Welcome To Eat Pray Love
Welcome to Eat Pray Love Ashram. Here at the homepage we have shared a few different ideas we feel might be helpful to those who are on the path to awakening their inner-self. The major ideas we explore are:
- Why Eat Pray Love Ashram?
- Ashrams: The Big Frauds of India?
- Why A Guru?
- Thousands of Ashrams and One Decision
- I Want An Ashram Like the Ones They Had a Thousand Years Ago!
If you would like to get a taste of what an ashram is like, please visit the following page: www.tureya.com which is one of the ashrams we recommend for spiritual seekers.
Why Eat Pray Love Ashram?
Like many of the curiously adventurous soul seekers that have emerged in the last century, I have been looking for answers. From meditation retreats to daily 6 a.m. yoga classes I’ve been weaving through the prowls of material life looking for something that I know to be far greater than what my worldly life could encompass. There, inside of my heart, was a secret garden of wisdom that was waiting to bloom, it just needed a little sunlight, water, and nutrients.
And like many I have also done my fair share of travels, wondering through the vibrant rays of the holistically unique cultures dispersed throughout the world, each with their own beauty and wisdom. But for me, India was my resting ground. Like a seed in the wind waiting to find fertile ground to land upon, India presenting a pristine opportunity for me to plant roots and begin to sprout a key that could unlock my inner spiritual garden.
Although I had many premonitions of visiting, it was not until a train ride from Brussels to Madrid that my dream began to manifest itself as a reality. I’ve been on European trains many times throughout my life, but what made this trip unique was my encounter with a kind hearted women from Italy who had with her a book published by one of her dear friends, Elizabeth Gilbert.
“She was a diamond in the rough” my co-traveller gleamed as she reminisced upon treasured memories of the past. “You share the same eagerness to venture the depths of your soul as Elizabeth did.”
Flattered by the possibility that I shared qualities with someone who had the knack to write a book about India, I asked my new friend if she would be willing to lend me the book. “Of course” she replied “I’ve already gone through it several times. Maybe it will shed some light on your own awakening” she giggled.
She was right, and the eloquent dance of Elizabeth’s life in India set of a spark in heart that was so strong I could never consider turn back. I quit my job at the European Consulate and dove head first into a journey into the unknown world of a mystic life in India.
Ashrams: The Big Frauds of India?
Elizabeth Gilbert was right: if you want walk the path of a yogi in India you need to visit an ashram. But there are so many to chose from, and if you spend even a few minutes on the internet you will find that most ashrams appear to be big frauds that pocket people’s money in the name of spirituality. One person ever writes about how ashrams are centres for drugged up hippies and trendy do-gooders.
But such an image of Indian ashrams is incomplete and narrow minded. It neglects to even entertain the simple fact of life that what is true for one thing may not be true for another. A basic example would be to compare a professor from some small town community college with a Department Head at Harvard University; they are both professors, but their ability to teach and their academic knowledge is going to vary quite drastically. Making a generalization that all things sharing the same name are good or bad is presumptuous and belittling.
Another reason why this view is short sighted is because it inhibits the possibility for another human being to interpret or experience the same thing in a different way. A candid example of this is the Tibetan conflict; for the Dalai Lama, the persecution of the Tibetans is unjust and inhuman, but for the Chinese it presents an opportunity of expansion and development. Here, the same situation offers very different ways of being experienced.
So are ashrams the big frauds of India? There may be isolated cases in which ashrams are cheating people by asking for unreasonable things or misusing their power, but it is not a phenomenon that can be applied to most ashrams. And even if one ashram is claimed to be fraudulent we cannot assume that everyone else is going to have the same experience.
Why A Guru?
Again we come to an important question related to the Hindu tradition: do I need a guru, and if so how do I know if a certain guru is right for me? Let us start with the first question by saying that according the Indian Vedic tradition which spans some 8,000 years of history the answer is an absolute yes. As Elizabeth pointed out in Eat Pray Love “Gandhi himself always wanted to study with a Guru, but never, to his regret, had the time or opportunity to find one.” She goes onto quote Gandhi who said “I think there is a great deal of truth in the doctrine that true knowledge is impossible without a Guru.”
