1978: The Joy Tours

The Gandharvas sing in the Temple of Leaves at the Ananda Seclusion Retreat. L-R: Agni, Matri, Parvati, Arati, Sananda, Durga, Ram, Nalini, Vasudeva, Uma

The Joy Tour went from Los Angeles to New York City and back again—four months, fifty cities. Swamiji gave a seminar, The Practice of Joy. The Gandharvas sang. If there was a piano, Swamiji played the sonata. They showed slides of Ananda and answered questions about the community. I arranged the tour, but didn’t travel with the group.

Everyone but Swamiji would come to each rented hall hours before the program was scheduled to start. They had a beautiful painted backdrop of a mountain scene, suggestive of the Himalayas, that had been made for Jewel in the Lotus. They would hang the backdrop, arrange the chairs, and set up tables for books, recordings, and free literature. Sometimes set-up meant moving massive amounts of furniture, even cleaning the hall, to create the right ambience. Then the Gandharvas would rehearse, and everyone would change clothes in time to welcome the first guests.

Attendance varied from city to city—from more than a hundred, to a few dozen, to times when the Ananda crew outnumbered the locals. It didn’t matter; everyone gave their all. They were there to serve God, and to serve God in whomever He sent. In almost every city, at least one person came who later joined Ananda. Many became leaders. Swamiji had heard their souls calling, and arranged his tour accordingly.

“In the long run, the results will be very good,” Swamiji wrote at the end of February. “People will buy books, visit the Retreat, and join Ananda. In the short run—well, we are pretty tight on funds. If we hadn’t added that seminar in Reno at the last minute, we’d be out of money by now. We have $140 left in petty cash, with food and gas to buy, and some hall rentals still to pay.” Somehow, though, they eked it out.

The big group was “a graphic illustration of what otherwise would be just a theory.” They gave people a much fuller picture of Ananda than if Swamiji had come alone. Whenever there was enough interest, a meeting was held about The Circle of Joy, and starting an Ananda Outpost in that city.


Southern California was a hard start. SRF had escalated their campaign against Swamiji with a Publishers Note in their books and magazine: “There are now a number of other publishers, organizations, and individuals claiming to represent Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings. Some are borrowing the name of this beloved world teacher to further their own societies or interests, or to gain recognition for themselves.”

They wrote as if there were a plethora of others. In fact, SRF had a virtual monopoly on Master’s teachings. Swamiji was the only other voice. Everyone knew the Warning Against False Teachers was directed at him.

The professional we hired to help with publicity in Southern California told us that several people tried to dissuade her from working with Ananda because “Swami Kriyananda is evil.” Posters were taken down; many who did come said they were warned against us. “I could feel the tension in the audience,” Swamiji said.

During question and answer sessions, “I’m being forced to say more than I’d like—and sometimes, under pressure, more than I should—like the comparison between Master’s original Whispers from Eternity and the much-edited version issued by SRF after his passing.

“It’s something I have to confront as delicately as possible, but nonetheless openly. SRF keeps attacking, and if I remain silent, I end up looking shamefaced and guilty, rather than considerate, which is in fact the case.”

Many people, after meeting Swamiji and those traveling with him, said, not only were their doubts allayed, but they liked Ananda’s approach better than SRF’s. Two older women, obviously loyal SRF members, clearly disapproved of everything they saw before the lecture.

“I think they came to see how bad we were and then report back to their SRF friends,” Swamiji said. “But during the talk, they gradually warmed up, and in the end were quite receptive.”

“The one thing I can’t accept,” one of the women said to Swamiji afterward, “is you giving Kriya Initiation without Daya Mata’s approval.”

The rule in SRF now is that only the president is authorized to give Kriya. Others who initiate are not authorized as individuals, but act only as her stand-in.

“That was never the policy when Master was alive,” Swamiji said, “Nor for the ten years after. That rule was put in place after I was dismissed.” The women were astonished; they had been told it was Master’s own rule.

“Give Kriya to everyone you think is qualified,” Master told Peggy Deitz, a disciple who had lived for a time at Mount Washington, until Master sent her to live on her own. Peggy was surprised, and asked, “What will the organization say?”

