Ananda is one of the world’s most successful intentional communities. Ananda came into existence in the late 1960s, a time when America saw thousands of attempts to create new models of living. Most of those experiments never survived their first year, but Ananda has thrived and grown. The thoughtful person must wonder why?
In this 40th anniversary commemorative issue, we invite you to see how “high thinking and simple living,” as Paramhansa Yogananda phrased it, is not only a possible way to live but, in his words, destined to “spread like wildfire.”
There have been specific events and developments in Ananda’s forty-year history that have set an overall direction for Ananda’s work—events such as the start of a householder monastic order; the 1976 Ananda fire; the start of centers and urban communities; the publication of certain books, to mention only a few.
In this 40th anniversary commemorative issue, we review these events and developments, often following them up to the present day. Whenever future directions are apparent, we also take a look ahead.
One of the themes emerging from this account is the over-arching importance of the type of leadership provided by Swami Kriyananda: strong, supportive, visionary, intuitive. Without his leadership, Ananda would never have survived.
This issue also provides glimpses of the spiritual challenges, inner awakenings, and divine blessings that form the heart and soul of Ananda’s forty-year adventure in spiritual living. Through the perspectives of Swami Kriyananda and others, we offer a composite portrait of the many individuals whose selfless dedication and divine attunement have produced the miracle of Ananda.
Perspectives: Swami Kriyananda
Why Has Ananda Succeeded?
Ananda was not so much founded by me as by Paramhansa Yogananda. It was founded by his inspiration, and with his blessings. He declared on the occasion of his garden party speech exhorting people to start communities, “I am sowing these words in the ether, in the spirit of God.”
For this reason I consider him the patron saint of intentional communities, of “world brotherhood colonies,” as he called them. In creating Ananda, I did my best to carry out his teachings and ideals.
The most important factor in Ananda’s success, certainly, has been the fact that every day since our beginning, I have given this whole project to him and asked him to do with it as he would, albeit it through our own physical struggles.
A principle I established—one with which everyone came in time to agree—was: People are more important than things. In practice, this means that people’s spiritual well-being is more important than anything else. If a job needed to be done, but the best person for it would not benefit from it spiritually, someone else was sought for the job. If no one was found, an entire project was sometimes abandoned.
Closely related to this is the second principle: Where there is dharma [adherence to truth and right action], there is victory. This means that any hardship imposed by life will prove, in time, to be a blessing when embraced with courage, gratitude, non-attachment, and deep faith in God.
A spirit of harmony and cooperation has been fundamental to Ananda’s success. We have found that the inner peace that comes through meditation acts like a lubricating oil on the machinery of human relationships. Through meditation we learn also to see God in one another, and in all people, which dissolves all sense of differences between us.
People who are harmonious and do things together, instead of each one battling alone, can move mountains. An Ananda saying puts it well: “Many hands make a miracle.”
Finally, and most important, as a spiritual community, we always try to tune in to the will of God. The essence of life at Ananda is attunement to God and to the universal consciousness that Yogananda expressed. Ultimately, we want only to project God’s will for this time in history, in response to humanity’s needs to which God Himself is responding.
“Brotherhood is an ideal better understood by example than precept! A small harmonious group may inspire other ideal communities over the earth.
“Far into the night my dear friend–the first Kriya Yogi in America–discussed with me the need for world colonies founded on a spiritual basis. Man is a soul, not an institution; his inner reforms alone can lend permanence to outer ones. By stress on spiritual values, Self-realization, a colony exemplifying world brotherhood is empowered to send inspiring vibrations far beyond its locale.” Autobiography of a Yogi
“I remember how stirred I was by a talk Paramhansa Yogananda gave at a garden party in Beverly Hills on July 31, 1949.
“ ‘This day,’ he thundered, punctuating every word, ‘marks the birth of a new era. My spoken words are registered in the ether, in the spirit of God, and they shall move the West. We must go on—not only those who are here, but thousands of youths must go North, South, East and West to cover the earth with little colonies, demonstrating that simplicity of living plus high thinking lead to the greatest happiness!’”
1967: Land purchased for a meditation retreat
1968: Ananda officially starts
1969: Land purchased for a community
Ananda officially starts
The dedication of the Ananda Meditation Retreat in August 1968 marked the official start of Ananda. The first Retreat buildings had been built, and a few hardy souls were able to stay there during the winter of 1968-69.
The first Retreat season began the summer of 1969, with Swami Kriyananda leading meditations, giving classes, conducting Sunday morning worship services, and leading evening programs. At the end of the 1969 season, Ananda held its first annual Spiritual Renewal Week—seven days of classes, kirtans, satsangs, and concerts, culminating with the first Kriya Yoga Initiation.
On July 4, 1969, Kriyananda purchased land six miles down the road from the Retreat for a community. Soon after, a number of people at the Retreat moved to the new land.
Perspectives: Jyotish Novak
Spiritual or Not?
Early on, the new community faced a crisis of self-definition as new people came more out of a desire to live in a commune in the woods than for spiritual reasons. Would Ananda be a community of Yogananda disciples and based on his teachings? The issue was resolved when Swami Kriyananda called a meeting and asked that people make a choice, adding that he was willing to leave if people did not want a spiritual community.
He didn’t impose his will, but simply made it clear that people needed to make a choice. I’ve always appreciated his non-attachment, his being ready to leave everything behind if that was what people wanted. Fortunately, most of us wanted a spiritual community. Those who didn’t soon decided to leave.
Sustainability—Housing and Jobs
“To earn money abundantly, unselfishly, honestly for God and God’s work, and for making others happy, is to develop many sterling qualities of character that will aid one on the spiritual as well as the material path.” East West Magazine, 1928
Regarding the challenge of having to raise large sums of money to launch Ananda: “My gain was far more than the money I earned. Most of all, it was spiritual. I’d grown in inner strength by doing what I’d had to do despite every obstacle, even that of intense personal reluctance. And I’d done it for God.” A Place Called Ananda
1969: The first dwellings
1969-70: Community businesses started
Finding a way to survive
The most difficult challenge the first year was establishing a community that could actually survive. Since there were no suitable living spaces on the new land, most people put up teepees, simple but adequate dwellings. The bigger challenge, however, was to find ways to earn an income.
To earn money and create jobs, a few enterprising people started businesses to make products that could be sold: incense, essential oils, jewelry, granola. By the end of 1970, there were nearly ten businesses, including the Meditation Retreat and the publishing business started by Swami Kriyananda to sell his books and new yoga correspondence course.
The next few years saw the start of a farm, a community market, a dairy, new cottage industries, and a contract with the U.S. Forest Service for seasonal tree-planting work. New people came who started private businesses, including, in 1974, a construction company.
Looking ahead: Earning income
Today it is possible for individuals and groups of people to sustain themselves far away from the big cities without depending on the usual rural means of self-sustenance, like farming. With telephones, computers, e-mail, and fax machines, even isolated areas can be in active contact with the world. There are individuals living in the Ananda communities who support themselves and their families through computer-based work, often from their homes.
Perspectives: Jyotish Novak
A Strong Spiritual Focus
Amidst the flurry of building homes and starting businesses, we managed to keep a very strong spiritual focus. Swami Kriyananda gave Sunday services and spiritual classes weekly and, in the beginning, his magnetism was the primary force keeping our consciousness focused on God.
Gradually, as we matured spiritually, there developed a large group of people who were unshakably committed to the yogic path. But it took some years to establish a strong spiritual magnetism.
Exploring New Frontiers of Consciousness
The life and growth of Ananda, and its story, have become for me my life and growth, my story. From the beginning there was an exciting feeling that we were pioneers, both in the sense of creating a new way of life, and of exploring new frontiers of consciousness. These two concepts went hand in hand.
Through the practice of meditation, we deepened our awareness of being part of a greater reality than we could experience through our individual egos. This, in turn, developed our understanding of how to create these communities.
This openness to the guidance from higher wisdom was one of the keynotes of how Ananda developed. The experience of trying to find the truth in a situation, rather than just responding to our own opinions or desires, began to change all of us who lived here.
Sustainability: Farming and Food
“Let every man gather from five to ten thousand dollars and, in groups of thirty, build self-sustaining, self-governing colonies, starting with California. Buy farms and settle down with harmonious friends and have time to meditate and constructively exchange divine experiences.” Praecepta Lessons, 1934
“There were several things Master wanted to do that he could not accomplish during his lifetime: a school in America (he tried to start one at Mt. Washington in 1925); “world brotherhood” communities; and another one we might do well to consider now: self-sustaining farms.” January 2005 letter to Ananda
1970: Community farm started
1972: Community market started
A biodynamic farm
In 1970, Swami Kriyananda invited Haanel Cassidy to move to Ananda Village to help develop a self-sufficient organic farm at the new community. Then in his sixties, Haanel was a long-time disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda with considerable experience in biodynamic gardening.
