About Swami Kriyananda

photo of Swami KriyanandaA brief biography

Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters) is one of the foremost spiritual teachers of the 20th century, carrying on the Yoga tradition brought to the West by his guru, Paramhamsa Yogananda. In 1948 at the age of twenty-two, he became a disciple of Yogananda, and devoted the rest of his long, extraordinary life to helping others, spiritually.

At Yogananda’s request, Swami Kriyananda devoted his life to lecturing and writing, helping others to experience the joy and living presence of God within. He has taught on four continents in seven languages over the course of some 64 years. His many books in 28 languages have touched the lives of millions of people. He recorded many television shows in India in recent years, and has freely offered many audio and video recordings of talks and music.

Swami Kriyananda has taken the ancient teachings of Raja Yoga and made them intensely practical and immediately useful for people in every walk of life, on a daily basis. His books and teachings cover nearly every field of human endeavor, including spiritualizing business life, leadership, education, the arts, community life, and science. He has written extensive commentaries on the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita.

Swami Kriyananda is also known as the “father of the intentional communities movement” which began in the United States in the late 1960s. Inspired by his guru’s dream of establishing spiritual communities, in 1968 he founded the first of what are now eight Ananda communities worldwide. They provide a supportive environment of “plain living and high thinking” where 1,000 full-time residents live, work, and worship together.

“The time has come for people to live lives of even higher dedication than that which inspired monks and nuns of the past…The time has come for people to direct their spiritual awareness also downward into matter…to everything they do: their work, to education, to family life, to friendship, to their communications with strangers, to the way they build their homes—to all the most mundane, practical aspects of daily, human life. Men need now to become God-centered from within, and from that center to see God everywhere, in everything.”
—Swami Kriyananda, Cities of Light

A monastic nearly all of his adult life, Swami Kriyananda is a Swami of the Giri (Mountain) branch of the Swami Order, as was his guru and his guru’s guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar. He is the Dharmacharya (leading according to Dharma) and spiritual guide for Ananda communities and activities worldwide. In 2009, he founded a new monastic order called the Nayaswami Order, emphasizing a more expansive view of the monastic life in this modern age.

Perhaps more than anything else, he has been a living example of the power and beauty of the spiritual life — making it tangible for everyone who met him. He was a great man. And he helped many walk farther on the spiritual path than they dreamed possible. (Swamiji passed away in April, 2013 at the age of 86)

Swami pranam

Honors and awards

• 2012 International Book Award for Best New Spirituality Book for Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography With Personal Reflections & Reminiscences
• 2012 Letter from the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles (Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa): “For over 50 years, Swami Kriyananda has shed a spiritual and reflective light into the world, across continents and into the lives of individuals. We thank him for his many accomplishments and for sharing the life and teachings of yogi Paramhansa Yogananda.”
• Appointed to the Board of Vedanta Today (2009)
• Recipient of the Eric Hoffer Award (self-help/spiritual books) and the USA Book News Award (spiritual category) for The New Path (2009)
• Recipient of the Yoga nel mondo Award by the Milan and Rome Yoga Festival with this tribute: “To the Master Swami Kriyananda, enlightened representative of the yoga science and philosophy, and indefatigable supporter and major spokesman of the bridge between East and West” (May 2008)
• Appointed Honorary Member of the International Yoga Confederation of New Delhi, and Honorary Member of the World Movement for Yoga
(May 2008)
• Recipient of the 1st Conacreis Award (National Coordination of the Ethical, Interior and Spiritual Centers) to honor Swami Kriyananda’s dedication to the building of spiritual communities worldwide (May 2008)

• Beacon of Light Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the National Interfaith Council (2007)
• Pioneer in Yoga Award, presented by the Los Angeles Yoga Fellowship in (2007)
• Recipient of the Julius Caesar Medal in Rome in 2007. It represents the keys to the City, and is conferred as one of the greatest honors to heads of state.
• Recipient of the Premio Ponte 2007 del Consorzio Per i Libri (Bridge Award of the Consortium for Books) for “affirming the principles of union between East and west, spreading throughout the world the ancient principles of Yoga and the spiritual teachings of the highest Indian tradition of Self-realization, making them practical and at the same available to people of every social level, and applicable in every area of daily life.” (2007)
• Member of The Club of Budapest International. Other members include Mikhail Gorbachev, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. (2005)
• Recipient of International Award for Goodness by Tara Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi. Previous recipients include the Dalai Lama. Milan, Italy (2004)
• Lifetime Achievement Award, Unity in Yoga Conference, Snowmass, CO (1995)

