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Swami Kriyananda
Born May 19, 1926 (1926-05-19) (age 83)
Teleajen, Romania
Residence Pune, India

Swami Kriyananda, born J. Donald Walters (born May 19, 1926), is a direct disciple of the yogi Paramahansa Yogananda (1893 – 1952), who made him a minister for Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), authorized him to teach Kriya Yoga, and made him the SRF head monk. Swami Kriyananda was elected as Vice President of SRF in 1960 and member of the Board of Directors.[1][2]

He is the founder of Ananda, a worldwide movement of spiritual intentional communities based on Yogananda's World Brotherhood Colonies ideal.[3]

Kriyananda is the author of over 100 books and the composer of over 400 pieces of music. His books and music have sold over three million copies, and are published in 25 languages in 90 countries.[4] He has lectured worldwide. In addition to English, he speaks Italian, Romanian, Greek, French, Spanish, German, Hindi, Bengali, and Indonesian.[5]




Early life

Kriyananda (then Donald Walters) was born in Teleajen, Romania, on May 19, 1926, to American parents, Ray P. and Gertrude G. Walters. His father was an oil geologist with the Esso Corporation (since renamed Exxon in the United States), who was then assigned to the Romanian oilfields. He received an international education in Romania, Switzerland, England, and the United States. He attended Haverford College and Brown University, leaving the latter with only a semester left before graduation to dedicate his life to searching God.[1]

Time with Yogananda

Kriyananda offering sweetmeats to Yogananda.

In September 1948, in New York, Walters read Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, a book he says transformed his life. By September 12, Walters had already decided to leave his old life behind and had traveled cross-country by bus to southern California to become Yogananda's disciple. In Hollywood, California, Walters first met Yogananda at the Self-Realization Fellowship temple there and was quickly accepted as a disciple.

Young Donald Walters, 22 years old at this point, took up residence with other SRF monks at Mt. Washington, SRF's headquarters located on top of this mountain near downtown Los Angeles. A year later, Yogananda put Kriyananda in charge of the monks of the Self-Realization monastic order, asked him to write articles for the SRF magazine, had him lecture at various SRF centers,[1] ordained him as a minister, and appointed him to initiate students into Kriya Yoga.[1] Kriyananda tells these stories in his autobiography, The Path.[1] In his nearly four years (1948–1952) with Yogananda, he took extensive notes of his many conversations with the Master, which he published in The Essence of Self-Realization[6] and Conversations with Yogananda.[7]

After Yogananda's passing

On March 7, 1952, Paramahansa Yogananda was a speaker at a banquet given at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. With Walters present in the hall, while Yogananda was giving his speech, Yogananda suddenly dropped to the floor and was found to be dead. This was a pivotal moment for the young monk.

In 1953 SRF published Kriyananda's (then still called Donald Walters) book Stories Of Mukunda,[8] and in 1960 a LP album with him singing Yogananda's Cosmic Chants, called Music for Meditation. [9] In 1955 he took the monastic name of "Swami Kriyananda." He was made the Director of the Center Department, guiding meditation groups and SRF centers,[10] and was made minister of one of Yogananda's main churches, the "Hollywood Church." He lectured for SRF in the US, as well as in Canada, Mexico, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, and India. In 1958 he toured India with Daya Mata (the organization's president) and two others.[11] In 1960 he was appointed Vice President of SRF and put on the Board of Directors.[12]

Dismissal from SRF

Swami Kriyananda remained in India, serving SRF until 1962,[13] when he was expelled from the organization for reasons he could never accept as valid: desire for personal power, ulterior motives in his service, and setting himself up as the new guru.[13] SRF gave as a reason "specific actions of his–his basic pattern of behavior."[14] After years of intense suffering, Kriyananda started serving again in California, in the San Francisco "Bay Area". Yogananda had often told him, "You have a great work to do!" Kriyananda eventually pursued the task Yogananda imparted to him of "writing, editing, and lecturing"[1] as well as fulfilling his ideal of creating "World Brotherhood Colonies".

