Swami Nirviseshananda Tirtha
It is one thing to listen to the Guru from a distance, worship him and practise meditation. It is altogether different to live and interact with him closely in a set up run according to his cherished values and directions. Only in close association with the Guru, working under his direct guidance and observation, the seeker comes to know what is surrender, what is ego-effacement or ego-sublimation.
Perhaps there is widespread misunderstanding that life in the Ashram is supposed to be free of all worldly difficulties and disharmony. It is never so. Seekers come to the Ashram from the society with all kinds of mental constriction and insufficiency – only to get rid of them, not after getting rid of them. A good Ashram should rather be a colourful collection of all human complexities!
In an Ashram, in the association of a Mahatma, all discordant situations and interpersonal conflicts get transformed into golden opportunities for saadhana – for discovering our inner impurities and removing them. Whatever be the external situation or difficulty, the seeker’s mind gets affected only because of its own constrictions. Guru helps the seeker broaden his vision and sublimate his mind to transcend the affectation. Thus, the interpersonal difficulties lead to spiritual progress and purification of the seekers. They also help to forge a loftier bond and integrity amongst the seekers.
“A few difficult persons should always be there for the seekers to progress in their saadhana. Being good to good people is very easy. Real goodness lies in being good even to the difficult and harmful people.” – Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha
The collective life of an Ashram relentlessly provides situations where our self-centeredness gets exposed. A seeker’s life in the ashram will never be harmonious until he orients himself to a new sādhana of expansion and assimilation – which, in truth, is the sādhana of transcending our likes and dislikes.
So, the interactional saadhana in an ashram demands more thorough and comprehensive purification, refinement and expansion of the seeker’s personality than would otherwise take place through individual sādhana pursued in seclusion.
Moreover, although the usual collective lives of family and profession also require us to reconcile and accommodate, they lack the central aim of transforming and dedicating our life for a supreme impersonal cause. That is why ‘surrender’ and ‘wholesome dedication to the service of the Guru’ play the fundamental role in the collective life of an ashram.
“Attitude of a disciple must be such that the Guru feels free to correct him and ask him to do whatever is necessary.”
As long as we allow our own desires, likes and dislikes, or egoistic self-evaluation to interfere with the Guru’s comments on our behaviour or his instructions to us, we will never know what it truly means to listen to his words. That is the test of wholesomeness and receptivity of a seeker. Otherwise, even decades of ashram life or association with the Guru will not bring the transforming effects of Gurusannidhi.