An Interview with Paul Nakula Cryer
Q: You own a successful construction business that has built many beautiful buildings at Ananda Village and elsewhere. When you moved to Ananda Village in 1970, did you have any idea that you would be starting a business?
Nakula: When I arrived at Ananda, everything I owned was in a backpack made out of a used gunnysack. I didn’t even have enough money to buy lunch after Sunday service.
Q: How did you survive?
Nakula: At first I did odd jobs. Then I began making a granola cereal which I sold to friends and later to a health food store. Eventually I sold it to 35 health food stores in Northern California.
“You should buy those cows!”
Q: You started the Ananda Dairy in 1972. What caused you to move in that direction?
Nakula: By 1972 quite a few of us were buying milk from a local farmer. One day he told us that he had to sell his two cows. Later in meditation, I heard Paramhansa Yogananda’s voice say very clearly, “You should buy those cows!”
So I created a plan. A number of Ananda families agreed to pay me in advance for a year’s supply of milk, which enabled me to buy the cows and start the dairy.
Q: Had you planned to go into business?
Nakula: My plan was to follow Yogananda’s guidance. And I trusted the guidance. Money was very scarce in those days and the dairy was meeting a real need by providing an inexpensive source of nutrition. The dairy later made cheese, butter, yogurt and other products, and employed half a dozen people.
My real education in construction
Q: The dairy closed down in 1987, but before that you had moved to the Ananda community at Ocean Song?
Nakula: Yes, in 1980, and after that to the Ananda ashram in San Francisco. In 1984 I moved to the Washington D .C. area in order to learn more about architecture and construction.
My big break came when a large construction company hired me as a draftsman. I believe this was Yogananda’s way of giving me a chance to learn because this was the beginning of my real education in construction.
The company was building an airport car rental facility that had to be finished in record time. I’d been working on drawings for a month when the man in charge quit. The owner said to me, “Well, you know more about it than anybody. You’re in charge.”
Q: And you agreed?
Nakula: I took it on! I went to all the subcontractors and asked, “Can you do this?” They all said yes, and the bricklayer—who was a key player—was just as excited about the challenge as I was. He hired 30 extra men. And it became a big fun thing, with all the trades working all the time. We worked and worked and worked. And we finished on schedule.
Q: It sounds like you worked with a lot of joy.
Nakula: There was a lot of joy, and I was learning! The car rental company later hired me as a contractor, and that’s how the N. Paul Cryer Construction Company was founded.
Q: You were on your own as a devotee. Were you able to practice karma yoga—non-attachment to the results, seeing God as the Doer, and seeing yourself as serving God?
Nakula: My motive was always to serve God, to do the best I could with every opportunity He gave me, to see Him in everything I did. When I’m doing it for God, then I feel His energy flowing through me. And yes, most of the time I felt His flow.
Tuning into Yogananda’s teachings on success
Q: Was your experience at the Ananda Dairy a factor in your success?
Nakula: The dairy taught me self-discipline and many other things, but I trace my success in Washington D. C. to an inner call to go more deeply into Yogananda’s teachings.
Q: How did that come about?
Nakula: Before moving to Washington D.C. I was involved with multi-level marketing, and I went to motivational seminars and bought motivational tapes. So in Washington, when I saw an ad for a 14-cassette motivational course, I ordered it.
I was listening to one of the cassettes when I recognized concepts similar to Yogananda’s teachings. And I thought, “Why go to a second-hand source when I have my own Guru’s teachings on how to succeed?”
So I read out loud onto a cassette Yogananda’s The Law of Success. I also recorded myself repeating his affirmation for psychological success from Scientific Healing Affirmations, which is for overall success—material, psychological, and spiritual.
I played that cassette for months! Whenever I was in the car, I listened to that tape. And I applied what I was learning to all the work opportunities that came to me. That was the turning point. From then on I got more jobs, better jobs.
