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What is an Ashram?

Michael Pollick
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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In the Hindu religion, practitioners are encouraged to seek out deeper spiritual instruction with a guru or other master sage. This often involves spending time with other believers in an isolated communal center called an ashram. This center may also serve as the principal home of a yogi, guru or other revered mystic. While living in an ashram, the instructor and believers all share a simple vegetarian diet and spend many hours in meditation.

The word is Sanskrit, although different sources provide different translations. Generally speaking, it means a hermitage or place of penance. Unlike the Christian practice of building churches in public areas, a Hindu ashram is almost always located in remote parts of the forest or mountain range, much like Buddhist or Christian monasteries. It is this simple setting away from the distractions of modern life which give it its ascetic appeal.

This is not to say that an ashram is necessarily a simple structure. It can indeed be a small cottage with minimal amenities, but it can also be a large modern facility with dormitories, publishing houses and educational buildings. In fact, many Hindu children are routinely sent to a local ashram for religious and secular education, in the same way that Catholic schools provide an alternative to public education in the United States.

Over the past few years, other religious orders have studied the dynamics of a working ashram and have designed spiritual retreats based on that model. It would not be unusual to find a "Christian ashram" operating in a rural location in Western countries. Practitioners of yoga may also meet in isolated meditation centers based on these principles.

Although we may want to view an ashram as totally separated from political or military worlds, this has not been the case historically. Various leaders have used them as training grounds for their militaries, much like the martial arts training provided by Chinese monasteries. During his successful resistance movement against the British, Mahatma Gandhi used several as bases of operation, although stressing non-violence according to Hindu precepts.

CulturalWorld.org is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to CulturalWorld.org, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick

Writer

As a frequent contributor to CulturalWorld.org, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a...
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