During their time together at Twenty-Nine Palms, Yoganandaji gave much personal instruction to his disciple, young Donald Walters, regarding Donald’s own future, and referred also to the future directions of the work. The Master talked to him at length, in addition, about many of the other disciples, doing so perhaps to give him a deeper understanding of the right attitudes of discipleship, as well as to show him how he himself should guide others.

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One evening out at the desert Donald asked Yogananda, “Will I find God in this life?”

“Yes,” the Guru replied. “But don’t think about it.” There ensued a brief pause, after which the Master continued, “After many lifetimes, everything has balanced out now.”

Why must his disciple not dwell on this wonderful promise? Because he still had a lot of work to do in this life. Yogananda, in training this disciple, placed highest priority on his service to others.

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During these blessed years of training at Yogananda’s feet, and later while writing, editing, lecturing, working with others, and spreading the teachings of his Guru as a devoted disciple, “Walter” [which is how Yogananda referred to Donald Walters] realized more and more the scope of the Master’s universal mission. Toward the end of his life, Yogananda told one of the monks, “If Walter had only come sooner, we would have reached millions!”

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In 1952, Yoganandaji was preparing to end his mission on earth. By then “Walter,” his devoted disciple, had developed the attunement, the focus, and the vision to spread his Guru’s teachings to the world. One day Donald said to him, “How will I know your will, Sir, after you are gone?”

“You already know my will,” Yogananda replied, “at least in the important things.”

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Some of Kriyananda’s happiest memories of the nearly four years that he spent in India (1958-1962) were his frequent opportunities to visit some of India’s great living saints. Among others, he spent considerable time with Ananda Moyi Ma, the “Joy-Permeated Mother” whom Yogananda described with great love in his autobiography.

In the book, Mother of Bliss– Anandamayi Ma, by Lisa Hallstrom, this story about Kriyananda is related: “Rupa Bose, a brahmacharini  [renunciate] in Calcutta, said that she once waited outside Ma’s door for six hours while a Western monk, a devotee of another guru, had a ‘private’ with Ma. She complained, ‘Ma, Kriyananda is so lucky. We are with you for the last twenty years. You don’t give us five or six hours at a time.’

“Ma replied, ‘When the lotus opens there are frogs under the pond, there are other insects. But suddenly a bee comes and sits on the open lotus and sucks out the honey from the lotus. So you don’t know how to take the honey out, but Kriyananda, a foreign brahmachari, has come for two days, but he has got the capacity of holding this body for six hours private.’”

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Over the years of building Ananda Kriyananda has worn his innate air of authority and leadership lightly and naturally, never “lording it” over anyone. A few years ago he remarked to a few friends, “I recently received a letter from an Ananda member saying how much he admired my ability to accomplish things and to lead others. He needs to understand that I’m no different from anyone else—I’ve just been doing it a little longer.”

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Considerate and tactful, Swamiji tries to correct and guide others in their spiritual growth without hurting or discouraging them. Once someone wrote a letter to my husband and me critical of our way of directing a certain aspect of Ananda. We were hurt by his words, which seemed to us unfair, but since we were about to attend a community Christmas celebration, we decided to say nothing about it to Swamiji until later.

As soon as he saw us at the gathering, however, he immediately asked, “What’s wrong?” After we’d explained about the letter, we asked him in humility, “Swamiji, we want to do the right thing. Please tell us, are the things he wrote about us true?”

After reflecting a moment he said, “You’re doing the best you can for who you are.” Trying to pin him down, I pressed further, “Well, was he wrong in writing the letter?” With wisdom inclusive of everybody’s reality, he answered, “He’s doing the best he can for who he is.” Then with a twinkle of warmth and understanding in his eyes, he concluded, “And I’m doing the best I can for who I am.”

We were healed and blessed by that guidance, and have quoted this story to others over the years.

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Swamiji’s sensitivity and concern for others often reaches out to them, unasked for, when they are in need. An Ananda member told me a beautiful story in this regard. I’d mentioned to her that Kriyananda had phoned us to discuss a project we were working on. She said a bit sadly, “He’s never called us.”  Then she paused and continued, “No, that’s not true. He did once. One evening, my husband and I had a big argument. We were really mad at each other, and we went to bed without speaking.

“In the morning, we wanted to make up, but neither one of us knew how to take the first step. Then the phone rang. It was Swamiji. All he said to us was, ‘I want to thank you both for your beautiful spirit.’ His love dissolved the block between us, and we smiled at each other with love and forgiveness.”

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Even with people who have consciously tried to thwart or hurt him, Swamiji responds with kindness, and has never attempted to strike back. Once a tough looking man who was an ex-member of a motorcycle gang came to Ananda. Swamiji, feeling that he was sincere spiritually, befriended him and encouraged him to stay. He gave him the name, Ram Lila, meaning “God’s play.” After a time, Ram Lila became restless, left the community, and began to spread malicious lies and gossip about Swamiji.

A year later during a public gathering, where Swamiji was speaking before several hundred people, Ram Lila returned and stood in the back, looking repentant. “Ram Lila, come here,” Swamiji called out to this burly, barrel-chested man. The man came forward, hanging his head in remorse, and stood before Swamiji, who sweetly said to him, “Ram Lila, you’ve been a bad boy.”

“I know, Swamiji, I’ll never do it again.” Kriyananda lovingly blessed him. The man didn’t remain at Ananda, but he has been a loyal friend ever since.

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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. 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.”

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Through all of Swamiji’s spiritual contributions to the world, perhaps he has inspired the most people through his music. 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.”

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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 [a river near Delhi]. Its fame will be glorious.”

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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.

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.

Devi Novak, together with her husband, Jyotish Novak, serve as acharyas (spiritual directors) for Ananda Sangha Worldwide. She is a founding member of Ananda and lives at Ananda Village. Resources: Faith Is My Armor: The Life of Swami Kriyananda Other Clarity articles by Devi Novak are listed under "Nayaswami Devi."


  1. Thank you Devi Ji for sharing these inspiring incidents related to our beloved Saint Swamiji. He has transformed my life and my family’s and taught us how to live.

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