Meet the congregation
Ananda in Palo Alto is a friendly-sized church — big enough to be dynamic and lively on Sundays, and small enough to easily meet people. Some 300 people are part of the congregation here in the Bay Area. More are part of the extended family of friends from around the world who listen to our sermons online.
Meet a few congregation members below, who share what they have found at Ananda:
“I started out with the meditation classes, which slowly but surely improved my daily life in practical ways. I became calmer, dealt with stress better, and developed better perspective on day to day issues.
But the idea of becoming involved with a religion or exploring spirituality was foreign to me, always seeming vague and not too attractive. Looking back, I can see I was always in search of greater meaning, which I can now affirm as the search for God. It took me a while to start attending Sunday service, but once I did it grabbed me — the ministers are compassionate, gifted speakers and the music especially is heartfelt.
Ananda is relatively young, but gives modern expression to timeless truths. The answers I’ve found are comprehensive — addressing from the universal ‘big questions’, to how to live better in the day-to-day, to the development of a deep inner life, especially through meditation.
The people at Ananda are wonderful. I have never encountered such sincere and deeply felt joy. Several folks are happy to share their wisdom and experience born from lifelong meditation practice and spiritual living. The leadership here are humble and serviceful, and in that way, do much to inspire. Ananda is a beautiful, uplifting place. Being part of it has been a life-changing experience.”
“I have been a seeker since a very young age and when I read the Autobiography of a Yogi. I felt a deep conviction to follow the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and to lead a life of a disciple. Education and work took me places and it became increasingly difficult to bring together life’s mundane grind and the high ideals of self-realization. What I found at Ananda was not just the company of kindred spirits, but a practical way to take spirituality outside the temple walls and align all aspects of daily life with the highest goal of god realization. The company and guidance of experienced spiritual teachers and longtime meditators served to inspire and illustrate a life of ‘simple living and high thinking’.
Being relatively new in a foreign culture I was surprised to find myself completely at home at Ananda, for the religion I saw here was not a cultural artifact but a truthful expression of the heart’s love and yearning for God. Indeed Yogananda’s teachings are a universal expression of timeless truths and Ananda serves his mission of bringing it to truth seeking souls everywhere”
“I grew up in a family of meditators and yoga practitioners; and I attended Living Wisdom School as a child. Needless to say, I was surrounded by the example of people living the teachings of yoga and Self-Realization.
As I moved into my teenage and young adult life however, it became increasingly important to me to find out what kind of happiness could be found through other experiences. I thrived in college, meeting many interesting people, studying fascinating subjects, and visiting places around the world. Following graduation, I settled into a lucrative career, and spent my free time enjoying the excesses that were available to me.
Over time, I became aware of a growing unsettledness within myself. This emptiness filtered into more and more aspects of my life, until I finally acknowledged that something important was missing. I began getting back into yoga and started visiting an Ananda center for weekly kirtans and Sunday services. The more I went, the more time I wanted to spend in this environment. The emptiness began to recede, replaced by clarity of purpose and fulfillment. I now teach in the Living Wisdom School in Palo Alto. Living and serving with like-minded souls strengthens and enriches my own spiritual practice and the quality of my life.”
“I was always a seeker. I felt God in my life, but sometimes had doubts and questions. I tried hard to find answers from outside sources. But at Ananda, I discovered more and more how to find them inside, from my true self.
Yogananda writes, ‘environment is stronger than will power.’ The life that I had before Ananda gave me that lesson. I had found myself in a place that I thought I could handle, and it turned out that it handled me. When I heard Yogananda’s words, I knew that I needed to be here. Finding a spiritual family to grow alongside with is the most profound experience for me. When I realized who I was interacting with, on a daily basis, I was in awe. I still am, really! The greatest gift I have found at Ananda are the beautiful souls who surround me.”
