“Many hands make a miracle;
People climbing together.
Life on earth is so wonderful
When people laugh and dance
And struggle as friends,
Then all their dreams achieve their ends.”
–from “Many Hands Make a Miracle” by Swami Kriyananda
In this book Swami Kriyananda, called “the Father of the Communities Movement,” shares the wisdom gained through many decades of study and practice of the principles that make modern communities thrive. Inspired by his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, and his ideal of “world brotherhood colonies,” Kriyananda brought these principles to fruition through persistent effort and inspired leadership.
“Make your ideals practical,” Yogananda advised, and Kriyananda took those words to heart. During his lifetime, Kriyananda (1926-2013) founded nine spiritual communities in the United States, Europe, and India. His network of Ananda communities has been hailed as the most successful in the world.
The Ananda communities were formed on two basic principles–“people are more important than things” and “where there is right action, there is victory.” Adherence to these principles is one of the secrets to Ananda’s success.
Whether you are interested in communities from a philosophical perspective or from a practical one–and wish to form your own or join with others in doing so–this book will bring you hundreds of helpful insights into the process–how to start a community, how to make it prosper even in difficult times, and how to see it continue into a bright future.
Part I: Intentional Communities: How to Start Them, and Why
1. The Time Is Now
2. Self-Realization vs. the Megalopolis
3. Intentional Communities and the Quest for Opportunity
4. Intentional Communities, Past and Present
5. How to Begin
6. Communal Economics
7. Communalism vs. Privacy
11. What Is Ananda?
Epilogue (to Part I)
Part II: The Story of Ananda
1. The Early Years
2. Land Ho!
3. My First Non-Home
4. Ananda Meditation Retreat
5. The Purchase of Ananda Farm
6. Communal Beginnings
7. Financial Problems
8. Lessons Learned
9. “Here and Now”
I first wrote and published this little book in 1968. My purpose at that time was twofold: to suggest general guidelines for people interested in communities; and to offer a blueprint for an intentional community that I myself wanted to found. My hope was to enlist a number of friends in this venture.
Nearly thirty years of research went into the writing of this handbook. My thrust, during that preparatory period, was never romantic or academic. It was always to provide workable guidelines. I enjoyed reading “utopian” novels about idyllic societies, as much, probably, as anyone. My concern, however, was never with beautiful but impractical theories. It was with concepts that stood a chance of being actually realized on the hard ground of this world.
I first became interested in cooperative communities when I was fifteen. World War II was raging at that time. America, following the disaster of Pearl Harbor, had just entered the conflict. Perhaps it was the hatred and suffering generated by war that helped push me in the direction of seeking an alternative to the arrogant self-affirmation and selfish nationalism that was the spur to that conflict. To me, even then, the thought of people of basically similar interests living in community, and sharing together the struggles of life, offered the best possible answer to some of the pressing problems of our times.
For many years thereafter I fairly devoured every book I could find on communities, past and present. Whenever I could, I visited functioning communities. One such was Dayalbagh, near Agra in India. Another was a kibbutz, near Galilee in Israel. I also visited and studied, from a communitarian point of view, numerous monastic communities throughout the world.
I spoke and corresponded, as well, with a number of people whose expertise might offer solutions to some of the practical problems I anticipated in the founding of a workable community. Among these people was Jayprakash Narayan, formerly the number two man in India after Jawaharlal Nehru. Jayprakash Narayan had left government service in the hope of finding communitarian solutions to India’s problems. He was gracious enough to express enthusiasm for my ideas.
My adult work as an organizer, administrator, teacher, and counselor provided me with direct, practical experience in the intricacies of group dynamics.
Most valuable of all to me were years that I spent meditating on the question of why some communities succeeded, and others failed. Especially I sought to attune myself to inner, divine guidance, for no project can succeed greatly without some guidance from above, which is to say, from the superconscious.
My enthusiasm for this project received added impetus when, in 1948, I met the great master Paramhansa Yogananda, and was accepted by him as a disciple. For I soon learned that the communitarian ideal was dear to him also.
