What Are The Ananda Spiritual Communities?
Ananda Sangha – (The Story) Spreading the Light of Yoga Through the Teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda. As Told by Swami Kriyananda
My clearest early memories all relate to a special kind of happiness, one that seemed to have little to do with the things around me, that at best was only reflected in them. A lingering impression is one of wonder to be in this world at all. What was I doing here?
Intuitively I felt that there must be some higher reality—another world, much more radiant, beautiful and harmonious, than this earthly plane represented.
Beautiful sounds and colors thrilled me almost to ecstasy. Sometimes I would cover a table down to the floor with a colorful Indian blanket, then crawl inside and fairly drink in the luminous colors.
At other times, gazing into the prism formed by the broad edge of a mirror on my mother’s dressing table, I would imagine myself living in a world of rainbow-colored lights.
Often also, at night before I fall asleep, I would see myself absorbed in a radiant inner light, and my consciousness would expand beyond the limits of my body.
At that time I thought that this was the norm and everyone went to sleep this way.
Later I learned that this was very rare. If not viewed as weird by most.
Gradually I lost that precious gift. Regaining it again much later in my meditations when I was in my twenties, after my kriya yoga initiation from my beloved Guruji – Paramhansa Yogananda. It was then when I realized that since then, no time has passed.
But more f that later…
As I grew older, my inner joy spilled over into an intense enthusiasm for life.
Living in Chrlestwon – North Carolina at that time, I was moderately happy, except for the fact that I had a nagging thought that bothered me constantly: Is there no meaning to it all? Is life nothing but a process of boredom and monotony? Surely there must be some higher purpose—hidden, perhaps, but beautiful and Divine.
One question returned to me constantly with increasing urgency: But, what is God?
If God existed he mustn’t be just a grumpy judge in the clouds…
God has to be, I thought, if nothing else, a conscious Being. I had read somewhere that He is a dynamic force of happiness. Well, He had to be that, too, of course.
Pursuing these thoughts, I found myself concluding, that what I wanted, what all mankind really needs therefore is God.
God Himself must be conscious, I was thinking, and, having created everything, must also have produced it out of consciousness. Therefore He is consciousness: Essential Consciousness.
One might, I reflected, devote his entire life to this truth, and never grow tired. What a thrilling prospect! This, then, would be my calling in life: I would seek God!
On my return home one night I found my friends seated, chatting, in the kitchen. I joined them, for a cup of coffee. My thoughts, however, were far away from that gathering.
So overwhelmed was I by my new insights that I could hardly speak.
“Look at Don! They cried. What’s he got to be so solemn about?” When they found that I wouldn’t, participate in their cheer, the laughter turned to teasing.
“Don keeps trying to solve the riddle of the universe! Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!”
“Ah, sweet mystery of life!” wailed another.
“Why, can’t you see?” turned to me the fourth, “It’s all so simple! There’s no riddle to be solved! Just get drunk when you like, have fun, shack up with a girl whenever you can, and forget all this craziness!”
“Yeah,” echoed the first, heavily. “Forget it.”
To my present state of mind, my roommates sounded like yapping puppies. Of what use to me are such friends? Without sauying a single word to them, I stood up and left the room.
A few days later I was discussing spirituality with an acquaintance. “If you want spiritual teachings,” he mentioned suddenly, “you’ll find all your answers in the Bhagavad Gita.”
“What’s that?” Somehow I found this exotic name deeply appealing, and also, in some unaccountable way, familiar.
It’s a Hindu scripture. He said. Hindu? And what was that? I knew nothing of the Indian teachings.
This name, however, the Bhagavad Gita, lingered with me profoundly.
Ii started researching and one day, I came upon excerpts from the Hindu teachings— a few pages only, but what a revelation! Here the emphasis was on cosmic realities. God was described as an Infinite Consciousness; man, as a manifestation of that consciousness.
Wow, this was the very concept I myself had worked out during my long thoughts previously in Charlestown!
