Thursday, January 3, 2013

Cities of Light

Dear Friends:

First, let me apologize for the long gap in the writing of these letters. Some of you have been waiting quite some time for me to answer your questions. My intention was to write one a week all through 2012. My excuse for not doing so is a fairly good one. Over the months when I haven’t been writing these letters, I was finishing the book Loved and Protected: Stories of Miracles and Answered Prayers.

I tried to write both at the same time, but I found my mind didn’t appreciate being split in that way. So I gave up the letters in favor of the book, which I am pleased to say is now finished. It will be published in India within a month or so (!) and in America in early summer.

The letter which follows here is not the usual format. It was written to help raise the money needed to complete the Ananda movie, now called Cities of Light. To find out more about Cities of Light, google “Ananda movie” and you’ll find lots of information.

This is not a newsy letter so much as philosophical musings about what the movie means in terms of Ananda’s mission for Master. The movie could well be an important turning point in Ananda’s history and it is interesting to reflect on that.

The hope also is that some of you will be inspired to contribute financially so we can bring it to completion on schedule in the next few months.

Even though the book is finished, question and answer letters may not resume right away, because for the next two months I’ll be on a lecture tour in India. However, I intend to write about that adventure, so you will be hearing from me.


Dear Friends:

In the more than forty years since Ananda’s founding there have been many watershed moments that have expanded and directed our energy in new and often unexpected ways.

Each of these watershed moments has come about through some creative initiative launched by Swami Kriyananda. (The only exception might be the forest fire of 1976, which burned down much of the Ananda Village community.) The fire might, of course, be considered an act of God. Still, it was Swamiji’s response to the fire that redirected the energy of the community – when he immediately seized the initiative with an outburst of expansive energy, by taking Ananda “on the road” with speaking tours across America.

A few years ago, Swamiji felt inspired to take Master’s message to the world through the medium of movies. Although Master himself never made movies, he always related creatively to whatever medium was at hand. “If Wrigley can use advertising to sell chewing gum,” he famously said, “why can’t I use advertising to sell good ideas for people to chew on?” In India, it wasn’t considered “seemly” to advertise a spiritual work, in America, Master saw no reason not to use it. His teachings were ancient, but his methods were modern.

Swamiji has always followed the principle of not merely asking, “What did Master do?” but, “What would Master do?”

When Master went to India in 1935 he took with him an American automobile.  In Autobiography of a Yogi, he tells about driving that car into remote areas of India, on roads that were little more than ox-cart trails, to places where cars had never been.

When Swamiji went to India in 2003, he quickly understood that the way to reach the millions of people in that country was through television. Soon, Swamiji had a daily program that ran for several years. The national recognition that came through that show laid the foundation for much that has happened since.

Movies are an even more universal medium. The musical soundtrack, and the visual images are of equal, sometimes even greater importance than the words that are spoken. Subtitles can translate the words – and music and visual beauty need no translation. The channels for global distribution of movies are also well established, as is the market. Everywhere people go to the movies.

The movie about Ananda communities, with the working title Cities of Light, is the first, but by no means the last movie in this most recent creative initiative by Swamiji.

At the 25th Anniversary celebration of Ananda’s founding, back in 1993, Swamiji told us that the changes we had seen in Ananda’s first 25 years would pale in comparison to the changes that would manifest in the 25 years to come.

The Cities of Light crew prepare to film a scene with Juliette, played by lead actress Elisabeth Rohm. Movies can reach a much wider audience than books, and can convey a vibration through images and music.
At the time, sitting in the beautiful outdoor amphitheater by Lotus Lake, those of us who were old enough to remember thought about the early days at the Meditation Retreat. They were glorious days, but Ananda at the time was nothing but an isolated ashram, with a handful of people who lived mostly in trailers and tipis. The idea of a global movement – the idea even of electricity and indoor plumbing – what to speak of paved roads! – was very far from our thoughts.

