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Cultural Information

 

The Ashram welcomes seekers of spirituality, peace and happiness from all over the world irrespective of caste, creed, sex, religion or nationality. Our daily schedule and programs are based on the principle of the 'Synthesis of Yoga' of H.H. Swami Sivananda and the practice of Hindu rites and rituals.



Hinduism is a way of life rather than a religion. It is based on dharma or righteous living. It is free from religious fanaticism and allows freedom in matters of faith and worship In Hinduism one is free to worship the form that is most appealing to the individual without being disrespectful to other forms of worship. Hinduism does not propagate conversion to or from other religions, for it holds that all religions are valid ways of worshipping the same divine principle.



In ancient India, the tradition was for students to live, work and study with their teacher (gurukula system of education). An ashram provides a spiritual retreat to live and study under the guidance of a teacher. It provides a conducive environment for personal development and the pursuit of spiritual ideals.



Temples are places of worship and meditation. The sanctity of the temples should be maintained at all times. One should bathe and wear clean, modest clothing before entering the temple area, at least one's hands, feet and face should be washed. Silence should be maintained as much as possible, avoiding unnecessary talk. Ladies should not visit the temple or participate in rituals during their monthly period, as they are undergoing their own purification at this time.



Satsang is a Sanskrit word meaning gathering or coming together of seekers of truth. Usually held morning and evening, Satsang consists of approximately half an hour of silent meditation, half an hour of chanting and a talk or reading on some aspect of yoga philosophy.



Prayers help to promote a feeling of humility and devotion. Prayers are usually in Sanskrit (Kirtan) and chanted at the beginning and end of each class or ceremony. We invoke the blessings of Ganesha, to remove obstacles, Subramanya for protection and Saraswati for knowledge. Finally we salute our teachers (gurus).



Puja is one of the modes of Bhakti Yoga (yoga of devotion). Puja is the act of showing reverence to a god, a spirit, or another aspect of the divine through invocations, prayers, songs, and rituals. An essential part of puja is for the devotee to make a spiritual connection with the divine. Most often that contact is facilitated through an object: such as a statue, a picture, an element of nature or other objects.




Homa, or Havan is a fire ceremony, where auspicious items are offered to the divine, via the fire. A Homa purifies the atmosphere and those in the vicinity.



Every satsang and puja ends with a ceremony know as 'arati'. A flame, symbolising the light of knowledge, is waved before images of the deities and teachers while mantras are chanted. Traditionally, camphor is burned, as it does not leave any residue. Likewise the ego vanishes without a trace when incinerated by the dawning of knowledge. As the light is waved, those present pass their hands over or towards the flame and then raise their palms to their forehead as a form of blessing. At the end of the ceremony, blessed food known as 'Prasad' is offered to all.



Shoes, and to a lesser degree, feet, have unclean associations. Shoes are not allowed in any of the ashram buildings, especially in places of worship and dining. Shoes should be left neatly in the spaces provided. Avoid pointing your feet at the altar or teacher as this is considered disrespectful.



In India, as the left hand is generally used for personal hygiene, one should avoid using the left hand when interacting with others. In our Indian ashrams, meals are served in the traditional manner by sitting on the floor and eating with the right hand. It is considered rude to offer anything or serve food etc. with the left hand. Eat, give and receive (especially food and prasad) with your right hand.



All books are symbolically associated with Saraswasti - the goddess of learning and creativity. It is considered disrespectful to place the feet or sit on books.

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