We are no longer taking reservations for the alumni reunion. For more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|When||Thursday, March 30 to Sunday, April 2, 2023|
|Location||Ananda Village, Nevada City, CA|
|Cost||Ananda College Alumni and their families are free, or by donation.|
Ananda College Then and Now
Melody Hansen, with her husband Kalidas and son Japa, They will be at the reunion, and Melody will help lead a memorial service for Garrett Huta (who passed during the pandemic period) at Ananda Village.
Monica Purger, who is from Slovenia, wishes you all a happy college reunion. Here she is with her husband and two daughters.
A misty spring day at our original Ananda College campus at the Meditation Retreat, 5 miles from Ananda Village, outside of Nevada City, CA. This is where the college began in 2002. We’ll be here for the first day of our college reunion. You can view the reunion schedule above.
Our first trip to Egypt, in 2008. After touring India for two weeks, we flew from Delhi to Cairo. Now, 15 years later, next October 20-31, 2023, we’re going to Egypt again, open to all guests, friends, and family. There’s a discount for signing up early.
At Yogananda’s boyhood home with some of his family, in Calcutta, India, 2008. This is a pilgrimage spot to the great yogi, and author of “Autobiography of a Yogi”. This is where he found God in his meditation attic, the home where he was visited by Mahavatar Babaji. We will take a pilgrimage to India again for 2 weeks in February/March, 2024. If you’d like to join us, email us at email@example.com.
It was our very first year. Who would want to come to a tiny alternative spiritual college in the middle of nowhere in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains? A former fashion model from Palm Beach, Florida, an accountant from Palo Alto, a spiritual seeker from Holland, and a shy young man from Texas.
The Ananda Meditation Retreat temple, where all the college sadhanas and many classes were held.
Uddhava Ramsden leading yoga teacher training students in the Meditation Retreat temple. (L to R), Dimitri (from Moscow), Jamie (from Connecticut), Brooke (from Kentucky), Dhyan (Kevin) formerly from the Bay Area, and Jigaku (Ryan Nakade) from Hawaii, in our temple classroom at the Ananda Meditation Retreat.
A student retreat at the Mendocino, California coast with Nakula, Steven, Anya, Melody, Justin, Bryan, Nicholas, Chitra, Lacey, Eefje and Gaurja.
A winter snow sheds its blessings on our forest campus. Here, the retreat dining room was often where we all gathered, if not for meals, certainly for satsang, a chance to visit, talk and laugh amidst the intense quiet of the meditation retreat.
What do you do for entertainment when you live in the middle of a forest searching for God?
Have fun, and don’t take yourself too seriously. (R): Nabha (Jake) and (L) Nakula (Elwood) in white suits, re-enacting the musical “The Non-Blues Brothers” with a little help from their friends. Our Dean of Students, Dr. Celia (Jayashree) Alvarez, standing to the right of Nabha, performed a tribute to students with her resounding version of Aretha Franklin’s song, “R-e-s-p-e-c-t”. Accomplished musicians (l to r) Ramesha, Anya (Vinaya) Gorna, Leiya Mahoney, Mati, and Rose Atwell (far right) led their artistry to the event. Thanks to Nabha’s playwriting, and student’s creative costumes, we also produced two other comedies based on life at a spiritual alternative college in the middle of a forest—“The Return of the Squirrels” and “Revenge of the Turkeys”.
World Religions Class at our Ananda College Laurelwood, Oregon campus:
(top l to r): Jigaku Nakade, Bardia Bemhard, Rachel Anderson, Nitai Deranja, Matt, David Kochenderfer, Bennie Martin, Stefan, Kasey Foxx, Tonya Gorman, Hannah White, Mordan Pappas, Mrs. Copley, Rosie Ayala, Brooke Cannon, and in front, Kayla Wills. David Kochenderfer (third from the left in back row) currently lives in Portland Oregon. He is an HBOT (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy) Technician and is a newly licensed Massage Therapist. Mordan Pappas (center, front) lives with her partner Shane Murphy in Arizona. Not pictured: Shane (Guruprem) Kennihan, who currently lives at Ananda Village and works at The Expanding Light retreat. Also not pictured: Anya and Bryan Quevada, who met at Ananda College and married. Both now live in the Ananda Palo Alto Community, and Anya works in the school there. Update: Kasey Foxx will be 6 months pregnant and unable to fly to our reunion, but says “hello” to all her friends. Congratulations Kasey!
