Swami Kriyananda; a life of discipleship – Friend and guide

“Joy has always been my first love. I have longed to share it with others.”
—Swami Kriyananda, The Path

Do you ever suffer from spiritual doubt? If so, take heart, for God will someday turn those very struggles to good account. Kriyananda’s life is a case in point. Yogananda told him that he had been plagued by doubts in the past. In this life, having largely overcome those doubts, Kriyananda has found himself well equipped to dispel the doubts of others: He knows every one in the book!

Help others find faith

Yogananda told Kriyananda that his work would be “lecturing and writing.” In time Kriyananda realized that “one of the reasons Master wanted me to teach others was that, having entertained doubts myself in past lives, and having already, to a great extent, conquered them in this one, I needed to reinforce my growing faith by expressing it outwardly, and by helping others to resolve their doubts. By helping them to find faith, I would also pay off my own karmic debt for ever having doubted God myself.” Moreover, having suffered in the past from doubt, in this life Kriyananda has always felt deep compassion for those who lack faith, and a longing to show them the way out. In these times in which spiritual confusion, relativism, and cynicism are so prevalent, Kriyananda’s lectures have touched many hearts and changed many lives.

For years, Kriyananda had trouble believing that his lectures really did others good. “Sir,” he once pleaded with Yogananda, “I don’t want to be a lecturer!” “You’d better learn to like it,” he replied pleasantly. “That is what you will have to do.”

Kriyananda’s early teaching experiences, and the advice Yogananda gave him, are interesting and also instructive. This passage is taken from his book, The Path:

Serving the Divine in all

“Only gradually did I become a conscientious speaker, as the awareness grew in me that the people I was speaking to were manifestations of God, and as I understood that it was through them, rather than by merely surviving the personal ordeal of appearing before them, that I was being asked to serve Him. Thus I was cured also of a temptation that is common to public speakers, to be satisfied if they can make their points convincing to themselves. For in seeing God manifested in the forms of my listeners, and in realizing that what I had to say was a service to Him through them, it became important to me to express myself in a way that would reach Him through them.”

“God is the doer”

“At first I used to pray before every lecture, “Lord, inspire me to say what You want said.” Later I learned to ask Him also, “Help me sense what this particular audience needs to hear through me.” Often, sensing needs different from those I had come prepared to speak about, I would give a completely different talk from the one I’d intended. Indeed, I learned in time to prepare minimally, if at all, for my lectures, for I found that an open mind enabled me to respond more sensitively to the unvoiced needs of my listeners. The results of this approach proved gratifying. Many people began thanking me after my lectures for answering their specific questions, or for dealing with problems that had been weighing on their minds. I always shared with them the real secret of my success: “God is the Doer.” For it was in this thought above all that Master trained us.

“When I was first learning to lecture, Master gave me the following words of advice: ‘Before lecturing, meditate deeply. Then, holding that meditative calmness, think about what you intend to say. Write down your ideas. Include one or two funny stories; people are more receptive when they can enjoy a good laugh. Then finish with a story from the SRF lessons. After that, put the subject out of your mind. While speaking, keep mentally before you the salient points of your outline, but above all ask the Spirit to flow through you. In that way you will draw your inspiration from that inner Source, and will not speak from ego.'”

The power of attunement

“Most important of all to Master was the question of our attunement while lecturing, that we might share with our listeners not only our ideas, but our vibrations. Late one Thursday afternoon he spied Dr. Lewis out on the grounds in Encinitas, enjoying a stroll.
‘Doctor,” he called out, “aren’t you giving the service this evening?’

“‘Yes, Sir,’ Dr. Lewis called back.

“‘Then what are you doing roaming about? You should be meditating!’

“In time, I reached the point where I could actually feel a power flowing from my attunement with Master, and filling any room in which I might be lecturing. If anything I said touched my listeners, the credit was due to this power far more than to any words I uttered.”

Universal truth, individually applied

If Kriyananda addresses himself to the needs and questions of specific individuals in his audience, you might well wonder whether that leaves the rest of those present staring off into space! Fortunately, Kriyananda has a rare gift for universalizing the teachings he shares: for relating specific questions to those general principles of yoga that apply to all of us, and that point the way to the solutions we’re seeking. Devotees frequently ask Kriyananda to share his remembrances of Yogananda. Interestingly, Kriyananda generally draws a blank when this request is made. But ask him a question about the teachings or for advice on a problem, and an illustrative story from Yogananda’s life often comes to him immediately.

Here’s an amusing example of this aspect of Kriyananda’s teaching: a couple of stories he tells on himself, relating a difficulty he faced as a new speaker, and presenting it in the broader context of the challenge all devotees face in finding the right balance between self-effort and reliance on God’s grace.

Let’s see what happens!

“Master taught us not only to offer our work moment by moment to God, but also to see God acting through us as the real Doer. ‘I slept,’ he said once, ‘and dreamt I was working. I woke up, and saw God was working.’ Action in this spirit wasn’t intended to make us automatons. I remember thinking, halfway through a sermon one Sunday morning, ‘If God really is the Doer, why not mentally remove myself from the scene altogether, and wait for Him to speak through me?’ There followed two minutes of silence! Friends in the audience thought I’d frozen from nervousness. But to me this pause was simply an interesting experiment. Finally I concluded that God had no intention of speaking for me; it was I who had to do the work. His was simply the inspiration for my words, to the extent that I was able to draw on that inspiration.”

The second story is about another lecture Kriyananda gave. Afterwards, a woman who’d been in the audience came up to thank him. ‘I’m glad you liked it,’ he replied, ‘but don’t thank me. God is the doer; thank Him.’ The woman’s eyes grew wide. ‘I knew the talk was good,’ she was evidently thinking, ‘but I hadn’t realized it was that good!’

Linguist and world citizen

During his over fifty years of discipleship, Kriyananda has given many thousands of talks. After Yogananda’s passing, until Kriyananda’s ouster from SRF in 1962, he was SRF’s principal lecturer, in America and throughout the world. In India he lectured to crowds of thousands at a time. Kriyananda speaks nine languages, and has lectured in five of them.

Then there is Swami’s own prodigious creative output: books, music, audio and video tapes. Read his writings. Listen to his music. Swami lives near New Delhi, India now helping to establish a center for the teachings of Yogananda. He is intensely active in writing, and has recorded several hundred television shows that are broadcast throughout the Indian region. These talks are posted and updated regularly at www.ananda.org. All these are expressions of his over 50 years of discipleship to Yogananda, and convey his character. And there is more: the people he has taught. You can easily meet more than a hundred people living in various Ananda centers throughout the world who have lived and worked closely with Kriyananda for twenty or thirty years—some even longer. Read their letters and testimonials from direct, personal experience. Hundreds of thousands more have been inspired by him, or by one of his students. Through all these expressions, or through your own intuition, you will be able to know for yourself what kind of man Swami Kriyananda is.

Like Yogananda, Kriyananda speaks simply and unassumingly, with a delightful sense of humor. His talks are fresh and full of life, even when enjoyed on audio or videotape rather than in person. We’ve included below links to one we thought you might enjoy.

By their fruits, ye shall know them

Kriyananda is a wonderful teacher, also, of other teachers, whom he’s trained to speak in the intuitive way that Yogananda exemplified and taught to him. If you live near any of the Ananda communities, you’re welcome to drop in on one of their classes or Sunday services. If you’d like a taste, first, of what you can expect, you can click here for a selection of several recorded talks by Ananda ministers.

‘”Take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10:19-20).