Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters) became a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda in 1948 and lived with him during the last years of his guru’s life. He is one of Yogananda’s few remaining direct disciples. He recounts his own spiritual search and years of training with Yogananda in his autobiography, The Path, which is widely considered the sequel to Yogananda’s book. He is currently establishing new centers and communities in India.
Swami Kriyananda applies the teachings of Self-realization to daily life. He has written books on marriage, education, leadership and success, spiritual communities, yoga, self-healing, art, architecture, astrology, and philosophy, as well as editions of Yogananda’s teachings and writings on the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, and other scriptures. He also composes inspired spiritual music which is being performed in the United States and in Europe.
The Ananda Community near Assisi, Italy is one of seven communities which Kriyananda has founded as a fulfillment of Yogananda’s dream of establishing “world brotherhood communities” in many nations. Nearly 1000 adults and children live in these communities, which are located both in rural areas and in urban centers. They also serve as teaching and training centers for Self-realization.
Swami Kriyananda Looks ahead to the Next Years
During our visit to India, Swami Kriyananda very graciously invited the European pilgrims to his home for tea, during which time he responded to our questions. We were all curious about his plans for the coming years, to which he replied:
Making Yogananda and his teachings known in India
When Swami Kriyananda visited India with other members of the SRF Board of Directors in the 1950s and 1960s, he observed how few people knew anything about Yogananda. Obviously, since Yogananda's mission and life was passed primarily in the West, he is better known outside his own country. He did, however, establish schools and ashrams in India, with a desire to build what he called a “World City” there.
Through the decades since The Autobiography of a Yogi was written in 1945, millions of people have read it. And while it has inspired many readers to begin their spiritual search, Swami Kriyananda observes that many people have the impression that Yogananda was just a young spiritual seeker who had the good fortune to meet many great saints. With the publishing in India by Ananda of Yogananda’s original Autobiography of a Yogi, Swami Kriyananda’s The Path (both an autobiographical account of his life and a first-hand account of Yogananda’s life), and, most recently, Conversations with Yogananda, people are coming to recognize Yogananda as one of the greatest spiritual teachers of our times.
Swami Kriyananda dedicated a large part of the past year recording television shows during which he speaks about Yogananda and his teachings. For months he recorded ten shows every day, 365 programs in all, using excerpts from Conversations as the point of departure. These programs are shown every day on two cable channels dedicated to spiritual teaching: Aastha and Sadhana, and are seen by tens of millions of people, in India, other parts of Asia, and now they are being received also in the USA.
Making the teachings of Self-realization and the practice of Kriya Yoga widely available
Every week hundreds of calls are received during and after the television programs from people asking how they can begin to study these teachings. Every month five teams of Ananda teachers start meditation courses that are attended by hundreds of new students. The courses begin with the basic technique and then in following months continue through the Energization Exercises, more advanced meditation practices, discipleship, preparation for Kriya initiation, and then on to Kriya.
Many more teachers are needed, for the meditation courses and also for programs on spirituality in daily life and “Education for Life” for teachers and students. For this reason Claudio and Deborah Gregorelli from Ananda Assisi have been “lent” to Ananda Sangha India for an indefinite period of time. Also teaching in India from Ananda Assisi are Miriam and Dharana.
Material Success through Yoga Principles
In order to show that Kriya Yoga is a complete path to God-realization and not just an advanced meditation technique, Swami Kriyananda is writing a correspondence course for business people. He has completed thirteen of twenty-six Lessons, each of which is sent to subscribers once every two weeks. Thus the course lasts for an entire year. This course is Swami Kriyananda’s major thrust in India, to which he has devoted most of his time, with the firm conviction that Yogananda’s mission is to enable people everywhere to transform the entire fabric of their lives with higher consciousness.
In addition to completing the final thirteen lessons of the Success course, Swamiji hopes to be able to complete the second volume of Promise of Immortality, in which he uses Yogananda’s commentaries on the Bible and the Bhagavad-Gita to demonstrate the underlying unity in the original teachings of Jesus Christ and Bhagavan Krishna. The first volume of Promise is available in English, and is being translated into Italian. Other books soon to be published in Italian are Conversations with Yogananda, The Hindu Way of Awakening, and Raja Yoga.
Communities in India
Daily life for people in India’s large cities, and especially in Delhi, contains the same anxieties and stressful situations we find all over the world. The pace of life is entirely too fast and barely human; air, water, and sound pollution cause a wide spectrum of physical and psychological disease; real human contact is becoming less frequent and less meaningful; children are being raised by upwardly-mobile, nervous parents who are placing unreasonable academic expectations on them.
Yogananda’s model of cooperative world brotherhood communities offers an attractive solution: home, job, school, and temple in the same location, in company of like-minded people who aspire to high ideals and desire a more simple, less frenetic life. With the example and experience of the thirty-five-year history and success of Ananda World Brotherhood Village in California, Swami Kriyananda is keen to start communities throughout India. Many of Ananda Village’s founders and current leaders frequently visit the work in India, and offer advice and encouragement for its development. Land for the first community is being sought in the countryside between Gurgaon and Delhi.
Monasteries for men and women
Swami Kriyananda remembers how Yogananda would say: “Someday lion-like swamis will come from India and spread this message all over.” He has long wanted to establish a monastery, and did so in the early days of Ananda Village. However, with the men and women working together to develop the work, a truly monastic life was not then possible. In India, Swami Kriyananda hopes to achieve that dream. He commented to the pilgrims that without a strong householder base, deeply rooted in spirituality and renunciation, a monastic order wouldn’t be appreciated: the householders might feel, as happened at Ananda Village, like “second-class citizens.” But now that the renunciate householders are strong, and have formed the Ananda Sevaka Order, a monastic branch of this Order would give inspiration and aspiration to everyone.
With a small group of young men (from India, The United States, and Brazil), the monastic branch was started in February. They are living in one of Ananda Sangha’s houses in Gurgaon, where they are meditating together, serving the work in various capacities, and looking for means of economic support. Swami Kriyananda knows that this is only a humble beginning, and that in the near future the monastics, both men and women, will find a more quiet location in the mountains.