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Western Ashrams


My recent trip to the ashram made me reflect on some of the functions of an Ashram. In India an ashram is a place of refuge, sanctuary or retreat.

Time Out

AshramMy own observations during my role as ashram director for many years brought me to similar conclusions. What I observed is that many come seeking shelter from the turmoil or crisis in their life. The ashram provides a safe place to care for their emotional wounds and to take the time necessary to rebuild themselves, their new world view, their new identity - a life moratorium.

1 to 5

I found that most stay for somewhere between 1 to 5 years at most and then return to the fray. The ashram plays a principal role in their personal life renewal. A wonderful service indeed!

Conflicting Views

As I reflected upon my own experiences I realized that there was one aspect which I found missing in this healing environment - the open expression of conflicting opinions. It is a kind of groupthink. It occurs throughout our society, especially in businesses, corporations, religious communities, and many other organizations and groups. The problem is that growth is stifled. Transformation is limited. There occurs almost no thinking or being outside the box. This is what I feel is missing.

Mixed feelings

As you can see I have mixed feelings about ashrams. I guess they serve their function/purpose of giving us comfort and removing the need to reflect upon conflicting opinions. We are surrounded by one blanket of sameness. Like going home. Just what the doctor ordered - time out from the game of life.

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7 comments for this post

Sunday November 21, '10 at 09:40 PM

Swami Atma

Hi Shanmugaji,

We discussed this in Bad Meinberg and I agree with you. But that 'defect' is not unique to western ashrams as the title of this post implies.

I don't think there is much free thinking going on in Indian ashrams.

Wednesday December 15, '10 at 10:07 PM


I agree with you. I feel that the weakness of most Yoga spirituality is exactly this lack of openness and questioning.

Instead of freedom a form of imprisonment. Rather than moving on to expand and explore it is to hold on and stand still.

Thursday December 16, '10 at 12:58 PM

Swami Atma

On different note, you did not set up an avatar yet?

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