Kayla Wills (above left) currently lives in Sacramento and works for Cal Fire and the Army National Guard, traveling when she can in her off season. At the reunion, she’ll help lead a memorial service for her grandmother, Dana Smith (above right) who recently passed. Dana volunteered in the kitchen at the Ananda Meditation Retreat.
Jigaku Ryan Nakade (left) and Rosie Ayala serving in the kitchen at Ananda College in Laurelwood. Jigaku and his partner now live near Portland, Oregon. Rosie lives in Nevada City, California.
Holidays were big at the college. A typical Christmas included the 8-hour Christmas meditation, gift exchanges, stockings for everyone, Christmas Eve at Ananda Village, caroling, cooking dinner together, the Live Creche Scene at Victorian Christmas in Nevada City, Christmas brunch, and more. Left to right: Melody Hansen, Ken Machahalis, Anya (Vinaya) Gorna, Nick Huta, Bryan Robinson, Janakidevi and Byasa Steinmetz, Charles Evans, Pranavati, Justin Dounce, Lacey Vandenbosse, Steven Kaufmann, Eejfe Kerremans, Garrick Huta (we’ll be doing a memorial service for him during the 20th reunion, Gaurja Prashar, Rama Cryer, Michael Brisbane, Evan Molina, Nakula, Nabha Cosley, and Nischala.
Ananda College students participating in the “Live Creche” at Nevada City’s Victorian Christmas.
Ronja Giesser (Mary, holding the toy baby) now lives next to the village and works in Nevada City, CA. Left to right, Evan Molina (shepherd), Simon Hermann (shepherd), Julie Roberts and daughters (angels), Eric Christensen (Joseph); Three Wise Men–Nabha Cosley, Phil (Narayan) Romano and Rama Cryer. Ananda College students participating in the “Live Creche” at Nevada City’s Victorian Christmas. Phil (Narayan) Romano was one of the monks who lived at the retreat when the college was there. He is now married to Dharmadevi, is a Kriya Acharya, and leads the Ananda Los Angeles Center with his wife.
Van Life as we knew it. Getting to and from the village, traveling throughout California or the Southwest, or heading to the airport, we van-pooled everywhere.
Steven (Indra) Kaufmann, here riding a camel on our 2008 Egypt trip, now lives near Assisi, Italy with his Italian wife and their two children.
Teri (SuShanti) Gold-Sullivan, helping build the current Banyan House at Ananda Village. Today Sushanti lives at Ananda Village. For many years she performed in the annual “Peace Treaty” play and musical. She is the volunteer organizer for the popular, “Springtime at Ananda Tulip Festival”, where thousands of people visit the Crystal Hermitage Gardens during the entire month of April. She has a 7-year old daughter, Phoenix, who she shares with her ex-partner, Neal Sullivan.
Left to Right: Gaurja Prashar, Tess (Yogamaya) Tatol, Jamie Dawick, Chitra Sudhakaran and Anna Preston at the Amar Jyoti Free School for Indian Migrant children outside of Haridwar India, during a study abroad trip. Chitra recalls her experiences here: “It was with Nakula and Nischala Cryer, Celia Alvarez, and my friends from Ananda College that I first visited Amar Jyoti School near Haridwar. During our visits we used to help with lessons, sing songs with the children, play games, and once we even made and enjoyed popcorn together—in other words, a lot of fun! What stood out to me the most during these visits was how there was always a strong, uplifting energy there. I remember that the children were eager to learn, asked us a truckload of questions, and showed us their new uniforms that they were very happy and proud of. The school is run by Mr. Rashmi Kant and his family to provide free education and support for children from the slums in the vicinity. During the current times, when I and many people I know are working on setting work goals and doing online courses, Rashmi Kant and his family have been trying to come up with new ways to continue to serve these children. He has been carrying on this amazing work with minimal financial support for over 18 years. However, presently, he and the children need our help. Please kindly donate here if possible. You will be making a difference to a child’s future and every bit helps. Ananda College donates to the Amar Jyoti School through Vanamali Devi’s charities for needy children, widows and orphans in Rishikesh and Haridwar, India.