The soil at the community was poor, however, and the climate far from ideal. With hard work and composting, the farm began to produce vegetables, berries, herbs and flowers, and eventually produced nearly six tons of food a year, including, in the summer months, food for the Meditation Retreat and the community market. Ultimately, however, the farm proved uneconomical and the effort was abandoned in the mid-1980s.
Looking ahead: Cooperative farming at Ananda Village
In 2008, Ananda Village entered into a cooperative farming arrangement with a nearby farmer by leasing him two acres of land at Ananda Village for an organic farm. Community members participate in the farming venture on a subscription basis by paying in advance for a percentage of the harvest.
The Ananda Village sustainability effort also includes a new central composting system, the hiring of a gardener to assist community residents to grow food in the housing clusters, the building of green houses, and the planting of more fruit, nut and olive trees.
The tradition of gardening is well established in Ananda’s urban communities. There are flourishing community-wide vegetable gardens and fruit orchards at the Ananda communities in Palo Alto and Sacramento, California, and in Seattle, Washington.
Perspectives: Parvati Hansen
The Start of Master’s Market
By the fall of 1972, the need for a place where people could buy food was becoming very apparent. Swami Kriyananda had been saying to us in almost every satsang: “If you see something that needs to be done here, then do it!”
He was letting us know, right from the beginning, that we were the ones who were going to make this community a reality. He was also teaching us by his own dynamic example of energy and magnetism, how to use the spiritual principles taught by Paramhansa Yogananda.
So starting with a few boxes of fruit, which was all I could afford, the market began in a vacant room in the old farmhouse — the only adequate building on the land at that time. My understanding of how to begin a business was limited, but Divine Mother helped me each step of the way. A few months later, a young man interested in helping the market grow moved to the community and donated five hundred dollars—a huge amount in those years. After that, the market grew rapidly.
Jyotish Novak: “Management by Willingness”
From the start of the community, Swami Kriyananda was the type of leader who let others take responsibility and make their own decisions. By empowering people, he was much more subject to the vagaries of human nature, but it allowed everyone to develop their own strength. As soon as people were willing to take responsibility, he gave them not only responsibility, but also authority—the right to make decisions and to experience the successes or failures of those decisions.
I would call the management style that permeates Ananda, “management by willingness.” As soon as someone begins to show the willingness to take responsibility, he’s given the opportunity.
Devi Novak: A “Dharmocracy”
Over the years Swami Kriyananda had to work out a new style of leadership. In the beginning he made only two rules: no hallucinogenic drugs, and no alcohol. He wanted the community to be guided not by rules, but by the creative exercise of common sense.
He also wanted people to have the freedom to grow in their own understanding and ability, and not to be forced to accept decisions mindlessly, simply because the decision had been made. As much as possible, he allowed decision-making to take place at a “grass roots” level.
Thus, Kriyananda’s leadership style emerged slowly as one based on wisdom, compassion, and enduring patience. In community decisions, he guided people to ask, “What is right?” and, “What does God want?” rather than, “What do I want?” Swamiji has described Ananda’s government as a dharmocracy, “a community dedicated to actions leading to soul-freedom, and not to furthering one’s ego-involvement.”
Education for Life
“The ideal of an all-sided education for youth had always been close to my heart. I saw clearly the arid results of ordinary instruction, aimed only at the development of body and intellect. Moral and spiritual values, without whose appreciation no man can approach happiness, were yet lacking in the formal curriculum.” Autobiography of a Yogi
“Paramhansa Yogananda laid much of the groundwork for Ananda’s Education for Life system in the school he established in Ranchi, India.
“Inspired by his efforts, we committed ourselves to the premise that a growing child needs to learn how to live in this world, and not merely how to find and hold a job. He or she needs to know how to live wisely, happily, and successfully according to his own deep inner needs, and not to meet life with the expectation that money and a nice home will give him all that he really wants in life.
“The goal of Ananda’s Education for Life system is to teach children the art of living, while giving them, in addition, the knowledge imparted by a conventional education.” Education for Life
1972: The first Ananda school
1986: Publication of Education for Life
The Education for Life system emphasizes the balanced development of body, feeling, will, and intellect. By developing this foundation, or “tools of maturity,” students are optimally prepared for the life-long adventure of finding ever-deeper levels of purpose, meaning, and lasting happiness.
The first school
Ananda’s Education for Life system got underway in 1972 when Nitai Deranja, a newly arrived teacher, was asked to start a school for seven community children, ages four to seven. Starting out in a ten by twelve shed and a budget of fifty dollars a month, the school moved into one of the first new buildings at the community six months later. Both the elementary school, and the junior high school that came later, soon attracted day and boarding students from outside the community.
To more clearly distinguish them from the Education for Life system, Ananda’s schools have been renamed “Living Wisdom Schools.” Today there are Living Wisdom Schools in Palo Alto, California; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; and Assisi, Italy.
As a non-sectarian system based on universal spiritual principles, the Education for Life system can be implemented wherever there is receptivity and interest. Hundreds of like-minded teachers in public and private schools have taken the teacher training programs offered yearly at the Ananda Institute for Alternative Living at the Ananda Meditation Retreat.
Beginning Fall 2008, the newly formed Seattle Institute for Living Yoga will offer a week-end teacher training program in both Seattle and Portland led by Usha Dermond, an experienced Ananda Education for Life teacher and founder of the Portland Living Wisdom School.
Education for Life teacher training is envisioned as one of the main thrusts for The Yoga Institute of Living Wisdom, recently started by Ananda India.
Perspectives: Helen Purcell
Changing the Educational Landscape
In 1986, right after Education for Life had been published, Swami Kriyananda called a meeting at Crystal Hermitage with a number of people to discuss how to disseminate the ideas in his book.
I was surprised when Swami began the meeting by asking us to share our thoughts on the subject of education. However, over the years, I came to realize that this was Swami’s way: to plant the seeds and then let us use own creativity and inspiration to nurture them.
The ideas Swami had articulated in the book thrilled us, both as parents and as educators. We saw Education for Life as a breath of fresh air in a system that has become stagnant. We shared from our own experience how it could be adapted for any classroom, by any teacher who was not afraid to re-evaluate the fundamentals of traditional education.
Swami was emphatic that the Education for Life philosophy is much more expansive than any single spiritual path. He wanted us to share it with anyone who would listen. When the meeting broke up, the energy was high even though the task was daunting—a small group of six or eight people sent out to change the whole educational landscape!
Today, as principal of the Living Wisdom School in Palo Alto, I receive emails from teachers all over the country who want guidance to create their own Education for Life schools. Recently I received an email from a teacher with nineteen years of experience in public elementary school. She dreams of opening a school like our Living Wisdom Schools. “Just knowing that your schools exist brings healing to my heart,” she writes.
“A true yogi may remain dutifully in the world; there he is like butter on water, and not like the easily-diluted milk of unchurned and undisciplined humanity. To fulfill one’s earthly responsibilities is indeed the higher path, provided the yogi, maintaining a mental uninvolvement with egotistical desires, plays his part as a willing instrument of God.” Autobiography of a Yogi
“Renunciation of egoic desires forms the basis of the spiritual life, regardless of a person’s outer calling. At Ananda we’ve based our lives on renunciation, but generally it’s householder renunciation. It was Lahiri Mahasaya who first established this pattern of life. Paramhansa Yogananda approved of it, and, indeed, recommended it for most people.” Sadhu Beware
1971: Start of “The Friends of God”
1987: Start of a householder monastic order
The evolution of new model of renunciation
In 1971, Swami Kriyananda started a renunciate order for men and women, “The Friends of God.” It was not possible, however, at that stage in the community’s development to segregate the men and women as in a traditional monastery and, over time, many of the monks and nuns decided to marry. The monastery was dissolved in the early 1980s.
Building on that foundation, in 1987 Swami Kriyananda started a new kind of monastic order that includes householders, based on the ideals of non-attachment, simplicity, service, and self-control. To live a monastic life as a householder, the primary requirement is not celibacy but a dedication to doing God’s will, even though it may be personally difficult.
Looking ahead: A new monastery
As a spiritually mature work, Ananda is now able to accommodate a renunciate order with a degree of separation from the main communities. In 2005, Swami Kriyananda started a traditional monastic order for men and women, focused initially on a monastery for men in India. He gives these reasons for the new direction:
I feel that spiritual communities need a monastery to set the example of selfless service, which is harder keep in mind when you have children to support. When you have people who truly feel that they don’t want anything except God, and that all they own belongs to Him, their example will make it easier for everyone else to tune into that attitude.
It would be good if new Ananda residents could get grounded in the monastic attitude before they thought about marriage. In the Buddhist tradition at least the young men live in a monastery for one year.
