An ashram is traditionally located far from human habitation, in forests or mountainous regions, amidst refreshing natural surroundings conducive to spiritual instruction and meditation. The residents of an ashram regularly perform spiritual and physical exercises, such as the various forms of yoga. Other Sadhanas and Tapas, such as Yajnas (sacred fire ceremony), are also performed there. An Ashrams may also serve as Gurukula, a residential schools for spiritual aspirants under the Guru-Shishya tradition.
Ashram life style only exists in the Vedic Sanatana Dharma tradition. If any one claims to promote Ashram life style without following the traditional way of of life, it could be manipulations in the name of Ashram and sincere aspirants would be misguided.
Vedic Sanatana Dharma also has four Ashrama, which stand for stages of life. It starts with Brahmacharya (student life), Grihastha (married life / householder), Vanaprastha (forest life, slowly withdrawing from worldly responsibilities) and Sanyasa (engage for enlightenment). Each of these stages of life each have their specific goals and lessons to learn, this system takes us from mastering common life lessons to Enlightenment.
A Gurukula is a traditional type of education system from ancient India with the Shishya (“students” or “disciples”) living near or with the guru, in the same building.
The students learn from the Guru and help the Guru in his everyday life, including carrying out the daily household chores, which is actually a very essential part of the education to inculcate self-discipline, dedication, devotion and selflessness among students. The relationship between a Guru and the Shishya is considered very sacred. Originally, at the end of one’s education, a Shishya would offer the guru Dakshina (offering) before leaving the Gurukula. The Guru Dakshina is a traditional gesture of acknowledgment, respect and thanks to the guru. In our modern days, we adapt by setting a fee for most programs so as to avoid confusion to those unfamiliar with the practice of Dakshina.
The Guru–Shishya tradition, denotes a succession of teachers and disciples in Indian tradition. It is the tradition of spiritual relationship and mentoring where teachings are transmitted from a Guru “teacher” to a Shishya after the formal Diksha (initiation). Such knowledge, whether yogic, agamic, spiritual or scriptural is imparted through the developing relationship between the Guru and the disciple.
It is considered that this relationship, based on the genuineness of the Guru, and the respect which is not based on age or how old one looks. Commitment, devotion and cooperation of the student, is the best way for subtle or advanced knowledge to be conveyed. The student eventually masters the knowledge that the guru embodies.