My spoken words are registered in the ether… and they shall move the West… (T)housands of youths must go North, South, East and West to cover the earth with little colonies, demonstrating that simplicity of living and high thinking lead to the greatest happiness!
—Paramhansa Yogananda, Beverly Hills, July 1949
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 as well as monastics) 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.”
During his lifetime, Yogananda tried to establish such a colony in Encinitas in the early 1940’s, but found that people were not yet ready to embrace his idea. Yogananda, however, knew the time would come when the world would be ready to receive his vision, and “… this colony idea will spread through the world like wildfire.”
Ananda — Fulfilling Yogananda’s Dream
It is not necessary for masses of people to be converted to a new social philosophy. A few individuals only, if they give the concept a try, can spark a conflagration that can eventually destroy a whole forest of old ways.
—Swami Kriyananda, Hope for a Better World
As a boy of 15, even before he met Yogananda, Swami Kriyananda (then J. Donald Walters) felt an inner longing to start a community based on high ideals. While in college, he even tried, unsuccessfully, to convince his friends to join him.
Later, as a disciple of Yogananda, Swami Kriyananda was present at Yogananda’s compelling lecture in Beverly Hills, during which the great master shared his powerful vision of world brotherhood colonies (see quote at the top of the page) becoming the way of the future. Swami Kriyananda vowed his utmost to make Yogananda’s dream a reality.
Founded by Swami Kriyananda and a handful of young friends in 1968 on 67 acres of land in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, Ananda Village was initially faced with many tests and challenges. Scarce money, the threat of foreclosure, a devastating fire that destroyed most of the existing structures, different ideas about the community’s purpose — all served to help forge a community dedicated to living Yogananda’s ideal of putting God first, in all circumstances.
Celebrating its 40th year in 2009, Ananda Village has become one of the world’s most successful intentional communities. More than 200 residents (families, singles and monastics), all dedicated to the ideals set by Yogananda, live, work, raise families and meditate together, supporting each another in applying his teachings to all aspects of life. Now situated on 1,000 acres, the Village has grown to include 85 homes, “how to live” schools from pre-school through college, private and community-owned businesses, a growing permaculture garden, Ananda Sangha Worldwide outreach ministry, Crystal Clarity Publishers and a world class retreat center, The Expanding Light.
To meet the need of increasing numbers of people inspired by Yogananda’s vision, Ananda’s world brotherhood colonies have expanded to include communities in Sacramento and Palo Alto, California; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington; as well as in Assisi, Italy and Gurgaon and Pune, India. Currently, about 1,000 devotees live together in these communities, making Yogananda’s vision of “high thinking and simple living” a reality.