Monday, July 4, 2016

July 4th Reflections

This note was first given as a note to residents of Ananda Community in Lynnwood. It has been adapted for the larger audience of members and friends of Ananda Sangha in the greater Seattle area and is reproduced in its entirety here in this blog.

Dear Friends, Students, Members and Ananda Supporters:

Padma and I are at Ananda Village: Ananda’s very first and largest community founded nearly fifty years ago: 1969.  On July 4th each the community here celebrates its anniversary for it was July 4th that the first parcel(s) of land in Nevada County (northeast of Sacramento, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, just under 3,000 feet elevation).

The early years of Ananda World Brotherhood Village (its formal name) were in the height of the back-to-land movement at the dawn of the Age of Aquarius (so-called). Oh, how the movement of Ananda has grown: 9 communities including India and Italy! Yoga and meditation students by the thousands!

Padma and I are here on “leave” to help our daughter Gita with her two young children. Gita (and her brother, Kashi) were born and raised here at Ananda Village. She now directs the Development Office for Ananda nationwide. Her husband, Badri Matlock, is at our community in Italy (outside the medieval and sacred town of Assisi) at the first conference of future leaders of Ananda. He is involved with the management of the Expanding Light Retreat at Ananda Village and is the understudy lead trainer for Yoga Teacher Training. So Gita asked if we might come and give her a hand. Two little ones are a handful! “Early to bed, early to rise, run around until your demise!” 

On Saturday, a panel of speakers from the early “pioneers” of Ananda (which includes: Jyotish and Devi Novak who were recently visiting us in Seattle, and others) spoke of the challenges and joys of the early days of Ananda. It was quite fun and inspiring. Our Ananda "story" is a story of faith, will power and attunement accomplishing the impossible: "banat, banat, ban jai" (doing, doing, soon done)

The “good ‘ol days” are recreated with each generation. In Seattle, in the last few years we’ve started the Camano Farm, finished the temple, constructed the Yoga Hall, moved East West Bookshop, started the Thrift Store, and are now in the process of moving the Living Wisdom School. We already have lots of stories.

The committed members of Ananda worldwide have access, by attunement, to the power and grace of one of the spiritual giants of the new age: Paramhansa Yogananda. Ananda is blessed to have been given birth by one of Yogananda’s most prolific and committed disciples who, at the Beverly Hills garden party, July 30, 1949, was the only one (of 800 present) so stirred to his depths at Yogananda’s powerful message of the need for intentional communities to have actually manifested not just one, but nine (so far).

Our biggest challenge hasn’t, then, been the energy and courage to do what we are asked (internally or externally) in our service of Yogananda, it's more likely to remember that God is the Doer. Our frustration, self-doubt, and stress arises only to the degree of our own self-involvement.

Surveying the craziness around us in America and in the world, we either also become crazy with frustration, worry, or despondency, or we affirm and feel that this is God's world; we agree to do our part, such as it is, but that we have to let the drama unfold in its own mysterious, and sometimes cuckoo, way.

It's difficult to hurrah much about July 4th this year. Yogananda says our country has good karma, despite our not so good karma. The craziness we see in the body politic can only help wake up snoozing souls of goodwill, the silent majority of good hearts, to resurrect our nation's ideals. We must do our part, too. Skepticism and giving up will not help. This is a time, more than ever, for each one of us to make our “ideals practical:” these are Yogananda’s words when training the young monk whom he called “Walter” (aka Swami Kriyananda).

Ananda represents and symbolizes both in our communities and in the ancient but timely precepts of “Sanaatan Dharma” (the ancient name for the Vedantic ideals) the unifying principles so needed in the world today: cooperation, respect for all, and the intuitive understanding (especially based on regular meditation) that we are One: children of our One, Father-Mother, Beloved Friend, God! While far from alone in today’s world among the millions of individuals and other organizations espousing peace and freedom, each of us should feel the inspiration and obligation to align ourselves with others of like mind. Believing is not enough!

Krishna in the “Bhagavad Gita” reminds us that doing nothing will not free us, nor bring us happiness. We are compelled by our very bodies and very nature to act. Only by action can we become free from the compulsions to act; only by action (which includes the act of meditation) can we achieve the transcendent state of the soul. One saint in “Samadhi” pours more peace and enlightenment into thirsty hearts and souls than all the books and lectures combined. (Of course, BOTH are needed in this relatively unenlightened world.)

Let us celebrate the ideals of our nation’s founders. It is our nation's destiny to spread of the higher aspects of a new age of freedom: liberty balanced by enlightened self-interest (cooperation), respect for the rights of all, and a sincere interest in the greater good of all.

Not a year goes by when I don't appreciate ever more deeply the significance of these intentional, spiritual communities as models of integration of all races and nations in harmony and cooperation. If you visit Ananda Village in California or Ananda in Italy, you will find every imaginable race, religion, and culture represented there. The significance isn’t that all people should live in such communities but, rather, it is the example that it is possible (indeed, necessary for our survival as a race).

America was founded in the name of freedom. There is no greater spiritual principle and destiny than this. It does not matter that freedom has been defined primarily in terms of personal self-interest because ours is an ascending age of greater awareness. Spiritual growth and human evolution towards maturity is always directional, never absolute.

So let us celebrate the ideals of freedom for all souls; equality of all souls as children of the One, Father-Mother, Beloved Friend, God.

Hriman and Padma