Kriya Yoga in Action
My Guru, thou voice of God, I found thee in response to my soul-cries. Slumbers of sorrow are gone, and I am awake in bliss. If all the gods are displeased, and yet thou art pleased, I am safe in the fortress of thy pleasure.
—From the poem “My Guru” by Paramhansa Yogananda
Great souls like Paramhansa Yogananda come to earth with the mission and the magnetism to raise the whole planet’s consciousness. They are born at a particular time and place, but their true time period is eternity. The fulfillment of their mission is often more than any of them can accomplish in the brief span of one lifetime. Thus it is left to their disciples — to those with attunement, dedication, and strength — to complete their work.
Yogananda’s mission for this age was to bring a vision for the future of spiritual rebirth and growth toward global harmony. He spoke of a time in future when India and the United States of America would unite to lead the world toward a balanced life of spiritual and practical efficiency. When Yogananda told Swami Kriyananda, “You have a great work to do,” he only hinted at the full scope of that work.
Yet Swamiji’s life of service, always inspired by inner guidance from his Guru, has virtually defined this mission. Now, after nearly sixty years of spreading his Guru’s teachings in the West, Kriyananda has returned to India. The magnitude of the work given to him by Yogananda has been fully revealed: to unite the best of India and America, thereby helping to foster a spiritual renaissance in the world.
Kriya Yoga is India’s true wealth, her greatest divine gift to all who seek God-realization. “Kriya Yoga in Action,” the central theme of Kriyananda’s life, means making every action — from founding communities and schools, to creating businesses, to teaching and lecturing, to writing books, to composing music, to taking photographs — all these, as extensions of his own inner inspiration.
When Paramhansa Yogananda told Swamiji that part of his work would be writing books, he answered the doubt his disciple expressed to him by saying, “Much more is needed.” What, exactly, was that need? What remained was to show how to apply the teachings in practical ways. In the more-than-eighty books that Kriyananda has written, he has treated his Guru’s teachings like the hub of a great wheel, its spokes radiating outward toward the practical application of Kriya Yoga in every aspect of daily life.
In Art As a Hidden Message, Kriyananda speaks of art as a vehicle for bringing a deeper purpose and vision to life. Derek Bell, a world-renowned harpist of the five-time Grammy-Award winning Irish group, The Chieftains, said in the preface to this book: “What strikes me above all about Swami Kriyananda is the all-embracing nature of his mind. This book is, I believe, the most important book of our time on this vitally important subject. May it be well received and have far-reaching success in refining the way people approach a subject so crucial to the emotional and spiritual health of society.”
In Education for Life, Swamiji offers a new model for training children and for helping them to find deep truths and moral values within themselves. Patricia Kirby, an online professor at the University of Maryland with an M.A. degree in Sociology and a B.A. degree in History, wrote: “Education for Life is the most insightful and comprehensive of the educational philosophies sprouting up today. It has similarities to classical systems of instruction like those of ancient India, Egypt, and Greece, as well as modern approaches like Montessori’s. But from ancient to modern systems of education, I find Swami Kriyananda’s Education for Life the most effective way, among all the approaches that I’ve studied, to prepare children for happy, fulfilled lives.”
In Expansive Marriage — A Way to Self-Realization, Kriyananda offers an approach to marriage that is rooted not only in personal human love, but, even more deeply, in understanding that the true purpose of human love is to expand one’s consciousness to embrace a universal love. Susan Campbell, a well-known psychologist and author of many books on relationships wrote in the preface to this book: “What our culture needs today is a new model of relationships, one that embraces both the outer institution and an inner process of self-unfoldment. The vision of expansive marriage, with its emphasis on inspiration, creativity, and shared communion, contributes significantly to this. It is my hope that this approach will help us to heal ourselves, our families, our communities, and our planet.”
In The Art of Supportive Leadership — A Practical Guide for People in Positions of Responsibility, Swamiji writes about leadership based on service to others and on concern for their highest good, not on personal power or position. The Kellogg Corporation uses this book in its Managers’ Training Workshops for thousands of their employees. A United States Army sergeant, Paul Younghaus, wrote in a review of the book, “In the military, leadership is both an art and a necessity. I highly recommend this book for military people, business people, and anyone who needs to work with others. It will enhance anyone’s efforts to lead people successfully.”
