PRACTICAL LIVING IN THE ASHRAM
By Swami Dr Snehananda Jyoti on 17-09-2015
After over thirty years of very busy living (studies and work) in the USA, I returned to India in 2006 to live in an ashram in Kerala for the last and the most important lap of my life’s journey. I was returning to Kerala to stay after about 50 years since I left it at the age of 17. Persons off and on ask me if I am living a retired life. I tell them that I have a busy schedule, and work as hard as ever, and that the only difference now is that I do not get paid for my work. Most persons want to know about my day-to-day life in the ashram. After experimenting with several models over many years, I adopted a model that I find very useful.
The important features of that model are: I get up in the morning with an attitude of surrendering to God, humanity, and the universe. The unity of humanity has become a passion for me. The thought not to hurt anyone or diminish humanity in anyway is constantly on my mind. I chant silently prayers like The Our Father, Om Brahmanandam (God-Bliss), The Peace Prayer of Francis of Assissi, Asatoma Satgamaya (Lead me from Un-truth to Truth), and Nirvana Shatakam (Six Verses of Salvation). After purificatory rites (hygiene), I start silent meditation to become aware of all that within me and around me. In a dispassionate and non-clinging or detached mode, I let everything flow through me without wanting anything to stay with me or leave me. I look for any uneasiness or discomfort, tension, vibration, numbness, twitching, tinkling, heaviness, and anything disturbing as I breathe slowly and rhythmically. I acknowledge any sensations and movements and let them go for the moment. I take note of things, especially any unfinished business of yesterdays, that I need to work on later on.
After my meditation, I glance at a Malayalam and English newspaper for major state, national, and international events. I have some porridge of raagi (finger millet) or oats and tea. I welcome and greet the ashram workers (helpers) around 8 am to begin work in a positive, spiritual note. As a Bhoomiputran (son of the earth) I join them to model work for them. Generally I try to do at least two hours of manual work everyday landscaping, building stone or mud retaining walls and check dams, planting flower gardens, vegetables or trees, and preventing land erosion. These are also special times for union with God and nature. I visit work-sites and give my suggestions or directions. I am especially fond of visiting the site of sculptures through which I am conveying my message in a non-verbal way. The artist is a spiritual person very committed to presenting my message to humanity. With this in mind we discuss thoroughly every aspect, pose, and look to convey the intended message.
In the ashram we have common vegetarian meals. The ashram dog, Tantran, is full of love. He expresses his love in a very rough and rambunctious way. He wines and complaints a lot when he does not get enough attention. Rasan, the cat, is very self-centered, responds only when he is called for food. He comes to sit on the lap when he feels like it. He takes a bold stand against a stray cat that comes to attack him, and gets bitten badly. I think he is masochistic in that he does not have good strategies to stay away from the cruel, vile cat. The ashram cows, Nalini, Malini, Ramani, and Manjula, and a male calf, Chandu, are very happy to see me. I caress them and thank especially Nalini and Malini for the milk that they give. I also clean the stable whenever I can so they have a nice place to lie down. After supper we have satsang (coming together of holy people) and prayerful reflection and sharing before we retire for the night.
I have brief, periodic examinations of conscience throughout the day to see where I am and how I am doing. I may or may not have the mobile (cell) phone with me. I tend to manage phone calls or other events rather than they manage me. Generally I reply to e-mails and missed calls. I tend to avoid toxic persons unless I see them in counseling or psychotherapy. I take rest when I need. I find time to read, write, and think issues through. My policy is to state what I need to say, and do what I need to do. I very strongly believe that everything finally works out well for those who love and serve humanity in the service of God.
About The Author
Dr. John K Thekkedam (Swami Snehananda Jyoti) spent most of his life as a clinical psychologist in USA. He began his public life as a Jesuit priest. Quite attracted in distinct philosophies, he left the society and founded 'East West Awakening'.