Ashrams in the 1970s

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Archivist1

Ashrams in the 1970s

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In the first decade of Bhajanism, the 1970s, Bhajanists lived communally in Ashrams. As families and careers grew, more and more Bhajanists in the 1980s moved into adjoining dwellings and complexes, and even out on their own.

From: SNOOPYKHALSA Jan-15-2003

I've lived in both large and small ashrams. In the large ashram, people mostly lived in their own houses. When we first moved there though, if you tried to move out and buy your own house, you were officially kicked out. After too many people did it anyway, you were still expected to pay exhorbitant ashram dues. After the people didn't pay them, that was dropped as well.
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In the small ashram, it was one house. A large house that smelled of ghee and prashad. Married couples with children got a whole room. The single men mostly lived in the basement. Shaktis got to be like sardines in a real bedroom. One woman claimed the large closet though. She lined it with sheets, walls and floor, and only had a tape player that played continual kirtin. It did have giant cockaroaches, but they were common in that area.
Our ashram head was nice and rather laid back. Although he was a fanatic in his beliefs, he was a lazy type and didn't really like to ask others to do what he didn't feel like doing. Rent was cheap. The first day I elected to move in though, he gave me a toothbrush and told me to clean the mold out of his shower. I don't even remember if I did that, but I know if I did, I couldn't have been very good at it, having never really cleaned tiles before. It certainly would have been the first and last time his bathroom was ever so clean.

Two things I remember about the ashram. When people took off their turbans, I thought that their hair smelled. Also, people sort of stood real near you when they spoke, and were pretty mellow. I liked that.

Eventually the group moved into a group of apartments in the Suburbs. They looked like army barracks. I think they were the poorest houses in an affluent area. One resident who hadn't moved out actually came to yoga class. One night she came to yoga class naked. People werent' so excited about her coming after that.

The children of this ashram were brought up with the strictest of discipline, but with alot of love. They were sent away to India at around 7yrs. though. Before they were sent though, their days were scheduled down to the last second, and their food parcelled out to them by the fist full. (A stomach is no larger than two of their own fists). They were expected to meditate, chant and sit in Gurdwara for hours totally silently. They did. They also wore kirpans to their little Montesorri School. They were good children though, and never used them or threatened anyone with them. They always had perfect bana; kurtas for both the boys and the girls. The little girls always wore full turbans. There was alot of live music in our ashram, and alot of it was childrens music. We had alot of fun.

Everything was always decorated in white on white with pictures of Gurus, so there isn't much to explain there. Although, they got some sort of deal on used hotel carpeting that was grey for the sadahana room. It was supposedly made of real wool. (Natural fibers, isn't that grand?). It was very ugly and drab.

Later, when a couple wanted their own house, SSS told the woman that she would contract a blood disease and die if she would live by herself. She and her husband did move out, and as far as I know today, she is still alive and well. Another couple wanted to own their own house and were told that they were like the people who abandoned Guru Gobind Singh at Anand Pur Sahib. They took that pretty seriously, but moved out anyway.

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Re: Ashrams in the 1970s

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From: ROSELOTUS1 Jan-16-2003

I lived in four quite wonderful mansions while in 3HO; and in Salem OR we had a set of apartments, basically, and a main house. The heads of the Ashram tended to have the nicest housing. The single men were in the basement, the single women were crowded and couples got a room to ourselves.

The worst basement I experienced was in a rental mansion in Portland before we bought the big mansion. In the Pacific NW basements are often hideous. We have this regional problem with mold and fungi you understand. The room had a low ceiling and cement floor and walls with lots of mildew growing up them. You could see into a crawl space and there was one small window up high and it smelled fully dank down there. This was partly because of Mount Khalsa. Mount Khalsa was the name of the huge pile of dirty clothes that the guys kept putting off washing.

Kamalla Kaur


From: SNOOPYKHALSA Jan-16-2003

One playful Shakti (woman) at our ashram drew a line on the wall by the shoe pile, that said "No shoes above this line". The stack was almost 3 feet high!

From: RoseLotus1 1/19/03

Generally the Ashrams I lived in were kept hyper-clean. There was a constant battle between the SD/3HO tight ones and the rarer SD/3HO loose ones; with we loose ones always losing because we were in a cult of tight types.

"Sat Nam ji, you didn't vacuum the sadhana room!"

What argument could you give back to that?

And the most dread seva (service) was "Late Night Clean-Up".

So I, being the eternal rebellious child, got really sneaky about Karma Yoga (communal cleaning assignments) really quick. I had two main angles I played to get out of doing the ickiest jobs. One is that I would volunteer with the best possible attitude, totally joyful to help and then I would do a crummy job. But I was so wonderful and chanted so prettily no one could complain.

My second and main way to get out of seva and also sadhana was by COOKING!!!! If I sound childish, please remember that I was a very young. I was only 18 when I joined in 1973 and I wasn't exactly mature or anything. I was babied and coddled in SD/3HO quite a bit, and never taken too seriously. And frankly I had excellent improvizational performance skills and community building skills. I was fun; a mess but fun.

Cooking is fine art and cooking is performance art and I could create feasts when the Ashram kitchen seemed bare. They used to say that I had "Dinner Siddhis" (mystical powers) and I believed it literally.

Kamalla Kaur

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Re: Ashrams in the 1970s

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From: IprayzGod 1/22/02

The images that come most easily to my memory of the three ashrams I lived in the earlier days were orange crates for "dressers" (IKEA it wasn't!), and thin, all-weather, sturdy carpets in the sadhana room...smelled like old prasad oil. Generally, things were clean but messy...or maybe it just showed more because the space available was way too small, and everything was visible. "Everything visible" is a meditation all in itself. And also a double edged sword, depending on perspective...no privacy: is that ego-busting, group consciousness-building and humbling, or another example of making it impossible to have necessary personal boundaries and, actually, humiliatingly embarrassing?

From: Jana877 2/8/02

Since I never stayed in SD/3HO very long, I only lived in one Ashram. It was in Tucson, Arizona. The Maja Deva Ashram on Cherry Blvd, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the University of Arizona campus.Prior to it being an Ashram, I think it housed college students.

It was a two story, massive dwelling. There was a pool where many would go take a dive in the pool at 3:00 a.m. in lieu of cold showers.

My favorite place was the kitchen and dining room where we prepared food and served the homeless and the poor of the community.

There was a lot of food donated to us from neighborhood grocers. Some of the stuff they donated had to be 'trimmed' quite a bit, like the fresh vegetables, especially lettuce, that was awful looking before it got trimmed.

There was also a co-op where we bought some of our food, and we also had a garden.

I used to make chapatis in the kitchen, and other things as well. I also helped do some of the cooking for the Golden Temple Restraunt in town, which belonged to SD/3HO. I made the more simple dishes like eggplant parmisan, and lentil pilaf, steamed vegetables, etc.

The other thing that stands out to me, is that there were so many 'cults' in town. It was like a breeding ground for them! Once, I was practically kidnapped off the street by two people who just drove up beside me as I was walking, and persuaded me somehow to come with them, and took me to an 'office' where I was told all about Scientology.


From: SatSelf 2/8/02 2:

I remember those days too. Lots of action in the alternative reality field. Where I lived the Moonies were big. Also Children of God. Compared to those guys Sikhs seemed sort of normal, even despite the outfit.

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