Ananda Village is a unique blend of ashram, cooperative, and traditional village — and our approach to governance reflects each of these in some ways.
Most of our residents become members of Ananda’s spiritual order and agree to try to live by three agreements: simplicity, moderation and cooperation. The implications of being a member of Ananda’s spiritual order go well beyond the borders and activities of Ananda Village. It is fundamentally a choice to live for God and to strive to expand oneself through meditation and selfless service.
Unlike the typical monastic order, however, the order includes people in all stages of life, including couples, and parents with children. Also, unlike typical monastic orders, the order relies on inspiration to move people to deepen their independent, spiritual lives, rather than relying on rules to confine people in narrow channels of strict obedience.
Governance at Ananda, therefore, is in many ways simply the coordination of the deep commitment to cooperative service that residents make when they become members of the community. The starting point for any community endeavor is the spirit of cooperative service which is naturally inspired by each member’s commitment to a life path of spiritual growth, and many shared values and goals which inform the unfolding development of Ananda Village.
Unlike the typical co-op model, however, Ananda Village does not try to decide everything by consensus formed in discussion. Practical material realities such as building projects, planning development, maintaining community property and managing the day-to-day services of the community are accomplished, by and large, by people in paid community positions who are expected and encouraged to find creative, innovative solutions to the problems they encounter — and not wait to be told what to do. Individual initiative, taken within the overarching goals and directions of the community, has always been a key to Ananda Village’s success.
Members are responsible for and manage their own finances. There are scores of individually owned and managed business ventures operated from Ananda Village — just as you would find in any small village. Members contribute their ideas for community development through “town hall” type meetings, and many serve as elected members on the Village Council, which provides input and feedback to the people in paid positions who are responsible for day to day management — just as you would find in any small village.
Unlike the typical small village, however, where everyone is usually pulling for their own agenda based on their own personal view of how they want things to be, our guiding factor in forming decisions, large and small, is not what individuals want but “what is trying to happen.” “What is trying to happen,” an often used phrase here at Ananda, is a combination of the practical, the well-being of all affected, the consciousness of being responsible citizens in a larger world, and the shared goal of spiritual service—not your typical city council decision process!