Ananda Family News

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Celebration

Thanksgiving day at our temple started off with a service in which Nirmoha led us in a special ceremony of giving thanks. Two tables had been supplied with pens and a large number of fallen leaves of all colors. During the chanting of “O God Beautiful” we each got to take a leaf and write on it something we were thankful for, before taking it to the altar to offer back to the Masters. As an additional dimension, for those so inclined, we were encouraged to give thanks not just for something obviously good or enjoyable, but for something that we found challenging. Knowing that everything God sends us is for our own ultimate growth helps us to reframe a situation and be grateful for it,  even in a moment when it might not seem so desirable. The colorful leaves not only complimented the altar beautifully, but reminded us that change itself can be beautiful.

The Thanksgiving banquet that followed the service was a masterpiece, even by Ananda standards. And I’m sure we were all glad to be eating nutloaf rather than turkey, as we enjoyed a reading from Master’s 1934 Thanksgiving letter. (One of many choice quotes: “Be sure to thank God for forgiving you for compelling the quickening of the turkey’s evolution against its own will. And also thank God that you are not the turkey, to be used for the festivity of Thanksgiving.”)

Other entertainment for the afternoon included “Praise Ye the Lord” performed by a small ensemble, followed by “Zen Gospel Singing,” with Trish and Graham. Accelerating the progression of divine silliness, Steven stole the show with “If I’d Only Meditate,” sung to the tune of “If I Only Had a Brain,” and performed complete with scarecrow costume. This one very much deserves a full reading of the lyrics. (There’s a video, too!)

If I’d Only Meditate

I’d be pious, I’d be humble,
Walk the path without a stumble,
And radiate with joy.
Never dreary, always cheery;
I could be the next Lahiri,
If I’d only meditate.

I’d cure that rash of desperation
’bout my earthly situation,
By hearing Master’s call.
My heart would stop bein’ so fickle,
When I felt my Guru’s tickle,
If I’d only meditate.

Just think how it would be
To wake with God instead of sawin’ Z’s.
Clear the chakras and reside in ecstasy,
Instead of pining for that 50 inch TV.

I’d invigorate my dharma,
Obliterate my karma,
Illuminate my soul.
With my bright and saintly aura
I’d kick darkness out the door - a
If I’d only meditate.

I’d be done with courtin’ maya,
Give up my last desire
For a good cigar and brew.
Wouldn’t carry any baggage,
No more eatin' like a savage,
If I’d only meditate.

Oh, I could tell you why
There’s a star in the spiritual eye.
Or talk with God about that Praver guy.
Pay off the church, he’d say, and make your tithe.

As I seek that destination
Infused with inspiration,
I’ll know that home is near.
Livin’ life just like the Gita,
Sippin’ cups of sweet amrita,
If I’d only meditate.

The banquet wasn’t the only part of the afternoon to be regaled with music, however. Dambara and Michael managed in a single song (to the tune of “My Girl”) to detail every aspect of cleanup and takedown that needed to happen afterwards. And as Anandans are never inclined to shirk an opportunity for service or a good laugh, the banquet hall was transformed back into a temple in no time.

More pictures are here. Thank you everyone (and Everyone) who made the day such a delightful celebration!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Church of All Religions

When Paramhansa Yogananda was living, he called his places of worship, “Churches of all Religions.” In this way he wanted everyone to understand that even though the temples were dedicated to our particular line of gurus, the principles of Self-realization are not unique to this line of masters.  Self-realization is the unifying principle behind all true religions.

To illustrate this, Master included symbols from various religions at Lake Shrine, and in other temples. And now, our Palo Alto temple follows in that tradition with seven beautiful new adornments to the walls of the main sanctuary. 

Sunday service included a ceremony to welcome and bless these symbols. We chanted “I Will Sing Thy Name,” with the “Aum Guru” chorus being modified as appropriate for each religion. During the chant, designated congregation members took turns carrying candles from the altar and leaving them with a blessing at each symbol. You can see photos of the ceremony and all the symbols here.

Going clockwise around the room from stage left, the religions and symbols are:
  • Hinduism - Aum
  • Judaism - Star of David
  • Islam - “Allah” in Arabic calligraphy
  • Buddhism - The Wheel of Dharma
  • Taoism - Yin Yang
  • Self-Realization - Joy Is Within You
  • Christianity - Cross
Each one is beautifully carved in wood, and painted blue and gold, and they are all marvelous additions to our sacred space. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Free and Clear Fundraising Dinner

Our “Free and Clear” campaign to pay off our church mortgage has been having a great year, and I’m sure you’ve all been filling up your special spare-change boxes and avidly watching the progress puzzle being filled in on our altar. (Just $25,000 per piece -- buy yours today! Excellent Christmas gifts!)

We recently had a fundraising dinner at Sapore Italiano in Burlingame that brought a whole new burst of energy to the project. 65 people showed up for good food, good music (some of Swamiji’s Italy-inspired songs, of course), and devotee satsang. And we each got our own little magnetic refrigerator puzzles, variously decorated with our Free & Clear affirmation, joy symbols, and other designs. (More photos here.)

The evening was a success not just as a meal, but as a fundraiser as well. Those 65 people together brought in a very impressive $52,000 at the event itself, with an additional $1,000 and two 1-oz. gold coins pledged. All that plus some other recent gifts (unrelated to the fundraiser) mean that David will be adding three new pieces to our puzzle this Sunday at service, bringing the total remaining on our mortgage down to $700,000!

We started the year still owning a million dollars on our church. Shall we aim to cut that in half by the end of the year? That would put us at $500,000, and the way we’ve been going so far, I think we can make it!

Divine Mother,
manifest through us
Your divine energy
to make this
Ananda temple
of Self-Realization
Free and Clear of all debt,
a gift of love to God and Gurus,
and to truth seekers
now and forever.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Halloween Festivities

We’ve all seen jack-o’-lanterns carved from pumpkins before, but how about ones made from cantaloupes, oranges, and pineapples? Kids of all ages had fun bending traditions to greater or lesser degrees at the Halloween weekend carving party. (More photos here.)

And then, of course, we had Halloween itself, when 20 or so kids swarmed like adorable piranhas through the apartment complex, reducing the community candy supply to a skeleton in a matter of minutes. Some of those kids seemed awfully tall, too, but they did have costumes, so it must have been legit. (More photos of that evening are here.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

CSA Report: Success!

Ananda Palo Alto’s CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture program) wrapped up its first season this Saturday, after 26 straight weeks of supplying 12 boxes of fresh produce to 23 members. We celebrated our achievement with (what else?) a potluck, sharing memories of the last six months, and making plans for next year.

Blessing the garden before the harvest.

The success of this project was due entirely to huge amounts of joyful service from a host of volunteers. Many remarked that the satsang with our gurubais and neighbors was at least as satisfying a part of the experience as the actual food we received. 

Ramani and Darlene in the garden.

Not only did we harvest from our own garden and orchard, but we also visited our neighbors around Monroe Drive, many of whom have fruit trees that they don’t harvest. So we had the opportunity to make new friends, help them maintain their trees, and share the produce with them. 

Tomato harvest!

We’re planning on expanding next year, so if you’re interested in joining the CSA, talk to Ramani and Amara. And if you like gardening, more volunteers are always welcome! Even though we had our last official harvest already, we’ll be working this weekend on taking out old plants, adding compost and cover crops, and otherwise preparing for the next season.

Darlene, Sharmila, and Amara, showing off
our eggplants, pumpkins, and Jerusalem artichokes.


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