“I think you and I have been brothers in a past life,” Swami Kriyananda once remarked to me. Indeed, from the day I met him, I always felt a deep spiritual connection with Swamiji. Some years ago, while he was still alive, I wrote this “Tribute to Kriyananda,” and since May 19 is his birthday, I thought you might enjoy reading it.
One can tell much about a person by observing the effect he has on other people. This is certainly true of the extraordinarily positive effect that Swami Kriyananda has on the lives of others. Over the decades that I’ve known him, I think what stands out most strongly for me is his ability to give and attract unconditional friendship.
Dozens of people consider him their best friend. I know of numerous occasions when he was the only one who was willing to extend a hand to someone who had finally succeeded in exasperating everyone else. By standing by them in their time of difficulty, he quietly transformed their lives.
But to me, the most beautiful manifestation of divine friendship has been the love shown to him by God-realized souls. Kriyananda’s relationship with Paramhansa Yogananda—his devotion and discipleship—has been one of the formative influences in my life. He made Yogananda a dynamic, living reality in his own life and, by his example, in mine and in the lives of many other Ananda members.
The many stories I’ve heard and read about the interplay between the guru Yogananda and the disciple Kriyananda have been magnets holding me steadfast on the path. I never had the blessing to be present when Master and Kriyananda were together. I was, however, there one time when he was with the great woman saint, Anandamayee Ma, and I saw the immense love and delight these two souls shared with one another.
In the spring of 1974 a small group went with Swamiji to Hardwar, India, partly to see the Kumbha Mela, but more specifically to see Ma. The first time that our group saw Ma and Kriyananda together was during a private audience with just the four of us and an elderly Indian swami who served as translator. A deep and beautiful love flowed between the two of them, somewhat like the love between a mother and a son, but in many ways much closer.
I have been with Kriyananda and his own mother many times, but his relationship with Anandamayee Ma was even more intimate. Not only was there the added spiritual dimension of two great lovers of God, but there was a palpable intuitive connection between their minds. There were worlds of meaning in the simple glances they exchanged. And when they laughed together, it went far beyond mere merriment, into realms of divine joy.
Seeing them together gave me my first real experience of what it must have been like to be enfolded in Yogananda’s infinite love. Ma answered many of the questions we posed to her by sweetly advising us to “Ask your guru.” It took me quite a long time to realize that she was referring to Kriyananda, since I have always considered Yogananda to be my guru. But Ma was totally natural in suggesting that we treat Swamiji as a divine channel, and go to him with our spiritual questions.
The interview lasted about a half hour and ended with her blessing a large pile of beads, pictures, and other items that we’d brought with us from people at Ananda. As she held her hands over them, she said, “Why do you ask this body to bless these things? Don’t you see that God’s blessings are always flowing down?”
The next day, there was a gathering of twenty or thirty people in a small courtyard for satsang with Ma. She was in a wonderfully childlike mood, laughing and playing. She took a flower garland that had been placed around her neck and tossed it lasso-style right around the neck of Swamiji, who was sitting about fifteen feet away. She then had one of her disciples bring out some yellow handkerchiefs containing prasad (food offered to God and then eaten as a blessing) and threw one to each of the other three of us. She was warm, joyful, and childlike the whole time, and related to Swami in an extraordinarily sweet and kind way.
The two days that we spent in her company are among the most precious memories of my life. The grace to be able to draw the love of great saints like Ma and Master is a blessing that flows through Swamiji to all who know him. Over the years that I’ve been with him, I’ve seen a gradual transformation of Kriyananda into an ever more pure channel of love and friendship. It is as if he is becoming a living example of Master’s saying: “When I am gone, only love can take my place.”
In divine friendship,