“What is Ananda’s biggest priority project in the coming years?” I asked in my first planning meeting with Ananda’s Spiritual Directors, Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi, whom I joyfully serve in my role as fundraiser for Ananda. “The Temple of Light at Ananda Village,” came the resounding answer from across the table. “It’s long overdue.”
This was 2015 and I was new to my fundraising job at Ananda, but not to the line of work. I knew what a real capital campaign meant: Raising money to build a temple is no small endeavor. It means helping your network of friends get excited about something huge, something that will require us all to stretch beyond our comfort zone. I also knew this meant more and better: more donors, more money, more energy, better systems, better strategies, more joy.
With the directive from Jyotish and Devi, I set about preparing for the big “campaign” and figuring out how to pick up where many had left off. This temple has been in the ether, waiting to manifest, for nearly 48 years! I was certainly not the first person to take up the baton. I followed the trail of crumbs that led me to suspicious characters like Nakula (construction guru), Panduranga (architectural avatar), and Atman (his name says it all, “the Eternal Soul”). These were the planning and building brains behind most of the physical plane of Ananda Village.
By the middle of that year, wheels were turning and the Steering Committee had formed, with our architect extraordinaire Panduranga at the helm. For 18 months the Steering Committee, which includes Panduranga (architect), Atman (Ananda Village Manager), Latika (General Manager), Alex (Ananda Village planner), Willow (development and design), Nakula (construction manager), Nityananda (Expanding Light Retreat manager), Badri (Ananda Village planner), and Jyoti, Mai, and me (fundraisers), labored to develop a plan. We interviewed ministers, flower arrangers, Sunday school teachers, yoga teachers, meditation teachers, choir directors, video and audio technicians: everyone we could imagine using the new temple.
Out of nearly 12 months of interviews came The Program, a 27-page thesis that describes the essential elements of the Temple of Light at Ananda Village. It may seem like a lot of work for presenting some very simple information, but the clearer and more comprehensive the program, the more likely the temple is to become the best it can possibly be. That isn’t to say there weren’t moments during the sculpting of The Program that we wanted to call it done, never mind that we hadn’t decided how many yoga students should be able to fit in the two classrooms or whether a videographer should stand inside the temple or behind a glass window—let’s just be done! But the voice of reason won (thanks, Willow!), and we persisted until all the questions we could think of were answered.
Panduranga took The Program and very quickly developed architectural drawings that felt like they came straight from the astral world. It was like plugging into the Divine and simply downloading images: We were all stunned. What took a year for us to write, he drew in hours.
The first draft design was a bit grand: a little more in the way of square footage and sweeping spaces than was really required to meet Ananda’s needs. After a round of revisions to the first attempt, and the preparation of three alternative designs to consider as well, we were well on our way (check out architectural schemes A–D).
Next came the “big guns”: Nakula and his merry band of construction masters. They labored tirelessly to come up with budget estimates to match the four design options on the table. It became clear that our dream temple (option B) was the one to pursue.
Much of the story was told beautifully at the launch of the Temple of Light campaign on January 11, 2017, by the great souls who have helped it to unfold. For my part, it has been an experience already in divine grace, perseverance, and faith.
It is not always easy to manifest an idea as real walls and roof and chairs—to make it real. The Temple of Light at Ananda Village, having been in the minds of Ananda members for decades, faces the unique challenge of being both a foregone conclusion AND an easy project to postpone. The reasons for postponing its construction all these 48 years have been many and cogent. And yet, here we are, finally ready to put stakes in the ground, and we are confronted with the very natural question, “What took us so long?”
In fact, Divine Mother’s ways are mysterious. Were we to have built the temple years earlier, we might have been faced with the need for a new one by now anyway, because we would have built it too small. We also had not yet established the inspirational, iconic image of the blue-tiled roof and cupola that was created first in Assisi and further developed in Seattle.
Ananda as a worldwide movement has matured and is ready, finally, to take on the task of manifesting this missing piece of the blueprint for intentional spiritual communities that Paramhansa Yogananda envisioned. In two years, when we celebrate Ananda’s 50th anniversary, our worldwide family will gather for the first time at Ananda Village—the first of Yogananda’s cherished “world brotherhood colonies,” and the heart of their worldwide outreach with his teachings—in a temple befitting Yogananda’s call to “Immortalize your ideas in architecture.”
We hope you will join us for this grand adventure!