Photos and story by Leslie Smith
“We aspire toward the divine nature.”—Shri Yogi Sachinanandaji
AURO VALLEY ASHRAM, RAIWALA, INDIA—
Disembarking into the flat tranquillity of Auro Valley after the vertiginous chaos of Rishikesh 45 minutes away is like stepping out of a crowded subway train directly into a spa. The setting is quietly elegant, almost remote in its other-worldliness of white marbled, elliptical-shaped buildings, neatly tended gardens and, overwhelmingly, peace. Not just peacefulness, but true peace.
The ashram is located near the southern boundaries of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve and wildlife abounds. From the rooftop of the cavernous and echoing residence building, herds of spotted deer can be glimpsed at dawn, tripping through the tall grasses and trees amidst peacocks, green parrots, cattle and other animals. An unseen elephant, whose occasional trumpeting piqued my curiosity, never revealed itself, but large posters on the grounds warned of the incursion not only of pachyderms but tigers; just the week before, an elephant was shooed from the enclave.
Swami Brahmdev is the resident guru of Auro Valley, which he built in memory of the principles espoused by The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, who lived in Pondicherry in the early 20th-century (see http://www.sriaurobindoashram.org/ashram/mother/).