Ashram typologies


A spiritual pod

Relation between spiritual (subjective) experience and the social (pod) experience.

The meditative states ( subjective experience) are contingent on the social setting (pod) but the social setting requires participants to be rule oriented and positive about their subjective experiences. There are three core features: yoga practices as interpersonal activity; spiritual pod as social structure; meditative states as inner subjective experiences.

Metaphor of the spiritual pod

The metaphor of a pod is one of being enclosed within a safe space that has become known as a new religious movement. However this analysis is psychological rather than purely social. Three category pertaining to the spiritual pod divides yoga groups into enclaves of ideas. These ideas are as follows:

  • Millinarianism in pursuit of the new age
  • Transcendentalism in pursuit of a form of being
  • yoga tantra in pursuit of a form of love

Spiritual Pod for Transcendentalists.

There are two styles of spiritual pods for transcendentalists. The first style is free flowing sense of place ashram. This type gives one or two programs per day. The anarchic outside area gives the ashram its pod like resonance. This encourages interest to spend time within the inner sanctum, getting away from the chaos outside, and sit in silence.

Ramana ashram
Circumscribing the Ramana shrine.

The second style is the pedagogical ashram. It is based on a typical school structure where there is a curriculum of activities (info blog). It was in 1996 that I spent 7 days out of a 14 day program at a Shivananda (Divine light society) ashram in Kerala. Once inside the confines if a participant leaves the enclosure they are deemed to have broken the retreat rules and must leave the program. However there were many rules which were purported to give a regime so to condition the subtle layer of the gross (conditional mind discussed in meditative states) to emerge.

Millinarianism in pursuit of the new age

This style of pod is world affirming in nature and tends to structure activities around preparation of its members to build up resilience to the outside world of modern life and competition. The Osho international ashram is a prime example of this kind of pod where the active stance is taken towards the world. There is an emphasis on being clever by token of having a keen sense of how the world at large impacts on the inner subjective experience. The pod social life therefor centres around the words of a master as foundational to success in life.

The yoga tantra spiritual pod.

This style of pod is in line with the new age movement category of accommodating the world. The binary notion of introversion verses extroversion is useful. The pod acts as a source of extroversion so as to project the persons sense of political agency whilst keeping the persons inner life insulated from the pressures of modern society competitive structures. So in a way the pod does up resilience but not through priming the members as in the affirmative group but by tuning the person to adapt through gradually accommodating sources of stress. The pod acts as a scaffold to build up personal identity so the meditative state can endure throughout life.