These are but a few highlights of how Swami Kriyananda’s efforts have helped to bring spiritual consciousness into people’s lives everywhere. His books have reached beyond the English-speaking world, and have at this time been translated into 27 different languages and published in 80 foreign editions.
Through all of Swamiji’s spiritual contributions to the world, perhaps we can know him best in his music. Here, one feels his consciousness as he offers his deepest feelings in humility and devotion to God. Swamiji said, “For me, composing has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Often tears of joy have flowed down my cheeks while a melody or a sequence of beautiful harmonies poured through me from the Divine Giver — like a mountain stream, effortlessly.”
His music reflects not only his devotion to God, but also his divine love and friendship for all. “I take pains while composing choral music,” Kriyananda wrote, “to make each part enjoyable to sing, rather than thinking only of the audience’s enjoyment. For me, writing music is like founding a cooperative community: Everyone needs to take part in the creative act.”
Often, while performing his music, the soloist or the choir are so uplifted while singing it that they, like Swamiji while composing it, find tears of joy streaming down their cheeks. One listener commented, “This touching music immediately captured my heart with its tenderness and passion, and brought a warm glow that expanded and left me in a deeply serene and spiritual space.” Another said, “This music took me to places that stretched from the innocence of my childhood to the mystery of my soul.” And after a performance of the Oratorio in Assisi, Italy, by a choir from America, a man came up to Swamiji afterward and said to him in French, “I don’t speak a word of English or Italian, but as I was listening to this choral music I understood everything!”
Because Kriyananda doesn’t identify with his accomplishments, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the part he himself has played in fulfilling his Guru’s mission. Swamiji recounts an interesting incident that happened in the early years of Ananda. He was walking alone one evening, enveloped in the quiet warmth of the summer night. He saw little twinkling lights of kerosene lamps shining within the simple trailers that housed some of the community members. Continuing his walk, he reflected, “Just a few years ago, darkness enveloped this forest. Now, there is light!” For a fleeting moment the idea crossed his mind, “It was I who accomplished all this.” An instant later he deliberately replaced this thought with another one: “God alone is the Doer! What joy is there in thinking of myself as doing anything?” Firmly he repudiated that initial thought, and found inner joy and freedom as he did so. The thought of personal responsibility for Ananda has never, these many years, returned to him again.
“I’ve had two desires in life,” Swamiji has said. “The first is to find God; the second is to help others to find Him.” This two-fold ambition has kept him inwardly free from all lesser attachments.
How can we understand the part he has played as a channel for his Guru in the training of others? He has often used an image from his childhood to describe his role. When he was a boy in Teleajen, Rumania, his parents bought him a new bicycle. After mastering the art of riding it himself, he began to teach all the children in the neighborhood how to ride. His technique was quite simple: first, he would run beside the child, holding on to the seat and the handlebar to prevent a loss of balance. Next, while still running alongside the bicycle to give confidence, he would release the handlebar, and then the seat. Finally, he would stop and watch, cheering the child, who happily rode off alone.
This is very much the way he has trained Ananda members in a great variety of their activities: in leadership, in spiritual teaching and counseling, in singing, writing, and most importantly, in discipleship and their inner search for God. First, he has demonstrated by his own example. Next, he has given quiet support with covert supervision. Then, finally, he has encouraged them to “go on alone.” Thus, he has given to others a sense of personal confidence in their own spiritual potential and in their ability to achieve, outwardly.
One new member said, “I always felt that I had something worthwhile to give, but no one ever wanted it until I came to Ananda and met Swamiji.” Kriyananda, who has had to endure nearly a lifetime of criticism and condemnation from others, has responded only with the desire to help each person he meets to believe in his own highest potential.
David Frawley, a well-known scholar and author of many popular books on Vedic studies and astrology, has had the opportunity to see spiritual communities and ashrams all over America and many also in India. After several visits to Ananda, Mr. Frawley was asked, “In your opinion, what are the most successful ‘new age’ communities anywhere?”
“That’s easy to answer,” he replied. “Ananda, Ananda, and Ananda! The reason for Ananda’s success is that Swami Kriyananda has trained a whole community of people to develop spiritually, and also to develop leadership abilities themselves. The work of Ananda will carry on far into the future.”
