After most of our homes were destroyed by fire, those of us who chose to remain spent the next several months cleaning up and re-grouping. The property was covered by a thick layer of ash, which remained until spring. The dead trees that were still standing were beginning to be infested by bark beetles. Most of us spent the summer camping, and at night we could hear the beetles munching on the bark. The fire had been so hot, however, that nothing much remained of our possessions. This made things easier as there was very little household debris to haul away!
We hired a local logging company to take away the dead trees, and were paid well for the timber. This cash, along with many donations, enabled us to begin rebuilding. It was also an opportunity to develop a planning process and to consider other housing configurations.
1978 was a watershed year for Ananda Village. After years of applications, public testimony, and departmental opposition, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors finally approved our Master Plan and allowed Ananda to enter a period of dynamic expansion. Growth at the Village went hand-in-hand with Swami Kriyananda’s emphasis upon reaching beyond our physical borders to share with others Yogananda’s teachings. These were years when new members came to Ananda in abundance and led to the formation of our branch colonies and meditation groups.
For four years, from 1974 to 1978, we had been enmeshed in a bureaucratic morass of applications and environmental studies to clear the way for the creation of Ananda Village. In the early years, members had built cabins and an assortment of temporary dwellings; most were far from meeting even the most lenient interpretation of the Uniform Building Code. To force us into code and zoning compliance, Nevada County placed a moratorium on all construction in 1974, allowing nothing to be built until we received approval for a formal Master Plan of Development in accompaniment with an Environmental Impact Report. What could we do? We had to agree. Little did we know that in the middle of this struggle that it would be the Fire of 1976 that would rid us of all those substandard houses and be the instrument for our Village renewal.
Perhaps the county had initially expected us to simply go away and fizzle like so many other communities in those days, but after five years, we were still there and growing. We had actually doubled our land holdings through the purchase of the Hoffman Ranch in 1974 and showed no signs of leaving. New members were coming regularly, inspired by Swami’s vision of spiritual community and undaunted by the fact that we had few houses, fewer jobs, meager amenities and an uncertain legal status. People simply came, often unannounced and with no prior contact, and most were willing enough to pitch in, offer help and find their own jobs and homes.
Since there was scant housing on the Ananda property, especially after the fire, people made do with whatever could be found nearby. It wasn’t long before multiple Ananda neighborhoods sprang up on properties along Tyler-Foote Road and in Nevada City/Grass Valley. At one time, community members were renting five spaces in the North San Juan Trailer Park and another five trailers at the Ebert Ranch behind where the Clinic is today. All were waiting for the day when homes could be built at the Village.
When our Plan was given its final OK in 1978, the development gates opened. Clusters had been designated and we would eventually provide details for each with engineering studies to show how services were to be provided, but right after approval, none of this had been completely thought out. Our plan, for better and worse, only stated principles and a general outline of what we hoped to accomplish but gave little guidance on how to do it. As we would often say in those days, “We are making it up as we go along.” Such a haphazard approach led to design and planning mistakes that still make me wince these many years later, but free-for-all approach had one important feature that was a key to our success. It unleashed our energy with an enthusiasm that drove us forward to a DO something at a time when so many others’ beautiful dreams remained but fantasies.
Ranikhet (Cluster A) was our first housing cluster developed after our plan’s approval, quickly followed by Kailash and Meru in the 1980’s. Through trial and error we learned the lessons that would guide us later. We devised a system of mitigation fees to pay for infrastructure, formed a planning staff/committee to guide development, and we quickly saw the need for greater coordination of design. Architecturally, the community evolved from a rustic fondness for such things as “pecky” cedar to an appreciation for more refined tastes, brighter colors and cleaner surroundings. With electricity came televisions, washing machines and all the modern “conveniences.” Development necessitated integrated, community water, sewage and fire prevention systems, wider roads, and protection for open space and the forest. Housing policies evolved and we recognized the need for systematic record keeping, management and administration. Significantly, a cohort of community builders emerged with skills that would later be used for all community projects. Through construction of our own homes and those of our neighbors, we created jobs, a sense of participation, and an entrepreneurial climate for tradesmen to establish their own, private businesses. Wages earned from construction paid community fees and re-circulated again and again within the community economy, encouraging the expansion of many other private and community businesses.
The 1980’s were a time at the Village when the child population boomed in accompaniment with the expansion of economic opportunities within the Village and in Nevada City and Grass Valley. Many who came in those years could also afford to build homes and had the skills to create community businesses. This infusion of young families led directly to the expansion of the Ananda School. Community funds that had previously been used for the support of agriculture went instead to the expansion of the school system. As I used to say to members who questioned this decision, “Before we would grow vegetables. Now we grow kids.” I think it is accurate to say that it was in those years that Ananda became a community composed mostly of householders rather than of single adults.
