Monday, September 29, 2014

Hamilton, New Zealand

Dear Everyone:

We arrived on Wednesday, September 24. Traveling from the USA September 23 vaporized, but we will get back its equivalent with double-length November 4 when we return.

On Wednesday and Thursday we had informal gatherings and met a handful of core people.

Kavita, our host in Hamilton, has been teaching yoga, meditation, and related spiritual subjects for a few years, so we are coming into an established community of seekers.

On Friday, our formal program began -- six sessions from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon.

First were subject classes: super-consciousness, intuition, karma and reincarnation. Then we showed the movie, Finding Happiness, had a Sunday service, which included initiating three new disciples into this path, and then in the afternoon a beginning meditation, first steps to Kriya class. Some had already learned from Kavita the first techniques, but it was also a chance to explain the essence of this path.

For the subject classes, we had pictures of Master and Swamiji, so people would know we represent a lineage, offering more than just our own ideas.

For Sunday -- service and intro to Kriya -- we had the full altar in place.

Attendance varied from 25-40 people for each program -- wonderful people. Serious truthseekers, open-minded, and open-hearted. They listened thoughtfully and laughed easily. All were fully and appreciatively engaged.

They loved Finding Happiness. No matter how much we try to explain Ananda, words are inadequate. And the movie has Swamiji. After the movie, all that we say makes more sense.

Very promising start for Ananda New Zealand.

That’s the summary. Now the travelogue.

It is a nonstop, 12-hour overnight flight from San Francisco to Auckland. You lose a day, and change hemispheres, but New Zealand is directly south of Hawaii, so the time difference is only a few hours.

The easy flight, plus excellent homeopathic remedy (Jet Lag Relief, from Homeostasis Labs -- accept no substitutes) meant no jet lag. Fabulous.

It was rainy and cold in the days before we arrived -- spring here is unpredictable. Sunshine arrived with us and has kept us company ever since. Breezy, a little cool, but perfect.

Kavita, her husband Aroon, and two teenage daughters, Veda and Devya, live in a marvelous old house right on the Waikato River. At one time the house was the post office for a nearby community. Later it was cut in half, moved, then reassembled in this location.

Aroon is developing lovely orchards and gardens on the open acres around the house. By generously rearranging their own living quarters, they accommodated all of us under one roof. From most of the bedrooms, and two of the showers, we have a view of the river.

Hamilton is in the middle of the north island. We are traveling from end to end, but will come and go from here.

On Wednesday we go North Palmerston, where we will have a Kriya Initiation (for one person), and meet a long-time devotee friend of Kavita’s.

Then on to the Wellington/Hutt Valley area for 10 days -- two big weekends and a smattering of classes and a little sightseeing in between.

Long time devotee friends -- Bryan and Linda Rose -- are hosting us, organizing the events, and spreading the news of our coming. We’ll see what Master has in store.

The traveling group is perfect. I have the laboring oar where the classes are concerned, but we are equal in carrying Master’s ray. Each is eloquent and enthusiastic in his or her unique way.

Dambara is presenting Swamiji’s music. Bryan McSweeney filming the classes with help from Rachel Ebgi who is also taking informal footage for an eventual video about spreading Master around the world.

The second day we were here, we were having an organizational meeting around the breakfast table. I had to announce that Jill (Barker) would not be continuing with us on this journey.

It was touching to see the consternation of the others at this announcement. We bonded deeply very fast.

Their dismay was so great, I was naughty and let the moment go longer than necessary.

Jill won’t be with us anymore,” I said finally, “but Atmajyoti will be.”

The evening before, the subject of a spiritual name for Jill had come up over the dinner table. I’m not entirely comfortable suggesting names for people but the essence of her name came in a flash of intuition, and it seemed right.

So, no more Jill -- Atmajyoti has taken her place.

The atman is the divine Self within. Jyoti is light, so Atmajyoti is the light of the divine Self.

Atmajyoti has taken on the book sales, the registration, keeping track of the money and making everything beautiful.

From Ananda Publications in India we got a large selection of books, which are all selling well, another indication of the serious interest here.

Dambara arrived a few days early, and met musician friends of Kavita who arranged an “insta-choir” with four excellent singers who learned and performed some of Swamiji’s songs throughout the weekend.

On Friday evening, the official launch of Ananda New Zealand, this local quartet came in singing a Maori song of welcome and blessing.

I’d never heard the melody or the vowel-filled language before, but it was deeply familiar and profoundly moving. With beautiful, heartfelt words, one of the singers then welcomed Master’s teachings and us as his representatives to the country of New Zealand.

A most auspicious beginning.

Much love from all here.


Friday, September 12, 2014

New Zealand-Bound

Dear Friends:

Today is September 12th: Swamiji's discipleship anniversary and an auspicious day to share our latest adventure with Master. In ten days, September 22, I leave for New Zealand.

When Swamiji was with Self-Realization Fellowship, he may have visited New Zealand, but not after. He went to Australia a few times when Ananda tried to start a community there, but that community never took hold. “It isn’t time yet,” Swamiji concluded.

Now, 15 years later, we are again going to the Southern Hemisphere to see what Master has in mind.

The traveling party is five.

