Ananda Family News

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Arts & Crafts Fair

“Too often on the spiritual path, devotees are afraid to be creative because they think creativity itself leads to ego. This is not true. When the ego is offered into the divine, then creative work becomes an expression of God. Then it helps you spiritually. In fact, in order to grow, you have to express yourself in this way - creatively as an instrument of the Divine.” - Swami Kriyananda

Last Sunday at our annual Ananda Palo Alto Crafts Fair our devotee artisans were thankfully unafraid of sharing their creativity with us. They enveloped us with their beautiful, vibrant and uplifting energy expressed in

  • hand tied gemstone and Rudraksha malas
  • Christmas ornaments with Master’s picture 
  • healing remedies and body care products co-created with the devas, from Ananda Village Permaculture
  • paintings and inspirational posters for children
  • handmade hats, scarfs, Kimonos and other items of clothing
  • toys and elegant jewelry

Our Ananda artists included all ages -  from teenager to retiree - and from a wide range of different professions who find pleasure and satisfaction in “making things out of things.” For most of them being creative was a way of “just having fun” and having the experience of “letting the Divine flow through you.”

Ananda Valley Farm joined the Crafts Fair for the first time with a beautiful autumnally decorated table of wonderful nourishing food such as sweet breads, homemade canned items, eggs, etc. Many enjoyed in particular the hot curried cauliflower dish while walking from one crafts table to the other or chatting with each other.

We discovered also that some of our gurubais have creative pursuits we did not know of, and the fair was a wonderful way to admire this side of them in a heartfelt, loving, social gathering with much laughter.

in Master’s Creativity, Light & Love,


Quote is from Asha’s book Swami Kriyananda As We Have Known Him (p. 238)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Jewel in the Lotus

Last Sunday we gathered together and enjoyed a wonderful tasty Cuban meal and watched the beautiful, inspiring play The Jewel in the Lotus written by Swami Kriyananda and played by the Ananda Palo Alto Players.

The play tells the story of transformation including the conflicting yearnings for money and God in families, the power of the guru’s love for all people and creatures, and the effects of saints in our lives. The villagers find their love for God rekindled and their lives changed by listening to the storyteller, a wandering spiritual seeker, who shares his wisdom through inspiring and instructive stories in particular of Sri Paramhansa Yogananda.

We enjoyed a beautiful play with magnificent, colorful costumes, wonderful uplifting music, songs and chants, elegant and gracious dancing and impressive as well as inspiring performances by all the members involved in the play.

Every member of the Ananda Palo Alto theater group mentioned that it was a most transformative experience to work together on this play over the last 4 months. They felt very uplifted and inspired working with the words written by Swami Kriyananda, but also enjoyed the camaraderie, the friendship and the joy of seeing how each of them in their own way progressed, changed and transformed by, for example, facing their fears of being on stage, going beyond their comfort zone and internalizing and living the written words of the play.

During the play we not only had the pleasure of enjoying a beautifully and stunningly presented and skillfully directed and performed play, but we also experienced how our friends transformed themselves on stage in a most amazing, impressive and inspiring way. It was a blessing to watch our gurubhais showing us a side of themselves we have not yet seen and celebrating with us together their newly developed skill, ability and thus, transformation - the theme of the play.

For more photos click here.

in Master’s love,
Mirela & Tandava

Editors’ Note:
After about 5 years of writing this blog Tandava is giving the authorship over to Mirela. Please join me (Mirela) to send blessings to Tandava for his service: AUM, AUM, AUM

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

1st Annual Harvest Festival

A new milestone for Ananda Valley Farm: The first annual Harvest Festival! After so many joyful workdays over the last year, it was time to go up there and just play.

Our amazingly resourceful farm staff and volunteers filled the afternoon with activities, including face painting, boat racing, pumpkin racing, tug-of-war, egg toss, ultimate nerf, hay rides, sharing nature activities, a plant identification lesson, a hike, and probably more that elude the memory at the moment.

After a delicious dinner in the greenhouse, we headed out to the pond for a sunset arati. Everyone received a small, paper bowl “boat,” containing flowers, a candle, and a stick of incense. Then to the accompaniment of prayers, chants, and Aums, we launched them all out on to the water.

And for the grand finale to the day, we had the farm’s first contradance! Omprakash came down from Seattle to teach the dances and play fiddle. The rest of the band was made up of his old contradance buddies Karen and David (on fiddle and piano, respectively), and Tandava (playing banjo and fiddle). With lots of enthusiastic new contradancers (including a very young one) we turned Sahadev’s workshop into a surprisingly good dancehall.

If you weren’t able to join us, plan on it next year. This is just the start of a wonderful tradition. More photos of the day are here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Discipleship and Seva

On September 12, 1948, a young J. Donald Walters arrived in Los Angeles from New York and was initiated by his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, as a new disciple. That moment was the foundation of discipleship for all of us who, as members of Ananda, would never have come to Master except through the life’s work of young “Walter,” later Swami Kriyananda.