It had taken Ananda ten years to build a foundation of committed members with the strength to share on a larger stage Swamiji’s ideas for Master’s work. Schools, institutes, clinics, retreats, businesses and other plans had all been previously discussed, but we were too raw in the early years to manifest them. Now, a decade later, we had a growing, enthusiastic membership with maturity and enough resources to take the next step. Swamiji, perhaps sensing this in his guidance, began to push the community beyond its boundaries. In the 1970’s, when someone said the word “Ananda,” it simply referred to a beautiful piece of property on the San Juan Ridge. By the end of the 1980’s, Ananda had come to mean something much more — an ideal, a way of life, and a community of seekers in many lands. Pushing out from the Village, Ananda had grown outwardly by leaps and bounds, but we had also grown in maturity, giving us the resiliency and strength we would need in the years ahead.
July 4, 1979 was the date for special rejoicing. We gathered in the partially completed dining room of The Expanding Light (still called the World Brotherhood Retreat at that time), and ceremoniously lit a match to the mortgage for the 285 acres of the original Village property, symbolizing the fact that we had paid for the property in full. Through the previous ten years we had worked hard to make the monthly payments while expanding our work at the same time, and we had succeeded. While the Meditation Retreat had been paid for by Swami and a few others, paying off this property was a milestone in our history as it represented our first cooperative effort to buy property. Now we had shown ourselves that by working together we could accomplish much more that we could by working separately, and that all of us could benefit by these efforts.
At the same time we opened two new businesses in Nevada City: Earth Song health food store and café, and Mountain Song, a gifts and clothing store. In addition, Ananda Publications also moved its print shop to Nevada City. Some of the other businesses which had begun in the 70s were continuing to grow and expand as we began to learn the principles of working cooperatively.
If there is a single quality that society needs today, it is integrity. The worlds of business, of entertainment, of our culture in general, are crippled by a lack of morality. But, a culture is only a collection of individuals and the struggle for virtue must be personal. It begins with you. Don’t sacrifice your integrity for a temporary advantage. Ultimately how you work will help define who you will become.
No man is an island and no individual, however talented, can achieve as much as a team of people, all focused on the same goal and able to work together effectively. Cooperation is the glue that binds a group together.
Teamwork creates harmony and helps neutralize the power games that so often ruin a work environment. Cooperation doesn’t mean suppressing your talents, but rather weaving them into the fabric of a group with each person adding their special part. A truly aware person will be able to use the energy field of a group and see how to draw out the best in each person.
Be a force of friendship and cooperation. Treat everyone with respect and appreciation and they’ll gladly do their best. Relate to them with disrespect and condescension and they will silently undercut you. Cooperation is like oil in an engine – be sure to add it on a regular basis, and you’ll avoid a meltdown.
When you deeply believe in a project or a goal, let nothing keep you from accomplishing whatever you set out to do. Yet, even the strongest person has limits. True inner strength comes from aligning yourself with the laws of the universe. Mahatma Gandhi transformed the entire nation of India by becoming a living example of the principle of non-violence. You too, can accomplish great deeds if you get yourself out of the way. Inner strength increases when you forget yourself and focus entirely on what needs to be accomplished.
Here is the law: The greater the flow of energy, the greater the power of magnetism. With every interaction, we unconsciously exchange magnetism, and it is important to be aware of this force when choosing your friends and business partners. If you consciously project magnetism, you can draw to yourself the people, ideas, and even the money you need. To increase your mental magnetism, you must clarify and empower your thoughts. Doubts, lethargy, or fuzzy thinking all weaken the flow. When you take on a task give it one hundred percent of your energy, and you will draw to yourself everything you need to succeed.
The universe reflects our attitudes back to us. If we see everything as being part of our own greater reality, the universe will respond to us with harmony and kindliness. The world will become our friends. Try to see your work as being alive and conscious. If you do, you’ll begin to relate to it differently. I remember hearing about a conversation between two famous mathematicians, one of whom was dying. The visiting friends, by way of conversation, repeated the number of a license plate he had seen on his way. The man on his deathbed, said,
Ah, what a beautiful number. That is the largest number of a family of prime numbers.” He saw numbers as living individuals, having families and relatives, all interacting together in an intricate dance. To him, numbers were alive and beautiful.
If you live this way, as if everything were living and conscious, then the world will come alive for you. Numbers will be alive. Colors will communicate. When you appreciate the world around you and behave toward it as if it were alive, things will silently speak to you. It would be an enormous step forward for mankind if people could begin to live in this way. But for the yogi, a further step yet is demanded. We must see behind the plant, animal, or the rock to the consciousness that has produced it and given it life. Going back into the source is specifically what the science of yoga is all about.