The glue that holds Ananda together is one of friendship. Our entire worldwide work has no legal cohesion. We are not one legal entity, but many. Swami Kriyananda specifically wanted the communities to be run autonomously from one another. In keeping with this individualistic expression of Ananda, especially in each country, what, apart from the teachings themselves, will unite the work on a global scale? That is perhaps the most important legacy Swami Kriyananda has left us: family-in-God.
Those of the previous generation, who came to Ananda in the early days, had but one “physical” place they called home – Ananda Village. There, they meditated together, served together, laughed together, cried together, fought together, and loved God together – just as a true family would. From there, many of them were tasked by Swamiji with starting other communities and centres. While physically separated, the bonds of love and friendship held them together. Now, many of them lead and guide our work around the world, honouring Swami’s directions, and the realities of the places they are in, but always united through that friendship. Thus, Ananda feels as ONE, no matter which community you visit.
Now coming to the realities of our present generation (and I don’t mean in terms of age alone, but those who have come to Ananda in the decades after its establishment). Our experience of Ananda is as an already established global work. Each of us reside in different communities or are connected to different centres. Most of us know one another, living on other continents as just names or titles. “Oh, he is so and so, and he works for the fundraising department in Ananda Palo Alto.” “She is so and so, and she works for the marketing team in Ananda Village.” Names and job titles don’t build family. How then are we to recreate at least some of what the previous generation experienced? How are we to build and deepen our own bonds of friendship and family with our brethren across the oceans? Well, its not rocket science – just find ways to get together and create the opportunities to serve, meditate, laugh, cry and fight together (weirdly though, there wasn’t any fighting – perhaps we did something wrong?)
With that in mind, for the last three years, several of us have been coming together in groups of 30 and more to do just that! This year 75+ of us gathered together in Portland/Laurelwood in what was the largest gathering of its kind so far. The “excuse” for this gathering was the International Day of Yoga on June 21, where Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi were scheduled to give a public lecture on “Yoga as a bridge to Peace and Unity”. Ananda Portland had never planned anything on this scale before – 4 days of programs at different venues across the city. They needed help. Enter, us. Some of us were able to help in the planning, organising and executing of this event. None of whom actually lived in Portland, but were connecting from different communities, on different continents.
When the day itself came upon us, 10 days before the event, our group descended upon Portland. We were almost 80 of us, from all over – Italy, England, Croatia, India, Argentina, Hong Kong, Germany, and of course, all over the US. While in the community at Laurelwood, we served in the kitchen, housekeeping, maintenance and the leading of yoga and meditation. And when not in the community, we were out, in the city of Portland, increasing the awareness around the event itself. We did flash mobs of yoga, meditation and choir in different areas around the city. We walked through the streets, some 50-60 of us, chanting Master and Swami’s songs, with harmoniums, guitars and cymbals, planting their vibrations everywhere we went. If we were in a restaurant or cafe, we would spontaneously break into song, in gratitude to the staff that was serving us. Our joy was infectious! On June 21, the event was an all day, open-air festival in the middle of Portland at Pioneer Courthouse Square. We were the first ones to arrive in the morning and last to leave at night. Many of us gave talks on the different aspects of yoga, meditation, community living, renunciation, etc. What a thrilling experience it was to share these teachings, and to do it with your bothers and sisters by your side. Choir and spontaneous kirtans were sprinkled in throughout the day. The last day, of our 4-day festivity, included the unveiling of an 8-foot bronze statue of Yogananda, with arms upraised in blessing to the whole world. WOW! No words can describe the power of that ceremony.
In the days following, little by little our group dispersed, returning to their respective communities and areas of seva. But no one left the same person. Each of us was now a part of the other. In a sense, we each carried back with us 75 other people. What we may have achieved outwardly, in sharing Master and Swami, with the city of Portland, pales in comparison to what we achieved inwardly, as individuals and as a group. Ananda is stronger now than it has ever been. More united. ONE.
More such gatherings will take place in the future, and this blog is a call to all of you out there – join us!