1979: Outreach & Instruction

Top row L-R: Devi, Prem (Kalyani’s son), Keshava, Asha. Seated L-R: Jyotish, Swamiji, Seva

When he returned from the second Joy Tour, Swamiji intended to start a third as soon as it could be arranged. In seclusion, though, he felt a different inspiration. Many seeds had been sown, but scattered across the country it was hard to follow-up on what we had started. Much better, he decided, to build strongly first in one area. He would still tour, but not as much, and with a smaller entourage. If we concentrated on California and the West Coast, more people could be involved, going out occasionally, rather than being away from home for weeks at a time.

To begin, he suggested we celebrate Master’s birthday in San Francisco with a weekend of events. Friday night, he and the Gandharvas would sing, he would tell stories of Master, then show the Autobiography of a Yogi slideshow. Swamiji had written a poetic script, including many passages from the book, and composed music for the soundtrack. Saturday would be an all-day seminar, The Art of Discipleship, and in the evening, a performance of Jewel in the Lotus, with Swamiji in the lead. On Sunday, he would give a service, followed by an Indian banquet, then an afternoon class on Master’s interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita.

We weren’t able to rent one facility for the whole weekend; each day was a different venue. Setting up and taking down three times, plus everything else—including lunch and dinner for our guests on Saturday, and a banquet on Sunday—meant dozens of helping hands were needed. San Francisco was close to Ananda, and we had lots of friends who would take us in. Everyone who wanted to could be “an ambassador for this way of life.”

“I’m a homebody,” one woman wrote to Swamiji. “Ashram life suits me perfectly. Meditating, taking care of my family, helping the community in every way I can. I’m all for what you are doing, but I don’t want to do it myself! Do I have to?”

Swamiji laughed and replied, “Thank God for people like you! I’ll go out and tell the world about the community, but someone has to stay here and make it happen.”

We had a meditation group in both Sacramento and San Francisco. A few months earlier, Swamiji had asked Vijay and Haridas to move to Sacramento. As full-time, resident teachers, perhaps they could build the meditation group into an Ananda center. Now he asked Suresh and Prahlad to move to San Francisco to see what we could develop there.

The Joy Tour had made Swamiji aware of a gap in our presentation of Master’s teachings. “We speak of the importance of inner communion with God, then teach them how to have that experience through meditation and Kriya. What we don’t teach is how to carry that experience into everyday life.”

Always in the back of his mind were Master’s predictions about coming hard times. The focus of his next tour, he felt, should be Building Spiritual Power Against Troubled Times. “But what good would it do to alert people, if we don’t also give them a way to prepare, especially spiritually?” To fill both needs, Swamiji began to work on a course he called, Superconscious Living: A New Way of Life. “Usually I speak extemporaneously,” he said, “but this will be entirely different. This is a system, and I want people to understand it that way. Once the system is learned, many others can teach it.”

Swamiji spent most of February in seclusion, working on the Superconscious Living course. It would be launched the first weekend in May, at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco, with seating for 1003.

In March, he went on a short tour of Southern California, giving lectures on Building Spiritual Power Against Troubled Times and classes in How to Meditate. A large group drove down from Ananda to help. In ten days, he spoke to fifteen hundred people. He returned home just long enough to record, with the Gandharvas, Music from Ananda, a sampler tape with chants and songs in many different moods. Then, accompanied by Jyotish, he gave programs in Arizona and New York City.

Six weeks before the launch of Superconscious Living in May, we started what we called the blitz tours. Six teams traveled to nine cities in the Bay Area, each presenting a seminar on a different topic: communities, relationships, organic gardening, education for children, spiritual healing, and building spiritual power against troubled times. In each city, we used the same venue on the same night of the week, in effect offering a six-week series of classes. Counting all the support staff, more than fifty people went on tour.

Each teacher specialized in one area, which meant giving nine talks on the same subject. For most of them, it would be their first teaching experience outside of the Retreat.

“How can I give the same talk every night,” one of the teachers asked Swamiji, “without becoming boring or being bored myself?”

“Whenever I speak,” Swamiji said, “I always act as if it were the first time I have ever spoken on the subject. I try to blank my mind of anything I have said before, so I can be creative in the moment. I meditate before the lecture, if possible in a private room in the hall where the program is happening. Then, as the people come in, I pray, ‘What do these people need to hear? What do You want to tell them?’ Instead of thinking about what I have to say, I ask God to tell me what they need to hear.

“At the end of the talk, I forget what I said, in order not to become fixed in that way of expressing it. That’s why, when people say afterward, ‘That was a good talk,’ I have to ask them what I said. I really don’t remember. So when I have to speak again on the same subject, I approach it fresh.

“Talk to those who are receptive. If someone is really listening, talk to that one person. Don’t try to talk to those who are resisting your point of view; work with those who are open.

