Tuesday, May 22, 2012

News from Ananda Washington!

This post will be a bit different and more on the timely rather than the eternal basis!

For starters, we will soon roll-out a new Ananda Seattle website thanks to friend and web designer Rhonda Dicksion of Indigo Dog (http://indigodog.com/). This blog site will be moved to the new Ananda site sometime in the next month.

Many local Ananda members just returned from a long weekend at Ananda Village near Nevada City, CA to welcome "home" and celebrate the 86th birthday of Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda. Saturday, May 19, was his birthday and he gave a talk that morning and we had a "birthday party" in the afternoon.

We've all returned inspired and enthusiastic. Swamiji's dedication, friendship, wisdom, energy, and divine "kindliness" is a bright light in the lives of thousands throughout the world. After the dust of the weekend's activities settled, Padma and I (who were blessed to stay at Crystal Hermitage where Swamiji lives when in residence there) had some quiet time together with Swamiji. Padma made him and a few others a lovely fondue dinner Sunday night, and the next morning we met with him over breakfast to share our farewells.

We returned to find that our efforts to purchase a local organic farm have taken a few steps backwards when informed that the sellers have withdrawn their interest in selling the farm at this time. So, we're back to the real estate listings but there's plenty of properties out there with potential. We are intending to expand our food growing capacity from the small plots at Ananda Community in Lynnwood to property outside the metropolitan area (but still somewhat close by) in an adjacent rural area. This will provide not only food but opportunities for gatherings and service. It can provide education and experience in small farm operations for adults and children alike. We have substantial commitments to the purchase already but we are also still open to additional investors. If you are (seriously) interested, email me and I'll send you more information.

We returned last night from Ananda Village, CA on Alaska Air and landed at SEATAC around 6:30 p.m. We were standing in the aisle waiting our turn to de-plane (sp?) when we observed a conversation between passengers. It appeared to Padma and I that we were seated with about four Korean gentleman, all nicely dressed in suits, looking slightly older than middle age. A friendly faced woman, while waiting, asked her fellow passenger (one of the Korean men) what he was doing. He replied that he was a Christian (Methodist, perhaps?) on some kind of mission or another (I wasn't paying much attention at the beginning).

Well, this friendly Seattle-lite plunged in with innocent abandon and wondered, gee, when did Christianity hit Korea? I mean wasn't there something there before that? Like, say, Buddhism? Well, he didn't flinch or blanch or get embarrassed. In all of the conversation he was very polite and calm. It was, in its own way, very sweet. But off she went, true Seattle-ite that she was, saying how it seemed to her that all religions did more or less the same thing, I mean, don't they? Well, he hesitated a bit (I couldn't really hear him). Clearly of course he also needed to be true to his calling and like a good (if orthodox) Christian was needing to gently say, well, sure all religions are similar, but only through Jesus Christ can one be saved, etc. etc. etc.

Well, it was charming: her innocence and his patience and calmness. His three other gentleman companions of course had to listen and endure this without comment. The poor fellow was no doubt on the line, so to speak.

It was easy to sympathize with each of them. He for representing the importance of committing to the spiritual path in some form or another (we have a form, a body, a personality, temperament etc. and we have committed relationships, careers, and the need for good diet, right exercise, etc.), and she, for seeing the One behind the many. And this is such important yet challenging lesson for this age. We have the orthodox and sectarian believers, narrow and dogmatically affirming their tenets and judging everyone else. We have those who throw the "baby of soul awakening" out with the bathwater of orthodox religion.

Our age is replete with the mixture of all races, religions and cultures living and working together in (at least) major cities in every nation on earth. We need to learn how to get along with respect and also with awareness (and understanding). To turn to agnosticism or self-proclaimed atheism on the basis of the narrowness of sectarian religionists is to ignore the one aspect of human consciousness with the greatest potential to bring not only personal happiness but global harmony (and yes, even prosperity).

To say "I am spiritual" but to do nothing other than to be a nice person and say "All religions are the same" is a cop out and our "beliefs won't save us" when life throws challenges and tragedies our way. To attempt to have a genuine spiritual life on one's own is a happy thought but all too often a lame reality. Only one who could grow spiritually in a cave should even attempt to go solo to God. 

"Environment is stronger than will" proclaimed Paramhansa Yogananda. For this reason he "sowed into the ether" the divine blessings that would empower and inaugurate a new era for the establishment of intentional communities bringing together people of high ideals who sought to live sustainable, balanced lives in cooperation with one another, the earth, and with divine grace.

We can accomplish far more together (for we are One) than by segregating our ideals from our love and commitment to others. There are two aspects of the spiritual path and they were well expressed in the Old Testament and re-affirmed by Jesus Christ as the basis of his teachings: to love God and to love one's neighbor (as oneself).  We need not just spirituality but also religion (each with its shortcomings can balance the other). Those who go alone tend to develop pride and attitudes of judgment. Those who join with others do the same thing in respect to their shared beliefs and customs. But by having both an inner life (giving rise to introspection, self-awareness and intuition, for which meditation is uniquely suited) and an outer life of fellowship (in service and in devotion) helps keep us in balance. 

So, I hope those two went their own ways perhaps touched in some ways by the message and person of the other.


Nayaswami Hriman