Illuminating a joyful life that seems a distant dream to most people, the new film Finding Happiness reveals productive lifestyles filled with peace, harmony, compassion and love. The inspiring film shows us what is possible as we glimpse into the lives of hundreds of fulfilled people living in an enlightened community called Ananda Village in Northern California, one of nine such communities worldwide.
A fictional storyline serves as the framework for the community to share their experiences including virtually all aspects of their life. The community’s founder and spiritual leader, Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Indian yoga master Paramhansa Yogananda for 65 years, is interviewed by the skeptical New York-based journalist, Juliet, assigned to write a magazine article about this “unique” community. Portrayed by Elisabeth Rohm (Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Dangerous, Law & Order), Juliet interviews Kriyananda and learns of his life-long dedication to developing a spiritual, non-religious environment where people genuinely care about each other. He guides her to speak with various residents to learn of their experiences. The community lives together in separate housing, brought together with two underlying principles — first, that people are more important than things, and secondly, that acting justly, and for the highest good of ourselves and others, brings inner fulfillment and success in all endeavors.
As Finding Happiness makes abundantly clear, these principles are supported by a sustainable economic infrastructure of Ananda-owned and private businesses such as the Expanding Light Meditation Retreat – where people visit from all over the world to learn yoga and meditation – as well as schools for children, the Ananda College, agricultural endeavors and a publishing company, among others.
This uplifting environment is all within a beautiful 1,000-acre site in the Sierra Nevada foothills outside of Nevada City, California. This spirituality also infuses a global network of other satellite communities throughout the world — India (New Delhi), Italy (Assisi), Los Angeles, Palo Alto and Sacramento, and Seattle and Portland.
In the film, Juliet’s initial cynicism recedes as she is exposed to more people who radiate positive energy, inner strength and strong sense of wellbeing. Juliet interviews a diverse mix of residents, including families, teachers, medical and environmental experts, the younger generation, and many others.
Kriyananda (born J. Donald Walters) traces the origins of Ananda to his childhood dreams of utopian communities, which came alive when he became a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda (in the film, Yogananda is portrayed by his grand-nephew, Sujon Datta). Kriyananda has become recognized, through his life of service to humanity, as one of the foremost spiritual teachers and has written more than 150 books and 400 songs.
Kriyananda warmly tells Juliet of his realization that a community could thrive stemming in part from Yogananda’s teachings and his own beliefs that “a few people with strong ideals can change the world” and that we all “live to be happy,” a state that comes from inside a person. In fact, the word “Ananda” means joy. He was further guided by his devotion to “simple living and high-minded thinking” and bringing spirituality into daily life. In 1967, he purchased the first parcel of land for this spiritual community, surrounded in his words by “the vastness of nature” with which they could live and build in “conscious harmony.”
After spending time at the Village, Juliet addresses the community, telling them that she is not only inspired, but is a changed person and determined to be more open to life. She asks for, and receives, a blessing from Kriyananda before returning to her busy urban-centered life, renewed in spirit, rejecting cynicism and guided by the principle to “live to be happy.”
Finding Happiness is produced by Hansa Productions; directed by Ted Nicolaou; produced by Roberto Bessi; executive produced by Shivani Lucki and Santoshi Nancy Kendall. More information about Finding Happiness or the Ananda organization can be found on this website: www.findinghappinessmovie.com