Editor’s note: The following article was excerpted from the book Stories of Swamiji, in which the author shares many of his cherished experiences with Swami Kriyananda over a period of more than thirty years.
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This is the story of a young man who, in the midst of a spiritual quest, had the good fortune to encounter a great man of God.
Swami Kriyananda (1926–2013) was a close and dedicated disciple of the great spiritual master and world teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda (1893–1952; author of the classic Autobiography of a Yogi). Throughout a lifetime that encompassed a whirlwind of activity, Swamiji accomplished prodigies and left a vast legacy—of books, music, recorded talks, communities, and so much more—for students of Yogananda’s teachings and for the world.
In humility and with a desire to remove his ego from the picture, Swamiji always understated himself and what he did. I knew him for almost forty years and I never saw him try to draw people to himself. He said, “Others want to set themselves up as gurus, or to be seen as such. I want to be a good disciple. The best disciple I can be. The world needs more good disciples.” And this is what we saw in him, all of us who knew him. By perfecting his discipleship to his great guru, by acting with exquisite attunement as a disciple, he taught us everything we needed to know about the guru-disciple relationship. By sharing so much of his own path to the Divine, he illuminated our paths. For all who seriously sought to learn from him, he nurtured and challenged us, and took us forward, step by step.
Learning from Swamiji was akin to walking a razor’s edge. The edge was not an amorphous one outside myself: it lay deep in the heart of my being. In a very real sense, the edge was deep in my spine: not the physical backbone, but the energy spine that formed it. Once one is deeply centered there and, more particularly, in the heart and at the spiritual eye at the point between the eyebrows, one can clearly sense the right course to take in every situation. Swamiji’s purpose was to bring me to that centeredness, to help me perfect it and make it a permanent state of being.
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Master used to say that, to those who were in tune with him, he could communicate his thoughts and wishes simply through a look or a glance.
Swamiji sought to form this level of connection with me. He sent out a high energy and vibration, and then watched to see if I would respond to it.* Accompanying that vibration was a particular look.
In the mid-1980s, I was serving as assistant minister in our Sacramento Ananda Center. It was summertime, and Swamiji was giving regular classes on Saturday mornings outdoors (in the “Temple of Trees”) at The Expanding Light Retreat.
I was in the habit of getting up early and riding my Honda motorcycle from our Sacramento ashram to Ananda Village so that I could enjoy these weekly classes. Each week I sought to get there early so that I could sit and meditate before the class began.
One morning I set foot in the Temple of Trees to find that Swamiji had also arrived early. He was sitting on a chair on the slightly raised lecture platform. Wishing to draw on the inspiration that I regularly felt in his presence, I sat down and half-closed my eyes for meditation. At the same time, I visualized a photo I had taken of Swami years before, of him sitting and gazing at me with a deep look on his face.
Through my half-closed eyes, I witnessed what happened.
Swami, who had been glancing at the people setting things up nearby, suddenly became very still. He turned directly to where I was seated and peered at me.
Instantly I felt a very deep vibration, like an ocean wave, washing over me. The vibration was beautiful and high and sacred. It was also very powerful and demanded that I raise my own energy to meet it, and that I concentrate one-pointedly on receiving it. I sat for many minutes, drinking in that vibration. Through my half-closed eyes, I was aware that Swami continued to gaze in my direction, motionless.
I felt that Swami’s intent was to raise my consciousness as high as it could go. And to deepen my attunement with my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, for I felt that this vibration came straight from him. And to instill this vibration within me so that I could access it whenever in future I directed my attention fully toward it, with the right spirit of devotion and humility.
After perhaps five to ten minutes, I felt my energy flagging. On a spiritual level, I felt as if I’d just run a marathon. Though my spirit was willing, my “flesh was weak.” At one point, with regret, I respectfully withdrew from this high and sacred connection.
With my eyes now wide open, I saw that Swami continued to look in my direction for a few moments. Then he sat back, crossed his legs, and took a sip of water from a glass that was on hand. From that point on, he participated in the normal interactions related to the setting up for his talk.
