Ananda Sangha - Paramahansa Yogananda's Gift Of Paradise On Earth
Kaveetaa Kaul | 01 Mar 2011

My experience of visiting Ananda sangha and realising there is still hope for us if communities such as this abound.

DECADES AFTER after decades millennium after millennium we hapless souls trudge through this vortex of the world, which with its steely grip keeps us earth-bound while Satan smiles at having won each time in deluding us into believing  in the reality of  our existence with its saga of joys and sorrows, pain and pleasures , all the time ensnaring us in this duality.

We periodically want out, long for this crushing excruciating existence with transient and ephemeral promises of joy, that traps us , to vanish. Yet, all it takes is just a peek of another desire within reach and what vanishes instead, is this hitherto urgent need to free ourselves, now relegated into oblivion.

Yet there comes a time in the life of each one, when the veil lifts. The drama is revealed. The lack lustre world is shorn thread bare once and for all, in the glorious, illuminating, divine  light of the Almighty,  gently waking us from this dream.  Soon we realise the folly of having lived birth after birth pursuing that which does not exist.

My quest for Truth and the mystery of my existence began in the eighties.

‘Seek and ye Shall find..knock and the doors shall be opened” comforted Jesus. The journey then embarked upon took me through various junctions, each a turning point, Ramakrishna Paramhansas life and teachings, Vivekanandas divinely inspired works, Chaitanya Mahaprabhus devotion for Krishna, Aurobindos unique manifestation of His power, to the gates of Buddhas Vippasana technique of meditation and art of living.

New vistas of thought opened up, some that seemed as if a deja vu, some completely novel, others unfathomable. But the thirst seemed unquenched, longing unfulfilled. Questions had subsided, answers were known,  divine experiences illustrating that the path was right conspicuously present. Yet the insides were hollow, vacant, eerily empty, simmering in anticipation. The soul was in search…again

I had first read Autobiography of a Yogi by Swami Paramahansa Yogananda in 1983.  I recall the sudden silence I felt within. I was as if jolted out of my lackadaisical and meaningless life. I decided then, I wanted to be like Him. I wanted to tread his path. But that was not to be. The blueprint of the plan, detailed my wait for another 28 years. I had to wait that long before I finally reached the gates of the place that housed his devotees , his chosen band.

‘The Divine Romance’ a book by Paramahansa appeared in my house one day. It may seem unbelievable, but I had not purchased it. Looking through the shelf 2 years or so ago I found it and immediately devoured it. It has been my constant companion ever since. For me, it is like the Bhagvad Gita. Opening any page of the book presents a solution to my turmoil. Without exaggeration and any effort to sound hyperbolic I can claim with certainty that after reading this book, there is nobody who will ever doubt the presence of God!!

I felt a close affinity to Paramahansa and Swami ji which was unmistakable. My daughter shares her birthday with Paramahansa – January 5th. My son is  a Taurus like Swami ji- April 30th (Swami Kriyananda) However minute, to me everything was a sign. 

But surprisingly ..It wasnt yet time for me  to visit Ananda Sangha, Paramahanasa's organization.

Until January 2011. I have no recollection as to how and why I decided to visit the web site of Ananda Sangha once again. I say again since , in the year 2007, after listening to Swami Kriyananda, Paramahansas direct living disciple on television, I was enraptured with his simplicity, yet divinely inspired talks. Day after day they seemed as if addressed to me personally. His ever smiling and beatific countenance drew me towards him and I wrote to him a spontaneous heartfelt letter. Soon almost promptly I received a response from Brahmacharya Lila inviting me to his ashram in Delhi which I could not visit.

Four years later, I visit the site again. I notice that Swami jis book is available online. I read it hungrily.  His erudition, expression of sentiment and veracity of experiences kept me glued. It was as if I was vicariously living his life.  My duties as mother, wife are robotically performed . All I want to do is,  read. It seemed to be a yearning of the soul.  I read “Autobiography of a yogi” again. My days and nights are now as if in earnest wait. It was as if I had a sudden calling. Nothing seems to enliven me save the joyousness of the truths that seem so personal and deeply enriching. I write another mail to Swami ji. Not expecting anything but just to gain satisfaction of having sent out a message into the ether.