Master’s stern reply was, “Are you following an organization or are you following me?” Even during Master’s lifetime, the office at Mount Washington had its own ideas.

“It will be difficult,” Swamiji said, “but I’d like to get a foothold in Southern California. Maybe start with a weekly radio program. It will heat up the SRF opposition, but in time that has to melt, and the sooner the better. Even when I went out on a limb in saying more than I intended, I did so with love and respect. We’ve made lots of friends here.”

At the end of the second month, Swamiji wrote from Texas. “I thought we’d be out of the SRF vibe by now, but almost everywhere we’ve had to face it. Come to think of it, I’ve had the same problem in Europe and India! I’ve looked at the Publisher’s Note and I’m thinking about making a formal statement in reply.”

Swamiji returned to Ananda just before his birthday in May. A month later, he’d written a small pamphlet, Ananda Cooperative Village & Self-Realization Fellowship. We published it in our magazine and put it out on the table with our free literature. It was the most public statement Swamiji had made since he was expelled sixteen years earlier.

“Both organizations recognize Paramhansa Yogananda as their Guru….Ananda is not a subsidiary of SRF, but autonomous in its government….We consider it important to balance institutional with spontaneous, individual activities in the name of God….Those ready for the path of inner enlightenment generally felt drawn to a more personal form of service.

“Humanity during Dwapara Yuga will seek more fluid definitions of its ideals. Religion used to be identified with church affiliation and formal statements of belief; now it is becoming identified with inner Self-realization.

“Spiritual truths are kept exact through the written word, intact through institutions, but alive through individuals. It is the disciples, each one reflecting the teachings in his own way as he has experienced them, who keep flowing the life blood of religion. People go where they find inspiration. As long as they find inspiration at Ananda they will continue to flock here.

“Perhaps someday Master will make it possible for Ananda and SRF to work together cooperatively. We hope so. It is in the fitness of things that there be teamwork among members of the same spiritual family.

“May peace and charity reign everywhere.”


In the summer, Swamiji gave classes and Sunday service almost every weekend. He bought high quality recording equipment and made a series of five-minute radio programs, Techniques for Joyful Living, that aired every Sunday morning on a Sacramento station. On tour, people kept asking for recordings of the music. Swamiji did a solo concert, including the sonata, and recorded it live—Music of Divine Joy.

His expansive efforts would put Ananda on a sound footing over the long-term. Immediately, though, the financial crisis created by the fire continued unabated. The master plan had finally been approved, but we were still struggling to get back to where we were when the fire hit. To earn money, people went out in teams and planted trees for the Forestry Service. Another group spent two months working in a processing plant for the rice harvest. Everyone was doing their part, but the lion’s share of responsibility still rested on Swamiji. At the end of August, he went to Hawaii—alone.

“I came to a crisis point,” he said later. “I had been supporting the community for eleven years. I felt so hemmed in by the pressure I wanted to run off to a cave! I have no grand illusions about the importance of what I’m doing. I could leave at any time. But when I meditated on leaving, I felt no inspiration to do so.

“Some people serve Master through their meditations. What I have to offer is my creativity. Master often praised me for the creative way I served him. Perhaps I will live long enough also to have a life of meditation. Perhaps I won’t. When I was living with Master, he asked me to use my evenings to write magazine articles. ‘That will interfere with my meditation time,’ I said. Master responded, ‘Living for God is martyrdom.’

“Many people think of martyrdom as some kind of suffering. It isn’t. Master said the saints who were martyred didn’t even feel pain. All they felt was the joy of giving everything to God. Thinking of it this way, I felt deep inspiration, and it was not difficult to come back.”

Swamiji called a community meeting to address the financial crisis. He suggested we adopt a five-year plan to bring our net income to one million dollars. We could stop building for a while and put whatever we earned into money-making enterprises, to really get them off the ground.

“Let’s expand our thinking to include the whole county,” he said. “Businesses that don’t have a chance out here could do well in town. We could start an ashram there where the employees could live. Maybe even get a church.

