Letters from Ananda members, Part 24

Many Ways to Enjoy a Garden
Cheryl Sargent

I have lived in the Palo Alto Community of Ananda for over six years and I have to say that charges made against Swami Kriyananda and Ananda are way out of line with my experience of Ananda. It is hard for me even to comprehend how anyone could accuse Ananda of being an abusive cult. All the ministers I have come to know over the years have always been so open, loving, and supportive.

Many times over these years I have gone to one or another of the ministers here to discuss something about my spiritual or personal life. They never give me a “party-line,” or try to manipulate me with guilt or fear. Believe me, I know a lot about guilt and fear and I would know if someone were using that on me.

Just the opposite. All the counsel I have gotten is about trusting myself, following my own way, not worrying about doing things the same way everybody else does. It just doesn’t fit the picture of a cult.

If Swami Kriyananda is a power hungry, abusive person would not this be reflected in the people who were trained and guided by him over the last 30 years, the people who have become the spiritual leaders and managers of Ananda today? I have not seen or experienced that at all. What I have experienced at Ananda is many humble, joyful people all trying to help each other along the path to God.

Ananda is a group of sincere devotees trying to tune into Paramhansa Yogananda’s ray of light as shared with us by Swami Kriyananda. How can SRF say that they are the only ones who can interpret and teach Yogananda’s message?

Think about this: several people are enjoying a beautiful garden. When asked what makes this garden so beautiful, one person says it is all the flowers—oh, their colors and perfume! Another person says it is the babbling brook running through the garden—the sound is so peaceful and relaxing! And still another is filled with joy seeing birds and butterflies flitting among the trees and flowers. Each person tunes into different aspects of this garden. Who’s to say that one person’s reason for appreciating the garden is more correct than the other? Who’s to say that one disciple’s experience of a great master is more correct than another?

Yogananda’s ray of light has found many beautiful expressions through Swami Kriyananda’s music and books. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to learn from Swamiji’s experience and interpretation of Yogananda’s teachings. I feel blessed to have found Ananda.

Cheryl lives at Ananda Palo Alto and works as an executive assistant for a small company in Silicon Valley.