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Date Posted: 23:06
Author: Anonymous - 4 May 2002
Subject: What is Ananda?
What is Ananda? Ananda is many different things at the same time. It is an idyllic spiritual community filled with smiling, loving devotees; it is a thorn in the side of its neighbors on the San Juan Ridge; it is a business that markets the spiritual experience; it is a long-term employer of long-term leadership figures; it is a place of dishonesty, deception, and denial, a village patterned after the consciousness of its founder and another layer of defense in Kriyananda’s formidable psychological armor; it is a graduate school for developing discrimination and destroying one’s delusions; and it is a political entity like any other town in the country, but this is a very authoritarian political entity.
The present US Ananda consists of a seclusion retreat of approximately 70 acres and a village of more than 400 acres in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northern California. Ananda Assisi is a much smaller group of persons, gathered around a building named "Il Rifugio". This group includes Walters faithful and most of these have come from the America. Other nationalities, mostly Italians, comprise the rest of the community. Some leave the community after a few days, others after a few years, but yet the nucleus in Assisi remain the original American imports.
Ananda had its beginning in 1968, when Kriyananda joined a few other men to buy and divide up a large parcel of land outside of Nevada City. Several years later he bought a farm a few miles away from the seclusion retreat, and this land, which includes more than 400 acres, is now Ananda Village. The land is quite beautiful, with forests of pine, cedar, oak, and madrone. A couple of years ago Ananda turned the trees into money by having it logged.
Over the years many people have moved to Ananda, and a small core of original residents is still there, most of whom serve as the Ananda leadership. Most of the others who moved to Ananda have left, and many of them still live nearby. Though it may seem strange, the majority of them want nothing to do with Ananda. Having seen through the surface layer of spiritual identity to the reality underneath--the process of discrimination--and having learned the lesson, they graduate.
Ananda advertises itself as following the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, helping people learn meditation, yoga postures, and how to live life according to the classic yogic teachings. Kriyananda was a Self Realization Monk for 14 years, about 3 1/2 of these while Yogananda was still alive. He therefore is considered a direct link with the Guru, and this is Ananda’s foremost claim to being a part of Yogananda’s work.
When one first comes to Ananda, everything is beautiful. The setting is peaceful, and there are many scheduled spiritual events--kirtans, meditations, services, ceremonies, kriya initiations, plays, concerts, and other things. But newcomers are expected to let go of all their own ideas of what is right and accept the new ways of doing things without question. After becoming members, they find somehow their previous personal life goals and ambitions have been put “on hold”. But, after all, with such a great Master as Yogananda guiding the place, how could they go wrong? The newcomer soon learns how he is to regard Self Realization Fellowship--as an outdated rigid, entity that hates and wants to destroy Kriyananda and Ananda.
It can take quite a long time to realize that Ananda is not primarily Master’s or God’s place, though their names are mentioned often. Ananda is Kriyananda’s place, and he comes first there. The Ananda leaders are unconditionally loyal to Kriyananda, with God and Master coming lower on the list. This loyalty requires them to adopt, as their own, his view of the world and especially his own history.
Almost as soon as Kriyananda established Ananda on the San Juan Ridge, he began making sexual advances on the local women. Consequently he got a bad name with his neighbors, who knew from the beginning what he was like. Ananda people, therefore, are not encouraged to be friendly with their neighbors. Ridge people are against them, they are told, and are too worldly and unspiritual. They also know too much about Kriyananda.
The Ananda leadership knows about Kriyananda, too, but their duty is to keep this information quiet so that Ananda can maintain its public relations image as a model spiritual community in which only love, peace, and seeking God happen. They also have given decades of their lives to this company, and it may be impossible for them to admit they were wrong. And where else could they find employment now?
Some of the real story came out during a recent lawsuit, in which Kriyananda, the Ananda Church, and one of the ministers were found guilty of sexual harrassment. (Kriyananda left it to Ananda people to pay his $1,000,000 plus fine.)
In the aftermath of this lawsuit, Kriyananda decided to make Italy his full time home. A new fold of devotees needed his spiritual guidance and presence in Europe, he said. Many residents, as well, departed the community at this time. Some were in considerable shock because they had lived there for nearly 20 years without knowing of Kriyananda’s sexual activities. They had thought that such dishonesty and deception could not exist at Ananda.
Their places were soon taken by new residents from the Ananda centers in Palo Alto (California), Portland (Oregon), and Seattle (Washington). Now Ananda is carrying on as usual, as though nothing happened and everything is the same as before.
The ordinary citizens of Ananda are, with few exceptions, the spiritual core of the community. They try to know and follow Yogananda’s teachings. They are the ones who give Ananda its spiritual identity, and they are the ones who do the most to maintain it. They are kept under tight control by vows of obedience to Kriyananda and all community leaders. Some are stuck because their only assets are in Ananda housing, making it difficult for them to leave even if they want to.
Kriyananda has had ongoing plans for Ananda, such as the constant expansion of the population, and ongoing acquisition of adjoining land for this purpose. Because Ananda is in a rural area, the neighbors do not welcome these goals, and it creates a lot of tension at times. Kriyananda does not care how the neighbors feel. Anyone who does not support whatever he wants is his enemy. He wants what he wants without consideration of other people, and what he wants has little or nothing to do with the spiritual development of Ananda citizens.
Ananda is many things to many people. For visitors it is a miracle of serenity and love. For new residents it is the challenge of living the spiritual life and handing their lives over to what they believe is a high cause. For longer-term residents it is the place where they made many dear friends, and perhaps the place where they began to question what Ananda really is. For many graduates, leaving there is the beginning of their real lives--Ananda was the extreme that blew their delusions sky high. For psychologists, Ananda is a fascinating study in what happens when a charismatic but mentally twisted man attracts a following of people who accept his twisted worldview.
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