Thursday, April 24, 2014

Study Vedanta at Swami Dayananda Ashram in Rishikesh, India

Swami Dayananda Ashram
For a long time I wanted to study vedanta at Swami Dayananda Ashram in Rishikesh, at least for the short term courses which they call Camps. The timing was never right before but finally last March I had the opportunity to do so. I had to book like six months in advanced because their Camps are usually very popular among local people.

Vedanta refers to the study of the last section of the Vedas called the Upanishads that teaches us that we are not this limited human body but rather the Supreme Self, beginningless, endless and unlimited, always One, always whole, always complete. The Upanishads tell us what is our real nature and they make us aware that what we normally consider to be real is unreal and what we consider to be unreal is real.

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Swami Dayananda Saraswati
Unfortunately, due to Swami Dayananda's health (he is now 84), another teacher had to be appointed for the Camps. I was notified by e-mail a couple of months earlier so this was not a surprise. Swami Paramatmananda, the appointed teacher, did an amazing job, he is a really nice and friendly swami, and a great teacher, but I still felt sad that I couldn't meet Swami Dayananda in this occasion. Swami Dayananda is an eminence in Vedanta and he has been teaching for more than 50 years in India and abroad.


With Swami Paramatmananda after Camp 3

And after Camp 4. Love the look of the guy in the back :-)

But it was still such a great joy for me to finally be able to listen to the teachings of the Upanishads in a traditional environment and within a respected tradition. Every day we would start each class with the opening prayers and then we will repeat out loud the sanskrit verses that we were studying. Swami Paramatmananda would then go verse by verse explaining the meaning of each sanskrit word and expanding the explanations with the teachings from the other Upanishads. I love the Upanishads and I love to learn sanskrit so for me this was a great place to be.



Video of the Shanti Mantras chanting

To know more about the mantras chanted in the video you can read my friend +Lakshya E. blog posts:

Ashram Location

Swami Dayananda's ashram is somewhere between the Rishikesh Market and the Ram Jhula bridge. It's possible to walk next to the river from the ashram until the Ram Jhula bridge in about 20 min, so it's close but far enough of the hectic environment of Ram Jhula.

The location is really beautiful, right in front of the River Ganges. People love to use the breaks in between classes to sit in the benches that face the river.

View of river Ganges from Swami Dayananda Ashram

There is a small beautiful temple where they do the morning an evening pujas, a large yoga hall in the second floor of the building next to the temple and one main lecture hall for the classes. The lecture hall and the temple faces the Ganges.

Temple at Swami Dayananda Ashram in Rishikesh

Ashram Facilities

The ashram offers different types of rooms inside the ashram premises or in some buildings next to it. The rooms are simple but comfortable.





Ashram Food

The food is delicious, although not necessarily healthy. We would get almost everyday Puri, a delicious deep fried bread difficult to resist. Breakfast and dinner where not that special but lunch time was always exciting, at least for me.

Lunch at Swami Dayananda Ashram


Video of the Sadhu Bhandara, offering of food to the sadhus


Ashram Programs

Swami Dayananda Ashram offers a One Year Residential Course on Vedanta and Sanskrit and one week or two week courses during the year called Camps where they teach about different texts like the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita or even Yoga Sutras. There are usually four Camps each year.

Swami Dayananda Ashram is very popular among locals so if you are interested in these camps you should sign up as soon as possible. You can find all the information on their website but to find out about the camps in advance you'll need to sign up for their newsletter. Check the sign up form at the bottom of the left column in Courses & Events.

Their website is not always updated, sometimes they are running courses that have not been published on their website, so if you are interested in studying at the ashram I suggest you write them an email and ask what kind of program they have at the moment and when you can visit the ashram.

The camps, the long term courses and the stay at the ashram are on a donation basis. There are also some other independent courses offered during the year at the ashram, mainly Iyengar Yoga Courses. These will have their own fee.


The Vedanta Camps

I stayed at the ashram between March 12 and March 30 for Camp 3 and Camp 4. Camp 3 was about the fourth chapter (Dvaita Viveka or The Differentiation of Duality) of a text called Pancadasi and Camp 4 was about the Sadhana Pada, the second chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

The schedule looks pretty busy but I actually felt quite relaxed, specially in comparison with the schedule at the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama that I visited right after.

