Sanyas Ashram

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     You may think that an ashram environment is one of peace and tranquility and it certainly can be at times, but the truth of the matter is, wherever human beings gather, there can be drama.  This popular spiritual commune was no different.  Located near the foothills of the Himalayas, it is one of many scattered throughout India and is presided over by a prominent guru.  It is a retreat destination of many worldwide as well as home to several devotees.

     An issue facing many of the pilgrims that make their way to this spiritual haven is one of privacy.  The lack of private, individual lodging for the enormous influx of visitors make it futile for some to remain comfortable.  Much grumbling, sulking and complaining would ensue with sometimes inexcusable, heated arguments breaking out.

     Finally, this brought about a strict and decisive mandate.  Silence.  Within the walls of the compound, silence would be maintained at all times unless otherwise authorized.  Meals would be taken in silence.  All darshans and yoga classes would be held in silence by the attendees.  No more chit-chat or other conversation within the ashram would be tolerated.  Any questions needing to be asked of personnel would be done in private quarters.

     The change was immediate.  A rapport quickly could be felt between the visitors when they had only the use of inference and “sign language” to communicate with each other.  Now, the attendees could more easily absorb the discipline and teachings with their full attention and not with distracted bickering with their neighbors.  Ah, peace at last.


Monday Morning Writing Prompt–Random Creativity:

You’re Under Arrest

Rama and Sita, worshiping a lingam

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About a year or so after moving to Miami and helping to start an ashram there, my husband and I relocated from Coconut Grove to a large, two story house situated close to Jackson Memorial Hospital in a lovely neighborhood not far from the Miami River.  Our neighbor’s properties had enormous, lush mango and avocado trees which we were welcomed to help ourselves to whenever we liked.  Miami is certainly a paradise of tropical fruits and these were two of my favorites–we kept a steady supply in our kitchen.

By this time, we had several people living with us full time and visitors were oftentimes coming and going.  My husband, who was the head of the ashram, had started a landscaping business with a few of the other men that lived with us and it was growing quickly.

We had settled into a regular routine with our new life in Miami and had managed to meet some kindred spirits and were attracting quite a few people to our yoga classes and intensive courses that we were offering.  Two of these people, were Yogi Rama and Sita, his wife.  Yogi Rama was a beautiful “old-timer” hatha yoga teacher and he and Sita lived in South Miami, not too far distance from us.  We became good friends with this older couple and visited with them at their home on occasion.

Through Yogi Rama’s involvement with the community, a young woman had come to his attention who had a young daughter and needed a place to stay.  So he thought of us.  Back then, ashrams were very closely related to “flop houses”.  We would be approached by all kinds of people trying to “find themselves” or wayward travelers thinking that they would give communal life a try for awhile.  Apparently, we were an experiment in spirituality.  But if we had the room and the people agreed to get up in the mornings and participate in our sadhana, most of the time we would allow them to stay with us for a nominal fee.

So we felt sorry for this single mother who apparently had nowhere to go and invited her to move in with us.  But very soon it was obvious that this woman was trouble–in fact she was a lunatic!  She was irrational, argumentative and confrontational and no one in the house could get along with her.  Her poor little girl…  We realized that we had to get her out of the house but she refused to leave.  In no time, she and my (now ex) husband started butting heads and one day an ugly altercation broke out between them.

After the argument, things cooled down momentarily but we were left with a strong sense of uneasiness.  What were we going to do?  Soon the answer came knocking on our door, but it wasn’t the solution we had envisioned.  The next afternoon, two police officers came to the door with two arrest warrants–one for my husband and one for me!  What!?  We were being arrested on assault and battery charges that we later discovered were brought against us by our wayward tenant.  We were taken from the house, placed in the back of a squad car, driven to police headquarters where mug shots were taken, fingers printed and then booked into jail.

We spent several long hours in jail (separately)–well into the night until bail money could be scrounged up to get us out.  When we finally returned home, the woman had vanished and never showed up for the scheduled court hearing.  The bogus charges were dropped against us.

I think these days you have to have some kind of proof before the cops will just come and arrest you…right?  I still sometimes find myself wondering about how that happened.

Safety Precautions

When I lived in Boston, during my ashram days in the 70s, I started carrying a police whistle and a small billy club with me.  While walking alone from my house to the main ashram (which was about two blocks away and around the corner) for our morning yoga and meditation sadhana, I had had a frightening experience.

It was very early, before dawn, and the streetlights were still lit.  There had been several inches of snowfall recently which the snowplows had piled neatly on either side of the road.  Apparently, everyone else from my house had already walked over, so I was on my own that morning.  So I’m walking along in the cleared street and ahead of me to my left, lying in a snow bank, I see a figure–this figure is a man–this figure has his pants down around his ankles, this figure is naked!!!.  As I approached him, (now at a much quickened pace) he spotted me and began getting to his feet and muttered something unintelligible; I started running and as I passed him, he staggered toward me (very slowly) and as I continued to run, all the while looking over my left shoulder to keep an eye on him, he stood in the middle of the road and just stared after me as I disappeared around the corner.  Whew!

I never did have to blow my whistle or bop anyone with my club but I did feel safer having them with me just in case.

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