I have lived at Ananda Village or one of the many Ananda colonies for the past 19 years. I am not a minister. I feel I am a typical resident of Ananda.
I have known Swami Kriyananda for 19 years. During this time I have worked closely with him on many projects and have spent a lot of time alone with him traveling and discussing a variety of topics. Swami Kriyananda is the most kind person I have ever met. In the years I have known him I have never seen him unkind, off balance, disrespectful or angry. The fact that anyone could accuse him of forcing himself or his views on anyone is absurd. I can freely speak to Swami Kriyananda or any of the senior ministers about any topic as friends. I have disagreed with Swami and the senior ministers on various topics and have always been treated as a friend. I have never been discriminated against for my views.
Swami Kriyananda has spent the past 50 years sharing the teachings of his guru, the great Indian master Paramhansa Yogananda. He has founded one of the most successful intentional communities in the world, with branch communities throughout the United States and the world. He has given thousands of lectures and classes to help give individuals the chance to realize God in their lives. He has written hundreds of books and works of music with this same goal.
Most importantly to me, I have watched him work with individuals here at Ananda for years, or even decades, to help them release emotional issues or insecurities that keep them from being truly happy. He does this with infinite patience, kindness and tremendous respect for the individual. By tremendous respect I mean that Kriyananda offers the teachings and techniques relayed to him by his and our guru as a gift. He has never forced these teachings or his own views on anyone I know of. He has told us all repeatedly to try what he offers in our own lives, and to experience these teachings for ourselves. Then we, as individuals, can determine what really works. In the past 19 years I have learned not just to believe in these teachings. I know they work from my own personal experience.
As a devotee of this path, I have often asked the question, “What is a devotee?” From my experience here at Ananda, I feel a devotee is simply an individual who has dedicated his or her life to realizing God. I also ask the question, “How does a devotee act?” Does a devotee have to be perfect and never make mistakes?“
If a devotee had to be perfect, virtually all of us adorning this planet would never qualify. I don’t think God so much minds our mistakes as much as what we become through them. Do we take responsibility for our actions and not blame others? When difficult times come to us, how do we break? Do we break towards being victims, thereby avoiding responsibility and becoming increasingly bitter and resentful? Or do we break towards love, becoming more expansive and learning to give more to others by becoming more compassionate and forgiving of others. Willing to lend a hand to someone who might have stumbled rather than judging them harshly. The choice is ours, whether to lend a hand to someone who might have stumbled, or to sit in cold judgment over them.
What Swami Kriyananda has taught by his own example, is how to break towards love no matter what happens. When he learned that his publishing company was in a financially difficult position, he admitted the responsibility was his. He then wrote a new book with inspiring sayings, paid for it himself, and gave the book away. When we were in the midst of the lawsuit brought against him and Ananda, he began a campaign to raise money for earthquake victims in Italy.
A great devotee of Paramhansa Yogananda’s once stated, “One’s spirituality is tested in the cold light of day.” By his own example, Swami Kriyananda has taught us that a true devotee knows how to love and give in his or her worst moments.
The past years have been very difficult for us at Ananda because of the lawsuit against us. Many of us have gotten mad for a time (including myself) at the individuals who have sought to bring us down. But in the end, all the people I know personally that live here have broken towards love. There is a sense of spiritual maturity and deep faith in the good of God that has increased greatly through this trial. I am deeply thankful for what I have been able to become through the past few years. And I am truly inspired to see the shining beacon of light that Swami Kriyananda has become through all the negativity that has been heaped upon him. Swami Kriyananda is the greatest devotee and yogi I have ever met. I feel immeasurable gratitude for the gifts he has given to us all.
God lives at Ananda. He lives in each one of us and he especially shines through our great friend and guide, Swami Kriyananda.