Religious hermitage or retreat center
An Ashram is also a religious hermitage where sages seek to live in peace and tranquility amidst nature. Today, the term ashram is often used to refer to an intentional community formed primarily for the spiritual uplift of its members, often headed by a religious leader, swami, and guru.
Traditionally, ashrams were usually located far from human habitation, in forests or mountainous regions, amidst natural surroundings conducive to spiritual instruction and meditation. Spiritual and physical exercises, such as the various forms of Yoga, were regularly performed by the residents of an ashram. Other sacrifices and penances, such as Yajnas were also performed. Many Ashrams also served as Gurukuls or residential schools for children.
Ashrams have been a powerful symbol throughout Hindu history and theology. Most Hindu kings until the medieval ages were known to have had a sage who would advise the royal family in spiritual matters, or in times of crisis, who was called the Rajguru, which literally translates to "royal teacher." A world-weary emperor going to this guru's ashram, and finding solace and tranquility, is a recurring motif in many folktales and legends of ancient India.
However, the goal of a pilgrimage to the ashram was not always tranquility, but instruction in some art, especially warfare. In the Hindu epic Ramayana, the protagonist princes of ancient Ayodhya, Rama and Laxman, go to the Rishi Vishvamitra's ashram to protect his Yajnas from being defiled by emissary-demons of Ravana. After they prove their mettle, the princes receive martial instruction from the sage, especially in the use of enchanted weapons, called Divyastras (Sanskrit Divya: Enchanted + Astra: Missile Weapon). In the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna, in his youth, goes to the ashram of Sage Sandiipanii, to gain knowledge of both intellectual and spiritual matters.
Sometimes, the word ashram is used as a synonym of matha, but mathas are generally more hierarchical and rule-bound than ashrams, belonging to ancient orders of Hindu sadhus (Renunciants who are still searching for realization, as opposed to Rishis who have found it.)
A number of Ashrams have been founded in India in the twentieth century, including, among others, the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, which served as Mahatma Gandhi's headquarters during the long struggle for India's independence. Aurobindo Ashram was founded in Pondicherry by the Bengali revolutionary turned mystic Sri Aurobindo. Pujya Sant Sri Asaramji Bapu's Ashram was established on the banks of the Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad. There are many other ashrams that still exist in India and abroad.
- ↑ "ashram." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 25 Jan. 2008.
- ↑ Chakkarath, p. 39.
- ↑ Flood (1996), p. 17.
- ↑ Chakkarath, p. 39.
- ↑ Rama, p. 467.
- ↑ Kriyananda, p. 154.
- Apte, Vaman Shivram. The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1965. ISBN 81-208-0567-4
- Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-521-43878-0
- Hopkins, Thomas J. The Hindu Religious Tradition. Cambridge: Dickenson Publishing Company, Inc., 1971.
- Friedlmeier, Chakkarath, Schwarz. Culture and Human Development. Psychology Press, 2005. ISBN 1841695688
- Kriyananda, Swami. The Hindu Way of Awakening. Crystal Clarity Publishers, 1998. ISBN 1-56589-745-5
- Rama, Swami. Perennial Psychology of Bhagavad Gita. Himalayan Institute Press, 1985. ISBN 0893890901
All links retrieved April 20, 2016.