Ananda members talk: March & April 1996 – Part 1

Ananda members talk to each other
in March & April, 1996

More than any other community, Ananda Village was targeted by our detractors and really came under assault during the Bertolucci lawsuit. Often residents found their in-community mailboxes stuffed with negative information, such as the accusations against Swamiji or “The Court Case Blues.” Our detractors claimed—falsely—that information within Ananda was “controlled by the leadership” and only the detractors would tell the residents “the truth.” Our detractors wanted Ananda members to rise up in outrage against Swami Kriyananda.

It was a very confusing time and this cry did not fall entirely on deaf ears. A kind of nervous tension began to develop. You never knew what horrible thing awaited you when you went to get your mail, nor who exactly was sending it to you. Anonymous negative letters began to appear that seemed to be from people within Ananda. It was very disturbing and did much to erode the sense of spiritual fellowship.

For a long time, those who were loyal to Swamiji remained silent. We’d never had this kind of internal strife before, and no one quite knew how to respond. Swamiji has trained us to be patient and accepting of other people’s points of view. This is a fundamental Ananda attitude. We were not sure how that guidance applied to the present situation, when everything we loved was being attacked—by people we had called our friends.

Finally, one man wrote a letter, declaring Swamiji unfit to be “our” spiritual director and calling for his resignation. He, at least, had the courage to sign his name. (“D…” we are calling him here.) This broke the dam. Now there was a name, a face, and a known personality to relate to.

A flood of spontaneous communication followed, in what came to be called “The Mailbox Wars.” The “silent majority” was silent no more. Each day, new, signed letters—often several at a time—appeared in the mailboxes, most in support of Swamiji. The joy level rose as people enthusiastically commented on what was being written day by day. Those who were “on the fence” were glad to hear the positive point of view, the negative ones were at least pleased about “the process.”

It was family members talking to each other. No pretense or formality here! Some of the letters were so personal, you “had to have been there” even to understand them. Others—the ones included in this section—raised issues and gave answers in such a way that they are as relevant now as they were the day they were written.

We Have to Take a Stand
By Suzanne Betts (Sitabai)
“Their weapons are the insidious arrows of doubt and evil insinuations. Our weapon is our faith in God and Guru, and our determination to surround and protect our brothers and sisters in Master’s ray. I invite you to erect a shield of Master’s Love for each and every one of us, and close the openings in our individual and group aura that allow these arrows to penetrate. Please, flood our mailboxes with your testimonials, your stories, your faith, your truth! We’ve heard from those who oppose us, now let’s hear from YOU! And may we all stand together as one.”

Who is Standing on the High Moral Ground?
By Karen White
“It’s perfectly clear that you read the declarations of these high minded women who have been so evilly used and, in your infinite wisdom, have determined that their slant on what happened is the truth and Swami be damned. Well, on a virtual dare from a friend, I read those declarations. But I am acquainted with many of those women and believe that the slant was definitely in their favor.”

Allegations Are Not Facts
By Dave & Maria Warner
“All this brouhaha reminds me of a lone dog barking in the country at night. Soon other dogs start barking, thinking something big is going on. Before long, there is a whole chorus of dogs. Meanwhile, intelligent humans realize that the barking is out of all proportion to what the first dog was barking about. It’s long past time to stop the barking, let go, and move on.”

Folks, Let’s Get Real
By Mary Kretzman
“I sometimes wonder if the Masters are just having a big hoot over the fact that devotee members of the Sixties generation are ready to impeach a spiritual director for the breaking of a vow of celibacy!!!!! Collectively, we don’t have a leg to stand on, folks. Our generation barely knows the first thing about keeping a vow. Marriage vows are just as sacred before God as vows of celibacy—yet we make ’em and break ’em to our little hearts’ content.”

Our Intuition Is Being Tested
By Nirmala
“To think that Ananda can be changed for the better by attacking Swami and the people who help guide the community is to bite the hand that feeds us. Really, it is to slap Divine Mother in the face. The way to help Ananda and ourselves through these ‘hard times’ is not to criticize the private life of Swami, but to become more and more in tune with God. What we are facing is a test of intuition. God is asking us, ‘What is your inner experience of Ananda and Swami? What do you feel in your own heart?’”

An “Old Timer” Talks about the Early Days
By Seva
“Swami was different in those days, at least in my eyes. He was more visible and available to everyone. I realize, too, he was always as he is now – wise, kind, enthusiastic, clear and caring for all his friends. He is also more clear now than ever of Master’s love for him. It is a great joy to see him so strong in Master’s love.”