Let’s first be devotees seeking God. Then, as we bring that level into marriage, we can begin to set an example for people everywhere of a kind of marriage that our culture doesn’t prepare us for. We need to have a different concept of human love than what Hollywood films give us. It’s got to be on a soul level. Future of Ananda, 1999.
Perspectives: Jaya Helin
A Lifelong Commitment
In 1971, Swami Kriyananda invited a number of people to a meeting at his dome at the Meditation Retreat to discuss the idea of possibly starting a monastic order. At the meeting, Swamiji spoke very personally. He spoke about his life with Master, his life as a monk at SRF, the six months he had spent at a Catholic monastery near Big Sur, and the lessons he had learned.
He discussed his vision for Ananda, and whether a monastery would be possible. When he talked about renunciation, it was not in terms of what one is giving up, but as a life lived wholly dedicated to God.
I was enraptured listening to this. At the end of his talk, he looked at me and said, “Would you like to embrace such a life?”
After I said, “Yes, “ I knelt before him and he blessed me and gave me a piece of a rose petal from an initiation by Paramhansa Yogananda. He then asked the same question of everyone else and blessed each of them in turn.
I walked out of there deeply inspired and from that moment forward, my life totally changed. I became a different person. I began to understand what it meant to be a devotee on the spiritual path. I realized that renunciation is not about what we give up. The heart of renunciation is what we embrace, and what we embrace is God. We give our life to God. That’s the spirit of renunciation that Swamiji asked us to embrace that evening.
I eventually left the monastery to marry as did others. But when I left, I didn’t feel I was leaving. I simply moved to another room of the house, you might say. I was still in my heart, and to this day, a renunciate.
The Ananda Fire
“An even-minded individual is like a mirror of discretion reflecting the true nature of seemingly favorable and unfavorable events. He thus holds himself in readiness to act wisely and properly without being misled by emotional disturbances.” Inner Culture Magazine, 1938
“When you meditate and feel God’s presence, then these things are all just a dream. I don’t mean that the fire was nothing. But in truth conditions are neutral. It’s the way we take them that determines whether they’re positive or negative, whether they’re bad experiences or happy experiences.” From a talk after the fire
1976: Forest fire sweeps through Ananda
A time of testing
A June 1976 forest fire that destroyed 450 acres and twenty-one of the twenty-two homes at Ananda might easily have sounded the death-knell for the community. Ananda had no insurance and no financial reserves from which to rebuild. Many decided to leave the community at that time, and most departing members asked Ananda to pay them for houses they had lost.
It was later discovered that faulty county road equipment had caused the fire. Ananda had sustained the largest loss and could have sued the county, but Swami Kriyananda wrote to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, “We don’t want to take our bad luck out on our fellow citizens by increasing the county’s insurance rates. Anything that harms the county will, in the long run, harm Ananda also.”
Ananda eventually repaid all departing members, and with hard work, joyful faith, and God’s grace, rebuilt the community. The fire had tested the community’s commitment to one of its guiding principles, “Where there is dharma there is victory,” and Ananda’s commitment to that principle had held firm.
Perspectives: Jyotish Novak
“This House Is Yours, God”
The fire started several miles from the community, and we could see smoke for quite a long time before we realized our property was being threatened. At one point, the fire jumped the road and began to move through dense brush towards one of our housing clusters.
My wife, Devi, and I had a geodesic dome about three hundred yards from where the fire was burning, so I hurried back down to our house. I tried to save the house by cutting a trench around it and hosing it down with water.
A teenager, Dwayne Smallen, came down the hill in a truck very excited. He shouted, “You’ve got to get out of here. The flames are really high and will be here in five minutes.” I looked up the hill and saw this enormous wall of fire and it was obvious my little trench wasn’t going to save anything.
At that point I went into a state of complete detachment, saying to myself, “I’m not attached to anything. This house is yours, God. If you want to take it, go ahead. Take everything.”
Dwayne had the presence of mind to yell, “Grab what you can and throw it in the truck.” Devi had recently boxed up everything in our meditation room to clean it, so I grabbed the box, took an armful of clothes from the closet, and that was it. We threw it in the truck and drove downhill through the brush and out of danger.
Only days after the fire, Ananda began to rebuild itself. Because of our strong foundation in meditation, there was no sense of devastation, which was so prevalent among our neighbors. We knew we would have to put out a lot of energy, but the challenge of rebuilding was exciting rather than distressing.
“Ananda Village has grown from Spartan beginnings to become a place of man-made as well as natural beauty. Simple but charming homes, school buildings, offices, and places of business express in architecture the twin principles Yogananda recommended: ‘plain living and God-thinking’” The Path (1996): Afterword
1974-1978: Ananda develops Master Plan
A community-wide upgrade
The initial “plan” of the Ananda community reflected two main concerns: the desire for privacy and the need to get a road and water to one’s home. The result was scattered, uncoordinated clusters of houses.
The purchase of three hundred and twenty-six acres next to Ananda Village in 1974 was the first impetus for the community to think more seriously about planning, but only after the 1976 forest fire did in depth planning actually begin. By then, county building regulations and Ananda’s desire for a more “conscious” community gave birth to a “Master Plan” for Ananda.
The Master Plan, which went through three drafts in four years before being finally approved by the county, provided for cluster housing and large areas of open land. The plan also allowed Ananda to move its public retreat to the newly constructed Expanding Light Guest Retreat in the early 1980s.
Helin Starting Over
Once the new Master Plan was completed, it was as if we were building the community all over again, but this time in a more socially “responsible” way. We couldn’t continue living in teepees, trailers and tiny cabins; everything needed to be brought up to code.
This meant we had to have better houses, better roads, and better water systems. Many people in the community were starting to have families and needed more adequate housing and suitable places to send their children to school.
Devi Novak: Opening to the Light
In time, with hard work and better planning learned from experience, Ananda became more beautiful than ever. Even more importantly, the community had come of age. As one member put it, “We’re not here to build buildings. We’re here to build character, by living for God.”
The challenges we faced in creating Ananda on the physical plane were the exact same challenges we each faced in our quest for spiritual expansion—the ability to focus and commit to the deepest spiritual goal we could perceive.
As each individual at Ananda opened more to God’s light, then that same power was expressed in the community. For the individual, there was a gain of inner freedom; for the community, there was the creation of a physical, social and spiritual manifestation that reflected the inner growth of individuals.
A New Phase of Outreach
“Strive to become an apostle of Christ-Consciousness. Try to be one of the world’s ‘Fishers of Souls’ with your inspirational words and writings, and with your voice saturated with the Holy Ghost vibration of Aum.” East-West Magazine, 1932
“Emphasize principles. Win people on the strength of their needs. We need to talk in terms of solutions to those needs, not just of the needs themselves. In short, we need to stress positive values: inner happiness, peace of mind, love of high ideals, cooperation, and kindness—in fact, all the good things we’ve learned from Master. We are part of a great tide of loving, joyful energy that wants to give and give as long as people are happy to receive it.” From a 1999 talk
1977: Publication of The Path
1977: Circle of Joy started
1978-79: The Joy Tours
1983: World Brotherhood Retreat opens
Expanding the light
Outreach has been central to Ananda’s vision from the beginning, but the publication of Swami Kriyananda’s autobiography, The Path, his first major book with broad appeal, launched a new, more dynamic phase of outreach.
Swami Kriyananda traveled twice across America in 1978 and 1979 with ten to twelve Ananda members on what he called “The Joy Tours,” addressing large crowds in dozens of cities. The tours drew many new members to Ananda, including some of Ananda’s current leaders.
A spiritual family forms
As Ananda began to view itself as a spiritual movement that embraced like-minded people everywhere, it established the “Circle of Joy” as a way for people to belong to Ananda wherever they lived. The name was later changed to the “Ananda Spiritual Family,” and more recently to “Ananda Sangha.”
Since 2002, Ananda has supported Spanish-speaking members of its spiritual family through its Spanish Ministry, which has focused initially on devotees in Central and South America, Spain, and Portugal.
A new guest retreat
Ananda’s need to expand its guest facilities led to the construction of a new guest retreat on a newly acquired parcel of land adjacent to the community. Initially called “Ananda World Brotherhood Retreat,” Swami Kriyananda was later inspired to rename it “The Expanding Light.”
Since officially opening in 1983, The Expanding Light has attracted thousands of guests from around the world.
Looking ahead: Electronic outreach
The Internet has opened an important new avenue of outreach with the potential of making Paramhansa Yogananda’s teachings available to anyone in the world free of charge through website offerings from Ananda Worldwide.
Recent live, interactive videoconferencing with Swami Kriyananda portends another important new direction for Ananda. Swami Kriyananda and others can now address groups from a distance, with questions, answers, and other interactions.
