I am a frequent guest of the Ananda Ashram (expanding light) in Nevada City.
I have been going there to meditate since 2010. I visit several times a year and meditate several hours per day for several days in a row in their small meditation shrine. I never met their guru Swami Kriyananda, but heard many wonderful things about him from his followers. People who knew him mentioned how kind he was. From looking at his picture, it radiates divine grace, and tells me everything I need to know about him. Pictures are actually deeply spiritual — perhaps that is why they were prohibited in Judaism and Islam?
The Woman who met the guru
My most meaningful experience at the Ashram was not from a personal spiritual experience, although I had many. It was from meeting an older lady who had meditated with Kriyananda. She had amazing spiritual visions and an amazing personal spiritual transformation after spending just a short amount of time with this American guru. America is a land of spiritual poverty, and it is wonderful to have a capable guru born into our country and into our culture!
I had many spiritual experiences myself. Once after hours of meditation, I was in a daze for hours. I had no desire to talk. I just sat and stared at the beautiful pine trees. It was a very deep experience. Other experiences were of spiritual cleaning and bhog (Hindi term relating to the effects of spiritual cleaning.) I experienced all types of unusual occurrences after meditating. Most of them were unpleasant, but that is not a bad thing spiritually as it implies that something bad from within me had been clean. One time I was tailgated by a guy with road rage. Another time I got locked out my hotel room, and then my car needed to be jump-started. Another time, I got violently ill and vomited all over a local hiking trail. There were many other unusual experiences, but the best experiences were the deep meditations.
What I didn’t realize
As a visitor to this mission that I was not a member of, I overlooked several things. I didn’t really know this mission from an insider’s view. As I visited more often, I realized that I met many wonderful people, but never saw them again. This was a retreat center that catered to strangers, and every time you come, it is a completely different crowd. The 800 residents keep out of site, so it is hard to meet them as a guest.
An ethereal blanket of angelic grace!
I also didn’t realize that the guru had cast an “Ethereal blanket of angelic grace” upon the group. The land still has a very powerful spiritual grace. I don’t know if it is innate to the land as some sacred lands are, or if it was purely due to the guru’s divine grace. Please keep in mind that there are many spirits who visit this blessed land as well such as the spirits of deceased gurus in the lineage of gurus that they follow at Ananda. The guru lived from May 19, 1926 to April 21, 2013. I didn’t realize he was so old. I heard about his death in an email. I had no idea how his death would impact the group, or my involvement as a visitor to their venue. People at the ashram have become more paranoid, less friendly, more pestilent, and less spiritual. The reality is quite sad actually.
A lovey dovey group turned sour
The people I met at The Expanding Light Ashram had always been happy-go-lucky. There was not a mean streak in the entire group. I didn’t know how spiritually evolved they were, but they had a quality of niceness to them that all other spiritual groups that I had visited lacked, and I’ve visited dozens of groups. Everyone had been very nice to me for years. But, just around the time of Swami-ji’s death, things turned around. The staff and members started bothering me for no reason. Everywhere I went, people asked, ‘Can I help you, can I help you?” I told them that I didn’t ask for help, and didn’t need help. They insisted that I looked like I needed help. The reality is that any new face that they haven’t seen seems like someone they should bug. I spend hours meditating to cultivate a pure state of mind, and people antagonizing me undermines my mental state. I think that these pestilent people don’t really want to help me, they are really treating me like an unwelcomed guest. They are really behaving like members of an elite private school and want to know, “What is someone like you doing here?” I have been donating to their group for years, and resent this insulting and annoying behavior. It is just plain rude and unnecessary.
A “Cause for concern”
I think this happened because of some karmic cleaning, but it is still no excuse. The manager of this group never took the time to get to know me even though I have been to their venue over 70 times in the last four years. I was told that I could come and meditate day or night and that there was no problem. Since the group had always been warm and friendly to me, I had no idea that I couldn’t stick my head into a class. I had visited more than a dozen classes before and enjoyed the content. How was I supposed to know I had stepped on a land mine? The yoga teacher brought up my intrusion at a staff meeting. Additionally, another person was bothered that I was walking around in the parking lot. I was going to get my coat. The fact that I wasn’t wearing an ID badge scared these people. When Swami-ji was alive, there was no paranoia or causes for concern — everyone was just happy and nice. Not anymore! Part of the problem was that the yoga students pay big bucks to Ananda mission for their lessons and management was afraid to jeopardize their revenue flow by having reclusive spiritual types being present!
