Ananda Family News

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Highlights of Our Pre-Christmas Activities

1. Christmas Concert, 7th December

Our annual Christmas concert was a most exquisite treat for our soul and heart.

The choir sang old medieval pieces such as Gaudete, British and French Christmas carols from the 16th century, pieces from Mendelssohn, Bach, a new composer Sir John Taverner and, of course, Swami’s compositions.

There were many excellent solos, duets and quartets accompanied by the whole choir and beautifully performed trumpet, violin, guitar and piano solos. Listen here for recordings and video.

Many visitors commented that they felt so much joy, warmth and appreciation for the music, the singers and musicians.

2. Members’ Christmas Parties at Chela Bhavan, 13th/14th December

For many members this is their favorite event!

We all sat around a beautiful decorated Christmas tree with “Nayaswami-blue” Christmas lights, chatted, shared the food we brought and sang a wonderful list of old as well as modern Christmas carols.

 We were all deeply touched by the sacredness of the Christmas songs and were filled with the spirit of love, warmth and friendship (more pictures here).

3. Master’s All-Day Christmas Meditation, 20th December

On Saturday we had our 8-hour Christmas Meditation which included beautiful music and talks from Swami and Master. The temple was packed with many people enjoying this sacred tradition.

4. Carol Singing in the Neighborhood, 21st December

With flashlights armed we followed Asha’s bicycle trail and sang one carol after another while walking arm in arm, chuckling and marveling at the Christmas light decorations of our neighbors. At every house our neighbors’ eyes and faces lightened up while they listened to the carols. Some neighbors joined us and some offered us some chocolate and biscuits. At the end of our carol singing tour we stood in front of one house where an old lady seemingly living alone, had just returned from hospital standing in her dressing gown in the doorway with tears running down while we were singing a couple of carols.

What a wonderful blessing that we had the opportunity to touch so many hearts including those who very much needed it.

wishing you all

Merry Christmas
Bon Natale
मैरी क्रिसमस
(Mairī krisamasa)

with Love & Joy in Master


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

East West Appreciation Night

On Tuesday, the 2nd of December, we had a special evening at East West Bookshop: we celebrated the existence of this special store and our gratitude to our customers and all members of the staff, with talks from David, Asha, Santosh and Tandava, accompanied by a tasty buffet and beautifully played piano music by Todd.

The talks reflected upon the importance of this special place in our lives, our community, and the Bay Area, and also on it’s nation-wide impact as one of the largest New Age, metaphysical bookshops. For three decades the store has been a platform both to convey Master’s teachings and to be genuinely universal in providing a wide spectrum of spiritual books for those seeking Truth and Self-realization.

Asha and David expressed their gratitude to the store’s dedicated and creative staff who do so much more than just selling books, crystals, music and other merchandise. They continuously have followed Swami’s advice to “just love your customers’’ and have kept creating a bookshop with great commitment and energy to meet the needs of its customers. Thus, they developed a place, where people could come to “know themselves and find their own ray of that true light” as descibed by Santosh, one of the longest serving members of the staff.

The evening included a great appreciation for the many customers who support the store by shopping, taking part in the many different programs, interacting with staff members and discovering Ananda and Yogananda’s teachings. David and Tandava pointed out that the store has been a family and community where people find “spiritual sustenance,” new genuine friends, insights, guidance and healing.

Asha recalled how Swami bought the bookshop in 1980 and how he intuitively knew that this was the right decision, commenting to her that “good decisions do not take time, but they take energy.”

The purchase of the bookshop caused Ananda to move in this area resulting in many more activities and enterprises aiming to “revamp a whole culture, to show how Master’s teachings, creatively applied, can change the entire pattern of society.” Swamiji continued that “I am just one person, and there is only so much I can accomplish by myself. If I can start a movement, however, and many people begin to act creatively from inner inspiration, as I have, then a great work can be done.”*

Click here for more pictures and listen to the talks.

in Master’s light,


* P.S. Quote is from Asha’s book Swami Kriyananda: As We Have Known Him, p. 238

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Thanksgiving Celebration

Our Thanksgiving celebration was a wonderful treat for our soul, mind, heart and palate.

The morning started with a one hour meditation and followed with a moving sermon taking us on a journey highlighting the history of this auspicious holiday with the speech of Abraham Lincoln declaring this day of “… thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father, to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as consistent with the Divine Purpose to full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.”

