In 1978 The Joy Tours went out to promote the book. There were two nationwide tours – West to East, and East to West.
The Joy Tours
In the late 70’s and early 80’s, I worked outside the community on a very different kind of project, called the Joy Tours. At that time, we organized two tours to travel around the country giving seminars on the practice of Joy. About 13 of us traveled together in a donated 30 foot motor home towing a car, while a team at home was prearranging these seminars and renting halls in various cities.
On Friday night we’d set up a book table and Swami would give a free talk on the practice of Joy. People would be invited to attend Saturday’s seminar at which Swami would give a morning and an afternoon talk. We would also cook them lunch! Then on Sunday we’d host Sunday Service. We put about 30,000 miles on the motor home traveling to the Northwest, to Chicago, New York, Canada and down the East Coast to Tennessee and Texas. People associated with Ananda would let us camp in their back yards and use their bathrooms and kitchens.
I don’t know if our hosts had any idea what they were getting into–having 12 or 13 individuals who had been on the road for several months come in and take over their homes and yards! We had a few fences to mend with some hosts afterwards, but some new members who came were Tim and Mary Kretzmann, Gitanjali Gregorelli, and David Praver
But on a deeper level what was happening was that we were reaching out in an expansive way to share the ideals of Master’s teachings, of World Brotherhood colonies, and the advantages of having spiritual satsang in one’s life. We wanted to demonstrate to middle class society the viability of creating a supportive economic, social and spiritual environment through this cooperative, community movement.
The Joy Tours occurred at a time when Ananda was struggling to support itself in a rural area that was one of the most depressed counties in California. While it was relatively easy for young single people to survive on next to nothing, it was especially difficult for families. Swami’s answer to these growing pains was not to build walls around Ananda, not to put all our energy into trying to create a perfect situation here; but rather, to reach out and expand our consciousness and our service to a wider circle of people, thereby creating the magnetism that would draw to us those things we needed in order to build this community.
So this was the motivation behind the Joy Tours. Although not financially successful, this was a breakwater point. Our population had been very static at about 80 people for a long time. After the Tour, we started attracting families and individuals who built homes and energized our school.
Doing the Tours seemed just the opposite of what the practical mind would consider the best action. Instead, an important spiritual principle was demonstrated. Its significance historically is similar to the decision made after the fire in 1976 to rebuild in a new and dynamic way, rather than putting energy into suing the county to recover our losses. Swamiji always tries to instill in us the principle that when things are going amiss the appropriate response is not to contract and protect yourself but to expand and reach out.
Whether Divine Mother wants this work to spread over the whole world or whether she wants us to touch just a few people, what’s important is that we adhere to the ideals and principles that are the foundation upon which Ananda has been built. I take
my hat off to Swami for the fact that we have held on to the simple principles of not contracting but expanding into whatever difficulties we face; that people are more important than things; and adhering tenaciously to truth and dharma. As long as we keep these principles foremost, then we’re going to do the best we can.
The success for us as individual devotees comes through that practice and the joy and spiritual growth that we gain. Because of the way we have responded, we have been able to touch many lives and spread this work around the world. You don’t become a devotee of Yogananda unless you are really serious about the spiritual path because what is asked of you is nothing less than total commitment and a willingness to relinquish the“ I-Me-Mine” principle and throw yourself into service to the Divine. That’s where our joy lies.”
As with most of our ventures, we started out with little or no money. The Ananda Singers would go out on tour, staying with devotees in their homes.
This was both bonding and challenging, as several of us often ended up sleeping on the floor. One of our cars was an old station wagon, which had its back window secured with duct tape. As we were driving down the highway one dark night, someone realized that the duct tape had come undone, and that our clothes and belongings were flying out the window. Quickly we turned around and retraced our route for a mile or two, stopping to pick up articles of clothing along the way. When we finished we realized that we had acquired an extra couple of shirts!