Curriculum Vitae Swami Kriyananda. (PDF)

“Swami Kriyananda is a man of wisdom and compassion in action, truly one of the leading lights in the spiritual world today. His work and life of selfless service are an inspiration to us all.”
—Lama Surya Das, author Awakening The Buddha Within

“…a wise teacher whose words convey love and compassion.”
—Dr. Larry Dossey, author of Healing Words

Founder of Ananda

Fulfillment of Yogananda’s dream of spiritual communities
Since his youth, Kriyananda had dreamed of utopian communities. But few others shared his enthusiasm, and he gradually put his dreams aside. He was surprised, then, to discover Yogananda speaking often about the need for "world-brotherhood colonies" as environments that would foster spiritual attitudes: humility, trust, devotion, respect for others, and friendly cooperation.

It was at a garden party on July 31, 1949 that Yogananda gave a talk that changed the course of Swami Kriyananda’s life. With tremendous energy, Yogananda declared to the audience:

“This day marks the birth of a new era. My spoken words are registered in the ether, in the Spirit of God, and they shall move the West...We must go on—not only those who are here, but thousands of youths must go North, South, East, and West to cover the earth with little colonies, demonstrating that simplicity of living plus high thinking lead to the greatest happiness!”

Swami Kriyananda wrote afterwards, “I was moved to my core. It would not have surprised me had the heavens opened up and host of angels come streaming out, eyes ablaze, to do his bidding. Deeply, I vowed that day to do my utmost to make his words a reality.”

In 1967, the opportunity came, with the help of many miracles, large and small. Kriyananda was able to purchase a small piece of land in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Nevada City, California, and started to begin what is now known as Ananda Village. Though thousands of “utopian” communities were started during the late 1960s, only a handful remain today—among them Ananda. More than 300 people live in this intentional spiritual community dedicated to Yogananda’s ideals. A variety of Ananda-owned and private businesses form the economic backbone of the community. The Expanding Light meditation retreat, a publishing company, schools for children, and a grocery store are among the activities on the rolling 1,000 acres in the rural Sierra foothills. Homes and gardens are well-cared for, and there is a palpable feeling of harmony. Visitors are welcome year-round: (800) 346-5350.

Other Ananda communities have developed over the years to include Ananda Palo Alto, Ananda Sacramento, Ananda Portland, Ananda Seattle, Ananda Los Angeles, Ananda East, Ananda Assisi in Italy, and Ananda India near New Delhi. Each community has a spiritual focus (a teaching center and temple) and a community (apartments or homes where members may live). The community in Mountain View, for example, is a large apartment complex with 100 residents, landscaped grounds, pool, shared community room, and temple for group meditations: (650) 941-9507.

Guiding principles

Swami Kriyananda’s leadership style is at the heart of Ananda’s success. He endeavored to uplift people however possible, through writing, lecturing, music, and acts of kindness. He has trained a large number of his students to teach and to assume leadership responsibility in the same way, as free as possible from personal concern, placing the spiritual needs of others primary in any decision. Throughout his long service to Yogananda, he offered spiritual counseling personally and in correspondence. (Swamiji passed away in April, 2013 at the age of 86)

Swami has been a patient and sensitive teacher, allowing people to learn by experience, and putting the needs of individuals above the organization. “People are more important than things” is one of the guiding principles of Ananda life; leaving things undone is preferable when there is spiritual benefit to someone in the middle of learning a hard life lesson. “Where there is adherence to dharma [right action], there is victory” is another of Ananda’s guiding principles. Kriyananda encouraged his students to live in harmony with others, but also to speak out with courage when true principles are at stake.

“There is a peace and quietness surrounding him that give a hint of his spiritual stature. Many times have I listened to him speak, and always have come away feeling refreshed and energized. It is not only the lectures, the teachings, and the books of J. Donald Walters that shed light on areas of darkness or confusion in people’s lives. Above all, perhaps, it is the example of the man himself, the peace and calm that surround him, the spiritual power that emanates from him, that point the way to each person’s own inner enlightenment.”
—John Harricharan, Body, Mind, & Spirit magazine

Swami Kriyananda resources

Swami's lectures in India and America are posted to the web as streaming video and MP3.

His books are available from Amazon or Crystal Clarity, Publishers.

More about Swami Kriyananda. (PDF)