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
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
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 www.newspiritjournal.com
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 www.AnandaSeattle.org
and go to the contact info page. Then see the “directions to Ananda Community
in Lynnwood.” Or, call (425) 806-3700.
Blessings to you,