Commiting a year to study in an ashram (but where!)

#1 Sep 22nd, 2011, 22:13
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#1
i'm searching for something quite specific, but having never been to india, i know i'm way out of my league. still, as an experienced traveler and one quite accustomed to drastic changes in culture while living in minimal conditions, i think i will be ok. it would be nice to get some sort of direction from more seasoned travelers of india and from those with a yogic discipline.

though i understand and admire the practice of ritual i feel it is something which is much more potent when the symbols involved are self created or relevant to one's individual experience. because of this opinion, i am searching for an ashram that is non-dogmatic in its teachings, as i don't think i would benefit much from rituals and practices far beyond the space of my cultural experience. granted the practice of yoga is ritualistic in itself, and the culture around it serves to inform the practice, but so far my experience with yoga is one beyond culture and dogma; i find it to be a very personal and intimate conversation.

my funds are quite limited, i live quite a simple life already here in europe as a squatter. for the last 6 years all my possessions can easily fit in a rucksack, and though i'm quite an active and busy person, i don't do much in the ways of generating income. none the less i would like to commit a year to study, and know that there is often the opportunity for one to work in exchange for an education.

perhaps my dream ashram does not exist, but any tips to put me in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.

all the best to you
with heaps of love
and clarity

x.dafu
#2 Sep 22nd, 2011, 22:35
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#2
perhaps i should make things a bit clearer:

as i squatter and one who often travels by train hopping or hitch hiking i am quite accustomed to sleeping without a bed and living without a toilet. i do not need warm water or electricity or most of the comforts associated with living in the west.

my main interest in devoting time to life in an ashram is the development of my yogic practice and the refinement of my conscious being. i have never had formal instruction and my practice has come only from my self education, but i feel i've reached a point in which i need a guiding hand and an experienced teacher to talk to.

i'm still working and saving up for my journey
so i have some time to make a decision.

thanks for the help!!!

xo.dafu
#3 Sep 22nd, 2011, 23:00
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#3

re: commiting a year to study in an ashram

Dear Dafu,

I think your biggest obstacle is going to be finding a way to stay in India for a year. In terms of visas since you are not going to be employed or a student of any recognized institution you will only qualify for a tourist visa (unless you have direct familial relations with someone of Indian nationality - then you can apply for an entry-visa).
A tourist visa (even if it is good for 10 years) will only let you stay in India for 6 months, after which you have to leave for 2 months minimum. There really is no easy way around this, and from what I understand it is very difficult to get extensions unless you are in a state of medical emergency and cannot travel (which will only extend your visit by a few days).

So that being said, before you get too excited about the truly lovely idea of being in an Indian ashram for a year make sure to check out what visas you will qualify for.

I can't speak too much to which ashram you would like since I think most ashrams in India will have some sort of structure, rituals, etc. And be sure to check how long you can stay at ashrams too: places like Ramana Maharshi's Ramanasramam, though practically free from needless dogma, only allow visitors to stay for around 3 days!

Hope I'm not a downer. Don't give up, just check into the logistics. Best of luck, let me know how it goes!

Peace and blessings,
Daniel
#4 Sep 23rd, 2011, 00:45
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#4
hoi daniel!
thanks for the reply!

i was thinking of the 10 year visa (as an americian citizen), but i didn't know about the 6 month requirement. i am prepared to go to Nepal or Pakistan in the interim (as i don't seen any other way in the moment) and as i'm sure money will eventually become a problem, and have resigned myself to the possibility of working for tourists in Goa (though i shutter to think at the idea).

i'm still here in Switzerland and have time to make my preparations. for sure i recognize at the moment all i have is an ideal, which is by very nature subject to compromise when in practice. but at least a 6 to 5 month stay in an ashram would be a good start.

it is very likely that i may have to try out a few before i find a place and community that suits my needs, but i'm open to this as well. at the moment i don't have much to start on, and the two ashrams i've contacted (Tureya Ashram and Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Meenakshi Ashram) don't seem to fit my needs (or my finances), so any info is a great help.

i'll be sure to tell you how
it develops.. thanks again!