Joy Horsfal (right) is now Co-Director of the Ananda Living Wisdom School at Ananda Village, a position she shares with Jaya Botaro-Salisbury (left). During the reunion, Joy will talk about the school and new directions post-Covid.
Steven (Sirian) Phillips, in the middle with the black mala, came to the college retreat when he was 18 years old. Later, he became one of the first monks to live with Swami Kriyananda in India. Today, he lives next door to Ananda Village.
Tracer Burge (left) and Peter Kretzmann (right). Tracer now lives in Portland, Oregon, and Peter, who served as a dorm counselor for the high school boys, now lives in Ananda Village and recently married Gayatri Regester.
Our canvas bungalows, which were warm and cozy in the winter, became the ideal accommodations for students living simply amidst the forest.
Monica Purger now lives in her homeland, Slovenia where she is a teacher, is married
and has two children.
Steven (Indra) and Lacey Vandenbosse, carving pumpkins for one of our Halloween festivities.
Workdays to build the retreat often included hard work—balanced with fun and satsang. Left to right, Rachel Andersen, Greg (Sundara) Traymar, Tracer Burge, and Mai Lee, joining the fun.
One student project was a solar sustainable green house, using some recycled materials, next to the future garden. Students calculated the annual movements of the sun to find the ideal position for a vegetable garden.
Our nextdoor neighbor, California poet laureate and Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Gary Snyder (Turtle Island), lived a quasi-hermit life on the property next to us. He visited us, gave talks and poetry readings. He encouraged us all to understand the history of the land we were living on—what he believed was a Nisenan Native American acorn forest. In one poetry class led by Robert Yehling, students held a tribute to Gary by doing readings from some of his favorite poets.
There was much to be done at the retreat campus. Silence and prayer before work was our model for starting a successful day.
Our campus was several miles down a dirt road off Tyler Foote Road, 30 minutes out of Nevada City, California, near the Tahoe National Forest. We were surrounded by 4,000 acres of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, and some of our most notable neighbors included black bear, grey foxes, mountain lion, bobcats, deer, coyotes, wild turkeys, golden eagles, re-tailed hawks and a multitude of resident and migrating birds.
After the mayhem and misunderstanding of the New York Trade Center bombings of 9/11, we took some of our students to India, where we became the first American college ever to visit the Islamic University in Delhi. Our gracious hosts were professors who took us to mosques, shared with us the Islamic prayers and beliefs, and assured us that Islam was a religion of peace, not terrorism. Left to right, Nicholas Huta, Nischala, college board member Laura Hermann, Korelle Hendee (now a successful artist living in Nevada City, California), Anya Gorna (now married to Julian Potter and living in Ananda Assisi), and Steve Hagey (now living in Sacramento, California).
With Durlov Ghosh (center, in beige shirt with glasses), son of Meera Ghosh, Yogananda’s relatives in Serrampore, India. With Steve Hagey, Nakula and Nick Huta. Left to right, May Lee, Toni Cordas, Skyla Lee (our youngest resident at the college), Korelle Hendee, Anya Gorna and Board Member, Laura Hermann.
We made it a point to always visit the Temple on the Ganges in Varanasi, India, a guest house run by this Swamiji and his family. Left to right, Anya Gorna, Toni Cordas, Korelle Hendee, Nakula, Skyla Lee (our youngest college resident), Board Member Laura Hermann, Swamiji, May Lee, Nischala, Steve Hagey and Nick Huta.
Nicholas Huta and his wife Grace (pictured), whom he met while working at a company in Tampa, Florida, recently moved to northern Alabama, where they have bought a house. They are both engineers. Grace is an environmental engineer working in Birmingham, and Nick works for an automation company out of Huntsville, serving the automotive industry. They will both be at the reunion, and Nick will help lead a memorial service for his younger brother Garrett, who died in 2021. Garrett was in the Living Wisdom High School up at the Meditation Retreat.
