Experience of a volunteer at our ashram

Meleah wrote a review about her experience as a volunteer at our ashram.

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Ashram

After a several months on the long and bumpy trail, Laura and I were ready to settle and perhaps do something more  with our lives than wandering around looking at nice things. We poured over the lists of farms where we could WWOOF, and ended up at Anamay Ashram mostly by chance and a last minute cancellation at another farm. We ended up backtracking across the country over 3 days and around 45 hours on 5 different modes of transportation that dropped us off in the little town of Kausani in the state of Uttarakhand at the top of a small winding trail. We walked down through beautiful Himalayan countryside, not entirely sure we were even in the right place, and stumbled upon a man in orange robes who showed us into a sunny, wood paneled room full of several foreigners having tea. Exhausted and bewildered, we slowly found our place in the strange little world.

The ashram is primarily a Vedic school for Brahmin boys for religious training to be pundits, with around 30 students. They try to be as self sufficient as possible, with dairy cows and vegetable gardens on the property (which is where WWOOFers come in). It is headed by Ashutosh, the memorable and rather strong minded Swiss-born swami who was a main disciple and leader in the movement of the famous Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. There were lots of interesting people coming through; several other WWOOFers, spiritual seekers and old friends of Ashutosh. The work was simple the first few weeks, the (kinda unnecessary feeling) job of sorting large matter out of compost, but I had no complaint sitting in the sun watching worms and grubs in the mostly composted, beautifully rich cow shit.
All of the wishes we moaned for in our months of travelling were granted (I just want to drink tap water, I just want hot water, I just want a kitchen, I just want to not have to worry about being fed, I just want to work, I just want a salad) as well as a few other miracles we never dreamed of like a washing machine and olive oil.

The food was simple and delicious, brought up from the kitchen which served everyone on the ashram. It was all purely Ayurvedic, so we had no processed foods, refined sugar, non-vegetarian food- including eggs, caffeine, spicy food, peanuts, mushrooms, eggplant, among others. Dinner was always rice, chappati, and dahl. Lunch was the same with the addition of a vegetable dish which changed every few days, and on special occasions a green salad. Breakfast switched between a few porridge-like dishes. I managed to never get too tired of it, unlike some of the other WWOOFers. We combated the lack of variety by alternating combinations of herb salt, regular salt, no salt, olive oil or no, honey or no. We drank lots and lots of chicory coffee and herbal tea.The ashram was full of characters:
Mr. Grover, the elderly gentleman downstairs, kind old soldier spouting poetry and philosophy and stories in his slow, intentional, playful manner. He points out the world to us as we go about busily, not noticing if someone is trying to work or meditate, messing with people just enough to make them pause. “Oh!” he exclaims to Laura one day as she puts on her shoes, “You only have two feet.” She looks up confused. “Oh well, that’s okay,” he says reassuringly, “If you had more than two feet then it would not be okay.”
My hero, Deepaji, the only woman permanently on the ashram who holds the entirety of feminine energy there. She is mother, giving milk to all the boys, she takes orders and requests with a secret smile because she is all-powerful. The hardest working of anyone, occasionally taking breaks from her usual work cleaning and maintaining the place to carry the heaviest loads of anyone casually on her head. She is beautiful, smiles a little, laughs as Mr. Grover requests milk in flowery rhyming poetry, we are all a little in awe and fear of her.

Gandharva, one of the few purely good beings in the world I have come across. He left a successful job in the US for a more fulfilling path back where he was born. At the time he was working to find solutions to many of the problems facing local farmers, experimenting with new crops, land fertility, and new markets.Several Indians came to stay at the ashram to learn meditation during our time there, all in utter reverence and adoration of Swamiji, who utterly refuses to be adored. “More rice babaji, can I serve you?” No, he grunts, he doesn’t seem to notice except when it cannot be ignored. The man known to Laura and me as the Cheshire Cat for his rather unnerving and persistent full-toothed grin leads the pack. “Swamiji I am just so happy to be with you. I don’t know if the meditation is doing anything, but I am just so happy here when I am near to you.” Swamiji brushes him off saying that is entirely the wrong way to think, of course it is the meditation.

