Graciousness, Kindness, Humility
I have been a member of Ananda for 21 years and have known Swami Kriyananda since 1978. For years, now, I have followed with ever increasing outrage and ever deeper sorrow the allegations that have been made by members of Self Realization Fellowship against Kriyananda and other members of Ananda. Outrage because from my own experience, I know them to be absolutely false. Sorrow because of the pain they have created for many of my dear friends, especially Kriyananda, whom I know to be a man of the highest possible integrity whose greatest desire, next to finding God, is to help others to do the same. My sorrow is even deeper when I think of the confusion these allegations have caused among sincere Truth seekers, and especially among disciples of Paramhansa Yogananda.
I am hoping that if I share my own experiences and observations, it will inspire you to question some of the things you may have heard and read against Kriyananda and Ananda, and to become interested yourself in investigating the truth, rather than simply giving credence to emotional diatribes and unsubstantiated claims.
When I first met Swami Kriyananda, I was 25 years old (in fact, I met him on the day after my birthday). I had already been introduced to the teachings of Yogananda, and had read his Autobiography, but was still uncertain if he was my Guru. I was praying for guidance, and very much looking forward to meeting this direct disciple of the Master. He came and gave a satsang in the small community where I lived in Colorado. My first, overwhelming impression of him was of graciousness, kindness, and humility. We had set up a spot in our back yard for him to speak, but unfortunately had not calculated for the position of the sun, and when he began to speak, the sun was full in his eyes. He said nothing about it, but someone offered him a sun visor to protect his eyes. I was impressed at Kriyananda’s total lack of concern about presenting a certain image, such as I’d seen in other spiritual teachers. Indeed, he laughed as merrily as anyone at the droll picture he made sporting that sun visor.
I noticed one other small thing that afternoon. It being summer, there were many flies around, something I personally found extremely aggravating and often got quite angry about. I was amazed to watch Kriyananda’s response to their persistent attentions. He simply gently waved them away with not a hint of irritation. A small thing indeed, but to my way of thinking at that time, significant. I perceived intuitively that this attitude of acceptance and of not letting outward things disturb his inner peace was an innate part of his character, and was something I, myself very much wanted to learn.
Now I was interested in knowing more about this man, and bought his autobiography, The Path. It was through reading this book that I began to really know Yogananda. In his own autobiography, Yogananda, with characteristic humility, hadn’t said that much about himself, and certainly had not mentioned his miraculous spiritual powers or his stature as a Master. As I read Kriyananda’s description of his life and experiences with the Master, I felt for the first time that Yogananda was a living presence in my life, and that indeed, he was my Guru, sent to me by God to bring me to freedom. I also saw immediately that Kriyananda has a gift for presenting the profound teachings of the Master in a way that was very clear and easy to understand. Reading this book and knowing Swami Kriyananda transformed my life and brought me to my spiritual path.
Two years later, I moved to Ananda, and have never doubted for a moment that this is my spiritual home and my way in which to serve my Guru and help other souls find their way toward the Light. I now live in the Ananda Assisi community in Italy, and serve here as a teacher, administrator, and musical director. Swami Kriyananda now lives here, so I occasionally have an opportunity to see him, although he is usually in retreat, concentrating on his writing.
Over the years I’ve been with Ananda, there have been periods in which I have had quite a bit of contact with Kriyananada. I have traveled with him and others in Europe and in Egypt, and at one time lived quite close to his house and spent a fair amount of time with him alone and in small groups. His behavior toward myself and others, as I observed, was at all times appropriate and respectful. Far from being the power hungry tyrant his detractors would have you believe him to be, I don’t think he ever directly told me what to do. Even when I asked him for advice, it was given tentatively, expressed as, “it seems to me ” Only one time did he ever strongly correct me (I had, indeed really blown it and caused a lot of trouble for many people by a series of emotional outbursts). Even when he was speaking to me, I saw in his eyes regret for having to talk in this way. The next time I saw him, he expressed nothing but warm friendship; never was there a hint of holding any anger or resentment for my mistakes. I always, in all circumstances felt that he saw me as a friend in God and a fellow disciple of Master, and that his interest was to help me grow spiritually.
This attitude of acceptance and willingness to help is the hallmark of all the people I have known at Ananda, especially those in so-called positions of authority. When I came to Ananda, I was very young, both spiritually and emotionally, and I very often did and said things that were not helpful, either for me or for others. I never felt even a hint of judgement when I said or did the wrong thing; only a gentle desire to help me live in a way that would make me happier and better able to serve my Master.
People at Ananda are very individual; I’ve heard us described as “Master’s wildflowers”, and feel this is very apt. The idea of us being a “cult” in which everyone thinks and acts the same way is laughable. I’ve never known a more independent, strong -minded group of people. What we have in common is our love for Yogananda and our desire to share his teachings with anyone who wants them. What we have in common is a deep inner joy that comes through meditation and helps us overcome outward hardships, such as the legal battle we’ve been fighting for 11 years now. What we have in common is a deep respect and love for each other, honoring our differences and supporting each other in our individual search for God.
I’d like to invite you to get to know us. Please visit if you live near one of the Ananda communities. Read one of Kriyananda’s books. Listen to his music. Visit our website at www.ananda.org. Don’t let yourself be influenced by one-sided declarations, born of anger and misunderstanding. Make your own impression, based on your own experience. If you would like to write me, at the address of this website, I’m happy to share more of my experiences with Kriyananda and with Ananda.
Thank you for taking to time to read my letter. I wish you all the best on your own path toward God.
Deborah lives at Ananda Assisi where she serves as a teacher, administrator, and musical director.