Our commune is not like any of the traditional ashrams or monasteries. Would you talk to us more about the function of your commune?
It is necessary first to understand the traditional structure of an ashram, and also of a monastery. It will give you the background to understand the meaning of my commune.
The ashram is an Eastern concept based on renouncing society, its comforts, conveniences. An ashram is a group of people living together in austerity, self-imposed poverty, starvation in the name of fasting; torturing the body in order to have control over the physical by the spiritual; doing all kinds of exercises so that they become able to concentrate on the idea of God if they are Hindus, or on the idea of the ultimate growth of human consciousness if they are Buddhists and Jainas.
But the goal is far away for all the three – you can call it God, you can call it the Buddha, you can call it the Jina. They are different words signifying nothing, but pointing towards a further shore, so far away that you cannot even conceive it. It remains just a vague idea, a cloudy idea in your mind.
For this cloudy idea you have to sacrifice everything that is real, tangible, touchable, which you can see, which you can feel, which you can live. All that is alive has to be sacrificed for something which is nothing but a utopia.
Do you know the exact literal meaning of the word utopia? Its literal meaning is that which never happens; the hoped for…but which never happens. It can keep you engaged for centuries, and it has kept millions of people engaged for centuries. And they are still engaged in the same effort: losing this for something for which they have no evidence, no proof, not even an argument.
The word ashram is very beautiful, but is used in a very wrong context. Ashram means a place to relax. Yes, in the very beginning, five thousand years ago, in the times of the Vedas, an ashram was actually a place of relaxation; it was not ascetic. You will be surprised to know this, because for five thousand years asceticism has prevailed so strongly that people have completely forgotten how it used to be in the beginning. It was just the opposite of what it is today.
The rishis, the munis – these two words you have to understand. Rishis means poets of consciousness. It is only in the East that we have two words for poet: Kavi and rishi. Kavi literally means the poet, but for rishi, in English there is no equivalent.
The rishi is the awakened poet. He still sings, but those songs are not composed by him; they filter through him, they come from existence. Just as flowers blossom, poems blossom. The poet is a composer: he plays with the words, with their rhythm, with their sound, and he is capable of creating meaningful, rhythmic songs.