xx.
#5 Sep 23rd, 2011, 01:01
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#5
You should also be aware, that you could probably only get the 10 year visa issued in the U.S.. I know 2 American citizens who live in Israel, and they both said they wish they would have issued the 10 year visa when they were in America, because they can't get it in Israel.
paisa bolta hai

Money Talks
#6 Sep 23rd, 2011, 01:35
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#6
Quote:
Originally Posted by punkydorky View Post perhaps my dream ashram does not exist, but any tips to put me in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.
Perhaps

Since you have no need for rituals; and the sign and symbol are internal to the signifier, and the signifier believes in ontologies other than being practiced by the space-place (ashram, guru, monastery) Not much would be gained, because one is detached from the others.

It is like going to an Indian restaurant, and tell the wait person - "I want a chicken biryani ? but could you ask the chef to hold the rice as I have no need for it, and while you are at it , tell him I dont like indian spices, could he not use them ? It would be really good if he made it with jerk paste instead ?"

Quote:
...granted the practice of yoga is ritualistic in itself, and the culture around it serves to inform the practice, but so far my experience with yoga is one beyond culture and dogma; i find it to be a very personal and intimate conversation.
You could easily find such a place in the canton of Valais in Switzerland. No Indian, no culture, no clutter, no symbols, no rituals.
#7 Sep 23rd, 2011, 04:25
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#7
huuhuu! nycank!

i'm a bit confused why you replied?

but maybe i was not clear or i offended you somehow or you just think i am a fool and it moved you so greatly that you had to write. this is the internet and i know that's awfully common! but i invite the discussion anyways as we have been now brought together, so hello!

you have me greatly misunderstood. ritual is a really important part of my life! i have a great need for it and find it useful! sorry if that was not clear. but a ritual, to me, looses it's potency when it's symbols are far removed from the minutia of my own life's experience. this is my own experience, i do not think it is like this for all people. i do not think less of people who practice ritual within the context of religion, there are beautiful things to discover there, and i find it beautiful as well that there is such a great multiplicity of paths! i know how i feel and what works for me in my own development. in the end it is my path, and i find myself not well within the context of religious dogma; that there is only one path, that it is right, that someone else defined it for me, and it is to that which i should submit.

what interests me in Yoga, as well as in Buddhist meditation, is the refined sense of knowledge one can access to their inner most self just through practical application and experiential knowledge alone. in my experience there is no need for costume, or chanting, or place, or religion. there is the practice and what it has to offer and i find so many wonderful things there. the practice alone informs me greatly and i find it healing.

in this respect i find that i will be in some way connected to others practicing in an ashram, as we are all to some extent interested in an exploration into the nature of being through the physical practice of yoga. though i do agree with you, that not much would be gained if i am so detached from the others in a space where everyone is practising yoga as an extension of the Hindu faith. it is for this reason that i am searching for a space which is open to people of many differing belief systems, but a shared interest in the practice of yoga.

i could study in an ashram in americia or switzerland or anywhere else, but i'm curious to study in the place of origin of this practice; to be surrounded by and influenced by the culture that gave birth to the study of yoga. and this will inform me, for sure. but i do not expect that i will truly understand that culture, much less the subtlety one finds in metaphor and mythology, even after a few years of living there and speaking the language (which will be difficult to say the least. i get to learn a new alphabet! i am so excited!)

but tell me, why do you think it is necessary to study the hindu faith to have a yogic practice? how has it informed your own practice? but not here, as i'd like to save this space for my original question. feel welcome to send me a personal message to my email address.

in peace
x.dafu
#8 Sep 23rd, 2011, 12:38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by punkydorky View Post huuhuu! nycank!

i'm a bit confused why you replied?
Because you asked Read your original post

Seriously, you know what you want, and what you want is your own exploration. An Ashram, or a Monastery is not what you want, You answered your own dilemma, by stating "perhaps my dream ashram does not exist..."

You dont need India for it ? Do you ? What new alphabets were you looking to learn ?

That is why many go off on their own, no ashram, no "ism" Since the ontologies you reject or do not wish to explore are most likely to encounter, there is no intrinsic insight of self-realization to get gained by searching for an ashram.

