Ashram Dharma




The Spiritual Discipline
Prerequisites for Spiritual Awakening
Meditation
Silence
Selfless Service (Seva)

Throughout history, ashrams as well as all spiritual communities have been structured through observance of a rule. These rules are not ends in themselves, but they are simply means to an end which must, though, be constantly reasserted by the means. They are so framed that they bring about the required discipline for the spiritual upliftment of the ashramites. Their purpose is also to provide for the structuring and smooth functioning of the ashram community. A strong spiritual community, in turn, benefits each of its members and promotes individual spiritual growth. The rules and regulations of an ashram should be carefully read and considered. Residents and guests at Ajatananda Ashram are required to observe the Ashram discipline earnestly in order to create a very conducive atmosphere for spiritual sadhana, for themselves and for the community as a whole.

The Spiritual Discipline

The process of sadhana is a mysterious inward journey, an attaining of an ever present state of being, which has never been non-attained. For, you are the being whom you are seeking. You are already that, which you want to be. But great effort is required to discard the persistent wrong idea that you are something other than what you really are.”
Swami Chidananda

The success of a spiritual community depends not on its external achievements nor on its efficient organization or the size of its membership, but upon the inner spiritual life of each of its members: so ashramites need to keep striving to maintain their spiritual progress.

Therefore, all the ashramites at Ajatananda Ashram are requested to follow the major traditional observances as an essential part of sadhana and as a precondition for meditation. These observances are found in many religious traditions: satya (truthfulness), ahimsa (non-violence), brahmacharya (strict continence or chastity), asteya (non-stealing), aparigraha (non-possessiveness), saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), dana (generosity), daya (compassion), maitri-karuna (loving kindness), samarpana (surrender) and monastic obedience.

Prerequisites for Spiritual Awakening

Ajatananda Ashram, in keeping with the tradition of ashrams, is a place for spiritual awakening. Therefore, ashramites are required to follow vigilantly the fourfold discipline (sadhana-chatushtaya) comprising the four preliminary means of spiritual enlightenment: viveka (spiritual discernment), vairagya (dispassion), shat sampatti (the sixfold virtues or qualities consisting of shama or calmness of mind, dama or self-restraint, uparati or self-withdrawal, titiksha or forbearance, samadhana or intellectual satisfaction, and shraddha or faith) and mumukshutva (intense aspiration for liberation).

Meditation

Meditation implies turning your attention from what is finite and transient and directing it to the Divine, the eternal and everlasting Consciousness”
Sri Chandra Swami

Meditation is an essential part of the spiritual practice of ashramites at the Ashram. The whole point of meditation is to quieten the mind, and through the gateway of silence, recognise the Truth of what we really are. Meditation is a central practice of the ashramites. Therefore, the meditation hall and the underground meditation room are the soul of the Ashram. They are a place of quietude available at all times to all monastics and seekers staying in the Ashram for practicing meditation and prayer. The sanctity of these places should always be maintained so that their atmosphere remains conducive for contemplation.

Silence

Silence means no thought, no feeling, no sensation, no emotion, no desire, no expecting, no planning, no hoping, no interpreting. Silence means just being.”
Sri Chandra Swami

Ashramites at Ajatananda Ashram observe silence of the lips as much as possible and strive not to speak unnecessarily, and need to be particularly vigilant not to engage in idle talk or gossip. Control of vak indriya (organ of speech) is a must, but greater still is the inner silence. All residents and guests are requested to observe Noble Silence every morning till 10:00 AM.

Selfless Service (Seva)

“Seva means service performed out of love, and not with a mission.”
Sri Chandra Swami

Ashram life necessarily implies some extent of participation in the general service in one form or other done by all the residents and guests. For instance, buildings and grounds are to be cleaned and maintained, daily meals are to be prepared, etc.

Those residing at an ashram should possess the spirit of service. Seva (selfless service) is an important and integral part of sadhana and should be carried out in silence, as much as possible. Then only, it would be a powerful support for the spiritual practice.