by Nitai Deranja
The year was 1920 when Paramhansa Yogananda received the vision that called him to the West. It took place in the storeroom of his school in India.
He wrote in Autobiography of a Yogi, “Tears stood in my eyes as I cast a last look at the little boys and the sunny acres of Ranchi.” In 1925 when he established his American headquarters on Mt. Washington in Los Angeles, the thought was still strong to establish similar schools in America.
Luther Burbank expressed strong support for this goal when he said, “schools like yours are the only hope of a future millennium.I am with you heart and soul in your practical ideals of education.”
Gradually, however, Yogananda realized that the time was not ripe for such an enterprise. There was much work to be done with American adults before they would be able to appreciate the importance of schools “where the art of living and a balanced development of all human faculties would be taught.”
For the next 25 years he worked tirelessly at this task. In 1972, an opportunity arrived for bringing these educational ideals into manifestation. A small group of parents had gathered at Ananda Village in Northern California searching for a spiritual alternative for their children’s schooling. When I was asked to begin this school, I found three main sources for Yogananda’s ideas on education: several chapters in his Autobiography of a Yogi, a pamphlet he had used at Ranchi entitled The Psychological Chart, and most importantly, an unedited version of an article he had written in 1925 called “The Balanced Life”. Particularly in this last article Master summarized his “Curriculum of the School for Training Balanced Souls.”
Here I found specific goals for helping children in the areas of “Science of Body for Practical Efficiency,” “Mental Engineering,” “Social Arts,” and “Applied Spiritual Science.” Yogananda concluded, “The above Arts and Sciences are those which should be taught in a ‘How-to-Live School’ to children whose minds are still plastic and whose forces as yet unguided into any definite channel.”
This curriculum has provided the basis for Ananda’s work with children ever since. This original school, known as the Ananda Living Wisdom School, is now entering its 29th year, providing day classes for children in 1st through 12th grades with boarding facilities available for older students. Several students have gone on to college from this school, with the oldest “children” now in their mid-thirties. As the years have passed, sister schools have been founded in Palo Alto and Sacramento, California and Portland, Oregon.
New schools are in the planning stage for Seattle, Washington and Assisi, Italy. There are also several summer camps and after-school yoga programs that use Yogananda’s principles and even an international family camp held each year in Assisi.