In the late 1980’s, Swami Kriyananda, Ananda’s founder, spoke about Ananda Village that “someday there will be a university here!” In 1946, his guru, Yogananda, in his epic “Autobiography of a Yogi,” had expressed his desire to create a Yoga Institute: “I plan to open a Yoga Institute here. The blessed role of Kriya Yoga in the West has hardly more than just begun. May all men come to know that there is a definitive, scientific technique of self-realization for the overcoming of all human misery.” In this same chapter Yogananda also said, “World is a large term, but man must enlarge his allegiance, considering himself in the light of a world citizen. A person who truly feels: ‘The world is my homeland; it is my America, my India, my Philippines, my England, my Africa,’ will never lack in scope for a useful and happy life. His natural local pride will know limitless expansion; he will be in touch with creative universal currents.” Yogananda also stressed the need for spiritual communities. “Man is a soul, not an institution; his inner reforms alone can lend permanence to outer ones. By stress on spiritual values, self-realization, a colony exemplifying brotherhood is empowered to send inspiring vibrations far beyond its locale.”
In early 2000, Nakula and Nischala, both longtime members of Ananda Village, began researching the possibility of creating an Educational Institute located on the Mendocino Coast. Though a beautiful piece of property was located right on the Pacific Ocean, the $10 million-dollar price tag proved unsurmountable! In 2001 Nischala and Nakula met with Swami Kriyananda and Jyotish and Devi Novak in Assisi, Italy. At the time, Ananda’s Seclusion Retreat (the Ananda Meditation Retreat) was needing a revival and new leadership. Swami, Jyotish and Devi suggested Nischala and Nakula instead take over the Ananda Meditation Retreat and start their institute there. In 2002, Nischala and Nakula, together with their son Rama, moved from Ananda Village to the Ananda Meditation Retreat, 5 miles from the village. In April 2003 they began the Ananda Institute of Alternative Living at the Ananda Meditation Retreat. The institute also ran the meditation retreat and served guests. With Nakula and Nischala’s guidance the retreat created a small college and a vibrant space for students and retreat guests, with lovely botanical gardens, ponds, bungalows, classrooms and a cob temple hand-built by students and staff.
While creating a website for the institute it was discovered that someone else had use of both the names “Ananda Institute” and “Ananda College,” so when it came time to name the website, Ananda’s webmaster helped pick www.anandauniversity.org, even though they were not a university in the traditional sense of the word. The website name has remained today, even though at one point the institute’s name was changed to Ananda College (there is also a Buddhist college called Ananda College in Sri Lanka). In 2013 the college moved its campus to Oregon but moved back to California in 2015 and took a sabbatical before re-opening in August, 2020 with the New Horizons Gap Year campus across the street from Ananda Village. During the college sabbatical, Nakula served as the project manger for The Moksha Mandir temple at the Crystal Hermitage and afterwards as the project manager for the recently completed Temple of Light of all religions at Ananda Village. Nischala researched and wrote the book, “The Four Stages of Yoga,” which became a bestseller on Amazon in June, 2018.
In 2019, Ananda University began a relationship with Laura Beebe who now serves as the New Horizons Gap Year Director. Laura is a Kriya Yoga Practitioner and longtime college professor. A graduate of Prescott College in Arizona, she has taught with Sterling College in Vermont and also serves on the Advisory Board of the US Gap Year Association Committee.