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Building a hermitage/ashram

Hello. I am considering buying some land and building either a small hut for one person or maybe a larger place such as an ashram that would be conducive to meditation, study and perhaps cultivating some basic fruits and vegetables. I wanted to ask, assuming there would be people here with knowledge and experience with such things, what are the basic criteria that are looked for when finding an area suitable for a hermitage or to build a monastery for example, and what is the best way to go about it? Thanks in advance.

Earthninja

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    First of all, you have to find suitable land, and if it's owned by someone, gain permission.

    if you are not worried about amenities (water, heating/lighting, I would say even building something at the bottom of your garden may work. Always assuming you have one.

    The practicalities of planning permissions, structure, final aspect, intrusiveness, accessibility, safety and privacy are what you need to invesitiagte forst.
    AFTER you've found, purchased, secured, paid for, or sought and gained permission for your land.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    That said, the place of your abode may not have a stringent rules and regulations regarding planning and construction... So I would focus on the essentials: Accessibility, safety, and amenities....

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Yes, in most areas there are rules and regulations as far as what the land can be used for depending what it is, permits for building depending on the purpose of the building, and so on. A single hut meant for you to live in would have different requirements than what amounts to as a shed that you might just meditate in. Likewise, a place where others will spend time might have even different requirements. You'd have to start with your local zoning/planning/housing agency or board and find out what they require for any situation. Sadly, some places even regulate what types of plants can be grown. It varies widely. If you are looking to raze a building in LA it's probably going to be quite different than if you are going to buy a patch of land in rural Alaska.

  • @federica said:
    First of all, you have to find suitable land, and if it's owned by someone, gain permission.

    if you are not worried about amenities (water, heating/lighting, I would say even building something at the bottom of your garden may work. Always assuming you have one.

    This. One sangha I attended was started by a university student who met a teacher in India, and arranged for him to come to the US for 6 months (which turned into a year) to teach. During those months, he ended up converting his garage into a living and meditation space for the teacher. Friends helped him put a proper floor in there, and insulate the walls, etc. After the teacher was gone, he had his own meditation room. If there's a yard where you live, you can grow vegetables there. Or get a kitchen garden, and set up a meditation shack there.

    If you mean you want something more like a formal retreat, and have the means to purchase land, that's a different matter. First you need to decide what it is you want and can afford. Obviously, access to clean, fresh water would be essential, if you mean to live there or spend days or weeks in retreat there.

    Rowan1980
  • HamsakaHamsaka goosewhisperer Polishing the 'just so' Veteran

    You wouldn't want to purchase this perfect bit of land and then find out there is some utterly nonsense land use restriction on it :( Would an ashram be considered a business? I assume it would be tax exempt . . . if so, there's a raft of red tape to go through. It might take you hiring a lawyer to made darn sure you can build a dwelling and 'legally' do what you intend. Then you can live your dream without some nightmare restriction surprising you down the line :)

    Rowan1980
  • What I'm looking for in the short term is basically somewhere I can have a formal retreat for an extended period of time. So I'm looking for somewhere that is as free of external distraction as possible, that is very quiet and has clean air. I don't have many needs beyond clean water and heat. Also, what kind of safety concerns should I keep in mind for such a place?

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited February 2015

    Safety from invasive elements, such as weather, animals or the intrusion of unwanted (human) visitors.... on the other hand, the other thing to consider (and it has happened) is that if you are too isolated and find yourself in need of attention (be it practical or medical) how easy would it be for people to find you and get to you?

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited February 2015

    I would recommend, if you can get it, reading "Cave in the Snow" - one Tibetan nun's account of living in an isolated, remote and almost inaccessible cave up in the mountains.... British by birth, she has become one of the most well-known nuns in the Tibetan tradition...

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I second the book recommendation, it is excellent.
    Safety concerns will vary depending where you are. Here, you could find a bear denning on your property or even in your building. You could find your roof cave in from feet of snow or your place flooded when the snow melts in spring. So to truly know what measures to plan for, you'd have to have some idea of where you will want to go.

  • I don't know what your budget is, but (singing) "if I were a rich man"...

    Yours for only £140,000! Caves, beaches and even its own ruins, the private island that costs less than a UK home (but you can only reach it in good weather)

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-2750403/Yours-140-000-Caves-beaches-94-acres-pristine-land-private-island-costs-average-UK-home-reach-boat-helicopter-good-weather.html

    I'd have to have wifi though. Going without wifi would be like a really tough ascetic practise.

  • howhow Veteran
    edited February 2015

    @Xeta

    Sorry about pissin on da parade but...

    Safety.....why & what are you trying to protect?
    Insect free. Excluding such wonderful teachers of patience & acceptance?
    Legal permission..Is just another illusion of security & permanence.
    Distraction free...If ya can't practice with distractions, is that practice really portable?

    Dogen's advise was to position it as far away from the administratively manipulative (read any officialdom) as possible.

    But,,,again,,,

    A formal retreat is really just the priority that** you **place on your practice over everything else.

    The external conditions of a retreat are only as distracting as you choose to allow them to be.
    &
    whether in a tent in the bush or a 6 month retreat in a monastery or amidst daily life, the real hermitage is simply where ever there's an acceptance of your own heart & mind.

    Toshkarastilobster
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited February 2015

    You don't say where you're looking to find the land at, but you might look around to see if anyone has an old camp with cabins for sale, or for your own use, some hunting land that includes a campsite. Then you'd have to make sure for tax purposes and such that this isn't a commercial use you're doing which I'm sure causes all sorts of regulations to kick in. If you want to have other retreat cabins there, I don't know what it takes to get a religious tax exemption, and it probably varies.

