My experience with Ananda — a hostile outcasting
It all started in 2010 when I asked, “May I have permission to mediate?” and I was told, “Why would we not grant you such permission?” I told them of an experience where I was sitting silently in a zen meditation hall and thrown out for no reason by three girls I had never met before. The felt they couldn’t practice their standing meditation if I was quietly sitting there. I had no idea this would happen at this seemingly harmless venue.
I have never been a member of the Ananda Church of Self Realization. However, starting in 2010 I became a regular visitor to their Nevada City, CA retreat center. My permission to meditate and visit on their premises was revoked in a very hostile “unspiritual” and unbrotherly way on January 18th, 2017 by Krishna-das who is a very devoted volunteer at the front desk and long-term member of their community of 800 people who live on an 800 acre piece of land in the mountains of Nevada County.
Krishna-das informed me that his dismissal of me was not on his own initiative, but because the others in charge insisted upon it because they are fearful of strangers on their property as they have had many robberies, etc. Additionally, he did not like it when I complained of people harrassing me on his property. Krishna-das feels that his guests have the right to harrass me all they like and I should just tolerate. I feel that I should have the right to complain about harrassment and that they should either knock it off or tolerate my complaining and my talking back to the harrassers? Who should be tolerant then? Me, them, both, or neither? Basically I am required to tolerate endless headaches, but they do not feel they should tolerate my mere presense. It just doesn’t sound very “spiritual.”
Ananda Village used to be deeply spiritual for decades, but since their guru’s death in 2013 it has devolved into a venue where management makes money from people on retreats while stifling those who want to engage in spiritual practice.
What Ananda Village meant spiritually to me
The commentary below is based partly on my ability to see and sense spiritual entities and my experience with particular spirits of deceased gurus. The Ananda village retreat center or spiritual center is a very spiritually charged venue. The Master or Guru Kriyananda was of the highest of spiritual calibre and impregnated the land with a deeply spiritual vibration with the help of many of his sincere devotees and the spirits of the other deceased gurus in his lineage. During my visits to this location, I felt the presence of various spirits of the deceased gurus channel divine grace to me. The visits were mainly from Lahiri during the earlier years and then after Kriyananda died, I received visits from his spirit where he would sit next to me in spirit form and channel to me during my meditations in their shrine which I am very appreciative of. It is because of this intimate care that I was willing to drive eight hours and pay expensive hotel bills to visit Ananda Village and NOT due to the hospitality of the living humans who ran the place.
The basis for my conflict with Ananda Village management
Although I visit several times a year for several days at a time, and have done so for seven years (which totals about 100 days on the property in total) I was seen as a stranger, unwelcomed guest, or even a threat despite the fact that I have had permission to be there and meditate. The people who didn’t want me there included the yoga instructor, the manager, and guests who are new and walk around like they own the place. Management instructed guests to harrass those they didn’t recognize and ask, “May I help you?” The phase, “May I help you” is sometimes used as a sincere way to approach someone who is clearly lost and clearly needs help. However, I knew the place better than these help offerers did, and knew my way around. I was harrassed on my way to the water fountain, on my way to the bathrooom and on my way to meditation. It is hard to keep a composed state of mind when so many people around you say, “May I help you” when they really mean, “You seem like an unknown and therefor potentially threatening person to me — and therefore, it is my business to know what you are doing here.” I had to explain that I had permission to meditate there and that I did not like being constantly badgered. I also turned the tables on these busy-bodies and explained, “No, I don’t need help, but do you need help? You look like you need help?” My objection to being routinely harrassed, and the management’s objection to having strangers around led to my permission to meditate being revoked. The guests were so paranoid of strangers that my quiet and innocuous presence was more than they could handle.
Robberies at Ananda
Later on, it was explained to me that there were many robberies in the area. A contractor was robbed. The showerhouse was used by local vagrants, and other items had been stolen in the village. Management’s solution to the problem was to train people to go around and say, “May I help you” to those who were unfamiliar. I feel this practice is harrassment and extremely upsetting. It is also insincere. If you want to appoint a few people with security capacities and have them verify people’s identity to make sure they are welcomed there — that is called being professional. To go around bugging people who just want to meditate is extremely annoying, and led me to be unfriendly and mistrustful. Additionally, the occurange of robberies is a symptom of an underlying poor spiritual health. Those with bad karma tend to get robbed frequently. Those with bad karma who don’t lock their doors get robbed even more. I found out my rear door had been left unlocked for a month while I parked with my expensive laptop in the back in San Francisco, Los Angeles and other dangerous areas. However, I was not robbed. Does that mean I have good karma or am I just plain lucky?
An atmosphere of mistrust
I later found out that my mistrust of others on that venue was based on me picking up the vibes of the others who were there. This happened subconsciously. Ananda village used to be a place of joy (incidentally, Ananda is Hindi for Joy). The people I saw there before the Guru’s death in April 2013 were spiritual, happy, friendly, and wonderful. Immediately after Kriyananda died, the atmosphere changed. There were more robberies, more fear, more paranoia, more hostility, more harrassment, etc. It is highly likely that drug use (mostly marijuana) on the part of management and guests contributes to their sense of paranoia as that is a common side effect of long term marijuana use. It seems that the vibration of the guru positively affected the group and that the minute he died, the group had no more positive source of positivity except for sources that could be inhaled.
How Ananda went downhill – empty meditation halls
There used to be group meditation several times a week. Now, I never see a group meditating. There used to be more individuals meditating. Now, I see an average of one person per day in Lahiri Shrine and only Yoga lessons going on in the larger mediation hall. There used to be very fascinating spiritual talks on a regular basis. As of 2016 and 2017, I see only Yoga lessons going on and nothing of any spiritual merit. People used to be more friendly, now there is more hatred.