Perspectives: Mary Kretzmann
“A Wave of Peace”
It was 1978 and I had recently read Autobiography of a Yogi. I was desperate to know if Paramhansa Yogananda was my one true Guru. I then heard that one of his direct disciples, Swami Kriyananda, was on a national tour, and speaking in Chicago! My husband, Tim, and I drove the 750 miles from our home in Arkansas to meet him.
At Swamiji’s talk, I was inwardly praying to Master, ”Please give me a sign if you are my Guru.” At the end of the lecture, Swamiji played his piano sonata, The Divine Romance, and I felt a wave of blessings and love fill my heart. I knew without a doubt that Yogananda was my Guru.
One of the Ananda devotees traveling with Swamiji encouraged us to start a meditation group and we agreed. When Swamiji met us and heard of our deep interest, he invited us to come see him again in Houston, several months from then. So this time, my husband and I drove 1000 miles roundtrip to see Swamiji and ended up staying with him in the new Ananda ashram in Houston.
It was powerful staying in the same house as Swamiji. While there, in meditation, I saw Master’s face at the spiritual eye and felt his deep blessing—and I knew that Ananda was my spiritual path. We told Swamiji that we were interested in Ananda and wanted to go check it out but that our jobs made it difficult to get away: Tim had a landscaping business and I was a preschool teacher. Swamiji said, “Why not move to Ananda?”
Riding back to Arkansas in the pickup truck, Tim and I felt a wave a peace surrounding us and we knew, then and there, that we should sell our house and move to Ananda Village sight unseen. We moved two months later.
Start of Centers and Colonies
“Ananda Village is the model community, and it is taking my energy and presence to get it started. But once the model is established, it will be easier to reproduce it, and others will be able to do so.” Reflections on Living
1977: Start of Sacramento Center
1979: Start of Ananda San Francisco
1984: Start of Ananda Europa
1989-1995: Start of urban colonies
- 1989: Palo Alto acquires apartment complex
- 1991: Sacramento acquires apartment complex
- 1992: Seattle acquires apartment complex
- 1995: Portland acquires apartment complex
2003: Start of Ananda India
2007: Start of Ananda Los Angeles
A common pattern
Beginning with the Sacramento Center in 1977, Ananda’s urban colonies all began either as meditation groups or small ashram-based centers. With the support of local devotees, these small beginnings evolved into apartment complex communities in Sacramento, Palo Alto, Portland, and Seattle, each with beautiful park-like settings and separate temples or mandirs for worship services and classes.
In 1980, Ananda purchased East-West Bookshop, a large metaphysical bookstore in Menlo Park, California. Today the Menlo Park bookstore (now in Mountain View), and two East-West bookstores in Seattle, Washington not only serve the larger spiritual community, they also attract new members to Ananda and provide jobs for local devotees.
An international work
The interest of European friends drew four people from Ananda to Como, Italy in 1984 to launch Ananda’s first work in Europe. Now based near Assisi, Italy, Ananda Europa includes residents from throughout Europe. Its Temple of Light is dedicated to all religions.
Since 2003, Swami Kriyananda and a small group of Ananda members from different countries have been building a new Ananda colony in Gurgaon, India near New Delhi. They recently purchased land in south India to start a residential community and teaching center.
Looking ahead: New centers and meditation groups
Ananda’s newest center in Los Angeles, California officially opened July 22, 2007 with a dedication ceremony led by Swami Kriyananda. By November 2007, the center was offering ongoing classes and worship services.
As meditation teachers receive training in programs offered throughout Ananda worldwide, many are starting meditation groups and actively spreading Paramhansa Yogananda’s teachings in their own areas.
A likely new pattern
The start of Ananda Michigan in 1999 heralds what may be the pattern for other new Ananda centers and communities. Unlike Ananda’s main colonies, which were sponsored by Ananda Village, Ananda Michigan owes its start to the inspiration of a single Ananda individual, Lorne Dekun. (See below, “Perspectives”) Ananda Michigan serves devotees in Lansing, Michigan and the Detroit Area.
Perspectives: Asha Praver
“Babaji Is Very Pleased”
“Babaji is very pleased with this community.” When Swami Kriyananda said those words to the few hundred people gathered for the dedication of our community in Palo Alto in 1989, it caught me and everyone else by surprise.
We tend to think of Babaji as being off somewhere in the Himalayas, overseeing the unfolding of major cosmic dramas but too lofty, too exalted, to be concerned with the establishment of Ananda’s first apartment complex community. Continuing, Swamiji said, “Ananda’s purpose is to show people that because we’re now in an ascending age, Dwapara Yuga, they can integrate spirituality into their every day lives.”
The masters have come at this time to help us, and others like us. Babaji said, “The vibrations of many spiritually seeking souls come floodlike to me. I perceive potential saints in America and Europe, waiting to be awakened.”
Throughout Ananda we are planting seeds for the coming Dwapara Yuga. Will we see the fruit of what we are planting? I don’t think we’ll see a huge amount. We’ll see little bits of growth, little bits of change.
But our masters are avatars. They come with power, and the power they plant is never obliterated. Paramhansa Yogananda said that he had planted the thought of thousands of world brotherhood colonies one day covering the earth “in the ether, in the spirit of God.” He predicted that his words would “move the West.”
Though we may not live to see it, we can be certain that the divine effort we put forth to establish this everlasting work in the name of God and Guru will go on and on.
Lorne Dekun: A Message in a Dream
Ananda Michigan officially began on May 1, 1999 when I returned to Lansing, Michigan after spending twenty years in California, twelve of them at Ananda Village, Ananda Palo Alto, and Ananda Sacramento combined. However, one could say Ananda Michigan began ten years prior to 1999. It began with a dream.
In 1989, another Ananda Village resident and I went on a book-selling tour in the Mid-West as representatives of Crystal Clarity Publishers. After we finished in Chicago, we drove to Grand Rapids, Michigan and stayed overnight at the home of a good friend of mine.
That night I had a dream of a short conversation with my first spiritual teacher, Yogacharya Oliver Black, Paramhansa Yogananda’s direct disciple. At the time, Mr. Black was ninety-six years old and living at his summer home in Northern Michigan. At least I thought he was living there. I was to soon learn that he had left his body just a few hours earlier.
In the dream, Yogacharya was sitting across from me at a table. He gave me one of his radiant smiles and said, “I want you to help with the work in Michigan.”
After I returned to Ananda Village, I sought out Seva Wiberg who had guided me to come live at Ananda Village. I told her of the dream and the circumstances under which it had happened. Seva smiled at me in friendship and love and said, “I think you need to start making plans to move back to Michigan.”
It wasn’t until ten years later that I made the move. By then, I had been acting in a ministerial capacity at Ananda Palo Alto by teaching classes at the Palo Alto teaching center and giving Sunday Service at two nearby Ananda centers. I felt I now had something to offer Ananda Michigan.
“Rather than be always striving for personal happiness, try to make others happy. In being of spiritual, mental, and material service to others, you will find your own needs fulfilled. As you forget self in service to others, you will find that, without seeking it, your own cup of happiness will be full.” Praecepta Lessons, 1935
“Service is ennobling. It is a way of offering up our human littleness into the great Reality that is God.” Affirmations for Self-Healing
“It isn’t really important what we do, so long as we see everything we do as an opportunity for service, for working for the welfare of all, for expanding our sympathies and awareness, and for attuning our consciousness to the Infinite Intelligence. Money Magnetism
1981: First Rajarsi Day
A tradition of volunteering
Regular workdays, times when people at Ananda come together as volunteers on community projects, are an integral part of Ananda’s commitment to selfless service. Workdays started with the building of the Meditation Retreat in 1969.
Since1981, Ananda Village has also held an annual “Rajarsi Day,” named after Paramhansa Yogananda’s spiritual successor, Rajarsi Janakananda. Community members spend an entire day working together on community projects such as remodeling buildings, landscaping, creating new walkways, and removing debris.
Most of Ananda’s urban communities now also hold annual Rajarsi Days. In addition, teams of volunteers from throughout Ananda periodically travel to the Palo Alto, Portland, Seattle, Sacramento, Assisi, and Gurgaon colonies to assist with construction projects.
Perspectives: Jaya Helin
Workdays received an important boost the winter of 1971-72 when a group of about fifteen of us from Ananda Village embarked on three weeks of tree-planting in northern California, under contract with the U. S. Forest Service.
We approached everything cooperatively, sharing all risks, responsibilities, losses and rewards equally. Although physically stretched to our core, in the midst of everything, we meditated, chanted, sang, joked, and shared our adventure together as a community.
Out of this experience came teamwork and habits of mutual trust, friendship and cooperation—all things that were used to build Ananda in subsequent years.
Savitri Simpson: “Service is Joy!”
Most people think of a job as a nine-to-five experience; after work you go home and have your own life. Not so at Ananda! When something important needs to be done in the community, we’ve learned to put aside our own desires and concentrate on the project at hand.
