Ananda members talk, March & April, 1996: Part 5

Turn on the Light
Dennis Schulman

March 27, 1996

Dear family,

What an interesting experience finding letters in our boxes every day. So many of them are filled with inspiration. It’s a wonderful example, isn’t it, of taking an unpleasant experience of finding declarations filled with negativity and judgment and turning it into something beautiful by writing letters filled with light and encouragement. This is what Ananda and the spiritual path have always been about to me—turn every situation into a positive one. As we have heard so often, the best way to eliminate darkness and negativity is to turn on the light. We are also familiar with the analogy of pouring pure water into a glass filled with a murky liquid to eventually displace all of the impurity. Whatever it is we wish to express, to be able to do it with love, and joy, is to uplift everyone.

When I first came to Ananda. nearly twenty years ago, I was so happy to find that this community existed. I had just fallen in love with the spiritual life and didn’t know another person with similar interests. The Autobiography, Swami’s books, and articles about Ananda all fell into my lap. I knew immediately that I wanted to live in a spiritual community when I discovered that one existed. What a blessing to be around devotees on the same spiritual path. This is a blessing that I never want to take for granted.

Over the years some people have come and gone. Some have left disappointed and bitter. Perhaps Ananda was not what they thought it was or hoped it to be. For my part, the spirit of Ananda has not changed but only grown in magnitude and intensity. Is it perfect? No. It is made up of human beings, all of us imperfect. But the saintly qualities expressed by everyone here are a constant source of inspiration. Any experiment in group living is a great challenge. How many examples of successful communities are there in this world? 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.

I think each person has to ask himself or herself why they are here. Is it to grow spiritually on a path flowing from Master through Swami? I think it should be clear by now that there are many strong leaders at Ananda (and the colonies) who are absolutely united on an energy level. To get too specific about any one issue seems to miss the point. It is necessary to tune into the energy and decide if it is for you. To discover that it is not and to be able to leave with love (for self and others), respect and dignity is very special.

We fear being labeled, being judged. Usually that energy which we so fear coming at us we attract because it’s the very energy that we put out. When I was in India on the most recent pilgrimage, I found the great joy in India to be a result of not judging. When Swami asked inwardly to St. Francis while in Assisi what was the source of St. Francis’ great joy he received the answer of never judging. And while in India I received the blessing of stopping the judging of myself, because that’s where it starts. To look at yourself with all your little shortcomings and foibles and be able to smile at them is a wonderful experience. They aren’t real. They aren’t important. When bliss comes, everything goes. Let’s work for the bliss. Let’s love each other, appreciate each other, bless each other. This is a beautiful fantastic community because it is made up of beautiful fantastic children of God.

Your friend in God.
Dennis Schulman