“The best preparation is to mediate before your lecture, and pray to be an instrument for the Divine. But it is also very helpful to research and study your subject! I don’t prepare for my classes, and some people think that is the way to do it. But I have been lecturing for thirty years, and it took me a long time to get to this point. Dale Carnegie, in his course on public speaking, says you need an hour of material for a five minute talk. Even if you don’t use all that material, having so much that you could say gives authority to what you do say.

“If you use notes, still approach each class as if it were the first time you are giving the talk. Great actors say that their final performance, even of a long run, can often be their best, because they still find ways to improve on what they did before.

“Don’t concentrate on what you don’t know; think about what you do know. Just by virtue of the fact that you are living at Ananda, you have something you can offer.

“Don’t talk down to your audience. There are many very intelligent, sensitive people in the world who have thought deeply about many things. They may be less knowledgeable than you in some areas, because of your life at Ananda, but you still have to respect them for what they do know and what they have accomplished. Never act as if you are superior to them.

“Some people think that just because they are from Ananda they can get away with a slipshod performance, that their sweet vibration will carry them through. That is not true. You have to give yourself wholeheartedly. I give people a great deal when I teach—far more than they can absorb. Most people get about ten percent of what I say, but different people get different ten-percent portions. I have to give a lot so that everyone will get something.

“The sound of your voice is very important. Try to make your voice sweet and magnetic. If you hear it going away from that vibration, try to bring it back. Controlling and directing your voice will also center your consciousness.

“Fill the room with your vibrations. Send your energy into the farthest corners, all the way to the back wall.”

After the blitz tour was done, Swamiji himself gave a last round of classes in each of the nine cities. Before leaving for that tour, he called a community meeting. “Of the past twenty-nine months, I have spent only four of them here,” he said. “We’ve been changing the whole direction of the community, and it has taken a lot of energy from all of us. We are still going uphill in a low gear, but soon we’ll reach the crest. After that, it won’t be so difficult.

“I’m thinking of going to live for awhile in San Francisco, taking Jyotish, Devi, and a few others with me. That way we can make a big thing happen there. Those of you who want to can help there; others can hold down the fort here.”

For the launch of Superconscious Living in May, eight hundred people came to the free lecture on Friday, and more than half signed up for the two-day seminar that followed. The event ended with a blessing from Swamiji, and The Vow of Superconscious Living:

I vow from this day forth

To be true to my higher,

Superconscious Self;

To be a channel of light,

Of blessing and love to all;

To live in joy, not sorrow;

In truth, not error;

In victory, not failure;

And in times of adversity,

To blame no one but myself;

And then instead of blame,

To accept responsibility,

With God’s help,

For changing myself.

Swamiji stayed in San Francisco for most of the summer, giving weekly satsangs, classes, and seminars on Superconscious Living. He recorded a fifteen minute radio show, Pathways to Superconsciousness, which aired weekdays just before noon. He was still committed two weekends a month at the Retreat, so he commuted in the motorhome.

About a dozen people lived full-time in a three-bedroom house in the Sunset District of the city. At first, Swamiji stayed in the motorhome parked out front; then he rented an apartment near the ocean. “We are launching a whole new direction for Ananda,” Swamiji said. “It wouldn’t be wise just to replicate what we do in the community. Much is not germane to this setting. We have to develop a ministry appropriate for people here.

“I’d like to get everyone involved, to create a feeling of family. It isn’t wholesome if ‘we’ do it for ‘them.’ They need to feel it is their center, that we are doing it together. But it is too soon to let them define it. This is a prototype; we have to set the right policy. I need to be here to do that.”

He had always lectured in his orange robes; now he wore a jacket and a tie. For the last twenty years, he had worn his hair long; now he got a conventional haircut. For a time, we even stopped using our Sanskrit names, but that didn’t last.

“Don’t ask people to take off their shoes in the temple,” he said. “It is the custom in India, but not in the United States. It will limit those who will come. When we follow the customs of another culture, it makes it seem as if those customs are essential to the teachings. They are not. The teachings are universal. Why set unnecessary obstacles in front of people? Let’s make it as easy as possible for them to enter into what we are doing.”

Spirit was high, attendance was moderate, the financial challenge was immense. “If Divine Mother made it impossible,” Swamiji said, “we would take it as Her will, pack up and go home. Instead, she makes it barely possible, so we have to persevere.”

In early August, though, Swamiji began to question whether San Francisco was the right place. “Of all the cities in the world where I’ve lectured,” he said. “San Francisco is the most difficult. People here are fickle. They love it when they come, but then months will go by before you see them again.” Swamiji had the courage to act boldly, but he was not reckless. Sacramento was the back-up plan. “People there are more open, and it is easier to touch their hearts.” But San Francisco was a greater center of influence, and gave access to the whole Bay Area. He decided to wait until the end of the month to decide.