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Swamiji reported how, on more than one occasion when he was attending a talk by Master, in his lecture Master would answer his unspoken question. Then Swami would thank Master mentally, and Master would look at Swami and smile in response before continuing his talk.
This same thing happened to me in relation to Swami, more than once. For example, I recall one satsang I attended where I was standing in the back of the room. Something Swamiji said during his talk triggered a subject in my mind that wasn’t on his topic. I posed a question in my thoughts, and almost immediately, Swami changed the subject and spoke for a good five to ten minutes, offering an in-depth and extremely helpful answer to my mental question.
At the end, I couldn’t help but express mentally to Swami my deep appreciation. Again, I was in the back of the room, but Swami turned my way, looked directly at me, and beamed for a few moments before returning to the main theme of his talk.
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I believe that Swamiji tried to get as many of us as possible to tune in to his wavelength and work with him on an energy level. Verbal questions and answers can only take us so far. But if we can catch a ride on the vibrational train, it can carry us all the way to our divine Destination.
I remember once in 2007 when Swami was visiting the Ananda Mountain View community. I hadn’t seen him for a while, and I was reflecting gratefully on the many ways in which he had blessed my life. I was near the front, in one part of the crowd, and Swamiji was walking by, on his way to the room where he stayed whenever he visited our community. At one point Swami stopped and turned and looked at me. Then he took his walking cane and lovingly tapped my foot with it and chuckled.
Something about this simple act moved me deeply, and I laughed too, with tears in my eyes. Just two souls, friends in God. “Blessed are the little children.” Sometimes the simplest and smallest actions are the most meaningful.
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The early 1980s. I had been living at an Ananda community on the Pacific Coast for a couple of years and was residing temporarily in a storage space in one of the buildings on the property.
Around this time, during a question-and-answer period following a satsang at Ananda Village, Liladevi asked Swami, “How should we [Ananda members] relate to you?”
Swami gave a long and thoughtful answer, and his response was transcribed and distributed to our various centers and communities.
I had read this circular a day or two before, and one evening, after I’d finished my meditation while seated atop my sleeping bag in the barn, I wrote to Swami.
In my letter I referred to Swami’s answer to Liladevi’s question. And then I wrote, “I hardly feel that I know you, Swami.” I went on to express what was going on in my heart and mind at that time. The next day I mailed the letter.
This was the first in a long series of letters and messages I exchanged with Swami, which began at this time and continued intermittently, in one form or another, until Swami’s passing in 2013.
Early on in this process, I began to feel a spiritual energy exchange with Swami while writing these letters.
I began this correspondence telling Swami that I hardly knew him. Yet, by writing to him, I developed a strong internal connection and felt that I grew to know him on a deep level.
In the beginning I asked him questions. Sometimes he wrote back with direct answers. At other times I felt a specific energy flow and thought-form in response.
Came a time when, while writing Swami and asking him a question, I wrote, in essence, “It feels to me that you would answer this question thus.” And then I described what Swami’s response seemed to be.
Always, these sensed answers presented a helpful and practical solution to my difficulty, and each solution was something I hadn’t considered, often had never even thought of, earlier.
Swami never wrote a direct reply to the letters I sent him in which I wrote of a sensed response. Since at that time he was regular in his replies otherwise, I concluded that my intuitions had hit the mark, or at least had come close enough that Swami felt no other response was necessary, beyond continuing to send his blessings vibrationally.
From that time until the end of our correspondence decades later, Swami typically only wrote back occasionally. But when I tuned in, I felt his energy responses every time.
* “I will make you fishers of men.” —Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:19)
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Excerpted by the author from Stories of Swamiji, Crystar Press.
Richard Salva (also known as “Dayanand”) is a longtime Ananda member, and director of Crystal Clarity Publishers. He is the author of Stories of Swamiji; Blessed Lanfranc: The Past Life of Swami Sri Yukteswar; Walking with William of Normandy: A Paramhansa Yogananda Pilgrimage Guide; The Yoga of Abraham Lincoln; and Soul Journey from Lincoln to Lindbergh.