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Talks with Ananda Pioneers: Nayaswami Jaya

Nayaswami Jaya
December 27, 2022

Nayaswami Jaya shares with Dambara on April 29th, 2022. Enjoy these beautiful interviews by Dambara, who talks with the founders of Ananda Village, a spiritual community in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas in Northern California. Ananda has grown now to many communities and centers around the world, and inspires thousands of people every day in their spiritual life.

The Early Days

In 1968 Swami Kriyananda, Ananda’s founder, purchased 70 acres of land in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, near Nevada City, to be used as a retreat and hermitage. He soon attracted many like-minded — and hardy — souls, who enjoyed the challenge of living simply. These early pioneers helped build the first temple, kitchen and common area, which provided the nucleus of the Ananda Meditation Retreat. The Meditation Retreat hosted year round classes and programs on yoga and meditation and attracted hundreds of visitors.

The New Land

The ideal of living simple, spiritually-centered lives appealed not only to those who were drawn to the life of the hermit, but to people in all stages of life — couples, families, single adults, retirees — and it soon became evident that more land would be needed to accommodate the rapidly expanding number of people drawn to the cooperative spiritual life Ananda had to offer. In 1969 an additional 236 acres were purchased, not far from the Meditation Retreat, which provided an ideal location for the new Ananda Cooperative Community, as it was then called. Gently hilly, with grassy meadows, mixed oak, pine and fir forest, and an open, expansive feel, including panoramic views of the Sierras and rolling foothills, the land offers its graceful beauty to residents, guests and visitors alike. In 1974, Ananda acquired another 326 acres adjacent to the original purchase. A number of years of pioneering innovation ensued. Businesses were started: macramé, incense, honey, an organic garden, an organic dairy, healthy candy, natural jewelry, book publishing, construction, and a natural foods market. Some were privately owned, some community owned – a pattern true today as well. Homes were made: teepees, tiny trailers, simple cabins. School was established: pre-school, elementary, residential high school. Basic services were established: water, sanitation, roads, electricity, phone. These years were marked by outward austerity and the joyful outpouring of cooperative spirit.

Worldwide Expansion

By 1979, the Village had grown to a population of approximately 150 adults and 50 children. As the Meditation Retreat continued to offer classes and retreats to ever increasing numbers, the model of spirit-centered life that Ananda demonstrated was attracting an eager and ever growing number of people. However, not all of them could move to Ananda Village, so it was decided to start Ananda centers and communities wherever there was strong interest. The first expansion was to Sacramento, California, and World Brotherhood Colonies in Mountain View, California, Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon quickly followed. Since then, communities have been founded in Los Angeles, CA, Gaston, OR, Assisi, Italy, Gurgaon, India and Pune, India. In addition there are numerous Ananda meditation groups in the U.S., Europe and India.