Brooke Cannon, a veteran of the Iraq war where she served in Intelligence, grew up on a farm in Kentucky and raised horses. After college she developed her own sustainable business for the healing arts. She currently lives in Penn Valley on her farm with four cats.
Simran Issar, (left) now lives on a farm near Delhi, India, and is very happy.
Visiting with Swami Kriyananda at his home in Delhi, (l to r top), Nischala, Kai Girard, Matthew Fredrickson, Rachel Andersen, Steven (Sirian) Phillips, Helen Gorman, Jackie Kirkapatrick (middle) and Nakula. Matthew Fredrickson lives in the monastery and teaches at Ananda Village Living Wisdom School, Kai Girard lives in Washington state, Rachel Anderson lives at Ananda Assisi, Helen Gorman lives in Beaverton, Oregon, Sirian Phillips lives near Ananda Village, and Jackie Kirkpatrick lives in England.
Melody West, now Melody Hansen, leads the Ananda Yoga Teacher Training Program at The Expanding Light Retreat. She and her husband and small son all live at Ananda Village.
Sandy Pagano, here getting a blessing from the Dalai Lama on our 2005 pilgrimage to India,
now lives near Portland, Oregon.
On our first Ananda College pilgrimage to India in 2005, we had the great blessing of being offered a private audience with His Holiness The Dalai Lama of Tibet at his home in McLeod Ganj, India. Nischala had applied to visit him and after six months, we received notice His Holiness would host us. Because security was tight around him, his office wouldn’t offer us an exact date and time to meet him until we were already in India. Others tagged along with us. He was joyful, childlike, and laughed a lot. He became serious when offering our college advice—to visit other spiritual groups—like what we were doing with him.
Dima (Dimitry) here feeding a pigeon on an Ananda College trip in Europe, now lives in Moscow, Russia.
Left to right: Brooke Cannon, Bardia Bemhard, Kayla Wills, Ryan (Jigaku) Nakade, Sam, Dhyan (Kevin) Davis, Tristan Matlock, Anna Preston, Supriya, Chitra Sudhakaran, Stefan Ferenchak.
During a college trip to the Southwest, Grand Canyon, CPAK, Arcosanti, and more. Dhyan (Kevin) Davis-Garcia is now married to Shyama Davis-Garcia, from Spain. They both live at Ananda Village and work in the Ananda Sangha ministry, Ananda Online, and Ananda outreach services. Anna Preston also lives at Ananda Village and works in the Communications Department of the main Ananda Sangha offices.
Rachel Anderson is now married to Parkle Lee and they live in Hong Kong. Rachel teaches for the Living Wisdom International Online High School.
Kara (above left) and Anuj Pandey (above right) currently live in the Bay Area.
Chitra Suhakaran (left) and her husband Jayadev Kodoth (right) were married in 2013 and are both from Kerala, India. They currently live in the UAE. Jayadev is an Electrical Supervisor at a government owned district cooling company in Dubai, and Chitra is both an artist and designer, teaches art, and works at an art gallery in Dubai.
Mai Lee (left) and her daughter Skyla, with Skyla’s new husband. Both serve in the US Army. Mai is now living in Wyoming.
Share your stories and photos…….
If you’re an Ananda College alum or former staff or teacher, tell us where you live, what your work is, or what has been significant in your life since being at Ananda College. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A look back 20 years ago…
In April, 2003, Ananda College of Living Wisdom received recognition as a California non-profit educational institution. Our campus was at the Ananda Meditation Retreat. This is where we first began to flourish. A few years earlier Nakula and Nischala had met with Swami Kriyananda in Assisi, Italy to discuss the college. His advice for us was to “grow organically” without trying to make the college similar to the brick-and-mortar institutions of the past. Neither of us had experience running a spiritual “Dwapara” education institution, though Nischala had worked at Stanford Law School as Director of Publications. Nakula had been a building contractor for many years.
