Showing posts with label community. Show all posts
Showing posts with label community. Show all posts

Friday, June 17, 2016

Why We Need Community

Note to friends: Ananda Community Open House: Tomorrow!  http://www.anandawashington.org/event/solstice-open-house/?instance_id=132275. Stay tuned for a follow up article with some reflections about American society. "Just sayin' "

Our nation mourns for the latest victims of violence in our country even as calls go forth for finding preventative solutions for the future. Could this Saturday’s annual Open House and Solstice Celebration held by Ananda Community in Lynnwood  be relevant to the serious challenges in our time?

We certainly think so. The modern trend of globalism is neither all “good” nor all “bad.” It is complex and besides being an historical fact and a cultural fait accompli, it is, among other things, a trend that is bringing people of every race and nation in contact with one another.

What we see in decline, however, is a sense of community. Our urban and suburban neighborhoods tend to be a transient admixture of people and families with little in common, and their paths rarely cross.

On July 30, 1949, at a speech given in Beverly Hills, Paramhansa Yogananda proclaimed that “I am sowing into the ether” the seeds of the community ideal for the future. He predicted that a new pattern of conscious, intentional and sustainable living would “spread like wildfire.” The “wildfire” part still awaits a future ignition but the increasing violence in the world will unquestionably be one of the sparks. Economic challenges, no doubt, will be another.

The stage is being set and Ananda’s founder, Swami Kriyananda, who was present in the audience that fateful day, vowed to do his part. Before his passing in 2013, Swami Kriyananda had founded nine such communities throughout the world, including the Ananda Community in nearby Lynnwood.

The concept of intentional communities is not limited to its residential forms. Virtual communities or associations of those inspired and committed to serve their own local area or the world at large, all count as “communities.”

Our invitation to you, therefore, for this Saturday’s Solstice Celebration and Open House is an opportunity for all of us to register “our answer” to mindless violence by coming together to affirm our kinship with one another and all life. The power of harmony and friendship will always win, but it takes conscious efforts on our part. 

Since time immemorial, the Summer Solstice has drawn people together, recognizing intuitively that the powerful rays of the sun at its diurnal zenith symbolize the healing and energizing rays of the Divine Light within and without.


Blessings to all,
Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma McGilloway

Note details of the Open House:
Come rain, sun, thunderstorms! It will be fun and memorable no matter what!
Saturday, June 18, 3 to 7 p.m. 20715 Larch Way, Lynnwood 98036
3 p.m. Grounds are open; parking in the back. Tours, refreshments, childrens activities, music, summer fun faire booths with food, organic produce, clothing, gifts, books and healing services!

5 p.m. Solstice Celebration : a theme of family featuring music & ceremony
6 p.m. Vegetarian dinner (free)


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Law of Success


For a tree to grow strong and bear good fruit, it needs sunlight, water, and good soil. No success is ever achieved in a vacuum. While success can mean achieving any goal one has chosen, true success is that which brings lasting satisfaction of body, mind, and soul. To achieve name and fame or wealth at the expense of others by greed, lies, or exploitation is a one-sided and a fragile kind of success. It is not true success and whatever satisfaction it may bring is hollow.

Success requires a sensitive balance and dance between self-will and harmonious cooperation with other people, environment and circumstances. The sapling tree can be killed by too much water or not enough water; too intense of sunlight or insufficient sunlight. Scientists opine that the chemical and other combinations of ingredients that makes planet Earth habitable for humans is both complex and very delicate. We’ve yet to find another planet such as ours.

Success comes by creating friendships. When Paramhansa Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi) came to America in 1920, he made friends everywhere he went because he was friendly. He addressed people’s needs, from cooking a meal for them to giving them wisdom and practical teachings. He never used people but saw others equally as God manifesting in specific forms. He thus served God in others and did not think of himself.

Success also requires concentration upon the goal and the means to the goal, sometimes to the exclusion of all else but always by keeping one’s priorities clearly in view. Meditation serves one superbly to open the floodgates to a flow of intuition onto a field of calm sensitive awareness guiding that rive-like flow, laser-like, in the direction of one’s goal.

I have lived in an Ananda Community for over thirty-five years and have seen the power that comes from the combination of high ideals, practicality, and “the many hands that can a miracle.” Unless you happen to be an Albert Einstein, most of us would do well to understand that success comes when we work with and through and for others. At your workplace, be helpful. Think of the needs of your co-workers, your supervisor, and the legitimate goals of the company or organization. Do your best with excellence, creativity, and enthusiasm.

