Monday, June 13, 2011

The Yogoda Satsanga Sakha (YSS) Ashram in Dwarahat

Yogoda Satsanga Sakha Ashram Dwarahat

After a 14 hours journey from Rishikesh, starting at the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama Ashram, I reached the Yogoda Satsanga Sakha Ashram in Dwarahat, India.  I stayed at the ashram for ten amazing days, from the 19 of May until the 29, doing my own individual retreat.

This small and beautiful ashram is dedicated to Paramahansa Yogananda's devotees and followers of the Kriya Yoga path.  From the ashram, you can even visit Mahavatar Babaji's cave, which is about 50 minutes drive.


Like going back home


I have so many positive memories from my stay at Yogoda Satsanga Sakha Ashram.  This trip actually reminded me of my own country in so many ways.

The surroundings and the weather are just like the highlands in Ecuador.  The landscapes, the vegetation, the way the houses are spread on the highlands, all so similar.

The bumpy and curvy journey reminded me of trips that I've made in Ecuador to Chugchilan, the Quilotoa Lake and many other places.

Landscape in Dwarahat

Landscape in Dwarahat

And the ashram reminded me of my spiritual roots.

I started my spiritual journey at the "Asociacion Escuela de Autorealizacion" in Ecuador, an ashram-school founded by Padre Cesar Davila, a Catholic priest who became a meditation practitioner and kriyaban under the lineage of Paramahansa Yogananda.

The group meditations at the Yogoda Satsanga Sakha Ashram reminded me clearly of the group meditations at this school in Ecuador.

Oh, how much I miss these group meditations.  Just by thinking about it my heart trembles and I feel like shedding some tears.  Group meditations have such a powerful energy that you only become aware of when you don't have them anymore.

My stay at the YSS ashram in Dwarahat also reminded of our retreats in BaƱos de Ambato, a beautiful location in the highlands of Ecuador.

And the chantings....., the Cosmic Chants, though I know the originals are in English as Yogananda taught them, the Spanish version sounds so much better, believe me.


About the YSS Ashram in Dwarahat


The Yogoda Satsanga Sakha (YSS) Ashram was founded by Sri Daya Mata, the spiritual director of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) who recently (November 30, 2010) left her physical body.

“The YSS Ashram is located about 1.5 km from Dwarahat town and is surrounded by pine forest on all sides. On the way from town to the Ashram, to the right is the Government Rest House where Sri Daya Mata (third President and Spiritual Head of YSS/SRF from 1955 until her passing in 2010) had stayed during her visit to the cave in 1963-64 and had a divine vision of Mahavatar Babaji. Her experience with the great guru at the rest house and the cave is vividly described in her book Only Love in the chapter entitled 'A Blessing from Mahavatar Babaji.'”
You can actually read Sri Daya Mata's experience with Babaji online right here: A Blessing from Mahavatar Babaji.  It's a beautiful and inspiring story.

The SRF organization was created by Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the classic "Autobiography of a Yogi", to spread his teachings in the west. Yogoda Satsanga Society is the sister organization of SRF to spread the teachings within India and Pakistan.

Yogoda Ashram

The ashram is for those who are followers of Paramahansa Yogananda and regular meditation and kriya yoga practitioners.  If you are not a follower of Yogananda's teachings then you probably won't feel a connection to this place.

The accommodation is available only for those who are Self Realization Fellowship or a Yogoda Satanga Society members, and you can stay only for a few days.

I wanted to stay for two weeks but they allowed me to stay for ten days only.  Well, that's not bad at all, especially considering that the website says maximum stay for seven days.

The ashram is commonly used by devotees as a base to visit Mahavatar Babaji's cave near Kukuchina.

That's exactly what I did on my second day, with a lovely group of devotees.  It was truly a wonderful experience.

The ashram is pretty small. They have about three rooms for guests in one building, a meditation hall, a temple, a meeting room, a bookshop, and the dining hall.  But attached to the ashram there are a free school for children and a sort of hospital, both financed by the donations received at the ashram.

They don't charge for accommodation or meals.  They only suggest you make a donation according to your will and capacity.

Yogoda Ashram

Yogoda ashram main building

Meditation hall and temple

Meditation hall

The surroundings are just beautiful. It is so nice to take a walk on the road outside the ashram after breakfast or lunch.  I did that pretty much every day.

