Ashrams. What are they? What can you do at a ashram? And how to find the best ashrams. I had heard of ashrams in India, but a google search with the top 10 ashrams in India didn’t help me. I decided not to book anything in advance and to arrange it in India myself.
Ashram: the definition
An ashram is a place, a temple, where people go for spiritual experiences. Often meditation is given, but also yoga, reiki or ayurveda is not uncommon.
Eat, Pray, Love
One reason that ashrams are becoming more and more popular is partly due to the book by Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. She doesn’t reveal in which ashram she is in India, but because of this more people come to India to ‘find themselves’. You can stay in an ashram for months if you want. Often you can stay there for free if you help them volunteering.
The most famous ashram in India is probably that of OSHO (its real name is Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) in Pune, not far from Mumbai. Osho was a guru who was very controversial in the eighties. He is also called the sex guru. Which eventually leads to Osho no longer being welcome in India.
He decides to go to America where he buys a large piece of land and starts his own village or should I say city? It is so big that it even has his own airport. Osho has many followers, especially western people, and they follow him to America to voluntarily live and work in this created society.
Netflix Wild Wild Country
Recently there is a fantastic documentary on Netflix about Osho move to America. Episode one is boring, but if you’ve seen it you’ll be watching the next episodes with open mouth. Episode two starts with building an airport. I tip it to everyone, not just the people who love India or yoga. Maybe it is more a confirmation of a prejudice that people have about gurus than the other way around. And it is wonderful to see how an American village is flooded by the followers of Osho and how they react to it. The series is called Wild Wild Country. Believe me, really worth watching!!!
Osho in Pune
I am in Mumbai and I doubted if I will go to the ashram, but after reading a lot of reviews I decided not to do it. For a number of reasons; they mainly allow Western people in; it is very expensive, you paid for your food, your clothes (because you have to walk in a color) and much more; and you have to take an AIDS test before you can go in. The latter may not be so bad, but why is it necessary?
I told you about my ten-day silence retreat in India. That was also in an ashram. This was completely free. They do ask you for a gift afterwards, but this may also be zero. The food and drink is included and the environment is sober, not the luxury as it is in Pune.
Ashram in Rishikesh
My other experience with an ashram was in Richikesh. This was more like a hotel where I had my own relatively luxurious room with a private bathroom. I paid about fifty euros a day, but that included a reiki course, three meals a day, yoga twice a day, an ayurveda massage every day, a consultation with an ayurveda doctor and a lot of fun of the people there. I thought it was great.
If you want to do this cheaper then you can stay in a hostel and do drop-in classes. Then you can do yoga, reiki or ayurveda, but you don’t pay for the ‘luxury and food’ of there.
Other famous ashrams
If you look further on the internet there are even more gurus who are known and have their own ashram with their own meditation techniques. There are hundreds if not thousands in India.
If you want to visit an ashram I wouldn’t let myself be guided too much by the internet. Just come to India and ask around. There are many ashrams in Rishikesh, so that would be a logical start. And if you are looking for luxury and many other western people, you should definitely go after Pune. Because of the documentary I am curious, but I can’t support his philosophy to do it so commercially.
Trees and the forest
I realize I’m not giving a ready answer, but I hope it helps to understand what an ashram is and what to expect. And look especially Wild Wild Country! Even when you will never visit an ashram in your life.