But..That sets the ball rolling. Brahmachari Nabha gets in touch instantaneously. We exchange mails, with he showing utmost understanding and warmth..so unexpected, since I was a total stranger. But I realised on hindsight, that here nobody is a stranger, this organisation is the epitome of Brotherhood.

I am informed of their newly built community center near Pune and as if by a miracle, things fall into place and the devotees in Pune so very kindly arrange it all. I find myself one Saturday driving down with a devotee from Mumbai Sandeep and his wife Dilkhush to Pune.

Sandeep and Dilkhush are a young couple, parents of an utterly delightful 7-year-old and awaiting the birth of another. What struck me was the fact that they have decided to give up their life in Mumbai, and take up residence in the community, a village in Mulshi near Pune… adopting the community life of Ananda Sangha.

I felt at once envious and intrigued. Was it really possible to forsake the habit of living in the world, even if rife with tensions, stresses and challenges? All it took was another couple of hours before I received my answer.

The enchanting valley of the community centre in the hills, on the way to Lavasa, as if defined peace. I was greeted by a glowing, happy, joyous and merry face, one that is difficult to find in the city of Mumbai. He was Viraj, a westerner who had joined the Sangha almost three decades ago. Ah! that explains it, I thought. You cannot be a man of the world and yet be so exuberant.

The Divine Mother retreat was in progress. I tip toed in to a bright  room, where dearest Nirmala ji, with eyes closed, and a divine smile on her face was seated with a few other women devotees,  singing Swamijis composed paeans to the Mother Divine. In a moment I was as if in a trance, enraptured by the Godly calm I felt engulfed with, the peace, the joy that came over me was indescribable.A taste of Bliss as it were.

The two days that I spent there felt as though one had discovered an oasis amidst that harshness of an arid desert, wherein I had been roaming for aeons. Hunger, sleep, tiredness as if an alien concept. The energy was so uplifting.  Any wonder then that Sandeep and others like him want to shift here with their families?!! One was as if  assured of communion with God on a daily basis.

This was the real Yoga.

Dharamdas ji, the soul mate and life partner of Nirmala ji. are spiritual Directors of Ananda India. With his talk later on in the evening, on the attributes of Divine Mother he left me enthralled. The same simplicity, calmness, and joy that defined Swamiji, was as if an ingredient in Dharamdas jis nature as well. Vibrant with the satisfaction of having felt Divine Love, is the thought that came to me. He is in bliss.

Wearing blue was not the only constant, I reckoned. The other component of this community was that of a  glowing peaceful countenance that reflects the inner light which shone brightly on the faces.  Nayaswami Jaya and Savitri ji who instructed me most brilliantly on Kriya Yoga, were such.Their evolved nature and purity of  soul came through so easily. This is another couple who has been in the Sangha for over 30 years and dedicated their lives to fulfilling Master’s and Swami jis wish. How blessed are they for having been chosen to do so!

Soon I met Katyayani the little girl who had constantly been my contact and arranged for me to get here. An ever smiling. vivacious Katyayani nee Neha, who left her lucrative job and home in Bangalore and decided to become e monk here. Surprises never seemed to end. This was no ancient scriptural site, this was today, the modern era with its zingy trappings and yet there was this world , as if a little blessed place on earth where only the divinely ordained could venture in.

Aditya a doctor by profession, a surgeon in the making, a tall, handsome,  youthful, boisterous lad, had pledged his life to this community. His dedication, confidence and unwavering faith in the support of God came through unfailingly. I was mesmerised. All they lived for was to be of help to others. Aditya has started a dispensary for the villagers where he offers his services free of cost! He is living the dream of Swami Kriyananda who in turn wanted to actuate the dream of Paramahansa to have communities on earth, where all the inhabitants live in devotion to God, in harmony with one another and a wonder place would then evolve where joy multiplied in every breath of unconditional Love, Love that was offered free of cost!!

A simple description : Ananda fulfills the dream of Paramhansa Yogananda: to establish “world brotherhood colonies”. These are communities where people can practice “plain living and high thinking”, based on the spiritual principles that Yogananda taught.