Ananda Family News

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:



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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!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Finding Happiness Update


Guest post from Karen G.

About 60 folks came to the Finding Happiness movie at Aquarius Theatre in Palo Alto last week. And 30 to the Guild in Menlo Park. Last theatre showing in Cupertino this Thursday night.

People seemed to really enjoy the film — a few left in tears, and many with heartfelt thank you’s. It’s hard to watch it ourselves and not shed a few tears through it. And seeing it in super high definition in a theatre is hard to beat.

Some years ago, Swamiji was asked: “how can we reach more people with these teachings?” He said something like, “make sure you are visible enough that anyone who is looking for this will find it.” These movie showings and the Open House coming up are our major outreach effort this year to help with that. And thank heavens for the internet, which makes it nearly effortless for anyone who is really looking to find us. (Google CAN satisfy many searches, this being one. :))

Fun story: We were passing out flyers on the streets of Palo Alto before the movie showing, as this was just the sort of thing Swami encouraged us to do, and which shyness often prevents. So off we bravely went, and as a small reward for our efforts, the second person we approached on the street said, “oh, I have seen that movie.” (Come on, I thought, what’s the chance of that?) He leaned over and said, “Yes, I saw that movie in India. I am with Ananda in Pune.” He looked again at the little flyer, “Yes, I know Jemal.” “What are you doing here?!” we asked. “I am here in Palo Alto on business - just flew in from India this afternoon.”

After we picked up our jaws off the sidewalk, we welcomed him to the U.S. and invited him to visit the commmunity while he is here, which he is planning to do this week. (He hadn't known there was an Ananda group in this area).

Small, small, small world.

By the by, pretty much no one else took our flyers. But we felt sure Swamiji was smiling, ear to ear.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Members' Candlelight Tea

This past Saturday evening we had our annual Members’ Candlelight Tea, a time for us to come together, with no particular holiday as an excuse, and just enjoy the good company we’ve been blessed with on the spiritual path. And if you don’t think that’s excuse enough, well, the food was excellent as well. (Photos of the evening are here.)

One new activity going on throughout the evening followed the puzzle theme of our Free & Clear campaign. This was another puzzle made from a photo of our church, but with the church itself as a blank, white area. Everyone was invited to write their name on a white piece, so that when the puzzle was completed we had a church filled with members!


The main entertainment for the evening, though, was a a return of the “You Did What?!?” game from several years ago, now with new members and new stories. With a large lineup of folks on the stage, David read off some of the most intriguing stories and fun facts (assisted by Asha with occasional visual aids), while the audience made their best guesses as to the perpetrators. Want a taste? Here are a few good ones:
  1. As a youngster, this devotee studied music and dance, was first violinist in the school orchestra and also a prize winning tennis player. As an adult, this devotee enjoyed adventure travel, including: going on safari in Botswana; visiting the Kasbah and riding a camel in Morocco; walking through pouring rain and fresh flowing lava after Pele erupted on the Big Island of Hawaii; taking ordination in the Fellowship of Isis at a castle in Ireland; delivering medical supplies and food to isolated Amazon jungle tribes; and swimming with pink dolphins in the Amazon River and -- very briefly! -- with a school of piranha!
  2. This devotee danced in a gorilla+tutu costume on the infamous television contest The Gong Show -- and won! (Yes, that’s a picture of it to the right.) This devotee had a date with actor Ted Danson, or at least with his alter ego, Sam Malone, the good-natured barkeep on the sit-com Cheers. The devotee played a goofy girl on the Thanksgiving episode. Unfortunately, the episode had to be shortened and the goofy girl was left on the cutting room floor. Another close encounter of the famous kind for this devotee was being a waitress at the wedding reception of Bob Dylan’s son, serving Dylan’s table. Dylan was so paranoid, however, the devotee was not allowed to approach or speak directly to him, but only through the wife or bodyguard. The devotee learned later that the assassination of John Lennon had made Dylan even more skittish.
  3. In junior high school this devotee was the red-hot piano player for a band called The Orange Peels. For their debut, they chose the song Tequila, among other reasons, for its simple lyrics: just one word -- “tequila” --which all members of the band shouted in unison at just the right moment. Unfortunately, The Orange Peels spent more time planning their costumes -- bright orange pants and white buck shoes -- than rehearsing their music. The timing of lyric remained obscure to the red-hot piano player. Long before the shout-out was scheduled to happen, the lone voice of the pianist was heard exclaiming: TEQUILA! Thus a promising musical career was cut short, clearing the way for later groups like the Beatles, Stones, Doors and others to enjoy the fame and fortune that might otherwise have gone to The Orange Peels.
So, want to know who these folks were? Got your best guesses ready? Click through to the comments for the answers!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Free & Clear Dinner at Don Giovanni's

On Sunday evening, about 60 of us gathered at Don Giovanni’s restaurant on Castro Street for a Free & Clear fundraising dinner. (The last one, perhaps? We’re getting awfully close to paying off the church!) The excellent Italian fare was complimented by homemade rasgulla, a favorite Indian dessert of Swamiji’s, and lovely little cards at each place setting depicting a variety of different spiritual eye designs. Want some photos of the evening? Here you go!

Entertainment for the evening (aside from our always-enjoyable shared company) started off with just a couple of sing-alongs: “Channels” and “Brave Were the People.” Then just as the song leaders were heading off-stage, Karen remarked that it looked like we were actually going to make it out of an Italian restaurant without singing “Napoli.” Which naturally became untrue almost as soon as she said it. According to some reports, dancing ensued as well.

Overall, we had about $30,000 in donations come from the event, so watch for another couple pieces getting added to the puzzle on Sunday! And that leaves only $50,000 left to go. We’re nearly there! Talk to Shanti if you’d like one of the last puzzle pieces for your very own.

The evening wrapped up with one more impromptu song, “Many Hands Make a Miracle,” because it really is remarkable what we can all do when we join our hands and our energies.
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