Last Friday evening, 66 years later, we gathered to honor both that moment and also the example of perfect discipleship Swamiji embodied for us throughout his life. If you haven’t yet had a chance to see the beautiful video of Swamiji’s legacy that we shared, you can watch it here:

* * *

As it happens, this general time of year is a significant one in many ways for our Palo Alto colony here. So many anniversaries take place in September (the founding of East West, Living Wisdom School, the church, and more) that we decided to roll them all into one big “Celebrate Ananda” party on Saturday evening (photos here). Master’s shrine presided over our dinner on our gorgeous community lawn, and the choir sang several community-oriented favorites, including “Brave Were the People,” “A New Tomorrow,” and “Brothers.”

The theme of the evening was “Seva:” joyful, devotional service. Seva is more than just a convenience for organizations that depend on volunteers; it’s a powerful spiritual principle in its own right, and critical to our own development. Throughout the evening, six different community members got up and spoke for a few minutes about their own personal experiences with service, with living in community, and testified to what a powerful blessing it all is. It was delightful to hear from such a nice cross-section of our diverse community of friends and gurubhais.

At the end of the evening, we all gathered ourselves in around Master’s gazebo for a few sing-alongs, ending — by popular demand — with “Many Hands Make a Miracle.” And they always do, don’t they? If you ever want to see cleanup happen instantaneously, get folks to think about seva for an hour or two, sing “Many Hands,” then turn ’em loose. It’s a miracle.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Happy Birthday, Ananda Valley Farm!

This past weekend, we celebrated our first year as farmers at our very own Ananda Valley Farm. A fun and farm-ful Saturday included a morning harvest, an afternoon class plus Q&A session with visiting Nayaswamis Pranaba and Parvati, and a gourmet dinner in the greenhouse. Check out some of the photos! (Now is that an impressive salad or what!? Guess where that came from....)

It’s really quite amazing how far we’ve come in just this first year. We’re already supplying bountiful weekly boxes of vegetables to a number of CSA subscribers, and we’re getting ready to plant our first commercial crops for next year. And take a look at some of these other dramatic changes:

Seva house kitchen...

Before/During and After

Seva House bedrooms...

Then and Now

And, of course, the chickens, who are almost ready to start laying eggs!

Then (well, just a few months ago) and Now

If you want to spend more time at the farm, come join us this Saturday for a wild plant walk, potluck dinner, and special Krishna kirtan!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our Gurus and Their New Church

This past weekend was one of glorious celebration, beginning with our annual Guru Day retreat on Saturday evening (photos here). Asha guided us on a pilgrimage through our line of masters, from one shrine to another, circling the central lawn of the residential community. With each guru, we sang, meditated, and tuned in to his particular ray of consciousness.

One special addition this year was a new statue of Sri Yukteswar — the only one that had been lacking. He was set on a temporary pedestal for the evening, but the current group of Sadhaka trainees are working on a more permanent shrine along the side of the lawn between Jesus and Babaji.

Then on Sunday we celebrated a momentous milestone: We have finally paid off all the debt on our church! (See David’s announcement from a couple weeks ago.) The “Free & Clear” puzzle has been completed, and now, after 20 years, we can finally, completely give it all to God and to our Gurus.

Asha’s sermon that morning picked right up from Guru Day, taking us all the way from Babaji perceiving potential saints in America, right down through our whole lineage to Master and Swamiji, and to the amazing works they have manifested through all of us. If you weren’t able to be there, you should see the video, which also included fun stories about the finding and purchasing of the church.

Service that day ended with a dedication ceremony (photos here). We began by marching around the perimeter of the property, with photos of the masters, rose petals, holy water, guitars and joyful voices. Then, back inside, we circled up around the sanctuary. To the accompaniment of Yogananda’s voice chanting Aum, David carried the statue of Master around to each one of us for a blessing. Then the statue and photos were placed up on the altar and once more blessed with rose petals and devotion.

A farm... a church... we seem to be on a roll! What’s next?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ananda Open House

Guest post by David G.

Saturday June 14th saw 50 guests visit our Church and School as part of our Open House celebration, our first since 2008. There were displays from many Ananda Palo Alto centers of activity (Yoga studio, School, and East West, for example). The movie Finding Happiness was playing all day in the Teaching Center, there were tours, Asha spoke twice, music, Healing Prayers for guests to join, The Farm, and of course delectable fine foods, some of which actually survived long enough to eaten by the guests :-)

As it happened, the recent India Pilgrimage was in Palo Alto for just a few days. They came from our work in India to experience Ananda America, and it worked out perfectly for them to visit the Open House. They had not heard much 4-part harmony before (it is uncommon in India) and were thrilled by Swami’s music.

Many guests were deeply touched by what they found. It is difficult to describe Ananda’s totality to someone, and taking a class or coming to a specific event or Sunday Service does not give the breadth of what we do. The Open House filled that bill very nicely, and we plan on more in the future.

More photos here!

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