By Nayaswami Naidhruva
Many Hands Make a Miracle: A History of Ananda, 1968 – 1976 by Sadhana Devi Helin
Relations with Public Agencies
When Ananda Village first got under way, word spread quickly to nearby Grass Valley and Nevada City that “bad news” had come to Nevada County. To be sure, among the early residents of Ananda were a few hippies with no greater ambition than lounging at the nearby river. But most Ananda residents wanted to become responsible citizens and good neighbors.
In time, the general impression changed. People found that Ananda residents respected local laws and authorities, paid their bills promptly, and added a positive aura of their own to the area. In fact, a surprisingly large number of people, though not members of Ananda, have moved to Nevada County as a direct consequence of Ananda’s being here.
Kriyananda’s handling of building code violations that threatened to close down the Meditation Retreat was an early demonstration of Ananda’s intentions. The retreat at that time was classified as a “church camp,” and came under the authority of the county health department. In 1971, the District Attorney’s office informed Kriyananda that certain buildings at “Camp Ananda” were in violation of the building codes, and that dire consequences would follow if the violations were not corrected.
Kriyananda wrote immediately to Hal Cox, our health department contact, and explained that “most of our buildings (and all of our principal ones) were built according to regulations.” He apologized for the handful of smaller structures that were not in compliance, saying that we had been misinformed as to church camp requirements. He pledged his cooperation in correcting things:
Whenever you find us to be in violation of your codes, Hal, you may count on our cooperation to rectify matters to the best of our ability. I came up here four years ago with a firm intention that has never changed, namely, of cooperating with the authorities, and of permitting only those persons to join me at Ananda who wanted to become responsible (and voting) citizens of Nevada County.
Matters were resolved amicably at a meeting at the District Attorney’s office. In a follow-up letter, the District Attorney thanked Kriyananda for his statement at the start of the meeting, “offering full cooperation to Nevada County and all its officials.” He closed the letter saying he looked forward to visiting “Camp Ananda”:
You assured your cooperation, and invited members of my staff to come and see the camp. We intend to do this someday in the summer and look forward to the experience.
1998 Anonymous Complaint
Having experienced how a surfeit of rules can destroy the spirit, Kriyananda, in founding Ananda, wanted as few rules as possible. From a spiritual standpoint, it was important that members grow in understanding at their own pace, and not have decisions and rules imposed from above. Thus from Ananda’s earliest days, “people are more important than things” has meant never imposing on anyone’s free will.
There are times, however, when the needs of individual Ananda members must be balanced against broader considerations, including the interests of the larger community. Ananda’s response to the 1998 anonymous complaint filed with the Nevada County Building Department was an instance of this type of balancing.
Ten allegations in the complaint were untrue. The rest dealt mainly with remodeling done after a structure was built under a valid permit, or conversions of residential outbuildings to office or other uses.
It was Ananda’s policy that all new homes be constructed under a valid permit, but there was no policy relating to private contractors engaged by residents to modify existing homes. As a result of the complaint, Ananda initiated an oversight process to ensure that all remodeling by members meets code standards.
The complaint itself was harmoniously resolved. Ananda arranged for inspectors to visit private homes at times convenient for all, supervised the correction of violations, and obtained the appropriate building department permits. Robert Porta, Chief Building Inspector wrote Tom Taylor, Ananda’s property manager, to express appreciation for Ananda’s cooperation:
We thank you for all your help and cooperation in the resolution of the complaint. It was very pleasant to know you and work with you.
Porta’s assistant, Donna Burley later commented on the “positive experience”:
It was a very positive experience working with Tom Taylor. Everything worked out well and the complaint was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
To fulfill its promise to neighbors that it would build a guest retreat at Ananda Village, Ananda needed county approval of its Master Plan. Without Master Plan approval no new construction was possible. Ananda was also experiencing an acute need for housing for the many residents living in small trailers, yurts, and teepees-a situation that became worse after the 1976 Ananda fire.
Ananda submitted the first Master Plan in 1974. Thereafter, over a four-year period, the community ran into an almost impenetrable wall of red tape, including unexplained delays and repeated requests that the plan be revised. To the officials in charge, an intentional spiritual community was a new concept. Ananda didn’t fit traditional planning categories. And, in some minds, the “bad news” perception undoubtedly lingered. Not until 1978 was the Master Plan finally approved.
When the Master Plan was under consideration during the late 1970s, a visitor to the fire-ravaged community would have seen little to presage the beauty and innovativeness of Ananda’s later development. By the 1990s, both Ananda and the political climate had changed. When the county supervisors voted 5-0 in 1993 to allow Ananda to update its development plan, it was a community visit that persuaded two supervisors:
I’ve been to Ananda. I’ve looked at what they’ve done. It seems to me that this group is doing exactly what we ask all groups to do. They are self-contained. They are providing industry within a community. They are not impacting the infrastructure or the roads. I think they should be commended.
—Robert Drake, Supervisor
When Supervisor Melody Lane originally asked me to go to Ananda, my answer was “No. I’m not going to Ananda.” And she did convince me and another person in the county to go out to Ananda on a tour. And what I saw was absolutely 180 degrees the opposite of what I thought I would see. It is a good community. They are very innovative. They have taken the time and the energy to try things that have addressed alternative housing, alternative lifestyles that are not anything like I ever imagined it would look like, or feel like, as I was walking around there. I am very impressed with Ananda.
—Karen Knecht, Supervisor
Today, Ananda is seen as a positive influence in the county and an important support for the local economy. To commemorate Ananda’s twentieth anniversary, the county supervisors adopted a resolution designating the week of June 26, 1988 as “Ananda Village Week.” In the words of the resolution:
The Ananda community has been a positive supporter of Nevada County and its growth,
The Ananda community and its residents have always supported local businesses, contributing millions of dollars to the Nevada County economy over the last 20 years.
The Ananda community has created one of the most respected, successful, crime-free, drug-free, “new age” intentional communities in the world.
The Ananda community and its residents have always supported the richness of the local arts by performing at hospitals, fairs, and other theaters and music events.