The Sunset District house was absurdly small for what we were trying to do. A walk-in closet had been turned into a bedroom, the garage converted into a women’s dorm, and people were living in tents on the roof. We couldn’t have classes there—no room was large enough, and there was no place for people to park. For every event, we had to rent a hall, which was inconvenient and expensive. Swamiji suggested we look for an alternative.

Quite apart from the fact that the house in the Sunset District was inadequate for our needs, Swamiji said, “The house has no magnetism.” It was impossible from there to generate the energy we needed to establish ourselves in San Francisco.

The first place the agent showed us was a forty-five-room mansion in Pacific Heights, one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the city. The moment he walked in, Swamiji said, “This place feels like ours.”

This house was perfect: good kitchen, many bedrooms, a large living room for classes, bay windows in the dining room with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. None of us could afford to live in such a place on our own, but together everything was possible.

The rent was five times what we were presently paying; move-in costs alone were $12,000. Swamiji called a meeting of everyone in San Francisco who had any connection with Ananda. In one hour, all the money was raised, and several people had signed up to move in.

Prosperity isn’t having money in the bank; it is having the magnetism to draw what you need, at the time you need it.

A few days later, a couple who had attended some of Swamiji’s classes asked for a private meeting with him. They lived north of San Francisco on a beautiful, large piece of land not far from the ocean. For years they had been trying without success to develop a community. They asked Swamiji, “Would you be willing to accept the land and build an Ananda community there?”

Swamiji suggested that they and their children move for a time to Ananda, and a group from Ananda move to their land, so we could all get to know each other better. After some months, or a year, we could talk about transferring ownership—if they still felt to do that.

September 12 is Swamiji’s spiritual anniversary: the day he met Master and was initiated by him as a disciple. It was an auspicious day to dedicate what we now called Ananda House in San Francisco. Keshava Taylor described the event. “There were about one hundred people: eighty guests and twenty residents. The house could easily have absorbed two or three times that number. Everything is on a grand scale: twelve-foot ceilings, hallways wide enough for a small car to drive through, leaded glass windows, carved wood trim. The house has been lived in, though, for almost eighty years, so there are also many funky touches—warped window sills, doors that don’t close properly—to make us feel right at home. Already there is a wonderful spirit and sense of family. Ananda House is truly Ananda Home.

“In San Francisco,” Swamiji said, “we need something that will make an impression on people. This house will.” In two weeks, two new branches of Ananda started: Ananda House in San Francisco, and a community we called Ocean Song near Occidental. In Sacramento we also had a small house that served as an Ananda Center. Up until now, Ananda meant the community where it all started. Now that location had to be called Ananda Village to make it clear which Ananda was meant.


Right after the dedication, Swamiji left with several companions for three months in Europe: one month of vacation, two of lectures. Several of his books had been translated and were being published there: in Italy and France, Your Sun Sign as a Spiritual Guide; in Germany, Cooperative Communities: How to Start Them, and Why; in Germany, Italy, and Spain, The Path; in Italy, Fourteen Steps to Higher Awareness.

On his last day at the Village, he had written to the community “I’m not finding it easy to leave. It is so beautiful, peaceful, and sweet here. I feel as if there were simply no other place to be. But the body needs rest. If I stay here, I’ll keep working. Yesterday alone, I outlined forty-five, fifteen-minute radio programs, then recorded forty-three of them. For one glorious month my only responsibility will be to take photographs.

“Why have I been working so hard these last few years? The simplest answer is because I’ve felt guided to. Ananda has reached a point in its evolution when it is time for us to share more with others. I think God also wants us to reach out and warn people that now is the time to develop their spiritual lives. And I’ve been trying to earn the money to put Ananda in the position, not only to build the new Retreat, but to help the thousands in future who will look to us for help.

“Light will shine into this world, not from the heavens, but from the hearts of men and women who love truth. Were enough people to learn even now the laws of right living—love and attunement to higher realities—our planet would be spared tribulation.

“Meditate. Love God. Serve Him in your fellow creatures. Live cooperatively, not only with one another, but with Nature. For even if rocks and trees be not conscious of the gratitude you pour out to them, He who made them consciously receives all that you offer.”

He started his trip in Rumania, to take photographs of places from his childhood for a slideshow he was making of The Path. His family had left when World War II started; he hadn’t been back since the war ended and the country was taken over by communism. The changes were heartbreaking. Many beautiful buildings had been torn down and replaced by ugly cinderblock construction. But it was the suffering of the people, their bitterness and sadness under the communist regime, that tore at his heart.

In the middle of October, the lecture tour started with a conference at the Findhorn Community in Scotland. There Swamiji met many new age leaders that he liked and admired. But afterwards, he frankly admitted, “I felt a little out of tune with the proceedings in this respect: too many are looking for perfection in this world. This world is not perfectable. The question of ‘old age’ vs. ‘new age’ isn’t as important as the age-old one of spiritual awareness vs material attachment.”