The days at the ashram during the Camps started at 5:15 am with the morning puja at the temple and ended around 9pm after the evening satsang. I never made it to the morning puja at the temple, not because I was lazy but because I was using the morning time for my personal hatha yoga and meditation practice.

We had three vedanta classes during the day, but during the third class we would usually have some group activities or some random presentations.

One of the things that I enjoyed the most were the Sanskrit classes with Michika, from Japan. We had the option to choose either hatha yoga classes or Sanskrit classes with Michika. I heard she is a great teacher so I decided to go for Sanskrit.

Sanskrit Class with Michika

And yes, she is definitely an amazing Sanskrit teacher, even Indian people admire her for her clarity and perfect pronunciation. We were also learning with her to Chant the 15 chapter of the Bhagavad Gita which was like a continuation of her sanskrit class. I learned so much with her but since I left the ashram I haven't been able to continue with my Sanskrit studies.

Practicing Sanskrit on my Moleskine

The Ashram Daily Schedule during the Camp

05:15 to 06:30 Temple Puja & Arati
06:45 to 07:15 Meditation
07:30 Breakfast
08:30 to 09:30 Vedanta Class I
09:45 Te/Coffe
10:00 to 11:00 Yoga or Sanskrit
11:30 to 12:30 Vedanta Class II
12:30 Lunch
15:00 Te/Coffe
15:15 to 16:00 Gita Chanting Class
16:30 to 17:30 Vedanta/Activity Class III
18:00 to 19:15 Temple Puja & Arati
19:15 Dinner
20:00 to 21:00 Satsang


Ashram Services

There is a bookstore with plenty of books and audio CD's with mp3 recordings of Swami Dayananda's previous camps that cover many different subjects, so better come prepared to buy and carry books and CD's with you back home.



There is also a small internet room with two computers and wifi close to the office. The wifi was too slow for me so I decided to use my mobile internet instead.


How to get to the ashram

If you are arriving in Haridwar by train then you'll need to take a local bus from Haridwar to Rishikesh and from the Rishikesh bus stop you'll need to take a Rickshaw to Swami Dayananda Ashram; every rickshaw knows this ashram. The ashram is pretty close to the bus station, maybe 30 min walk. I can't remember how much I pay but 60 rupees should be enough.

If you want to avoid the hassle of getting a bust from Haridwar then you can use the ashram taxi pick up service from the Haridwar Train station. To book a taxi you need fill up their online form.

You can also get a local bus directly from Delhi to Rishikesh. I think it is even better than the train cause you don't need to book in advance and you don't need to change in Haridwar. I actually missed my train from Delhi, I left the airport a bit too late, so I had to go to the bus station at 5:30 am and get a local bus. The journey was about 6 hours and it wasn't bad at all.


Ashram Contact Information

Arsha Vidya Pitham
(Swami Dayananda Ashram)
P.B.No:30, Purani Jhadi
Muni Ki Reti (Rishikesh) - 249 137
Uttarakhand, INDIA

Phone: +91 135-2430769 / +91 135 2431769
email: dayas1088@gmail.com
website: www.dayananda.org

If you are interested in studying vedanta and sanskrit including texts like Kata Upanishads, Keno Upanishad, Pancadasi, Bhagavad Gita among others then I think Swami Dayananda Ashram in Rishikesh is an excellent option. If you have previously study at this ashram please don't hesitate to share your experiences in the comment section below.

5 comments:

  1. Thankyou for a very informative article about the ashram, Namaste ~

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, I came across your site and found it very informative. Thank you. Just got cpuple of queries:
    1. how much did you pay to stay at the Ashram (12 March -30 March?; and
    2. how much did the Vedanta course cost?

    Please advise
    Thank you again

    ReplyDelete
  3. Based on donations as he said "...the camps, the long term courses and the stay at the ashram are on a donation basis. There are also some other independent courses offered during the year at the ashram, mainly Iyengar Yoga Courses. These will have their own fee".

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the information.----OM

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Marco! How much was the camp?

    ReplyDelete