Man’s highest duty, I read, is to attune himself with the divine consciousness: Again, this was what I, too, had worked out!
Man’s ultimate goal is—I found the thought echoed back to me— to experience that divine reality as his true Self.
But, how scientific! What infinite promise!
Here, I found also explanations, presented with crystal clarity and logic. Best of all, I found the counsel I had been seeking: not only on how to live a spiritual life generally, but, more specifically, on how to seek God.
I Was Astounded!
This was exactly what I’d been seeking! I felt like a beggar who has just been given a mountain full of jewels, gold and gems.
Here are some excerpts from the Bhagavad Gita;
I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness.
He who meditates on Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his mind constantly engaged in remembering Me, undeviated from the path, he, O Pärtha, is sure to reach Me.
Oh my dear Arjuna, while speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead. Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.
As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.
That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul.
As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.
Only the material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is subject to destruction; therefore, fight, O descendant of Bharata
For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.
Reading these words my mind was highly elevated and my imagination was deeply stirred.
More and more I just wanted to make myself an open receptacle to be filled by God’s grace.
I knew that if I did offer myself like that to these teachings, God would enter my life and fill me with “Endless Bliss.”
These excerpts were all saying essentially the same thing: Perfection can be found only within the self, not in the outer world.
Few days later I went further up Fifth Avenue in New York to another bookstore: Doubleday-Doran (as it was named then). Here, I found an entire section of books on Indian philosophy—the first I had ever encountered.
I feasted hungrily my gaze on the wide variety of titles: The Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and other books on yoga.
Then Something Amazing Happened…
As I was finishing scanning the shelves, I saw a book I hadn’t noticed at first.
The author’s photograph on the cover affected me strangely. Never had I seen any face radiate back to me so much goodness, humility, and love.
Eagerly I picked up the book and glanced again at its title: Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda.
As I saw that beautiful face on the cover, I felt a strong inner prompting to go
buy it. I thrust the thought firmly out of my mind.
“That isn’t what I’m looking for,” I told myself.
But then a thought entered: “How can you know what the book is really like, if you won’t even read it?”
“No!” I reasoned: “I’ve got to stop reading books; I’m too intellectual as it is. Besides, if I’m ever to become a hermit, I’m going to have to save money, not continue to spend it!”
I reached the corner, and was proceeding toward the curb ahead of me, when happened something shocking I’d never thought would happen to me…
I felt that an actual force was turning me left, toward Fifth Avenue.
I’d never experienced anything like this before.
Amazed, I asked myself, “Is there something in this book that I’m meant to read?”
Without a second thought, I quickly turned to Doubleday-Doran.
On entering the store, I made straight for the shelves of Indian books and bought Autobiography of a Yogi.
Imperceptibly, my doubts about it had vanished. I felt as though Yogananda shared my destiny.
With my new book in hand, I felt suddenly as though this Indian yogi and I were
The world and I were strangers, but here was one human being—the very first!—who knew and understood me.
And I hadn’t yet even met him, physically!
I reached my room in Scarsdale as fast as I could and opened the book.
And Then Began The Most Thrilling Adventure Of My Life
Autobiography of a Yogi is the story of a young Bengali Indian’s intense search for God.
It describes a number of living saints he met on his journey, especially his own great guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar.
It also describes, more clearly than any other mystical work I have ever read since, the author’s experiences with God, including the highest one possible;
Samadhi: Perfect bliss!
In chapter after chapter I found moving testimony to God’s living reality, not only in infinity, but in the hearts and lives of living human beings.
I read of how Yogananda’s prayers, even for little things, had been answered, and of how, by placing himself unreservedly in God’s hands, his unanticipated needs had been met without a single fail.
Until now, I had supposed that a life of meditation might give me, at best, a little peace of mind.
But here I discovered, all at once, that the fruit of the spiritual life is a love and bliss “beyond imagination of expectancy”!
Never Before Had I Encountered a Spirit So Clearly Truthful, So Filled With Goodness And Joy!
