Anand Ashram was founded by the late Papa Swami Ramdas. I believe Ramdas means “Servant of God”. It could also mean “Servant of Man”, I’m not sure, but as God and man are indivisible it doesn’t really matter ;) There are two other late saints associated with the Ashram – Mother Krishnabai and Swami Satchidananda. The ethos of the Ashram is that all beings have divinity within them. There are 3 Sadhanas prescribed by Swami Ramdas to help aspirants become conscious of the Divine within themselves. These are Nama Japa (chanting God’s Name), Dhyana (meditation) and Seva (service). The mainstay of the practice at Anand Ashram is to cultivate the spirit of mutual love and service by chanting the name of the Divine throughout the day, as Swami Ramdas says:
“Make your faith in the Name quite unshakeable, and repeat the Name at all times. You will know in the course of time that a mysterious power within you is awakened and is infusing courage, strength and joy in all your activities.”
The fundamental chant takes this simple format:
“Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram” (Hail Lord Ram)
So there’s no excuses for not being able to sing it ;) I’m digging it here– listening to the chanting is definitely raising my vibrations. I chanted the Hare Krishna chant silently to myself for 6 hours on the bus yesterday and loved it, although chanting all day every day will no doubt bring up challenges for me to overcome! I can already see that I like the chanting more when it is performed in time and in tune. Some of the Ashramites are much better than others in this regard. I have a bit of an aversion to the tone deaf crew, so there’s my first opportunity ;) I look forward to finding my voice here. And perhaps getting some more harmonium lessons....
Both Nix and I feel much more relaxed in this sort of environment. Chaotic cities and hectic journeys on public transport don’t really do it for us. Perhaps that’s our age talking ;) We haven’t properly landed yet, but we’re both keen to participate more fully in the schedule tomorrow. It’s a fairly extensive timetable starting at 5am and finishing at 9.15pm. There are a few other Westerners in the Ashram but the majority are Indian lay people and there are also several Saddhus in the mix, which is great. Amma’s Ashram was a fairly balanced mix of Eastern and Western but the two rarely met, the Ashrams in Tiruvannamalai were overflowing with Westerners, and the majority of Ashramees at Shantivanam were Western, so it will be good to now immerse ourselves in the Indian aspect of Ashram life so that we can more fully understand the bigger picture.
The Ashram staff are very relaxed. It seems nobody will beat us with sticks if we miss any parts of the daily programme. As we sat in the office I noticed a picture of Ramana Maharishi on the wall. He seems to be following us from Tiruvannamalai – we’ve seen his face in every place we have been since! There was a quote next to the picture:
“The ordainer controls the fate of souls in accordance with their prarabdhakarma. Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen, try as you may. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to prevent it. This is certain. The best course, therefore, is to remain silent.”
In years past I used to think that I could control everything by force of will. There was nothing preordained about my life. In recent years my view has changed considerably. My life experiences to date, and latter focus on surrender to what is, perfectly echo the sentiment expressed in this Ramana Maharishi citation. These Indian Satgurus know what they’re on about.
We’re staying in a room near the cow shed, and we have hot water! Oh my God (sorry, Jai Jai Ram) it’s amazing to experience hot water after not having it for so long. The Ashram food is good too – there was ladoo for dessert at lunch. Big it up Anandashram! The dining hall walls are adorned with pictures of various Swamis, Saints and Gurus from India’s long lineage and elsewhere in the world. Interestingly, one of them looked like Margaret Thatcher from where I was sitting. I’m not sure how she got into the Hall of Fame and I don’t remember her chanting Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram much during her term. Perhaps she should have.