After a forest fire destroyed most of the first Ananda Community (Ananda Village, near Nevada City, CA), we banded together (eschewing the opportunity to sue the local county — a faulty spark arrestor on a county vehicle caused the fire) to find new ways to raise the money we needed to rebuild. Yes, some donations came in but most of it came through old fashioned hard work. But we were relatively inexperienced and without financial resources. We studied business methods, financing, and marketing, and we encouraged one another and our businesses to tithe and to use affirmations and prayers. We started a health food store, a cafĂ©, a print shop, a gift shop and a clothing store. Each of the these enterprises struggled greatly but bit by bit they came up and our member-employees found viable, if simple, means of support.

In time, the Community rose from the ashes and today when one visits you see a beautiful Village nestled in the hills, forests, and meadows of the Sierra Mountains. Homes of many types, shapes and sizes house families, monks, and singles in a charming and harmonious life of creativity, service, and devotion. A retreat center, office complex, grocery store, farm, dairy and community center serve the needs of both residents and neighbors alike.

Our local East West Bookshop in Seattle, too, is a testimony to the efforts of many individuals serving high ideals and attracting the grace to be successful. While the independent bookstore industry has been decimated this store has survived and flourished. It is the largest and most successful bookstore of its kind in Washington State. It is a resource center for new thought truth seekers and offers classes, books, gifts and, perhaps most of all, an uplifted environment staffed with devotees who see customers as their friends.

Here in the Seattle area we are engaged in purchasing a rural area farm. Some twenty individuals have pooled their resources. Small scale, organic farming is a tricky and risky business if seen from the standpoint of profits. But with the many hands and resources of a committed group of people which includes the talent and skills of a few who can guide the fledgling farm, we can create a success because we understand success is sharing and serving. In our case we are committed to principles and practices of sustainability and stewardship, serving God through our fellow man and in harmony with the earth and all creatures.

So it takes the initiative, courage and faith of individuals combined with the cooperation and support of others of like mind — God helping God — to achieve true success. This is an unbeatable combination, not only to achieve success but to achieve the success of weathering and resurrecting from in the inevitable setbacks, failures, and disasters which life can dish out.

The key, spiritually, is to offer the self to the Self of all. “I will reason, I will will, I will act, but guide Thou my reason, will and activity to the right step in all that I do.”

In the life of Ananda’s founder, Swami Kriyananda, now age 86, but still outpacing his staff and members in the worldwide network of Ananda Communities in the unceasing flow of writings, lectures, radio and TV shows, guidance, and inspiration, we see in real life the power of grace that comes from discipleship to life and to truth. “What’s trying to happen here” is the question he has taught us to ask in all things. Yet for all of his creativity, intelligence and talent, it is now primarily the outpouring of divine Bliss that one experiences in his presence. For a lifetime of living for God has brought to him the peace and lasting fulfillment that the soul was created to re-discover.

Initially the effort to view oneself as part of a greater reality and to cooperate with grace is an effort of will. As I have seen in recent Facebook postings, “Life begins outside your comfort zone!” But in time and as seen in Swami Kriyananda, that dance of Spirit and Nature becomes a powerful flow of Light and Joy.
When I first came to live at Ananda Village (just after the 1976 forest fire), it was definitely outside my comfort zone. But just having returned from over a year of travel in Europe, near East and India, I understood the value of stepping outside that zone to find the truth that “could make me free.” I never hesitated though I could not then know where it would lead.

In a more cosmic or Vedantic sense, rishis (both ancient and modern, like Paramhansa Yogananda) have taught that this universe is a manifestation of God. God is dreaming this material world and we, as sparks of His intelligence and joy, are co-creators. Yogananda used the analogy of the movies. You sit in the theatre and become engrossed in the movie, laughing and crying. You forget that the whole movie is a projection of light from the booth behind you (unseen). A beam of white light, merely, projecting the true-to- life sound and sight pictures of the movie. We need only turn our heads to the back (turn within, that is), and follow the beam of light to its source in Oneness if we would awaken from the movie-dream of life.

The other day, puttering in the kitchen at home, I suddenly had this intense feeling-experience of that flow of cosmic energy oscillating and vibrating all the objects around and I felt on the precipice of having it all disappear, just as would happen if the electricity in the movie theatre were suddenly to go out. It was both unnerving and thrilling at the same time. It was also brief!

The more we see ourselves as energy, and behind that energy, the Bliss of God oscillating all the forms and actions of life, the less we need to be always thinking about ourselves and the more we enter that flow that brings to us the true happiness (Bliss) that we seek. This, ultimately, is success and the law of success.

Bliss-ings to you,
Nayaswami Hriman

Monday, June 11, 2012

Happy Anniversary Ananda Community!


