Ashram

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This article is about the Hindu hermitage place. For other uses, see Ashram (disambiguation).

Traditionally, an ashram (Sanskrit/Hindi: आश्रम) is a spiritual hermitage or a monastery.[1][2] Additionally, today the term ashram often denotes a locus of Hindu cultural activity such as yoga, music study or religious instruction, similar to a studio, yeshiva or dojo.

Etymology[edit]

The word ashram (also as ashrama) comes from the Sanskrit root srama which means "giving the meaning of making an effort towards liberation" (moksha).[3]

Overview[edit]

An ashram would traditionally, but not necessarily in contemporary times, be located far from human habitation, in forests or mountainous regions, amidst refreshing natural surroundings conducive to spiritual instruction and meditation. The residents of an ashram regularly performed spiritual and physical exercises, such as the various forms of yoga. Other sacrifices and penances, such as yajnas were also performed. Many ashrams also served as gurukuls or residential schools for children under the Guru-shishya tradition.

Ashrams have been a powerful symbol throughout Hindu history and theology. Most Hindu kings, until the Middle Ages, are 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.[citation needed]

Sometimes, the goal of a pilgrimage to the ashram was not tranquility, but instruction in some art, especially warfare. In the Hindu epic Ramayana, the protagonist princes of ancient Ayodhya, Rama and Lakshmana, 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 divine weapons, called divyastras (Sanskrit divya: divine + astra: missile weapon; the Sanskrit word astra means missile weapon, such as an arrow, as opposed to shastra, which means a hand-to-hand weapon, such as a mace.) In the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna, in his youth, goes to the ashram of Sage Sandipani, to gain knowledge of both intellectual and spiritual matters.

Schools in Maharashtra[edit]

Residential schools especially run in the tribal areas of Maharashtra and elsewhere in India are called Ashram Shala or Ashram schools. One such school is the Lok Biradari Prakalp Ashram Shala.[4][5]

Christian Ashrams[edit]

There are also Christian monasteries in India that are called ashrams and are run by the Nasrani Oriental Orthodox churches.

Ashrams in the West[edit]

In recent years, a number of ashrams have been established outside of India. Typically, these ashrams are connected to Indian lineages. Sometimes they are headed by Indian spiritual teachers, and other times by Western spiritual teachers.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Swami Swahananda (1 January 1990). Monasteries in South Asia. Vedanta Press. pp. 92–. ISBN 978-0-87481-047-9. 
  2. ^ Mayeul de Dreuille (1999). "1 Hindu mansticism". From East to West: A History of Monasticism. Gracewing Publishing. pp. 3–27. ISBN 978-0-85244-464-1. 
  3. ^ S.S. Chandra; S.S. Chandra & Rajendra Kumar Sharma (1996). Philosophy of Education. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. pp. 173–. ISBN 978-81-7156-637-2. 
  4. ^ Hetal Vyas (31 January 2009). "Shocked HC files suo-motu PIL over ashram rape and deaths". PuneMirror. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  5. ^ "Lok Biradari Prakalp". Lok Biradari Prakalp. 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-17.