Ananda Family News

Thursday, May 14, 2015

New Shrine Installation

Thanks to Jay’s loving volunteer labors, we have a beautiful shrine for the bust of Master in the piazza now. After service last Sunday, David and Gary carried the bust out into the courtyard, followed by everyone else, with chanting, and a dedication by Shanti. Rose petals and happiness poured out to bless the presence of the guru, lovingly symbolized by his likeness. Drop a petal of devotion next time you pass by....

A few photos here and lots more photos here.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Easter Congregation Photo

Whoops — I forgot to mention in the last post one of our other Easter traditions: our annual all-congregation photo. Here we all are!

If you want to get the high-resolution version, click on the photo above, then click “More,” then select “Download.” Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Easter Week

Our Easter festivities kicked off on Palm Sunday with a choir concert following service (and lunch). The choir had had a great time learning several new pieces by Handel, Mendelssohn, and Mozart, some of which have been voted among the top-10 favorites of choirs nationwide. And, of course, there was also a generous selection of Swami Kriyananda’s music, which will some day be on such a list. An extra treat was cello accompaniment to two of the songs, provided by Hiroki, an LWS student. We’ve got some photos of the day here, plus a video of the entire concert for your enjoyment.

Then this past Saturday it was time to stop letting the choir have all the fun. Asha hosted an Easter retreat based around Swamiji’s Christ Lives Oratorio, with everyone singing along. Barbara and a visiting Chaitanya led the singing, and everyone sang melody, both to keep it simple and devotional, and also to more directly tune in to the words, consciousness, and inspiration of each piece. So even for choir members it was a different and special experience. (Photos are here.)

Holy Week culminated in a glorious Easter celebration. One new element this year was a choreography to “Rise in Freedom” (an excellent Easter chant). It was performed by four of our dancers at the beginning of service, but the whole congregation got to join in later on (at least as far as the arm motions were concerned). We also got a performance of “Lightly I Fly” from many of the children and families who have been rehearsing it for us at our Family Services the past couple of months.

Our Easter banquet was held in the temple rather than at the community, due to impending drizzle, but all was bright with delight inside. Entertainment included juggling, violin music, banjo music, stand-up comedy, and the inaugural performance of the Ananda Ukulele Ministry (AUM). Clean-up inspiration provided by David and Karen’s rendition of “Who Will Clean Up?” to Swamiji’s tune of “Who Is Sylvia?” Photos of the entire Easter day can be found here, and if that’s not enough, also here.

In closing, here is the ukulele band’s rendition of an ancient Sanskrit Easter blessing song:

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say 
on a bright Ananda Easter Day. 
That’s the sattwic greeting that we send to you
from the land where yogis pray. 
Here we know that Easter will be full of light: 
we’ll meditate by day and then again at night. 
Mele Kalikimaka is the wise way 
to say Happy Easter to you.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

LWS Play: George Washington Carver

In Living Wisdom School’s 22-year run of exceptional performances, this year’s play was a first. As always, its subject was an inspiring spiritual figure, but for the first time it was also a scientist: George Washington Carver. As the introductory scene acknowledged, science and religion have not always gotten along well together, but in today’s society it’s important to be reminded that they can, and indeed, should. The fusion of the two also paralleled the post-Civil War struggle for racial integration that was another major thread throughout the play.

Students portraying the teachers as they
discuss the subject of this year’s play.
The music throughout the production featured two songs as its main themes: “How Can I Keep from Singing?,” a beautiful hymn in tune with Carver’s optimistic and indomitable spirit, and “Amen,” a joyful, hand-clapping gospel classic. This year also included a number of dance choreographies, among them an adorable ballet of nature devas healing sick flowers to the music of “The Blue Danube,” one of Yogananda’s favorites. Dance was also used very effectively in some of the action scenes — a Civil War battle and a mob scene — to soften the scary moments for some of the younger children while still conveying the intensity of those events.

