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I attended Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama as a guest in late 2010 and had the great privilege to attend Swamiji's lectures on the Shiva Sutras. I was so inspired by listening to Swamiji speak that I made the decision to return as a Gurukulam student the following year.
I returned home and spent the majority of one year arranging my finances and settling my affairs. I decided that I should attend the Gurukulam program for at least three years and arrived back in the ashram in October 2011 to begin.
The year began with a fairly gruelling schedule of classes. I remember being told at one stage that we would be very busy with the upcoming TTP and then finding (somewhat to my relief) that it was a little quieter than our usual routine. However, despite the hours, I immensely enjoyed the routine, especially the Sanskrit class and the philosophy class covering the text Tattva Bodha. I found the teaching methods in these classes to be wonderfully precise as well as challenging. I had spent years working full time and always wishing for more time to spend on my sadhana (both study and practice) so I was exactly where I wanted to be.
During the first few months, my greatest difficulty with the schedule (predictably) was sleep. Although I had maintained a fairly steady habit of rising around 4 am after my time as a guest in the ashram, I found that as a Gurukulam student, I was getting a little less sleep every night than I was accustomed to. This had the early effect of wearing down my mental fortitude. However, after persevering with the same hours for about three months, I found that I was regularly waking up before my alarm and feeling more and more energized each day. For me, this small result was a wonderful incentive for future effort.
Now that I am coming to the end of my first year in the Gurukulam program I realise that, although the routine of study and practice have been useful, I have benefitted from my time here most in more subtle ways. Having the chance to serve Swamiji, in as much as my limited capacity allows, has been my happiest and most rewarding experience. Also, the sense of good fellowship amongst sincere sadhakas is not something that was available to me in my life outside the ashram and I have made a few very strong friendships here.
As my first Gurukulam year draws to a close, I feel certain about where I am.