Throughout the sermon Shanti as well as Jyotish and Devi (broadcasted from Pune, India) reminded us of the meaning and feeling of thanksgiving and the importance of holding gratitude in our thoughts and hearts for God, our line of Gurus, Saints, our families and community.

The sermon ended with a beautiful prayer from St. Teresa d’Avila:

“May there be peace within, may you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing that you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into our bones and allow your soul the freedom to sing and dance, to praise and love. It is there for each and every one for you.”

We were then treated to a wonderful delicious lunch which included a very tasty salad, nut loaf with golden gravy, roasted vegetable medley, mashed potatoes, cranberry orange compote, persimmon pudding and pumpkin pie.

During lunch we enjoyed a superb, lighthearted and funny entertainment, which included a joyfully performed Shakespearean talk and song, a well-presented reading of P.G. Wodehouse’s “The Fiery Wooing of Mordred,” from the collection Young Men in Spats, and ended with the debut of our own Ananda-“Elvis” with a creative and funny rhymed song instructing everybody to help to clean up.

After much laughter, the heartfelt warm family gathering ended with Asha’s brief talk encouraging us to be open and receptive to participate and engage in the forthcoming Christmas festivities as much as we can, as “there is a special kind of blessing in the air that all of us can really take part in and find our lives significantly changed by it.”

In Master’s Joy & Blessings


P. S. The rest of the photos are here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Arts & Crafts Fair

“Too often on the spiritual path, devotees are afraid to be creative because they think creativity itself leads to ego. This is not true. When the ego is offered into the divine, then creative work becomes an expression of God. Then it helps you spiritually. In fact, in order to grow, you have to express yourself in this way - creatively as an instrument of the Divine.” - Swami Kriyananda

Last Sunday at our annual Ananda Palo Alto Crafts Fair our devotee artisans were thankfully unafraid of sharing their creativity with us. They enveloped us with their beautiful, vibrant and uplifting energy expressed in

  • hand tied gemstone and Rudraksha malas
  • Christmas ornaments with Master’s picture 
  • healing remedies and body care products co-created with the devas, from Ananda Village Permaculture
  • paintings and inspirational posters for children
  • handmade hats, scarfs, Kimonos and other items of clothing
  • toys and elegant jewelry

Our Ananda artists included all ages -  from teenager to retiree - and from a wide range of different professions who find pleasure and satisfaction in “making things out of things.” For most of them being creative was a way of “just having fun” and having the experience of “letting the Divine flow through you.”

Ananda Valley Farm joined the Crafts Fair for the first time with a beautiful autumnally decorated table of wonderful nourishing food such as sweet breads, homemade canned items, eggs, etc. Many enjoyed in particular the hot curried cauliflower dish while walking from one crafts table to the other or chatting with each other.

We discovered also that some of our gurubais have creative pursuits we did not know of, and the fair was a wonderful way to admire this side of them in a heartfelt, loving, social gathering with much laughter.

in Master’s Creativity, Light & Love,


Quote is from Asha’s book Swami Kriyananda As We Have Known Him (p. 238)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Jewel in the Lotus

Last Sunday we gathered together and enjoyed a wonderful tasty Cuban meal and watched the beautiful, inspiring play The Jewel in the Lotus written by Swami Kriyananda and played by the Ananda Palo Alto Players.

The play tells the story of transformation including the conflicting yearnings for money and God in families, the power of the guru’s love for all people and creatures, and the effects of saints in our lives. The villagers find their love for God rekindled and their lives changed by listening to the storyteller, a wandering spiritual seeker, who shares his wisdom through inspiring and instructive stories in particular of Sri Paramhansa Yogananda.

We enjoyed a beautiful play with magnificent, colorful costumes, wonderful uplifting music, songs and chants, elegant and gracious dancing and impressive as well as inspiring performances by all the members involved in the play.

Every member of the Ananda Palo Alto theater group mentioned that it was a most transformative experience to work together on this play over the last 4 months. They felt very uplifted and inspired working with the words written by Swami Kriyananda, but also enjoyed the camaraderie, the friendship and the joy of seeing how each of them in their own way progressed, changed and transformed by, for example, facing their fears of being on stage, going beyond their comfort zone and internalizing and living the written words of the play.

