With the interest in Yoga and other mindfulness disciplines such as meditation steadily growing among Westerners, many find themselves curious about visiting an ashram but don’t know what to expect.
What is an ashram?
Traditional to India, ashrams have now spread throughout the world. An ashram typically refers to a spiritual hermitage, a monastic community, or a place of spiritual retreat. Ashrams may be places where spiritual gurus and their disciples live, or where a spiritual community resides. Generally, ashrams are places devoted to such practices as Yoga, meditation, pranayama, or spiritual study; they may be located in a remote or rural area, away from the distractions of modern life.
What to expect when visiting Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville:
An ashram, retreat center, and a multi-faith spiritual community, Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville was founded by Sri Swami Satchidananda.
Yogaville provides an ideal setting for people of varying ages and backgrounds to come together in harmony to follow yogic principles. The diverse Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville community is comprised of residents who call the Ashram home, householders who live nearby, and guests who may be visiting, participating in a workshop or program, completing a Yoga teacher training, or taking a retreat.
When visiting Yogaville, guests can expect to engage in yogic principles and practices that lead to a healthy and peaceful life such as: dressing modestly, refraining from substances like tobacco, alcoholic beverages, and recreational drugs, eating an organic, vegetarian diet, and listening to inspiring talks. Additionally, guests may take part in the Ashram daily schedule. The schedule includes morning, noon, and evening group meditation; Hatha Yoga classes; three delicious meals; volunteering (Karma Yoga, or selfless service; and Saturday night satsang, a spiritual gathering that consists of chanting, a DVD of Sri Swami Satchidananda, and a guest speaker.
Swami Satchidananda shares his vision and the purpose of Yogaville–excerpted from Heaven on Earth: My Vision of Yogaville.
My vision of Yogaville is a little heaven on the earth, a village filled with people who follow the yogic principles. Everything conducive to Yoga will be seen there. Our goal is to make a beautiful Yoga community. If we can’t make this little world of ours a happy and harmonious place to live, there is no point in talking about global harmony or global peace.
Heaven is a place where love—and nothing but love—flows. There, we see real cosmic, universal love. Everybody is tied to that cosmic love. People love each other as they would love themselves. People love the animals, the plants, and all the things around them. People love even their trash cans. That’s heaven. And they all live as one big family. There is no “mine and yours.” There is only “ours.” It’s God’s home, and all feel that they are just children in that home.
The purpose of Yoga and of living in an ashram is to help you know your own true nature, the true Self within. You are the Knower. You are the Self, but you have forgotten who you are. You identify with the “doer.” You may question, “Then, why do you ask me to go and dig the ground? I want to experience God.”
To prepare yourself to experience God, you have to clean out all the impediments that are in the way. So, while you pull the weeds outside, you are pulling the weeds in the mind. When you remove the rock, you are taking out the rocks inside. That is the meaning, the purpose of Karma Yoga.
Doing your practices (asana, pranayama, meditation) alone is not enough. Keep watching your mind. See whether it is balanced, whether it is free from selfishness. In that way, you are always happy, healthy, peaceful, and joyful. That is why we have all these various activities in Yogaville.
Behind all these activities, there is a purpose. You should feel, “They are giving me an opportunity to clean myself up. They are all helping me to grow. Let them do whatever they want and help me grow.” If you have that attitude, then it becomes a heaven to you. If you can’t find a heaven here, then you are not going to find a heaven wherever you go.
“Whatever we do, we do for others’ sake. That is what makes an ashram an ashram, Yogaville a real Yogaville.”–Swami Satchidananda