In 2003 at the age of 77, Swami Kriyananda returned to India to build the work for his guru that he had begun, but had been stopped from completing, nearly forty-five years earlier. He described his vision for the work in India in a small brochure he wrote soon after his arrival there. The brochure is called, “A Life Dream Fulfilled?” In it he wrote: “Together may we build a work that will do what so many of us longed in our hearts to accomplish all those years ago: to show people everywhere the vitally important truths my great Guru brought to the world, and how to make God real in their daily lives.”
At present, Kriyananda and a small group of Ananda members from different countries have settled in the town of Gurgaon, south of New Delhi. They hope to start Ananda communities in many places in India, and also Ananda Living Wisdom Schools. Swamiji has already published an inspiring new collection of sayings of his Guru’s, called, Conversations with Yogananda, and is completing a correspondence course, Material Success Through Yoga Principles. The hope is eventually to publish all of his books in India — not only in English, but also in Hindi, Bengali, and other Indian languages.
Currently, Kriyananda is offering daily throughout the year a television program called A Way to Awakening. It is aired twice a day during prime viewing time on two cable TV stations, Aastha and Sadhna. These shows have the potential to reach well over a hundred million viewers throughout India, and also in over one hundred countries in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Indeed, viewers in America now can also see the Aastha program.
Recently an Indian viewer wrote to him:
“I found you by chance. One day, not too long ago while channel surfing on my TV, I suddenly saw you and my fingers froze on the remote, curious to know what a Westerner was doing in our Hindu saffron garb. I didn’t mean to stop long, and I didn’t think I would find anything meaningful. Besides I have always mistrusted so-called “God men” of all hues. Anyway, to cut a long story short, now I try never to miss your talk a single day. I find your gentleness, your lack of pomposity, your deep goodness, the twinkle in your eyes, all very sweet and quite compelling. You are like a plunge into a cool oasis in the desert of my busy life.”
When Swamiji was lecturing in 1959 in Patiala, India, a friend told him about a fascinating ancient manuscript known as the Bhrigu Samhita. Bhrigu was a noted rishi, or sage, who lived thousands of years ago in India. He wrote a text of prophecies about the lives of millions of people, many of whom are living today. Swamiji’s friend suggested that they travel to Barnala, a town some sixty miles away, where a portion of the Bhrigu Samhita was kept. “Let us see,” he said, “if there is a prediction about your life.”
To Kriyananda’s amazement, the Bhrigu pundit found a whole page about him among the loose leaves of the treatise. The page was yellowed with antiquity. Everything it said about the incidents in his life up to the present time was true: “He will be born in Rumania,” he read, “and will live in America. He will meet his guru, Yogananda, at the age of twenty-two, and will receive the spiritual name, Kriyananda.” Then the page went on to tell his future: “He will build an ashram in the city of D-, on the banks of the river Jamuna. Its fame will be glorious.” The foundations for this work are now being laid at last. It will require tremendous effort and self-sacrifice on the part of Swamiji and of all those helping to make this dream a reality.
Paramhansa Yogananda, a divine warrior for God in our age, once said, “I want to die with my boots on, speaking of my America and my India.” This he did, fulfilling his mission to his last breath. The Master also once told Swami Kriyananda, “God won’t come to you until the end of life. Death itself will be the final sacrifice you’ll have to make.” Now, in the final chapters of Swamiji’s life, he is pouring out his strength untiringly to complete all that his Guru gave him to do.
“Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” Yogananda quoted these words of Jesus Christ in the frontispiece of his Autobiography of a Yogi. People often expect to see the demonstration of supernatural powers and miracles as proof of a saint’s spiritual stature. It is noteworthy that every undertaking to which Swamiji has ever turned his will seems to have been achieved, often against impossible odds; and to have met with stunning success. His real “miracles,” however — ones that Swami Kriyananda has displayed throughout his years of discipleship — are his ability to live humbly and joyfully under all circumstances, to offer his life whole-heartedly to serving God and Guru above all, and to inspire in others the desire also to seek God.
The thoughts of spiritual masters are not limited to the narrow time frame of the present, but reverberate in the past and the future. Thus the words that Paramhansa Yogananda said to Swamiji a few days before his mahasamadhi are filled with the Master’s timeless blessings — for Kriyananda’s past dedication, for his years as a disciple in the present lifetime, and for the “great work” that he would fulfill magnificently far into the future.
May his Guru’s words echo always in Swami Kriyananda’s heart, and in the hearts of every true disciple: “You have pleased me very much. I want you to know that.”