During the play we not only had the pleasure of enjoying a beautifully and stunningly presented and skillfully directed and performed play, but we also experienced how our friends transformed themselves on stage in a most amazing, impressive and inspiring way. It was a blessing to watch our gurubhais showing us a side of themselves we have not yet seen and celebrating with us together their newly developed skill, ability and thus, transformation - the theme of the play.

For more photos click here.

in Master’s love,
Mirela & Tandava

Editors’ Note:
After about 5 years of writing this blog Tandava is giving the authorship over to Mirela. Please join me (Mirela) to send blessings to Tandava for his service: AUM, AUM, AUM

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

1st Annual Harvest Festival

A new milestone for Ananda Valley Farm: The first annual Harvest Festival! After so many joyful workdays over the last year, it was time to go up there and just play.

Our amazingly resourceful farm staff and volunteers filled the afternoon with activities, including face painting, boat racing, pumpkin racing, tug-of-war, egg toss, ultimate nerf, hay rides, sharing nature activities, a plant identification lesson, a hike, and probably more that elude the memory at the moment.

After a delicious dinner in the greenhouse, we headed out to the pond for a sunset arati. Everyone received a small, paper bowl “boat,” containing flowers, a candle, and a stick of incense. Then to the accompaniment of prayers, chants, and Aums, we launched them all out on to the water.

And for the grand finale to the day, we had the farm’s first contradance! Omprakash came down from Seattle to teach the dances and play fiddle. The rest of the band was made up of his old contradance buddies Karen and David (on fiddle and piano, respectively), and Tandava (playing banjo and fiddle). With lots of enthusiastic new contradancers (including a very young one) we turned Sahadev’s workshop into a surprisingly good dancehall.

If you weren’t able to join us, plan on it next year. This is just the start of a wonderful tradition. More photos of the day are here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Discipleship and Seva

On September 12, 1948, a young J. Donald Walters arrived in Los Angeles from New York and was initiated by his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, as a new disciple. That moment was the foundation of discipleship for all of us who, as members of Ananda, would never have come to Master except through the life’s work of young “Walter,” later Swami Kriyananda.

Last Friday evening, 66 years later, we gathered to honor both that moment and also the example of perfect discipleship Swamiji embodied for us throughout his life. If you haven’t yet had a chance to see the beautiful video of Swamiji’s legacy that we shared, you can watch it here:

* * *

As it happens, this general time of year is a significant one in many ways for our Palo Alto colony here. So many anniversaries take place in September (the founding of East West, Living Wisdom School, the church, and more) that we decided to roll them all into one big “Celebrate Ananda” party on Saturday evening (photos here). Master’s shrine presided over our dinner on our gorgeous community lawn, and the choir sang several community-oriented favorites, including “Brave Were the People,” “A New Tomorrow,” and “Brothers.”

The theme of the evening was “Seva:” joyful, devotional service. Seva is more than just a convenience for organizations that depend on volunteers; it’s a powerful spiritual principle in its own right, and critical to our own development. Throughout the evening, six different community members got up and spoke for a few minutes about their own personal experiences with service, with living in community, and testified to what a powerful blessing it all is. It was delightful to hear from such a nice cross-section of our diverse community of friends and gurubhais.

At the end of the evening, we all gathered ourselves in around Master’s gazebo for a few sing-alongs, ending — by popular demand — with “Many Hands Make a Miracle.” And they always do, don’t they? If you ever want to see cleanup happen instantaneously, get folks to think about seva for an hour or two, sing “Many Hands,” then turn ’em loose. It’s a miracle.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Happy Birthday, Ananda Valley Farm!

This past weekend, we celebrated our first year as farmers at our very own Ananda Valley Farm. A fun and farm-ful Saturday included a morning harvest, an afternoon class plus Q&A session with visiting Nayaswamis Pranaba and Parvati, and a gourmet dinner in the greenhouse. Check out some of the photos! (Now is that an impressive salad or what!? Guess where that came from....)

It’s really quite amazing how far we’ve come in just this first year. We’re already supplying bountiful weekly boxes of vegetables to a number of CSA subscribers, and we’re getting ready to plant our first commercial crops for next year. And take a look at some of these other dramatic changes:

Seva house kitchen...

Before/During and After

Seva House bedrooms...

Then and Now

And, of course, the chickens, who are almost ready to start laying eggs!