Working night and day
Q: Exactly how did The Law of Success and the affirmation help you?
Nakula: The Law of Success taught me the importance of doing everything with total dedication. Yogananda stresses the importance of doing everything with 100% of your energy. So if my job was to build a car wash building, then my whole focus was to make that car wash building the best it could be.
And looking back to the early days of Ananda, I remembered that was how Swami Kriyananda built Ananda. Whatever he did, it was with all of his energy. When he needed money to pay for the land, he was on the road nearly all the time giving classes. When he wrote books, he would put all his heart and energy into writing, staying up late many nights.
So I worked night and day on that project. When there was something wrong with the welding, I’d bring in an extra welder at night so the regular crew could start in the morning without missing a day.
But success is multifaceted. Not everyone has the karma to succeed outwardly. Yogananda teaches that when you do your best in everything you do, whether you succeed or fail outwardly, inwardly you gain. I believe I also gained in courage, willingness and attunement to Yogananda.
Drawing Yogananda’s grace
Q: What do you see as the main difference between relying on the motivational speakers and relying on The Law of Success and Scientific Healing Affirmations?
Nakula: When we embrace Yogananda’s teachings with devotion, we’re tuning into a dynamo, something much bigger than we are. Our efforts are quadrupled by the power coming from God and Guru.
The motivational talks contained some spiritual truth, but without the power of the Divine behind you, that only takes you so far. And if I’ve turned to another teacher, then the magnetism isn’t there to draw Yogananda’s grace.
Q: Why did you leave Washington D.C. in 1989?
Nakula: I had learned all I could and I was eager to build for Ananda, either at Ananda Village or at one of the colonies that were getting underway. When I moved back to the Village I joined the Ananda Builder’s Guild, a private business.
I became head of the Guild in 1993, a time when it was facing bankruptcy. We had a big debt, over $100,000, caused by one of our clients going bankrupt.
Q: Did Yogananda’s teachings help you meet this challenge?
Nakula: I believe he guided me to the solution. Guild members had a meeting and it was suggested that each member be personally responsible for part of the debt. But I felt it would be difficult for everyone to do that.
So after the meeting I prayed to Yogananda, “What shall I do?” And I felt him say, “Take responsibility” as clearly as if he were standing next to me.
And I did. A few others joined me. I contacted every creditor and said, “We don’t have the money to pay what we owe, but we will pay you as much as we can every month.” And we paid every debt in full. It took three years.
I’ve since started my own company and I doubt that I would be having financial success today if I hadn’t honored those debts. That success has also made it possible for me to give more money to Ananda.
Q: Do you see a relationship between generosity and prosperity?
Nakula: Generosity keeps the flow going. God is the source of everything we have and we complete the circuit when we give to His work. No matter how tight my money situation is, I never cut back on giving.
Putting myself last
Q: Has it been smooth sailing since you started your own company?
Nakula: No. In the first few years I sometimes had barely enough money to pay salaries. For several months I took no pay so that our employees could be paid. My family went without nice clothes, a decent car, and even haircuts because the higher dharma was to pay others.
In this instance, it was one of the principles in Kriyananda’s book, The Art of Supportive Leadership, that helped me. It says that the true leader puts his personal needs last—the employees come first.
But putting myself last wasn’t a hardship—I felt an increase in inner freedom from meeting those challenges in a dharmic way. Now, all the managers in my company read Kriyananda’s book, and we discuss it.
Q: Do you think that more people at Ananda should try to start businesses?
Nakula: Absolutely! We need more businesses. Not everyone is entrepreneurial but if that’s what God wants you to do, you’ll find joy in it and you’ll grow spiritually. You can see God in every action you take, even if you’re making sandals.
There’s a man at Ananda Village who feels Yogananda’s guidance to clear the dead brush and make the land beautiful. He works around the clock, even in hot seasons when he has to wear cloths on his face because of the dust. He puts his whole self into clearing the dead brush, and he’s a soul of joy.