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My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda (by Swami Kriyananda)

Swami Kriyananda
May 18, 2021

Swami Kriyananda launches The New Path: My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda at the Ford Amphitheater in Hollywood. Recorded September 26th, 2009 in Los Angeles. Now in full HD.

[Below is a summary of this talk.]

My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda

Swami Kriyananda shares an inspiring talk about his personal search for truth and his aspirations to share that truth with others during his 61 years as a devotee of Paramhansa Yogananda.

Questioning Life and Meeting the Guru

At one time as a young man, he wanted to be a playwright and poet but realized very soon that what he would essentially be sharing his own ignorance. He was haunted by the universal questions of every seeker: Why am I here? What is God? What is life?

In a New York bookstore in 1948, Kriyananda found the Autobiography of a Yogi. Reading the book became a pivotal turning point in his life, as it would become for so many others after him. He read the book between “tears of joy & tears of  love…It was the most moving experience of my life.” He basically took the next bus out of New York to California.

When he finally meets his guru, “It was spiritual truth and light in the form of Paramhansa Yogananda (Master).” At the time of this talk, Kriyananda said he continues to the present day (with the maturity of the years) to learn and recognize the lessons and insights from things Master had shown and told him all those many years ago. “Master was firmly anchored in helping people and said, ‘Everyone in the world is on a spiritual path.’”

The Search for Happiness

Kriyananda explains that everyone is seeking the same happiness—the same bliss, and he tells us that everyone in one way or another is “trying to find happiness and avoid pain and suffering. We just may not know how to go about it or find it.” The richest man in the world (Howard Hughes at that time), he continues, was asked only weeks before his death if he was happy. Hughes could not affirm that he was. Kriyananda explains why material wealth can never give us true, lasting happiness, or wealth for that matter.

Do I Need a Guru?

This question was often addressed to Kriyananda. His answer simply was, “No. You do not need a guru, but when you reach the point that you are desperate to know God, then you do need one.” This was Kriyananda's desperation and quest. He understood that his spiritual search was also others' pursuit and he wanted to help them.

“The guru is the window, but we have to open it to let in the Light. Man is a little window onto God. If we have any beauty at all it is because as long as we are in tune with God, we shine with His beauty: the Light we allow to come through. We are only instruments of consciousness, instruments of Light. God does everything through us. We are a part of Him. The supreme goal is Him.”

Kriyananda reads from his own autobiography, The New Path, and shares many stories and adventures from his life before and with Yogananda.

Kriyananda's Work

Yogananda told Kriyananda many times that his life would be one of intense activity and meditation. “Your work,” the Master said, “will be lecturing, editing, and writing.” He also tells Kriyananda that he has “a great work to do.”

Kriyananda’s great work is sharing the teachings of his guru and establishing the Ananda Worldwide community. Today there are several brotherhood communities and meditation centers around the world.

Kriyanada concludes his talk with two devotional Bengali chants that Yogananda particularly loved and says ultimately, “I have always tried to reconcile faith with common sense.”


In 1948 at the age of twenty-two, Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters) became a disciple of the Indian yoga master, Paramhansa Yogananda. At Yogananda’s request, Swami Kriyananda devoted his life to lecturing and writing, helping others to experience the living presence of God within. He taught on four continents in seven languages over the course of 65 years. His talks, his music, and his many books have touched the lives of millions. An advocate of simple living and high thinking, his 150 books emphasize the need to live wisely by one’s own experience of life and not by abstract theories or dogmas. A composer since 1964, Walters has written over 400 musical works. His music is inspiring, soothing, and uplifting. His books and teachings on spiritualizing nearly every field of human endeavor include business life, leadership, education, the arts, community, and science. He wrote extensive commentaries on the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita, both based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda.

He is known as the “father of the intentional communities movement,” which began in the United States in the late 1960s, fulfilling Yogananda's dream. He founded the first of what are now 10 Ananda communities worldwide in 1967 near Nevada City, California. Other Ananda communities have developed over the years to include Ananda Palo Alto, Ananda Sacramento, Ananda Portland, Ananda Seattle, Ananda Los Angeles, Ananda Assisi in Italy, and Ananda India near Delhi and Pune. Each community has a spiritual focus (a teaching center and temple) and a community (homes where members live). More than 1,000 people live in these intentional spiritual communities. Swami Kriyananda’s example of inspired leadership was the reason for Ananda’s success. He uplifted and encouraged people through personal example, spiritual counseling, writing, lecturing, music, and prayer. He trained the current Ananda leaders in much the same way: free from egoic motivation, always placing the spiritual needs of others foremost in all decisions. He was a patient and sensitive teacher, allowing people to learn by experience, and never placing institutional needs ahead of the needs of an individual. “People are more important than things” is one of the foremost guiding principles of Ananda. And “Where there is adherence to dharma [right action], there is victory,” is another.

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