One of the basic aims of Yogananda’s mission to the West was thus stated by him: “To spread a spirit of brotherhood among all peoples, and to aid in establishing, in many countries, self-sustaining world brotherhood colonies for plain living and high thinking.”
For years, as his disciple, I studied everything he had said to me and others, and everything he had written, on this subject. I also devoted long meditative effort to attuning myself inwardly to his thoughts, for a person’s concepts can be understood in their true essence only from within.
Shortly after completing this book, I founded Ananda Cooperative Village in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California. That was in 1968. Since then, our communities have become recognized as one of the most successful network of “New Age” communities in the world.
The present book, too, like Ananda, has gained widespread recognition as a guidebook to the founding of successful communities.
The second part of this volume, written in 1971, presents the story, often dramatic, of Ananda’s founding. In 1979, a section was added to bring the reader up to date on subsequent developments.
My sense of the importance of cooperative communities has not diminished over the years. It has only grown. The happiness and harmony that members find who live in these communities are its own shining testimonial. I might say in conclusion, then, that the book you are about to read is a revolutionary document. Its intention, however, is to uplift rather than to destroy; it is to inspire you, who read it, with hope that you can revolutionize your own life—inwardly, as well as outwardly. No other kind of revolution will succeed.
THE TIME IS NOW
In his last years on earth, the great teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda, repeatedly and urgently spoke of a plan that he said was destined to become a basic social pattern for the new age: the formation of Self-realization cooperative communities, or “world brotherhood colonies.” In almost every public lecture, no matter what his announced topic, he would digress to urge people to act upon this proposal.
“The day will come,” he predicted, “when this idea will spread through the world like wildfire. Gather together, those of you who share high ideals. Pool your resources. Buy land in the country. A simple life will bring you inner freedom. Harmony with nature will bring you a happiness known to few city dwellers. In the company of other truth seekers you will find it easier to meditate and to think of God.
“What is the need for all the luxury with which people surround themselves? Most of what they have they are paying for on the installment plan! Their debts are a source of unending worry to them. Even people whose luxuries have been paid for have no freedom. Attachment makes them slaves. They consider themselves freer for possessing possessions, but don’t see that their possessions in turn have possessed them!”
Yogananda stressed the joys of simple, Godly thinking and natural living—a way of life that, he said, would bring people “happiness and freedom.” But his message went beyond simply presenting people with an attractive idea. There was an urgency in his plea.
“The time is short,” he repeatedly told his audiences. “You have no idea of the sufferings that await mankind. In addition to wars, there will be a depression the like of which has not been known in a very long time. Money will not be worth the paper it is printed on. Millions will die [presumably through war and starvation].”
Once he declared fervently, “You don’t know what a terrible cataclysm is coming!”
To rely on prophetic utterances may strike some people as superstitious. Even those who view them as such, however, may be interested to note that, of persons reputed to have prophetic vision, every single one has predicted terrible sufferings for humanity in the years to come. It is not necessary, however, to rely blindly on prophecy. The turmoil they predict is already too visibly probable.
Numerous biologists have stated with absolute finality that the present population explosion can have only one result: In the near future “hundreds of millions” of people in the world must either die of starvation for lack of sufficient food on our planet to feed them, or be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust as they struggle for whatever food they can get. Economic depression of massive proportions has been predicted by reputable economists. And as for warfare, one must, of course, always hope for the best—but what real chances are there, think you, for a cessation of conflict? The pressures continue to mount. They have not lessened even the threat of global destruction. If only one atom bomb is dropped, can you imagine that there won’t be retaliation?
Let us consider the solution that Yogananda proposed— that of Self-realization cooperatives, or “world brotherhood colonies.” It was, to be sure, a personal, not a universal solution that he stressed. Yet many universal changes have proceeded from personal transformations. (Witness the widespread upliftment that grew out of the teachings of Buddha and of Jesus Christ. The ensuing social revolutions were out of all proportion to the few disciples converted by those great masters.)
There is, moreover, at this time in history, an implication in this idea of communal cooperatives that lifts it quite out of the personal category into something sociological and universal.