I used to sit on a rock which was just a few minutes walking from the ashram. I call it my “thinking rock,” cause I did a lot of thinking at this magic place.

Road near ashram

Landscape near ashram

The people working at the ashram are very friendly and the Swami in charge is really nice. He gave me some pretty good advice to improve my Kriya Yoga practice.


The ashram food


The food is delicious, great homemade Indian food. Sometimes a bit too spicy though. And if you need anything else like fruits you can just go to the Dwarahat market on foot (20 minutes walk) and buy whatever you need.


YSS Ashram daily schedule


The daily schedule is pretty easy to follow. You actually get busy starting at 5.30 pm and the rest of the day is for you to do whatever you want to do.

Thursdays and Sundays are an exception.

On Thursdays, there is a long day meditation that goes from 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm and from 7 pm to 9 pm, but it is not a nonstop sitting meditation. There is actually a lot of chanting and reading in between as well.

On Sundays, there is a satsanga starting at 10 am.

According to the daily schedule, there is a Bhagavad Gita class from 7pm to 7.45pm.

This class was more like a conversation with Swamiji.  He would sit and read not only the Bhagavad Gita but anything that he might find convenient. Then he would make comments and ask for feedback.

During my stay, he read different interesting articles from a very old SRF magazine.

Regular daily Schedule

08:00 Breakfast
13:00 Lunch
16:00 Te
17:30 to 19:00 Group Exercises and Meditation
19:00 to 19:45 Bhagavad Gita class
20:00 Dinner

Sundays Schedule

10:00 to 11:30 Satsanga (Sunday Service)
17:30 to 20:30 Group exercises and meditation
20:30 Dinner

Thursdays Schedule

16:00 to 18:30 Long Meditation
19:00 to 21:00 Long Meditation
21:00 Dinner


YSS Dwarahat ashram retreats


Individual Retreats


If you are an SRF or YSS Lessons student, you can visit the ashram any time to do your own individual retreat.

That's exactly what I did although I was not planning a retreat.  I simply visited the ashram as part of my pilgrimage and my sadhana.

The YSS ashram website says:

“Individual retreats are encouraged. Devotees can stay in the ashram for 3-7 days and utilize this period for remaining in silence, introspection, spiritual reading, and for practicing the presence of God.”

Yes, that's all I did during my ten days at the ashram.  Actually, whenever you stay at the ashram it is only for the purpose of doing an individual retreat.

Group Retreats


The YSS Dwarahat ashram also offers conducted group retreats twice a year, for five days each.  March for English speakers and April for Hindi speakers.

These retreats are lead by the sannyasis.  They follow the same daily schedule but the retreats also include a review of Guruji's meditation techniques and his teachings. 



How to reach to the Yogoda Satsanga Sakha Ashram


This is the route that they suggested me to take when I call them by phone before leaving Rishikesh.

  • From Rishikesh take a public bus from the main bus stop to Haridwar. (45 min)
  • From Haridwar take the night train to Kathgodam which leaves every day at 00h20 and arrives at 07h10. There is only one train per day: Train No 14120 - DDN KGM EXPRESS
  • From Kathgodam take a shared taxi to Ranikhet (4 hours) and from Ranikhet, another shared taxi to Dwarahat (3 hours). The shared taxi from Kathgodam up to Dwarahat should be around 250 or 300 rupees.
  • From the Dwarahat market, you can either walk to the ashram (about 20 minutes walk) or ask the driver to drop you at the ashram itself. I think the best is to agree with the driver as soon as you get in the taxi to drop you at the ashram. Everybody in Dwarahat knows the ashram.

You can find more options on how to reach the ashram in their website How to Reach YSS Dwarahat Ashram.

The shared taxis are usually jeeps, the most common means of transportation in this region.

Make sure you agree on the price before getting in the taxi and be aware that there would be a lot of taxi drivers just outside the train station telling you that there are no shared taxis "today" going to Dwarahat.

If you don't find any taxi just outside the station then when coming out of the train station walk towards the left and follow the road up. You should find plenty of taxis parked there.


