Sunday, January 31, 2016


There is a prayer we say here at the ashram:

Aum Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu 

I first heard it back in Santa Cruz when one of my yoga teachers at Divinitree would end all of her classes with it. It means: May all beings from all worlds be happy and free.

But what exactly does it mean to be happy and free? Considering the prayer was most likely derived from a lost Vedic text (it's not found in any existing text), it probably means unattached from those things that cause suffering (pretty much everything) and free from the cycle of birth and death.

I have met some of the happiest people here at Amritapuri--completely high on the energy of the place. I have also seen some of the most miserable people in my entire life. Ashram life is not the easiest, but you're always well taken care of. You can come here and never ever need to leave. Everything is here for you--shelter, food, work, friends, a library, a hospital, the beach, little shops, all kinds of classes. A simple, but full existence.

They say this isn't the kind of ashram that will whip discipline into you like many ashrams will. (There is absolutely nothing you're required to do here). They say it's a purification ashram--the type of place you come to face all those things that will help you progress on your spiritual path. They say you don't have to seek these things out--just being here, you will ultimately face them. People flock here not only to live in the presence of a living spiritual master, but to face those dark parts of themselves (fear, anger, jealously, impatience, all things ego). It's like moving to a very small town full of people looking for trouble.

It's fascinating to be in the middle of it all, to hear people complain and talk about the lessons they learned that day--dealing with their seva assignment, never finding solitude or privacy, the store not being open when they need something, the slow internet, the constant unwavering noise from construction and birds and ongoing activities in the village across the river, etc, etc.

What's so interesting is that it's exactly like life outside of the ashram. The only difference is that people pay attention to the lessons in their circumstances and take it to heart while they're here. Being close to Amma magnifies it for them. But is it making them happy? Is it making them free?

Not too long ago, a woman in my seva group exclaimed, I miss Spain! I miss my solitude in nature, my fluffy bed, my fluffy sofa, my fluffy cat! She shook her head and gazed longingly out over the backwaters from the rooftop where we work. How long are you here? I asked. She shrugged and told me she had been here for a month and that her visa was for 6 months. I sure hope I'm not here that long, she said. Does she not realize she could leave anytime? What's keeping her here and miserable? Is she waiting around for some sort of spiritual awakening from being miserable?

I really wanted to tell her it doesn't work like that. But I didn't. We are all on different paths, but all aiming for the same goal. We all want to be happy and free. We just have different ways of approaching it.

What does happy and free mean to you? Are you happy and free? If your answer is no, what would it take for you to be happy and free? And if your answer is yes, what is it that makes you happy and free?

While you're thinking about it, here's my invocation to you:

Aum lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu


Jennifer Walters said...

"It's like moving to a very small town full of people looking for trouble." - Love that!

It's a really good conversation. The buddhists say happiness is freedom from suffering, and suffering is being stuck - whether through attraction, aversion or ignorance. Seeing clearly, to me that is where happiness breeds. It's hard to see clearly when we only know life through our own lenses. An ashram sounds like a great place to become creative about how to see the world from different perspectives so you can see which views stay consistent with everyone?

I think happiness is feeling good, and I feel good when I feel empowered, when I am in tune with my freedom of choice, when I am seeing more clearly, and when I feel supportive of my choices and behavior. I feel happy when I feel proud to be me and most thankful for where I am. This is not my default and finding that state is a practice for me.

Anyways, sounds like you're having an interesting experience. When I read your blogs it feels like I am hearing the thoughts of a fly on the wall, examining the human experience. <3

Sarah Seymour said...

Thank you :D

And yes, I agree! It is really an interesting place to see the ways people strive to attain happiness, the different spiritual paths people are on. No one is required to follow Amma's way (everyone and every path is accepted here), but a lot of people here do follow what she teaches because it works for them. It's definitely not my path, but I love being around so many people who are working so diligently toward that happiness in a spiritual way.