Yogananda taught that environment is stronger than will power. A person may have the best intention of living a spiritual life, but lacking the support of others, and living in a world focused on materialism, it is all too easy to be diverted, by other desires, from the desire to know God!
Yogananda’s solution was for people of like mind and ideals to join together to form “world brotherhood colonies,” intentional spiritual communities based, in his words, on “simple living and high thinking.” In these colonies, truth seekers from all walks of life (singles and families) could live, work and seek God together, creating a harmonious, uplifting environment that encourages the development of spiritual qualities, and the awareness, as he stated, “of the true kinship of all men as sons and daughters of the same, one God.”
"No mere economic system can possibly create a successful community. No mere decision to live and work together, without a crystal clear, high purpose in life, can possibly bond people in unity during stressful times. No merely social experiment will ever work."— Swami Kriyananda, "Cities of Light – A New Vision for the Future"
Living in Spiritual Community
Ananda Sacramento is a place where people know their neighbors, children play safely, and all residents live and serve together in order to enhance their spiritual evolution and incorporate the teachings of yoga into their daily lives. We offer private apartments and the chance for people to share in voluntary group activities.
If they desire, residents can enjoy meals together in the community kitchen known as the Master’s Kitchen. The community temple and meditation garden provide quiet places for people to meditate together. Other shared facilities include beautifully landscaped grounds and a swimming pool.
Ananda Sacramento is the oldest Ananda Community outside of Ananda Village in Nevada City, California which was founded in 1968. The Sacramento Ananda Community, founded in 1979, is one of a number of Ananda communities worldwide. In addition to Ananda Village and Ananda Sacramento, there are communities in Palo Alto, California; Portland, Oregon; Laurelwood, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Assisi, Italy, and budding communities in Los Angeles and India (New Delhi area, Pune, and Bangalore).
The Ananda communities’ movement was developed with the sensitive guidance of its founder Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yogananda for over 50 years. Residents make their living by working in a variety of jobs. A few work at the Ananda Center and some work in the Community. The majority continue to follow their chosen careers outside the Ananda organization.The community is located at Ananda Lane, off Coloma Road, near Chase Drive and the Ananda Church Center.
The teachings upon which Ananda is founded, those of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, and his disciple, Swami Kriyananda, Ananda’s founder, are universal and inclusive. We view and respect all religions, all spiritual teachings and their practices, as differing expressions of the same one Truth. Just as different instruments all play music, so too, different spiritual paths all reveal Spirit. However, just as one cannot become adept at every musical instrument, one cannot become adept at every religious practice. We have chosen therefore to focus on one path. This focus has served us well as individuals and as a community. As individuals we have the benefit of being immersed in one discipline, like a pianist going to a school exclusively for pianists. As a community we have the benefit of a deep level of harmony and attunement to one another that arises from shared spiritual practices.
In his book Religion in the New Age, Swami Kriyananda says, “… a certain amount of discipline is necessary in any institution. Anarchy is not freedom. The more such discipline proceeds from within an individual, however, instead of being imposed on him from without, the better, both for the organization and for the individual himself and for his relation to the organization.” At Ananda Sacramento, we work with people as they are, rather than forcing or expecting anyone to be a certain way. Following Yogananda’s example, “I discipline only those who want it, never those who don’t”, individuals gain strength spiritually by being given the freedom to choose, from the inside, that which is most expansive. Rather than emphasizing the negative, attention is given to the positive. If someone doesn’t want to do something that is asked of him, we ask someone else. In this way, we are empowered to choose to grow in our joy and attunement over time, and can observe, in our own and others’ lives, those choices that lead to the greatest happiness.
Simplicity and Moderation
Yogananda advised those who want to know God to practice “high thinking and simple living.” In his book, How to Be Happy All the Time, he said, “In simplicity you will find — even if you never sought it there! — the sweet happiness your heart has always craved. Life will give you more than you ever dreamed, if only you will define prosperity anew: not as worldly gain, but as inner, divine contentment.” In living simply, we make the effort to distinguish between desires, and what we truly need. We try, also, to remain unattached to the things we do have, for in doing so, we cultivate our sense of inner freedom. As we become freer, we realize our happiness is not based on outward conditions or circumstances, but on knowing God’s peace and joy. As Swami Kriyananda says in The New Path, of the sincere devotee, “… all that he owns he considers God’s property altogether, to be returned joyously at a moment’s notice to its true Owner.”
At Ananda, the spiritual well-being of the individual is placed before any policy, or the outcome of any project. Often, someone is asked to serve in a particular position, not because they have the best skills or training, but because doing so will help them to develop the qualities they need to progress on the spiritual path. In the same light, a community project or policy has often been put aside if it isn’t serving those involved in the highest way. On the other hand, Paramhansa Yogananda counseled his disciples to be practical in their idealism. Lofty spiritual aspirations can sometimes lead one to forget about the inconvenient realities of the material world. We have sought to ground our idealism in daily life by continually asking the question “Will it work?”.
Freedom and Responsability
Central to living at Ananda is the freedom of the individual to develop spiritually as he feels inwardly inspired. Residents share a deep desire for God and a spirit of joyful friendship. Residents are naturally considerate of one another and cooperate together to minimize those influences which work against our spiritual practices. Drugs, alcohol, and smoking are not permitted.
“I‘ve lived here for many years while working outside Ananda in a corporate setting. I can easily see what my life would have looked liked if I‘d never moved here. It would have been very easy to slip, bit by bit, away from my spiritual ideals. I have a deep sense of appreciation for the atmosphere of support, and for the deep friendships we share.” —Cheryl S.
Our Collective Spiritual Growth
The spiritual journey is intensely personal; no one can walk it for you. Our victories and challenges are uniquely our own. At the same time, the work of breaking down the ego and opening to the power of the Divine is the greatest challenge we will ever face. If we are honest with ourselves, we often flinch from the effort.
This is why monasteries and ashrams have been home to seekers for millennia. It is easier to make progress spiritually when in the company of other seekers. And the rough edges of ego that need smoothing come to the surface in community life, that otherwise lie hidden when the soul is working alone.