An old Hindu story depicts the Guru as “the lantern which aluminates the pathway before the spiritual seeker, showing which way the path goes and what turns to avoid.” It is believed that without a Guru one is bound to fall into the vicious cycle of their ego trying to teach them lessons about not having an ego which is fundamentally impossible. How can a human being know what it is like to be an eagle gliding through the sky without actually becoming an eagle? We may try hang gliding and parasailing, but in order to get the full experience of the eagle we have to actually become an eagle.
A guru procures the transformation from an ego-self to a divine-self. He or she is the bridge of the soul that makes the crossing of the void of the unknown possible. Without a guru we are just walking a tightrope across the spiritual void that is more than likely to break in the middle.
So we hopefully we can now appreciate why Gurus have played such an important role in Indian spirituality and why they are still, to this day, leaders of the inner-world.
Now we can ask the question: how do I know if a certain guru is right for me? I’m sure you heard this before, but there is a belief in Hinduism that “when the student/disciple is ready a teacher/guru will appear.” For some of us this is an unavoidable truth: there comes a point in our lives we sense this incredible event of an inner-awakening and in the process a teacher/guru appears to us, either through a direct encounter, from the advice of friend, or even a seemingly random emersion of a connection with a guru that we’ve heard about in a book or read about online. When this occurs, we feel a connection form within ourselves that links us to a higher level of consciousness. In yoga this event is believed to be the emergence of the guru within your life even though you might not have met him or her in person yet. But it signifies the beginning of this relationship.
For others of us, we feel confused or bewildered by the idea of a guru, and although we have more than just curiosity for finding a guru we still do not feel like our feet are firmly planted on the ground of spiritual consciousness quite yet. If this is the case know that you are not alone; there are many people who are ready to open their hearts and minds but it is going to take a little grunt work and perhaps so grease to get that door open.
Even if we are standing in the shoes of uncertainty we do not have to give up on our prospect of finding a guru. In fact, in ancient India gurus were usually selected by the parents of a young yogi who was still a sapling in the world of spirituality. But while the young yogis of India had parents to rely upon for finding a guru, we of the adult strata of life must depend upon our hearts and power discrimination.
Whether you are of the crowd who feels the presence of a guru but does not know who they are or someone who is trying to find a teacher for their spiritual practices, here are some ideas that may be helpful to you.
There are many different types of gurus in the world today, some like Ammachi and Si Baba have millions of disciples while other gurus only have 1 or 2 disciples they devote their whole lives to. As we find in Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert describes her experience of never actually seeing her guru while staying at the ashram because “she’d been spending a fair bit of time lately in America.” Some of the larger gurus are so inaccessible that even seeing his or her face is considered to be a privilege.
But there are also gurus that are highly accessible to the people. One example of such a guru that I have experienced personally is Swami Tureya who spends most of his day around the ashram interacting with students and disciples on an interactive and personal level.
Traditionally gurus where of the later group and acted as father, mothers, teacher, friend, and even divine incarnation within the students’ lives. Like a loving mother the gurus of ancient India were attentive to all the behaviours and movements of the disciple to ensure their complete and holistic spiritual growth.
It is only within the last 80 years that some gurus have become mass-media icons. These public sensations look more like celebrities than spiritual teachers.
Bud do not be afraid if you are on the journey of finding a guru to ignite the center of your spiritual life; there are many enlightened souls out there that will undoubtedly stir the waters of your divine consciousness and be beacons for you in the restoration of the interconnected spiritual dimension of your life.
Thousands of Ashrams and One Decision
In places like Rishikesh, a city in the Himalayas, one can find several hundred different ashrams in the span of three square kilometres. That is a lot of ashrams to choose from. But unlike a hotel where you can just stay one night and move on if the service is bad, an ashram is the bedrock for your spiritual life. And unlike a hotel where all amenities are expected to meet one’s expectations, an ashram lifestyle may take days or even weeks before you get into the routine of a lifestyle that is centered around the spirit and not the sensory joys of the body. There are many times in my travels through India when I met other westerners along the way who described elaborate stories of initially bad experiences — which were based upon their expectations of how the world should look — that later turned into spiritually profound experiences once their eyes where opened to the bigger picture.
