Someone asked me the question, “What are your dreams for Ananda?” I dream most of all of a community where we are free to seek God more and more, where people can meditate and chant many hours each day, and that inspires others around the world to start similar communities.
Nowadays if a person wants to spend all of their time in spiritual pursuits, there is the question of how they will survive. In India, a person who wants to give his life completely to God is supported. People there believe in this way of life and feel that they will get good karma by helping others pursue it.
The way of a sadhu
The classic way of a sadhu is to sit in one place and meditate. People bring him food if they wish to and if not, he’ll go without food that day. A sadhu will sometimes go from house to house, but he never asks for anything; he just stands there. If people wish to give to him they can; if not, he goes on.
He depends completely upon God but within the framework of a society whose teachings support this way of life. This is the ideal, and there are those who, because of this system, are able to dedicate all their energies to seeking God.
That time will come
My dream is for something similar here at Ananda, but it won’t come about quickly. In the West there have been monastic communities in the past that were supported by a church and a large congregation of believers. Today, however, the monasteries are practically empty because people aren’t able to understand the relevance of that way of life.
When we can bring society as a whole up to a level where people commonly include God in their lives, then it will it be time for the next stage, where a group of people can meditate and chant twenty hours a day. That time will come. For now, however, our duty is to seek God but also to help the world.
A hunger for spiritual values
The first step is to create communities like Ananda to bring back spiritual values. Today spiritual values have been eclipsed by the dry, rationalistic approach of modern science. There is such an emphasis on facts and reason, and such a fear of the “corrupting” influence of feeling, that people believe you must exclude all feeling in order to see things clearly.
Feeling, however, is one of the most important aspects of finding truth, even in the scientific world. Einstein said that great scientific discoveries aren’t possible without a sense of mystic awe before the universe. It’s that sense of awe, of feeling, that uplifts the consciousness to where it can receive the intuitions that permit great discoveries.
Society has lost touch with that level of intuition, and one finds, in many parts of the world, a growing hunger for spiritual values and a new consciousness emerging. But it’s unfocused; people don’t know how to express it. They don’t understand that to live spiritually means to live in the consciousness of God, and to bring Him into every aspect of life: work, marriage, child-raising, money, recreation—into everything.
Small communities like Ananda, where people can create new models of living based on spiritual values, will bring this new consciousness into enough focus that it will have the clarity and magnetism to inspire others.
A new kind of marriage
Marriage is one area of life very much in need of redefining. I had a very interesting discussion about this with friends who wanted to join Ananda and weren’t married. I said, “Why, if you have this love for each other, don’t you get married?”
Their response was surprising. They said that a number of their friends had lived together happily for years without being married. After they married, within six months they were divorced.
The couple explained: Without marriage these friends were able to define their own relationship. As soon as they took the formal step of marriage, suddenly there was this weight of social conditioning that says, “Now that you’re my spouse, you’re supposed to treat me a certain way.” With all these new expectations, the relationship became a burden they weren’t able to handle.
A broadening of ideals
Marriage, to be successful, must be based on a free sharing, not on a mutual sense of obligation. Obligation can be another form of bondage. When married people look at each other with the thought, “What’s in it for me?” love flies out the window.
We need to stop thinking of marriage as a closed corporation. Marriage should be a means of dedicating oneself to a broadening of ideals, of vision. It should be a means by which two people give each other the strength to reach out and embrace the world, not to create a little castle with a mote that excludes the world.
Unfortunately, people are not raised to think expansively. There is, rather, a growing tendency in society these days to think in terms of what the world owes us, and of getting ours, rather than of what each of us, personally, can do for others, and for the world, to make it a better place to live in.
Attitudes such as these are threatening the very structure of society. We are living in an atomic age, and if we are to have the maturity to deal with the challenges posed by weapons that can kill millions at a time, we must learn to think in new ways.
Attunement with nature
Our relationship with nature is another area of life in need of redefining. We must realize that we have a responsibility not only to unborn generations but also to this planet that has lovingly given us birth.
To think that we can plunder the planet and take all of its resources for this generation’s needs is totally irresponsible. The saints in India say that the planet has become so erratic in recent years because people are no longer in tune with the harmony of nature. That’s why we have floods, droughts, excessively cold weather, and similar extremes.
Reawakening the divine forces
The divine forces are leaving this planet because we give them no attention. The spring box near my home at Ananda Village is an example. When I bought the land I was told that the spring had never gone dry. Yet, when we moved there, it was giving us only one or two gallons a minute.
I kept insisting that there was more water, and eventually the others started clearing out the spring box, cleaning the spring. More and more water began to come until very soon we were getting ten to fifteen gallons a minute.
Just as a spring goes dry if it isn’t regularly flushed out and used, so also does the flow of the Divine in nature close down if we ignore it. It’s like a person to whom you don’t give appreciation; gradually he stops giving. In our relationship with nature, as with people, there has to be reciprocity.
We recently started the “nature channels” at Ananda to try to reawaken the divine forces. As each person makes it his or her particular mission to see God in the trees, rivers, stars, or some other aspect of nature, it will help to re-open those channels for the Divine.
A shared vision
Ananda can bring these and other areas of life to a focus through expansive new models. By living according to high ideals and setting that example, we will make a tremendous impact for good on society.
Recently a friend said, “I think that Ananda is the most important thing happening on this planet.” I didn’t say what you might expect, “I’m glad you think so.” I spoke rather from a sense of certainty and said, “Yes, I know it is.”
It’s not that Ananda specifically is the important place. It’s rather a spearhead, one of several, of something happening today that’s showing people a way to the future.
Throughout history, the real steps forward have often come when a few people are fired by a new vision and support each other. A good example is the Renaissance in Florence, Italy where many of the artists knew each other and fed each other’s inspiration.
This pattern occurs over and over throughout history. For the current age, it’s communities like Ananda that are laying the groundwork for the future. We are creating a way of life so dynamic and beautiful that it’s destined to become a force to be reckoned with because it’s a solution to so many of society’s problems.