September 12 marks the anniversary of the day when, in 1948, Swami Kriyananda met Paramhansa Yogananda and became his disciple. From then on, in spite of his amazing accomplishments, Swami Kriyananda’s self-definition was simply, “I want to be known as a good disciple.”

The essence of discipleship is the effort to align our individual will with God’s will as it is expressed through the guru. When we do, miracles begin to unfold. God guides and uses us as His instruments. He will work through each of us to the extent that we are willing to be His channel.

We need a guru because our knowledge is limited. A somewhat arrogant athlete once asked a great coach why he should bother listening to him. The answer was both amusing and deep: “Because you don’t know what you don’t know.” What is valid in an unimportant area such as athletics is even truer for the most difficult of all tasks—becoming free from delusion. We can only escape the maze of ego through the guidance of someone who is already free.

Although Swami was a volcano of creativity, he was very orthodox when it concerned Master’s teachings. Once I came up with a new way to teach a basic meditation technique. When I described it to Swami his only comment was, “That wasn’t the way Master taught it.” I knew his real message was that I should get myself out of the way, attune my mind and heart to the guru, and let him flow through me.

Throughout the years of his discipleship, and especially at the beginning before he had developed his attunement and discrimination, Swamiji would always ask, “Did Master say this?” For instance, there was a discussion about whether UFOs were real, and if life existed on other planets. The issue was settled for Swamiji when he heard that Master said, “Yes, UFOs are real, and in fact there is life everywhere throughout the universe, even in the center of stars.”

The fruit of true discipleship is freedom from ego. Two statements made by Swami Kriyananda toward the end of his life impressed me very deeply. He said, “I can no longer tell where Swami Kriyananda ends and Master begins.” And also, “Sometimes I am so full of bliss, I can hardly contain it.”

This is the fruit of a life of discipleship. For truth-seekers, it is the only fruit worth harvesting.

In joy,
Nayaswami Jyotish


  1. Thank you Nayaswami Jyotishji for this article. It is particularly useful for me because I have had/am still having issues with authority figures, which makes me at times struggle with the idea of a guru even though I feel very devoted to God inwardly. (edit: Apologies for the following being so long!…)
    I felt an inner conflict in myself when reading about the part when you noted a different way of teaching a meditation technique, to which Swamiji noted that it wasn’t how Yoganandaji taught it. On the one hand I respect Swamiji’s orthodoxy because it shows that he is loyal to a standard that goes beyond just his own. But at the same time, if you discover something new in meditation or any part of your life, and you feel in your soul that is valid to you, shouldn’t you be unafraid to utilize it, if not share it with others? For example, if one disciple finds that chanting “Rama” sends him more quickly into ecstasy, while another discovers that breathing a very particular way creates a definite effect on her psyche, aren’t they right to utilize it even if they aren’t ‘officially’ taught? At some point loyalty to your soul should supercede mere loyalty to outer formality, right?
    For example, I know that Yoganandaji invented the Yogoda exercises, which I don’t believe his own Guru (Sri Yukteswar) or lineage of masters specifically mentioned to him. Yet I find them wonderful; to me he didn’t break the teachings of his lineage, but added to it in a way. I don’t even think it crossed his mind that he was being unfaithful (he wasn’t), because he was merely applying practical scientific principles to spirituality. Yet there are other orthodox kriya swamis who denounce Yogananda for his methods, claiming he ‘watered down’ his kriya for westerners, thus was ‘disloyal to his lineage’ etc., which I don’t feel qualified to verify yet feel are baseless remarks. Also, I recall reading about Sri Yukteswar saying that it is okay to study and learn the meditation methods of others so long as you stay loyal to your own guru’s methods, otherwise you’ll be unfocused. Again, it is a ‘Spirit’ vs ‘letter of the law’ issue in terms of loyalty, which apparently even advanced yogis disagree on.
    Another thing I noted was in the UFO example: I got the impression that Swamiji unhesitatingly accepted Yoganandaji’s affirmation merely because he trusted his authority. Which is understandable since most disciples/people wouldn’t have direct intuitive experience about UFOs anyways. But if I did have experience about something (i.e. a spiritual principle), I would not be afraid to challenge what the guru says, for the sake of my own understanding; i.e. Yogananda frequently debated with his own master, as did Vivekananda with Ramakrishna. Also, if I had a guru who told me he was this or that person in a past life, or about other facts I would have no way of validating on my own, I’m not sure I would definitely accept them simply out of loyalty. I wouldn’t dismiss them, but I would put them in a ‘not-yet-sure-about-it’ category in my mind. I remember Sri Yukteswarji telling Yoganandaji that a true guru would never ask a disciple to blindly accept anything, but that the guru would help to awaken the disciple’s own discrimination. Yet interestingly, in everything I’ve read about Swami Kriyananda in his own works, I can’t ever recall reading about him outright debating/challenging his guru on anything. He also seemed to attribute disagreement with the guru to the ego, esp. in reflecting on his other co-disciples who did so. Any thoughts on that?
    Again, I regret the long nature of this response, but I wanted to be as clear as possible in my points. Don’t feel that you have to read or respond to all of it, but only as you are moved to, if you do decide to respond.