Inspirational organizer of people

Inspired by his guru’s dream of establishing spiritual communities, in 1967 he purchased land for the first of what are now eight Ananda communities worldwide: Ananda Village near Nevada City, California. [13] (The village was actually founded with the signing of the first purchase agreement of a larger parcel of land on 4 July, 1969.)[15] According to Kriyananda, these communities provide a supportive environment of “simple living and high thinking” where 1,000 full-time residents live, work, and worship together. The establishment of World Brotherhood Colonies was one of Yogananda's central "Aims and Ideals" (published in his "Autobiography of a Yogi" until 1958).

Kriyananda has established various retreat centers: The Expanding Light Yoga and Meditation Retreat and nearby Ananda Meditation Retreat,[16 ] both located near Nevada City, California, U.S.A.; Ananda Associazione near Assisi, Italy; and Ananda Gurgaon, India.

There are currently (spring 2009) 125 Ananda Meditation groups in 19 countries, all of which were inspired in one way or another by Swami Kriyananda.

Lecturer and teacher

Swami Kriyananda has stated that at Yogananda's request he has devoted his life to teaching. Over the course of 60 years, he has lectured on four continents in five languages. He has given thousands of lectures and continues lecturing today (2009) in Asia, Europe and America.

During his extensive travels, he has met well-known spiritual teachers: Sri Anandamayi Ma; Swami Sivananda and his disciples Swami Chidananda and Swami Satchidananda; Swami Muktananda; Satya Sai Baba; Neem Karoli Baba; the 14th Dalai Lama; A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada; Sri Sri Ravi Shankar; Vicka Ivankovic, visionary of Medugorje; and a number of others. [17]

In the early 1960s, one of Kriyananda's inter-religious projects near New Delhi, India, received personal support from India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He has also had personal contact with Indira Gandhi; with India’s Vice President Dr. Radhakrishnan; and, in 2006, with India’s President, Dr. Abdul Kalam.[18]

Author, playwright, and poet

In following his guru's guidance that his task would be "writing, editing, and lecturing",[1] Kriyananda has written more than 100 books, each of which he has stated is intended to help individuals expand their awareness. These books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in 90 countries. By the application of Yogananda's teachings, they expand on such varied topics as marriage, education, leadership and success, spiritual communities, yoga, self-healing, art, architecture, astrology, and philosophy, as well as Yogananda's teachings on the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and other scriptures.

Kriyananda started Crystal Clarity Publishers [19] and the East-West book shops in Sacramento and Mountain View, California, and Seattle, Washington.

Swami Kriyananda`s plays include The Peace Treaty, and The Jewel in the Lotus. He wrote his first play at age 15 and worked and studied with the Dock Street Theater in Charleston, South Carolina, in his early 20s. Rome's famous Teatro Valle (its oldest still-active theater, built in 1726), hosted “The Peace Treaty” in June 2009.

Kriyananda won poetry and essay contest prizes at Haverford College and also studied under the poet W.H. Auden at Bryn Mawr College.[1]


Swami Kriyananda has composed 400 pieces of music for voice and instrumentals to, in his words, "uplift consciousness", both in the listener and the performer. Many of his students are also musicians and experience the performance of this music as an integral part of their spiritual practice. Notable compositions include the Christ Lives! oratorio; Mystic Harp I and II, solo harp CDs performed by Derek Bell, member of the Grammy award-winning Irish group The Chieftains; and Life Mantra.

As a vocal soloist, Kriyananda has appeared on various albums, including: I’ve Passed My Life as a Stranger, Windows On The World, Soul Songs, Memories, Mantra, and Cosí Canta il Mio Cuore.