Quantity is not always quality. Some of the most vibrant ashrams are totally aloft from cities and other spiritual centers, tucked into some remote forest that is only accessible by jeep or bullocks cart. In fact, these off-the-tourist-map ashrams pose a greater possibility for being a place of spirituality because of their uniqueness and deviation from the norm. This is not to say that ashrams in big cities are unspiritual, but it is much more difficult for them to maintain balance when hundreds and sometimes even thousands of people are moving in and out of the ashram on a daily basis. Think of it like a bank. Banks survive because they take money from their customers and reinvest into loans to make interest which they then use for their sustenance. If customers kept taking money in and out of the bank without leaving in their account for some time the banks wouldn’t have any money left to loan and their profits would be gone.
Ashrams are like energy banks for spirituality and new students are the investments for the future of spirituality. When a new student comes into an ashram, they undergo training and practice self discipline which increases both the energy within themselves as well as the energy within the ashram. Typically, energy only grows once the student has made a connection with their soul consciousness and uses this consciousness to progress their spiritual life. By tapping into this piece of the eternal these students begin to create a field of energy that expands with time; the longer they practice with devotion the more magnificent this energy becomes. Their energy is not only added to themselves but also to the environment they inhabit.
But if hundreds of students are coming in and out of the ashram every single day the overall energy of the ashram is depleted as opposed to expanded. Instead of contributing energy to the ashram, a one day or two day traveller is absorbing the ashram’s energy without re-depositing which ultimately depletes the overall energy of the ashram. Over time, this depletion can suck the spirituality out of the ashram!
Again I am not suggesting that all ashrams with hundreds of students are energy deprived because there are some ashrams of this sort in which these hundreds of students will stay for extended periods of time. But we find these later cases to be less frequent than the former.
I Want An Ashram Like The Ones They Had 2,000 Years Ago!
I hate to say it but such an ashram could not exist, and even if it did we might not find what we were looking for. Evolution is a fundamental aspect of nature. If things didn’t evolve than there would be no dynamism to the world. We would all just be one single blob of normalcy. According to Shivaism, a sect of Hinduism, Shiva (divine consciousness) created the world as an opportunity to experience the beauties of creation. He was bored with just the one, universal whole of things. So he created the galaxies, the starts, and eventually the earth with all the different forms of life, each with their own unique beauty and distinguishing characteristics.
Like life, spirituality is an evolving entity. Early Indian spirituality was based around worshipping the elements of earth with the hope that they would provide good harvests and health for the family. Later these elements were consolidated into gods like Indra and Agni, god of the storms and fire. This spirituality evolved again with the Upanishads that began to unify things into Brahman, the supreme god that unifies all of creation. Today we look on the past as if these were one homogenous whole, but the reality is that this spirituality was formed through a process of evolution that corresponded to the evolution of the human mind and spirit. The Vedas teach us that there are various epochs or yugas in which humanity evolves, each time period demanding its own unique form of spirituality. The spirituality that was practical for the Indian saints of early Advaita philosophy is not fully applicable for the modern human being simply because our lives demand a different approach to living spiritually.
In addition to these views, what was true for the past does not pertain to the present. For instance, in the traditional Indian spiritual environment women were considered incapable of grasping higher spiritual ideals and were therefore not allowed to study the Vedas, Upanaishads, and elements of the soul within an ashram. Today we know that such a view is not in sync with the modern reality in which their are far more women attuned to spirituality than men.
The point I am trying to reach is that ‘traditional’ may not be ideal or even practical for the lives we live. The ashrams of 2,000 years ago had disciples that we willing to commit to the teacher for a period of at least 12 years. In the Upanishads there is a sutra in which the guru was not willing to the disciplines even the most basic principles of spirituality within the first year of their stay at the ashram. But today, even the most traditional ashram students will only stay for a year or two, with the very rare occasion of someone staying beyond this length of time. Most ashram students will stay for only a few weeks to a few months.
It is not wrong to stay for a short period of time at an ashram; unlike the yogis of yore, we cannot depend upon society to give us food and shelter as we renounce our involvement in the world. Instead, we must be in the world without being attached to it, living spiritual lives while also taking care of our needs and the needs of those we care about.
Spirituality has evolved in order to accommodate the modern aspects of life. The Buddhists always say that clinging to the past and obsessive over the future is unhealthy. Instead we should focus on the present and enjoy the bliss of the Divine that is present with us. An present day ashram is not an ashram for men and women who lived 2,000 years ago but is an ashram for the people that live in the world today. Finding an ashram that fits this roll requires the skill of a receptive mind and an open heart.