Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ananda worldwide: What Next after the Passing of its founder, Swami Kriyananda?

Few organizations thrive after the passing of a creative and charismatic founder. In regard to leadership skills and looking ahead to the future, Swami Kriyananda was extraordinarily prescient. To his dying day (earlier this year at age 86), Swami Kriyananda ("SK") was writing books, music, lecturing, handling a voluminous correspondence, guiding movie productions (two), and counseling and guiding countless souls. He did this in spite of an aging body that should have given up the ghost long ago and which offered to him constant troubles and physical suffering. He took all of this in the stride of kindness, creativity, service and devotion to God and guru (Paramhansa Yogananda and his lineage).

Yet, for all of this, he had, decades ago, appointed leaders of various aspects of Ananda's growing and worldwide work. These leaders, then, were already in place and functioning independently but cooperatively both together and in attunement with his overall guidance and friendship.

For the immediate future, therefore, Ananda members and public need not expect anything radical or unusual. SK's spiritual successor, Jyotish (John) Novak, has been with SK for for over forty years and functioning as acting spiritual director for some years. He and his wife, Devi, are seamlessly making the transition to front and center of Ananda.

Nonetheless, SK was a spiritual and creative tornado. No vibrant organization can afford to remain static. Nor can Ananda rely passively upon his enormous legacy of writings, music, organizational wisdom, and spiritual depth for its momentum. Nor has SK trained us to do so!

So "Yes": changes can be expected. The largest hole in Ananda's work left by SK, in terms of public visibility, is, well, just that: public visibility. SK toured the world non-stop for decades; wrote books, non-stop, for decades; did radio and TV shows; spoke at major conferences, and on and on. As a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda (PY), he spoke with authority, conviction, and wisdom in being the foremost and most accessible public representative for PY's worldwide teachings.

It would be fruitless to imagine anyone simply taking up where SK left off. SK wisely decentralized the work of Ananda and both by his example and his instructions empowered Ananda's leaders and membership to work BOTH cooperatively together AND creatively independently in our spiritual service.

What will be needed is for representatives of Ananda to emphasize the need to "get out front" in public view. Some have, will and are writing books and articles. But until now, most, with rare exception, were needed to remain in their respective teaching centers training members and guiding the local community. A younger generation is on its way "up" and the leadership group has both the opportunity and the need to be more available publicly outside the comfortable enclosure of our teaching centers and communities. What form that takes will be as individual as the individuals themselves.

Leadership, too, is, and has been changing. While SK naturally assumed the role of founder and leader, he actually trained us to see each other and relate to one another as friends and devotees first. Whatever particular positions we might hold for a time are simply roles but positions of leadership make no assumption regarding spiritual realization. For several decades, most Ananda communities have been led by married couples. But I see this evolving towards more team management in various departments and business. At the Ananda Farm here in the Seattle area, we have four "legal" managers but a seven-person management team. Same is true for our East West Bookshop.

I also see that the vocabulary of the message of Ananda will need to step-up to the tone of universality that SK embodied so well both in person and in his writings. This language was PY's language, as well. Most Ananda centers have focused on training of members and disciples. This is essential, of course, but easier to focus on while SK spread the universal message of Self-realization through Kriya Yoga around the world. Kriya and Self-realization are for everyone, regardless of spiritual affiliation or belief. Oneness in Spirit applies to all facets of daily life in the form of cooperation, harmony, respect, high energy and creativity.

Ananda is, and was already in process of (at the time of SK's passing in April), a great explosion of growth. Many members feel that SK's passing not only freed him from the confines of an aging body, but in some tangible but subtle way, freed his soul force to ripple outward and propel his "children" in new and expansive directions.

Without SK's presence and leadership, it seems to me natural that the various Ananda centers will look to its center (Ananda Village, Nevada City, CA) not just for leadership and guidance but as "home." This has always been the case but has been, in no small measure, eclipsed by the living presence and guidance of its founder, SK. With him gone, eyes and hearts turn naturally to "the Village." Already important work is taking place to allow overseas members to obtain special visa permits to come and study and apprentice in how to run centers and communities.

Several weeks ago the first annual Spiritual Renewal Week since SK's passing found members just as enthusiastic and just as present in numbers as ever before, even without SK being there in the body. Many could feel that the baton of spiritual leadership had passed not just to one, or two, but to an entire generation of members trained by SK. An online worldwide leadership course, begun in Fall 2012, is already uniting members of every age, generation and country. Online courses and webinars from Ananda Village come out almost weekly. The original Meditation Retreat has come back "online" offering seclusions, in addition to the vibrant and dynamic retreat programs at the Expanding Light (public) retreat facility "down the road." Members worldwide are uniting behind the project of building a simple but beautiful "Moksha Mandir" for interring SK's body at his beloved home (at Ananda Village), the Crystal Hermitage. A future Temple of Light will be built there with the support of members, students, and friends from around the world.

I also see a stepped-up exchange of staff, interns, and visitors between the Ananda centers. Pilgrimages to Italy, U.S.A., and India (and other places) continue to grow in momentum. Members are becoming, it seems to me, more fluid and willing to move to other Ananda Communities as the need or inspiration arises. This started especially with the Laurelwood campus, west of Portland, but is spreading, as Palo Alto, CA and here in Seattle have purchased properties for farming and mini-community/ashrams and have opportunities for helping hands.

Lastly, I foresee that the music of Ananda, a direct legacy of SK, will mature and begin to find acceptance in the world around us. I believe it was uniquely SK's life path that during his lifetime, though well known in some respects, he was, relative to the depth of his spirituality and genius, too often passed over. The "Finding Happiness" movie, a documentary story of Ananda will spread the message of Ananda's work and music far and wide. So too a second movie, still in production, on SK's life: The Answer.

PY said to SK that "you have a great work to do." This work is now in the hands of SK's children and I sincerely believe that we will carry on, yes in our way, but in his spirit.

Blessings to you from Ananda, not a place, but a state of soul.......

Sw Hrimananda