Ananda’s Colony in Europe

My wife Lahari and I have had the privilege of serving in many of the ashrams Ananda has established around the world.

Since our arrival in the 1980’s, we had 15 years at Ananda Village, 2 in Portland, 2 in Ananda Ashland, 3 in Palo Alto, 1 in Ananda Rhode Island, 2 in Sacramento, 5 in Gurgaon, 3 in Pune, 10 more back in Palo Alto, and most recently 1 in Mumbai. One might rightly say we have been some of Ananda’s wandering sadhus!

Each Ananda location has its own strengths, and inevitably, its own quirks. But all have encompassed the same underlying threads: Master, Swamiji, meditation, service. The readings are the same, the prayers are the same, the chants are the same, the kriyas are the same. The languages used may differ, but Ananda FEELS the same everywhere you go around the globe.

Previously, we had never spent longer than two weeks at a time in our sister ashram in Assisi, Italy.  But current circumstances have offered me and my wife the gift of spending three consecutive months there.

What are some of the things that make the ashram at Ananda Assisi so special? It has so many elements, too many to write about in one short article. How can you not mention lunches at the Terre di Luce farm, the boutique, the ashram program, the courses they teach, or the seva program? Each person’s perspective on Ananda is bound to be unique. Acknowledging that, I’m going to focus on only three aspects from the many that could be written about the ashram at Ananda Assisi.

The Choir

Ananda's Colony in EuropeThe first of my personal favorite aspects is the Ananda Assisi choir. Peter Treichler has been the director for the past decade, and the schedule he sets can be daunting. Just listen to the choirs’ schedule for this week just concluded. There was a 4-hour retreat for every singer on Tuesday, a 1 ½ hour rehearsal for the larger choir on Wednesday, a 2 ½ hour rehearsal for the smaller choir on Thursday, then a 45 minute concert for all the guests at the retreat that same night, a 15 minute sing during the Friday night introduction for new classes starting at the retreat, and a major 90 minute launch of their newly recorded album on Saturday evening. The choirs’ usual three songs for Sunday Service rounded off this stunning week of music.  Now, admittedly, this week had more choir events than some, but it suggests how central the choir’s work has become for the whole ashram. About 25 members of the Assisi ashram take part actively in this aspect of Ananda’s work, attuning more and more subtly to Swamiji through his music.

Coffee bars

Ananda's Colony in EuropeI realize that the second aspect of the Ananda Assisi ashram I want to highlight might sound a little irreverent. It is the chats that take place over espresso and cappuccino! Almost daily I have had deep conversations while sipping espresso drinks at one of the two “bars” that Ananda members frequent. One is directly across from the guest’s dining hall, where Rasamayi serves. The other is the bar in Morano, a mere 5 minutes down the road, where Simone and her family serve. For those unfamiliar with practices in Italy, “bars” here serve a tiny bit of liquor and a whole lot of espresso drinks!  In both places there is much warm banter going on. It has been amidst these joyful surroundings that my most meaningful spiritual conversations here in Italy have taken place.

Temple of Light (Tempio di Luce)

Ananda's Colony in EuropeAnd on a more serious note, the third of my most favorite aspects of life at the Ananda Assisi ashram is that Tempio di Luce! How does one describe the experience such a place gives us? It is still. It is quiet. It is sweet. It enfolds you. It is full of presence. It is dynamic. It is soaring. It draws you upward. The light comes in from all directions. The cupola seems to radiate light. Those beams coax us toward that source of Light above. It’s difficult NOT to meditate deeply in such surroundings. Everything in this temple is conducive to surrendering yourself easily into an upwardly altered state. To put it succinctly, the Tempio di Luce meditates FOR you…

Moksha Mandir

Moksha Kutir in Ananda AssisiAnd of course, what other Ananda center has the place where Swamiji took his last breath? The Moksha Mandir makes clear to me that everything that’s important about my life comes through Swamiji.  That every principle he taught I now take as my own. That my thoughts about how to be and how to think in the world come from him. In those surroundings I realize that the same tangible silence I feel in the Moksha Mandir is the same silence I feel at the shrines for the Catholic saints in Assisi—for Francis, and Clare, and Joseph of Cupertino. There is NO difference! Profound peace. Profound stillness. Emptiness that is completely full. Stillness that is pulsing with dynamism. It’s like my skin tingles without physical cause. That’s what the Moksha Mandir is for me.

So yes, all Ananda’s colonies are the same, in essence. But I can’t help having a special place in my heart for Ananda Assisi. You in Europe who live so close to such a holy spot are greatly blessed. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit often!

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  1. Thanks for sharing this beautiful experieces with others. It’s nice to have a point of view from other Ananda people. Thanks for your gorgeous energy and smile.

    1. Dear Suryani (of Assisi), It’s easy to share energy with a smile when so much radiant joy is being transmitted from so many residents of this magical spiritual colony. Singing with the Ananda Assisi choir all by itself allowed each one of us to channel the spirit of our Masters and of so many uplifted composers. It was hard not to beam with gratitude as each audience caught, and reflected back, the joy vibrations we came to share with them. Jai guru!

  2. Loved ready your reflections on Ananda Assisi. I’m so happy you and Lahari were blessed with this opportunity to send several months there. I do look forward to your return to Palo Alto in January.
    Blessings to you both.

    1. Dear friend, Assisi was a blessing, indeed. Pilgrimage is powerful, as you well know after just getting back from one yourself. And getting to extend a pilgrimage beyond mere days to months…the grace just kept descending into us over and over. But now that we are filled to the brim with the love of Assisi, we’re finally ready to BEGIN our volunteering with Narayani and Shurjo in Mumbai.???? We leave Italy for Mumbai on January 1, and turns out we don’t return to see you all at Ananda Palo Alto until the middle of April. ☹️

  3. Oh Biraj! This wasn’t the trip you planned, is it? But apparently it’s the trip that Divine Mother planned!
    Thank you for your reflections on the tangible Joy that many of us felt on our 2015 pilgrimage to Assisi.

    Aums ????

    1. No, my dear friend, this was NOT the trip we expected. But you know, to spend Christmas at Ananda Assisi has been on my “bucket list” for years. Seems like Divine Mother ignored my mind’s plans, and read my heart, instead!

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