“We may have several businesses, so better not to call them Ananda. We don’t want it to seem like we’re taking over the town.”

Shraddha von Tobel took on the project of starting a health food store. She poured her heart into it, and a few months later opened Earth Song Health Food Store and Cafe. Some people complained about Shraddha’s “caustic ways.” She was delicately built, but feisty; Swamiji called her his bantam rooster. They praised the store, but criticized Shraddha.

“Every enterprise is the reflection of the leader,” Swamiji said to those who complained. “When you praise Earth Song, you are praising Shraddha. Without her, there would be no Earth Song.”

Looking for projects that could be launched without much capital, Swamiji suggested a music school. Several talented musicians were already giving lessons. Rather than teaching on their own, it would be more magnetic to bring all the students to one location.

Perhaps our singers could give concerts. “Nevada City attracts a lot of tourists who need something to do in the evenings,” Swamiji said. “We could rent a set location, and rotate two or three shows on different nights of the week. Most tourists stay only a few days, so you would always have a new audience. Hotels could sell tickets in exchange for a percentage. I’ve taken hundreds of slides in some of the most beautiful places in the world. You could show some of them while you sing.”

The music school ran for a few years; This Holy Earth, an illustrated concert, only lasted a few performances. But we were learning: the secret of prosperity is creativity.


The second Joy Tour started at the end of September, returning to the cities where they got the best response, plus adding a few new ones in Canada. Even in Southern California, Swamiji faced almost no challenges from SRF—“I think because I faced it so boldly last time.” He was dismayed to hear that SRF had summarily dismissed a number of renunciates, some after years of service, without explanation or recourse; just what happened to him.

“It makes me rethink the whole question of whether I should tell the story of my dismissal,” Swamiji said, “so they will stop treating people that way.” He said he would meditate on what to do.

In his pamphlet, Swamiji said “In SRF, only a few people, relative to the large number of members, are in a position to serve actively. Yet divine service is important for the spiritual development of every devotee. Ananda is a place where disciples of Master can serve him individually, with freedom and spontaneity.”

In Southern California, a man who used to live at Ananda, but left — at his wife’s insistence — to be part of SRF, came to see Swamiji. “He is much less magnetic now,” Swamiji said sadly. “At Ananda, he was a man, with real responsibility for the work. At SRF, he is just a boy, having religion spoon fed to him on Sunday. Master’s work needs Ananda.”

Swamiji had the inspiration to make a slideshow of Autobiography of a Yogi. From his time in India, he had photographs of many of the places mentioned in the book, including Master’s home and some of his relatives. What was missing were pictures of the SRF sites. All these years he had complied with Tara Mata’s edict, forbidding him to set foot on SRF property. Whatever personal desire he may have had to return to the places where he had lived with Master, he willingly sacrificed for the possibility of reconciliation. The slide show, however, was not personal; it was a way to serve his Guru.

Very early one morning, so no one else would be around, the whole tour group went to Master’s desert retreat at Twentynine Palms. Swamiji took photographs, then they parked the motorhome with the house visible out the window, meditated together, and had breakfast.

“Master’s presence is so strong,” Swamiji said. “He is right here. I expect him to step out the door and speak to me. It makes me so homesick.

In Encinitas, when the group went to the SRF temple for Sunday service, Swamiji walked alone on the retreat grounds. He was recognized, but no one interfered with his visit. He walked the grounds also at the San Diego Church and Lake Shrine. When they got to Mount Washington, though, the others went through the gate, but Swamiji said, “I couldn’t, not after what they have done to Master’s work.” Standing on a nearby hill he used a telephoto lens to get the pictures he needed for the slideshow.

In December, when Swamiji returned to Ananda after the second Joy Tour, he had traveled a total of twenty-five thousand miles in the motorhome, spoken to almost ten thousand people in eighty cities, and given more than two hundred lectures on the same subject, The Practice of Joy.

Maitri Jones went on both tours. “When it was time for Swamiji to speak, I always picked up a pen and opened my notebook to write down any ideas I’d never heard before. Every lecture, I would have several pages of notes. Even when he was explaining something I’d heard before, he always had an interesting new way of saying it.”

