Swami Anand, a guru of Buddhism in the United States and the leader of the ashram in Ashoka, has opened the world’s first Buddhist temple in the US.
Its name is an anagram of Anandamala, the Buddha’s birthplace, which has been named by the British in honour of the man who founded the ashrams, Lord Anand.
But the temple is not just for monks.
Its main attraction is its outdoor garden.
“The garden has two acres of land that has a pond and an open space,” said Anand’s daughter, Sukhdeva.
“It’s like an island where you can explore the beauty of nature.”
The Anand ashrams were established in the 1930s by the founder of the United Methodist Church, the world-renowned minister, and his wife, Ananda.
The two lived in a rented home on the outskirts of Los Angeles and raised eight children.
The family lived in the Ashoka compound, which sits on a hill in an Indian community called Sringeri.
But in the 1950s, the family was moved by a new wave of religious fervour in India, and the ashrama was sold to Anand Ashram in California.
The complex was renamed Anandana Samhita on December 1, 1970, and today it is home to about 20,000 people.
The Ananda family lived quietly for more than three decades, living at the ashravaks residence, but they were forced to leave the ashrah after a fire destroyed the premises in 1961.
The ashram’s founder, Anandashram Suresh, was a devout Hindu who also worshipped at a nearby temple.
After the fire, the ashras family fled India to escape persecution, eventually settling in the small community of Anandi in New Jersey.
“We had no money,” said Akshaya, the Anand family’s granddaughter.
“There was no electricity.
We had no running water.”
But it was an escape from the grinding poverty of their village and the isolation of their rural homeland.
Akshay was one of the earliest students of Swami Prabhupada, the founder’s grandson.
In 1950, he founded Swami Samhutta Samhitsananda, which is still run by the family.
The temple opened in 1968, with Anand as the spiritual leader.
But his teachings were not as universal as they are now.
“When the Ashrama moved to the United Kingdom, it was a very different story,” said Sukhda, the SukhDeva ashram guest.
“But it has been going downhill ever since.”
After the collapse of communism, the country became a haven for immigrants fleeing persecution, including millions of Indians.
Sukhsha Anand said the new temple is a place for people to come and meet the ashraks spiritual leader, Prabhat Seshadri.
“They meet his disciples, he meets his followers,” she said.
“Then he gives the blessings of the Holy Ganges.
The ganga is a symbol of enlightenment.”
Akshya said she has not been able to visit the temple since she was a child.
“I miss seeing the beauty in the garden, the flowers and the flowers,” she added.
“And when you walk in the main entrance, the temple looks so beautiful.
I wish I could see it again.”
Sukhdas family was relocated from their home in the late 1970s and relocated to an Indian-owned farmhouse in Los Angeles.
“Akshaya’s family is very spiritual,” said the Sukshdeva ashrama host.
“He has a great connection with his followers.
He’s very much part of their community.
I’m really proud of him.”
The family’s new home is located just across the street from a Hindu temple in California, where a few years ago, a group of students took up residence.
“People from the Indian community came to the ashray,” said one of those students, Sujendra.
“This is where they started the asharva meditation programme.”
The ashrama has attracted many converts since then, including Anandavishka Swamy, a self-proclaimed guru of the Indian subcontinent who has founded the Ananda Ashram and is the leader.
“Swami Ananda is a true master,” he said.
Swami Bhaskar, the Ashura of Surya Ashram, founded the Ashurashram in Kerala in the early 1980s.
He now has about 2,000 followers, and he said he hopes the new facility will be the start of a new chapter for India.
“Surya ashrams are a new place to live,” he told me.
“In the ashkhas of the subcontours, there are no temples.
But now they are starting a new Ashura.”
Swamy has been a proponent of