Go as a tourist, see what rocks your boat, pitch a tent, or whatever
#9 Sep 23rd, 2011, 13:23
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#9
As you have shown interest in Buddhist meditation, Vipasana might interest you.
http://www.dhamma.org/en/schedules/schbodhi.shtml
This is completely non-ritualistic course but they have got strict rules. And the crux of all these rules are that you are not there to socialize. Read their website if you want to learn more

This school is run near Bodhgaya, actually between bodhgaya and gaya (my home town). There is no fee for the course, accommodation and food (but they do need donations to keep things running). Although these courses are 10-30 day long for new comers but I have heard from one acquaintance (who has done this meditation course) that some foreigners (non-indian) have stayed there for months.

You can also move onto many others ashrams in Rishikes and other places in India. In my opinion, it would be dangerous to join one ashram for whole of the year because it may not offer you the ambiance that you are looking for. Make short duration stays at a few ashrams in the beginning and then choose the one that you find closer to your liking. After that you can arrange for longer duration stay. Have a list of Ashrams that allow long duration stay and are also cheap. One such ashram is Shri Ved niketan ashram at Rishikes.

Good luck
#10 Sep 23rd, 2011, 23:06
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subsacnt! thanks for the reply! i have done a 10 day Vipasana retreat while i was living in Portugal and it was so wonderful (and challenging, and painful!). it's perhaps a bit idealistic to hope to find the right place for me before i arrive, but collecting names of ashrams i find interesting is my plan as of now while i prepare to leave. thanks for the great information. and all the best!

oh and nycank, i will not share much more energy with you as it appears that we do not understand each other. it is very possible to be using the same language and still be utterly confused. sometimes people's own self guided exploration can lead them into an ashram or a monastery, even if they are non religious. i ask that you be open to the possibility that there are many paths. there are plenty of ashrams without religious dogma and which are open to many different expressions and ontologies.

i want to go to india to study yoga, i want to go to india to live there for a while. i never travel with a return ticket, i have no interest in being a tourist, ever. i don't know why you are trying to push me away from this, i find it awfully strange and it reflects quite poorly on your character.

if you would like to actually respond to the questions i asked you in the last post nycank, i'd suggest opening a new thread so as not to waste space here.
#11 Sep 24th, 2011, 11:23
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#11
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Originally Posted by punkydorky View Post .

i want to go to india to study yoga, i want to go to india to live there for a while. i never travel with a return ticket, i have no interest in being a tourist, ever. i don't know why you are trying to push me away from this, i find it awfully strange and it reflects quite poorly on your character.

if you would like to actually respond to the questions i asked you in the last post nycank, i'd suggest opening a new thread so as not to waste space here.

This is an open forum is it not ? You have never been to India, and you have little knowledge of what to expect. You do not know me, and to talk about my character reflects poorly on you.

One, you cannot go to India and live there for a while. You will be a tourist on a T visa, or if you convince the officials that you are going to registered & organized place for Yoga training they might give you a X visa. At worst you might get a 3 month visa if you apply outside your country, at best you will get a 10 year visa, if a US passport holder applying in your home state.

No one is stopping you from or discouraging you from going to India.
#12 Sep 24th, 2011, 21:19
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#12
can one get a visa without a return ticket (or an outgoing ticket to a third country)?
#13 Sep 24th, 2011, 21:26
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Originally Posted by Goran View Post can one get a visa without a return ticket (or an outgoing ticket to a third country)?
The return ticket requirement is not a universally implemented. It is only asked in certain missions; and maybe a localized requirement. I know of only a handful of indian mission who insist on a return ticket as a precondition for granting a visa.
#14 Sep 25th, 2011, 19:43
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I would suggest following the advice of subscant. I haven't spent much time in ashrams and so i don't know if my experience would be terribly helpful.

But this is what i think based on my limited experience with ashrams in india and hearsay.

I have heard that there is a good vipassana course in Jaipur. Good for westerners. You might find it a bit rough attending others elsewhere but i did meet a woman who went to one in gujarat. It was she who told me the above. She talked about the indian participants belching and farting a lot during meditation and thought it might be a bit upsetting for us delicate westerners. (not that we don't burp and fart of course.)

