Sant Bani Ashram
It was a beautiful fall day, October 11, 1963, when Master Kirpal, after accepting Russell and Judith Perkins’ invitation, came for the first time to Sant Bani Farm. During the talk that night, Master Kirpal referred to the farm as Sant Bani Ashram. The following day Russell went to talk with Kirpal: ” ‘Last night I heard you refer to this place as an ashram. Judith and I have talked it over, and we agreed that we would like to give it to you.’ He said, with great emphasis, ‘You keep custody! Maintain it according to my teachings, that’s all.’ ”* And that is how Sant Bani Ashram was born!
* From Stumbling Toward God, by Russell Perkins. Please read the chapter An Ashram is Born for a full description of Master Kirpal’s first visit to Sant Bani.
Master Kirpal, October 11, 1963, at what now is called Master’s Rock where he did the first informal Satsang and meditation.
Several months before his first visit to Sant Bani, Kirpal wrote a circular letter giving some guidelines for the maintenance and use of ashrams.
How to Maintain Ashrams
Kirpal Singh – February 22, 1963
The fast-growing spiritual activities of Ruhani Satsang have led to the establishment of many Ashrams (centers) in India and abroad. It is felt that some detailed instructions may be issued for the maintenance, scope and smooth working of these places of divine dispensation. The following principles are brought to the notice of all concerned, for strict adherence, guidance and help.
1. “Ashram,” as the term implies, means a place of refuge–a spiritual sanctuary from where the gracious Master Power has chosen to radiate its loving life impulses for the benefit of the aspirants for spirituality. It is a place where the hungry souls can congregate for spiritual advancement, in sacred precincts charged with the right type of atmosphere conducive to spiritual growth. It is, therefore, necessary that all those entering into such blessed centers should leave behind all their domestic worries and woes, all thoughts of the world and worldly cravings so as to derive the maximum benefit possible from the holy vibrations overhead and while there, they do nothing in thought, word or deed, as may encroach upon the sanctity of the place and retard their own progress.
2. It is an axiomatic truth that all is holy where devotion kneels. The sanctified spots chosen for the purpose should not be regarded as centers of a social or cultural get together, where persons may meet for idle gossip and indulge in unbecoming activities. It should be the endeavor of all to maintain and preserve sanctity of the place chosen and reserved for the sacred cause of the Master. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that all initiates and others, including visitors to the Ashram, should observe and maintain integrity, piety and sobriety of the highest degree possible and try to serve one another with reverential humility and loving grace, so as to become fit channels of receptivity.
3. Like religious discipline, spiritual discipline is a further step for the smooth working of the Ashrams and requires of all an extra care in decorum. Here are no priests to greet you, or help you to conduct any rites or rituals, for they are not adopted there and have little to do in the field of spirituality. It is only the outstretched guiding Hand of the gracious Master Power, in all loving compassion and mercy, ever ready to afford possible help and guidance on the inner Path. What is required is silence, serenity and seclusion. All are, therefore, expected to be calm, cordial and composed; deeply receptive for the everpresent grace of the Master. In the hushing silence and thick verdure of green foliage, you will be blessed with the white radiance of the Master Power. The rich fragrant breeze will reveal to you the heavenly melodies of the Audible Life Stream, reverberating through the charged atmosphere. Each pilgrimage will bless you with soul-stirring experiences of the divine vibrations.
4. The atmosphere within these premises, as said before, should be free from all idle pursuits and discussions of non-spiritual subjects like politics, economics, philosophy and the like. The place should be reserved solely for contemplation of the sacred teachings of the gracious Master, and the scriptural texts of the past sages and seers of the Surat Shabd Yoga, for conducting discourses on spirituality and practicing regular meditations both in the mornings and evenings, for in such congregations the Master Power is stirred to its deepest depths and one can gain immense spiritual benefit.
5. The celestial gift of the Holy Naam, as you know, is granted freely and in abundance like all other gifts of Nature, viz., air, water, sunshine, etc. It is not the practice to accept any donations from visitors, casual inquisitic souls and others coming to the Ashram. The expenses of the Ashrams should be met with from voluntary subscriptions from the initiates only, which they may do. All such collections should be accounted for carefully and the funds thus raised should be utilized for the propagation of the holy teachings, with the concurrence and approval of the Managing Committee at each place. It is in the fitness of things to keep regular account of incomings to and outgoings from the Ashram funds, and periodical statements thereof be forwarded to the Central Office at Ruhani Satsang, Sawan Ashram, Gurmandi, Delhi-7 (India) for information and record.
6. “Selfless Service” is a great purifying agent and is a powerful aid in spiritual advancement. All those who have been privileged to be entrusted with the blessed task of the maintenance of these Ashrams should set an example of complete self-dedication in body, mind and spirit. He who serves most with a spirit of self-denial and abnegation is honored much and earns the pleasure of the Master. Everybody attending the holy congregations should compete in selfless service and reverential humility coupled with loving cooperation and mutual toleration, so that the people at large, visiting these places of divine dispensation, should see for themselves that you are under the protective and competent guidance of the living Master. The sphere of selfless service should be extended beyond the Ashram to the really needy–the sick and the helpless. “Service” you should bring before “self” which in turn exalts the self to great heights. It should be free, voluntary and in a spirit of loving dedication to the Lord, the indweller in each heart. The “Self” should so expand as to embrace the totality of which it is an integral part, for in the welfare of all is indeed the welfare of the individual.
7. The members of the Managing Committees and the Trustees are vested with the sacred task of helping their brethren. The earning of one’s livelihood by the sweat of the brow is a cardinal obligation. So it is desired that all should try to support themselves by resort to honest occupation earned only by honest means. There is, however, no harm in economical utilization of the Ashram funds in serving simple, strictly vegetarian and nutritious food to those coming from outside stations after Satsangs, for which, of course, proper accounts are to be maintained.
8. There should be a small library equipped with literature published from time to time or as may be recommended by the Master. All such books carry His life impulse and as such they are truly charged and will enable the dear ones to understand the true import of spirituality.
9. Equality, fraternity and liberty are the cornerstones of spirituality. All entering the blessed precincts should forget about their status in life, and cooperate with a sense of the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God. There should be no distinctions of rich or illiterate as all are the children of the same Father and are entitled to share the divine grace in equality. The Kingdom of God is the heritage of all and everyone is entitled to the lost domain.
10. The differences of opinion arising out of certain issues, should be resolved by amicable and polite discussions in private and in case of any knotty problem, reference may be made to the Master for clarification. Loving tolerance should be the guiding principle, for who is there who would not err.
11. All should know it for certain and inscribe on their heart of hearts that the Unseen Eye of the Master is constantly watching the spiritual interests of His children, and all endeavors for maintaining the sanctity of these places will enable you to be blessed with ever-increasing grace. The acts of omission or commission outside these sanctuaries may be pardoned, but lapses in personal behavior or otherwise in these places of divine dispensation are considered to be too heinous and cannot possibly be pardoned, as they spoil the sanctity of the place. If you will observe the aforesaid fundamentals by assimilating their serene sense, you will surely be blessed with the protection of the Lord.
With all love, Kirpal Singh