Ananda Family News

Monday, July 26, 2010

Guru Day Retreat

Heavenly Father, Divine Mother, Friend, Beloved, God. Jesus Christ, Babaji-Krishna, Lahiri Mahasaya, Swami Sri Yukteswar, Paramhansa Yogananda.

Guru Purnima is traditionally observed on the full moon in July, as a day of celebrating ones gurus, and how marvelous it is that these great souls came to earth just to help us in our spiritual development. Our celebration on Saturday evening was fittingly beautiful, moving, and inspirational.

Around the central lawn of the Ananda Palo Alto community, many devotees worked for hours ahead of time creating gorgeous shrines to each master in our line of gurus. Beginning at 6 in the evening, we gathered in front of each of them in turn. Asha would speak for a bit (you can find the recordings here), helping us focus in on the particular vibration of the guru we were facing, then we would do a couple songs and chants, then meditate for 15 minutes or so. Finally, we would each pick up a small votive or tea light candle to place at the altar before gathering our chairs and moving on to the next station where we'd repeat the process.

One thing Asha suggested at the beginning of the event was especially helpful, and that was to practice japa as much as possible during the evening. At each shrine, you simply see how constantly you can keep a part of your mind silently chanting the name of the guru in front of you. Aum Guru, Aum Christ, Aum Babaji, etc. Not only does this help keep us inwardly focused, but it also helps us to tune in to each master's individual thread weaves into the complete tapestry of our path.

You might think that, over the course of a 4-hour event, the tiny candles we lit at the beginning would have long since burned out. But even well after the end we still had glorious constellations of flickering lights around each shrine, made all the more beautiful by transition from day to night. Asha also remarked that nightfall is particularly dramatic from her perspective up in front of the crowd. While it's still daylight, you can see everyone very distinctly as individual souls and egos, but as time passes we all just blend together, and the light concentrates entirely around our gurus.

The entire evening was a very powerful experience of communion with the masters. And the effects carry on well past the event itself. The next morning at choir practice, one of our sopranos was complemented on how beautifully she was singing. Someone asked her in admiration "What are you doing differently?" Her reply: "Well, I went to Guru Day last night...." Great answer!

There are more pictures here, courtesy of Chidambar, Amara, Karen, and Dambara. Many thanks to everyone who made this event so special, and most of all to our line of masters.

Aum Guru.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

East West Benefit Yard Sale

On Saturday, the Ananda Palo Alto community hosted a huge yard sale as a fundraiser for East West Bookstore. Hundreds of items were donated, from books to videos to clothes to furniture to electronics, and much more. And of course, since Ananda and East West were involved, there was an entire table of spiritual items for sale, including devotional statues, prayer beads, meditation benches and cushions, and many spiritual books, CDs, and DVDs. A lot of lucky bargain-hunters went away with some real treasures.

We even branched out a bit from typical yard sale fare. Susan, Cheryl, and Graham showed up with around 160 baked items: chocolate chip (and other) cookies, brownies (in white chocolate chunk and peanut butter varieties), and several kinds of muffins. The goodies very nearly sold out, and the leftovers were easily taken care of after service on Sunday.

The final count isn't in yet, but Santosh was estimating that we probably raised about $1600-1700 for East West. And even aside from that, it was a very fun service opportunity for everyone who got to help make it happen (too many to list!). Many thanks to everyone who came out and supported the event!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Kirtan with Raghu

Nayaswamis Raghu and Sabari were visiting from Ananda Sacramento last weekend, and on Friday night Raghu led a fantastic kirtan in the temple. It lasted over two and a half hours, and I didn't get an official count of everyone who attended, but people were just coming out of the woodwork for it. Raghu used to be a regular leader of the kirtans here before he went to Sacramento, so a lot of folks were really happy to get to sing with him again. The energy was wonderful, and we just filled up the temple with a gloriously joyful sound.

We got to sing a bunch of traditional Indian bhajans in the middle of the evening, in addition to our more usual fare of Swamiji's and Master's chants, so that was a fun bit of variety. Everything was recorded as well, so at some point soon we should be able to share that with those of you who didn't get to be there. Keep an eye out for it in the boutique!

Also, as a happy coincidence, Friday was Asha's birthday. So we got to take a break in the middle to sing a traditional American chant ("Happy Birthday") and present Asha with her birthday gift, a new computer monitor.

There are also some more photos of the evening here, from Shanti, Rani, and myself.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

41st Ananda Anniversary Weekend

This past weekend was the celebration of Ananda's 41st anniversary as a spiritual community. Ananda Village hosted Swami Kriyananda and visiting Anandans from around the world for the festivities. Barbara Bingham has posted a lovely write-up with pictures of the weekend. You can find the complete set of photos here, plus some more of the 4th of July parade here. And this page has audio and video recordings of the weekend's talks, and even the concert. Almost like being there!

The enormous combined Ananda choir performing in the amphitheater.

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