By Siddhananda, France
It had been three years ago since I had first visited the Ashram and now, this time, as I entered the gates, it was with a reflective nostalgia. I took my time to look all around me, wanting to take full advantage of my return here.
When you come from the West, living in the Ashram is like discovering another dimension, for it is quite literally another world. Not only is the way of life different but also the way of being, the climate, and especially the notion of time. Compared to the Western idea of time, here time seems to no longer exist; it acquires another density and sometimes a single day can seem like an eternity. I remember having had this feeling after my first week in the Ashram, it seemed to me that six months had passed! Yes, time is different here, it’s as if the Ashram is a kind of temporal vortex where time appears to have stopped but, in fact, it’s our mental perception that changes, our approach to everyday life and our attitude towards Life….
This is because once we’re in the Ashram we are no longer bombarded by the daily hectic rhythm of urban life and this opens up a space of peace and self-observation. This self-observation is a real challenge! It’s hard to accept the turmoil of one’s mind and the meanderings of the ego, and yet Swamiji is always ready to keep handing us back what we need to work on, especially what we don’t want to see or accept in ourselves. Because of this sense of being in another space-time and because Swamiji works at 300%, the Ashram is a place conducive to inner work and purification of mind and ego. Swamiji always manages to put us in situations where we are obliged to confront ourselves and overcome our mental limitations and false beliefs. Moreover, if we are able to observe one another’s actions without judgment, it is amazing to discover all what then emerges: anger, sadness, tears, jealousy, judgments, criticisms, etc.
We all aspire to be able to live in Swamiji’s Consciousness of Love and yet walking with him is quite a challenge! He deconstructs our minds and egos and teaches us how to live again. This is the impression I had while living in the Ashram; I was learning to live again. Swamiji was at my side, teaching me to observe the agitation of my mind and ego and so helping me to understand the confusion between the desires of the ego and our true divine nature. No need to spend days meditating to achieve this, on the contrary, it is by investing ourselves fully in the daily life and tasks of the Ashram that Life teaches us most things!
As for me, I like to invest my time with the children. Yoga, sports, bhajans, making bracelets, mandalas, and so forth… All good pretexts to spend time with them! Not because I imagine I have something to give them, but because they are the ones teaching me to live and to be!
In the West we think we always need some outward thing to make us happy – a new car, a new toy, a bigger house, etc. But none of that here in the Ashram!
Children simply enjoy your presence and your smile! They are not expecting anything, not demanding anything. They just share their daily lives with us and do so happily. Whether young or old, there is so much we can learn from them. And rest assured, they also like learning from us, from whom we are and from our Western culture. Nothing is ever categorically black or white, it’s an exchange and a sharing of our two cultures.
After a month of doing daily yoga and sport sessions with them, a real bond was woven between us, and it was not without tears in my eyes that I left these children who were for me real instruments of Swamiji’s grace: those who taught me how to live again, in Simplicity, with a Smile, and in the Plentitude of the present moment!