YSS Ashram contact information


Yogoda Satsanga Sakha Ashram - Dwarahat
Dwarahat 263653
Dist. Almora, Uttarakhand
India
Google Maps Link

Phone: +91 97560 82167, +91 5966 244271, +91 5966 244671, +91 9411 708541
Call Times: 8:30 a.m - 4:30 p.m
Website: https://dwarahat.yssashram.org/ and https://yssofindia.org/ashrams/Yogoda-Satsanga-Sakha-Ashram-Dwarahat


Useful travel tips


Don't forget to visit Yogoda Math, Paramahansa Yogananda's Ashram in Kolkata to read about my experience visiting Guruji's ashram in Kolkata.

If you are interested in visiting other ashrams in India I suggest you take a look at my Guide to the Best Ashrams in India.  These are all the ashrams in India that I have personally visited during my whole yoga journey.

You can also visit my detailed packing list for India.  This list includes everything you could possibly need to visit an Indian ashram or to travel around India.


Next: moving closer to Babaji's cave


After ten beautiful days at the ashram, I decided to move closer to Mahavatar Babaji's cave.

I went back to Pandavkholi to stay for three days at the dharamshala.  After these three days, I moved back down to Kukuchina and stayed at Joshi Guest House doing my own meditation retreat.

I hope you've enjoyed reading this blog and that you've found it helpful.  Please feel free to like it and share it with your friends.  Thanks for the support.

19 comments:

  1. check out www.kriya.org
    A great master Paramahamsa Prajnananda Ji.

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  2. This article is complete in respect to reach DwArhat and to know about SRF/YSSI Ashram

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  3. Dwarahat is my native place and this asharam came up before my eyes when I was a child. I love the place Rotalai where it is located. My grandmother is buried in the graveyard which is quite close to this ashram.

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  4. Thank you so much for posting this article. I am planning to go to Dwarahaat and it was good to know about things in advance.

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  5. Ditto, thank you for the info! I too am traveling there soon.. and have the usual reservations about the unknown in India but know I will feel at home at SRF.

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  6. very useful info.Hats off.:) jai guru.

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  7. Jai Guru dev..Thanks dear,me too planning to visit next Feb 14 for pada-yatra to visit Baba ji's Gufa.Once again tks..for guidance.

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  8. Thank you very much for the important information I am just willing to know do we have to do any kind of registration before going there or if we visit rishikesh we can just be there n do they charge anything for yoga classes and for being there

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  9. Jai Guru Jai Sri Krishna Guru Kripa he Kevlam
    Of Course a nicely described information.Jai Guru
    From Delhi (Old Railway Stattion )daily a Train Ranikhet Express is there starts at 10.40PM and reach at Kathgodam at about 5AM next morning
    Therefrom direct share Taxis are available directly to Dawarhat Ashram
    Can ask Taxi drivers to go to Yogoda Ashram,Dawarhat.A number of taxi drivers are well known to.Jai Guru

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  10. This is a message to all who are not yet formally initiated:-
    1. There is no guidance except your own alert mind.
    2. There is no fortress except your own efforts.
    3. Life does need violence to fight evil.

    Anyone who gives up his own alertness, effort and fight , either in the name of god or guru will find himself naked, defenceless and in the thick of darkness of foolishness. And then there will not be any heavenly ghost or guru present to save him or his family's honor. Everything in his life will go to the dogs. Then when you talk to your guide, you will get the simple answer-"It's all the result of your own past karma".

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  11. The message of all monks is one and same :- "A BROTHEL IS BETTER THAN A BATTLE GROUND". Love , not war. Egolessness [read Dishonor] not ego.

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. I wish to learn yoga and meditation as beginner. Recommended ashram?

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  14. how long does it take to go from kathgodam to the ashram. the post on top makes it seem like 7 hours...i had heard it was much less?

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  15. Thank you very much. This gives great information to anyone planning to visit Dwarahat, certainly on my To-Do list for the near future. I too thought the trip from Kathgodam to Dwarahat took not more than 3-4 hours.

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  16. I am already completed initial lessons.Now I aspire to take kriya initiation.Can't I take kriya at Dwarahat?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Abhi, I think that should be possible but i suggest you give them a call to be 100% sure. Good luck! And congratulations for finishing the lessons.

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  17. Excellent place for mediation

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