It was a quiet fall evening in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California. The stars were beginning to appear in the night sky. A cool breeze moved through the surrounding pine trees standing firm and tall, silent reminders of man’s need for strength and aspiration.
Several hundred people had gathered together in the temple of a spiritual community called Ananda to honor one of the few remaining direct disciples of the great Indian master, Paramhansa Yogananda. The date was September 12, 2002 — the fifty-fourth anniversary of the day when Swami Kriyananda stood before his Guru and, from the depths of his heart, uttered the words, “I want to be your disciple.”
On this particular evening, after a period of meditation, Swami Kriyananda began to address those of us who were present: “As I was meditating, with every breath I thought of God, and I felt all of your spirits uplifted in Him. This is the meaning of my life, if it has any meaning. The things that I’ve done — I don’t think they’re very important except to the extent that they may have helped people individually in their love for God. That’s all that matters.”
These humble, inspiring words were spoken by a man who has dedicated his life to spreading his guru’s mission. In this service, he has accomplished more than most people could imagine doing in one lifetime. “Your life will be one of intense activity, and meditation,” Yogananda told Kriyananda in 1950 when they were together at the Master’s desert retreat.
His monastic name, “Kriyananda,” reflects his guru’s words to him. For “Kriya” has two meanings: action, and also Kriya Yoga, an advanced technique of meditation. “Ananda” means divine bliss. Thus, “Kriyananda” means bliss through action, and through the practice of the meditative science of Kriya Yoga.
His life of active service and meditation has borne great fruit. Kriyananda helped to build almost every aspect of his Guru’s organization: the daily way of life for the monastics; many of the over-all procedures for the main office; the lay-disciple order; the church service outline; the activities and the service outline for the branch centers. Later, as he served outside of that organization, he lectured to thousands throughout the world in his Guru’s name, founded seven spiritual communities in the United States and Europe, wrote over 80 books based on his guru’s teachings, composed nearly 400 pieces of devotional and uplifting music, and took over 15,000 photos to show God’s consciousness present in the world. Now at the age of seventy-nine he is founding a new spiritual work and communities in India. That fruitful life has not by any means reached the end of its career.
Who is this man Swami Kriyananda? And how has he been able to accomplish such an astonishing amount, bringing inspiration and upliftment to countless thousands? His story is one of discipleship, above all. It is also a story of opposition, suffering, persecution, and the courage to face and overcome obstacle after obstacle before him. His story tells, finally, of the divine joy and freedom that come from giving oneself single-mindedly to God.
Once, after Swamiji had passed through a difficult period of testing, I said to him, “I don’t know if I would’ve had the strength to endure what you’ve had to go through in this lifetime.”
“I didn’t know that I had the strength,” he quietly replied, then added with deep conviction, “but faith is my armor.” Such has been the life of Swami Kriyananda.