Every page seemed radiant with light. As I read Autobiography of a Yogi, I alternated between tears and laughter: tears of pure joy; laughter of even greater joy!
For three days I scarcely ate or slept. When I walked it was almost tiptoe, as if in an ecstatic dream.
What this book described, finally, was the highest of sciences, Kriya Yoga, a technique that enables the seeker to advance rapidly on the spiritual path of meditation.
For, more than anything else, what this book gave me was the conviction that in Yogananda I had found my Guru, my spiritual teacher for all time to come.
Only a few days earlier I hadn’t even known this strange word, guru, yoga, or reincarnation, or karma, or almost any of the basic of Indian philosophy.
As soon as I finished reading Autobiography of a Yogi, my impulse was to jump onto the next California-bound bus. But I didn’t want to be impulsive, so I waited a whole day!
I took the next one available. Thereafter, for four days and four nights, my home was a succession of long-distance buses.
I arrived in Encinitas late that afternoon, too tired to proceed at once to the hermitage. I booked into a hotel and fairly collapsed onto my bed, sleeping around the clock.
The next morning I set out for the Self-Realization Fellowship hermitage, I rang the front doorbell.
Minutes later a gentle-looking, elderly lady appeared. Later I learned that this was Gyana Mata Master’s most advanced woman disciple.
“May I help you?” she inquired politely
“Is Paramhansa Yogananda in?”
No, I’m afraid he’s away for the weekend. Is there something I can do for you?”
“Well, yes. No. I mean, I wanted to see him.”
“He’s lecturing today at the Hollywood church.”
“You have a church there?” let my astonishment show. I’d always imagined Hollywood as containing only movie studios,
Then I continued…
“I want to join his work,” I explained. “I want to live here.”
“Have you studied his printed lessons?” she inquired?
“Lessons?” I echoed blankly. “I didn’t know he had lessons to be studied.” My position was getting murkier by the minute.
“There’s a full course of them. I’m afraid you couldn’t join,” she continued firmly, “until you’d completed the lot.”
“How long does that take?” My heart was sinking.
“About four years.”
This was out of the question!
Swallowing my disappointment, I inquired how I might get to the Hollywood church
When I arrived in Los Angeles, I immediately proceeded at once to 4860 Sunset Boulevard, the address of the church I was seeking.
A lady greeted me from behind a long table at the back of the room.
“May I help you?”
The situation was getting similar…
I explained my mission.
“Oh, I’m afraid you couldn’t possibly see him today. His time is completely filled.” I was growing more desperate by the minute. “When can I see him?”
She consulted a small book on the table before her.
Without turning her look away from the book she said; “His appointments are fully booked for the next two and a half months,”
Two and a half months!
First I’d been told I couldn’t join for four years. Now I was told I couldn’t even see him for. .
…“But I’ve come all the way from New York just for this!” I complained…
“Have you?” She smiled sympathetically. “How did you hear about him?”
“I read his autobiography a few days ago.”
“So recently! And you came . . . just . . . like that?” She cooled a little. “Usually people write first. Didn’t you write?”
Bleakly I confessed I hadn’t even thought of doing so.
“Well, I’m sorry, but you can’t see him for another two and a half months. In the meantime,” she continued, brightening a little, “you can study his lessons, and attend the services here.”
I was in turmoil.
I simply had to become a part of this wonderful way of life. It was where I belonged. It was my home.
Meanwhile I prayed mentally; “You must take me!” “You must! This means everything to me. It means my whole life!”
Finally it occurred to me—novel thought!—that perhaps I simply wasn’t ready, and that this was why the doors weren’t opening for me.
If this were true, I decided, I’d just go out and live in the hills near Hollywood, come to the services regularly, study the lessons, and—I sighed…
When I was ready, the Master would surely know it, and would summon me.
With this resolution in mind, and with no small disappointment in my heart, I made for the front door.
“Since you’ve come such a long way,” the lady returned behind me and said,
“I’ll just ask Master if he’d be willing to see you today.”
