Swami Kriyananda has written a visionary book called, Hope for a Better World! The Small Communities Solution. In it he shows how the materialistic attitudes of society today have brought us to the present state of worldwide tension and suffering. He also describes how global peace and happiness can be achieved through the spread of spiritual communities.
“Is it realistic,” he writes, “to hope for peace and harmony in this world? Yes, of course it is, if one’s hopes are kept realistic. Peace and harmony must be sought first on a small scale, not in grandiose schemes of world betterment. The important thing, always, is that people be allowed to develop as individuals.”
Though Swamiji shows how communities are the solution for the social ills that plague us today, we know that not everyone has the opportunity or desire to live in them. People everywhere, however, can practice the underlying attitudes that have been at the heart of Ananda’s success for more than fifty years. This success can be measured in terms both of the upliftment it has brought to the world as a whole and of the true happiness of those individuals who live by these basic principles. Here are some of them that we all can apply in our daily lives.
Working with Energy and Fluidity
The hallmark of the new age in which we live—Dwapara Yuga—is a vision of the world as consisting not of fixed, separate forms but of fluid, unifying energy. In creating Ananda Swamiji put out tremendous power, but with the understanding that energy has its own intelligence. To succeed in any project, he didn’t ask, “How have others done this before?” or even, “How have I done this before?” He tried to think in new ways as guided by the dynamic energy now awakening in the world.
Much of the conflict we find around us is between the forces of change and the fear of losing the status quo. By attuning with this flow of universal energy, you’ll be amazed at the new, creative solutions that emerge to guide you forward in any situation.
Seeing the Unity in Diversity
Behind the diversity of nations, cultures, and religions there is one divine consciousness: God. The more we see past the superficial differences that divide us, the more we perceive people’s underlying unity. Yoganandaji therefore called his intentional communities “world brotherhood colonies.”
One of the greatest gifts of living in a community is to accept and respect others whose perspectives may be very different from your own—and to cooperate with them. This can be done by trying to see the common thread in seemingly opposing points of view.
When people cooperate in this way, each individual gains an expanded perspective that shows a higher purpose to even mundane activities. Much of Swamiji’s success came because he supported the ideas and growth of everyone.
Living in Simplicity
Another of Yoganandaji’s main tenets for community life was “plain living and high thinking.” When we begin to break the dependency on material things for our happiness, we find inner freedom and Self-sufficiency.
You may know the story of our experience of living through the forest fire in 1976 that destroyed most of the homes and structures at Ananda Village. Our son was ten days old when we lost our home and all of our possessions.
At first, I must admit, I was in a state of shock, but the maternal instinct then quickly asserted itself. I realized that the sense of home and security that I wanted for our child was not dependent on outer things, but had to spring first from my own heart. No loss of possessions could diminish the love and nurturing that I would give to our son. This was an incredibly freeing and life-transforming experience—it has shaped my life ever since.
Developing Strength AND Flexibility
Everyone’s life has its share of challenges. In watching Swami Kriyananda build Ananda, I saw that he had perhaps more than his fair share. Strength is needed to deal with one’s difficulties, but not the rigid type that we see in weight lifters who move about like stiff robots.
Strength needs to be balanced with flexibility, of the kind we see in hatha yogis. A number of times over the years, Swami Kriyananda would put out tremendous effort to accomplish some goal in building Ananda. But if he came to feel that this was no longer the right course, he would turn on a dime and redirect his efforts towards a different end. He adapted to what was needed at any given time, and wasn’t afraid to look foolish for changing his mind.
Faith and Self-Offering
God is ultimately in charge of everything we do and everything that befalls us. By trusting in His loving presence, communities and individuals can weather many a storm. The more your faith is tested and validated, the more you can offer yourself unreservedly to God and Guru.
Yoganandaji has a beautiful prayer-demand: “O Spirit, teach me to pray and worship incessantly, with deepest concentration. O Spirit, balance my meditation with devotion, and purify my devotion with all-surrendering love unto Thee.”
Meditation, devotion, self-offering—these ultimately are the bedrock upon which communities are built, and upon which we can build our lives in God.
Joining hands and heart with you in this great adventure,
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