Tuesday, December 26, 2006

To bring the ashram to the student

Ashrams are forever Kiran Seth THE TIMES OF INDIA 26 Dec, 2006
As a child, my parents took me to many ashrams. I have fond memories of watching The Mother playing tennis at Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, of the smell of freshly baked brown bread and of witnessing the table football game there. I remember the serenity of the Shahenshahi Ashram in Rajpur, the beautiful bhajans of the Swamiji and the gushing waterfall not very far away.

The Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh was very special. Swami Chidananda had an all-pervading glow in his eyes. He would attract people without saying anything. As I grew up I visited ashrams in different parts of the world, all by myself.

I went to the retreat of Swami Muktananda in the Catskill mountains in New York, stayed at a monastery in France where the monks meditated with Gregorian chants, practised dhrupad at the ashrams of Ustad Aminuddin Dagar in Kolkata and Ustad Fariduddin Dagar at Panvel, visited the gurukuls of Shri Ammanur Madhava Chakyar in Irinjalakuda and Pandit Kishan Maharaj in Varanasi, attended a two-week camp at the Bihar School of Yoga in Munger and visited many other ashrams.

These experiences helped me realise that ashrams are scientific laboratories where inmates experiment with their lives, following the results of research carried out by our ancestors and directed step by step by the gurus.

All of us do not have to live in an ashram but as Swami Niranjananda Saraswati of the Munger Ashram says, we should visit a true ashram at least once a year.

What we call spirituality is at one level a scientific method of applying distilled wisdom and information on a large scale. This truth has been verified by perceptive people at various places at different points of time. We know that Einstein was a great scientist and Otto Hahn a great technologist who converted his theories into an actual fission reaction — the atomic bomb, which later engineers replicated for more useful purposes, namely, atomic energy.

Similarly, Jesus Christ was the originator of some very great concepts which his apostles used to propagate a method of good living; the church copied this prototype and spread it in an organised manner.

We could be the engineers who could use ideas developed in different ashrams to enhance our own lives. Different methods have been developed to connect with our inner selves and each human being would have a natural preference for a particular method. The more the number of routes, the more the number of people likely to reach the goal.

Each true ashram provides us with a route traversed initially by the original master. Taking ideas from these various ashrams, we can come up with a route which is most suited to each one of us. The atmosphere of total giving at the Sivananda Ashram, the humility, even of the Abbot of the monastery in France, the intensity in Ustad Aminuddin Dagar's ashram and the rigorous riyaz at Ustad Fariduddin Dagar's ashram have left indelible marks on my being.

Today, young people visit different cities in the world during their vacations, take up fancy jobs or simply while away their time. Very few visit ashrams. The SPIC MACAY National School Intensive, which will be held from December 26-31 at Modern School, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi, is an attempt to bring the ashram to the student.

As the saying goes, if the mountain does not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain. Children attending the Intensive will do yoga and meditation from 4-7 a.m., have holistic food, do shramdaan, hear talks and attend workshops by inspiring dancers, singers, artists, puppeteers and yoga-charyas, watch film classics and witness performances by top artistes of our country for five days.

This will include a full night of classical music by five great musicians. It will give them an experience of staying in the proximity of great masters in different areas of human endeavour, learning from them and watching them perform. May this experience enrich the lives of many of my young friends. The writer is founder, SPIC MACAY.

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