"So Parmarth seems to be more of a ‘city’ ashram, then, rather than a traditional ‘forest’ ashram, wouldn’t you agree?” the interviewer queries. He is a young man from Bombay doing a story on Rishikesh, gurus and the spiritual path in general.
He’s come to Parmarth Niketan to take my interview regarding the ashram, its activities, the types of people who come and other topics. However, from this question I realize he has completely misunderstood not only Parmarth Niketan but the fundamental truth of the traditional ashrams of Rishikesh. “No,” I explain. “It’s not a city ashram. It’s a traditional forest ashram, actually, based upon all the principles of traditional Indian spiritual practice. However, a city has grown up around it.” The exodus of pilgrims and seekers to Rishikesh in the last two or three decades has turned this quiet village-like refuge of ashrams into a veritable city. But the city which has erected itself in front of, behind and around these ashrams does not change the nature of the ashrams themselves. The ashrams still are, in most cases, traditional Indian spiritual communities, places where sincere seekers can study yoga, meditation, the scriptures and the inner workings of their own minds. This distinction, between the traditional and the modern, the forest and the city, the Western and the Eastern is one that must not be lost as the holy cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh quickly become refuges for seekers from every corner of the Earth.
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