Letters from Ananda Leaders to Members

Ananda’s detractors claim that communication within Ananda at the time of the Bertolucci lawsuit was either nonexistent or tightly controlled. It is true, that our lawyers advised us to be cautious about what we put in writing, so much communication was verbal and not recorded. But community life at Ananda is vibrant and vocal, despite our attorneys’ admonitions. Many letters and community meetings took place during this time, both at Ananda Village and the colonies. Letters were written by Swami Kriyananda and community leaders, as well as internally, in open letters from individuals to everyone in the community. The reality is that this was a time of even more communication than usual for an already “talkative” community.

Soon after SRF began suing Ananda in 1990, we also started publishing a newsletter called “The Court Case News” which continued all through the Bertolucci years as well. These are too numerous, and for the most part, too mundane, to include here. (Our detractors also sent us their own version called “The Court Case Blues.”)

The following letters are a small sampling of the communication that was taking place from leadership to Ananda members. Those from Jyotish and Devi, Catherine Van Houten, and others at Ananda Village, were sent to community residents and Ananda friends worldwide. Those from Asha Praver went to the Palo Alto Ananda congregation.

To Ananda Meditation Group Leaders: The Bertolucci Trial Begins

From Jyotish & Devi Novak
November 10, 1997

“The best defense we have is the simple truth of who we are. If you receive questions from people in your group, respond honestly and openly to them. We will be happy to provide you with more information. We have an entire set of all the deposition transcripts (and videotapes of Kriyananda) available at Ananda Village and at each of the colonies. Because this material comprises several thousand pages, we don’t want to have to make multiple copies. If there is anything you want to see, please call Jaya or Ram at the Ministry Office to make arrangements. Also, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call. We will try to provide regular updates about the trial which is expected to last four to six weeks, ending some time in the middle of December.”

The Jury’s Decisions In the Bertolucci Lawsuit

From Jyotish & Devi Novak
April 21, 1998

“Ironically, the Bertolucci lawsuit resulted from two acts of moral courage: 1) Danny’s decision to stay with his wife and child, and 2) Swami Kriyananda’s unflinching support of this decision which he believed to be morally right. If Anne Marie’s will had not been thwarted in this love affair, there would have been no lawsuit.”

In the Midst of Tests, God’s Grace is There

From Jyotish & Devi Novak
July 20, 1998

“This year has shown us that God’s grace never deserts us, even if tests are strong. And there is no denying that this test was a powerful one. During the darkest days, residents here at the Village had to face the very real possibility that we could lose our homes and our community. But this experience has only deepened our gratitude to God and Guru. You, too, have been part of the demonstration of God’s grace, through your steadfastness, financial support, and the prayers you’ve offered.”

Ananda Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection

From Vidura Smallen, Steve Weber, Catherine Van Houten
Monday, September 14, 1998

“We found ourselves faced with a painful dilemma. Bertolucci was awarded $330,000, in addition to an as yet undetermined amount in court costs which could be as high as $140,000. Knowing how much cash we have available, and knowing the level of debt we have to faithful friends and our supportive local bank, do we allow Bertolucci to “cut in line” in front of everyone and seize all our working capital and assets? We did a lot of soul searching about what was dharmic, and found ourselves returning time and again to the idea of Chapter 11 Reorganization as the best way to ensure that all of Ananda’s creditors are treated equally and fairly. Otherwise, Ananda faces the specter of one hostile, unfriendly creditor (Bertolucci and her attorneys), because they are willing to collect most aggressively, shouldering out those who have been friendly and loyal supporters of Ananda in its most challenging hour.”

AUM Fund: Ananda’s United Mission

From Catherine Van Houten
Wednesday, July 7, 1999

“We wanted to consolidate the debt accumulated from the two lawsuits, and Crystal Clarity’s past financial challenges, into one sum for which we would gratefully accept donations. The ‘Master for the World’ Fund which served as our ‘war chest’ for the two legal battles seems ready to metamorphose into a new fund called ‘Ananda’s United Mission’ (A.U.M.) which will play a major role in resolving that portion of Ananda’s debt which we as committed, core members embrace as the cost of maturing as a work, and as individual devotees.”

Total Debt: $4.4 Million

From Catherine Van Houten
Friday, December 3, 1999

“Over the last ten years, we have found that out of that $3.2 million paid off (!) on legal debt, 65% of it was through donations by dedicated individual members. When we thought how to approach this $4.4 million debt, we realized that we would need to ask our individual Ananda Sangha members to help collectively, as each is able, with $2.9 million of the debt. As I write to you today, we have held meetings here at Ananda Village and in all of our branch communities to see what our resident members could do. The response, as always, has been very strong and committed. Remarkably, as of the end of November 1999, nearly $2.3 million of this $2.9 million that we are hoping for from individuals has been either received or pledged. Only $600,000 more to go!”

Appeals Court Re-Opens the SRF Lawsuit

From Catherine Van Houten
September 5, 2000

“All of us were hopeful that this battle was done. However, it seems that Master wants every wisp of challenge to Ananda’s and others’ rights to quote from, edit, and otherwise disseminate his teachings cleared up now, and cleared up conclusively: there are to be no areas of potential contention left for another generation of disciples to struggle with. After a trial by jury on this relatively limited, yet vitally important issue, there is nowhere for SRF to take its case, except to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would have no reason to hear it since it presents no new challenges to Constitutional law.”

Lawsuit Claims Ananda Is a Cult: What Do You Think?

from Asha Praver
June 17, 1996

“The test then becomes, “Do I trust my own experience?” Sometimes deep seated fears and memories of past disillusionments have to be faced and resolved before the question can be answered. It’s not always easy. That’s why Divine Mother sends us a test like this. Ours is a path of Self-realization. We don’t have the safety net of a powerful organization or a dogmatic theology to protect us from hard questions. We’ll share with you the confidence we have in our experience, but ultimately each one of you has to decide for yourself what is true.”

What Does It Mean to Love Divine Mother?

from Asha Praver
February 5, 1998

“What we must do,’ Swamiji said, ‘is love Divine Mother.’ Mentally I translated this into the thought, ‘We must love Divine Mother in our enemies.’ Later, in meditation, as I reflected on Swamiji’s words, I tried to see Divine Mother in those who have been opposing us. But I had to admit, try as I might, I couldn’t do it. All I could see was their dishonest, abusive behavior. It just didn’t look or feel like Divine Mother to me.”