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In April, 1970, we formalized our first membership requirements. Although discipleship was not a requirement at first, members were asked to be in tune with our way of life, to be students of Self-Realization Fellowship lessons and the Ananda Correspondence Course, and to have the desire to put spiritual principles first in their lives. Early membership guidelines stressed the need for a spirit of renunciation, seeing service to the community as an important part of ones dharma. In 1971, discipleship also became a requirement of membership. We have always tried to keep rules to a minimum, and at that time the only rules were: “No drugs, no alcohol, no dogs.”
As more people arrived, we saw the need for a group that could interview prospective members and make decisions about their acceptance. At first the Village Council made these decisions, but in time this became too cumbersome. Eventually a separate membership committee was created which interviewed prospective members and made recommendations to the community. From the beginning, it was felt that there should be a membership fee, so in 1970 the fee was formalized at $1000.00 for a single person, and $1500.00 for a couple. This helped to ensure the prospective members commitment, as well as contributing financially toward the growth of the work. In fact, one couples membership fee in 1972 was just enough to forestall a second foreclosure attempt on our property.
In the early years there was no specific training program for new or prospective members. Members and prospective members attended all the classes that Kriyananda gave, as well as Sunday Service. At first, that system worked, as we were nearly all on the same footing spiritually. Later, training programs were developed; one of the first was called the Apprentice Program, which not only offered training in Yogananda’s teachings but also practical skills such as gardening and construction. Prakash (James) Van Cleave was the first director of the Apprentice Program.
The Apprentice Program
Contributed by Prakash Van Cleave
The Ananda Apprentice Program began as a garden apprenticeship in the very early days of the community. I came to Ananda on August 5, 1974, and I was asked to head up this program the following summer. A few small notices in new age journals, some correspondence that winter, and May 1975 brought twelve young people into the fledgling experiment.
My idea was to have each participant serve an apprenticeship in a specific area of community life- garden, building, dairy, Master’s Market (our food store and outlet for the garden produce), publications. The foundation of the program was the spiritual life of the community: twice-daily sadhanas; Energization Exercises; yoga postures and meditation; evening classes in the yoga teachings of Yogananda and Kriyananda; chanting, and longer meditations.
I myself was a bizarre introduction to the yoga path for many young seekers yellow clad aspiring monk, hair tied up in a topknot, emaciated and intense.
The first year (later dubbed the summer of love), I imposed no outward discipline, sure that meditation and kindness would cure all ills and turn all comers into joyful yogis.
The second year (later dubbed the year of discipline), responding to community dismay at the spreading chaos of the summer of love, I became the yogi drill sergeant, requiring attendance at all sadhanas, pushing wake-up time back to 4:30 AM, and even in the face of mutiny continuing to ring the wake-up bell until all apprentices had assembled out on the chilly pre-dawn meadow for another session of shivering yoga!
The third year a semblance of balance came. The topknot went away; we arose at 6:00 AM, and a better time was had by all.
Many of our finest Ananda men and women are graduates (survivors?) of that early program. Surely the hand of the Master is evident in such ineptitude, however sincere and well intentioned, leading through so many shining devotees and long time members of the Ananda community.
© Ananda Sangha Worldwide 2013