Paramhansa Yogananda often said to Swami Kriyananda, “You have a great work to do,” and gave him specific directions—about both the future of Yogananda’s mission and the path of Swami Kriyananda’s own spiritual service. This page delves into that story, and into Swami Kriyananda’s responsibilities with Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), both before and after Paramhansa Yogananda’s passing until Kriyananda’s separation from SRF in 1962.
A more detailed account can be found in Swami Kriyananda’s book Go On Alone: A Struggle Between Personal Integrity and Group Conformity.
“You’d Better Learn to Like It. . . . That Is What You Will Have to Do” (1948–1952)
Swami Kriyananda met Paramhansa Yogananda at the age of 22 on September 12, 1948. At their first meeting, Yogananda accepted Kriyananda (then James Donald Walters) as his disciple, and Kriyananda moved in with the other monks at SRF’s Mount Washington headquarters in Los Angeles, California.
During their time together, Yogananda often told Swami Kriyananda (as mentioned above), “You have a great work to do.” Additionally, he told him, “Your life will be one of intense activity and meditation,” and “Your work will be lecturing, editing, and writing.” Only eight months after their first meeting, Yogananda asked Kriyananda to begin lecturing on his behalf and to initiate people into the sacred Kriya Yoga technique. Soon thereafter, Yogananda ordained Kriyananda an SRF minister and placed him in charge of the monks.
Yogananda personally trained Kriyananda in sharing the teachings by having him write articles in the SRF magazine, and by asking him to read and provide editorial suggestions for the SRF correspondence lessons and for the original manuscripts of Yogananda’s commentaries on the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and the Bhagavad Gita. Yogananda also spent much time with Kriyananda in discussing the teachings and sharing his wishes for the future direction of his mission.
The following two incidents show how earnest Yogananda was in his desire that Kriyananda dedicate his life to sharing Yogananda’s mission:
Once, when Kriyananda, not wishing to be in the limelight of public service, balked at public teaching, Yogananda replied lightly, “You’d better learn to like it. That is what you will have to do.”
In the second incident, Paramhansa Yogananda one day commented to a group of monks about the number of teachers he’d appointed who had allowed public admiration to go to their heads. Hearing him describe this danger to those in the ministry, Kriyananda said to him, “Sir, that’s why I don’t want to be a public speaker.” Yogananda understood that this was an important moment in Kriyananda’s life. Speaking gravely and with great emphasis, he averred, “You will never fall because of ego!”
From the Head of the Monks to the Board of Directors (1952–1962)
After Yogananda’s passing in 1952, Swami Kriyananda continued his service on behalf of SRF in the capacity of a minister and as the head of the monks. Soon he was also put in charge of the Center Department, which coordinated the activities of the various SRF centers worldwide. In this role, Kriyananda travelled to SRF centers in the U.S., Canada, and Europe as the principal SRF speaker. In 1955, he was also placed in charge of SRF’s church in Hollywood. Between 1958 and 1962, Kriyananda lived in India, helping to expand SRF’s work in the land of Yogananda’s birth.
In 1960, Swami Kriyananda was elected to the SRF board of directors and elected also as SRF’s first vice-president.
Why Swami Kriyananda Was Expelled from Self-Realization Fellowship
After Yogananda’s passing in 1952, and the passing in 1955 of Rajarshi Janakananda, Yogananda’s spiritual heir and second president of SRF, Swami Kriyananda increasingly found that his understanding of Yogananda’s mission differed significantly from that of Daya Mata, the third president of SRF, and Tara Mata, the second vice-president of SRF. In Kriyananda’s own words:
From SRF’s point of view, they weren’t ready to develop the work into a world mission of the magnitude Paramhansa Yogananda had visualized. [The leadership] saw their role as putting into smooth working order whatever Yogananda had already started, but not as developing his work to a further stage. So fixed was I in the consciousness of spreading the work, as Yogananda had encouraged me, at least, to do, that I simply couldn’t imagine that this was not their [the Board’s] goal also. I see now, however, that it never was their goal. It is pointless for me to ask, Why not? It was not to them that Yogananda gave that responsibility. He did give it to me.
These differences culminated in a dramatic meeting in 1962 with Daya Mata and Tara Mata, at which Kriyananda was expelled from SRF, and instructed both to sever all connection with his brother-disciples at SRF and to refrain thenceforth from serving Paramhansa Yogananda in any capacity.
While Swami Kriyananda followed his superiors’ orders to cut his ties with the organization, he could not forsake his lifelong commitment to serving Yogananda as a loyal disciple. Gradually, after a long period of soul-searching, Kriyananda came to realize that it was his guru’s wish that he serve him from outside of Self-Realization Fellowship, and this, eventually, led to the founding of Ananda.
In his later years, Swami Kriyananda came to consider this separation from SRF, painful as it was, as a blessing from his guru, for it freed him to serve Yogananda in the way Yogananda himself had asked him to do: something that would have been impossible from within SRF.
In 1962, a confusing period in Kriyananda’s life, he couldn’t have foreseen the extraordinary life of service to his guru that was only now about to begin. You can find an account of those years, as a well as a fuller description of these years leading up to them, in some of the suggested books below. Or a brief biographical sketch can be found here.
Books about Swami Kriyananda:
Faith Is My Armor: The Life of Swami Kriyananda, by Devi Novak
Swami Kriyananda: Lightbearer, by Asha Nayaswami
Swami Kriyananda: As We Have Known Him, by Asha Nayaswami (aka Asha Praver)
Suggested Books by Swami Kriyananda:
Go On Alone: A Struggle Between Personal Integrity and Group Conformity, by Swami Kriyananda (read online for free)
The New Path: My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda, by Swami Kriyananda
Conversations with Yogananda, by Swami Kriyananda
The Essence of Self-Realization: The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda, by Swami Kriyananda
Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography, by Swami Kriyananda
The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita: Explained by Paramhansa Yogananda, by Swami Kriyananda