Letters from Ananda members, Part 4

My Experience with Swami Kriyananda
Bent Hansen

I’ve had the opportunity to be associated with Ananda and Swami Kriyananda since 1978, when I first read several of Swami’s books, Cooperative Communities and The Path, and made my first visit to Ananda Village in the summer of that same year. Prior to that I had already been involved with Self-Realization Fellowship through their correspondence course and attending their meditation group in Winnipeg, Canada.

Does Swami Kriyananda hold himself out to be the Guru?
Is he a dictator? Does he put himself above others?
Does he want others to be dependent on him?

From the beginning I was intrigued and pleased to observe how Kriyananda interacted with others, within group settings as well one to one with individuals. I say “intrigued” because I had never before encountered anyone who was so open and friendly with others, including complete strangers, and yet at the same time so obviously clear about who he, himself was. There was no sense of him imposing on others. Immediately I felt he was a friend and someone I could trust.

But I also wondered at first how Kriyananda fit into the whole picture of our line of gurus, i.e. how he viewed his own role and how did that play itself out in reality? I was already wary of authority figures and felt an aversion to “following” someone. At the same time I also realized that to deepen my attunement to my spiritual path I needed some help and guidance of some sort. What I began to notice right away was that Swami displayed no signs of being interested in adulation or in being perceived in the role of a “guru”. He simply had no tendency to draw people to himself but rather he always directed others towards Paramhansa Yogananda and Divine Mother.

An example of this came to me personally in the fall of 1981 after I had been living at Ananda Village for about six months. I had previously received Kriya initiation from Swami in August of 1979 at Ananda Village, and had felt deep blessings from that experience. Around that same time, I also received the Kriya technique from SRF through their correspondence lessons. In November of 1981, I felt inspired to take a pilgrimage to southern California to visit the shrines associated with Paramhansa Yogananda. I also wanted to receive an in-person Kriya initiation from SRF.

From the beginning of my contact with Ananda I understood there were some differences with SRF and especially how they viewed Kriyananda. At Ananda at that time, there was a general encouragement to be open to SRF, whatever differences existed. So I asked Swami about my going to Los Angeles to take Kriya initiation at Mt. Washington, from SRF. With no hesitation, he encouraged me in this endeavor. There was no effort on his part to try and dissuade me or to influence me against SRF. It was clear that he was thinking only of what would be good for me.

I carried through with my journey and received the Kriya initiation at Mt. Washington. Upon my return to Ananda, I again spoke with Swami and discussed my trip. I mentioned that I hadn’t felt a deep experience at the initiation and actually was in tears because of that lack. (In contrast, I had been very deeply moved and uplifted at the Kriya initiation held at Ananda with Swami.) His response was that that was because of me; that I wasn’t open to that experience. He simply did not give any energy to what I was obviously leading to—that the Kriya at SRF wasn’t as “good”. There was no effort on his part to capitalize on the differences with SRF or to draw any focus to himself in comparison to SRF.

Afterwards, my thought was that Swami was simply trying to act as a clear instrument to draw the highest good in that situation and for me personally. There was no aloofness or other attitude that conveyed any sense of his spiritual superiority or authority over me. Rather he was just being a true friend, concerned with my spiritual welfare.

Is Swami Kriyananda greedy and very attached to money?

There have been accusations that Swami is attached to money and is greedy. In my own experiences with Swami, I have never seen any instances to substantiate these claims. On the contrary, I have seen numerous examples of his generosity and selflessness.

One incident that stands out took place in September of 1993, in Dallas, Texas, where my wife and I were directors of the fledgling Ananda Center. We had invited Swami to speak at several public programs over the course of a weekend. Our center there was in its beginning phase and finances were a challenging test to say the least!

The income brought in from the various programs that Swami gave, amounted to several thousand dollars. We had a standard arrangement for guest speakers and the same applied to Swami. At the conclusion of the weekend, I proceeded to hand Swami his portion of the proceeds. He looked me straight in the eyes and said. “You’re in need of these funds for the Center’s work here in Dallas”. I replied that he had given so much already with his energy and presence that we really wanted to give him his due portion of the income. Again he firmly responded that he was not going to take anything; he wanted all of the proceeds to stay with us to help the growth of the center in Dallas. And that is what happened. Having that money enabled us to expand our outreach and to touch many more souls.

There was no thought on Swami’s part as to what he was going to “get” in terms of money. It never entered his mind. He simply was doing the right thing that would allow others to expand and grow. This has always been the case in the situations I’ve personally been involved with Swami Kriyananda; his example has been one of inspiration and selflessness.

Bent Hansen serves as the spiritual director of Ananda Sangha of Portland with his wife, Parvati.