Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters) is one of the foremost proponents of yogic teachings in the world today. In 1948 at the age of 22, he became a disciple of the Indian yoga master Paramhansa Yogananda. He is one of a few remaining direct disciples of Yogananda active today.
At Yogananda’s request, Swami Kriyananda has devoted his life to lecturing and writing, helping others experience the living presence of God within. He has taught on four continents in seven languages over the course of over 60 years. His teaching, audio and video recordings of his talks and music, and his many books translated into 28 languages have touched the lives of millions.
Swami Kriyananda has taken the ancient teachings of Raja Yoga and made them practical and immediately useful for people in every walk of life. His books and teachings on spiritualizing nearly every field of human endeavor include business life, leadership, education, the arts, community, and science. He has written extensive commentaries on the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita, both based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda.
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 Yogananda’s dream of establishing spiritual communities, he founded in 1968 the first of what are now seven Ananda communities worldwide. They provide a supportive environment of “simple living and high thinking” where over 1,000 full-time residents live, work, and worship together.
A monastic almost all his adult life, Swami Kriyananda is a Swami of the Giri (Mountain) branch of the ancient Swami Order, as was his guru and his guru’s guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar. He is the spiritual guide of Ananda Sangha Worldwide.
Since his youth, Kriyananda had dreamed of utopian communities. But few 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 places to foster spiritual attitudes and friendly cooperation.
It was at a garden party on July 31, 1949 that Yogananda gave a talk quoted above that changed the course of Swami Kriyananda’s life. “Moved to his core” by the tremendous energy with which Yogananda made his pronouncement, Kriyananda later wrote: “Deeply, I vowed that day to do my utmost to make his words a reality.”
The opportunity to do so came in 1967. With the help of a few friends and many miracles, Swami Kriyananda was able to purchase a small piece of land in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Nevada City, California.
Thus was started a spiritual community, which is now known as Ananda Village. 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 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.
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 Delhi and Pune. Each community has a spiritual focus (a teaching center and temple) and a community (homes where members live).
Swami Kriyananda’s inspired leadership is at the heart of Ananda’s success. He uplifts and encourages people through personal example, spiritual counseling, writing, lecturing, music, and prayer.
He has trained others to assume leadership responsibility in much the same way: free from egoic motivation, always placing the spiritual needs of others foremost in all decisions.
He is a patient and sensitive teacher, allowing people to learn by experience, and never placing institutional needs ahead of the needs of an individual.
“People are more important than things” is one of the foremost guiding principles of Ananda, and “Where there is adherence to dharma [right action], there is victory” is another.
Now in his 80s, Kriyananda continues to write, record, and lecture at a pace that leaves his students and friends fairly breathless. He divides his time visiting Ananda’s main centers in India, Europe, and the U.S. His books continue to be published by Crystal Clarity, and his lectures are available on the web in video and MP3 formats from Ananda.org and other Ananda websites.