Spiritual communities

Yogananda’s Vision for World Brotherhood Colonies

My spoken words are registered in the ether… and they shall move the West… Thousands 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 want to live a spiritual life, but in a world focused on material desires and lacking the support of others, it is easy to be diverted from one’s highest purpose.

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 could live, work, and worship 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 1940s, but found that people were not yet ready to embrace his idea. He knew, however, that 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

Even before he met Yogananda, Swami Kriyananda (then J. Donald Walters), as a boy of 15, felt a 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 in 1949 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.

“Gather together, those of you who share high ideals,” Yogananda told his audiences. “Pool your resources. Buy land out in the country. A simple life will bring you inner freedom. Harmony with nature will bring you a happiness known to few city dwellers. In the company of other truth seekers it will be easier for you to meditate and think of God.”

—Paramhansa Yogananda, Beverly Hills, July 1949

Originally begun as a small retreat by Swami Kriyananda and a handful of young friends in 1968 on 67 acres of land in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, Ananda was initially faced with many tests and challenges. Challenges such as scarce money, the threat of foreclosure, and a devastating fire that destroyed most of the existing structures—all served to strengthen the will and commitment of the devotees here, and those who joined later, to attune themselves more deeply to Yogananda’s teachings and ideals. The Ananda devotees discovered from personal experience the truth and power of the Indian motto, “Where there is adherence to right action, there is victory,” as well as one of one of Swami Kriyananda’s central guidelines: “People are more important than things.”

Celebrating its 45th year in 2014, Ananda Village has become one of the world’s most respected 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 about 1,000 acres, the Village has grown to include 85 homes, “how to live” schools from pre-school through high school, private and community-owned businesses, permaculture and organic gardens, Ananda Sangha Worldwide outreach ministry, Crystal Clarity Publishers, and a world-class retreat, 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. Most of these communities also have farms and sustainability projects which welcome assistance. Currently, about 1,000 devotees live in these various communities, making Yogananda’s vision of “high thinking and simple living” a reality.

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