Then (well, just a few months ago) and Now

If you want to spend more time at the farm, come join us this Saturday for a wild plant walk, potluck dinner, and special Krishna kirtan!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our Gurus and Their New Church

This past weekend was one of glorious celebration, beginning with our annual Guru Day retreat on Saturday evening (photos here). Asha guided us on a pilgrimage through our line of masters, from one shrine to another, circling the central lawn of the residential community. With each guru, we sang, meditated, and tuned in to his particular ray of consciousness.

One special addition this year was a new statue of Sri Yukteswar — the only one that had been lacking. He was set on a temporary pedestal for the evening, but the current group of Sadhaka trainees are working on a more permanent shrine along the side of the lawn between Jesus and Babaji.

Then on Sunday we celebrated a momentous milestone: We have finally paid off all the debt on our church! (See David’s announcement from a couple weeks ago.) The “Free & Clear” puzzle has been completed, and now, after 20 years, we can finally, completely give it all to God and to our Gurus.

Asha’s sermon that morning picked right up from Guru Day, taking us all the way from Babaji perceiving potential saints in America, right down through our whole lineage to Master and Swamiji, and to the amazing works they have manifested through all of us. If you weren’t able to be there, you should see the video, which also included fun stories about the finding and purchasing of the church.

Service that day ended with a dedication ceremony (photos here). We began by marching around the perimeter of the property, with photos of the masters, rose petals, holy water, guitars and joyful voices. Then, back inside, we circled up around the sanctuary. To the accompaniment of Yogananda’s voice chanting Aum, David carried the statue of Master around to each one of us for a blessing. Then the statue and photos were placed up on the altar and once more blessed with rose petals and devotion.

A farm... a church... we seem to be on a roll! What’s next?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ananda Open House

Guest post by David G.

Saturday June 14th saw 50 guests visit our Church and School as part of our Open House celebration, our first since 2008. There were displays from many Ananda Palo Alto centers of activity (Yoga studio, School, and East West, for example). The movie Finding Happiness was playing all day in the Teaching Center, there were tours, Asha spoke twice, music, Healing Prayers for guests to join, The Farm, and of course delectable fine foods, some of which actually survived long enough to eaten by the guests :-)

As it happened, the recent India Pilgrimage was in Palo Alto for just a few days. They came from our work in India to experience Ananda America, and it worked out perfectly for them to visit the Open House. They had not heard much 4-part harmony before (it is uncommon in India) and were thrilled by Swami’s music.

Many guests were deeply touched by what they found. It is difficult to describe Ananda’s totality to someone, and taking a class or coming to a specific event or Sunday Service does not give the breadth of what we do. The Open House filled that bill very nicely, and we plan on more in the future.

More photos here!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Finding Happiness Update

Guest post from Karen G.

About 60 folks came to the Finding Happiness movie at Aquarius Theatre in Palo Alto last week. And 30 to the Guild in Menlo Park. Last theatre showing in Cupertino this Thursday night.

People seemed to really enjoy the film — a few left in tears, and many with heartfelt thank you’s. It’s hard to watch it ourselves and not shed a few tears through it. And seeing it in super high definition in a theatre is hard to beat.

Some years ago, Swamiji was asked: “how can we reach more people with these teachings?” He said something like, “make sure you are visible enough that anyone who is looking for this will find it.” These movie showings and the Open House coming up are our major outreach effort this year to help with that. And thank heavens for the internet, which makes it nearly effortless for anyone who is really looking to find us. (Google CAN satisfy many searches, this being one. :))

Fun story: We were passing out flyers on the streets of Palo Alto before the movie showing, as this was just the sort of thing Swami encouraged us to do, and which shyness often prevents. So off we bravely went, and as a small reward for our efforts, the second person we approached on the street said, “oh, I have seen that movie.” (Come on, I thought, what’s the chance of that?) He leaned over and said, “Yes, I saw that movie in India. I am with Ananda in Pune.” He looked again at the little flyer, “Yes, I know Jemal.” “What are you doing here?!” we asked. “I am here in Palo Alto on business - just flew in from India this afternoon.”

After we picked up our jaws off the sidewalk, we welcomed him to the U.S. and invited him to visit the commmunity while he is here, which he is planning to do this week. (He hadn't known there was an Ananda group in this area).

Small, small, small world.

By the by, pretty much no one else took our flyers. But we felt sure Swamiji was smiling, ear to ear.

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