Guru Ram Das Ashram and Gurdwara

This profile was last updated in 2014

History

Guru Ram Das Ashram and Gurdwara serves both as a center of the Sikh Dharma movement, which is recognized as a world religion, and the national Happy Healthy Holy Organization (3HO), which is recognized as a non-sectarian educational organization. The term ashram refers to an intentional spiritual community, while a gurdwara is a Sikh place of worship. The community in Millis combines both terms because they have a residential, intentional community on site, as well as a gurdwara for religious worship. The community grew out of a 3HO movement in western Massachusetts when some members moved to Dorchester in the 1970s. That group then moved to Millis in 1981, founding the gurdwara on a property that was once a Jewish summer resort.

Description

The ashram’s facilities include private apartments and a community building. The community building is used as a gurdwara, and as such includes a room for worship, a kitchen, and a langar (free community meal) hall. The building also serves as the location for the Baba Siri Chand Yoga Center and as a space for cultural, family, and community events. There are about 25 adults who rent apartments on the property. A resident does not have to be of the Sikh faith, but must follow the 3HO way of living, which includes requirements such as being vegetarian, alcohol- and drug-free, and celibate outside of marriage.

Leadership

The ashram membership hosts both 3HO and Sikh Dharma activities and events. Each organization has its own charter and non-profit status. As with Sikh Dharma International ashrams and gurdwaras throughout the United States, the Millis community strives to involve and engage its membership (and extended Dharmic and yogic communities) in its activities, communication processes, and long-range planning. There is an ashram accountant who helps to maintain the financial books and records for each organization. Both 3HO Foundation of Massachusetts, Inc., and Sikh Dharma of Massachusetts, Inc. are affiliated with the larger national and international 3HO and Sikh Dharma organizations. As such, Sikh Dharma of Massachusetts has a Sikh Dharma Board (5 members: 3 local, 2 national). The Ashram Executive Committee and Secretary, and the Gurdwara Committee and Property Manager work in cooperation with the Sikh Dharma Board and the ashram membership to maintain the day-to-day functioning of the ashram and gurdwara, inviting the ongoing participation and input of the membership and interested affiliates. There are ashram meetings, in which any interested members or affiliates may participate. 3HO Foundation of Massachusetts, Inc. has its own 3-member Board, 3HO Secretary, Bookstore Manager, and team of volunteers who help to run events. The Ashram Secretary publicizes ashram and gurdwara events, while the 3HO Secretary publicizes 3HO and Baba Siri Chand Yoga Center events.

Activities and Schedule

Yoga, meditation, and kirtan are held daily. Sikh services are held every Sunday morning. There are also gurdwara programs on the first Friday of every month (on all other Fridays, the programs are held in the nearby New England Gurdwara Sahib). In addition to this daily and weekly schedule, special events are held on Sikh holy days. Services are conducted in a mixture of Punjabi and English. Kirtan is sung in Punjabi, but handouts are provided with both phonetic Punjabi and English translations. The community building that houses the gurdwara also serves as the Baba Siri Chand Yoga Center, which was established several years ago. The center offers daily classes, which include Kundalini Yoga, Hatha Yoga, healing, meditation, and teacher training among others. Yogi Bhajan, the founder of 3HO, taught Kundalini Yoga as compatible with Sikhism, and thus this kind of yoga is particularly emphasized within the community. Kundalini Yoga for Youth is a program run by Sat Kartar Kaur Khalsa, one of the members of the ashram. She began the program in 1993, working with gang members in public schools. Since that time, she has traveled daily into inner-city Boston and Providence to teach yoga to at-risk youth in schools and after school programs as well as in housing projects’ recreational programs. Khalsa, the “Yoga Lady,” now works with children of all ages, striving to be a consistent presence in their daily lives. Her goal is to help these children develop the inner resources to take charge of their lives and overcome the obstacles that face them.

Affiliation with Other Communitites/Organizations

In addition to its affiliation with the Sikh Dharma and 3HO Foundation organizations (and all its world-wide affiliates), Guru Ram Das Ashram and Gurdwara in Millis is closely affiliated with the Guru Ram Das Ashram and 3HO Foundation of Leverett. The Millis ashram also maintains close and cooperative relationships with Sikh communities in the greater Boston area. The most notable of these relationships is with the New England Sikh Study Circle (NESSC) in Milford. Their relationship began when the largely Euro-American members of the ashram were living in Dorchester and sought the assistance of Sikhs of Indian descent, who had formed the NESSC, to help them grasp the Punjabi language. When the ashram purchased its property in Millis in 1981, many members of the NESSC began worshipping at the center as well. The NESSC purchased its own gurdwara in 1990, and they and the ashram in Millis decided to form several joint programs. This relationship is still strong, and there are even members from the Millis ashram who serve on NESSC’s expansion committee. The ashram also has had positive contact with the newly formed gurdwara of the Sikh Sangat Society Boston in Somerville, and maintains a connection to Harvard Divinity School’s interfaith events, held in the school’s Andover Chapel.