituality. No doubt, the main teaching is yoga, which is still a system, but one that is open and receptive to life’s mysteries without the need for blind belief or unquestioning acceptance of some ‘ism’.
An ashram is:
- a place of retreat
a place of focused work a place of karma yoga a place of awakening insight a place for awakening qualities of the heart a place of simplicity.
Yoga has become enormously popular in the present world because it brings tangible benefits into people’s lives – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. As people aspire to go deeper into yoga, they will naturally gravitate to an ashram for further teachings.
Though there are very few ashrams in the materialistic western world, there is great need for them. Ashrams help people to find inspiration and meaning in their lives and thereby bring a quantum change to society.