I spent some time in Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh. There's no yoga centres there but there are lots of ashrams. It would be hard to study in the cheapest one and hard to study in the more expensive one possibly but certainly nice to visit for a few days. I say hard to study because most books are not in English in the libraries. I went to a sister ashram of this one in Uttarakhand and they had a nice library but english language books were somewhat limited and old for the most part. And the teachings are given in hindu. Staying for a year here would be difficult but before i go on about that, these are hindu ashrams as are all ashrams i believe. Hindu or Jain at least but not buddhist. If you want to study buddhism further then you should look for the monastery towns like dharamsala. But i haven't been there. Sikhism is a dry religion and has low aesthetic appeal although a visit to the Golden Temple is one of the highlights of a visit to India. I stayed in an gurudwara for a month. Food in ashrams and gurdwaras can be very good but the worst food you can find in india is at the Golden Temple where they feed 1000s every day.

Rishikesh is also a good place for you to go as well as mentioned above.

The thing is once you get to such places as the above, it will be easy to meet others who you might pick up some other ideas to check out for yourself.

A well known yoga city is Mysore. Though i don't think you can study there for free.

What i suggest you do is take a year to save as much money as you can before leaving europe. Go along to a buddhist centre in Europe and also go along to a local yoga centre. If you've done a lot of reading already, you should be able to find the sort of yoga and buddhist centres that interest you in europe first. Of course in india the only buddhist monasteries fit the tibettan buddhism style.

Personally i believe that buddhist thought and practice has more to offer a westerner than hinduism or any other spiritual practice in india. But then i guess this depends on how rational you are. In terms of thought, buddhism was built upon hindu philosophy. Its a departure, if you like. So is Jainism. For me the departures are significantly better in buddhism particularly, although even there, i have my own issues with some aspects of what the buddhists believe and a great many with tibetan buddhism in particular - as I understand it at this point of my own studies (which are i must admit are limited).

The suggestion to be something of a tourist at least is not that bad. But i think if you are interested in pursuing any eastern religious practice it really does pay to have spent some time in india so that you can understand a bit better about where the religion sprang from. Some books will help with this too Buddha by Karen Armstrong is excellent, as is The End of Suffering by Pankaj Mishra (an indian author). Regarding Hinduism I suggest reading Sadhus by Patrick Levy. I've read all of these since having been in india and for that reason they probably mean more to me than if you hadn't been there.

I don't know if any of that is useful but take it for what's it worth.
#15 Sep 26th, 2011, 15:58
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#15
Hi,

I am on a similar journey you wish to undertake, except my stay in India is only 6 months. Although I am of Indian origin, I am born and brought up in the UK, but even I could not qualify for a stay longer than 6 months. As already stated, 6 months is the maximum continiuous stay you can have on a tourist visa. However, do not let this dishearten you, use those 6 months to explore the different ashrams available and other things. As somebody said earlier, it could be unwise to stay in one ashram for a year, because you may find in the long run it is not for you. The best thing to do is to stay at a few ashrams for a while, or stay in a guest house even and visit ashrams, this will give you a more wider range of experience regarding ashrams.

I can share with you my own experiences regarding ashrams in Rishikesh. I have opted to stay in a guest house and visit ashrams, rather than stay at ashrams. This is because it makes no real difference whether you stay at an ashram or in a guesthouse, you can still attend the programs of the ashrams. Sivananda ashram in Rishikesh makes no stipulations that one must be resident there to attend its satsangs, aartis, yoga classes or use its library facilities.

There are some ashrams where you have to stay for a minimum of a week or 2 weeks, but in all these ashrams you have to pay in advance for both the accomodation and the classes they offer. Yoga Niketan will only let you stay if you stay for a minimum of 2 weeks at 700+rs per day. However, you can stay at their guest house opposite the ashram for the same rate and drop in at the classes(food not included)

Parmath Niketan charge 500rs a day, this includes accomodation and classes. Sometimes you can drop in on the classes, depending on their availability or mood. Their highlight is their grande aarti ceremony and chanting every evening. It is a popular tourist sight.

