Kriya Yoga Home Study

Swami Kriyananda (1926 - 2013)

Swami Kriyananda was a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda and the founder of Ananda Sangha. His deep spiritual quest for ‘truth’ led him, in 1948 at the young age of 22, to read Paramhansa Yogananda’s spiritual classic, “Autobiography of a Yogi.”


In 1948, young Kriyananda became a disciple of the yoga master, Paramhansa Yogananda. He lived with Yogananda until his passing in 1952.


Kriyananda dedicated 65 years of his life to practicing and sharing his Guru’s teachings through lecturing, guiding, writing, art, founding communities, and much more. He passed away in the year 2013 leaving the legacy of his service to thousands of truth-seekers and followers of Yogananda’s teachings.

Video Credit: Center Everywhere

Early Life

Swami Kriyananda’s original name was James Donald Walters. He was born on 19 May 1926 in Teleajen, Romania to American parents. He was the oldest of three boys and his father worked in the oil industry.


Even as a child, Kriyananda demonstrated calmness and strength of mind. He was sent to private schools in Switzerland, England, and America. 


As a college student, Kriyananda dedicated himself to the search for the Truth and made several important discoveries. He was eager to know what life was really about. He hadn’t found it in philosophy, churches, nature, or simple living, though he had tried them all.


In 1948, Kriyananda came across the book “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramhansa Yogananda in a bookstore. He quickly read it through, describing it as “the best book I have ever read.”


Soon after reading the book, he boarded a bus and traveled cross-country for three days and nights to arrive at a Self-Realization Fellowship church where Yogananda had just lectured. Yogananda agreed to meet him because “Divine Mother told me to see you.” In that first meeting, he accepted Kriyananda as his disciple.


In 1948 at the age of twenty-two, Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters) became a disciple of the Indian yoga master, Paramhansa Yogananda.


Instantly recognizing the author as his Guru, the young Kriyananda resolved to dedicate his life to practicing and sharing his Guru’s teachings. At their first meeting soon after, Yogananda accepted Kriyananda as his disciple.


Recognizing Swami Kriyananda as an “old hand” from the past, Yogananda soon gave him many responsibilities: He was ordained a minister of Yogananda’s organization Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), asked to give kriya yoga initiations, and made Head of the SRF monks. Yogananda spent many hours with Swami Ji, guiding his understanding of the teachings and personally instructing him in his future mission. Often Yogananda told Swami Kriyananda “You have a great work to do.” Kriyananda knew this was not a praise, but a serious commission to help bring Yogananda’s teachings into the world.


During their time together from 1948 till Yogananda’s Mahasamadhi in 1952, Yogananda often told Kriyananda: “Your work is writing, editing, and lecturing.”

Spiritual Mission

At Yogananda’s request, Swami Kriyananda devoted his life to lecturing and writing, helping others to experience the living presence of God within. He taught on four continents in seven languages for over 65 years.


His talks, his music, and his many books have touched the lives of millions.

Swami Kriyananda took the ancient teachings of Raja Yoga and made them practical and immediately useful for people in every walk of life. His books and teachings on spiritualizing nearly every human endeavor field include business life, leadership, education, the arts, community, and science.


He wrote extensive commentaries on the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita, both based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda. He is known as the “father of the intentional communities movement,” which began in the United States in the late 1960s.


He wrote several books, including Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, Commentaries on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, The Time Tunnel, A Pilgrimage to Guadalupe, Love Perfected Life Divine, and others. 


Among these are his crown jewels The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita based on Yogananda’s Gita commentaries, Revelations of Christ based on Yogananda’s explanation of ‘Original Christianity’, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Explained based on Yogananda’s interpretations of the great Persian scripture and The New Path, a thrilling autobiographical account of his life as Yogananda’s disciple.


After Yogananda’s passing, Swami Kriyananda served SRF in several key positions – as the minister for the Hollywood SRF Church, as the in-charge of the Centers Department, and as the chief lecturer throughout the world. He was elected to the SRF Board of Directors in 1956, and then as the First Vice-President in 1960.


Swami Kriyananda founded Ananda in 1969 to fulfill Yogananda’s vision for “World Brotherhood Colonies” – spiritual communities where spiritual aspirants, whether married or single, could live together and have their home, temple, school, and office in one place, and support each other’s spiritual quest with Simple Living and High Thinking.


Today Ananda is a worldwide movement that spans many countries and serves several thousand seekers through its communities, meditation groups, and online offerings.


Swami Kriyananda gave thousands of lectures on his Guru’s teachings, in several different countries. He also wrote over 140 books, showing how Yogananda’s teachings can spiritualize all aspects of life.


Swami Kriyananda passed away on April 21, 2013, at his home in Assisi, Itay. He was 86 years old. 


In the final years of Swami Kriyananda’s life, he often traveled between Italy, India, and America, giving many lectures and spreading Yogananda’s teachings around the world.


The tens of thousands of seekers who’ve found upliftment and spiritual strength through Swami Kriyananda’s Herculean labor of love for his Guru – his writings, music, satsangs, personal friendship, and his example of discipleship – are his enduring legacy.


Yogananda had told the young Kriyananda “God will come to you at the end of this life.” India’s ancient book of prophecies, the Bhrigu Samhita, foretold also that this would be his last earthly life.

In his last years, he could hardly speak without tears. He often spoke of indescribable states of bliss.


Swami Kriyananda’s body rests at Ananda Village, where his “Great Work” for his Guru began fifty years ago, in a beautiful temple built by grateful devotees. The temple is aptly named “Moksha Mandir” and bears as inscription the final line from Yogananda’s poem Samadhi :

“A tiny bubble of laughter, I Am become the Sea of Mirth Itself.”

The only way I want people to remember me is that “He was a good disciple”.

The New Path

The New Path provides a marvelous sequel to Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, helping you to gain a more profound understanding of this great world teacher. Through many stories of life with Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda’s invaluable insights, you’ll discover the inner path that leads to soul-freedom and lasting happiness.

John W. White, M.A.T.Yale University Author
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"The catalyst in Kriyananda’s transformation was his guru, the well-known yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi. In fact, it is accurate to say that The Path, subtitled “Autobiography of a Western Yogi,” is as much about Yogananda as about Kriyananda. For, in truth, the two are one. That is part of the inspirational quality of The Path — the selfless devotion to guru which Kriyananda displays throughout the book. At the same time, he makes clear that Yogananda did not want devotion for himself. Rather, he would lovingly redirect his disciples’ devotion to God."

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