Over the years we have unfortunately observed, that the modern generation seems to assume that an ashram is a place to come for a relaxing vacation with cheap accommodations. On the contrary, the word Ashram literally means a place to come and do seva / service. For one to get the most out of their experience at an ashram is to do Seva.
Seva is the Sanskrit word for “service”, what the Bhagavad Gita refers to as Karma Yoga ie. “selfless service”, and is the essential ingredient of spiritual devotion at Santosh Puri Ashram. It is a core part of yoga sadhana and is a primary means of purifying the mind and ego in preparation for deeper yoga practice. It also allows you to contribute to the larger collaborative community that makes up the sangha at the ashram.
Daily opportunities to do seva can involve anything from working in the garden or the cowshed, cleaning any of the common spaces, serving meals, helping in the kitchen or in the office. The longer one participates in the ashram life, the more one may understand what needs to be done and feel inspired to do so. True karma yoga / seva is done without any expectation for return, without attachment to its results.
That having been said and however it is included in Ashram Daily Schedule, be very sure that it is not compulsory to participate in Karma Yoga. However much we may encourage it, as it is the to way towards finding inner peace, being truly happy and ultimately better in one’s sadhana, participation is at your own will.
Mataji’s whole life at the ashram had its foundations in karma yoga. Under her Guru’s instructions, she began her early morning practice, not with meditation or asana, but by feeding the animals (cows/dogs) or cleaning around the ashram. Only after completing her karma yoga could Mataji begin any other sadhana such as meditation. Therefore one of Mataji’s main teachings regarding austerities was: it is through karma yoga that one can undergo the purification process, a process quite necessary in order to prepare for deeper sadhana. We take inspiration from her example.
There are many opportunities to do seva, including: