Who would not want to visit the Ananda village, especially after watching the Finding Happiness movie? By the grace of our gurus and master, I got the opportunity to be at Ananda Village for a few hours on a pleasant Tuesday in March.
I started early from San Francisco at 7 am hoping to get to Ananda by 11. The only pit stop during this long drive was a 5-minute break at the gas station, which is the only time I could have talked (as I’d better not talk while driving, that too with the phone being used to give directions on its GPS). And that is the exact time that my thankful host Omprakash-ji called me on phone to decide where to meet once I reach Ananda Village. It went unnoticed at that time, but that perfect timing was Miracle number 1.
The cell phone reception in Ananda Village is not very reliable. I was not able to reach Omprakash-ji. So when I tentatively walked in to the reception at the Master’s Market, Miracle 2 was in action. Just then, Omprakash-ji had called at the reception asking if I had arrived. I was just getting the sense of how things work at Ananda Village — Miracle here is the order of the day!
And why wouldn’t it be a place for miracles? There are many levels at which we can see the inspirational source at Ananda Village. At the physical level, we all know or have heard of the different meditation places spread all around — from the Hansa temple, the Lahiri Shrine, Expanding Light Retreat temple, Master’s museum, the Crystal hermitage, and of course, the Moksha Mandir (and perhaps many others that I did not get a chance to visit).
At an observation level are the joy, the energy and the harmony that exists all around the village community. In just a quick tour we get to see how much care and love emanates from each activity that the community members do as part of their daily chore. You would see gurubhais planting seeds at the garden, fixing the roads, cleaning the closet, wiping the dining room floor — with utmost joy and in complete harmony. Going deeper, at the level of feeling, one realizes that for these community members, Ananda Village is the child that the mother cares for, with so much tender love, and at the same time, the Village is the mother for them that they as child desire so affectionately. This is a perfect example of the highest level of Service in everything that the community members do.
So it is not that the Ananda Village community members meditate and the other worldly things are done by someone else. In fact each bit of what Ananda Village today, is has a story of how much positive energy and blessings have been put in it by the community members. No wonder there are many stories about how the shape of the dome of the Hansa Temple came up, how the roads were paved, how the glass art was done at the chapel, how the tulips are grown (oh yes, Omprakash-ji also mentioned that soon Ananda Village will be blooming with tulips everywhere — so much that people from all around San Francisco come and visit here. No wonder, with so much love, even the tulips would want to bloom a plenty here).
The Ananda Village is also abuzz with activity. Some people were watching Swamiji’s talk in the audio-video room (next to the dining area) at 11:30. Some were walking up for a guided meditation going at the Hansa Temple at 12; at 12:30 you would see the prayer at lunch hall; someone meditating at the Lahiri Shrine at 2; and many other such activities.
And by the way, the miracles never stopped. Omprakash-ji had to leave for the school at 12:30 and he was waiting for Nayaswami Gyandev and Diksha to come. He says, “Lets go out and see, they must be on their way.” And out we go and see Nayaswami Gyandev and Diksha miraculously walking towards us from a distance. The place has no cell-phone coverage but everyone seems connected!
I saw each community member busy in their activity, completely focused — whether decorating the boutique or sorting out the mails, managing the guests, or planning a retreat, among the many others. However, everyone I met was so helpful in showing me around the place or talking about the history associated with it and showed no signs of being busy. I was overwhelmed by the amount of time, care and oneness with which they showed me around. It was heartening to know that they care so much for a stranger like me — or perhaps no one is a stranger at Ananda Village.
Just when I was thinking that I now know what a magical place Ananda Village is and that I have figured out the value of this trip, that was actually only scratching the surface. For some reason I started to weep with joy in the car on my way back to San Francisco.
The love and compassion with which each of the Ananda Village community members interacted with me was only making me realize how deep it really goes. This amazing uplifting feeling of pure joy, love and energy is still sinking in (or rather, growing) each day! No wonder everyone told me it was going to be a life-changing experience.
Amit had asked me to collect statues of our gurus from Omprakash-ji, for use in Rishikesh. They were a bit heavy and I was wondering if they would fit within the allowed luggage limit of 23 kgs at the airline check-in to India. When I packed the suitcase, it did feel pretty heavy. But having no access to the weighing scale at the hotel, I just took the suitcase to the airport. And guess what was the weight when the airline check-in staff measured it. Exactly 23 kgs — not a gram more or less.
Neither miracles nor the bonding end at Ananda Village, I thought and smiled. That was just a beginning.