From Ananda Village, Bryan McSweeney and Rachel Ebgi. They’ll run the video equipment, Bryan can share about the schools, Rachel teaches yoga, and they plan to create a video log of the journey.

Dambara is coming from Portland to chant and sing Swamiji’s music, be a Lightbearer, and help teach various levels of meditation.

From Palo Alto, in addition to me, there is Jill Barker, to share her love for God, her deep understanding of the teachings, and her gift of creating beauty everywhere.

We are a nicely varied group, with a 45-year age span. Everyone will do a lot of everything, showing the many facets of Ananda.

Some of you have asked, “Why New Zealand?” Here is as much as I know.

In June 2012, Swamiji asked me to become “Ananda’s global ambassador.” My address would remain Palo Alto, but my duties and attitude would shift from local to global.

In the two years since, I’ve traveled some in the U.S, but mostly in India.

I love India, and seeing the open-ended potential there, I asked Swamiji if, when he said world, he actually meant India.

“No,” he said, “I meant world.”

I then asked, “By world did you mean America?”

“I’m of two minds about America,” he said.

I understood perfectly. With its spirit of equality, freedom, and “We can do it!” America is ideally suited for Self-realization. This movement couldn’t have started anywhere else.

On the other hand, after you experience the devotion of India, and the heart-centered spirit of Italy, America can feel a little dry.

But devotees are the same everywhere no matter what passports we carry. The truth-seekers motto is “One Nation of Self-Realization.”

When Master left India for America in 1920, Sri Yukteswar said, “Forget you were born a Hindu, and don’t be an American. Take the best of them both. Be your true self, a child of God. Seek and incorporate into your being the best qualities of all your brothers, scattered over the earth in various races.”

“Go where there is energy,” Swamiji told me, meaning where there are truth-seekers receptive to Master’s ray.

A further consideration is to continue in the directions Swamiji set, for Ananda and for me personally.

In 1971, Swamiji described Ananda’s future as “First we’ll build communities on the West Coast of America, then the East Coast, then on to Europe, from there to Australia, and from Australia to India. India will be more receptive if we bring an international work, not merely an American one.”

Much of what he envisioned has manifested. Ananda flourishes in India and Europe. “The work in America is going beautifully,” Swamiji often said. There are many devotees on the East Coast, although no communities -- yet. Australia is still waiting for the right time.

Twice Swamiji thought to send David and me to the East Coast. He tried also to involve me in Ananda Los Angeles, but the needs of Palo Alto took precedence. This gives me some direction for my future in America.

When I was in India last winter, I began to ask, “Where next?” Australia seemed an obvious choice. They speak English (my only language) and it was part of Swamiji’s vision.

“Should Ananda come to Australia and New Zealand?” was the subject line for an e-mail I sent to some 400 people on our list living in those countries.

Seconds after it was sent, I got a response. “Yes!” coupled with an offer to arrange the tour -- in New Zealand.

Several dozen devotees, from both countries, expressed enthusiasm, but no one in Australia could take charge. I had thought to do it myself -- I’ve organized many tours -- but those days are past. Without the right person in Australia, it was impossible.

“Go where there is energy,” which turns out to be New Zealand.

After the tour was set -- September 24-November 4, six cities on the North Island, no junket to Australia -- Kavita Parshotam, my New Zealand friend, told me “the rest of the story.”

Kavita has been a disciple of Master for more than 20 years. She found her Guru through Self-Realization Fellowship, was part of a small SRF group, and attended several Convocations in Los Angeles.

Kavita loves Master’s teachings. It is the nature of joy to want to share itself. She began to teach yoga, meditation, the Bhagavad-Gita, and other spiritual subjects.

In SRF only monastics are allowed to teach and Kavita has a family. She did her best to work within their guidelines.

She knew Master had a commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, but it has never been published. She googled Yogananda + Patanjali. In a matter of minutes, she ran through several videos on the subject; none held her attention. Then my face appeared.

I have been giving classes on Demystifying Patanjali for over a year. Poised to move on after the usual minute, instead Kavita watched the whole class and several more.

This opened the door to Ananda. She drank deeply from the online resources, and made plans to come to California in June for Meditation Teacher Training. Ananda provides many opportunities to serve. It is the nature of joy (Ananda) to share itself.

In January -- when I was in India asking, “Where should I go next?” -- Kavita grew impatient, waiting for June to come.

She gave Master a prayer-demand: “Bring Ananda to New Zealand.” Then, more specifically, “Bring Asha to New Zealand.”

When the pop-up window on her computer said, “Message from Asha: Should Ananda Come to Australia and New Zealand?” Kavita didn’t even read the e-mail. “Yes!” she typed, and hit send.

That we will have a delightful adventure is guaranteed. Traveling with devotees in a gorgeous country -- what is there not to love?

Will this be the beginning of Ananda New Zealand, leading perhaps to Ananda Australia as Swamiji envisioned decades ago? That is in the hands of God and Gurus.

But perhaps we can influence the decision.

Please pray for the success of our journey, that we may “Awaken Thy Love in all hearts.”

The itinerary is posted at

Wherever we are in the world, we are one in Master’s spirit. Joy. Joy. Joy.

In divine friendship,
Nayaswami Asha

P.S. We’ll keep you informed as the trip unfolds.