Left: Kriyananda chanting AUM as part of the Sunday Service at Ananda Seattle’s Mandir (temple)
Right: The interior of Ananda Portland’s temple, with its sweeping A-frame ceiling.
The purpose of life is to find God
This is the simple truth upon which Ananda is based. Many churches emphasize dogma and belief. Yogananda spoke instead of the need for direct experience of God. Meditation, he said, is the missing ingredient in most religious practices. He used the word church, not only for its obvious outer meaning, but also as Jesus used it, to refer to the inner temple of divine consciousness.
Ananda worship is based on the practice of meditation, especially Kriya Yoga, an ancient technique that was re-introduced to the West through Yogananda and his line of gurus.
“I wasn’t sent to the West by Christ and the great masters of India to dogmatize you with a new theology,” Yogananda said. “[I was sent] to teach you the science of Kriya Yoga, that people might learn how to commune with God directly. The time for knowing God has come!” (Paramhansa Yogananda, The Path).
Unity of All Religions
Part of Yogananda’s mission was to demonstrate the underlying unity between the teachings of India as expressed in the Bhagavad Gita, and the original teachings of Jesus as presented in the Bible. Yogananda showed that all religions are rooted in the same essential truth. “Self-realization has come,” Yogananda said, “to unite all religions.” He didn’t mean to unite them under a new denominational banner.
His words have profound inner meaning: the individual quest for Self-realization is the unity behind all religions. In defining what a church of Self-realization should be, Yogananda said, “Instead of peddling untested dogmas and urging people to ‘Believe— believe!,’ the churches should convert their premises into Universities of Living, where experiments are conducted in how to find the true fulfillment in life all people seek. “Instead of gathering in God’s name theoretically, people need to come together with the firm purpose of invoking His living presence in the Temple of Meditation.” (Paramhansa Yogananda, How to Keep the Church Steadfast, 1933)
Left: the annual “group photo” of Ananda Palo Alto’s congregation at Easter. Six years ago, members raised funds to purchase a large Catholic Church just a few blocks from Stanford University. The interior has recently been transformed by loving hands, with Yogananda’s colors of blue, gold, and white throughout.
Left: This is an altar like those in many of the small temples that grace the Ananda communities. Ananda Village has several meditation temples for residents, one in each residential neighborhood of the community, plus a larger Hansa Temple where all residents can gather on Sundays for worship.