Ashutosh has a brusqueness, wisdom, and absolute certainty to him. He operates on a different level, oblivious entirely to some seemingly obvious things like movie plots and espresso makers. Swamiji doesn’t take much to empathy. He is matter of fact to the point of cynicism and taken to grand statements. He is a brilliant teacher and storyteller, eyes lighting up as he instructs meditation or recalls crazy stories from the era of Maharishi. Everything is absolute for Ashutosh; anything that goes against his view is the most ridiculous thing he’s heard in his life, nonsense.  Every word of the Vedas, caste system, karma, is irrefutable natural law. Each building in the ashram is designed and constructed according to vastu, the architectural laws of nature, the food perfectly attuned to the prescribed optimal spiritual diet of ayurveda. He has voraciously studied all the ancient knowledge, he does not follow blindly.
When the Prince (as we call another guest) gallantly makes his own spiritual assertions in booming royal voice, “No, no, no,” he is interrupted, Sanskrit scripture quoted back to him in a rolling, heavily Swiss accent. The prince and the Swami spout back and forth, we start dinner without them, listening with amusement to two self assured voices thundering from the next room for hours. The prince however, as much as he loves the sound of his own voice, is not immune to idolizing. The ji’s and may I serve you’s come pouring out in equal measure with the couple from Delhi and the Cheshire Cat.
Laura and I have to work not to catch the others’ eye and burst out laughing as they trip over each other to agree wholeheartedly with and win the favor of the oblivious Swami. We are not from a culture of reverence or sometimes even respect. The system of devotion to a Guru, of listening to authority without question just does not come naturally, as much as I can see some of its benefits.
About two weeks in we were well settled into our daily routines, the charm of digging through dirt wearing thin, the other WWOOFers set to leave. Then it started raining one night and we woke up to the largest snowstorm the region had had in over 50 years. The roads were completely blocked off with trees and snow, all the greenhouses collapsed, the power went out for 13 days straight (after which it was still infrequent), the workers stopped coming, internet and phone lines out, cooking gas and ingredients dwindling.
We all stay in fairly good spirits, Ashutosh goes about the surveying the damage, looking incredibly like a stern father Christmas, robed and white bearded, walking in sandals though the snow. It is a complete disaster (and he seems rather delighted by its completeness). The WWOOFers are glumly stuck just as they had dreamed of freedom from rice and dahl. They leave as quickly as rumor of clear roads comes. The Cheshire cat on the other hand can barely contain his glee at being stranded there, and reminds us of his happiness many times a day. Luckily the last car coming to the ashram had brought a shipment of vegetables, and a band of around 10 of us set off on the icy, tree covered trail down to the road. We made quite a sight clambering up the steep slippery snow each laden with huge sacks of cabbages, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower on our shoulders and backs. I took a moment to sit in the snow watching Ashutosh, whose sack over the shoulder only added to his likeness to St. Nicolas, followed closely by the Cheshire Cat, panting passionately, “I will follow in your footsteps Swamiji!”

The new building had lots of furnishings but no roof, so we spent several days shoveling snow around construction, trying to stop more water damage. Days of sitting in the sun felt far far away, but it was satisfying work, exhausting and visibly productive. The disruption of the snow let me get to know the whole place better on errands to the kitchen and little projects around the whole place. During the storm, 17 trees fell on ashram and a neighboring property, so we spent the rest of the time carrying logs and stick bundles on our heads and shoulders down to the kitchens. We worked alongside the other full-time laborers who showed us the impressive amount a human can carry and how to take nice long breaks in the sun. There was a good sense of camaraderie and surprisingly no strangeness around us being foreign girls. We all did the same work (they carried heavier loads and rested more so it tended to even out), and cultural/language barriers don’t seem to matter much when you are carrying sticks from one point to another. There is a (usually unspoken) assumption that I as a foreigner will be more comfortable around the better educated classes, but this is rarely the case in practice. It was hard work (made harder by an ego that likes to prove that I can get the big logs too), but I couldn’t imagine a nicer place to carry sticks. The whole ashram had an incredible view of the Himalayas that never failed to make me stop for a moment in the morning. The land was covered with oak trees and tea bushes and rocky grass pastures. With my poor poor Hindi I managed to be invited to mid-work teatime with neighbors who were also clearing brush, Lovely hot milk tea, leaves at the bottom, nibble at a hunk of jaggery for sweetness. My shoulders and legs grew tougher, but Laura was the guardian angel of my knees and helped bring my loads down the last stretch of steep downhill stairs.

We carried on saving up hours for taking the day off on Christmas, with elaborate dreams for the holiday, which Ashutosh swiftly and unapologetically crushed as we were set to get a shipment for construction that day.  Laura and I went into town and bought each other stocking stuffers (which ended up not actually getting stuffed for lack of clean socks). A toothbrush, a package of biscuits and peanuts (wonderfully un-ayurvedic) – were so exciting  and a good break from the usual excess of the holidays.

