In 1980, Swamiji was visiting in Menlo Park, down the Peninsula from San Francisco. He visited an old friend, Virginia Scharfner, who owned a metaphysical bookstore called East West Bookshop. She was considering retirement, and was looking for someone to take over the business who would continue its metaphysical tradition. Swami felt that this could be a good direction for Ananda as a way to share our teachings and he agreed to buy the store. Jammuna (Jacqueline) and Vasudeva Snitkin were the first managers.
A large house was found in the nearby neighborhood of Atherton. Although the neighborhood was wealthy, the house might be described as a place of “decaying splendor”, with many large rooms, a swimming pool, and several servants’ quarters, all of them in a slightly “worn” state. The first manager of the ashram was Jerry Haslam, who did a good job of organizing and attracted several good people who are still with us today, including Roma Blake, Brian and Lisa Powers, Shanti Rubenstone, Gyandev McCord, and Kent and Marilyn Baughman.
Bharat and Anandi married in June 1983, and built a house at Ananda Village that fall. When they returned from a brief vacation they found a note in their mailbox from Seva, “Don’t listen to any rumours till you talk with me!” ???? Before noon that day the rumor mill had informed them that they were going to
3. San Francisco
Finally they learned that Swamiji would be asking them to go to Atherton to help with the center there. When he spoke with them his advice was “go down there and make friends”.
The last touches on their new house at the Village had just been completed, and they lived in the house for just a month or two, enough time to host a Thanksgiving dinner before leaving for Atherton. They moved into the house at 216 Park Lane, along with Parvati, who came from San Francisco to assist them.
They found in Atherton that their address opened doors for them which had previously been closed. For example, they had never been able to qualify for a credit card before, but now that they lived in Atherton the bank was happy to give them one. They were also able to get a loan to purchase a new car.
At first there was nowhere to meet and so they gave meditation classes in the living room of the ashram. This, of course, caused parking issues and they actively looked for an alternative. The bookstore was beginning to gather more and more customers who were interested in our teachings, and who came to Friday night forums after hours. Anandi said, “We never knew if people were listening intently to what we had to say, or if they were reading the book titles on the shelves!” The bookstore did offer a temporary home for the meditation classes, in a dark and dingy upstairs apartment over the store. Later they held their classes at the Unitarian church, but meantime they continued to look for a place to use as a full time center and finally located a storefront on California Avenue in Palo Alto, upstairs from a psychological counseling center which practiced scream therapy. They began offering classes and Sunday service and from time to time they were entertained by screams from below! In a few years they were able to move to a larger (and quieter) place also on California Avenue.
During this time they also put their energies into building community in the ashram. People began pledging a fee of $30 per month to the center, in addition to paying the rent at the ashram. In this way they were able to offer their classes at a reasonable fee, and to provide events and satsang for new people who were coming. There was a family feeling with group meals and sadhana, and many events were held there. Ishaq and Elizabeth Johnson moved from the Village, and Elizabeth began a music ministry. When the Festival of Light was begun, there were people to play and sing the music for it, and the beginnings of a choir. International dinners, which had been popular at the Village, continued there in Atherton, with many delicious meals
attended by the friends that were made through the center and the bookstore. Evenings of entertainment were held there and many people were amazed at the quality of talent we had. Weddings and other gatherings were held there as well.
In 1987 Bharat and Anandi returned to the Village to begin leading the training program for new members. David and Asha Praver were asked to take over the Bay Area
center, and they soon began looking for a way to finance a residential community for single people and families. In 1989 they were able to purchase an apartment complex of 72 units, which became the model for the rest of the communities coming up, and in 1994 they were able to purchase a Catholic church on El Camino Real in Palo Alto.