The young man had been inwardly struggling for many years, until he’d finally reached a point of despair. “Does life have any meaning? Can truth and lasting happiness really be found?” These questions haunted his waking and sleeping hours. In desperation he decided to join the merchant marine, hoping in travel to escape his mental torment.
While waiting in New York City for a ship with an available berth, he went into a bookstore and found a section on Indian philosophy. Always intently looking for answers, he thought that perhaps he’d find them there. At this point in our story, the young man (yes, it was Swami Kriyananda) first saw Autobiography of a Yogi, and the ripples that shaped his destiny started to flow.
Paramhansa Yogananda’s photo on the cover seemed strangely familiar, and affected him greatly. “Never had I seen any face radiate back to me so much goodness, humility, and love,” he later wrote. Observing, however, that the book was dedicated “to the memory of Luther Burbank, an American saint,” he thought, “An American saint? How preposterous!” He put the Autobiography back on the shelf. Instead he bought a slim volume of the Bhagavad Gita. But the ripples of his spiritual awakening had already begun to spread.
The Bhagavad Gita inspired him. Still, young Donald Walters (as he was known then) remained intent on going to sea. Soon he returned to New York to continue his search for a ship with an open berth. In spite of his intentions, the beautiful face of the yoga master on the cover of the Autobiography kept calling him, and, try as he might, he couldn’t put it out of his mind.
Walking in the vicinity of the bookstore where he’d first seen the book, he felt an actual power propelling him toward the store. At first amazed, and then with growing excitement in the thought that some unseen force of destiny was guiding him, he bought the Autobiography. “And then,” he wrote subsequently, “began the most thrilling literary adventure of my life.”
For three days Walters barely ate or slept, but read the book without stopping. “Autobiography of a Yogi remains the greatest book I have ever read,” Swami Kriyananda writes in his own autobiography, The New Path. “One perusal of it was enough to change my whole life. From that time on, my break with the past was complete. I resolved in the smallest detail to follow Paramhansa Yogananda’s teaching.”
The ripples of awakening were gathering momentum, but more was yet to come. Taking the next bus from New York to California, where the Master lived, Kriyananda traveled three thousand miles over the next four days and nights to find the man who he now knew was his guru. Finally, on September 12, 1948, Swamiji stood before Yogananda.
“I want to be your disciple!” were the words that welled up irresistibly from his heart. After some discussion, during which Yogananda was no doubt intuitively reading the young man’s consciousness, the Master replied, “You have good karma. You may join us.”
Yogananda had his new disciple kneel, and with great spiritual power bestowed his blessing. “Incredibly, from that moment on,” Swamiji later wrote, “my consciousness in some all-penetrating manner was transformed.”
Simultaneously at that moment a great pulse of blessing must have gone out into the world, creating a ripple of spiritual awakening that would touch receptive souls everywhere. If this were not true, I wouldn’t be writing this blog today, and you wouldn’t be reading it.
For on that far-off day seventy-two years ago, I was a one-year-old infant, living two thousand miles away in the American Midwest. That ripple must have reached me, for after reading Autobiography of a Yogi twenty years later, I, too, made the long trip to California, to study at the feet of Swami Kriyananda, Yoganandaji’s direct disciple. My life, too, has never been the same from the moment that book came into my life. I began learning discipleship from a great disciple.
Now the ripples of divine awakening are reaching your life and far beyond. Set in motion in that bookstore long ago, these waves will continue to flow to distant shores beyond imagining. Thank you, dear Swamiji, for being a carrier wave for so many souls, and for bringing us closer to the great ocean of Spirit. May the blessings of that first day when you knelt before Master in discipleship flow outward forever, bringing light, hope, and awakening to souls everywhere.
P.S. You might enjoy this video tribute to Swami Kriyananda, “A Life in God.”
Subscribe to the Touch of Light podcast. Download the audio recording of this week’s blog by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (6:23):
Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful blog.
dear friends, I read the story about Swamiji how he became Disciple of PY and it looks very much like my story. i was 12 years old when I find the Autobiography in my father’s library and whe I looked to the Photo on the cover it felt like a light came in my heart. my mother did not aloud me to read the book but I took it to my room and sat before like a yogi . it is a whole story and I have had many visions from Yogananda. I have written a book about that the name is: A life in the Light of my Guru P.Y.
I am translate the book now in Italian because I have maked many friends in Assisi. and want to give them my book for thanks them for all the Love they have give to me from 2006 till 2017. I have been in Assisi 12 times in Summer time and I have been invited by Swamiji . I told him my story and in 2012 Swamiji gave me his blessings for an Nayaswami initiate in 2013 some months after his passing given by Nayaswami Uma. Ifeel very blessed to live in the Light of the Guru. Many Blessings to you,
Gyandevi, what a lovely and thoughtful gift that is to your Assisi friends. I know they’ll appreciate it. I hope you continue to be very joyful in spirit despite any challenges that I know your body can offer you. Thank you for your very nice message.
Inspiring and beautiful story. A true guru and the teachings will always prevail. Let’s spread the love and blessings to everyone. The world is going through a difficult time and probably we are going past Kali yuga to the next . Only love and faith in The Supreme will bring solace to the soul. Thank you Swami.
Sri Guru Deva Namaha
Thank you for sharing your experiences. As a youngman 14 years old my uncle gifted me a copy of The Autobiography of a Yogi. ( 54 years ago)
I also read the book several times and the many frustrations and despair in my life quite down. I have several copies of the book and have shared with many.
My faith took me to the feet of a living Guru and have come to the realization that all the enlightened souls have the same message but delivery methods maybe different.
I am forever in gratitude to all the great souls who have selflessly showered blessings to all. However, only a few out of the billons are able to
connect with the universal energies.
