Showing posts with label intentional communities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label intentional communities. Show all posts

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Grow Your Own Food : the Role of Farming in Ananda Worldwide!

Ananda Farms, Camano Island, WA

I am absolutely unqualified to write this article. I hardly know a weed from a pickle. But the other day Zach Abbey (co-manager of Ananda Farms posed the rhetorical question: "What is the vision of farming in Ananda's network of communities?"

Our guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, in a thundering oration, once declared that a time would come when intentional spiritual communities would "spread like wildfire." He urged audiences to "buy land in the country, grow your own food, and live together in simplicity, guided by high ideals."

That was 1949. Since that time, neither of these two powerful commands have born fruit, at least outside the Ananda communities (of which there are nine). So, what gives here?

"Timing is everything!" Ananda's work in communities is, to state it simply and in relation to my question, seminal. Our experience and our example to society at large will bear fruit, like indeed fruit is borne, at the right time.

We have been learning as we go. The first community, Ananda World Brotherhood Village (now called, simply, Ananda Village), has gone through many changes over its fifty years. The other, newer communities, are organized differently and also experience changes and new forms from time to time. 

In Seattle area, for example, we moved away from having a professional property manager to managing the apartment community ourselves. This is at least a step in the right direction of what an intentional residential community should look like.

And, thus, returning to farming, we need to patiently continue growing food on land in the country where some can live. We will learn and refine our methods as we do this. The time is surely coming, (many others affirm this also) when what we have learned will be put to widespread use. But for now, like our communities, farming seems like an expensive luxury even as it is generally ignored by society at large.

Interest in alternative lifestyles is growing, however. 

Those of us drawn to either or both of these movements which are destined to manifest more commonly in the future are "way-showers," pioneers (you know, the ones with the arrows in their back). We are practicing what in yoga is known as "tapasya" -- the self-sacrifice and self-offering of our energies into a higher cause or ideal without regard to outward success as measured by the world around us.

Farming within the Ananda communities, like the communities themselves, has evolved in its various forms. Struggle and resistance always confronts changes. Organic farms around the world largely follow modern agricultural methods of tilling the soil, automated irrigation, and mono-culture row cropping. So, too, have the organic farming methods at the Ananda Communities.

But in recent years, Zach and Hailey Abbey (in Seattle area) and Alex and Dharmdasi Forrester (Ananda Village) have initiated no-till permaculture style food growing. Setting aside considerations of whether one form is more efficient than another in terms of the "Green Revolution" (which, it can be questioned, may not be the only measure of food growing goals), this approach is guided by the desire to live in harmony with nature, not to wrest from Her hands her bounty in a struggle of the survival of the fittest! 

I dare not pretend to articulate the goals of permaculture style farming. Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008) is one of the guiding lights of this movement. Visit for more on this subject. Better yet, visit Ananda Farms on Camano Island!

So now we have both methods co-existing side by side within the Ananda Communities. Acceptance of the new style was not an easy process. No one threw a punch, of course, but there's nothing more likely to generate a lot of talking than philosophy!!!!! :-)

Though I personally am an advocate of the no-till "yoga farm" approach, it isn't as important as it might seem to those who farm. Rather, the impulse, felt through the margins of society, to "grow your own," IS. Whether hydroponically or otherwise, on some level there is a perceived need to get back to the land.

Yoga is about integrating body and mind; and, earth, water, fire, air and ether! The soul of modern civilization has become "virtually" vacant from the earth, caught up in technology and ideology.

To regain our center as we do through yoga and meditation, we also need to reconnect and reintegrate into the world our bodies inhabit. 

Thus I feel, and am not alone in this, that however challenging it might be in this era to pioneer more natural methods of growing food (because the heavily subsidized agricultural industry provides food so cheaply), we must "farm-on" for the benefit and the example given to many who will come after us (whether soon or later).


Swami Hrimananda

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Five Stages of Collapse - Survivors' Toolkit

I am reading the book with this title by Dmitry Orlov. It was given to me as a birthday gift by my friend Cliff Kushler. It's definitely only for the "good, bad and the ugly" nonconformist. I don't challenge anyone to read about the collapse of society as we know it, but if you were open to exploring what it might look like in both theoretical and practical terms, you might find it interesting, at least.

Orlov was born in Russia came to the United States in the 1970's. You can "Google" him and find YouTube videos and Wikipedia.

My spiritual teacher, Swami Kriyananda, spoke for decades about predictions made by his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, about the collapse of society and various countries as we know it. Yogananda didn't specify a time frame though he did point to specific countries which would be devastated and to a third world war. He also predicted a "depression" far greater than that of the 1930's.

Orlov, however, brings to a clear and practical focus the possible scenario that Swami Kriyananda warned audiences of to his dying day (earlier this year!). I've known Kriyananda since the 70's myself and not until recent years did it seem to at least possible that a perfect storm of global economic events might possibly produce the catastrophes (war and depression) predicted by Yogananda (up until his death in 1952).