Education for Life

In 1973 Swami Kriyananda developed a system for educating children called Education for Life. Education for Life Schools state that they offer character development, strong academics, and development of moral strength. The school curriculum is ecumenical; students of all religious backgrounds may attend. There are schools in Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, and Palo Alto and Nevada City, California (all U.S.A.); in Italy near Assisi; and one has been started in Gurgaon, India. Other schools are adopting the curriculum and ideals of Education for Life. Kriyananda`s educational ideas also inspired the Ananda College, a yoga university as envisioned by Paramhansa Yogananda, located near Nevada City, California.

Ananda Yoga For Higher Awareness

Swami Kriyananda created a unique and uplifting style of yoga practice called Ananda yoga. Yogananda had asked him often to perform the asanas for visiting guests, in his presence. Ananda Yoga arose from this practice with the Master. It is designed to uplift consciousness, and to prepare the student for meditation. Its distinguishing features are the affirmations associated with postures. [20]

Artist and photographer

Swami Kriyananda has taken over 15,000 photographs, many of which he states endeavor to capture the consciousness of human beings behind the image. His photos have been used on inspirational posters, on album covers, for slideshows, in film productions, and in books.

Swami Kriyananda has created several paintings, which have been used on book covers and on posters.

Film production

  • Saint Francis of Assisi (narration, music, photography)
  • Mediterranean Magic (narration, music, photography)
  • The Land of Mystery (narration, music, photography)
  • The Autobiography of a Yogi (narration, music, photography)
  • Christ Lives! (narration, music, photography)
  • Different Worlds (narration, music, photography)

Volunteer work

  • 1948–present: As a renunciate, Swami Kriyananda dedicated his life to service to others. Copyrights to his books and music have been placed in a trust. Royalties are directed toward the work of sharing Yogananda’s teachings with the public. For many years now, he has received no salary or stipend, and depends on donations for all his needs, including food, housing, and medical care.
  • 1997: After the massive earthquakes that damaged large areas around Assisi, Italy, including the Basilica of St. Francis, Swami Kriyananda raised funds to help rebuild homes in the area, in a campaign called “Hope and Homes for Italy”. He encouraged the use of wood instead of stone building materials, to minimize future earthquake fatalities.


Swami Kriyananda was forced out of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) in 1962 and started Ananda in 1968. Being successful, he became a rival: Self-Realization Fellowship spent twelve years (1990–2002) and million of dollars suing Kriyananda and Ananda over various copyright and trademark issues. SRF, among other charges, claimed exclusive and sole right (trademark and service mark) to the name "Paramahansa Yogananda" and all images of Yogananda, and the term "Self-realization". Many Hindu, yoga, and meditation groups filed papers supporting Ananda.[21]

SRF lost nearly every issue in court, including: their claim to own the trademark to the name "Paramahansa Yogananda"; their claim to sole publicity rights to "Paramahansa Yogananda"; their attempted trademark on the term "Self-realization", which the court ruled is a generic religious term used for hundreds of years; their claim that Ananda was trying to "pass itself off" as SRF; their claim that Yogananda's writings were "work for hire" done as an employee of SRF, and done as part of the SRF "corporate body", as opposed to Yogananda writing them himself; their claim to own copyrights on certain photos of Yogananda; their claim that Ananda violated SRF's copyrights to magazine articles written by Yogananda (the court ruled that Ananda's use of the articles was "fair use").[21]

The only issue on which the court ruled in SRF's favor was their claim that Ananda violated SRF copyrights to sound recordings of Yogananda's voice. As a result of the lawsuit, Ananda began publishing the first edition of Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi. [22][23]