    Perhaps land with a trailer already sitting on it that you can improve into a cabin. Converting something is much easier than starting something from scratch.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I actually tend to find that the more I seek "no distractions" the more I find them.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    Without giving anything too much away, the OP is neither in the USA, nor the UK.

    There's not too much point talking about 'Rules and Regulations' because those parameters are a complete unknown.... and would probably be quite alien to us.

  • I would find someone who has done it and ask them . . . eg.
    http://www.thehermitagecottage.com/engagethegarden.htm

  • @federica said:
    Without giving anything too much away, the OP is neither in the USA, nor the UK.

    There's not too much point talking about 'Rules and Regulations' because those parameters are a complete unknown.... and would probably be quite alien to us.

    Then if what is being asked is sort of like the "how do I build an altar" type question, I'd say start by figuring out what sort of practice you're planning on and use your imagination. You want to be self-sufficient enough to go a while without outside contact so you need a way to provide food, water, and fresh sanitation. Monks have been living in little huts stuck on mountaintops and such for centuries, so it can be done. If you're planning on retreats of a week or two, that's different from moving in and living there. You might need a source of heat and electricity, for instance. Thinking about it, it's mostly just survival. The meditation and solitude sort of takes care of itself.

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    @Xeta -- Before you make any move, you might want to think long and hard about why, precisely, you want to do it. Consider, for example, that those alleged to have "attained" seem to turn freely in the world. And if this is the case, what is your position on withdrawing from that world?

    I am not trying to throw cold water on your warm project: Everyone has a point of view and the success or failure of implementing that point of view will invariably be a good teacher. But I do think close -- as distinct from popular or politically-correct -- scrutiny is a good idea.

    Best wishes.

  • I will definitely take a look at "Cave in the Snow".

    I'm in Turkey. For the most part the weather is moderate and as far as I know bears aren't too common. Although I probably would have to find out more about the specifics of weather, wild animals etc.

    Looking for somewhere to convert sounds like a good idea, I will also look into that.

    Contacting and even visiting others who have done it is probably something I should do more, although there are so many and with so many apparently different aims, that I kind of don't know where to start with that.

    I would require heat. I'm pretty sure I can do without electricity, I would probably even prefer it.

    As for my aim, in the short term I am basically looking for somewhere to formally and single-pointedly practice meditation, with the aim of attaining samadhi, so I wouldn't know if that means a few weeks of retreat or somewhere to live for the rest of my life.

    I do my best to take my time, be thorough and not be reckless. Hopefully it will turn out well.

    Thank you all for your input, I really appreciate it.

  • @Xeta said:
    As for my aim, in the short term I am basically looking for somewhere to formally and single-pointedly practice meditation, with the aim of attaining samadhi, so I wouldn't know if that means a few weeks of retreat or somewhere to live for the rest of my life.

    If you're looking to build the perfect hermitage then you're probably better off building on what you have already - turn your current abode into the hermitage for example - you could be at this for a few weeks or a lifetime so you have time enough to make it suitable for your purpose.
    If you're looking for something else then why worry? Assuming you don't have it already and you consider you know how or where to find it, then pick up the stuff you need for the journey and walk off in search of it - you'll find somewhere to sleep tonight, and tomorrow and the day after that, what's the difference if you know what you're searching for and how to find it - perhaps you'll settle in a far away cave, perhaps not - maybe you'll die in the wilderness. Is that single pointed enough?

    lobster
  • I'm not quite sure where my current abode is. As for searching, I don't know where to start.

    lobster
  • Start where you are, maybe learn to build/buy a yurt . . .
    http://www.beshara.org/beshara-worldwide/tuerkiye.html
    Samadhi is not about location, it is about locating . . .

    Do you practice where you are?

  • @Xeta said:
    I'm not quite sure where my current abode is. As for searching, I don't know where to start.

    Your current abode is where you are living right now. The place where you sleep for example.
    If you don't know where to start then perhaps reconsider whether abandoning everything that you do know in pursuit of it is appropriate. Baby steps - feel your way along.
    Otherwise you'll face issues such as posting for advice on an internet forum where you consider you can do without and would prefer not having electricity.

  • XetaXeta New
    edited February 2015
    I know what abode means. I meant that I usually don't know where I'll be sleeping for the night. So I'm not exactly considering abandoning everything.

    I do practice wherever I find myself but I feel that some places are more conducive than others. Hence the search for somewhere I can settle.

    Beshara seems very interesting, thank you very much lobster for sharing it.
  • As for building or buying a yurt, I didn't know what a yurt is until now. I will look into that as well. Again, thank you very much.

  • =) as well as the six month course, solitary retreats and specialised esoteric retreats (I did a two week one) Beshara could probably develop the required ashram building skills you need . . .
    Might be worth contacting them <3

  • ZeroZero Veteran
    edited February 2015

    @Xeta said:
    I know what abode means. I meant that I usually don't know where I'll be sleeping for the night. So I'm not exactly considering abandoning everything.

    I do practice wherever I find myself but I feel that some places are more conducive than others. Hence the search for somewhere I can settle.

    Challenging as I'm playing catch-up with the facts!
    One takes the mind everywhere and hence everywhere is conducive to practice.
    Instructions for a very basic shelter, if it helps. Basics of building in a chimney here and here. Best of luck.

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