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At The Feet of The Yogi
By Kirpal S. Khalsa, Ph.D.

Chapter Six
Ashram

Patrick announced that he wanted to start an ashram. “In the spiritual life,” he explained, quoting Yogiji, “we move from individual consciousness to group consciousness to universal consciousness. Living in the ashram will give us the experience of group consciousness.”

Patrick described it as living in a spiritual vortex. He said that it would propel our growth exponentially. Again quoting Yogiji, “Animals live at each other. Most people simply live with each other. In the ashram we will live for each other.”

I had heard of ashrams. They were places in India where spiritually minded people went to live a yogic lifestyle usually under the instruction of a guru or master. I had no concept of a spiritual vortex, never-the-less, I was pretty excited about the idea of starting one in Tucson.

He passed around a sign up sheet for those interested. Andy and I were first on the list. A few weeks later we moved into a house near the University of Arizona campus. We cleaned everything, painted the walls a pure yogic white and the trim a hippie rainbow of colors. Patrick may have been a yogi but under the surface he was very much still a hippie. For extra income he used to play bass guitar with local bands.

Andy and I kept our dorm rooms on campus where we stored most of our stuff. We were only allowed a simple mat, sleeping/meditation blanket, pillow and yogic clothes. Andy and I shared a sleeping room with 3 other young men. We each set up a little space with very limited personal belongings and a simple altar. It was all very austere.

Life at the ashram was scheduled and disciplined. We awoke at 3:15 a.m., usually to the angelic voice of one of the women on wake up duty. We took cold showers, although in Tucson they could better be described as cool. We gathered in the Sadhana room and chanted from 4:00 to 6:30. After a short relaxation we all went to the park just up the street for the 7:00 a.m. yoga class. At 8:30 we ate breakfast as a group, cleaned up the house and took off for the day. We came back together for the 5:30 p.m. yoga class and dinner at 7:00. A pot of Yogi Tea was always heating on the stove and spicy aroma permeated the house. We shared cooking, cleaning and shopping responsibilities, we chanted before meals and we generally enjoyed our first experience of group consciousness.

The ashram consisted of six men and eight women all under thirty, except Patrick who was the old man at thirty-one. We spent a lot of time together. It would be quite natural for special relationships to develop between men and women of the ashram. However, this was discouraged. Yogiji’s teachings on the matter were simple. A single man is to treat every woman as his mother, sister or daughter. A single woman is to see every man as father, brother or son. There was to be no sex among single ashram members. Women were “The Grace of God”. As young men we were to train ourselves to overcome sexual desires, overcome our cultural programming and see the divinity in each woman. We could be friendly, even affectionate but not physical.

Yogiji spoke often about sex. “If you want to be celibate without ever having sex, remember to practice Sat Kriya each day so you can utilize the energy and not go nutty.” I was eighteen years old and horney as a, well an eighteen year old. We did lots of Sat Kriya and other yoga exercises to channel our sexual energy so as not to go nutty. I even climbed mountains, ran in the desert and played a lot of tennis. I was still nutty. Try as I might see the women in the ashram as sisters, they started looking pretty good in a very un-sisterly way. What’s more, they were much friendlier than my sisters ever were.

It didn’t take long for me to develop a crush on one of the young women. She was cute, a dancer, with a body to match, and no compunction about showing it off. She may have been a few years older than me but we hit it off pretty well. When we were together yoga and meditation were the last things on our minds. On several occasions we were asked to keep our noise level down. Patrick even explained to me that special relationships detract from the group energy.

One afternoon when we were playing around she looked at me with big brown eyes, an inviting smile and said, “I always get the young ones.” With those words she invited me in, she acknowledged our relationship and she suggested we take to the next level.

I wasn’t ready. I avoided her gaze. It was totally involuntary. I really did like her and I wanted to take it to another level, especially if that meant physical. But something inside me, a much wiser me, knew she was not right. She moved out next day.

Why did she move out? I think I was more disappointed that she moved out than I was that we would not take our relationship to the next level. Her commitment was to having fun. When the ashram stopped being fun, she was gone. My commitment was to getting high. Even with her gone, the possibility of getting high persisted.

Patrick had a gig one evening and asked me to take the afternoon yoga class. Oh wow, my first class. This was years before we had printed yoga manuals or even specific sets. Directions for teaching were simply, “Ong Namo and away we go”. In other words, tune into the teacher within, go with the flow of energy, start at the lower centers and work up, keep the stretches balanced, take time for a relaxation and finish with a meditation. People said it was a great class.

I loved teaching. I knew I wanted to do more, but I needed training. I looked forward to when school would get out. I would move to Santa Fe, to Maharaj Ashram, Dawson and Karen’s teacher training center.

A large young woman came up after class and asked all kinds of questions. She was really interested in our whole lifestyle. I invited her to the ashram for dinner. She continued with the questions, including how does one move in? She moved in that night. Before she did she went to her friends and returned the $5,000 she had carried from Boulder, Colorado to buy pot.

Kara attached herself to me. I liked the attention. I took her up to the mountains and we found a small, secluded lake. Before I knew what she was up to she had all of her clothes off and was in the water. I am not used to smiling naked women encouraging me to lose my clothes. With an unexpected physical response to her nakedness, I was too embarrassed to join her. It did not diminish her enthusiasm. After her swim she plopped down on the blanket next to me. Once again, part of me wanted to make love to her right there, part of me did not want to touch. She eventually picked up on the part of me that did not want to touch and put her clothes back on. After a couple of weeks she moved back to Boulder with the intention to keep the yogic lifestyle. My karma with these two women was not finished. I would meet them both again years later.

I was not sure what I was looking for in a relationship with a woman, but I was learning what didn’t work. I liked fun. Fun was great but I knew it would not sustain me. I wanted sex. In fact I really wanted sex. But I knew even that would not sustain me or sustain a relationship. I was pretty mixed up. One part of me wanted fun and sex. Another part, a quiet part, wanted something real, something pure and beautiful and something that touched my soul. I prayed that I would meet that person that touched my soul before I completely lost it with a funny, sexy disaster.

The ashram attracted all kinds of people – practicing yogis, spiritual wannabees, spaced out druggies, nut cases of every kind, burned out hippies, college students, some were younger than me others old enough to be my parent. I saw them come and go like an endless and colorful parade. Andy and I would guess how long one would last. Many were gone in three days. Some lasted several weeks. The rare one lasted months. Six weeks seemed to be a cut off period. Anyone who stayed more than six weeks was considered a serious practicing yogi. Those of us who stuck it out became brothers and sisters on the path. It was a deep bond that endured for many years.

Living in the ashram was not all love and peace. In the early days the novelty carried us. But pretty soon getting up at 3:15 a.m. became hard work. Paying rent, cleaning the ashram, cooking food, attending meals and sitting through group meetings became one challenge after another. Simple domestic chores such as who takes out the garbage could become major points of contention. And Patrick, our beautiful yoga teacher, became distant, moody and sometimes demanding. In many ways we were a family, often close, warm and affectionate, but sometimes distant, even hostile.

In spite of the many challenges, there was a sense that we were blazing a trail and that we were the cutting edge of a major change in consciousness. The Age of Aquarius was not some distant pipe dream. We were living it and manifesting it every day.
-- Chapter Seven is next.

      

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