I recall the time in the 1970s when I was still fairly new at Ananda. I worked as office manager of the Meditation Retreat and got called upon to wash dishes in the Retreat kitchen on a Sunday afternoon at the end of major guest weekend.
There was no dishwasher and everyone else had gone. I was there by myself washing mountains of dishes and, briefly, the thought came to me: “What am I doing washing dishes? I have a college degree!” In that same moment, however, I realized that this was exactly what was needed at the time.
“Service is joy” is one of the themes of Ananda workdays and Rajarsi Day, especially, epitomizes this spirit of service. The magnetism and joy become very strong when people work selflessly together toward common goals.
A few years ago, my husband and I had guests during the Rajarsi Day weekend. This couple was fairly new to Ananda and had never participated in an intense workday of this sort. We had explained to them that we would be busy all day Saturday and that they could join us or not, as they chose.
Not only did they choose to work along with us, they worked hard. At the end of the day, they were both pretty exhausted but all smiles. And to this day, these friends often comment on how this was one of the most important days in their lives—a day during which they got to see and feel firsthand the spirit of selfless service which is the essence of Ananda.
A Music Ministry
“Because man himself is an expression of the Creative Word, sound has the most potent and immediate effect on him, offering a way to remembrance of his divine origin.” Autobiography of a Yogi
“Music is the most important of the arts because it affects feelings, consciousness. It’s not just entertainment; it’s not just a nice melody. Listening to certain music and absorbing it, changes your consciousness. That’s why we should listen to music that is born of Spirit.” Music and The Art of Living
1981: The Joy Singers
1983: Christ Lives: An Oratorio
A turning point
Two events in the early 1980s launched Ananda’s music ministry as we know it today: the formation of The Joy Singers in 1981, and Swami Kriyananda’s composing of Christ Lives: An Oratorio in 1985.
In the early 1980s, the newly formed Joy Singers toured California and western states, presenting Swami Kriyananda’s “Songs of Divine Joy”—songs that express in words and music the consciousness of humility, devotion, and joy.
A deeply inspiring pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1985 led Swami Kriyananda to compose an Oratorio of the life of Jesus Christ, Christ Lives. Discussing the Oratorio, he said, “I couldn’t have expressed myself more sincerely, musically, than I did in that Oratorio.”
In the mid to late 1980s, Ananda singers and musicians presented the Oratorio to Christian churches in northern California and the San Francisco Bay area. Since then, it has become an integral part of musical programs throughout Ananda.
In 2001, a fifty-five-member choir from various Ananda communities toured Italy with the Oratorio, giving concerts in six cities. A French man said after hearing a performance: “I couldn’t understand a word of what was sung. Yet I understood everything! The inspiration of this Oratorio was extraordinary!”
Instrumental music: a new dimension
In the early 1990s, Swami Kriyananda began a fifteen-year period of composing primarily instrumental music, which brought an important new dimension to the music ministry. With the writing of instrumentals, the music alone, without words, could transmit the underlying consciousness.
Today there are choirs and instrumentalist at all Ananda colonies, and the beginnings of an orchestra at Ananda Village.
Perspectives: Bhagavati Nani:
“Something Profound Was Happening”
When I first came to Ananda Palo Alto in 1998, I had been working as a professional freelance flutist and private teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area for over fifteen years. I’d never met Swamiji and, although I was well on my way to accepting Paramhansa Yogananda as my Guru, I had a harder time understanding how Swami Kriyananda fit into the picture.
I had picked up a free tape one Sunday after service, entitled “The Spirit of Ananda in Music,” which consisted of a variety of Swamiji’s music—including several selections of him singing solo. So one night I decided to play it while I worked on an art project. On the one hand, I was enjoying the vibration of the music, but on the other hand, my trained musician’s ears were critically assessing every note and intonation.
When “Love Is a Magician” began and Swamiji started to sing the words, I felt something pierce my heart, bypassing my mind and intellect altogether, and I began to cry. Actually, sob is a more accurate word, and that’s what I did for the entire song. Thankfully, I had some experience of how God works, so I immediately “got it” that something very important and profound was happening to me.
From that moment I simply accepted that Swami Kriyananda was someone I could trust—as my spiritual teacher and friend, and as a musician—and I opened my heart to him.
“I remembered how often Paramhansa Yogananda quoted the suggestion made to him by an architect: ‘Immortalize your teachings in architecture.’ The Master agreed with him. A spiritual teaching ought to be clothed in a form that expresses the consciousness it seeks to inspire.” A Place Called Ananda
“I built Crystal Hermitage not as the perfect ‘headquarters’ for myself, but to make it possible for me to share better with others. Crystal Hermitage is a personal statement, but vital to that statement is the wish to offer the energy of this house in non-attachment into a larger flow of energy: into the streams of others’ lives; into the river of humanity everywhere.” Space, Light, & Harmony
1984: Crystal Hermitage created
A beautiful spiritual center
In 1984, Swami Kriyananda expanded the buildings and grounds around his dome to create a beautiful spiritual center for Ananda residents and visitors, and for his own enjoyment, which he named, “Crystal Hermitage.”
Crystal Hermitage includes a large main building used for meetings, banquets, and social gatherings; Swami Kriyananda’s apartment on the lower level, beautifully landscaped upper and lower gardens; a chapel; a museum containing relics of Yogananda, Sri Yukteswar and other masters of this path; a boutique; and a nearby guest house.
The chapel and upper gardens are open to the public for weddings and receptions. The expansive lower garden adjoining Kriyananda’s apartment is used for outdoor concerts and other programs.
Six thousand tulips!
Nearly four hundred people from the local area visited the Crystal Hermitage gardens in April 2008 after a front-page article in the local press announced a Crystal Hermitage Open House featuring six thousand tulips in bloom. Both upper and lower gardens and were open to the public.
One first-time visitor to the community commented, “When I first saw the gardens at Crystal Hermitage, I felt God’s presence in my heart and I understood what Ananda was all about.”
Perspectives: Patrick Lynch
“An Old Dear Friend”
I was participating in a Kriya Prep Week at Ananda Village when I first visited the Crystal Hermitage. Walking into the museum felt like going to visit my Guru.
I was filled with such joy to see relics from each of the masters in Paramhansa Yogananda’s lineage: Yogananda’s meditation mat, instruments he played, his mother’s wedding bangles, Lahiri Mahasaya’s water pot, Sri Yukteswar cane, and much more.
Afterwards, we walked through the gardens to Swami Kriyananda’s home. I went out onto the back deck and gazed across the beautiful canyon. I then went inside for the group meditation. Though I had been having difficulty meditating during this first visit to Ananda Village, the minute I shut my eyes I was powerfully pulled into a deep meditation.
Over the next few years, whenever I visited Ananda Village, I would spend time at the Crystal Hermitage and meditate in the museum or chapel. I had never met Swami Kriyananda or even seen him, and thought I might never have the opportunity. Nonetheless, I discovered I could have a relationship with him as a friend.
Knowing of his receptivity, I would inwardly share with him my thoughts, concerns, and questions, as well as always give him my gratitude. And I always got a response. I would mainly do this in meditation. At other times I would just think about him.
By developing an inward friendship with Swamiji, I learned that I could do this with anyone who is receptive.
In 2007, I learned that Swamiji was going to be at Ananda Village for his birthday celebration, and I wasn’t going to miss it! I met him in person at his home at the Crystal Hermitage and expressed my gratitude. When I first looked into his eyes it was like seeing an old dear friend.
“Religious ceremonies are symbols of wisdom.” East West Magazine, 1929
“Nothing, perhaps, could so clearly convey our sense of inspiration in the life we lead as the Festival of Light.” Cities of Light
1987: Festival of Light and other ceremonies introduced
In 1987 Swami Kriyananda introduced a number of new ceremonies designed to make Yogananda’s teachings a more dynamic part of spiritual life at Ananda. He also created new levels of ministers, including Lightbearers.
In one of the most important ceremonies, the Festival of Light, God’s light is invoked to flow down to earth, and into the hearts of worshipers both present and afar, through the channels of Ananda’s line of masters and the great saints of all religions.
There are also ceremonies for inner purification, for higher attunement, and for when people leave this world.
Perspectives: Swami Kriyananda
Why a Festival of Light?
For years I felt the need to condense our central message into ceremonial form that would make it possible to repeat it at every service without the repetition becoming tiresome. But whenever the thought arose in my mind, the answering thought came, “The moment isn’t right.”
Then when I felt the inspiration for the first of them, the Festival of Light, it came in a flash. I was in Assisi in seclusion, and the inspiration just flowed. The other ceremonies came almost as smoothly.
The ceremonies we have serve to remind us of the need for inner awakening, for an inner upliftment of consciousness. When, for example, we offer “the little light that is in us” in the arati during the Festival of Light, and again when we receive that light into ourselves, we are reminded repeatedly of the changes we need to effect in our own consciousness.
