Swiss Ashram Overcomes Boundaries
Posted March 17, 2009
The fluctuation of devotees in our Gaudiya Vaishnava community is enormous. So many souls find a way to Radha-Krishna bhakti, but a similar number leave after some time, disappointed. We can always give rational explanations -- too weak, in maya, too busy with maintainance of daily life -- but it leaves a question-mark in our own practice and understanding of how we live and understand Krishna consciousness. Maybe we are too Indophilic in not making a clear distinction between eternal truth and folklore, too closed up in our own approach of spirituality or too fundamentalist in sharing the inner religious experience in ways more relevant to the collective consciousness in the sixties -- so many important questions.
Over the years I observed that we certainly lose too much energy in group-protecting or institution-consciousness ("one should not go to listen there", "it may be confusing"). We are searchers for truth. I really think that it is time to overcome the mood of demarcation and cooperate with all Gaudiya Vaishnavas. There is nothing to lose. The world is waiting for the wonderful "Krishna conception". Krishna says in Gita (2.16) that what is real is eternal. What is eternal one does not have to protect, and the temporary things are unreal, so one also does not have to protect the unreal. I was not finding this mood of uncompromising and completely fearless search for truth, but this is what Krishna is speaking about when he is explaining the whole Bhagavatam in only four verses. (SB 2.9.36).
Five years ago, we opened an institution-free Gaudiya Vaishnava ashram in the mountains of Switzerland. There were devotees who were initiated in ISKCON, from Narayanan Maharaja, from Paramadvaiti Maharaja or from the Babajis at Radhakund, but we all were living peacefully together, doing bhajan, hearing hari-katha and sharing the beauty of Krishna consciousness to many souls.
This ashram soon became too small, so we moved to a very secluded valley in the south of Switzerland. There we started a whole little village. It is not reachable by cars; one has to walk two hours up the mountain. We live in a contemplative mood (a lot of silence, mauna, chanting). Many people are visiting us, and it is a wonderful way of sharing spiritual insights. We organise many retreats and seminars. It is like a monastery for a certain time; this is exactly an experience that many people nowadays are looking for.
A practical note: Because we do not like to live with any debts, we bought the place very very cheap. This was possible because no one likes to live so remotely. We have our own water well, only solar electricity - which means that we have virtually no cost of living expenses. We plant some vegetables but most of the foodstuffs are brought by visitors. So it is possible to maintain a whole little village without anxiety for money - to be free of sorrows is the basis for the ability to deepen ourselves. ashantasya kutah sukham
Please note that all our discussions, lectures and talks are held in German, and our website is in German only (www.ananda-dham.com), but you can get an insight if you click "Bildergalerie".