Ananda Yoga teacher
“I'd had successful careers all my life, but I found myself getting more and more involved with alcohol. About 5 years ago, I was caught by the police with my 3rd DUI. That night, I had a powerful experience of God coming to me, and telling me I needed to change my life. A few days later, I saw Wayne Dyer on TV and was inspired by what he had to say. I bought one of his books, which recommends meditation, and then tried a CD. But soon, I realized I needed a real class. Soon, I discovered an Ananda meditation class and started to meditate for 10-15 minutes in the morning, and the same at night.
After 4 months, I started to see big changes in my life. I was drinking less. I was more calm. I reacted less to situations, and started to get faster solutions to my problems. I thought if meditating such a short time could produce such results, I wanted to know what would happen if I meditated more. So I did. Within 6 months, I stopped drinking completely, and have been free of alcohol for 3 years now, thanks to God and meditation. I have become calmer, less stressed, and much happier. I teach meditation now, and am grateful to share what I've experienced with others.”
Hotel and hospitality professional
“My original intent was to take meditation classes at Ananda in hopes of dealing with stressors in a more relaxed way.
What I found was so much more. I found my spiritual family. It has now been more than three years that I have participated in classes, events, volunteering and going to Sunday Service.
The people I have met at Ananda are warm, kind, gracious and very smart. There is no way to adequately say how much Ananda has contributed to my life. All areas of my life have improved — and yes, meditation has helped me deal with those life stressors.”
Retired marriage and family therapist
“I’ve lived in the Ananda communities for nearly half my 66 years. From my very first day, Ananda has always touched me inside, where I truly live.
When I find my life wandering off into side tracks of too much busy-ness and distractions, I know that I can attend a talk by Asha Praver and sit quietly meditating while I listen, or go for a long drive and sing the chants of Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda, or meditate with my girlfriend — and I will be able to come back to the inner core where I feel my connection with God’s joy — His love, His compassionate inner guidance.
After, altogether, 40 years on this path, I simply don’t know how people can live without God. My gratitude to Swami Kriyananda and my fellow devotees of Ananda is unbounded.”
—Rambhakta B., Mountain View
Writer and editor in Silicon Valley
Author of Fitness Intuition: The Wisdom of the Heart in Exercise and Sports Training
“My experience with Ananda started more than 25 years ago with a simple meditation class. I learned for the first time what “spirituality” meant, and experienced it without the conflicts organized religions had always presented. Within a few months, my life changed forever.
It is impossible to say what Ananda has meant to me over the years. Since the beginning, it has been sadhana, or practices, which instill a measure of discipline and stillness into my life. At other times, it was spiritual lessons, sometimes very hard won. Always, it has meant understanding life, people, ‘God,’ my Self, in a very different way, all of which give proper perspective to life experience. And always, it puts into sharp focus the lessons I struggle with, with clear sites on ‘the goal.’
In times of deep joy or earthly sadness, Ananda’s music has filled me and comforted me. And throughout the years, satsanga (fellowship) has been constant and reliable. I have models, teachers, and friends along the path. As I have grown, Ananda has been there to support my growth towards ultimate Reality. Ananda is a ‘coming home’ to who I really am.”
— Rani F., Cupertino
retired Global Sales Compensation Manager
“At Ananda I have found a place that has given me the answers to the questions we all have about life. What is meaningful, what is truth, what is the future of human destiny, what is my purpose? How can I be content with my life and be at peace with those around me? Is self-mastery possible? Inspired by Yogananda, these gentle teachings are taught with kindness and deep insight. Once we realize that the acceptance and love we are all seeking is already within us, we find life's true purpose.”
—Jay P., San Jose
Technology Project Manager
“Since I first encountered Ananda 15 years ago, my life has not only changed for the good, but my perspective and spiritual outlook has continued to progress positively and very beneficially. I love my daily meditation practice. I feel such joy and bliss with each day. But most importunately, the Ananda experience is the people. The people I have met through Ananda come from heart.”
—Gail La Mar
Ananda Yoga teacher