Here is what Narada wrote about his decision to devote his life to building Ananda, which he called “by far my greatest adventure”
I moved to Ananda Village near Nevada City,CA in 1975. The community was very rustic when I moved there. I lived in an old trailer without electricity, no running water, a tin lizzy wood stove for heat, and an outhouse about 100 feet away. The roads would turn to mud in the winter rains, and became impassable. But you know what, none of us considered it a hardship. It was actually one of the best times of my life, and it was very interesting helping and watching the community grow, and I made many lifelong friends. Such communities will be a great help to mankind in the future.
Here are Narada’s recollection of his travels, in his own words.
In 1977 I was fortunate enough to go on two tours around the country with Swami Kriyananda and about ten other people. Being with Swamiji was truly a blessing that I will never forget. Those two trips were overflowing with sometimes wild and always interesting adventures. Then in 1980 I went on a pilgrimage to India with four other friends from Ananda. We went to see Anandamayi Ma, and after many wonderful adventures we finally found her. In about 1983 I went on another tour around the country for the Ananda Schools. Then in 1996 I went to Assisi, Italy for three months to help with the construction of the first Temple of Light. Again there are many great stories to tell.
Here is Narada’s own description of this period with his mother. The two were part of the Living Wisdom High School when it started in 1997 at the Ananda Village in California.
We lived with the seven students and three teachers in a cooperative house called Chandi. I had a regular job doing construction work during the day, but I was there in the evenings and on the weekends. The students had a lot of fun, worked hard, and they had many wonderful adventures. I felt fortunate to be part of it all.
My mother played a key role at the school. She was a loving grandmother to all students, who happened to be all girls. She helped them by having such things as glue, tape, and scissors to loan them when they couldn’t find their own, and the girls would come into her room just to visit.
My mother was 84 at the time, and during the spring of the school year she was diagnosed with a terminal illness with only a month or so to live. The girls loved her very much and when she was finally bedridden they would come into her room and comb her hair and visit with her. My mom loved to share with them her favorite saying that she truly lived by, “Happiness is a choice.” I could tell the girls took it to heart, because they saw that my mother lived by these words right up to the very end. She was and still is a beautiful soul.
Narada tells of his move to Seattle:
My last great adventure is my coming to Seattle. It is such a beautiful place and I feel very much at home here, but all these adventures to various parts of the world have taught me to feel at home wherever I am. Especially where Ananda is concerned, I have proven to myself that Ananda is not a place, but a state of mind and heart, and I do my best to live by my mother’s motto, “Happiness is a choice.”
Here is an example of one of the “serviceful projects” Narada loved to do. This is from an email from Narada to a friend, shortly after he moved to Seattle, December 2005:
I did a really fun thing last week. I built a little niche for a Madonna that belonged to my mom. Carole, the apartment manager, and I refurbished the management office about a month or so ago. In the process we eliminated a pass-through window that was between the office and the mailroom. I sheet rocked over the window hole on the inside of the office, but this left a little niche on the mailroom side of the wall. It was about 14” wide and 30” high. What to do? I could have sheet rocked over it also, but it was going to be hard to match the existing texture on the wall. Plus the mailroom was drab, and not very inviting. And unfortunately it is one of the most visited rooms in the community. Every one checks their mail at least once a day. So I told Carole that I would make the niche into a shrine for a spiritual statue, but at the time I had no idea how I would do it, or what statue would go into it.
Last week I decided that I would like to get it done before Christmas. Then I remembered that I had a beautiful Madonna that belonged to my mom. So I dug it out of my things, and sure enough she seemed to fit perfectly into the space. I got some white poster board and drew the curves that I thought would make a wooden frame around the Madonna, and a little shelf for her to rest on. It was quite a project for me. I’m not a woodworker by trade, and I sort of had to invent how to do it. But it was great fun, and I felt that my mom and the Madonna were guiding me. It took all weekend to make the frame, but it was worth it. It turned out beautifully with the help of our Divine Mother and my mother. I still need to paint it. I plan to use a light blue and white. Willow Kushler, who lives here in the community, (she is professional interior designer) is going to help me with the colors.