If you don’t know what to do when you go inward, these things can be helpful. If on the other hand, you are deeply dedicated to the inward path, these outward reminders can still help to make that path more dynamic to your awareness, particularly in your worship with others.
These ceremonies are not a combination of Eastern and Western religious practices. The similarities, such as they are, are more a matter of “feeling.” Otherwise, they express, simply and clearly, the way God’s light has been expressed in this age, through our line of Masters.
We have a message in each of our ceremonies that is universal, inasmuch as it is focused not on single events in human history, but on the cosmic “event” of creation itself. This is the eternal aspect of the ceremonies.
There is also another benefit in having these ceremonies. Not every minister is a born speaker. The Festival of Light enables every minister to give the congregation something living and uplifting. It even helps the minister to attune himself more deeply to the truths he has to offer.
Master believed in ceremonies, though he, too, stressed the need for simplicity. These new ceremonies came through meditation on him, and I think that it is in keeping with his teachings that we perform them. Interview, Clarity Magazine, 1988
“‘Kriya Yoga, the scientific technique of God-realization,’ Babaji finally said with solemnity, ‘will ultimately spread in all lands, and aid in harmonizing the nations through man’s personal, transcendental perception of the Infinite Father.’ After a vibrant pause, Babaji addressed me again, ‘You are the one I have chosen to spread the message of Kriya Yoga in the West.’” Autobiography of a Yogi
“Kriya Yoga is the most central of all techniques because it helps to magnetize the inner spiritual spine, and thus bring everything into alignment with a higher reality.” The Light of Superconsciousness.
1990: Start of Kriya Ministry
Kriya Yoga at Ananda
Although Kriya Yoga initiations have been given annually at Ananda since 1969, the establishment of a formal Kriya Ministry in 1990 marked the beginning of an especially dynamic phase in Ananda’s dissemination of the ancient science. Since then, Ananda Village has offered monthly initiations and ongoing support to Kriya initiates worldwide via phone, email, newsletters, recordings, booklets and a special website.
Today, there are thirteen Ananda Kriya ministers serving devotees in the United States, Europe, India, and Central and South America, where they offer programs and ministries tailored to the specific needs of the devotees in those locales. As Paramhansa Yogananda said, “The time for knowing God has come!”
Perspectives: Peter Kretzmann
“What Is It They Are Doing?”
Having grown up around hundreds of Kriyabans* at Ananda Village, I always thought that becoming an adult meant that you were an honest, respectable, trustworthy and generally joyful person. After attending the local public high school and meeting my friends’ parents, I realized that this was not necessarily the case!
While some of the adults that I met were good happy people, many were unhappy, jaded, disillusioned, and angry at the world. After seeing this again and again, I had to step back and ask myself, “What is the difference between Ananda adults and the parents of my friends at school?”
Swami Kriyananda has mentioned that when you find such a high quality collection of people in one place, you have to assume that it is not so much the people that are amazing, but more what the people are doing. Naturally, the next question I had to ask myself was, “What is it that these Ananda adults are doing that sets them apart?”
As I had learned growing up, Ananda practices the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, at the core of which is Kriya Yoga. In my heart I knew that Kriya Yoga was what I wanted.
While the world so often offers bitterness and frustration, here right in front of my nose, I had the tools to fill my heart with love, peace, happiness and joy! What a divine blessing simply to be given that choice. With these tools, I knew I could grow to become the person I want to be.
As my Kriya practice deepens, I know in my heart I am on my way to becoming who I want to become and achieving the ultimate goal of Self-realization.
* One who practices Kriya Yoga.
Unity of Religions
“When the blindness of ignorance and denominational prejudice is healed by the Self-realization of God, then the whole elephant of Truth will be perceived as the essence of all religions. Then inter-denominational wars and religious and racial prejudice will cease, and there will be one church, one brotherhood, one scientific highway of religions, and one Temple of Truth everywhere.” Praecepta Lessons, 1938
“Paramhansa Yogananda told us clearly and repeatedly the kind of religion that will predominate in the new age. He said it would be free from dogmatism, free from rigid institutionalism, and strong in its emphasis on Self-realization.” Religion and the New Age
1987: Publication of Rays of the Same Light
1998: Publication of The Hindu Way of Awakening
2001: Publication of Promise of Immortality
2006: Publication of The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita
2007: Publication of Revelations of Christ
An inner approach
One of the main goals of Paramhansa Yogananda’s mission to the West was to show the unity of religions through his commentaries on the original teachings of Jesus Christ and Krishna in The Bible and Bhagavad Gita.
Yogananda’s basic message was that the unity of religions is achieved not through outward religious similarities but through the inner experience of divine communion. For as Swami Kriyananda writes: “In silent communion with God there no longer remains Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or Hinduism, as such.”
It is this inner aspect of the unity of religions that Kriyananda clarifies in some of his most important books, including Rays of the Same Light, The Promise of Immortality, The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, and Revelations of Christ, showing it to be the essence of all true religions.
In The Hindu Way of Awakening, Kriyananda explores the subject of unity through the deeper teachings of Hinduism, which he describes as the only religion in the world whose adherents “present Self-realization as the goal of life.”
Perspectives: Swami Kriyananda
“You’re Doing the Right Thing!”
Master stated that he had been sent to teach the original teachings of Jesus Christ. It is clear also that Master was sent from Hindu India, rather than born into the Church as a reforming Christian saint, because such reform from within would have been impossible, given the realities of the present Church with its rigid institutionalism.
Padre Pio, a modern Christian saint, gave confession many years ago to an SRF member in Italy, a friend of mine. This friend related the story to me.
“During my confession, I told Padre Pio that I practiced Kriya Yoga.
“‘Oh, hush!’ Padre Pio replied. ‘You shouldn’t talk about such things. But,’ he added with a conspiratorial smile, ‘you’re doing the right thing!’”
Saints themselves, you see, are powerless to change the teachings of their own church, heavily institutionalized as it is.
For contrast, look at religion in India. There, religion is not really organized at all. Yet the original teachings of the Vedas—thousands of years older than the New Testament, and indeterminately older than the Old Testament—are still offered in a relatively pristine form.
It is true that Master came also, as he told us, to bring back the original yoga teachings of Krishna. The basic truths expounded in the Vedanta, however, are widely known in India, and are as purely and sublimely expressed today as they ever were.
The difference is that, in India, the purity of the teachings has been preserved from age to age not by some smoothly run institution, but by living saints.
“Yogananda for the World”: A Twelve-Year Battle for Freedom
“We must have fellowship for the good of all, one “Church of God” to shed its light to all mankind, and not sects and “isms” which cause separativeness. The time will come when only souls of realization will give instruction and draw souls and crowds.” Praecepta Lessons 1938
“God was using Yogananda as the avatar of a new age, to change an entire civilization. Don’t let anyone tell you that one organization, one person, one statement can ever, even remotely, define what he brought to the world. The present legal tiffs are not between two organizations, but between two different ‘takes’ on his cosmic mission.” In Divine Friendship
1990: Ananda changes its name
1990: Publication of Essence of Self-Realization
1990: Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) sues Ananda
A challenge to universality
In 1990, SRF initiated a major lawsuit in federal court to prevent Ananda from using “Self-realization” in its name. SRF also demanded that Ananda not use Paramhansa Yogananda’s “name or likeness” in any advertising or publicity, and that it not use quotes from any of Yogananda’s writings without its permission.
Ananda had changed its name to “Ananda Church of Self-Realization” to convey more clearly the nature of its “religion” and the universality of its work and mission. “Self-realization” was the name used by Paramhansa Yogananda to describe his “religion.”
The universality of Yogananda’s teachings was the focus of The Essence of Self-Realization, a compilation of Yogananda’s statements, recorded by Swami Kriyananda, published shortly before the lawsuit.
After twelve years of litigation, Ananda won on nearly every count—essentially ninety-five percent of the lawsuit.
The court invalidated SRF’s trademarks in the names “Self-realization” and “Paramhansa Yogananda.” Numerous photos of Yogananda, many of his articles and lessons, and all books published by him before 1952, including Autobiography of a Yogi, were declared to be in the public domain.
The court also found that since SRF did not own Yogananda’s publicity rights, it could not control Ananda’s use of his name, likeness, voice, or signature.
Perspectives: Swami Kriyananda
“The Power To Rise”
God has given us countless marks of His love for us. He has given us tests also, and for these we should be just as grateful. For only when we are challenged to our foundations can we know inner peace and love for Him as truly our own. By remaining unshaken during trials, it is ourselves we convince that God is truly our only Beloved, and the wellspring of our existence.
Whatever happens to us in this life, it is God’s dream. If we live steadfastly for Him alone, whatever trials we are put through will generate in us the power to rise ever higher in divine consciousness, until we achieve our hearts’ only lasting desire: oneness with Him.