American financial markets came very close to a complete meltdown in the Fall of 2008. Reading various economic accounts in the years since forces me to conclude that the so-called safeguards enacted by legislation since that time are without teeth and all but useless to prevent a recurrence. I cannot pretend to understand the complexity of such things as derivatives, but, according to others, neither can the regulators nor yet even the markets themselves. Yet such financial instruments were left more or less untouched by the so-called market reforms. Warren Buffet is often quoted as calling these instruments "weapons of mass financial destruction."

I don't feel to recount the various global soft spots, economically. This is beyond my frame of interest and knowledge. But I point to you to Orlov's book for a more intelligent and thorough analysis.

What is interesting to me is that one of Yogananda's predictions was that the time would come when intentional communities would "spread like wildfire." Orlov describes in amazing detail what amounts to intentional communities of people who would be needed to rebuild society in the event of the collapse of currency values, financial markets, and especially commercial trading activities. The five stages, by the way, are 1) collapse of financial markets and trust in them; 2) collapse of commercial activity (trading, importing, shipping etc.); 3) collapse of political institutions (dependent on tax revenues); 4) collapse of faith in social structures; 5) collapse of cultural values. The last two are extreme and can be avoided, the author believes, if people can prepare for the possibility of the first two, and even, the third.

If this subject intrigues you, please simply read his book! Again, what interests me is that he sees the reconstitution of society and survival itself as being on the basis of interacting with people you trust. To whatever degree of the five stages of collapse might occur, interacting with people you know and trust is the essence of stability, prosperity (in simple and sustainable living), security, and happiness. So, yes, "like wildfire" may true community spread!

Never before have I read such a focused and detailed analysis of what might lie ahead of us in such a way as to balance the "bad news" with the "good news," and to give practical, down-to-earth suggestions about how to prepare.

I cannot say from my own intuitive insight what may lay ahead. But between my guru's (Yogananda's) warnings, my teacher's counsel, Orlov's writings, and my own instincts, I cannot help but feel this world will be unrecognizable in the next few decades. Scanning the history of human culture, we in the West have lived in a bubble of prosperity, health and relative security and the statement by many that this is, at least in part, based on cheap and plentiful energy sources seems indisputable. As does, the concomitant reality that these cheap energy sources are steadily waning even as the world's population is exploding. A train wreck seems inevitable. Throw into the mix, global warming, terrorism, and possible pandemics, and I think we have a deadly brew inclining to mass loss of life, destruction, and colossally rapid change on a scale unprecedented in human memory.

We in the West are living on borrowed money, borrowed time, and depleted resources. Our comeuppance is due, as if we have tried to cash a check that cannot be cleared. What greater counsel can there be to form communities, especially with rural, food-producing land, with friends who share high ideals and seek to life simply and creatively. The future belongs to the brave and the daring.

Blessings to you,

Swami Hrimananda

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

Friday, January 6, 2012

Who is Paramhansa Yogananda?
Mukunda Lal Ghosh was born January 5, 1893 in India. Destined to become one of the first swamis to come to America (he came in 1920), he became a sensation in America, touring in the 1920’s and 1930’s to crowds of thousands of people in cities throughout the USA.

This time of year the Ananda Communities and centers around the world are among the thousands who commemorate Paramhansa Yogananda’s life and teachings. At his initiation as a swami when a young man by his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri in Serampore (near Calcutta), India, he took the monastic name Yogananda: “union with God in bliss through yoga practice.”

Years later his guru conferred upon him the honorific “Paramhansa,” an acknowledgement of his disciple’s high spiritual realization. Yogananda came to America in 1920, returned to India for a last visit to his guru, family, and homeland in 1935-36, but otherwise stayed in America and became a U.S. citizen. He established his headquarters in Los Angeles in the mid-1920’s. He left this earth plane in 1952.

Those are the barest facts of an extraordinary life. We who are his disciples honor his contribution to the world and to our lives especially at this time of year. At Ananda this celebration concludes the holiday season at about the same time as Christians historically commemorate the three wise men coming from the east to honor the Christ child.

Paramhansa Yogananda is most famous for his life story, “Autobiography of a Yogi.” This book, first published in 1946, has been read by millions in many languages around the world. For modern ears, hearts, and minds, Yogananda opened up for westerners insights into the mysteries of Indian culture and especially its timeless precepts, practices, and its modern saints and sages with their extraordinary powers and states of consciousness. As a work of literature his autobiography stands tall in the pantheon of twentieth century writings.

But it is not the details of his life or even his consciousness that I wish to reflect upon here. Swami Kriyananda’s own autobiography, “The New Path,” details life with the “master” with such wisdom, humor, and love that I must refer the reader to this parallel work of art and inspiration.

One hears a common saying that “When the disciple is ready the guru appears.” For the relevant question is not “Who is the greatest guru (or teacher)?” The more important  inquiry is “Who am I” and “What kind of a disciple of life and truth am I?” The law of karma (action and reaction) and the law of attraction and magnetism remind us that the world we inhabit is filtered by our own magnetism such that we attract to ourselves those circumstances (and people) best designed to reflect back to us aspects, high or low, of our own self.

So rather than ask ourselves “Who was Yogananda” we can also ask ourselves “Who am I?”