Happy 20 Year Anniversary Ananda Community (near) Seattle

Saturday, June 16, Ananda Community in Lynnwood, Washington (USA) celebrates its 20th anniversary. Ananda Community is part of a network of independent but affiliated intentional communities around the world. The first of nine communities was begun in 1968 by Swami Kriyananda, direct disciple of the world teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda, whose life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, has become a worldwide classic. Yogananda was a strong promoter of the ideals of intentional community. He called them “world brotherhood colonies” and decades before the term sustainability came into vogue and into a compelling necessity and worldwide movement, he encouraged audiences to pool their resources, buy land in the country, grow food, and create a self-sustaining way of life. Did he foresee globalization, global warming, pollution, depersonalization of modern society, health hazards of processed food, economic disruptions, and so many other ills of modern life? One imagines so, for the simple reason that his advice fits so perfectly the needs and yearnings of high-minded yet practical individuals.

In July 1992, members of the Ananda in the Seattle area combined their individual resources and purchased a 32-unit apartment complex just outside the Lynnwood city limits (about 10 miles north of Seattle, just off Interstate 5, the main northwest freeway from Canada to Mexico!). Ideally located at the north end of the greater Seattle metropolitan area, near the junction of two major freeways, the property retains the feeling of its rural roots with an abundance of trees on five and one-half acres. It was in need, however, of a facelift and it would take time to renovate and relocate the existing tenants to make room for Ananda members and friends. Within a year, however, Ananda Community was fully engaged as Ananda’s latest intentional community.

There are three rural Ananda Communities: the first was established in the Sierra foothills near Nevada City / Grass Valley in California. It resides upon some 900 acres with some three hundred residents and many others in the surrounding areas. It has a wide range of activities and employment opportunities and includes community-owned businesses, member-owned businesses, professionals, self-employeds, school through high school, a college, a small village, publishing, yoga retreat and much more. A similar community exists in central Italy in the Umbrian hills just south of Assisi, Italy, and the newest community is being built west of the city of Pune in India along the eastern slopes of the so-called Western ghats (coastal hills). In addition, there is a new educational community east of Portland (Laurelwood Academy) and an ashram community in south Delhi, India (Guargon).

There are four urban apartment-style communities: Sacramento & Mountain View, California, Portland, Oregon, and Lynnwood (near Seattle), Washington. It is the latter community whose 20-year anniversary we celebrate this Saturday, June 16. The urban communities are owned by Ananda members in cooperation with the local Ananda organization. The rural Ananda communities are generally owned only by the Ananda organization, but members build their homes either as donations or in the form of an informal, unsecured loan.

For several years the Ananda (Lynnwood) Community has combined a Solstice Service with a Community Open House. We’ve added an art exhibit as the seedling for a Festival of the Joyful Arts which includes live music. We hope that over the years to come this will grow to include art and performances by members and friends whose art expresses a deeper connection with all life and a hope for a better world based on universal values and a Spirit-centered life. But this year we have our 20-year anniversary to celebrate.

It is commonplace among free and progressive thinkers, and people of good will and high ideals, to acknowledge the shortcomings of our materialistic and mechanistic western culture. It is commonplace to view the rising tide of popularity for eastern thought and spirituality as a natural counterpoint to our culture which seems hell-bent on self-destruction. But fewer have identified the human need and value for community. It’s important that we learn to seek quality of life, not just quantity of consumption and possessions. But quality of life cannot exist independent of people and of meaningful relationships with others. Good health, food, job, home, security and personal liberties are all important but, in fact, secondary to personal relationships. Even amidst the horrors of Nazi concentration camps the saving grace for those few who survived was a combination of personal, inner strength and cooperation and sympathy with others. You can achieve fame, fortune, wealth or beauty and yet be miserable, lonely and without friendship and love.

Traditional village or family life has the shortcomings of abuse, gossip, and narrow-mindedness. Intentional community has the advantage of being a conscious choice based on one’s ideals and shared interests. In an intentional community one can find a variety of skills, temperaments and points of view that can enrich one’s own life rather than narrow it. Of course, a community can become self-enclosed and cult-like, but it doesn’t have to be.

The Ananda communities have been established and guided by Swami Kriyananda to be inclusive, not exclusive. While these particular communities are comprised of individuals who are (generally) disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda, they are, nonetheless, open to all who are sincerely interested in the way of life that has evolved in these communities. Residents may invite parents who are in need of assistance and otherwise at least neutral to the ideals of the community. In the urban (apartment-style) communities, there are typically residents who are friendly but not necessarily involved in Ananda as such. It so happens that at Ananda Community in Lynnwood the residents are all members of Ananda, but it is not a requirement, though it is an obvious preference for the sake of harmony and magnetism.

If you were to survey the backgrounds and ethnicity of Ananda residents in the nine Ananda residential communities you would find every race and ethnic background in residence. You would find among the residents a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, education, interests, skills, and temperaments. Some are more hermit like; others, more gregarious. Some deeply involved, or leaders, while others are retired or engaged in their own occupations or businesses.

