Next week Ananda will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. We took possession of the land we now call Ananda Village on July 4, 1969. We have often remarked on the “coincidence” of July 4 also being what is generally considered to be the birthdate of the United States, the day of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Both were born from the desire to fight oppression: one against a tyrannical overseas power, and the other—Ananda—against an even more tyrannical ruler, delusion.
More than 850 people will join together for Ananda’s weeklong anniversary celebration, which will be filled with classes, music, inspiration, and joy, and will include as well the dedication of the beautiful new Temple of Light. People are coming from around the world to be part of the energy. You, too, can tune in to many of the events on the internet either live or recorded. The classes during the week will cover the challenges, commitment, and creativity that carved out a complete way of life lived for God, and that have made Ananda a beacon of light for the world.
The essence of Ananda was expressed many years before its founding, when Swami Kriyananda crossed the country to meet his great guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. Having just read Autobiography of a Yogi, Swamiji’s deep desire was to find God and to share Him with everyone. Now, fifty years later, Ananda is still committed to those two goals.
What does it take for a community or an individual to persevere for half a century against all the tests and trials that life throws at us? Here are three elements that made it work for Ananda:
1) Absolute faith in the power and teachings of the guru. Faith in the guru—in our case, Paramhansa Yogananda—gives you two essential ingredients: the desire to practice his divinely inspired teachings, and even more importantly, his grace and blessings on your efforts.
2) The support of others who are also seeking God. It is much easier to keep your resolve when in the company of others who share the path with you. When you need help, or when your resolution fades, you have friends to help, and when they flag, you are there for them. The essence of spiritual community is sharing deep friendship during both the good and the difficult times.
3) Individual will and perseverance. There are many ups and downs in life, and sometimes one has to use fierce determination to power through obstacles. On the other hand, you can’t sprint for a whole marathon; you have to pace yourself. True perseverance requires finding a balance between effort and relaxation. It also requires that we find and maintain the innate joy that lives within each of us. If you can accept, and even laugh at your tests, you will be able to maintain your center when, as Yogananda put it, “trials shriek and worries howl at you.”
There are many other qualities that could be mentioned, but to my mind these are the three most important. I think I will stop here and follow this wise advice: An effective talk (or blog) needs a strong opening and a good ending. And the two should be as close together as possible.