Ananda Family News

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Farewell to Tushti and Surendra

The new year has been bringing its new changes, and last week we bid farewell to our dear friends Tushti and Surendra. They’re moving on to new adventures at Ananda Laurelwood, where they’ll help create and develop the new Education for Life campus there.

Over the nine years they’ve spent in Palo Alto, Tushti and Surendra have been managers of East West, shepherding it lovingly through trying economic times. They’ve also directed the yoga center, taught many meditation classes, led the Sadhaka training group, and been tireless examples of devoted service, inspiring everyone who met them.

Tushti and Surendra, with the Masters, 
as always, watching over them.

On New Year’s Day we held a going-away party for them at Chela Bhavan (photos here), sharing lots of food, stories, and expressions of friendship and gratitude. And, just so they could take a little bit of us along with them, we even presented them with 108 custom-made fortune cookies, each containing a personal note or a blessing from one of their many friends. At the following Sunday service, we also got to publicly acknowledge them and send them off with a chorus of Aums from the congregation.

Thank you, Tushti and Surendra, for everything you’ve given and shared with us here. We’ll miss you, but we wish you much joy and many blessings in your new roles. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Master's Birthday

Last Thursday, January 5th, was the anniversary of Paramhansa Yogananda’s birthday, the day when we all wish each other “Happy Birthday” in joyful gratitude for the spiritual birth he made possible for all of us.

Of course, we wanted to wish Master a happy birthday as well, but what birthday gift do you get for the guru who has everything? Master used to say that he preferred a soul to a crowd, but he loved crowds of souls. And so, along with the flowers we brought to the altar Thursday evening, we brought crowds of souls before him to remind him (and ourselves) of our dedication to God and guru. From truth-seekers on other paths (or still finding their paths), to Ananda church members, to disciples, Sadhakas, and Sevakas, there was an appropriate vow and moment at the altar for everyone.

The choir sang a couple of songs (“O Master,” of course, a singalong at the end), and there were chants throughout the evening. But the full focus was on offering ourselves back to Master, who offered spiritual liberation to us. 

Aum Guru.

(See more photos of the evening here.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Eve Ceremonies

As with our Christmas Eve service, we experimented this year with holding our New Year celebrations earlier in the evening, rather than doing a midnight service. Judging by the attendance at each, we have a lot of early birds in the community who appreciated it!

The evening began with a meditation, and a Nayaswami Order initiation ceremony, in which we welcomed in Adam, Joycee, and Amit as Pilgrims and a conditional (one-year) Brahmachari, respectively.

The initiation ceremony is very simple -- just an introduction from Asha and a recitation of the vows -- but incredibly powerful. Like a wedding, it has the power of human commitment supported by a loving community. But with God on the other end of each person’s vow the intensity is deepened immeasurably.

For the service portion of the evening we tried a completely new format, in which we got to go deeper into mantra chanting than we usually do. We began with 15 minutes of the Hring Kling mantra, for dissolving obstacles of all types, whether physical or spiritual. That was followed by 15 minutes each of the Gayatri and Mahamritunjaya mantras, more familiar from our Sunday fire ceremonies, which are chants for personal liberation, and for the upliftment of all beings. We ended with the Aum mantra, accompanying a purification ceremony -- an excellent way to set a spiritual intention for the new year.

Throughout the mantras and the purification ceremony, we had a large indoor fire, cleverly created out of candles fixed in the copper fire ceremony bowl filled with sand. This was very civilized for most of the hour and a half that it burned, but got much more exciting towards the end. The combined heat of all the candles (not to mention the burning purification papers thrown in with them) burned them down very quickly, until the bowl was one flaming mass of melted wax. It was actually quite dramatically beautiful, though it was also reassuring to have Nirmoha on hand with a lid, ready to intervene if it got out of hand.

Happy New Year!

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