Think of what this world faces: globalization means that your job can be outsourced to another country and all the efforts and education you’ve invested in can evaporate forever. Who can accept such serfdom? Intentional communities are not an effort to go back to an agricultural way of life and abandoning all technology. Rather, it is to establish a cooperative lifestyle that engages the creative commitment of a wide variety of individuals for a greater good. There may be some communities that are self-sustaining in an agricultural context but we haven’t seen that happen at Ananda. We have computer programmers, writers, dramatists, publicists, teachers, and so many skills. That makes more sense to me.

This takes me to a slight but important detour. Paramhansa Yogananda, before his death in 1952, repeatedly warned his audiences and students that great calamities (war, depression, and cataclysms) awaited America and many other nations before there could be an era of relative peace. Just as importantly, it is not possible to separate his warnings from his advice and prediction about communities. The two are inextricably linked. Not permanently, but practically, in terms of what will motivate some people to form such communities in our present age.

Mind you, too, that neither Yogananda nor Ananda foresee that the rapid spread of communities will necessarily have anything to do with Ananda or with disciples of Yogananda. The motivation and inspiration behind the communities movement and the necessity for them is far broader than that. Even to this date, Swami Kriyananda has counseled the Ananda communities to remain independent from each other, cooperating in many ways but not interdependent or under any central control.

So, this Saturday we celebrate our twenty years of cooperative living. We also celebrate the communities ideal and have invited other communitarians to celebrate with us. As guest speakers we have Nancy Lanphear, co-founder of nearby Songaia Community, and John Hoff, co-founder of the well known Goodenough Community based in Seattle. Two other virtual communitarians and guest speakers are Krysta Gibson (founder of the New Spirit Journal) and Brenda Michaels, co-host of Conscious Talk Radio. (See www.newspiritjournal.com and www.conscioustalk.net )

We have two free yoga sessions, tours of homes, gardens, and the subscription farm (“CSA”). There will creative and fun activities for children, an art gallery, live music, and refreshments. At 5 p.m., we will conduct the Solstice Celebration with our guest speakers and at 6 p.m. a dinner (free) for all.

So please come and celebrate this important movement in consciousness. You don’t have to live in an intentional community to live in a virtual community of like-minded friends. There are many forms of communities but the residential form is easier for people to see and to experience, and, by extension, to establish for themselves in whatever form inspires them.

For directions to Ananda Community (20715 Larch Way, Lynnwood, WA 98036), visit www.AnandaSeattle.org and go to the contact info page. Then see the “directions to Ananda Community in Lynnwood.” Or, call (425) 806-3700.

Blessings to you,
Nayaswami Hriman

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

There Ought to be a Revolution!

Years ago, probably in the 1940's, Paramhansa Yogananda, author of "Autobiography of a Yogi," and founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship headquartered in Los Angeles, encountered difficulties with the Los Angeles Planning or Building Department. In the way people do, a small group that included Yogananda were complaining about government red tape. Someone pipped up and said, whether humorously or in frustration, "There ought to be a revolution!" Yogananda was quiet for a moment and then said calmly but with quiet conviction: "There WILL be a revolution."

I recently finished a book by David C. Korten, "Agenda for a New Economy: from Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth." In briefest summary it's about how and why America should dump Wall Street in favor of Main Street. America and the western countries, and truly most of the world, is faced with a large bank overdraft. We have overdrawn the balance in the account of natural resources, energy usage, fair trade of useful goods and services, fair wages, respect for differences in race, nation, culture, and religion and so much else.

The rubber band of over-indulgence is near to snapping. There ought indeed to be a revolution and I think there WILL be a revolution. Naturally, as a yogi, I hope it will be peaceful but, let's face it, the odds of that happening are slim to nothing. We've seen riots occur spontaneously in different countries when price spikes in food, or shortages in basic commodities take place, or when wages or hours are cut due to austerity measures. And these are small potatoes.

There need not be any violence if enough leaders and citizens shared a common vision of what's needed. And if any country can gather the will to make drastic changes, I think America, for all her many faults, can do its part. But it's going to take a lot more hardship before the political and cultural will rises to the challenge. We saw a glimmer of heartfelt national unity immediately after the 9-11 attack. It didn't last long but we saw and felt it. And so did other countries.

But what David Korten is describing, even if it is but a fraction of the large areas of human activiity that are in desparate need of radical change, requires the overthrow of powerful people and vested interests. As Gandhi and King knew firsthand, those in power do not relinquish it willingly. Bankrupting them would of course do it but what we've seen is the bailouts only made those who triggered the need for the bailout, richer.

Faced with such odds, the authentic thing for most of us is to turn our back on that which we cannot change. Let the "dead bury the dead." Let's start new and promising things: small and creative businesses, communities, sharing with others what we have learned and have.....creating, in short, community, in all its rich variety of forms.

