Before coming to India, many advised me to be careful with the Ashrams because there are many commercial money making scams. I took their advice into careful consideration and found their advice to be a fact. Many of the Ashrams are filled with tourists and charging high amounts of money for accommodation. The mission of the Ashram is lost amongst commercial appeal and they lack authenticity. There were opportunities to attend ashrams in various holy cities, but I just did not feel the spiritual energy. Actually I did feel the spiritual energy in Trivinumalai, but the ashram was only for serious devotees with a serious ashram resume.
Hearing many good things about Rishikesh, I had been waiting until the end of my trip to attend a good ashram here and I found it. Discovering this ashram a bit late and not having a prior 1-2 month reservation, I was able to participate in all events and meals, but not stay exactly in the ashram. I ended up staying at another local ashram and participating in events from both ashrams-worked out well, but plan on long term stay in my new found ashram in the near future.
What is so special about it?
Over the many years of its existence, it has held onto the holy, divine components. You walk in and you are nicely welcomed by the staff saying, “Namaste.” The ashram has about 80 percent Indian locals and religious figures with less foreign tourism coming through. It is truly a peaceful and religious place of worship. The religious figures are always there to talk with, meditate with, sit under a tree and discuss life philosophies, and your hopes for their world. I made friends with a very nice Rama and Hanuman. There is a chartitable hospital, a library with videos on the Swami with hundreds of books from the Swami.
The ashram itself does not look like a palace rather it looks like a hospital or institution from the 60s. The rooms are old and not renovated and the buildings are light pink. The things that have been renovated and are kept beautiful are the yoga studio and the Samadhi Shrine with inspirational quotes from the swami and paintings and photos of the swami. The daily programs that they have are not made for tourists, but following tradition of the ashram. They have silent meditation at 5am, followed by worship of the Kirtan in the Visvanath temple, followed by more worship until 10am, silent meals with prayer before and after/cleaning your own dishes, chanting and reading in Hindi and English, more worship, pranayama yoga, and the evening satsanga with lectures on the Kirtan and Bhajan.
My favorite is the Evening Satsanga where the spiritual energy and devotion is radiating from the shrine. They give you the Bhagavad gita to follow along in English. They give your more brochures to make sure you are participating and follow along with the lecture. They also require you attend this service each night. I started crying with such happiness and connection to the music and chanting. I love Krisha, I love Krisha, I love Krishna! I love my Ashram! I love my ashram!
Although, the time at my ashram was short, I will definitely be coming back in the near future to stay for a solid amount of time. Staying in the ashram is the real experience, but I am happy to have participated in this wonderful community and it was some hard work, but I found it.