At 69 years old, I am blessed to have the will to pursue the search for self realization.
May Guruji continued to shower his blessings on you .
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
While sth pulls me to sw.kriyananda..still i started with compact and illuminating Bhagavat Gita which i foumd diff from whatever versions I read ypto that time.wish he guides with sq.yogananda paramahamsaji.wish to be volunteer
Inspite of hearing this story earlier I was so hooked on to read this again. My heart is touched, with what a big ripple effect actions can create, if they are in tune with Masters and the Infinite Spirit residing in us. The ripple is still continuing and uplifting many souls. Thank you! 🙏🏻
Thanks. I am also inspired by the Book … Autobiography of A Yogi.
Thank you Devi for this beautiful tribute to Swamiji. We are so grateful that he and you followed the soul call to share Master’s light and love with all of us.
It’s Avery useful blog thank you deviji
I really loved reading this post. Made me smile !
Dear Nayaswami Devi Ji,
Thank you for this beautiful blog :) We are so blessed to part of Master’s family at Ananda. Grateful to Swamiji for brining the teachings of Master’s and guiding us.
Happy Spiritual Birthday
Dear Deviji, words pale when I think of all that needed to happen for all of us to be here, now. I’m reminded of Swamiji, in India at the airport, looking for Dr. Mishra and thinking of all the events that Divine Mother had put into place for him to be there at that point in time to be able to find his friend. And so it is for us. Thank you Divine Mother for so very lovingly and carefully taking such, such good care of your children.
Dear Devi, thank you. I hpe that Ananda is safe and that fire do not reach you. God bless you.
Thanks for your concern. Ananda is not in the area of any major fires, but prayers are needed for the whole West Coast of America.
Bless you Devi for writing so beautifully this tribute to Swamiji! May this ripple of joy intoxicate the world like a tsunami and transform our planet! Om Peace Amen
Devi – it’s a good to know and good to tell story. I never knew either Yogananda or Swamiji but I have a long serendipitous type story as well connecting with Ananda. Living in Hawaii now Ananda Village and everyone that gives it life is my spiritual reference point. Can’t shake it even though I’ve tested and tried just to see. Just won’t happen. Ever! Mahalo, PS I love the video where Swamiji tells the full story of the second time while going one direction turns the other and buys Autobiography. Can’t find it now.
I don’t know that video, and would love to see it too. Here’s Swamiji’s description out of The New Path:
The day after I finished my first reading of the Bhagavad Gita, I returned to New York, intending to visit Bowling Green and see if any ship had come in. I was walking down Seventh Avenue toward the subway, the entrance to which was on the far side of the next cross street, when I recalled the book I’d rejected so summarily on my last visit to the city: Autobiography of a Yogi. As I remembered that beautiful face on the cover, I felt a strong inner prompting to go buy it. I thrust the thought firmly out of my mind.
“That isn’t what I’m looking for,” I told myself. Chuckling, I added, “An American saint, indeed!” Resolutely I continued to walk toward the subway.
The thought returned: “How can you know what the book is really like, if you won’t even read it?”
“No!” I repeated. I then offered reasons: “I’ve got to stop reading books; I’m too intellectual as it is. Besides, if I’m ever to become a hermit, I’m going to have to save money, not continue to spend it!”
I reached the corner, and was proceeding toward the curb ahead of me, when I felt that an actual force was turning me left, toward Fifth Avenue. I’d never experienced anything like this before. Amazed, I asked myself, “Is there something in this book that I’m meant to read?” Unresisting now, I hastened forward, eager to reach Doubleday-Doran.
On entering the store, I made straight for the shelves of Indian books and bought Autobiography of a Yogi. As I turned to leave, I bumped into Doug Burch, that friend from Scarsdale High School who had introduced me to Nick’s and to Dixieland jazz. We exchanged news briefly. Doug began to describe in glowing terms his plans for a career in radio and advertising. The more he talked, the more closely I hugged to my heart this increasingly precious acquisition.
Imperceptibly, my doubts about it had vanished. I felt as though Yogananda shared my dismay at the shining prospects Doug was describing—a way of life that, to me, spelled desolation. My new book in hand, I felt suddenly as though this Indian yogi and I were old friends. The world and I were strangers, but here was one human being—the very first!—who knew and understood me. And I hadn’t yet even met him, physically!
Thank you Deviji,
May Master’s soliton wave continue to vibrate the ether sending the message of LOVE and Self-Realization throughout the world, bringing the energy and information for thirsty souls to drink whom have longed to be quenched of the dryness of delusion!
Jai Guru and Jai Swami Kriyanandaji
While going through the , Autobiography of a yogi, even I felt remarkable presence of Gurudev and last year in month of Jan , I went to Puri , Karad , to pay my regards to great guru, Shree Yuktshwer Giri and it was a life time experience for me , really looking forward to see California Anand ashram
Strange that I should read about the ripples of a spiritual awakening after reading The book by Paramhansa Yogananda.
I have just embarked on a journey where no one has gone before. My post that I had designed a course ” Living with the Spirit” which included Ramkrishna Paramhansa, the guru of Swami Vivekananda, was accepted by a conservative Catholic Facebook group, The Divine Retreat Center at Kerala. I am going to teach Kundalini Yoga the Catholic way to 110,000 Catholics in India. Kundalini is the life force across the cosmos. When we breathe or smile, that is Kundalini.
The course “Living in the Spirit” has been designed with live interaction with Jesus and Mary.
Here is the link of the course material, all free. Jesus never charged. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1n6reMuoIQfdmme1yNS_Rdq_cb7sSWOOv7nI3HYWYljU/edit?usp=sharing
Very inspiring, may god bless everyone and may we all become spiritually awakened.