We need to revolt from and break away from dependence on government handouts, and go on alone. A song, "Go on Alone," is something of Ananda's theme song. It takes courage to leave a career, a "good" job, a looming pension, a comfortable home but haven't thousands (or more) already been forced to give up these things already? Why cower in the darkness, hiding your head in the sand, hoping the sandstorm will pass over you and everything will be just like it was before? It won't! The mainstream news is not worth exposing yourself to.

It doesn't take a whole population to effect a revolution. Study any revolution, peaceful or otherwise. It's usually a statistically insignificant percentage of the population that ignites the movement! And I'm not talking about being AGAINST anything but FOR sustainable, community, balanced living. If enough people stop borrowing money to buy consumer goods, and begin living real lives with real people who share real values, the edifice of power and greed will tumble like the walls of Jericho!

America is the best place for this second American revolution. Many here may seem greedy, selfish, and self-indulgent, but I think that's mostly what we've had the luxury to do for a relatively short period (since WW2). In general, America still has vitality, drive, creativity, and, yes, even high ideals.

A part of this better half of America died with the last of 3 assassinations: Robert Kennedy's. The election of Richard Nixon marked a detour or turning point in losing touch with our ideals, however flawed they have always been in their implementation. The cynicism and distrust brought about what we saw in ourselves in Vietnam and in some of our citizens' public brutality and hate during the height of the civil rights movement exposed and wounded our national self-image. We descended into self-involvement and haven't stopped since.

But now the necessity to pull out of this drunken binge of galloping consumption and debt will be the saving grace of this country's creative vitality and ideals. We have to recognize the opportunity and seize it.

Everything is going to be turned on its head: religion, politics, construction, manufacturing, retail, farming, health......and on and on. The basic trend will be that the individual, and relatively small or smaller groups of people, will need and will seize the initative to implement changes. These will largely be outside government control or influence, though in some cases, in partnership. With the federal, state, and local governments crushed under their own debt, imagine the thousands (or is it millions) who will become unemployed? Lord help us if we stop waging wars: what will become of all the soldiers and their contractors?

Yes: a tsunami is heading our way. It mgiht seem far offshore and too small to notice but by the time you see it, it will be too late. Those who live a God-centered life and guided by grace and strengthened with Divine power, who step off the wheel of unsustainable living and do so in harmony with others of like mind will not only find greater fulfillment but can act as instruments to help many, many others: whether by example or directly.

I am not a pessimist. I am an optimist. I base these things on what Paramhansa Yogananda predicted before his death in 1952 and what my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, has warned audiences about for decades, and from what knowledgeable forecasters in all fields are saying, and what just makes good, common sense.

Blessings, Hriman

Monday, January 3, 2011

Paramhansa Yogananda: Avatar of a New Age

On Wednesday, January 5, 2011, we celebrate the birthdate in 1893 of Paramhansa Yogananda. At Ananda in Bothell, WA (near Seattle) we hold a meditation retreat from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. The evening segment is a program of music, readings, and inspiration while the 1 to 6 p.m. segment is mostly meditation. In between we conduct vows for those entering the worldwide, nonsectarian Nayaswami Renunciate Order.

Through his now classic life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," Paramhansa Yogananda has become well known throughout the world. Millions have read the story. As a piece of literature in the English language it stands out among the finest of the 20th century, irrespective of content. As a book of wisdom and insights into the human mind and heart, it offers modern, rational humanity a new vista into human possibilities. As book of the science of yoga and the art of devotion to God, a new scripture for a new age has been born.

This wonderful story appears to tell the story of Yogananda's life but hides the true man except to those with eyes to see. Just as Jesus Christ was primarily viewed as merely the latest spiritual teacher wandering the countryside with unorthodox teachings and was reputed to have miraculous powers, so too Yogananda seems to have attracted the attention of thousands as a charming, magnetic, unorthodox, and charismatic speaker and spiritual teacher.

The number of people who actually left their homes and gave up all they had to follow him were not much more than those who followed Jesus. Though Jesus' teachings had, some fifty or sixty years after his death, spread throughout the Mediterranean region, so too Yogananda's teachings have spread around the world. But in both cases, a historian of the times would possibly not even have noticed this new spiritual movement. But as the life of Jesus Christ changed the course of history, so too many disciples of Yogananda feel that he is the world teacher for the new age that has unmistakably dawned in the time since his birth in 1893.

In this new age, which Yogananda's guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar called, in his only book, "The Holy "Science," Dwapara ("Dwa" meaning second age, out of four), the attention given to Yogananda as its avatar will be less personal than in the former age (known as Kali Yuga) when the followers of Jesus Christ institutionalized his teachings and deified the man as the one, and only, son of God.

