Swami Kriyananda

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 songs (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.

A New Beginning

Soon after his doing the Monastery, Yoganandaji put Swami Kriyananda incharge of all the monks. He appointed him as a Kriyacharya (authorised to give Kriya diksha) and asked him to start lecturing and giving classes. In addition, Swamiji began helping his Guru by editing his writings and books.

After Yoganandaji’s mahasamadhi, Swami Kriyananda travelled around the world representing his Guru and was soon appointed as Vice-President of the SRF (Self-Realization Fellowship).

In 1962, due to differences with the board of directors of the SRF Swamiji was asked to leave the organization. And in 1968, after living and teaching in and around the San Francisco Bay area, Swamiji started the first Ananda World Brotherhood Community.

Birth of Ananda

Establishing World Brotherhood Colonies

“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, Beverly Hills, California, July 1949

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.

Ananda Village