Ved Niketan charges 150rs a day, includes accomodation and classes. You can drop in on the classes for 100rs a class.

Sant Seva Ashram offer 7000-14000rs courses in Yoga, natural therapy, Reiki etc. They offer drop in classes at 150rs per class.

Next door to Sant Seva Ashram is a secular Yoga studio which offers a 1 month certified teaching training course for approx $1500. They also offer drop in classes at $150 per class. The teacher has had both traditional and modern training - he is down to earth.

The Sadhana Mandir Trust, the Swami Rama ashram(Himalayan academy) offer various courses and retreat programs, but you must be selected(application and interview required) There are various courses like intensive meditation, Yoga, Vedanta and Tantra and a 21 day course. They charge 500rs a day.

Swami Dayananda ashram hold courses throughout the year, for which you have to be selected. There is a 3 month Vedanta-residential course coming up on the 25th of November 2011(you must apply now if you want to attend) They let you stay for a donation(300-600rs per day) including accomodation, food, library facilities and attending the daily prayers etc. They also have an ongoing 2 year residential course at their Kerela branch. You can apply now for the new one starting in 2012.

Kriya Yoga ashram holds retreats throughout the year for 10,000-15000rs. To attend you must get formal initiation, which involves a monentary donation of 2100rs(+ 5 fruits, 5 flowers, ghee etc). If you are initiated you can stay at the ashram for 300rs a day, including accomodation, food, library and internet.(This is relatively cheap)

There is also an Umesh Yogi ashram, but it more like a studio. You attend classes at 150-500rs on yoga, pranayama, Reiki, meditation.

These ashrams are all English speaking and very popular with the foreign/international crowd. But you are probably getting the picture now: they are all businesses catering to foreigners(non Indians) or rich Indians. In all of the above ashrams there are no gurus, they have either passed away leaving disciples on power trips or the guru is busy touring the world making big money and being worshipped by their foreign disciples. That said, if you are willing to pay the money for the courses they offer, you will still get what you pay for.

If you are like me, in search of real spirituality, then you will probably be disappointed and look elsewhere. To that end, there are some genuine ashrams which offer genuine instruction, but they are mainly for Indians than foreingers. The Sivananda ashram offers free Yoga classes and library facilities and satsangs(talks+chanting) all are welcome to attend. They have a brilliant bookshop selling books at cheap prices. They offer a 1 and 2 month Yoga-Vedanta philosophy course for which you have to be selected, which is about $300-500. At the main ashram branches they offer Yoga vacations($500 a day) and various courses. Although they do charge, they are more genuine and credible than the others I listed.

The Dayananda ashram is your best bet(the other option being the Swami Chinmayananda mission) to study Vedanta philosophy. It is taught in English by fluent English teachers, but at the same time they maintain the traditional ways of Vedanta. However, be prepared to be treated informally. It is like attending an academic institute.

Kailash ashram, Gita Bhavan, Vanaprasth ashram and Sacha Dham are also traditional, but they are almost exclusively Hindi speaking and you will struggle there, as it is mostly for the Indians. They give very cheap, sometimes free accomodation and food. The classes they offer are free. Kailash ashrams is very authentic Vedanta.

I think I have pretty much covered all, if not the majority of the ashrams in Rishikesh. If you are looking to do a Yoga course or attend classes for cheap, relax and unwind with the ganga, then Rishikesh is highly recommended. However, if it is spirituality you want, then I would advise you look elswhere. Unfortunately, you will find elsewhere they will not be English speaking, they will be very traditional, religious and devoutly Hindu(meaning rituals galore) You will also find that there will be little emphasis on Raja/Hatha Yoga, but more Karma, Bhakti and Jnana. You can find ashrams like this all over the Himalayas(Utterkashi has approx 50 such ashrams closely knit together) and in South India.

Unfortunately, I have found that ashrams are not the best place to go to find enlightened spirituality. At worst I have found they are businesses or religious institutions with thei own dogmas, creeds and beliefs.

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