“How Can I Keep from Singing?”
performed by the all-school chorus.
The play excelled not only as entertainment, but as a history lesson, with the events coming to life before our eyes. Anyone who grew up in the United States probably remembers reading, for instance, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in school. But hearing these words in context, recited by students putting their hearts into it, conveys the power of that speech at that moment in a way no textbook can. We’re lucky to have many original quotes from George Washington Carver himself as well, conveying his consciousness all the more directly.

“The Blue Danube” ballet.
Far beyond mere rote memorization, participation in the play develops deeper skills in the students, including flexibility and grace under pressure. An example: For the final evening, several children were unable to perform. With the entire school already fully involved, there had been no bandwidth to assign or train understudies. So just before showtime, the director simply asked who else in the cast knew the missing students’ lines. The volunteers stepped into their new roles with all the confidence of actors who had paid complete attention in rehearsals even to scenes that were not originally their own.

Singing of the many uses of the peanut
(in peanut hats).
More photos from the dress rehearsal can be found here, and keep an eye on the LWS Vimeo channel for the official performance videos (coming soon)!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Enchanted Tea at the Farm

[Guest post by Karen B. Check out the Ananda Valley Farm website to keep up with the latest news from the farm!]

While yogis are no strangers to moments of delight, beauty and surprise, the Enchanted Tea fundraising event on the farm this past weekend may have set a new standard for experiencing such divine gifts amidst the clucking of nearby chickens, the insulating charm of greenhouse surroundings and the fresh, earthy scent of a recently enhanced straw floor.

The nearly 35 guests (and an equal number of volunteers) who attended enjoyed a lovely afternoon of tea, various courses of delicious handmade foods representing different countries, and the splendid musical entertainment of a talented vocal quartet.

While refinement was in the air, and a cadre of waiters was on hand to serve guests in sit-down fashion, the order of the day was the much-anticipated opportunity to offer support to our beloved farm, and the many projects that await funding in order to proceed.

What began as an inventory of 30 items in need of sponsorship, quickly transformed into a list reflective of the true generosity of spirit that has accompanied the Ananda Valley Farm from its inception.

Many projects were fully funded; among them a mobile chicken coop, equipment to expand seedling production, funding to expand the accommodations at Seva House, new fruit trees for the orchard, solar-powered valve controls for watering, landscaping and a wishing well for the Temple yurt, and even the addition of an espresso machine for the Seva House kitchen. And, lastly, the entire room erupted in cheers and applause at the announcement of the funding of the final item on the list: a horse.

Stay tuned for the many seva opportunities that will arise as these upgrades to the farm are purchased and become ready to install.

For now, we would like to express gratitude to all of those whose willing service contributed to an exquisite experience at the farm, and to God and Gurus for the abundant blessings that continue to grace the life of Ananda Valley Farm.

[You can find more photos of the event here!]

Friday, January 23, 2015

Master's Birthday & "Meeting the Master"

Master’s Birthday Celebration, 5th January

One of our most sacred days - our Guru Paramhansa Yogananda’s Birthday - reminds us of the very reasons we are here and what our purpose is.

Master mentioned (The Divine Romance, p. 398) that it is beneficial to meditate on the birthdays of any of the Self-realized gurus, as these days are auspicious and filled with blessings. Thus, we started Yoganandaji’s birthday with a two-hour meditation and followed with chants, songs and music.

We then listened to Swami’s recorded story how Master’s book Autobiography of a Yogi affected him deeply and changed his life. This reminded many of us of our own unforgettable experiences we had while reading this sacred book.

Asha then continued to talk about the essence and importance of the guru-discipleship relationship, pointing out how the guru has the power to “unravel our karma for us” and how he guides and protects us. She ended her talk by encouraging us to pray to Guru and God to “give me the grace to love you and give me the grace to know how you love me.”

After the sermon we had a beautiful devotional ceremony renewing and reaffirming our vows and supporting others in their reaffirmations. We had a group of new initiates into the Sadhaka as well as Sevaka orders.

Although our Guru has left his body, he is always with us. Swami reminds us, “we know from our experiences how real his presence is, we know from our experiences how real that guidance is and that’s what has made this community, what it is.”

Here is the video link to Swami’s and Asha’s talks.