We started by giving programs here, and to work with the current retreat staff who were interested in supporting such a venture. At the time, the old “seclusion retreat” as it was then known, needed new management, and much more. It was overrun with manzanita bushes. There was a road that drove right through what is now the garden. Though the spiritual vibrations were off-the-charts due to people meditating and secluding here since 1968, now it was in need of more love and attention.
Making it beautiful and walkable
Nakula had been the building manager for the Retreat Dining Room, a project that took five years to build. At that time, he and Nischala and their small son lived at the village, and Nakula would commute to the retreat nearly every weekend for five years. The dining room building was created with donations from contractors, builders volunteering their precious time on the weekends, and the many prayers of Haridas and Roma, the retreat managers at the time.
After we were asked to take on the management of the retreat and create the college here, one of the first things Nakula did was to re-design the property so that cars didn’t shoot into the middle of the retreat proper in a disrupted cloud of dust. In his redesign, he and Nischala envisioned the creation of a lovely botanical meditation garden that would take advantage of the vibrations here and create a sattwic community with classrooms, gardens and shrines. The plan included pathways that meandered from the new dining hall to the Temple of Silence, archways, and more formal gates to enter the property.
The Transformation Begins
Soon the tractors arrived. Down came the old dining hall and kitchen that had been in use for thirty years. It left a large hole in the middle of the property that was unsightly. Nischala felt this would be the ideal spot for a garden pond, surrounded by flowers and benches. In Vedic lore, it is auspicious to create a pond where spiritual activities have occurred as water holds vibrations. This became the impetus for “the Babaji pool”, sitting graciously near the old “root cellar” for the retreat kitchen, which was being re-envisioned as a small cave for meditation.
Ram Smith and others had done much of the clearing of manzanita before Nakula and Nischala moved up. Now the land was ready to develop. Our inspiration for the retreat meditation gardens came from the lovely “Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens” south of Fort Bragg, California. We took Charles and Ruth, two older residents of the retreat interested in creating the gardens to visit the gardens on the Mendocino Coast. Charles became the resident gardener and over the years Nischala and Nakula brought in statuary to complement the work that was being created here. Retreat residents and students became involved with caring for the gardens and building the forest ashram campus. It became a group project, and in the spirit of true community, it taught us all about cooperation, and creating something for others enjoyment.
Cabins, classrooms and temples
Many of the cabins that had been in use for seclusion were falling down or in need of repair. So Nakula, together with a young crew of karma yogis, began to re-build. Guests no longer wanted outhouses or outdoor showers, so for nearly 15 years we remodeled cabins, built bungalows, and together with students and karma yogis, even created solar projects, a vegetable garden, water tower and more.
Creating the Temple of Joy
The tiny Temple of Joy was a work of love and service. Students worked on weekends and sometime during the week to create this hand-built cob temple.
When the college moved its campus to Laurelwood, Oregon, it was a huge change from being in our secluded forest hermitage. We thrived there for a while, but it was not the same. Karmic challenges came, and our little college in the forest had, during our brief departure, been turned back into a meditation retreat.
Since Covid, Ananda College struggled with the restraints of the pandemic, which meant most schools and colleges could not have in-person programs, something that had been a mainstay of our existence. We began offering online courses and in the past year have returned to offering our study abroad pilgrimages to new places like Greece and Crete, and places we’d gone before, like Egypt, Peru, India and Italy.
Returning to Swami Kriyananda’s words of advice for Ananda College, to “let it grow organically”, we have tried to become less linear, like traditional colleges, and instead strive to be energetically more fluid and intuitive, to meet the demands of these times of transition during Dwapara Yuga, when new changes will come to our planet and old forms of hierarchy, religion, and education will gradually disappear.
Whatever may happen, our mission has always been one of the heart. As a spiritual college, we endeavor to help create a community that allows our students to see Yogananda’s mission in new, expansive ways that broaden awareness while nurturing the individual’s need for love, peace, and harmony earned through the practice of meditation and service to others.
Go with love, may joyful blessings, speed you safely on your way, may God’s Light Expand Within You, may we be one in that light someday.