This "less personal" aspect of the age's world teacher is reflected in his own scripture (his autobiography). In it he hides his own spiritual achievement and makes no claims for himself. He did reveal his stature as an avatar to close disciples, but only hinted at it publicly. This new age, he taught, emphasizes, self-effort as the key to attract God's grace and strength. The prior age taught that man was essentially sinful and helpless to affect his own salvation and hence needed a redeemer who, though self-sacrifice, would redeem men's souls.

As Jesus came to "fulfill the law and the prophets," so too Yogananda did not come to overturn the truth teachings of Jesus. He did come to correct the teachings of what he jokingly called "Churchianity," however. Thus Yogananda affirmed the need for a guru to achieve liberation in God but emphasized that this is based first upon our own efforts. Hence the science and art of yoga-meditation, especially the advanced technique which he termed Kriya Yoga.

Yogananda predicted that a great change would take place in the churches and that "Self-realization" would become the religion of Dwapara Yuga. By this he did not intend to state that some new Pope and Catholic Church would unite religions. For indeed he termed his own teachings, both their practice and the goal of that practice, "Self-realization." By its own terms this means that it is to EACH person, individually, that salvation comes. It is NOT a matter of religious affiliation. The effort must be made and can only be made by EACH person, individually.

So what he meant was that religious people the world-over, regardless of whatever faith tenets, dogmas, and rituals they were born into or otherwise adhered to, would come to "realize" that it is within themselves that their spirituality, their faith, flowers. Anything they do outwardly in the form of ritual or good works would be a means to this end but not the end itself. Put another way, Yogananda's prediction was that meditation would become the primary and most prevalent practice among those seeking God and expressing their our spirituality.

From the realization of our own higher, non-egoic nature would flower new lifestyles and attitudes: cooperation, mutual respect, and creativity for the greater good. It's not that he foresaw earth becoming some final paradise: quite the contrary. This planet of ours is essentially an active and restless one. Good and evil will always vie for supremacy according to the cosmic law of duality: the play of opposites.

What he sees ahead is that God's plan for human history includes giving us a "weapon" or the "keys" to balance the great powers of technology and information, which would unite all nations and all peoples, and without which we would probably perish. Orthodox faiths have sunk to the level of divisiveness, not harmony. Religion is the one aspect of human life that offers, or should offer, a view of life that transcends competition and conquest. And yet most faiths have leaped into the very fray of global competition and warfare.

Despite even his own language to the contrary, when Yogananda spoke of a United Nations of the World or Self-realization for all, this did not mean he advocated, predicted, or preached a new world order the fearful likes of which would control the planet. To him being "united" meant in our hearts, in our avowed high ideals and in our cooperative, respectful and creative efforts to achieve them.

What makes Yogananda a world teacher for this age? Why not other spiritual giants of our times? It is not my intent or place to make comparisons. Each of us must find for ourselves, should we desire it at all, our spiritual family and that teacher whose teachings resonate deeply with our own needs and growth. One indication however of his role in this age is the universal popularity of his life story. All feel his warmth, his sincerity, and his wisdom, regardless of whether their own spirituality draws them to go further in his teachings.

Another is the very nature of what he taught. He taught the principles of vegetarianism even as he gave instruction for those for whom this would be too strict or not the right diet for them. Yogananda developed a new form of simple tense and relax exercises to keep the body fit. These require no expensive gym fees or equipment, can be practiced sitting, standing, lying down and by virtually anyone.

He taught the principles of success appropriate to this age: in business, in the arts, in the home and in marriage. He initiated the example and precepts of establishing small intentional communities of like-minded residents embracing high ideals with simplicity and which includes all races and nations. He said this lifestyle would someday spread like wildfire (presumably as a balance and anti-dote for the impersonal forces and technology of globalization). He taught the art and science of meditation, the value of yoga postures, and was the instrument destined to bring out into the world the previously secret but highest technique of meditation: kriya yoga. He taught and encouraged by his own example, respect for all religions and especially the saints of all religions (as opposed to the theologians and church dogmas and rituals). He showed how those saints give to the world the same essential and universal precepts and living examples.

I can think of no other so complete appropriate description of a world teacher for this new age. As I said at the beginning, this does not mean nor did Yogananda anticipate, that this would put him and his personality on some pedestal or his picture in every home, church or mosque. This means that what he taught - even when not ascribed to him - would become the lifestyle and attitudes for this planet if we are to survive and not perish.

He also taught the validity of the guru-disciple relationship and its essential power to uplift individual souls into final, perfect union with God. But it is also true to say that those who personally acknowledge his wisdom and grace, and who deliberately draw upon these by conscious attunement (through gratitude, study, practice, and sharing), will receive more. There will be, over the generations to come, millions who will become in tune with the new wave of consciousness that he and his teachings epitomize and symbolize. Some will not necessarily even be aware of Yogananda's life nor yet would even consciously understand the universal truth that wisdom and creativity itself flow from "above," from divine consciousness. (Though more and more people in this age of increasing awareness, WILL!)

