|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 535 ]
The modern-day ashram bares some, but not a lot of the virtuous and reverential coverings of the historical gurukula.
Today's ashramas are as likely to be found amidst the clamour of a modern city as they are in a quiet, out of the way natural setting. And as described above, some so-called ashrams in India today are even little more than hostels providing cheap and simple accommodations for the multitude of pilgrims that flock to the many holy regions across the subcontinent.
Still others have built themselves up as notable institutions, providing a variety of yoga courses, both short and long stay -- increasingly catering to the eager Westerner with deep pockets and a penchant towards superficial 'quick learning fixes'. These perhaps are the primary roots from which the many ashram-cum-yoga-schools in around the world today have sprung forth -- the traditions of their teachings varying widely according to their source.
Yet some ashrams, albeit a very few today, still maintain the tradition of the ancient Masters, providing direct and personal guidance to a select few eager, but relatively committed yoga aspirants in a more intimate and personal manner. This ashram remains a 'little universe' unto itself, inside which the conditions set are ideal for the experiences of Cosmic Evolution, through the use of the body, the exploration of the emotions and examination of the mind.
Now, as in ancient times, some may not be ready for true ashram living. The guru-kula experience is no benign one. It is a powerful, and often intense experience which affords transformation on many levels. Thus, one who enters into the ashram must be prepared and above all else, be ready to change!
Yogamaharishi Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri says of his Ashram:
"I have a very simple philosophy about Ananda Ashram. We teach, preach and advocate yoga, which is 'Oneness'. We do not teach, preach or advocate 'Two-ness'. Therefore, friction, quarrels, the use of force, taking drugs, the use of tobacco and alcohol are not allowed -- for they all create a schism of one type or another. Those who still want these habits are welcome to them and should go back into the world for a few more karmic lessons... that's what the outer world is for. If one wants the teachings of yoga, the philosophy of the 'Inner Life', then come to Ananda Ashram."
To the uninitiated, these types of demands from the guru can seem excessive and they often don't see the need for such restrictive and disciplined living. Yet this commitment to the traditional approach to learning is a necessity that only the true guru knows. Over the course of time, so too will the students come to understand and appreciate this as well.
One thing is for certain, if we try to learn yoga by attending weekend workshops, short term courses, classes with different teachers here and there and everywhere, and the leisurely skimming of various books on the subject thrown in, then we will never understand what the guru knows and we most certainly will never come to experience what this vast science of yoga is really all about...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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