She returned a few minutes later.
“Master will see you next.”
Shortly thereafter I was ushered into a small sitting room.
What large, lustrous eyes greeted me! What compassionate sweetness in his smile!
Never before had I seen such divine beauty in a human face.
The first words that came out of my mouth were “I want to be your disciple!”
The reply welled up from my heart irresistibly. Never had I expected to utter such words to another human being.
During which he held his eyes half open, half closed—“reading” me, as I well knew.
Over and over again I prayed desperately in my heart, “You must take me! I know that you know my thoughts. I can’t say it outwardly; I’d only burst into tears. But you must accept me. You must!”
He accepted me at that very moment. Early in the conversation he told me, “I agreed to see you only because Divine Mother told me to.
I spent 14 years in his hermitage.
He thought me so many thigs.
“Behind every rosebush of pleasure,” he cautioned us, “hides a rattlesnake of pain.”
“Never say that you are a sinner,” he went on to advise us. “You are a child of God! To call yourself a sinner is to identify yourself with your sins instead of trying to rid yourself of them.
I never knew him to hold a grudge.
And he was endlessly loving and forgiving
There was a man who for years, out of intense jealousy, had slandered Master.
One day, a few days before the end of Master’s life, the two of them met at a formal gathering.
“Remember,” Master said, gazing into the man’s eyes with deep forgiveness, “I will always love you!”
I saw the man later, gazing at Master with deep love and admiration.
A photograph of that encounter appears in the published story of Master’s mahasamadhi, or final conscious exit from his body.
Master’s counsel to people, born as it was of divine love, was always particular to their needs.
Seeing me one day on the grounds, he advised me;
“Do not get excited or impatient, Walter. Go with slow speed.”
No one could have known my thoughts, but he knew them all…
One day a dark mood came over me. I concentrated into the spiritual eye with all my willpower and the dark mood left me.
Later I saw him again. By this time my depression had vanished.
I went on to touch his feet. He touched my head gently and smiled and said.
“Very good. “No more moods, now, Walter, otherwise, how will you be able to help people?”
I said; you knew…
He said without a pause; I know every thought you think.
An all mighty and powerful statement, and yet he proved that to be true over and over again.
Repeatedly he told me; “You have great work to do. Your job will be lecturing and writing. Your life will be one of intense activity, and meditation”
I didn’t want to relate to that then, because I never saw myself as a writer or speaker.
I only wanted to be at his feet and meditate.
Only now I understand what he meant. Everything he said was true.
One day master was invited in a party of wealthy people and actors, then they invited him to speak, I remember his exact words to this very day;
He spoke with such great power;
“I am sawing my thoughts in the ether and my word shall not die. Thousands of youths shall go north east and west, founding spiritual brotherhood colonies for simple living and high thinking.”
He was talking about spiritual communities, like is Ananda today.
From all 800 people that were present there, I was the only one that I heard him.
In fact I strongly believe that he said that because of me.
Ananda Spiritual Communities Are Born
Swami Kriyananda always has said that part of his mission in life is to spread his guru’s work by helping others to find the truth within themselves.
Misunderstanding his vision however, the members of the board of directors of the organization of his beloved Guruji, eventually forced him to leave Self-Realization Fellowship after 14 years of faithful serving.
“When they told me I have I went home and lied in my bed wishing to die.
I felt that my life was over. However this turned out to be another of masters blessings, because with \oyt that I wouldn’t started these communities and you wouldn’t be here” Swamiji often told us
Ananda is a place where a person could live, work, and go to meditate all in one place, living for God and serving Him with fellow devotees.
More than any other disciple, Swami Kriyananda tried to fulfill his guru’s vision of spiritual communities. In 1968 he founded the first community in California, called Ananda Village
By adherence to principles and with their dedication to God, and with the moto Atta Dharma data jaya (Where there is dharma there is victory) Ananda members were able to face many challenges and yet still thrive and grow.
Here is a quick video on what are the Ananda communities;