Santa also remembered to send us a truck full of huge window panes, tiles, wood, mattresses, and other odds and ends for the new building. The whole ashram came to help carry everything down the half kilometer from the road, our usual route at that time for carrying wood. This time was a little more fun though, all the kids made hats of the cardboard protective mattress corners and came barreling down the hill, a mattress flopping around on four tiny legs, tile boxes  on heads and shoulders. Some of the windows required 10 people and lots of resting and puzzling through the forested area, one only to be shattered as it was triumphantly set in its place at last. The charm of carrying heavy things however only goes so far, especially since we’d been doing the same thing for a week. Boxing Day was better, during the hours of generator electricity we managed to make surprisingly successful apple pie in the toaster oven, take our first showers in a few weeks- cleanliness is just not worth it when it’s that cold, and even see my family in that strange mixed blessing that is Skype.In the two weeks of darkness I got even more adept at the skill of doing nothing. At night, with candles saved for dinner, there were always a few hours where nothing could be done but talk in the dark or meditate. Dinners became much nicer though. The last WWOOFers had started a practice of watching a movie every night, which was fun for a short time, but it was good to have a forced stop. All the best stories came out over spilling candles and rice-dahl-chapati, and just after, with cups of tea or chicory coffee or just hot water. Hot food in the cold is always lovely, steam pouring out of tiffins from the kitchen. The rooms were freezing, and Laura and I huddled together in all our sweaters to sleep.

It was a lucky, twisty journey that brought us to the ashram, such a distinct and important place to have been. I keep one memory of the morning, sun lighting the mountains and the kitchen, brass cup of sweet tea, honeybees before it was too cold, sitting with Rajendra the visiting future saddhu who had kitchadi in his curly beard, the quietness and peace of the place. We were ready to go when we left, but it was right where I needed to be for this particular December of my life.

Jai Guru Dev
Published on March 5, 2015
Source: http://indiameleahagain.blogspot.ch/2015/03/ashram.html

Interview with Ashutosh

Ashutosh describes in this first part of the interview how Maharishi asked him to come to India and dedicate himself to the Himalayan region. He briefly describes how he started various Vedic schools and the main ashram in Kausani.

In this second part of the interview Ashutosh speaks about the value of being in the Himalaya for spiritual people. Further he talks about various aspects of the ashram including vastu-housing and food self-sufficiency. Finally he extends to those interested the offer to live in this Vedic environment.

Thanks to Bjorn and Maria from Iceland for making this interview.

 

Testimonial by Visitor

We recently received a very nice, beautifully written testimonial by a visitor from France. Here it is:

“I would like to share my experience of my stay at Anamay Ashram in Kausani. First of all I was impressed by the beauty of this Himalaya region called Kumaon. The road which will take you from Kathgodam train station to Kausani via Almora is splendid. First of all the roads are good, well maintained and I was enjoying the amazing views of nature along the way, changing from one valley to another.

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Nature there is luxurious, abundant, various rivers and mountain streams are rushing or flowing gently according to the different areas you are traveling through. The mountains are all covered by green lush vegetation, beautiful rice fields in layers give the feeling of a perfect green lawn layed out by the hand of man, in that case mountain farmers. Kumaon people are very friendly towards foreigners; they have that smile and sparkle of joy in their eyes which express more than any word the beauty and softness of the Himalayan region.

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I arrived for the first time at Anamay Ashram which is at about 2000 meters (6000 feet) above sea level and accessible by a nice walk in the beautiful wood with small mountain streams, exotic birds, green tea plantations, various trees including sort of pine trees. I could see around young shepherd taking care of their cows or goats, it reminded me a bit of Switzerland, no wonders that the Kumaon Region is considered as ‘the Switzerland of India’.

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My one week stay at Anamay Ashram was wonderful. The Ashram is located in total nature with woods and soft slopes. The first impression I got is the peace, serenity and joy permeating the atmosphere and everyone living there. The Ashram is located on a soft slope and has a breathtaking view well over valleys in front with high snow Himalayan peaks in the background. At sun set or early morning when the clouds have not yet covered the peaks, I could enjoy the majestic splendid view of the Himalaya range; just for that it is worthwhile doing the traveling.

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I should say that I have been warmly welcomed by Brahmachari Asutosh Ji who has entirely created the Ashram and is running it on a daily basis. My room was very comfortable made with wood, which gave me the feeling of a Swiss chalet. I was enjoying to be guided by him to visit the whole Ashram, and I was amazed about how out of nothing this wonderful place has been set up.

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The concept of Ashram is to be self-sufficient in various areas including energy, water and food. There are green houses to grow vegetables, a cow barn, which delivers fresh milk twice a day, with which fresh butter also being produced daily. There are a few other buildings like a carpentry workshop to make doors, windows, etc., other machines to process various grains, even a special machine to make oil. There are plenty of wild pear trees, which give abundant fruits that are used to make delicious fruit chutneys.

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What is even more impressive is the presence of about 40 young Vedic Pandits who are reciting the Vedas every day. They live in the Ashram and look very happy and radiant, trained by their Indian Vedic Acharya or teacher. Every day you can hear resonating in the whole ashram, echoing the purity of Nature around, the traditional Vedic slokas recited by these young Vedic Pandits. They are doing their full TM & TM Sidhi Program in group as part of their Vedic Routine, all under Asutosh’s supervision.

