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 www.anandanewzealand.org.
Wherever we are in the world, we are one in Master’s spirit. Joy. Joy. Joy.
In divine friendship,
P.S. We’ll keep you informed as the trip unfolds.