“Through yoga postures we can remove or relieve the congestion in the nerves or vertebrae and permit the free flow of life energy.” Scientific Healing Affirmations, 1924
“Hatha Yoga [yoga postures and breathing techniques] is the physical branch of Raja Yoga and its real purpose is spiritual—to still the body so you can meditate deeply. I consider Ananda Yoga to be Paramhansa Yogananda’s system, and that he taught it through me.” Interview with Gyandev McCord
1967: Publication of Yoga Postures for Self Awareness
1995: Publication of Ananda Yoga for Higher Awareness
A new system
Ananda Yoga dates back to the 1960s when Swami Kriyananda gave yoga postures classes in various northern California cities. In keeping with Hatha Yoga’s original spiritual purpose, he introduced a new dimension through affirmations that enable one to attune to the consciousness underlying each posture.
Kriyananda presented this new system in Yoga Postures for Self Awareness, published in 1967. More recent editions of the book have been renamed, Ananda Yoga for Higher Awareness.
Ananda Yoga is now taught in most Ananda colonies and centers. In extended programs such at the Yoga Teacher Training program offered at The Expanding Light Guest Retreat at Ananda Village, students are introduced also to meditation and Yogananda’s Energization Exercises.
The spread of Ananda Yoga:
Since 1978, thousands of teachers have been trained in the Ananda Yoga system. They remain connected with Ananda through the Ananda Yoga Teachers Association (AYTA) and its newsletter, “Awake and Ready!”
Similar yoga teacher training programs are now offered at the Ananda colonies in Palo Alto, Seattle, Portland, and Assisi.
Perspectives: Gyandev McCord:
“I Am So Much More Than I Ever Thought”
In January 2008, The Expanding Light began a study of the therapeutic effects of Ananda Yoga, the Energization Exercises, and meditation on 28 people with multiple sclerosis. The experience was tremendously inspiring, starting when participants braved a severe winter storm to come to the initial five-day program. I thought, “These people are doers”—which is, of course, exactly who we wanted.
We taught them a specialized program of the Energization Exercises, yoga postures, meditation, affirmation and visualization. Ananda Yoga, for example, has an entry point for everyone, and we adapted the practice to what each individual could do. We also gave them DVDs to guide their home practice during the four-month study.
These warriors for wellness gave it their all, and we saw gains after just five days. At the tear-filled farewell, one participant said, “I think you guys are onto something here.”
Fast-forward to the joyous reunion and final assessments in May. We knew just from seeing participants move and hearing their stories that they had made great strides. (Analyzing the data will take longer.) Every component of the program made its own contribution. Energization was a valued tool, and meditation proved more popular than we had dared hope.
I had expected the gains to be more physical and psychological than spiritual because we had emphasized the first two more than the latter. Yet many others echoed one woman who said, “I don’t know what lies ahead for me, but I do know this: No difficulty could outweigh what I’ve gained spiritually from this. I am so much more than I ever thought, and nothing can take that away from me.”
Participants departed amid great optimism, love, gratitude, and plans for an October reunion. We too were deeply touched and grateful—to God and Guru as well as to those great souls.
Joyful Arts Festival
“In India, music as well as painting and drama is considered a divine art.” Autobiography of a Yogi
“If art is to fulfill a divine mission—and everything on earth is a divine mission if understood properly—it should help you to uplift your consciousness through color, form, melody, harmony, or rhythm.” Joyful Arts Festival 2007
2005: First Joyful Arts Festival at Ananda Village
Why an arts festival?
Swami Kriyananda introduced The Festival of the Joyful Arts at Ananda Village to increase awareness of the importance of art in producing positive, uplifting changes in individuals and also in society as a whole.
The first Joyful Arts Festival, and those that followed, offered exhibitions of paintings, sculptures and photographs by Ananda artists and others; musical concerts; a performance of The Peace Treaty; and classes and workshops exploring all aspects of artistic expression.
Perspectives: Devi Novak
“I’ll Try To Do Better”
What Ananda brings to the arts is the ability to live from your own center and the divine power and inspiration that come when you do that. The Festival of the Joyful Arts is almost an allegory—a symbol of people channeling a higher power.
While in India in 2004, my husband, Jyotish, and I had the blessing of experiencing how powerfully that can happen. We went to a recording session with Swami Kriyananda where he recorded an album of songs, I Lived My Life as a Stranger. He was accompanied by guitar, tamboura, and piano.
The pianist, a devotee and a very accomplished pianist, had been asked to accompany Swami on the song, “In the Spirit,” but he had never played it before and had only been given the music that morning. When it came time to record that song, Swami had been in the studio three or four hours and he was tired. There were no windows and it about 110 degrees inside.
The pianist started playing, but he couldn’t get the mood of the music, or the melody— he couldn’t get any of it right. Finally, Swami stopped singing and asked, “What are you doing?”
The pianist said, “I’ll try to do better tomorrow, Swami.”
He spent all night practicing, returned to the studio the next morning, and again played the song while Swami sang. At one point Swami paused. He said, “No one has ever captured that piece like that. You played it the way I heard it, and no one’s ever done that before.”
The pianist later told us, “I played it and I played it and I played it—until I felt it within myself and it was a part of me.” He had gone into his center and attuned to the inspiration Swami felt when he wrote the piece.
New Models of Living
“If God is not conceived in such a way that we cannot do without Him in the satisfaction of a want, in our dealings with people, when earning money, in reading a book, in passing an examination, in the doing of the most trifling or the highest duties, then it is plain that we have not felt any connection between God and life.” Praecepta Lessons 1934
“I saw Paramhansa Yogananda’s teachings as the hub of a great wheel from which central truths radiate out in all directions like spokes on a bicycle wheel. The hub that formed the center of his teachings had the potential to energize humanity’s entire existence.” The Story Behind the Story
The spokes of a wheel
Some of Swami Kriyananda’s creative applications of Yogananda’s teachings are discussed above. Others include the following training system, books, and lessons:
1979: Superconscious Living (SCL): A system of training that explains the importance of living from the highest level of consciousness, the superconscious, and offers practical techniques and exercises that help people develop that level of awareness.
1987: The Art of Supportive Leadership—A Practical Guide for People in Positions of Responsibility: A view of leadership based on service to others and concern for their highest good, not on personal power or position.
1994: Money Magnetism: A discussion of the universal principles and techniques that enable one to attract true abundance, both material and spiritual.
1995: Expansive Marriage—A Way to Self-Realization: An approach to marriage based on the understanding that the purpose of human love is to expand one’s consciousness to embrace a universal love.
1999: Art As a Hidden Message: A discussion of art as a vehicle for bringing a deeper purpose and vision to life.
2004: Material Success through Yoga Principles: A 26-lesson course explaining why living by spiritual principles brings both inner and outer success, and offering techniques and practices to guide one’s efforts.
Perspectives: A New Approach to Friendship
“In pure friendship you will find God. If you would be a true friend, you must recognize the soul. When you consider yourself as a soul, then you can be a perfect friend.” Inner Culture Magazine, 1940
“Remember, God is the soul’s one, true Beloved. Only when He is loved first can there be true harmony in human life. Seek the Lord first. Be impersonal, even somewhat distant from others. That is the road to freedom. Remember, all that you are seeking can only be found in your own Self.” The Art and Science of Raja Yoga
Nirmala Schuppe: “A Gift from God”
People often think that in the early days Ananda was a cozy little family, because we were so many fewer people. It is a mistake to view Ananda in this personal way. It misses the point. Ananda is not about getting cozy, creating a utopian suburb: having barbecues, singing songs around the campfire, and creating the “good old boy” network!
Ananda is about spiritual support. This is the support Swamiji has given every person, relating to every individual soul to soul. Following his example, and seeing what joy it can bring to life, Ananda people try to relate to the God in each other, not to the personality. This has created many very deep friendships.
These true friendships have a foundation in Spirit; they aren’t a product of “ego vs. ego.” This is why Ananda friends can be apart for years, but when they come together again, it is as though no time at all has passed: the joy and love are ever fresh.
Because Ananda people consciously bring God into their relationships with others, God uses these friendships to help us in countless ways. They are truly a gift from God. That spirit of divine friendship is the same now as it was forty years ago, and available to everyone.
Savitri Simpson: “I See the Divine within You”
I see Swami Kriyananda very seldom these days, but when I do he always greets me and looks into my eyes with a look that says to me, “I see you, Savitri, but not the ‘little you’ with all your struggles and faults. I see the Divine within you.” In that look there is a blessing that far surpasses any human love or friendship I have ever known.
