Interview with Ram Prakash Kaur Program co-ordinator
Ram Prakash Kaur first came to the ashram as a sevadar in 2016 for 120 days. In 2017 she returned to do Seva while completing the Karam Kriya Consultancy Training with Shiv Charan Singh. During this time she was invited to take on the role of Seva co-ordinator.
She was elected onto the board of directors of the Association in 2018 with Shiv Charan Singh and Devta Singh, and is the only Director living at the Ashram.
Drawing on her experience as a sevadar, a primary school teacher and her own personal studies in kundalini yoga and karam kriya, she is updating the Sevadar Program.
We talked with her to learn more about it.
“It’s always a great day, as everyone is working together, including the kids.”
ARDG: What is the Seva Program?
Ram Prakash Kaur: When we talk about the Seva Program we are really talking about the different opportunities that the Associação Ram Dass Guru provides for people to do seva. There are opportunities both at the ashram and outside the ashram. The most popular program is the 40 day residential seva program. This program is designed as an opportunity to clean some karma and make some sort of transformation in life through seva, kundalini yoga practice and Sikh Dharma. It is an intensive 24/7 program were participants live, eat, work and practice together for 40 days. Each person comes with their own intention or areas of their life they would like to work on during the 40 days. This could be in the form a habit or pattern they want to quit or acquire during the 40 days, or a general area to gain more consciousness about during their time at the ashram.
ARDG: Is the 40 day program the only option to do Seva?
Ram Prakash Kaur: No. Another way that people can do seva at the ashram is by joining our monthly Working Bees. During the working bees members of the sangat gather together to work on projects at the ashram. It’s always a great day, as everyone is working together, including the kids. We share the sense of achievement together with langar (free shared meal). We also have members of the sangat who come and do seva regularly on other days, according to their availability. Outside of the ashram there are many tasks that can be done from home, like administrative things. Some people who live close to the ashram also take creative projects like sewing home to do, or catalogue news books that have been donated to the library. So really if anyone is interested in doing some seva for the association or the ashram there’re many opportunities regardless of where into world you live. I would recommend that people get in touch with me by email and we can discuss their availability, skills and interest and match up some seva tasks accordingly.
“The seva program is for anyone who wants to experience doing karma yoga in an ashram setting.”
ARDG: What should they bring?
Ram Prakash Kaur: Seva program participants need to bring work clothing, yoga clothing and personal toiletries. A warm jacket (except summer) and shoes suitable for gardening. Also, all participants must have their own health insurance.
It’s important that they know this is not a holiday. It is an opportunity to take their personal journey to a much deeper level than they would normally go during their usual day to day lives. The work is physically and emotionally demanding. Participants are working on themselves while they are here, so courage, an open mind and a willingness to look at oneself and take personal responsibility for their own growth and change. We can support them, but we can’t do the work for them.
ARDG: What kind of support do the participants have during their stay?
Ram Prakash Kaur: Sevadars have regular one on one check ins during the 40 days to support their process. We are developing mini workshops for this program based on the most common needs that we have identified from past participants in the program. Our application process will be updated, so that participants can receive the most appropriate formal training for their needs. We currently have 4 sevadar positions at a time, but because of the popularity of this program we will be expanding to accomodate more participants.
ARDG: Is the Seva Program for everyone or do you need to be a Kundalini Yoga practitioner?
RPK: The seva program is for anyone who wants to experience doing karma yoga in an ashram setting. It’s not essential that participants are connected to Kundalini Yoga and Sikh Dharma before they come, but they must be interested in exploring them while they are here. The daily spiritual program is aligned with Kundalini Yoga and Sikh dharma. Sevadars are required to be involved in the daily routine of the ashram. This includes sadhana and kirtan, so it’s important to have an attitude of openness to experiencing kundalini yoga and Sikh Dharma.
ARDG: How can people aplly? Is it for free?
RPK: People can apply by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Normally we publish available dates, but at the moment we are not sure when the state of emergency measures will be lifted. Until then we will receive and process applications, and successful applicants can find a time slot later when we open the ashram for visitors again.It’s not free, the financial contribution for the program starts at €10 per day for the 40 day program. We always accept applications from people who don’t have money. They are required to give evidence of their financial situation, and to apply for financial assistance, giving the reasons that they feel that doing seva will help them at this point in time.
ARDG: How can people support the Program?
RPK: There are always opportunities to help others to come to the ashram to join the Seva Program. If people wish to sponsor someone els’s Seva Program, either fully or partially, that is an incredible gift to someone. Any donations to the program can be done by bank transfer, mentioning at the description “seva program donation”. If you wish to sponsor a specific person please send a more direct email to email@example.com with the details. You can find our bank details here
“Seva is selfless service, karma yoga to burn karma, serving without any expectation of anything in return. serving a higher cause, serving God..”
ARDG: What can participants expect?
RPK: An opportunity to begin making life changes, by adopting, letting go of or changing any conscious or unconscious patterns and habits they choose.To be confronted with themselves. Participants can also expect to be poked, provoked, confronted and elevated by the things that come up for them at the ashram. Regular group check ins and individual consultations with the program co-ordinator to share and look at other perspectives. Nutritious vegan meals, shared accommodation in a dormitory, or tent in summer.A team of committed individuals working in different areas to provide the services that support the Association and Ashram mission A community committed to the principle of working with nature, and actively looking for ways to reduce waste, giving preference to natural, local and eco friendly products. To be an active member of the ashram Sangat and prepare the space for and host visitors during events at the ashram. To be actively involved in the daily routine of the ashram which begins at 5:30 each morning when we come together for Aquarian Sadhana. Daily sadhana and kirtan, and opportunities to lead them. Yoga classes, red tent and other activities according to the current schedule. Daily general cleaning routines like laundry, cooking, taking care of the vegetable allotment, small repairs, taking care of the dogs, hosting guests. Two days off per week to relax, unwind and get back to nature or visit local beaches, villages, and other sights. Discounts on some classes and workshops during their stay.
ARDG: What do you believe distincts Seva from volunteer?
RPK: A volunteer is someone who simply works without getting paid. Seva is selfless service, karma yoga to burn karma, serving without any expectation of anything in return. serving a higher cause, serving God.
ARDG: I know that you are updating the Program. What motivates you to do it? And what will be the main changes/differences from before?
RPK: The seva program is always evolving. Changes occur as a result of the people who are doing the program, either as a response to a request from participants or from a need that we identify needs addressing. Because participants in the program have a unique and powerful setting to process their “stuff” in order to grow and transform while they are here, we have identified some commons areas where people need support, so we are developing mini courses and workshops that sevadars can do so they can develop some skills that they can practice here, and then they can use them in their life when they go home
ARDG: How are you managing it during this isolation period?
RPK: During this isolation period we are doing what we usually do. Our routine and program are an important part of ashram life so it is continuing. All of the sevadars who are here were given the option to leave when the state of emergency started, but they all chose to stay. I think it has brought everyone closer together. There are no visitors or groups, we only have each other to rely on. We have had a few special activities to keep ourselves amused. We had a murder mystery game during dinner one night. Next week we will have dinner at Mt Olympus. Each of us will come to dinner as a Greek God so that will be fun. We have been live streaming Aquarian sadhana on Sunday mornings on Facebook, so that’s there on the association’s Facebook page for anyone who wants to replay sadhana and do it at home along with us. We are not accepting guests at present. When the state of emergency is lifted we will be open to guests as soon as its possible.
Interview by Namdeep Kaur