The Ananda Village community includes a retreat center and university.
By JULIE A. WAGNER
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
YOUNGSTOWN -- A Boardman native returns to the Mahoning Valley this weekend to speak about his 25 years of working and living in spiritual communities on the West Coast.
Das Krishna LoCicero will speak at 7 p.m. Sunday at a public meeting of the Youngstown Spiritualist Society at the Ursuline Center, 4300 Shields Road, Canfield.
LoCicero, his wife, Mantradevi, and his stepson, Joshua, live at Ananda World Brotherhood Village, a community of 300 permanent residents. The 850-acre facility also includes the Expanding Light, a year-round retreat center which attracts thousands of people from many cultures and from all over the world. The nondenominational, nonsectarian retreat center teaches yoga and meditation techniques. The facility also includes a university which teaches diverse subjects such as Web design and carpentry and a school for the approximately 50 resident children.
The village is in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, Nev. There are satellite communities in Seattle, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Palo Alto, Calif.; Sacramento and Hopkinton, R.I. There are smaller, more urban groups in Cincinnati and Columbus where Ananda has purchased apartment buildings and renovated them with common eating areas and a worship center. Recently, Ananda has begun work on centers in India, the birthplace of its founder.
Paramhansa Yogananda came from India to the United States in 1920s. Yogananda was the first yoga master from India to take up residence in the West. LoCicero said that Yoganando explained his mission by saying, "I did not come to the West to bring a new religion. I came to bring a new expression."
LoCicero said Yogananda's teaching endorses the essence of what all true religion offers.
"People are no longer satisfied with just the dogma," he said, "People want tools to express God within themselves."
"Anyone of any religion would get more out of their religion if they learn to relax their body and mind and get into their soul."
Yogananda wrote a book, "Autobiography of a Yogi," in 1947. That book is still studied in college courses, LoCicero said. Yogananda died in 1952.
Ananda was founded in 1968 by Swami Kriyananda, who was a disciple of Yogananda. He currently leads the community. Ananda means joy or bliss in Sanskrit. Yogananda means attainment of bliss. Kriyananda means bliss through action.
The Ananda organization, which includes Crystal Clarity Publishers, spreads their message with books, videos and music. The Internet also has helped. Ananda's award-winning Web site has more than 1,000 pages, LoCicero said.
LoCicero is coordinator of the group's home-study course called the & quot;Ananda Course in Self-Realization. & quot; He also coordinates Ananda Meditation Groups nationwide.
LoCicero's spiritual beginnings were on the East Side of Youngstown where his family lived until moving to Boardman. He said his mother Margaret LoCicero of Boardman, "instilled in me a love for God and a desire to live in the right way."
In the mid 1970s in Boardman, he began learning the physical part of Hatha Yoga. The practice wasn't as popular then and he didn't have friends with whom he could share his enthusiasm. Late in 1975, he moved to Houston and joined the Yoga Institute where he found many people practicing yoga and discovered the philosophy of yoga.
In March 1978 he heard Swami Kriyananda speak in Houston. LoCicero said he was touched by the Swami's teachings.
"I sensed my path and discovered this was someone who knew the truth," he said.
LoCicero worked for six months in Houston to help found a group there before relocating to Ananda Village in California. He spent about 10 of the past 25 years teaching groups in Palo Alto, Portland and Dallas.
At Ananda, he met his future wife, who works in Ananda's Community Services department and is in charge of village membership. Both serve as Lightbearers and teachers, having taught yoga and meditation for 20 years. His stepson has grown up there.
LoCicero's sister and brother-in-law, Greg and Mary Margaret Vantell, also live in Boardman.
For more information visit the community's Web site at www.ananda.org.