I get asked a lot about Ashrams in India and honestly I only have only personally visited one Ashram and this was Isha Ashram in Tamil Nadu.
Following is based on my personal experience at Isha Ashram.
Isha was founded by Sadhguru, Jaggi Vasudev, who himself has a somewhat checkered past (don’t we all)?
Isha Vidhya, a not for profit education initiative, works for the economic and social empowerment of rural children in the villages across southern state of Tamil Nadu, India. Through this effort, the foundation is committed to raising the level of education and literacy in rural India and to helping disadvantaged children realize their full potential. (an exert from the website).
Below are a few pictures I was allowed to take within the Ashram. Once it was noticed that I was taking photos, I was quickly asked to stop, no reason was provided, and when I stated I wasn’t taking photos of people, my companion smiled and said “no photos allowed madame”. This only added to my suspicion about the place. To begin with I (and no one else) was accompanied at all times by a “member” of the Isha Foundation, first a beautiful young woman from North India (who it turns out used to be an Engineer are a large firm in London) and then a handsome young man from Chennai. When I asked them how come no one else had an escort, they smiled, and responded “because you are the only foreigner here Madame?” Very strange indeed!
I was surprised and pleased to see how Isha is dedicated a lot to the feminine perspective. Throughout Isha, you could see tributes (like the photo below) to women and the idea of worshiping women and valuing women appeared to be intrinsic at Isha.
My most vocal opinion going into an Ashram is that they are all about the money, and I would say this opinion has not changed.
Personally, I loved, loved the idea of their “Skip a Wednesday meal” program whereby the foundation encourages/asks those more fortunate to “Skip a Wednesday meal” and donate the money they would normally have spent on that meal to their foundation. But I could no escape the feeling that not everyone working at Isha was doing it completely of their own free will? Again, just my opinion….
Yes, I would recommend visiting Isha, especially the weekend engineering opportunity, if for no other reason than to say you stayed in an Ashram?
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