One of Paramhansa Yogananda’s foremost disciples, Swami Kriyananda was the founder of the Ananda. He met his Guru in 1948 when he was only 22 and dedicated the next six decades of his life to sharing the teachings of Sanatan Dharma and Kriya Yoga, until his passing in 2013.
Swami Kriyananda was a prolific writer with his work spanning more than 150 books. These books are revised and expanded commentaries on Yogananda’s teachings. Books such as the Essence of Bhagavad Gita, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, The Revelations of Christ and The New Path (Swami Kriyananda’s autobiography on his time with the Guru) have been his noteworthy contributions in highlighting some of his Master’s most important work.
He was a trained musician and composed over 400 pieces of music (solos, instrumentals, choir, chants, etc). Through his music he channeled higher states of consciousness and helped innumerable listeners to attune themselves too.
Swamiji’s work continues to inspire readers and devotees to be better disciples, be supported on their own journeys, and especially to help them learn and practice meditation and Kriya Yoga.
Swamiji’s Early Life
Born in Azuga, Romania, on May 19,1926 as James Donald Walters, Swami Kriyananda’s search for self realization began very early in life.
As a child, at night, he would see himself absorbed in an inner radiant light and his “consciousness would expand beyond the limits of my body.” He always felt, even as a child that there “must be some higher reality. Another world, perhaps, radiant beautiful, harmonious, in relation to which this earthly plane represented mere exile.”
His early childhood was spent in Rumania where he was surrounded by nature and music. Swamiji described himself as reserved, pensive and forever questioning as a child.
When World War II hit Europe, at the age of 13, Swamiji moved back to America with his family. Through his schooling in America, his thirst for knowing God and the need to ‘know’ more about life as he was living it, grew stronger with each passing year.
A semester before his graduation from Brown University he left it, in search of God.
The disciple meets his Guru
After he left college he spent nearly a year or so trying to become a writer/playwright. However, even that was not satisfactory. He felt that until he himself knew truth, he would only be sharing his own ignorance with people through his writings. And so Swamiji decided that he would lead a simple life, spent in contemplation of God.
As chance would have it, during this time, he happened to visit a famous bookstore. There he found books on the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga, Upanishads, Ramayana and Mahabharata. He also saw the Autobiography of a Yogi and Paramhansa Yogananda’s picture he said “affected me strangely. Never had I seen any face radiate back to me so much goodness, humility and love.”
The moment he finished reading that book, he took the next bus out of New York, and travelled for 4 days and 4 nights to Los Angeles in search of Paramhansa Yogananda. Arriving in Los Angeles on September 12, 1948, the first words Swamiji said when he met his Guru were, “I want to be your disciple.” Swamiji was immediately accepted into the monastery and went on to spend the following three and a half years in the presence and grace of Paramhansa Yogananda, until the latter’s passing on March 7, 1952.
“Learn to accept with even mind whatever comes into your Life, by giving it to GOD.”
— Swami Kriyananda
Birth of Ananda
“This day marks the birth of a new era. My spoken words are registered in the ether, in the Spirit of God, and they shall move the West. “We must go on — not only those who are here, but thousands of youths must go North, South, East, and West to cover the earth with little colonies, demonstrating that simplicity of living plus high thinking leads to the greatest happiness!”
— Paramhansa Yogananda
The idea of a ‘World Brotherhood Colony’ were sown in Swami Kriyananda during one of Master’s (Paramhansa Yogananda) talks, on 31st July 1949. That very day, Swamiji vowed to make Master’s vision come true.
After his departure from SRF, Swamiji continued lecturing and travelling to talk about Self-Realization with all whom were interested. As devotees began to grow, Swamiji bought land in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Nevada City. He began building the community and founded Ananda in 1969.
In time, the community grew and eventually expanded to not just one, but many Ananda communities sprung up around the world. Namely, Assisi (Italy), Palo Alto, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, Ananda Los Angeles and Laurelwood (USA) & Delhi, Gurgoan and Pune (India).
At its spiritual heart, Ananda communities have a temple and a teaching center and residential community where members stay. Swamiji said that the communities demonstrate his Guru’s vision of, ‘simple living, high thinking’, where “people are more important than things.”
In addition, Swami Kriyananda also established Living Wisdom Schools based on the ‘Education for Life’ principles that he founded.
Honors and Awards
•2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award for Best New Spirituality Book for Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography With Personal Reflections & Reminiscences
•2012 International Book Award for Best New Spirituality Book for Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography With Personal Reflections & Reminiscences
•2012 Letter from the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles (Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa):“For over 50 years, Swami Kriyananda has shed a spiritual and reflective light into the world, across
continents and into the lives of individuals. We thank him for his many accomplishments and for sharing the life and teachings of yogi Paramhansa Yogananda.”
•2009 Appointed to the Board of Vedanta Today
•2009 Eric Hoffer Award for Best New Self-Help/ Spiritual Book for The New Path: My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda
•2009 USA Book News Award for Best New Spiritual Book for The New Path: My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda
•May 2008 Yoga nel Mondo Award by the Milan and Rome Yoga Festival, with this tribute: “To the maestro Swami Kriyananda, enlightened representative of the yoga science and philosophy,
and indefatigable supporter and major spokesman of the bridge between East and West.”
•May 2008 Honorary Member of the International Yoga Confederation of New Delhi
•May 2008 Honorary Member of the World Movement for Yoga
•May 2008 1st Conacreis Award (National Coordination of the Ethical, Interior, and Spiritual Centers) to honor Swami Kriyananda’s dedication to the building of spiritual communities worldwide
•May 2008 Honorary Member of The Club of Budapest International
- 2007 Recipient of the Julius Caesar Medal in Rome
and Keys to the City (an honor generally reserved
for heads of state)
- 2007 Premio Ponte del Consorzio Per i Libri
(The Bridge Award given by The Consortium for
Books) in recognition of Swami Kriyananda’s
role as a major spokesman for unity and dialogue
between cultures, East and West. For having
dedicated “all his life and his work to the service of
others, creating a bridge between philosophy and
practicality, science and religion, social duties and
inner well-being, East and West. . . . For sixty years
he has also affirmed the principles of the union
between East and West, spreading throughout the
entire world the ancient principles of Yoga and the
spiritual teachings of the highest Indian tradition
of Self-realization, making them practical and at
the same available to people of every social level,
and applicable in every area of daily life.”
- 2005 Honorary Member of The Club of Budapest
International (Other members include Mikhail
Gorbachev, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop
- July 2004 International Award for Goodness, in
Milan, Italy, upon the nomination of Tara Gandhi,
granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi. Previous
recipients include the Dalai Lama.
- 1995 Lifetime Achievement Award, Unity in Yoga
Conference, Snowmass, CO
- 1992 Nominated for the Templeton Progress in
- 1991 First prize at the National Festival of World
Peace in Italy for the oratorio, Christ Lives
- 1990 Adelaide Ristori Award, Italy, for the oratorio,
- 1989 The Presidential Cup, second prize at the
1st Annual Modial Mariano, Colle di Fuori, Rome,
Italy, for the oratorio, Christ Live