In 1997–98, a former resident of Ananda filed suit against Ananda, an Ananda minister, and Swami Kriyananda. In the course of the trial, eight women testified under oath that Kriyananda had used his power as the leader of Ananda to obtain sexual gratification from them when they were in their 20s. Kriyananda admitted sexual contacts with most of the women[24 ] but denied it constituted sexual abuse. The jury found the church (Ananda), and Kriyananda liable for "constructive fraud", with a finding of "malice and fraudulent conduct". The church, Kriyananda and the Ananda minister were found liable for "intentional infliction of emotional distress" with a finding of "malice" and a finding of "despicable conduct" against the church. The church was found liable for "negligent supervision" of Kriyananda, with a finding of "malice and fraud" on the part of the church. Swami Kriyananda was judged to have misrepresented himself as a monk and to have caused emotional trauma, and was ordered to pay $285,000 in compensatory damages, and another $1 million in punitive damages (the punitive damages were reduced to $400,000 on appeal). The jury also found that the Ananda minister had made "unwelcome sexual advances". The Ananda Church responded to the million-plus-dollar judgment by filing for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code.[25] That allowed Ananda to settle the lawsuit by paying $1.8 million dollars to Bertolucci and her attorneys.[26] Ananda views this second lawsuit a continuation of SRF’s first lawsuit, in an effort to stop Kriyananda and Ananda: its main lawyer was an SRF lawyer, and nearly all of the women making accusations against Kriyananda were associated with SRF, either as members or followers. They presented, according to Kriyananda, “lies and complete distortions of the truth.” Kriyananda’s attorneys, however, were not allowed to cross-examine any of his accusers on the sexual allegations.

In March, 2004, Italian authorities raided the Ananda colony in Assisi, responding to allegations of a disgruntled former resident who accused Ananda Assisi of fraud, usury and labor law violations. Nine Ananda residents were detained for questioning. They also had a warrant for Kriyananda's detention, but Kriyananda was in India. A five-year long investigation followed. [27] In March 2009 the judge ruled that the case was "non luogo a procedere perché il fatto non sussiste" (not to be continued as the matter is without substance).

Recent years and recognitions

Kriyananda married in 1981, and publicly renounced his monastic vows on the occasion of his second marriage in 1985. He was later divorced. In 1995, he officially resumed his monastic vows and title.[28]

From 1996, Swami Kriyananda lived and taught for seven years at the Ananda Italy center, near Assisi.

In 2003, he moved to India, where he began an Ananda center in Gurgaon, near Delhi. For five years (until May 1, 2009) he appeared daily on Aastha TV, a cable station that is broadcast throughout India, Asia, Europe, and the U.S. Since Kriyananda's 2003 move to India, Ananda teachers have been giving classes on meditation and Kriya Yoga in many major Indian cities.[29] In 2009, at age 82, Kriyananda moved to Pune, India, to start a new community.

In 2009 Swami Kriyananda established a new Swami order. According to Kriyananda, in this new age (Dwapara Yuga) not all old patterns remain valid. Some reformation is necessary. Some of the features of the newly formed Swami order are: 1) Swamis can be single or married. 2) They can be freely creative, if the purpose is to serve others. 3) A new Swami is named not by one Swami (which has been the tradition), but by three. 4) A Swami of this new order is called "Nayaswami", with "naya" meaning "new".

Selected recognitions:

