Ananda Family News

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dancing the Psalm of David

This past Sunday, one of the musical interludes at Sunday Service was accompanied by a beautiful new dance. Karen and Todd performed Swamiji’s “Psalm of David” from the sidelines while Rita added the visual dimension on stage. Beyond that, we’ll let the video speak for itself. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guru Day Retreat

On Saturday our spiritual community gathered together to honor and commune with each guru in our line of masters. We are incredibly lucky to have not only one guru—blessing beyond measure in itself—but five, who illustrate spiritual qualities in different ways through their varied lives and legacies. Asha spoke in front of each shrine, helping us attune to each particular expression of the Divine. We chanted and meditated with each guru, and placed votive candles around them, offering the little lights that are in us into the blazing light of Infinity.

Jesus and Babaji, with their garlands and lights of devotion.

A beautiful new addition this year was a gazebo for Lahiri Mahasaya. We’ve had his statue for years, but it hasn’t had a permanent home, so this year’s Sadhaka training class has taken up the task of creating this shrine. There’s still painting and roofing to be done, and we’ll share a lot more about the project when it’s finished, but we had enough to decorate it up beautifully for the celebration. We also held a small ceremony, anointing the statue with Ganges water and rose petals, to welcome Lahiri into the space. 

Lahiri Mahasaya in his new gazebo.

That leaves Sri Yukteswar as the only guru without a permanent shrine at the residential community (a project for future Sadhaka classes, perhaps?). But one can imagine him responding unconcernedly to the prospect saying, as he did to Master in Autobiography of a Yogi, “Do so if it pleases you.” And there’s always a certain charm to his hanging lanterns in the open air, glowing like the light of wisdom around his portrait, floating detached from “the vast world, interested only in externals.”

Swami Sri Yukteswar, and Paramhansa Yogananda.

We concluded the evening in front of Paramhansa Yogananda, whose shrine was accompanied by a photo of his disciple, Swami Kriyananda. These two great souls were the channels for bringing the teachings of all our masters to us, and for that we are eternally grateful. 

Friend and guide, Swami Kriyananda.

[More beautiful photos here, courtesy of Rani.]

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Asha's Birthday and Summer Concert

This past Saturday was the birthday of our very beloved Asha. Given that Asha is the choir’s biggest fan, and that we'll take any excuse for some more fun and music, we decided to hold a summer concert in her honor. So this weekend’s Sunday service led straight into a potluck in the piazza, and the concert actually began there as well, with Dambara and Saranya performing Canticle of the Creatures before leading us all back into the temple for the rest of the show.

The choir put together an excellent program, based around many Ananda favorites (see a video of Life is a Dream). There was also a gorgeous arrangement of Shenandoah, which we've decided just needs to be adopted into our repertoire. A light-hearted interlude featured surprise, customized birthday songs in both barbershop and Beatles varieties, as well as a must-see skit demonstrating the many, many interpretations of one of our favorite chants.

To end the concert, Rita debuted a new choreography to the song Keep Calling Him. The movements are simple and graceful, and suitable for audience participation, which let us wrap things up with a feeling of connection to everyone in the room. It’s also good to see that dance as an Ananda art form can continue here, even now that Pavani has moved to Portland.

The whole concert was recorded for a CD — contact the Sangha staff if you’re interested in getting a copy. For now, we’ll leave you with a link to all the photos, as well as a sweet poem that David G. wrote for Asha, and read at the concert.

To Asha on her Birthday

Onto the scene a cute baby did burst
The only child ever to be born mouth first
A gift to us all she’d grow up to be
A beacon of Light that hundreds would see
Her life has been filled with Swami adventures
But the birthdays add up—soon we’re shopping for dentures
But enough of that road, now’s a time just to cheer
So lend me your mind, your heart, and your ear.

We took a pen in hand to write
A poem we thought would you delight
But ne’er before had this been done
By us, for you, in birthday fun

We scratched our heads for soon we knew
Good poems there are but very few
And soon we saw a sight ‘twas sad
This one’s among the very bad
But do not fear; there’s not much more
Except the birthday wish in store
For all we really want to do
Is to share our love and prayers for you

And now here comes the final part
A thought that comes straight from the heart
We pray with all our strength and might
That Master bless you with his sight
For you’ve touched us all in so many ways
And bathed us all in Master’s rays
Our thanks run deep and strong and true
I speak for us all: love and joy to you!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

“True Freedom” Cookout and Kirtan

This Fourth of July our extended Ananda family gathered together to celebrate true, inner freedom with a cookout at the residential community in Mountain View. About a hundred folks turned out to enjoy sunburgers, corn on the cob, baked beans, potato salad, and joyful satsang with fellow devotees. (Photos here, courtesy of D’Arcy, Dambara, and Jeffrey.)

And we can’t forget dessert, of course. The younger bodies effectively dominated the s’mores scene (above), but we also had a sundae bar to pick up the slack. Vanilla ice cream with raspberries and blueberries made an excellent combination for the patriotically-minded, but the brownies and fudge sauce were well worth altering the color scheme.

Dinner was followed by an outdoor kirtan in front of Paramahansa Yogananda’s shrine and gazebo. Along with the abundance of voices, we had harmoniums, guitars, kirtals, a flute, a drum, and shakers for the little ones. The chants naturally included “Rise in Freedom” and “I Am Free,” along with many other Ananda favorites.

Swami Kriyananda’s words from Living Wisely, Living Well remind us to be grateful not only for the freedom we’ve been given here on earth, but also for the divine freedom that awaits all of us:
Independence Day in America: The political and national freedom celebrated this day were meant to give all men a chance to rise to their own highest potential. 
Though independence has not been applied universally, it has at least been directional. It has taken time for black people and for women to win the right to vote, though that right should have been recognized and bestowed from the beginning. 
It is time now to declare a new kind of freedom: freedom of conscience! 
This declaration can be made only by and for the individual. Let no one pressure you into thinking or behaving as he thinks you ought to. God has a special song to sing through you. It can be offered to the universe only by yourself.

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