A Spiritual Process for Spiritual People
By Parvati
“This reminds me of the drunk walking into [SRF] Hollywood Church and asking if the people meditating there were asleep. No, we are not asleep here at Ananda. We are awake and ready! But the process for arriving at the place of ‘feeling right in your heart’ will never come through outward discussion. It will only come from going inside and in deep meditation and prayer, with calm feeling in the heart, coming to an inner knowing of what is right and true. Swami has bared his soul to us in those community satsangs. I feel he has shared with us far more of his personal life than we even deserve to know. What more do you want?”

Get a Life!
By Brian Powers
“From the first time I met Swami (13 years ago) until the beginning of this fiasco I have never placed him on a pedestal, but I would like to state unequivocally that his conduct, humility and compassion in the face of slander, treachery and the worst kind of cowardly attacks over the past several years have so moved and impressed me that he now has been elevated to that pedestal, and I bow at his feet. He is simply, what I wish to be.”

A Great Spiritual Hero
By Savitri
“Without Swamiji and Ananda, I would be a dead person spiritually. I was a lesson-taking member of SRF for three years before I ever even heard of Ananda. A few weeks after arriving, I literally kissed the ground, I was so grateful to be here. I had been absolutely starved for the kind of spiritual satsang that Ananda gave me and the quality of spiritual teaching that I heard from Swamiji.”

I Had to Do It My Way
By Rambhakta
“I had anger. I had rage. I told Jyotish I would never let my thoughts on the court case be edited by anyone, nor would I ever follow a party line. Jyotish responded in the finest traditions of Ananda, allowing me complete freedom to think as I liked, trusting me to hold to truth, to follow God and Master, and to be loyal.”

Where Could I Go?
By Eric Glazzard
“Where can I go where creation will limit itself to my desires for how it ought to be? For me, the amazing thing about Ananda communities is not the fact that one can find all the usual troubles of the world here, but that one can be supported, encouraged., and understood in ones deepest efforts to realize one’s own perfection. Where else could 1 find that?”

Something for Women to Think About
By Lennie Martin
“From this perspective, it is easy to understand how they felt violated, betrayed, or abused. This is the position of an immature ego-personality, and leads to victim consciousness. Without blaming, because people are where they are developmentally, still this is not a helpful position. Women who accept victimization are giving away their power. Continuing to blame the powerful man for ‘using them sexually’ keeps women stuck in victim consciousness. Only by owning our part in every situation can we transcend it.”

I Came Here to Serve Master
By J.T. Heater
“Yes, I have had to deal with the questions raised in the lawsuits, and as a neophyte, it was difficult. But in my heart I only feel love and expansiveness from Swami. Swami has only given me love and friendship. I can only give him that in return. Any mistakes of the past are to lead us into a future filled with God. Swami has exemplified that. I only pray I can fare as well with my mistakes and trials.”

Mail Box Wars, Chapter 108
By Stan Parojinog
“We did not come here to create the perfect community. We did not come here to get out of the city. We did not come here to live with nice people. WE CAME HERE TO FIND GOD.”

Encouragement in Troubled Times
By Haridas
“That’s what it means to live at Ananda. We forgive, we get up and we start again! We’ve had to learn that.. .or Ananda would have expired long ago! When I think of Ananda and of Swamiji, I think of encouragement, despite troubled times.”

“I Can No Longer Tolerate…..”
By Cathy Parojinog
“This is ONE war, perpetrated by a single enemy. Swami is not creating a smokescreen to cover his own alleged iniquities, nor is he exaggerating SRF’s ruthlessness. SRF is single-minded in its purpose of securing ‘Self- realization’ and Master for SRF alone, even if they have to destroy Swami and Ananda in the process. Since they have thus far lost, using every legal weapon money can buy, their fallback strategy is to try to convince the public, the courts, and us that Swami is an evil man who has used his power to hypnotize, intimidate, and even physically force Ananda members into a cult environment solely for his own benefit.”

Friend and Guide
By Roy Gugliotta
“I remember many times going through difficulties. When I felt that no one cared, I would find Swami standing there in front of me saying a kind and helpful word, and sometimes asking me to sit down with him. At these times, he spoke kindly and gently and tried to help me see the difficulty differently. Those moments with Swami helped me to change my consciousness and my life.”

Turn on the Light
By Dennis Schulman
“To me one of the greatest attributes of Ananda, which has contributed greatly to its success, has been the freedom that people have felt to be who they are. I think the difficulty comes when people feel uncomfortable with the direction of the community. As the community grows, becomes stronger, and what it is becomes clearer to all, it may become apparent to some that it is not what they want. Diversity is a great strength of the community. Disloyalty is not. Sometimes it’s a fine line.”