Over ten years ago, just a few months after we were married, Dharmadevi and I attended an informal satsang with Swami Kriyananda. It was held at his home at Ananda Village, the Crystal Hermitage. We were in one of Swami’s first homes at the hermitage — a geodesic dome which lends itself to expansive and creative outside-the-box thinking.
During the discussion with Swamiji and a small group of about twenty people, the subject turned to the Bodhi Tree bookstore in Los Angeles. The then owners were retiring and were selling the iconic bookstore building and property to a developer. However, the Bodhi Tree business (the bookstore inventory, name brand, mailing list, etc.) were for sale.
During the Satsang, Swami said to the group, “Well, the only person I think that could take on this project would be you.” When he said “you” he turned and looked at me squarely in the eye. I got the message and without hesitation said, “By all means, Sir. Sure!” Although I wasn’t fully aware of what we were committing to, I simply trusted Swami’s intuition.
Saying “Yes!” to Swami changed our lives forever — a few weeks later we moved from Ananda Village to Los Angeles.
After we got settled into the ashram in Los Angeles, Dharmadevi and I researched more deeply the prospect of purchasing the Bodhi Tree Bookstore. I didn’t want to be a “Debbie Downer” but, from all of our research, it seemed like the absolute worst time to buy an independent bookstore. I showed Swami one chart of bookstore sales comparing them to Amazon sales. Borders was about to go bankrupt and chain store sales were plummeting while Amazon sales were skyrocketing.
To make a long story short, Swami said, “Well it doesn’t seem to make sense at this time… but I hope you’ll stay and serve here in LA.” Again we said, “By all means, Sir!”
So nothing came of the Bodhi Tree, in terms of Ananda LA, but always in the back of my mind, it felt like a bit of unfinished business in our service to God and Guru.
Now Swami’s request of us starting a bookstore in Los Angeles is being fulfilled in a miraculous and unexpected fashion. Allow me to explain by introducing you to my friend, Frank.
Frank is a hard-working, self-made man. He immigrated from Mexico at the age of eighteen and built from the ground up his own successful commercial electrical contracting business and store. Of course, the outer self-definitions cannot begin to define his inner spirit.
Lahiri Mahasaya used to say of kriya yoga, “doing, doing, one day…done!” This is the best way I can describe Frank’s spirit. He is indefatigable and committed to “ending in endlessness” as Paramhansa Yogananda said.
Although English is not his first language, you would never know. But I did notice he used a saying you don’t hear all that often. When I asked Frank if he could help with an Ananda LA project he said, “By all means!” When I heard him say that, it caught my attention because of its positive and infectious nature.
Earlier this year, when Crystal Clarity Publishers (Ananda’s publishing arm) was moving from Ananda Village to Los Angeles, we called on Frank for help.
“By all means!” he said in response.
One day in January, Frank called to show us a potential space. He was considering moving his electrical business and he thought Crystal Clarity could share the new space with his business.
As soon as we walked into the building, Dharmadevi and I felt happy in our hearts. The front door and windows face due east and a lot of natural light came into the space. It looked less like a warehouse and more like a temple and sanctuary. In fact, the next-door neighbors are a synagogue and Christian church. It’s truly a block of all religions!
The more we discussed the opportunity with Frank, he said, “You know, I’m feeling inspired for it to be all for Ananda LA and Crystal Clarity.”
I responded to Frank, “By all means!”
This is when the miraculous and unexpected events began to unfold. First, the owner of the building rather than offering it for lease gave us the opportunity to purchase the building outright. Next, we received a few generous donations for a down payment and were able to purchase the building for Ananda Los Angeles/Crystal Clarity. The sale closed escrow in late January well before the pandemic outbreak in America.
And guess what will be included in this new space? The retail front face will be a cafe and bookstore! The interior space will be an Ananda temple for in-person and online streaming classes. It will also include a warehouse and office space for Crystal Clarity Publishers.
It is a dream come true.
Can I get a “BAMEN (By All Means Amen)?!”
Joy to you!
Narayan & Dharmadevi