Nakin Lenti: “Invited to a Banquet”
Kriyananda’s influence on my life had been both personal and impersonal at the same time. Personal in the sense that I have a relationship with another human being, yet, it is a sacred trust that doesn’t lend itself to an easy-going familiarity, but demands the highest in me. This impersonal quality is what has made his spiritual leadership at Ananda unique, and very different from other teachers I have known, because grounded in the higher qualities of the soul.
Swami tries to help us in what we are already trying to do, which is to find God. I have found that to the extent that I am inwardly receptive to his help, to that extent is he able to work with me. It’s a reciprocal thing, like being invited to a fine banquet. If you’re not hungry, no one is going to force you to eat.
Dhyana Lynn: “Tune into Master”
Swami Kriyananda describes his role as that of our divine friend—someone who helps and guides us along the path and offers us loving friendship in God. I came to understand in time what it meant to have Swami as our divine friend.
In 1984, when four of us from Ananda USA were helping to get Ananda’s work started in Italy, I was still fairly new to Ananda and had no experience in starting a center. In the beginning, Swami was in Italy with us and gave many talks that attracted large crowds.
When Swami was about to return to Ananda Village, I asked him if he had any advice on developing our work. I was looking for concrete answers and a step-by-step plan. Instead Swami said, “Tune into Master and Divine Mother, and you will know what to do.”At first I didn’t understand what this meant, but as I tried to follow his advice and “tune in,” I began to feel the flow of ideas, inspiration, and inner guidance. I could also feel Swami’s prayers and silent support. Even though he called us frequently and offered advice, it was clear that he wanted us to gain our own strength, and to make decisions from inner attunement to Master.
More than anything else I feel the greatest gift of Swamiji’s friendship has been his attunement to Master and his guidance on how we can develop our own inner attunement to find Master’s guidance within ourselves.
Anandi Cornell: “Meditate on This”
One of the things I appreciated about Ananda from my first days at Ananda Village was the respect with which people treat each other. Everyone is given the space to develop naturally from the inside out — to make their own decisions and to let their own integrity guide them. People rarely give you unsolicited advice.
Swami Kriyananda has been a great model in this. He’s not afraid of people making mistakes because he knows it’s the way people learn, and he trusts that our good intentions, sincerity, and intelligence will bring us to the truth eventually.
In the early years, when I asked Swamiji for guidance about new directions in my life, he gave the questions back to me with the guidance, “Meditate on this. Ask God what He wants you to do.” He wanted me (and all of us) to develop our own intuition, to learn to get our answers from within.
“Dr. Lewis and I halted above the lotus pool near the hermitage. Below us lay the illimitable Pacific.
“We shall arrange here for many conferences and Congresses of Religion, inviting delegates from all lands…. As soon as possible,” I went on, “I plan to open a Yoga Institute here.” Autobiography of a Yogi
“Yoga means union. As a yoga institute we will offer teachings that unite the various branches of learning in a higher vision of spiritual purpose. Basic to this approach will be the universal insights and world mission of India’s great modern yoga master, Paramhansa Yogananda.” Prospectus, Yoga Institute of Living Wisdom
2003: Ananda Institute of Alternative Living (Meditation Retreat)
2006: Yoga Institute of Living Wisdom (India)
2007: Ananda Institute of Living Yoga (Seattle)
A new approach to higher education
Inspired by Yogananda’s vision of a yoga institute, the three Ananda yoga institutes now in existence offer an approach to higher education grounded in Yogananda’s teachings.
The Ananda Institute of Alternative Living that began in 2003 at the Ananda Meditation Retreat, offers a full curriculum of standard academic subjects together with a wide variety of spiritually based courses, including Education for Life, holistic health and healing, dharmic business, and others.
The Yoga Institute of Living Wisdom in India, which got underway in 2006, will eventually address “every essential aspect of modern knowledge.” Already there are programs in inspirational art, leadership, dharmic business, and yoga philosophy, among others.
The Ananda Institute of Living Yoga in Seattle now offers teacher training and certification in Ananda Yoga, meditation, and Education for Life, as well as programs in Raja Yoga and other yogic disciplines.
Perspectives: Gaurja Prasher “The Best of Both Cultures”
I came to America to study at the Ananda Institute of Alternative Living because I believed that whatever I was to do in my life would start here.
I had always been fascinated with America. Growing up in India, I would often be around the American and British people who did business with my parents. Those interactions were very positive and I saw how each side gained from them.
Then, when my mother became involved with the Ananda work in Gurgaon, India, I was introduced to the spiritual side of America. How surprising it was to meet an American swami!
More and more, I’m discovering that all people seeking God are similar. Many of the institute students are from different countries, and it’s been interesting to learn how each of them was drawn to a spiritually oriented education, and especially to Ananda. Six of us are Kriyabans and the rest are very open to Yogananda. Many of the classes are based on his teachings.
As I try to make the most of my time here at the Institute, I am realizing more and more that Master is not just giving me good experiences, but he is also teaching me how to share these experiences and blessings with all. Right now, I am learning the best of both cultures, East and West, and my goal in future is to share that with others in every way I can.
I would like to be actively involved in spreading Master’s vision of world brotherhood colonies, perhaps by helping different groups start communities or perhaps by becoming involved in Education for Life.
But whether I work with children or adults, ultimately I see my life being dedicated to helping others find happiness within themselves through Master’s teachings.
The Future of Ananda
“Wars are bound to go on in the world until the United States of Europe and the United States of Asia are evolved, to prepare the way for the United States of the World, with God guiding all nations through their realization of human brotherhood.” Inner Culture, 1942
“At Ananda, brotherhood is a living reality, one which readily expands into a kinship with all life. Cooperation, rightly understood, ought not by any means to be limited to the community. It should reach out to embrace the larger ‘community’ of mankind. Hence, of course, Yogananda’s term, ‘world brotherhood colony.’” Intentional Communities
Perspectives: Swami Kriyananda
The World Is Our Community
People ask me what I see for the future of Ananda. The divine blueprint for Paramhansa Yogananda’s mission is not something that’s fixed. It’s an energy, a direction. For the future I see more of the same spirit as there is now; how it expresses itself is secondary. If we have the right spirit, then everything will go right.
At Ananda we are not trying to create a beautiful New Age village. We’re here to serve God and to create an environment supportive to our devotion, one that will enable us to grow toward the universal goal of all life: Self-realization in God.
The ideal of communities is something that devotees everywhere should seek. Apart from that, people everywhere would do well to seek another kind of community. Human beings live together in planetary community. The good of each must be sought for the good of all.
Much thought has been devoted in modern times to finding solutions that depend entirely on human effort, without God—and without even such high ideals as love, happiness, and voluntary (as opposed to enforced) cooperation. Is there any hope that a community without such a foundation can succeed?
No, frankly, I see no such hope. If people live selfishly, what hope have they of clambering out of their habit-worn mental ruts? Attempts have been made, and the results always have been disappointing.
No mere economic system can possibly create a successful community. No mere decision to live and work together, without a high purpose in life, can possibly bond people in unity during stressful times. No merely social experiment will ever work.
It’s people who make communities, and more than that, it’s people in tune with a state of divine consciousness. This state of consciousness is something given to us by God, and it’s this consciousness that makes Ananda what it is.
In today’s world where people are adrift in a sea without direction or spiritual values, God wants to use Ananda to show others a positive way to guide their lives. It’s not you or me doing it, but God through us, because He has something to say to the world at this time about the need for communities.
We are living in an age when coming together in spiritual communities will bring new understanding, new perspectives. The world needs a focus for this movement, and Ananda provides this focus.
In our Ananda communities we have shown that people can live by high ideals, love all, and have communal harmony. Through our example, we can be of practical service to those who feel in harmony with what we’ve done.
Paramhansa Yogananda predicted that, “The day will come when this colony idea will spread through the world like wildfire.” Ultimately, Ananda’s isn’t the story of a community. It’s the story of great waves of consciousness that are needed in our times.
Perspectives: Shivani Lucki
“It’s People I Care About”
A conversation I had with Swami Kriyananda that especially stands out in my memory occurred in the mid 1970s while we were at a spiritual conference in Vancouver, Canada.
Swamiji had been invited and introduced as “the father of spiritual communities,” an honorific he gently rejected with this interesting comment: “I don’t care all that much about cooperative communities; it’s people I care about, and their spiritual growth. That is the only reason I’ve created Ananda. And if ever in the future it is not helping people in this way, then it should not continue to exist.”
“Ananda Exists for You”
From a political standpoint, the core values of Ananda very much represent the early values that America was founded on—in God we trust. Hard work and God’s blessings have made Ananda what it is.
Swami Kriyananda laid down the principle that the primary job of the Spiritual Director of Ananda is to guard the rights of the individual. He once said, “You do not exist for Ananda, Ananda exists for you.”
At Ananda, you have many people living this principle and, as a result, people look out for one another. For instance, the primary qualification of an Ananda minister is the willingness to put the needs of others before his own.