Kriyanandas mission was spiritual, but the current management is only about money
I call their venue an ashram. Ashram is a Hindi word that basically means a place where people go to meditate which might be something of a monastery. My understanding of the intrinsic purpose of an ashram is to promote the practice of spirituality. Swami Kriyananda’s guru was Yogananda. Yogananda came from India to live in the United States for the sole purpose of spreading spirituality in the West. Kriyananda (born James Donald Walters) is unique as he was the only American to ever become a spiritual guru of the highest calibre. Kriyananda got many Americans who knew nothing of spirituality to meditate and understand deeper spiritual concepts. Even after his physical death, his spirit continues to be a huge benefit to select individuals who meditate by channeling divine grace. What Kriyananda and Yogananda are trying to do (spreading spirituality in the West) is exactly what Ananda Village in its current management is trying to stifle. Ananda Village wants to get rid of people who want to mediate and keep only those who pay them money for retreat programs.
The yoga class from hell
During my visits to Ananda village from 2010 to 2013 I saw many interesting classes, lectures, and talks going on. I walked into a few and was fascinated. People were discussing the yugas, past lives, gurus, handling loss in our lives in a spiritual way, and more. I felt that those at Ananda Village were kind and welcoming at that time. I foolishly stumbled into a yoga class. I was curious because I saw photos of the yoga teacher all over the property. He informed me that these people were paying big bucks to be there and that I would have to leave. I complied immediately and said I was sorry. An hour later, the manager Timothy disrupted my meditation to give me a thirty minute lecture about how people are paying a lot of money for yoga here and that I cannot walk into a yoga class. I said, no problem, but you don’t need to disturb my meditation to tell me this. I was told not to do it once, how many more times do you need to say this.
Ananda Village allows misuse of the property for financial gain
The point here is that Ananda Village is using the property to make money teaching yoga and having retreats. The manager Timothy has no knowledge about the spiritual process nor does he meditate. It is also likely (although I have no proof) that many residents there engage in the use of marijuana as that is common in the area and I can tell by how people behave that they are on drugs. My guru from Sri Ram Chandra Mission claims that it is not proper dharma for a spiritual institution to make any money from the sale of services and that all income must be from donations. I did not understand the rule twenty years ago when it was taught to me. However, now I realize that the sale of services can lead a spiritual group to give up spiritual practices alltogether in order to engage purely in money making endeavors. It seems that the staff at Ananda are middle-class people who are glorified squatters. They do a few hours of volunteer work in exchange for the right to live and eat for free in an idyllic setting. Whether this group is a cult or not is subject to a debate that I cannot join as I don’t know them well enough to comment. But, there is a control structure where the top of the totempole can do corrupt and unethical things like (like outcasting quite people who meditate like me.) Additionally, the yoga teacher is getting free rent for a yoga studio which would cost him at least $7000 per month if he were in an urban area. The staff are taking advantage of the fact that nobody with any integrity is in charge and using the venue for their own purely selfish purposes.
My solution for Ananda Village
The current management at Ananda Village operates under the guise of spirituality while in reality, they don’t meditate much, if at all, and don’t value the spiritual process at all as an entity (since their guru died — it used to be the opposite until April 2013.) The management needs to be completely replaced.
1. The new management should be comprised of people who maintain a daily spiritual practice and exist to help others develop a spiritual practice and learn about spirituality from classes, talks, books, etc. I do not object to Buddhist monks from Burma or Thailand, etc., providing they speak decent English and understand the ideology of Kriya Yoga and Raja Yoga which is similar but not the same as Buddhist ideology.
2. Hatha yoga should NOT be taught at all, especially not for money at the venue.Having Hatha yoga or any activity that is not purely spiritual detracts from the vibration of the place.
3. Hatha yoga must NOT be practiced in the meditation halls ever. Doing any activity other than meditation in a meditation hall or even NEAR a meditation hall can erode the spiritual sanctity and vibration of the place. This is exactly what happened in the big meditation hall near the dining area which is a disaster. I won’t even meditate in that room as the vibration is so mundane.
4. Construction of new and small meditation halls the same size or slightly larger than the Lahiri Shrine should be built around the pond as that is a quiet and tranquil area with a deep spiritual vibration.
5. There should be regular satsangh (group meditation) every morning and evening at set times. My guru says the most auspicious time to meditate is at dawn and dusk. But, I’ll settle for twice a day.
6. There should be regular spiritual classes for those at different levels. Beginners should have introductary classes while advanced people should not be bored with content that is below their level as they would by definition seek the opportunity to develop a wider and deeper knowledge of spiritual concepts.
7. An outreach program should be established to attract locals to come and learn to meditate. Ananda Village only seeks those from other states to come on expensive retreats. I am asking for them to abandon this and turn their retreat center into an ashram for those near and far to come and enjoy the unique spiritual vibration that I used to drive eight hours to benefit from. There is no place as blessed as this land and no management as horrible as the current one who in my opinion has hijacked the property from its rightful custodian who unfortunately is dead. Hopefully, a rightious person will avail who can take over this “has been” of a spiritual group and turn it around.
Related and helpful links
Wikipedia’s page on James Donald Walters AKA Swami Kriyananda
Wikipedia’s page on Yogananda
Self-Realization Fellowship (created by Yogananda where Kriyananda started out and was outcasted from.)
Ananda Church of Self-Realization
Cult news accuses the Ananda Church of Realization