The manager interrupted my meditation
The manager went out of his way to interrupt my meditation in the meditation hall to tell me that my after-dark presence there without a badge was a “cause for concern.” It is amazing how I am treated like a trouble-maker when I have been very nice to these people for years, and donated to them for years as well. I am even more amazed that the management doesn’t know me by now. I think that part of the problem is that they don’t cater to people who follow a spiritual path there. They cater to those who are part of “programs” taking classes, but do not care much about spirituality or meditation anymore.
Less focus on spirituality?
From my point of view, the group is a lot less spiritual than a year ago when Swami’ji was alive. Fewer people meditate in Lahiri Shrine. Group meditation is not regularly held in Lahiri Shrine either. The divine grace in the shrine is still good, but not as good as a year ago. What bothers me most is that the large meditation hall near the dining room has very little divine grace. It’s grace has been compromised because they allow it to be a multi-purpose room with yoga lessons, lectures, and other activities. It is also right next to the dining room which means they have too many people nearby which ruins the vibe permanently. For a meditation hall to be divine, it needs to be used only for meditation, and for nothing else. I told this to the manager and he said, “We’ll see what we can do” or some similar managerial type of answer. Someone committed to spirituality wouldn’t allow a meditation hall to be compromised. I coined the concept of being Dharmically Kosher, or Dharmically Correct. Additionally, the manager claimed that the gurus would recreate the spiritual grace in a meditation hall that had been compromised.
Gurus don’t just give you back what you willfully ruined.
My experience is that gurus don’t just give you back what you ruined. Gurus make you earn your grace, and if there are no sincere followers, no grace will be earned! If you ruin the spiritual grace of a meditation hall, it is permanent as I said before. My psychic said that the reason the Lahiri Shrine was so spiritually potent is because there had been a very devoted lady who maintained a low profile. She was very deeply spiritually evolved and meditated regularly. She attracted the favorable attention of the deceased gurus whose spirits watch over that meditation hall. It is partly because of devoted souls like her that the shrine gets its grace. Now that she is gone, if Ananda Mission compromises the shrine by having guitar lessons, healing classes, and other non-spiritual activities, there will be nobody to attract the blessings of the gods to replenish the grace that was lost.
Dharmic Violations at Ananda
(1) Any type of money making activity at a spiritual venue is unacceptable. Spiritual groups should be donation based only.
(2) Meditation halls must be used for meditation only and not for yoga, discussions, or other activities, otherwise they lose their divine grace which is exactly what happened at Ananda. It is permanent, and the grace can’t be gained back, unless the hall is purified and used only for meditation for many years.
(3) Interrupting someone’s meditation is unacceptable. The people at Ananda Mission haven’t been trained to understand this. Other spiritual groups are unfortunately usually equally ignorant and rude about this.
(4) Pestering people at Ashrams leads to upset feelings and is completely unnecessary. People who volunteer at spiritual groups tend to be busy-bodies and love to interfere with others. They need to understand the advice that Babu-ji Maharaj gave which is, “Don’t offer unwanted help.”
(5) Management at spiritual groups must obey spiritual dharma even if they don’t understand it. They can have a spiritually minded person determine policy for the spiritual buildings and practices of the group instead of blindly sabotaging the group with spiritually unorthodox practices that are detrimental.
Meditating in the big hall
As I mentioned before, the large meditation hall has very poor divine grace compared to the rest of the property due to multiple activities going on inside and proximity to the dining area. What bothers me most is that their satsangh (group meditations or sanghas) are not held in the small meditation shrine which has the monopoly on the divine grace. They are held at the big meditation hall. That is analogous to having a meal of genetically modified grains. Sure it looks like you are having real food, but the reality is that the food has been stripped of its nutrients, and you will not benefit nearly as much as if you ate organic non-GMO foods. Perhaps the group is only getting 40% of the potential benefits of the meditation simply because they do it in the wrong room! The spiritual ignorance just kills me. I started to wonder if I should be associated with these types of people. The sad reality is that every spiritual group I have seen has a majority who are very un-spiritual in their consciousness, so why should I expect any more from these people?
Summary and ratings for this group.
I used to recommend this group to others. Now, I feel that they are going downhill very quickly. They are less spiritual than before and a lot less considerate towards others. Their rating has gone from a B- to a C- in the last 12 months. No spiritual group that I know of gets an A which means Ananda’s 2012 grade with me was comparable to better spiritual groups. Unfortunately, my current rating for Ananda — although not as bad as many other groups, is no longer up to my standards to recommend to others as a spiritual group. Yes, they have good yoga and spiritual classes, but there is little if any spiritual value in that education without a solid basis of two hours a day of meditation under a capable guru.