When one has been moved to laughter and tears, deep contemplation and joyful insight, as I have been while immersed in The Path, it is hardly possible to find a word or a phrase sufficient to encompass the enriching experience. “Deeply inspiring”—though hardly adequate — is the best way I can find to describe it.
Briefly, The Path is a story of one man’s search for God through the path of yoga. It tells how American-born Donald Walters became universally-born Swami Kriyananda. At the same time, it serves as a practical manual of instruction for others in search of God-realization, no matter what tradition or path they follow. As an exceptionally lucid explanation of yogic philosophy, The Path will also be a valuable resource for those intellectually curious, but not consciously committed to spiritual growth.
The catalyst in Kriyananda’s transformation was his guru, the well-known yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi. In fact, it is accurate to say that The Path, subtitled “Autobiography of a Western Yogi,” is as much about Yogananda as about Kriyananda. For, in truth, the two are one. That is part of the inspirational quality of The Path — the selfless devotion to guru which Kriyananda displays throughout the book. At the same time, he makes clear that Yogananda did not want devotion for himself. Rather, he would lovingly redirect his disciples’ devotion to God.
This brings me to another element of the book which helped produce my feeling of inspiration — its abundant wisdom. Kriyananda’s commentaries on spiritual unfoldment and his lucid explanations of yogic concepts are profoundly instructional. Moreover, like a true teacher he blends theoretical presentations and practical advice with personal anecdotes and illustrative stories in a way that is altogether engaging. Last of all, he presents us with much previously unpublished conversation from Yogananda, whose words are always enlightening.
Kriyananda’s freedom from sentimentality is still another appealing aspect of his account. In creating this self-portrait, he speaks frankly about his failings, his ignorant shortcomings, his periods of doubt and depression, his moments of thralldom to spiritual pride. He doesn’t attempt to romanticize the path he followed nor gloss over the difficulties he encountered within himself and in relation to others.
I have mentioned devotion, honesty, and wisdom as three characteristics of The Path, that give it an uplifting quality. There are others just as important — transpersonal love, for example, and the constant emphasis on attunement to God as the solution to all our problems. However, it is also important to note that The Path is not only spiritual — it is spiritual literature. The literary style with which Kriyananda reveals himself is worthy of study by authors as well as spiritual seekers. It is by turns elegant, graceful, supple, delicate and always clear — a verbal elixir that would work powerfully on the consciousness of readers even if the theme were profane instead of divine.
The final quality of The Path which I want to note is its planetary vision of society. Yogananda encouraged his followers — and I quote him here—“to spread a spirit of brotherhood among all peoples and to aid in establishing, in many countries, self-sustaining world brotherhood colonies for plain living and high thinking.”
Today, Ananda World Brotherhood Village, established by Kriyananda and dedicated to human upliftment in accordance with Yogananda’s teachings, is part of a growing global network of spiritual communities that are linking together ever more intensively to become the seedbed for a new world — rooted in a vision of humanity’s oneness rather than in the warfare and competition that has characterized this century heretofore.
The Path chronicles the establishment of Ananda.(1) In so doing, it provides useful instruction in still another dimension that the dedicated spiritual seeker must come to face — his or her relation to society in general. The solution proposed in the life and teaching of Paramhansa Yogananda, as carried forward by Swami Kriyananda, is still another reason why The Path is so worth reading. The integral relation between spiritual practice and worldly affairs becomes abundantly clear through Kriyananda’s words and deeds.
Not only is The Path inspirational — urging you to “go and do thou likewise”—it also gives the pragmatic technical instruction needed to put principle into action. Moreover, it does so with a beauty and simplicity that is the verbal embodiment of the yogic approach to God-realization. I trust that you will find The Path to be a major resource in your life and that you will, in accord with yogic tradition, lovingly share it with others as part of your service to the world. For an inspired work such as this, that is the only proper response.
John W. White, M.A.T., Yale University
June 1, 1977
Ananda has long since grown to a point where its story really requires, and has received, books of its own for the telling. So I have removed much of the limited material about Ananda included in earlier editions. Interested readers may enjoy reading Cities of Light and A Place Called Ananda (which I wrote in 1988 and 1996, respectively), or any of a number of other books written about Ananda by its members. —S.K., 2009
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