By Narayan Romano
May 23, 2017

“Too many rules kill the spirit.” Paramhansa Yogananda once said to the then young monk Walter (now known as Swami Kriyananda). Yogananda had put Walter in charge of the Monks and was giving him this advice on how to organize the monks. This simple phrase was the only outward advice his Guru gave him.

Swami Kriyananda found that asking willing cooperation of his brother monks was a key way to organize them in a spirit of brotherhood and divine friendship.

Similarly, when Swami Kriyananda formed the first Ananda community he likened organization to fertilizer. If you have the right amount it allows things to grow harmoniously. There used to be an old saying from some of the founding members at Ananda, “No dogs, no drugs, no rules.”

There are no rules at Ananda. There are, however, guiding principles. One of them is people are more important than things. Ananda has a culture where people come first.

I got to experience this principle first hand when I was a part of the Ananda Rhode Island community. I was just about to quit my job in NYC and move to Ananda Rhode Island when I was offered an opportunity to serve at Crystal Clarity, Ananda’s publishing arm. If I accepted the offer, it would mean moving to Ananda Village in California and leaving the East Coast and Ananda Rhode Island.

I was loyal (perhaps to a fault!) and declined the offer. I called my friend and mentor at the time, Nayaswami Jaya, who was leading Ananda on the East Coast. He said to me, “Well, if you were going to quit your job and move to Rhode Island, I’d actually recommend that you move to the village.”  I couldn’t understand why he didn’t want me to help him with the work on the East Coast. When I asked him why, he responded, “You’ll be dye in the wool, you see, if you live at the village.” (By “dye in the wool” he meant I would be profoundly, deeply immersed in spirit of Self-realization through the community at Ananda village.)

I understood immediately. He put my spiritual growth above growing an organization. What he was saying on a deeper level was, “you are the work.” I was deeply touched at how he expressed this principle in such an impersonal yet loving manner.

I’m grateful beyond words for Ananda’s presence in my life. And that presence comes to life through divine friends like Jaya. They remind me that people are more important than things.