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 and )

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 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