Kriyananda’s classes proved popular and were attended by many students, including Seva (Sonia Wiberg). As interest grew in Yogananda’s teachings, students began taking more advanced classes and continued to attend meditations and yoga sessions after their classes were completed. In 1967, Kriyananda and some of his students formed the Yoga Fellowship, a group of people dedicated to the dissemination of the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda. On December 18, 1968, the Yoga Fellowship was formally incorporated, “to teach and promote the practice of yoga.”
In early 1967 Kriyananda began looking for property to use as a place of seclusion for himself. He was referred to Dick Baker, the roshi of the San Francisco Zen Center, who was also seeking land; through a fortuitous accident, he met the roshi at a picture framing shop. Ultimately, he purchased 72 acres of property in the Sierra Foothills, as part of the Bald Mountain Association, which consisted of the poets Gary Snyder and Alan Ginsburg along with Roshi Baker and Kriyananda.
Kriyananda’s original intent was to use the property as a hermitage for himself, and that September several of his students volunteered to help him build a plastic dome as his first home. When it had collapsed or been blown down three times, he came to understand that beginning with a home for himself wasn’t the right way to go about it; rather they should focus on a temple for everyone.
A few hardy souls spent the winter at the Meditation Retreat in tents. Satya (Bill Cox), and Binay (John Preston) spent the entire winter there; David Hoogendyk stayed for part of it. Binay recalls that they often visited a friend, Rena Kemp, at her house in Nevada City, using her shower and getting warm.
In the early spring of 1968, Kriyananda began holding meetings to discuss developing a community. The first of these meetings proved to be a disaster, as those present had no understanding of what he was trying to accomplish, and accused him of trickery and a self-serving attitude. This experience showed him the necessity of putting his ideas into concrete form before people could begin to understand the concept form and he spent a week on his new property writing Cooperative Communities, How to Start them and Why, which was then typeset by Seva.
Eventually a core of more committed people began to attend these informal gatherings. Of all ages, they were interested in putting the ideals of cooperative spiritual living into practice. One of them, Jaya (John Helin), had attended Kriyananda’s classes and meetings after hearing his radio show.
Referring to those meetings, he says, “It was a little intimidating because I was a young college student, and the people at the meetings were slightly older. They were very engaged in the idea of a community and seemed to know a lot about it. I had no ideas of my own about community, although I thought it was a good thing to do. Well, as it turned out, none of those people actually moved to the property.”
Those who did eventually move to Ananda in those early days were, with rare exceptions, young and idealistic. Many were recent college graduates, looking for ways to serve. Most were single, although within a year families began to come, as well.