  • In 1990: Adelaide Ristori Award, Italy, for the Oratorio: “Christ Lives”
  • In 1991: First prize at the National Festival of World Peace in Italy for the Oratorio: “Christ Lives”
  • In 1992: Nominated for the Templeton Progress in Religion Prize
  • In 1995: Lifetime Achievement Award, Unity in Yoga Conference, Snowmass, Colorado
  • Recipient in 2004 of the International Award for Goodness by the “International Committee of Third Millennium” on nomination of Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi. Previous recipients include the Dalai Lama.
  • In 2006, Swami Kriyananda was nominated and accepted as a Creative Member of the Club of Budapest[30], which counts as its members persons such as the 14th Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
  • Invitation in April 2006 by India's President Dr. Abdul Kalam into the Rashtrapati Bhavan ("President of the Country's Home").
  • Recipient in Italy, in May 2007, in the prestigious Campidoglio, of the “Medaglia Giulio Cesare” (Julius Caesar Medal), a bronze medallion of limited coinage which symbolically represents “The Keys to the City of Rome.”
  • In August, 2007, Swami Kriyananda was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National InterFaith Council at the Wadsworth Theater in Los Angeles. [31]
  • In June 2009, Rome, at the Teatro Valle, the Byakko Shinko Kai, an international organization dedicated to global peace, headquartered on Mount Fuji in Japan, presented the “Living Peace Pole” to Swami Kriyananda. Such poles have been presented as symbols of peace to various eminent world organizations, notably the United Nations and its various agencies, UNESCO, ASEAN, The Arab League, The African League, IAEA, The International Red Cross, The World Bank, and The Rotary Club.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Kriyananda, Swami, The Path - One Man's Quest on the Only Path There Is. Crystal Clarity Publishers. ISBN 1565897331.
  2. ^ Documented in SRF magazines 1949-1960
  3. ^ "Swami Kriyananda". Retrieved August 2007.  
  4. ^ "Crystal Clarity Publishers website". Retrieved December 2006.  
  5. ^ Kalra, Ajay, In the Name of My Guru, Life Positive, April, 2006
  6. ^ Yogananda, Paramhansa, The Essence of Self-Realization (Crystal Clarity Publishers, 2003) ISBN 0-916124-29-0.
  7. ^ Swami Kriyananda, Conversations With Yogananda: Stories, Sayings, and Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda Preface. Crystal Clarity Publishers (2004) ISBN 1-56589-202-X
  8. ^ See Autobiography of a Yogi, 1955 6th edition, page 498, "Other Books"
  9. ^ Copies still exist, for example, at the "Crystal Hermitage", Kriyananda's home at Ananda Village, near Nevada City, CA, U.S.A.
  10. ^ see SRF Open Letter November 1995, page 2, footnote
  11. ^ [See SRF Magazines 1958]
  12. ^ [See SRF Magazines 1960]
  13. ^ a b c A Place Called Ananda: The Trial by Fire that Forged One of the Most Successful Cooperative Communities in the World Today'
  14. ^ SRF Open Letter November 1995
  15. ^ Many Hands Make a Miracle: A History of Ananda, 1968–1976
  16. ^ "Ananda Meditation Retreat". Retrieved 2008-01-21.  
  17. ^ Visits to (and the support of) Muktananda, Anandamoyi Ma, Chidananda, Satya Sai Baba and others can be read in: Visit to Saints Of India, Ananda Sangha Publications, ISBN: 978-81-89430-24-5
  18. ^ " News". April 19, 2006. Retrieved January 02, 2010.  
  19. ^ "Crystal Clarity: Resources to Relax, Uplift and Inspire - From Paramhansa Yogananda, Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters), and more". Retrieved 2008-01-21.  
  20. ^ "The Expanding Light – A California Spiritual Retreat with yoga retreats, meditation, and teacher training". Retrieved 2008-01-21.  
  21. ^ a b Novak, Devi, Faith is My Armor: The Life of Swami Kriyananda. Crystal Clarity Publishers (2006). ISBN 978-1565892132.
  22. ^ "Self-Realization Fellowship vs. Ananda: Ananda Wins....". Retrieved 2008-01-21.  
  23. ^ "Copyright Lawsuit". Retrieved 2008-01-21.  
  24. ^ "Ananda Answers - FAQ Accusations". Retrieved 2008-03-24.  
  25. ^ Goa, Helen, Sex and the Singular Swami, The San Francisco Weekly, March 10, 1999. Available online
  26. ^ Ananda, Website. "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Bertolucci Lawsuit". Retrieved 2008-01-21.  
  27. ^ Bate, Jamie, Swami clear in Italy case: Ananda founder safe from arrest, supporters say, The Union, March 27, 2004
  28. ^ "Ananda Answers". Retrieved August 2007.  
  29. ^ "Ananda India". Retrieved August 2007.  
  30. ^ "Club of Budapest International Foundation". Retrieved January 2008.  
  31. ^ "National InterFaith Council Lifetime Achievement Award". Retrieved August 2007.  

See also

External links


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