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Excerpted from The Only Dance There Is by Ram Dass. Copyright 1973 by Ram Dass. Excerpted by permission of Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"You start to surround yourself with other seekers after consciousness, because in that phase being around such people really gives you a kind of environmental support."

Ram Dass, The Only Dance There Is, Part 2

The Four Component Design of Ashram

For one period, a person would be in the hermitage on the top of the hill where he would be going deep--diving deep within. He would be totally alone in solitude in a hermitage. The food is left outside the door. In the one I ran this winter, the people would go in for up to nineteen days. The first time they went in I let them take books and pictures and weaving and all of their things (their pet kind of cream cheese or whatever it was they needed). 

For the second round we changed the game a little and all they took in was their sleeping bag. They walked into a room, closed the door, and for the next ten days, fire and wood and food were left outside and there was a jug of water. They were all protected, all taken care of. There were no phones to answer, no mail. We were protecting them and giving them that chance to get free of all the stimuli that keep capturing consciousness all the time so that one keeps saying, "If it weren't for.. ." Well, we did that. We created that place.

A second part of the four-point cycle is that a person lives in a commune, an ashramite lives in the commune ... that is, he takes care of the gardens, the babies, the goats, cooks the food, chops the wood, does Karma Yoga. That is, Karma Yoga among what's called satsang or sangha, that is, a community of other beings who consciously know they are working on their own consciousness. 

In Buddhism there is a traditional thing you do which is to take the three refuges. There is a chant, which means, first, "I take refuge in the Buddha," I take refuge in the fact that a being can become enlightened, that is, a being can get free of any particular state of consciousness (attachment). Second, "I take refuge in the Dharma," I take refuge in the law, in the organization of the universe, the laws of the universe, you can also call it karma. And third, "I take refuge in the Sangha," in the community of other people, of monks on the path, the community of other people who are seeking. 

Thus, when you define yourself as a seeker after sensual gratification then you surround yourself with other people who are seekers after sensual gratification. When you define yourself as an intellectual you often surround yourself with intellectuals. When you define yourself as a seeker after consciousness, you start to surround yourself with other seekers after consciousness, because in that phase being around such people really gives you a kind of environmental support.

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