Friday, June 17, 2011

The Rise of Intentional Communities

Tomorrow, Saturday, June 18, 2011, Ananda Community in Lynnwood, WA hosts its third annual Solstice Celebration and Open House. Tours of the Community, grounds, gardens, and farm begin at 1 p.m. and the Solstice Celebration Service begins at 5 p.m. followed by dinner. Free yoga classes, activities for children, an art exhibit, and musical performances all afternoon are some of the highlights. We expect a full house of members, friends, and neighbors.

Swami Kriyananda, founder of Ananda and direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, was present at a garden party in Beverly Hills in the late 40's when Yogananda (without warning or other context) thundered a prediction and a command that small "colonies" of like-minded people band together throughout the world to demonstrate brotherhood by example rather than only by precept. He declared that by such examples the benefits of high ideals and simplicity (I would add "sustainability") of lifestyle would produce the greatest happiness. His message of "world brotherhood colonies" was given repeatedly both before and after that famous garden party.

Yogananda also predicted economic collapse, wars, and natural calamities lay ahead as forces of enlightened self-interest struggled against established powers of exploitation and greed. Only now in the beginning of the 21st century are the issues of cooperation vs. competition, of freedom vs. exploitation, harmony vs. prejudice so heightened and intense that millions realize that courageous and bold action must be taken to avoid or lessen dire consequences for all.

In a world where a tribe, a culture, an industry, or one's livelihood can be wiped off the map by the stroke of pens, an exchange of stocks, signing of a treaty, or the impact of a satellite-guided missile in boardrooms, banks, and secret meetings, it is natural that people of intelligence and goodwill will respond by seeking an alternative lifestyle that is not dependent upon such impersonal and self-interested forces.

The time for intentional communities has arrived. In most cities we live side-by-side with people of other cultures, races, nations, and religions. It becomes difficult to hold prejudice or to entertain fears when we get to know each other simply as people. The natural races of humankind are not based upon skin color, location, or language but upon consciousness. There are those who live only the present moment, heedless of the future or the consequences of one's present actions. There are those who are self-seeking, living for future personal gain. There are those who consider the needs of others and who serve a greater cause. Finally, there are those whose sights are centered in a higher or divine reality and who live centered in the Self within.

Intentional communities tend to attract, by and large, the latter two categories of people: idealists who seek to make their ideals practical and personal. As the bumper sticker says, "Think globally; act locally." The rising insecurities on our planet will inspire people with energy, creativity, idealism and intelligence to form small communities. Hopefully most of these will not be in rejection of society at large or opposed to others, but will represent a commitment to create a sustainable, harmonious and satisfying life in cooperation with others of like-mind.

Since the end of World War II and the rise of America as a leading global economic and political power, Americas (especially) have had the luxury and opportunity to create individual and family lives that set themselves apart from others. The spread of suburban communities symbolize this "I-mine" thrust of consciousness. But this luxury to stand apart from others and from the rest of the world ended, symbolically at least, on September 11, 2001 when the world's problems and the disparity between America's lifestyle and that of others was presented like a check drawn upon the bank of our excesses.

Since then and at an increasing rate, America (and by extension other similar countries) are having to come face to face with the rest of the world and to try to integrate ourselves, our self-identity, and our behavior with that of other nations and peoples.

Paramhansa Yogananda foresaw that the time would come when humans on this planet would need to learn to live, work, and worship together in harmony. He ushered in a new dispensation of spirituality that has the potential to unite people of goodwill and spiritual-seeking under the banner of experience rather than dogma or creed. Meditation is the personal practice wherein each individual can perceive his own higher Self and from that experience to perceive that same Self in all.

An antidote and necessary balance to the crushing forces of globalism is needed today. Individuals forming intentional communities on the basis of a wide variety of commonly share interests and ideals will provide that necessary outlet for human creativity, personal commitment, and meaningful enterprise.

So, as the sun is high in the sky of the summer Solstice and as the world stands on the precipice of great changes in process and to come, we come together to celebrate and affirm the relevance, role, and necessity of intentional communities of like-minded people of high ideals and practical living.

See you tomorrow!


Nayaswami Hriman