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Blessings, Nayaswami Hriman
This is an email sent to members of Ananda in Seattle, WA (USA) (today, May 20,2016)
Ananda: Who are We?
Dear Friends, Members & Students of Ananda Seattle:
Last Sunday, May 15, we officially dedicated the newly constructed Yoga Hall. We wanted to share with you that this new hall is more than a yoga “studio.” Hatha yoga is more than stretches with incredible (and increasingly proven) health benefits. More and more people recognize the mental health and well-being benefits of hatha yoga. Following this, more people are recognizing its original spiritual purpose and benefits.
Ananda’s style of Hatha Yoga is what we call “Ananda Yoga.” We won’t go into a detailed description of Ananda Yoga because in outward appearance we use many of the classic yoga poses that are practiced and taught around the world and down through the centuries. We’ve added affirmations specific to each pose to help students tune into the consciousness from which the physical poses were originally sourced and which is the spiritual essence and purpose of each pose.
We understand that Ananda is seen in various ways, some of which seem at opposites: to some, we are a specific spiritual path (kriya yoga) following the inspiration of a modern spiritual teacher (Paramhansa Yogananda). In this view we are not unlike churches or temples everywhere and in most faith traditions. Indeed, our legal name is Ananda Church of Self-Realization of Seattle! We are, in fact, recognized as a “church” by the I.R.S.
However, when Paramhansa Yogananda was asked if “Self-realization” is a new sect, he replied, “We are not a sect.” Elsewhere he explained that this work is a “new dispensation of the eternal truths” taught by masters in every tradition, and especially in India and by Jesus Christ. Yet to any person looking in from the “outside,” we do have specific practices, precepts, rituals, and tenets that characterize churches everywhere.
What he meant was that we do not have a “sectarian” attitude and that is very much our intention, practice and affirmation. The teachings of ancient Indian, known since time immemorial as Sanaatan Dharma (the Eternal Religion), predate Hinduism and are as akin to philosophy as to religion. The core values of what we represent lies at the heart of the spiritual impulse embedded in human consciousness and which is expressed, variously, in all true faiths. Hence we see the niches in the temple sanctuary which present the symbols of the major faith traditions. Yogananda called his own temples a “Churches of All Religions.”
To many of you and the public at large, and now represented dynamically by the newly opened Yoga Hall, we are a place where yoga classes, open to everyone, are offered! In between these two extremes —yoga and church — we are a place where meditation can be learned, and where interesting classes on philosophy and spiritualizing daily life are offered. For those who are inspired to make these teachings and practices central to their personal spiritual journey, we are a “church.” To those who want to benefit from hatha yoga or who want to learn to meditate, we are a meditation and yoga center.
We are, therefore, legitimately different things to different people according to their needs and interests. Thus we “defy” easy categorization. As Yogananda said of his own life’s work, “I come to ‘dye you in the wool’ of your own Self-realization.”
A new era has begun for the work of Ananda through the use and presence of the Yoga Hall under the auspices of the Institute of Living Yoga. Here we will hold not only yoga classes but vegetarian cooking classes and everything for uplifting daily life in between the two. The two buildings, while each symbolizes one end or the other of the spectrum of health to soul, are, in fact, interchangeable: sometimes yoga will take place in the sanctuary; spiritual holiday banquets will take place in the Yoga hall; how-to-live classes will take place in the temple building. In effect, we are ONE.
Asking your blessings upon this new era of public service,