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I felt very much at home, every one you meet smiles to you including the workers on the construction site of the new four floors guest house, which is accommodating already a Pancha Karma unit. The building will welcome more guests in different types of rooms from standard to suite, even a lift will be set up. Every morning the 40 Indian staffs living and working there, are meditating in groups.

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All various activities, including the construction of new buildings there as well as maintenance are under Asutosh’s personal supervision. It seems that there is not one single detail which is not under his guidance and management; and all done in a very graceful, gentle but efficient way which characterizes Asutosh’s personality, including his great sense of humor and his lively stories about how this whole project came about under Maharishi’s guidance.

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I should also mention that the food is delicious, proper bathroom with hot water for shower, internet and mobile phone network are available. There are beautiful nature sites and Vedic temples to visit in the area.

I felt completely refreshed by the power of silence, harmony, joy and peace, which are permeating the Ashram. It is a place where I could easily spend the rest of my life, for sure, this is a place where I will definitively come back.

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I would recommend everyone to visit Anamay Ashram and experience this wonderful place like a concrete taste of how Heaven could be lived on Earth.

A. C. (France)

The Glory of Kausani and the Vedas

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was one of the great seers of modern times. He experienced a profound cognition that the structure of the Rig Veda is its own commentary. By understanding the sequential unfolding of the sounds of the Rig Veda into the words and then the verses and chapters, the entire knowledge of the Veda and its manifestation into creation is revealed. Thus the opening sound of the Veda, ‘A’ is elaborated in the rest of the sounds of the first word ‘Agnim’, which is then elaborated in the first stanza (richa), the first hymn (sukta), and from there the entire Veda unfolds sequentially . He called this the Apaureshaya Bhashya or “Uncreated Commentary” of the Veda.

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The Vedic seer who cognized the first hymn of the Vedas was Madhucchandas and tradition holds that his family was from Kausani.

Here is what one scholar yogi wrote about Kausani.

Kausani is so named because it is the closest village to the source of the Koshi river, which in turn was named after the Royal Rishi Kusha, who lived early in the Treta Yuga. His descendants were known as the Kaushikas, and they included such notables as Rishi Vishvamitra and Avatar Parasurama. Vishvamitra’s sister was named Satyavati, and she was Parasurama’s grandmother. When she dropped her body, her pure spirit assumed the form of the Koshi river. Thus, this area of Kumaon, round about the Koshi river, is known as the land of the Kaushikas.

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Vishvamitra’s most illustrious son was Madhuchhandas, who cognized the first richa and sukta of the Rig Veda, which according to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s apaurusheya bhashya represents the unmanifest blueprint of creation from which the entire Rig Veda and all the other aspects of the Vedic literature, as well as the entire creation comes out. Madhuchhandas actually cognized the first 10 suktras of the Rig Veda, which lay out the blueprints for the 10 mandalas of the Rig Veda as well as the 10 states = 9 states of consciousness and the 10th state of pure being.

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According to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi the Vedic rishis represent qualities of consciousness, which are determined by the land or vicinity in which the rishis live. Their cognitions are actually determined by the qualities of the earth in that particular area. Hence, Kausani and its environs must contain the qualities from which the unmanifest blueprint of creation emerges in consciousness. The scriptures state that in each Satya Yuga the Veda is recognized. It follows that such cognitions should begin here, where the first 10 suktas of the Ved were cognized in the ancient past.

Paper and Palm leaf manuscripts

We recently visited the Rudra Dhari Baba, who lives about 10 kilometers away in the forest near the source of the Koshi River. He has been living there for 18 years on milk and fruit, and met Maharishi three times during the era of Shankaracharya Shantananand Sarasvati. He confirmed the historical-puranic account summarized above, which suggests that this was the original land of the Kaushikas. The historical account comes from the Mahabharata and various Puranas.

Rudradhari temple in Kausani

Source: http://badrinaaraayan.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/the-glory-of-kausani-and-the-vedas/comment-page-1/#comment-1

New Vedic Organic Green House

Our newest Vedic Organic Greenhouse (one of three) is now fully operational and we have achieved yet another step towards complete food self-sufficiency! Sama- and Rk-Veda are played via loudspeakers during the day nurturing the tenderly growing plants from the most fundamental level of Nature. As you can see, the pandit boys helped very diligently.

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Five of our best Samaveda students, who have been at the ashram longest, were sent to South India (Shringeri) to receive their final training with one of the most proficient living Sama Veda acharyas (teachers). They are expected to return after a year to re-­awaken the tradition of Sama Veda in the Himalayas, since at present there are no Sama Veda Acharyas in the Himalayas. These students have an important work ahead!

Surprisingly, what happened after these students left for South India was that our student body started to grow quickly with more and more new admissions into the ashram. From as far as Bihar and Assam, and from Delhi and naturally from this region students come to join us. Slowly we are getting recognition as a good Vedic school.