By 1993, branch communities had been started, even in Europe, but we were in the throes of the lawsuit with Self-Realization Fellowship, and the future was far from certain. The idea of a work in India wasn’t even in our consciousness, nor were the many books Swamiji has written since that time. His writings are distributed now in more than 100 countries and have been translated into 33 languages.

Think about that. All around the world, in their own language, people can receive Master’s teachings on a wide variety of subjects. And, of course, there is the Internet and all that Ananda does through that medium. In 1993, we could never have imagined that such things would be possible. And the list goes on and on.

Still, there is one significant shift that Swamiji has often mentioned but that has not yet manifested. That is a shift in our entire concept of Ananda, from the idea of being a place, or even many places, into a global movement. We affirm that reality by describing ourselves that way, but the actual consciousness remains more astral than material.

This movie, Cities of Light, may well be the catalyzing force that launches Ananda as a movement. The purpose of art is to bring to a clear focus, states of consciousness. At this time, even we who are part of Ananda are a bit like fish swimming in water. We have a great deal, but we don’t know what we have.

To a large extent, as Swamiji puts it, Ananda is still one of the best-kept secrets on the planet. This movie may change not only the world’s concept of Ananda, but also our concept of our selves.

It’s no surprise that the inspiration to make this movie came to Swamiji at a time when forces are converging to create planetary receptivity, not only or even primarily to Ananda itself, but to the ideals that are being manifested through Ananda.

Some 40 years ago, a group of dynamic, mostly young people turned aside from conventional society, convinced that they could build a better alternative. Guided, of course, by the vision of Swamiji and the power of Master, we have worked together, drawing many brothers and sisters to make it happen. What was at first a mere hope has now proved to be a practical reality.

At the same time, the condition of society has deteriorated, and the concerns for our future have increased. Economic, social, ecological, and political systems are increasingly unstable. Crisis is looming.

Unstable conditions, plus the advent of advancing Dwapara Yuga, have opened many people to the principles upon which Ananda is based – yoga, meditation, community, cooperation – to name a few.

Crisis, awakening, and solution – the solution being the proven ideals of Ananda – are converging today to create an enormous, and deeply receptive global audience for Cities of Light.

Every creative initiative that Swamiji has launched has been done to further the overall mission of Master’s work, not merely by bringing new potentials into manifestation, but also by giving the ever-increasing number of devotees of this path opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way to that mission. Every project has its own “karmic group.”

Although we are united in our overall purpose, each one of us is, as Master put it, “dowered with individuality.” He was referring to each atom in creation, but the concept applies to each of us. Over the years, we find ourselves in the right place at the right time to make the contribution we were born to make. Whether that contribution takes the form of time, talent, prayers, enthusiasm, or money, each of us, inspired by God, gives what we feel called to give to Master’s mission.

The joy of Ananda, for which we must thank Swamiji every day, is the enormous variety of expression open to us. And this variety, as we move into the Ananda’s future as a global movement, will only increase.

For myself, from the moment I heard about this movie, I had a deep desire to participate. For a long time, however, the opportunity didn’t come. The movie was always being actively manifested in some other city, often on a continent far from where I live. It was not dharmic for me to abandon one set of responsibilities to embrace another merely because I wanted to. Still, the thought was always there for me.

Then, the movie literally came to me, in the person of Shivani – the individual most responsible, after Swamiji himself, for bringing Cities of Light from the ether onto the Earth.  She brought the script to my living room – the door opened, and from then on I have had the privilege of watching from a front-row seat as this project has unfolded.

Much more is needed, not only to finish the movie itself, but to distribute it, and to follow up in creative ways on the energy and interest that the movie will generate.

At the moment, what is needed is another $300,000 to complete the production and marketing budget of $1.2 million. This can be given in the form of investments as well as donations. If you feel you can help financially, or in any other way, contact Santoshi, at

Cities of Light is flying close to Earth now, but it hasn’t yet quite landed. If you feel that you are part of the karmic group responsible for this movie, now is the time to respond.

Nayaswami Asha

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