For those of us who are disciples of Yogananda and the line of masters who sent him, and who practice kriya yoga, we have a great opportunity and responsibility to become the lightbearers for a new age. A great war is taking place here on earth and in the astral heavens above between the forces and consciousness of Kali Yuga and Dwapara Yuga, and between good and evil. To be neutral is to become instruments of inertia, which is a form of darkness.

New lifestyles of renunciation, devotion, and harmonious, sustainable living are needed. And they cannot be only personal and therefore invisible. They must unite in some way to become a force for positive change in the world. The suffering due to change and due to misuse of the earth's resources and exploitation of the disenfranchised masses can not be entirely avoided at this point. But those who will work in tune especially with Yogananda as a world teacher will have a great opportunity for personal spiritual growth, and will receive protection on many levels for the hardships that are to come as a new understanding is being born.

Whether disciple, friend, or admirer I invite you to celebrate Yogananda's birth and life in your heart and, if possible, by your presence at our meditation retreat this Wednesday, January 5, or at our Family Service and banquet following, this Sunday, January 9.

Blessings to you,

Nayaswami Hriman

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What is Ananda?

The following was written for those who have not visited or experienced Ananda. It is a general overview. Our reference here is to Ananda in the Seattle area and located at the Ananda Meditation Temple in Bothell. Visit http://www.anandaseattle.org/ for more details.


Welcome to Ananda!


What IS Ananda? Ananda is more than a teaching center for meditation or yoga. Ananda is different things to different people. Most of all, at Ananda we aspire to see that people are more important than things: even so-called “important” things like the classes we give, the projects we undertake, the services we offer, the buildings we occupy, or whether our efforts meet with success or acceptance. So, speaking of people, then, who are we?

Ananda members and students tend to be well educated, compassionate, and ardent supporters of conscious, healthy, sustainable, spiritual living. Differing points of view, backgrounds, and nationalities can be found here and are typically expressed articulately, respectfully, thoughtfully, and, perhaps most importantly, with a desire to share and learn.

You’ll find students coming every week to take hatha yoga classes. Ananda Yoga uses classic postures (asanas) and directs their use in an uplifting way, towards greater Self-awareness. We begin with relaxation, move to energy control and awareness, and then flow upward toward inner peace. Each student learns to develop his or her own strength and unique expression of the postures.

You’ll find students taking classes in how to meditate. Ananda meditation techniques emphasize the spiritual purpose of meditation but just as many students come for stress reduction, concentration, calmness or health benefits. Our most popular course is the Raja and Hatha Yoga Intensive: a 3-month weekly program that combines hatha yoga, diet, healing, breath work, meditation, chanting, and much more under the timeless and timely umbrella of Patanjali's famous Yoga Sutras (the 8-Fold Path of Enlightenment).

People come from a variety of traditions to meditate because the upstairs, high-domed meditation and yoga space beckons the soul to soar into skies of inner freedom!

First-time visitors come daily to the Meditation Temple in Bothell. They are attracted by the beautiful, blue-tiled 8-sided dome that so dynamically communicates a sense of joy and high aspiration. They want to know, "What IS this lovely place and who are you folks?"

In nearby Lynnwood there is an intentional, spiritual community where some Ananda members live and support one another in a lifestyle of meditation, service, simple living and high ideals. Residents have started a CSA: community supported food growing coop. Ananda is known throughout the world for its network of independent, intentional communities which are among the most successful in the world today.

You'll find students coming to the Ananda Institute of Living Yoga to receive certification in teacher training programs for hatha yoga or for meditation.

Ananda is also part of a worldwide work of self-supporting teaching, residential, and retreat centers. Aspects of this worldwide work exist in the Seattle area as well. For example, local members have founded the Living Wisdom School for children in Shoreline, WA. It is affiliated with the worldwide Ananda network of the same name. Other members have established the East West Bookshop in Seattle which was patterned after the first Ananda East West Bookshop near San Francisco, California.

Legally, the local ministry is organized under the Ananda Church of Self-Realization of Seattle which is a Washington state nonprofit organization recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a church. Ananda Church is locally governed by its ministers and senior members, and is supported by pledges and tithes from local members. (Income from classes and products constitutes only 25% of total general revenue.)

The spiritual philosophy and meditation techniques taught at Ananda are based upon the teachings of the world renowned spiritual yoga-master, Paramhansa Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi). The ministry of Ananda is guided by its founder, Swami Kriyananda and those who work closely with him. He lives in India now but is American and is one of the few remaining (and best known) direct disciples of Yogananda. Swami Kriyananda is the author of some one hundred popular books and hundreds of musical compositions (which figure prominently in programs and services at Ananda).