From there it was London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Vienna, Milan, and Rome. Swamiji grew up in Europe and spoke several European languages. On the whole continent, he was the only direct disciple of Master teaching, so was much in demand. He gave seminars on Superconscious Living, classes in meditation, and talks on What Next for Mankind? to share Master’s predictions for the future and the need to develop a spiritual life now.

One of his travel companions, Purushottama Selbie, wrote, “The tour has been a great success. Swami was well-received everywhere: he was loved in Vienna, and exuberantly clasped to the bosom of the Italians. The response was so warm in Italy that a center has been started in Rome. We even went to see a sixty-five-room villa near Assisi as a possible site for a new community.

“On our last day in Amsterdam, our hosts took us all out for lunch. We were a large group, and on the way back, Swamiji was leading the procession, his arms linked to those on either side. We were one, great, sphere of light, wreathed in smiles, radiating happiness and goodwill. Two passers-by called out, ‘Can we come to the wedding, too?!’”

In the two years since its groundbreaking, the World Brotherhood Retreat had risen to the level of the foundation, but no higher. While Swamiji was in Europe, we decided to have a second groundbreaking, with a fire ceremony to burn up whatever karma was keeping it from manifesting.

Swamiji wrote from Europe, “Visualize clearly the buildings, the people coming, the divine light surrounding the project, the masters’ and angels’ blessing. It takes time for these things to manifest, but I believe that that time has already been spent. So let us proceed with confidence that the time for actual building is at hand. Let us think not of our desire, but only the fulfillment of God’s will. We don’t need to be concerned about whether He wants the Retreat; only how He wants it to be manifested. Let us make a deep effort to get positively into the flow of His will.”

Swamiji left for Europe with just a few hundred dollars in his pocket. At first he thought he would have to stop over in Texas to earn enough to pay for the ticket, but friends stepped in to cover that. He couldn’t afford hotels so he had to be a guest in people’s homes. This was wonderful for his hosts, and Swamiji was a gracious guest. He had come to give, especially to those who were dedicated to helping Master’s work. But it meant that he was rarely alone and had no time between cities to rest or recharge.

It was a very successful tour; Swamiji was thrilled by all that had been accomplished. But when he arrived back at Ananda Village the first week in December, he was physically spent, with a cold, a rash, and a fever. He had hoped to take seclusion, but was much too tired. “Just happy to be home,” he said.


When Master came to the United States, he was known as Swami Yogananda. In 1935, when he went back to India, his Guru, Sri Yukteswar, changed his title from Swami to Paramhansa, signifying one who has realized God. Master spelled it the way it was transliterated from Bengali, his native tongue: Paramhansa. During his lifetime, every reference to him in SRF, including his own signature, was spelled that way. Six years after his passing, scholars in India persuaded Daya Mata that the Bengali spelling was wrong. It should be done according to Sanskrit: Paramahansa.

At the time, Swamiji argued against the change. It was mere pedantry, he said, something Master specifically spoke against—he transliterated several words differently than the scholars to make pronunciation more accurate. Adding the extra “a” would cause people to mispronounce the word, putting stress on a syllable that didn’t even exist in the original language. Furthermore, Master was familiar with both Bengali and Sanskrit; his choice should be respected. Swamiji was overruled.

Everything in SRF became Paramahansa, even Master’s signature—one of the other a’s was copied and inserted in the middle. After Swamiji was expelled, he continued to write it the way SRF did. Now he felt it was important to be faithful to what Master had done. From then on, it was easy to tell the source of anything about Master: Paramhansa meant it came from Ananda, Paramahansa meant SRF.[1]


As a Christmas gift to the community, Swamiji edited the class he gave on Master’s birthday into a small booklet, Keys to the Bhagavad Gita. He also published Winging on the Wind, which was not new writing, but a collection of poems, some of the lyrics to his songs presented as poems, and the allegory he had published earlier, For What Was Man Made?

One afternoon in December he asked me to read aloud to him from Winging on the Wind. He lay on his bed with his eyes closed, occasionally interrupting the reading to comment on lines he thought especially beautiful, sometimes asking me to read them again. There was no pride in his remarks, just impersonal admiration for beauty where he found it. He particularly liked these lines from the song Peace:

Cool clouds that gather to bless us,

Mist hands that soothe away pain.

When I finished reading For What Was Man Made? he said, “If I had never written anything else, that story would be enough. Everything is there.”

His favorite couplet was from Song of the Nightingale:

Every grief, every wrong,

Has its ending in song.

[1] To avoid confusion, in this book I’ve used only the Ananda way of spelling, even though it wasn’t adopted until 1979.