    1. Dear Rush,
      Thank you for writing so openly and honestly. Attunement with the guru is a very subtle topic and could well be the subject of many classes. Let me address just a couple of your points.
      1) “At some point loyalty to your soul should supercede mere loyalty to outer formality, right?” This is true. The problem comes with being able to discriminate between loyalty to your soul and loyalty to your ego (the soul identified with a body and personality.) One’s soul will be in tune with God and guru while one’s ego may very well not be. A good question to ask, and it must be asked honestly, is: Am I creatively, but loyally, trying to understand a teaching of the guru or a scripture or am I inserting my own insights. An especially dangerous sign is when one thinks the guru needs to be corrected, for instance because he lived before our modern more enlightened times.
      2) Secondly you talk about debating with the guru. The problem here is that Yoganandaji (or another guru) is not here to debate back and clarify one’s misunderstanding. Yogananda said that a problem with arguing with the scriptures is that they can’t argue back. The guru comes to help free us from the limitations of our own understanding.
      Finally, Swami Kriyananda was correcting me personally on this question because he knew that I would have a life dharma to share Master’s teachings. He often encouraged us to think creatively about the teachings when we were in private conversation. When lecturing in public, however, he tried to guide us to be as completely in tune with Master as we were capable of being.
      So, the question of using our free will is a very subtle topic. One of Yogananda’s prayers says it very well, “I will reason, I will will, I will act. But guide, Thou, my reason will and activity to the right path in all things.”
      I hope this helps.

  2. Thank you Swami to lead us to Masterji, God, joy, community and goodness.
    Aum Shanti Shanti Shanti
    Paul, Bangkok.

  3. Dear Nayaswami Jyotish,
    Thank you for the Article. Its just a blessed day that Paramahansa Yogananda accepted Swamiji as his disciple. We are blessed to know the great master through Swamiji. Thank you Swamiji for passing us the Masters teachings and taking us in the right path .
    As a disciple, how should one act. Very well said by Swamiji and We surrender our ego to our Gurus.

  4. This is a beautiful message to begin this anniversary day of Swamiji’s coming to Master. Thank you for your clarity and for touching my heart and inspiring me to go deeper in attuning myself to Master’s Grace and Teachings. In Gratitude, Prem-Shanti

  5. Dearest Swami Jyotish,
    Thank you for this inspiring and uplifting article about our Swamij’s discipleship!
    Six years ago, I wrote to Swamiji and was thanking him for being the instrument
    that he was. For taking that 3 day bus ride and his forbearance in his pursuit for God!
    Swamiji wrote back and stated “What Master gave me that day, he gave to all our Ananda Family through me” Somehow this was so all inclusive that I was enveloped in the Grace that we all are experiencing through this Ray of Masters Work, Masters Family!
    Swamiji is smiling on us this day especially!
    Love, through Them,
    Nayaswami brindey

  6. Dearest Nayaswami,
    Simple, to the point and beautifully explained..
    Thank you so much,
    blessings and joy,

  7. Dear Jyotish,
    Thank you for the beautiful post, so full of depth, truth and clarity!
    With love and deep regards,

  8. Dear Jyotish,
    Loved it “you dont know what you dont know”How true!!!
    Thanks from the core of the heart for sharing master’s teachings in such a clear manner.
    I know that I don’t know as of now but surely will come to know.
    Matsters’ blessings be always with you.

  9. Thank you dear friend Jyotish for all you teach me and for all your love and light. Mariana

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