One of the activities of the youth group involved making malas for sale. The letter below, written by Narada to Hailey Barrett on March 7, 2010, shows both Narada’s thoughtfulness, and the spirit that he taught his youth to bring their mala-making activity.
Thank you for the beautiful card. I enjoyed so much visiting with you and your mother at your home, and I’m so glad that you like the necklace. I hope I can come over again sometime soon, and maybe I could show you how to make a mala. I think you are old enough to do it. It is actually quite simple, but it takes a lot of concentration. And since it is a very special spiritual item we need to add our spiritual vibrations to the mala while we are making it. To accomplish this we need to be listening to or sing chants, or speak of spiritual things while we are making the malas. This will help keep our mind focused on sending good vibrations to all those that use the malas. Please let me know when it would be a good time to come by for a visit. Also, maybe I could find time to watch a video with you and your family.
Joy to you, your friend,
From what he learned at Ananda Village, Narada created an application form because he wanted the children to view their participation in the Living Wisdom Youth Group both consciously and seriously. To that end, he filled out the application for himself in order to show the Barrett children, Quentin and Hailey, how it was done and why it was important. Here are some details from his application:
Current grade: I am not in any grade now, but it seems that I’ve been in school all my life.
Why did I want to help start the Living Wisdom Youth Group? I noticed that there were a few young people who came to Meditation Temple in Bothell who had an interest in deepening their spiritual lives, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help them on their adventurous journey. I have a little experience in this area, because my mother and I were part of the Living Wisdom High School when it started in 1997 at the Ananda Village in California….After my time at the school I have had a special place in my heart for helping young people.
What are your favorite sports? Basketball, baseball.
What are your favorite hobbies? Hiking, wood working.
What are your favorite leisure time activities? Reading, some videos.
What are your spiritual interests? I do my best to meditate twice a day. I enjoy chanting, and helping other people in their spiritual quest.
How do you feel about meditating with your friends in the youth group? I love to meditate with other people, because there is special energy around a group who recognize each other as fellow travelers on the spiritual journey. It is like we are explorers heading into unknown lands on a higher plain.
What kind of music do you listen to and what effect does it have on you? I mostly listen to Swami Kriyananda’s music, but I also enjoy classical, bluegrass, and almost any other type of music that is done well and isn’t destructive by its very nature. I really enjoyed going to the Seattle Youth Symphony last year. I was spellbound by their talent and energy.
Describe any ways you help around your home, school, church and community. I usually wash the dishes, vacuum, take out the trash, and do the recycling, and any repair work. I help out at our Ananda Community work days, and I like to work in our community garden when I have some extra time. I also help with the Living Wisdom Youth Group.
What kind of adventures have you been on? I moved to Ananda Village near Nevada City, CA in 1975, and I did my little part to help Swami Kriyananda fulfill Paramahansa Yogananda’s dream of world brotherhood communities. This is by far my greatest adventure.
Describe the qualities you like most about your friends. Their loyalty to God and Guru, and their acceptance of me as I am.
Describe the qualities you like most about yourself. I do my best to be loyal to God and Guru. I don’t always succeed, but it is my heart’s desire. Next, I do my best to accept others as they are, and at the same time hold them in the light of their highest potential. This is more of an affirmation, for it has only been in the last few years that I’ve come to some understanding of this on a deeper level.
At the end of the application, Narada was asked to rate himself on a variety of traits: responsibility, level of physical activity, calmness, perseverance, honesty, concern for others, and creativity. On a five-point scale ranging from “excellent” to “below average,” Narada gave himself only modest threes—meaning, “good.”
Here is Narada’s own account of his time with the Hindu priest in Stockton, CA:
In 2003 I went to live with a wonderful Indian Hindu priest for about one and a half years in Stockton, CA. I helped him build an Ashram. He called it Maha Shakti Ashram, which means Divine Mother’s Place. It was very much like living in India, because I was the only westerner in sight. We ate only Indian food, and followed Indian customs. I learned a lot about the Indian mind, and their deep spiritual nature.