The primary focus of Ananda is what might be called realized spirituality! By this we mean that we feel it is more important to experience our higher Self rather than only talk about or believe in it. This comes with the greatest clarity and consistency through daily meditation. Once having tasted the nectar of soul-bliss, it is our nature to share it with others in service and fellowship. Thus we combine “Self-realization” with “fellowship.” This is shorthand for the two basic commandments of the Old Testament and of Jesus Christ: love the Lord Thy God with heart, mind, soul, and strength, AND, love your neighbor AS your Self!

Ananda has evolved from an ancient tradition whose roots are in India but whose essence is universal and nonsectarian. We honor our guru-preceptor, Paramhansa Yogananda, who came to the West (America) with this tradition. He brought with him the science of Kriya yoga through which we might commune inwardly with the divine presence in us and in all creation.

Yogananda’s teachings reflect a special connection between the yoga science taught by Krishna (in the Bhagavad Gita, India’s beloved “bible”) and the teachings of Jesus Christ. You will therefore find that at Ananda we make frequent references to Jesus’ teachings as illumined by Yogananda and the line of Kriya yoga masters in India who sent him to the West.

Strictly speaking, however, Ananda is neither Christian nor Hindu. Rather, we see in the original teachings of these faiths, and, indeed, in the teachings of the saints of all religions, universal precepts that are timeless. For this, we use the Sanskrit term, Sanaatan Dharma: the eternal religion. Sanaatan Dharma avers that we, and indeed, the entire cosmos, are a manifestation of the consciousness of the Infinite Spirit. Those who have realized Oneness with Spirit teach us that we were created to achieve realization of our “son-ship” as children of God and to reunite our seemingly separate consciousness with that of our Creator. There is a “high road,” or “airplane” that can accelerate this realization and it is meditation, especially the advanced “pranayama” known simply as Kriya yoga. This technique (which includes its wisdom-teachings and other supportive techniques) was resurrected in modern times by the Self-realization masters in India from centuries of neglect, indifference, and priestly secrecy to fulfill the spiritual needs of millions of souls in this modern, and new age.

But the practice of meditation is not only a science. It is an art. There is a subtle, powerful, and necessary transmission of consciousness that takes place through the receptivity of the meditator to the grace of the preceptor, or guru. Kriya yoga is thus taught not only as a meditation technique but is given in the bond of discipleship. Discipleship refers to a personal connection to God through an inner relationship with one who knows God and who can transmit that knowing. It was the purpose of Paramhansa Yogananda, at the behest of those who sent him to bestow the kriya-key that unlocks "the power to become the sons of God" to all those who sincerely and humbly seek it with devotion and attunement with him.

So, Ananda is different things to different people. The word “Ananda” means “joy:” the joy of our true, divine Self! If the practice of (hatha) yoga is your interest, come for a "stretch"; if you want to learn to meditate, Ananda meditation techniques are available to all and can help you to establish an effective daily practice. If you seek fellowship in worship, in timeless and universal wisdom, or in selfless service, Ananda has opportunities every day of the week! If finding friends who share high ideals, who prefer living simply and sustainably, or families who want a wholesome and Spirit-centered education for their children, then the Ananda spiritual family welcomes you. If you are drawn to the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, then Ananda can help you deepen your connection to God through them. And, if you seek the kriya-key to soul freedom, the doors are open!

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma McGilloway are the spiritual directors of Ananda's work in the greater Seattle area and were appointed to this position in 1993 by Swami Kriyananda. As Ananda reflects a community and family spirit, you'll find an entire staff of ministers and teachers who take turns with Sunday Services and classes. Each of the core members and leaders of the Ananda Seattle Sangha (Fellowship) have been part of this spiritual heritage for decades and reflect a calm and joyful commitment to this way of life and a respect for all. Ananda would not exist without the many volunteers who staff the desk, answer phones, teach classes, sing and play music, sweep and clean, prepare meals and who enjoy meeting new friends. A typical Sunday Service involves some twenty volunteers alone!

We invite you, therefore to come and explore whatever aspect of Ananda inspires or appeals to you. Each person who participates has a unique relationship to this work and to this spiritual family. We are not membership driven and have no interest in converting anyone except to his or her own higher Self! We treasure harmony, inspiration, fun, and sharing, perhaps a meal, a conversation, a service project, practicing meditation or yoga, or the timeless wisdom we have been blessed to share. If you would like to experience this growing family of joy-affirming friends, come by for a visit. Better yet, come on any Sunday at 10 a.m. and experience Ananda in action!

Blessings to you, from Ananda......