I came to Ananda almost 12 years ago. I characterize my life before Ananda as a painfully empty and searching time. Finally, at age 32, my prayer became strong enough, and the Guru responded. Yogananda did not answer my call through the vehicle of SRF. In fact, I lived very close to the SRF temple in Sacramento, California in 1987, and used to look longingly through the window at Master’s face. But the temple was usually closed and I never felt drawn to enter. It was when I was given an Ananda brochure that I knew that I had found my true path.
It is incomprehensible to me that there are people who without knowing me or having ever visited Ananda would try to destroy the spiritual path I have chosen as my vehicle for Self-realization. Somehow these individuals feel that they have the right to tell me that I made the wrong choice.
What drew me to Ananda initially was the relaxed and natural atmosphere pictured in the brochure. I had never been at home in highly structured and organized environments. My first outreach to God in my childhood, began in an open meadow and later, backpacking in the mountains. In my younger years, I was spooked by churches, and the idea of sitting in a church for my inspiration was repulsive to me.
When I came to an Ananda service, I felt immediately at home. Everyone was welcoming and very much themselves. No one made any attempt to portray themselves as “spiritual”. I was instantly not only at ease, I knew I had found my spiritual home and family.
In the years that followed, I have never questioned my decision; I have never doubted or felt unsure about the integrity of the ministers and leaders of Ananda. That I can say this, is truly a miracle, and the blessing of this truth is the light of my life. I have certainly, on many occasions, doubted my ability to be a good devotee and whether I was good enough for Ananda, but never whether Ananda was good enough for me. Swami Kriyananda began Ananda for the thousands of people like me, the thousands of devotees of Yogananda that would not be recaptured in his ray through the vehicle of SRF. I didn’t want a church only, or a social environment, I wanted a family and an all-encompassing life that would be entirely devoted to God and Guru. I have lived at the Ananda community for 12 years and worked in an Ananda business for 8 years. There simply in no space in my life for me to live out my personal interests and desires in any other setting, because I have none more important to me than serving my Guru and finding God.
In the precious time I have had to be with Swamiji, I have always felt his selfless love and absolute devotion to Yogananda. He is also a real person; he has a great sense of humor, and I feel that he is my friend. He has also had life challenges. To me this is one of the most inspiring aspects to him. If a man that I consider a saint has faced challenges and weaknesses in his life, then by God, there is hope for me! This is the example he has put forth for all the ministers of Ananda and leaders who guide its various activities. The counseling I have received throughout the years from the people who have learned to be good devotees by his example, has simply saved my life many times. In fact, the compassion and patience we are encouraged to give one another during the trials we all have had is beyond human standards. The compassion I have received and felt is inspired by God through Guru through Swami Kriyananda.
I implore those bent on destroying my and my gurubhais’ right to be a devotee of Yogananda through the vehicle of Ananda to consider our world environment right now. Will your conscience actually allow you to destroy the path of thousands of people who are trying to find God and help others discover the truth of their divine nature? Don’t we need more of this light now, not less?
Come visit an Ananda church or the Expanding Light in Nevada City and see and feel for yourself who we are and what we have given our lives to. Your heart will see the truth.
Sharon, and her husband Robert, are “church mice.” They have a small apartment in the Ananda Church building in Palo Alto. Sharon works as the gift buyer at Ananda’s East West Bookshop. The above photo was taken on their wedding day.