Some see in him a world teacher and avatar whose life has started a revolution in spreading the practice of kriya yoga into all nations that millions may have a direct personal perception of divinity and hence empower humanity to make the changes needed to sustain life, health, prosperity and God remembrance in all nations.

Others will see him only as another in an endless procession of teachers from India seeking to profit by the prosperity of the west. Perhaps some will see more flamboyant or more recently popular teachers as the real “deal.” No matter.

It depends what we are capable of seeing and seeking. It is enough for me that he has changed my life and the lives of uncountable others worldwide. Who am I to speak of him as an avatar? I wouldn’t know an avatar  if he was a card-carrying member of the Avatar Club. Even if I were to be so unrefined or unaware as to simply find inspiration and practicality in his words and yoga techniques and ignored him altogether (because no longer incarnate), my life would not be the same.

The question is by what influence and magnetism has he, whom I have never met, inspired me to leave everything of a material nature (career and life in the “world”) as a young man, move to a poor and rural intentional community in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and dedicate my life to the daily practice of meditation and service to spreading Yogananda’s ideals and practices? Were I alone, then you’d have to conclude that I am just basically weird. But hundreds and by now thousands have done the same.

And we are not talking the disenfranchised or the “sick, lame, and lazy” (as my old father, God rest him) would have said. The people I associate with are highly educated, high energy, creative, noble-minded, kind, compassionate and dedicated people who are very aware of the world we live in and eager to serve God through humanity and through kriya yoga.

Yogananda’s influence has spawned a network of intentional communities, schools for children, yoga centers, publishing, nature awareness programs, creative architecture, new forms of music and worship, a cooperative style of leadership and decision making, creative parenting and harmonious relationships.

The chief architect of this expansion has been the foremost of Yogananda’s direct disciples in the service of humanity at large: Ananda’s founder, Swami Kriyananda. Kriyananda’s influence reflects not only his dynamic will but his attunement with his guru, Yogananda. The worldwide work of Ananda is largely a transparent expression of Yogananda’s guidance. Though stamped indelibly with Kriyananda’s signature, members and students of Ananda function independently, creatively taking seed inspiration (rather than any detailed blueprint) from Kriyananda’s guru-guided creativity. Kriyananda, as such, functions more as a focal point and funnel for energy rather than a personality. The result is that scant attention is paid him in the way we see so many spiritual teachers being fawned upon or held high upon a pedestal of undying admiration.

Ananda is not a top-down hierarchical organization, though the value and importance of inspired and supportive leadership is emphasized. Cooperation rather than coercion is the guiding principle. The spiritual welfare of people is the measure of success, not the otherwise worthwhile and measurable accomplishments of Ananda as a spiritual work. Thus the Ananda centers and communities function independently but in cooperation with its first and original community in California. Europe has its own central vortex just as India has two parallel centers: one rural, the other urban.

Yogananda created a new system of tension exercises at a time when millions were just beginning to seek forms of exercise. Less than a century ago exercise for its own sake was only for aristocrats and a few privileged athletes. Already we see the incidence of injury from running, weight training, extreme sports and even intensive one-size-fits-all yoga. He created numerous formulae and recipes for the future millions of vegetarians even as our culture flounders fanatically with every extreme dietary fad that comes along each year.  

He spoke of a future when international criminals would cause havoc in every country and how an international “police force” of freedom-loving nations would be required. He predicted that English would become the “lingua franca” of the world. He also warned of future wars, cataclysms, diseases, and economic devastation as a result of unparalleled greed, exploitation and ruthless competition.

Yogananda with words of great spiritual power “sowed into the ether” a call to high-minded souls to go out into rural areas and create small communities, pooling resources, skills, and living close to the land in what we now realize and describe as a sustainable lifestyle. He predicted that a time would come when small communities would “spread like wildfire,” presumably as an antidote the crushing and impersonal forces of globalization.

Each of these concepts, precepts, and trends are taking shape in the lives of people like you and me, around the world. Yes, it’s true these things would be happening with, or without Yogananda. But to come as a divine messenger to bless these efforts is as reassuring as it is an ancient tradition (to seek divine blessings upon one’s journey and new undertakings). Those who are in tune with these trends are, in their own way, drawing upon those blessings whether they have heard of Yogananda or not.

In theological matters, how many like you and me are weary of sectarianism and desirous of harmony between faiths? It is not religion we should fight but selfishness, greed, and delusion. To this end those who love God should help, support, and respect one another. But how can we find our way out of the box of our dogmas and customs?

All theological bypaths meet in the sensorium of inner silence. God as One, God as many, God of many names or no name are all found united in silent, inner communion. The only real idol worship is found in the worship of matter, the senses, and the ego. These are the false idols, not the saints or deities who serve as symbols and aspects of the One beyond all symbols.

Thus it is that our own and personal vision of reality draws to us the life and teachings of such a one as Paramhansa Yogananda. To achieve Self-realization, he said, we must simply improve our “knowing.”

A Happy Birthday to Yogananda and to all of us!
Nayaswami Hrimananda