A Place Called Ananda by Swami Kriyananda is the complete account of the events that led to the creation of Ananda. A fascinating story of high drama and unexpected twists, it tells how Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) ousted Swami Kriyananda and thereafter tried to prevent him from fulfilling the mission given to him by his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda.
SRF: ensnared in karmic patterns
Kriyananda’s book is much more, however, than the story of his treatment by SRF. A Place Called Ananda focuses on the universal principles at stake in what appears on the surface to be a personal drama between him and SRF. The book presents in fascinating detail the longstanding karmic patterns that Yogananda came here to change, and which SRF, ironically enough, seems determined to perpetuate. Amazingly, Kriyananda endured 40 years of scorn and ridicule from SRF before publicly disclosing the extent to which SRF has departed from Yogananda’s fundamental goals for his mission.
Yogananda repeatedly emphasized how the Christian churches have crucified Jesus’ teachings by supplanting them with “Churchianity” or institutionalism. Kriyananda shows how SRF is repeating this same karmic error by making the organization the mediator between the individual and God, even though Self-realization, based as it is on the individual’s direct communion with the Divine, requires no such mediation.
Yogananda’s mission is to help “starving humanity” achieve a balance between material and spiritual prosperity. SRF, however, has put the interests of the organization ahead of reaching out to those living in the world.
Increasingly, it has fallen to Ananda to fill the void. By reaching out to householders, starting communities, creating schools, and transmitting Yogananda’s message through books and music, Ananda has created a dynamic expression of Yogananda’s teachings and a lifestyle that takes people to God.
People are more important than things
A Place Called Ananda has much to tell us about how to live our lives as disciples and avoid the pitfalls of delusion that can so easily ensnare us. We see, for example, how Kriyananda could continue to love and care about the SRF leaders who scorned him: he was simply looking at a much bigger picture. To his way of thinking, it wasn’t simply fellow devotees attacking him unjustly; it was Satan trying to keep the old karmic patterns in place.
It becomes very clear, also, why Ananda’s guiding precept is that “people (and their spiritual growth) are more important than things.” What is the result of SRF having the contrary precept that the institution comes first?
The book answers the question by allowing us to watch events unfold until they reach the point where SRF sacrifices Swami Kriyananda, a fellow devotee and friend, to what is perceived as the “needs” of the institution. From the details of this great drama, the reader learns the importance of living life in deep attunement with the guru, without regard for the approval of others, even those we hold dear.
A Place Called Ananda contains many new and interesting facts that add greater dimension to the story of Kriyananda’s ouster from the organization. One of the most surprising is an after-death message from Tara Mata, one of Kriyananda’s main SRF accusers.
By the end of the book, Kriyananda emerges as a friend on a soul level, one willing to share with the reader the ups and downs, the trials and triumphs, of his soul’s journey to God.