Ananda Palo Alto Players Present Meeting the Master, 17th January

Last Saturday evening we witnessed a new milestone in Ananda’s spiritual activities: a way of writing and performing plays on such a deep soul-level which so far has not been seen nor experienced before - as mentioned by many who came to see the play.
The play conveys the experiences, blessings, healing and feelings of the early disciples, when they met Master for the first time, and includes loving anecdotes of their relationship with their Guru.

The stories were presented by Paramhansa Yogananda’s early disciples such as Gyanamata (played by Asha), Dr. and Mrs. Lewis (Marcel Hernandez & Anandaprem), Kamala (Erica Kellogg), Durga Mata (Kristy Norfleet-Andrews, author of the play), Rajarshi (Garth Gilchrist) and Kriyananda (Rammurti Reed).

The play was for all of us an amazing experience: while we listened to the accounts of the disciples, how they met Master for the first time, we could feel through their owns words what an incredible life-altering, blessed experience this was. We were transported to the times when Master lived, how he behaved and acted, how his disciples loved and revered him, how it was to receive his unconditional love and protection.

At some stage of the play we did not only feel part of the play, but we could feel the same feelings as they were expressed by all disciples who were been played and who were playing the part. Here are some more pictures.
This soul-quality and soul-experience which occurred during this evening, made a strong impression on us, but also left a blessed imprint on our consciousness and made us feel, on a very deep level, joyful.

If you have not yet seen the play, you still have a chance to see it this Saturday, 24th of January, at 6 pm at Ananda Sacramento.

Of course, we have also here a recording of the play (Part 1 + Part 2).  Enjoy!

With lots of love, joy & blessings,


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Christmas & New Year Celebrations

Already two weeks have passed since we have had our Christmas celebration and we still hold in our hearts, minds and souls the sacred ceremony of the birth of Jesus which we experienced inwardly in longer meditations and outwardly with our families and friends.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve provided us with the opportunity of an inward celebration of Christ with a two hour meditation. For most of us, this was one of the most beautiful and devotional evenings, reminding us of the potential awakening of the Christ Consciousness within each of us. We listened to holy songs, music, chants and to Asha’s sermon guiding us deep into the spirit of Christ. In the latter part of the evening we enjoyed a beautiful creation of Jesus’ birth with a life nativity scene reflecting the devotion and grace of that moment.

The evening culminated in a reverential candle light ceremony at the feet of baby Jesus. Many of us were deeply moved.

Here are some more pictures

Christmas Day

On Christmas Day Asha narrated the Christmas story with beauty, warmth and clarity, which not only touched the minds and hearts of the children present, but also of all the adults.

Some children were dressed up as angels, shepherds and kings, and joined the live nativity scene, having much fun but also acting with reverence throughout the ceremony. For more pictures click here.

Later we enjoyed a delicious banquet while also appreciating and rejoicing with our family and friends this very holy day.

After the Christmas banquet we were shown a scene of the forthcoming play Meeting the Master, which will be shown on Saturday, 17th of January, of how Master celebrated Christmas with his disciples and how he lovingly would prepare and give presents to everyone. Here is the link to the video.

See also here some fun outtakes from Christmas Day (pre-event) pix.

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve started with an inward celebration of letting go of the old year and welcoming the New Year with a two hour meditation. We witnessed and celebrated the taking of the Pilgrim’s Vow of Intention and Renunciate Vow of Brahmacharya by two of our gurubhais.

The evening then followed with a talk by Asha, accompanied by music and songs, and ended with an extended fire and purification ceremony in which we each got to offer ourselves and our aspirations for the new year up to Guru and God. Click here for some more pictures.

House Blessing at Chela Bhavan

On January 3rd we held a house blessing for celebrating the signed agreement to purchase Chela Bhavan for $600,000. The amount of $50,000 has been paid and a debt of $550,000 remains which will be covered through the on-going monthly rent and future donations. We chanted, meditated, prayed and sent out many blessings in every corner of the house. The evening ended with some tea and shared food.

Wishing you all a very special year with many sacred, joyful and blessed moments and gatherings like the ones we just experienced.

in Master's Love & Joy


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