Swamiji said, “I never say to myself after a lecture, ‘That part went well, I’ll use it again.’ Instead, I mentally wipe the slate clean, so I can approach the next talk as if I’ve never spoken on the subject before. And I haven’t—because I’ve never talked in that moment to those people. Before every lecture I pray to Master, ‘Use me as your instrument to share what you want this audience to hear.’”

The more he talked on the subject of joy, the more convinced Swamiji became of its central importance. “But it doesn’t attract people, because they don’t understand what it means. They think of joy in a worldly way. First we have to get them meditating; then they’ll have some inkling of what we are talking about.”

Swamiji had tried to build the tour around Ananda as a whole. With the Gandharvas and the slideshow of the community, sometimes he didn’t even speak until after the intermission. “People didn’t like that,” Swamiji said. “They enjoyed meeting the others, but they came to see me. I find it repugnant to focus a tour around my name. But I have to accept that Kriyananda is the draw. Even if we do go in that direction, though, it won’t become a personality cult. People may come for the teacher, but they will also get a teaching.

When he got home, Swamiji said wryly, “I’m tired, but most of all I’m tired of….” Meaning so much outward energy, so many responsibilities. His heart was skipping beats, which fortunately was corrected with potassium supplements.

Soon after Ananda started, Swamiji began to develop arthritis in both hips, which had now progressed to the point where it affected his gait. He didn’t like to take anything that dulled his awareness, so never considered pain medication. But if someone was skilled in massage, he accepted that as a treatment, especially at the end of a long day. It relieved some of the pain and made it easier to meditate and sleep.

Tapasya means austerity. From the outside, it can look like suffering, but a better understanding is “disciplined self-offering for the sake of a higher goal.” Tapasya builds inner strength. Swamiji defines it as “patient, steadfast refusal to alter one’s course in the face of a challenge,” whatever form that challenge takes—physical pain, financial stress, natural disaster, persecution, betrayal. Nothing great in this world is ever accomplished without tapasya.

A well-known teacher from India came to visit Ananda. After touring the community he said to Swamiji, “Someone did a great deal of tapasya to make this community happen.”

“Yes,” Swamiji said, “me.”


Swamiji stayed in seclusion until December 23, when he led the all-day meditation. Over two hundred people crowded into the Retreat temple. It was so still and deep, we didn’t even take a break until late in the afternoon.

The leader of the  rock and roll band, who had bought Swamiji the motorhome, came with some of his band members to spend Christmas at Ananda. Their album was number one in the world; they regularly performed before thousands of fans. It was touching to see them in our Common Dome on Christmas Eve, humbly gathered around Swamiji singing Christmas carols. “Suffer little children to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of God.”

After the party, we all went to the Farm where a live creche, complete with animals, had been set up in the barn. Earlier in December, we sent to our mailing list the community family photo with a message from Swamiji. Standing next to him, silently gazing at Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus, I remembered his words.

“Let your prayer be, ‘How can I give myself to You more completely? I don’t want anything but the blessing of loving You.’ Think not of what you may get, but only of the great privilege of giving to God. Surrender yourself to God. That is the path true joy.”

A few hours later, on Christmas morning, the monks and nuns went early to Swamiji’s house for breakfast. He had put his mind again to Meaning in the Arts, publishing a revised version as a small book. To each of us he gave a personally inscribed copy.

Then it was back to the Retreat temple to listen to a recording of The Messiah. Seeing Swamiji, eyes closed, blissfully absorbed in the music, surrounded by so many angelic faces, I was moved to tears.

After the banquet, Swamiji talked, as he did every year, about the State of the Union (with God). “If being part of Ananda cuts us off from the world, what good is it doing? It becomes an obstacle instead of a blessing. The family we have here are like windows through which we look at the whole world, and recognize all of humanity as our own.

“What joy it is for me to see a community of people who feel that God is loving God, God is giving to God, God is receiving from God. This is the true spirit of Christmas that Master brought to the world.” He paused, too moved to speak. Finally, in a whisper he said, “Thank you all for your love and your friendship. You know you have mine.”