Who is Kriyananda?
Swami Kriyananda is the charismatic founder of the Ananda communities and the Ananda Church of Self-realization. As the spiritual leader of his church, he claims to represent the great avatar Paramahansa Yogananda. This claim is based on private discussions that Kriyananda says he had with the Master during the three and half years he spent with him prior to Yogananda's passing in 1952.
But there are no witnesses to these discussions, and all of Yogananda's closest and most advanced disciples dispute Kriyananda's claim, saying that he is just trading on Yogananda's good name to further his own personal ambitions. After Yogananda's passing, Kriyananda quickly rose through the ranks of his Guru's society, Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF). Within eight years Kriyananda was promoted to second vice-president. His rise to power ended abruptly, though, just two years later in 1962 when he was expelled from SRF by the Board of Directors.
Although claiming that his dismissal was "unfair", during his deposition Kriyananda admitted that he had not kept his vow of celibacy-even while a monastic in SRF. Kriyananda also stated that while in India he "was attempting to form an organization, a park and ashram, in the center of the city where the greenbelt area comes in close to the center." He fails to mention, however, that these actions were in direct violation of SRF's express orders to cease and desist. Had Kriyananda not been quickly ordered back to the U.S. and forced to "resign," India was preparing to expel not only Kriyananda but the whole SRF organization from the country.
SRF's senior vice-president, Tara Mata, a close disciple of the Master since 1924, called Kriyananda immoral, a Judas and prophetically, an egotistical Machiavellian schemer who was trying to divide the work and set himself up as the Master's true representative and spiritual heir. Daya Mata, now the president of SRF and one of the Master's closest disciples, was trained by Yogananda for over twenty years to assume the responsibilities of carrying on the work after he was gone. Yogananda assures us:
"Follow her. She has followed me with one hundred percent devotion, one hundred percent obedience, one hundred percent loyalty. She is in tune with me. I can work through her."
Kriyananda repeatedly chose to not follow her, feeling that he understood Master's intentions better than she. Opposing her on many issues and with the incidents in India as the final straw, Kriyananda was eventually forced out. Kriyananda never recovered from the shame and rejection of his dismissal, complaining bitterly to this day how he was mistreated and misunderstood. Unable to forgive or forget, he has worked for fifty years to prove that he is the innocent victim of a heartless and corrupt SRF leadership. Saying whatever he can to discredit his fellow disciples for fifty years he has been obsessed with proving that he really is a great and worthy disciple, fit to lead his Master's mission, and that SRF is wrong not to recognize his superior wisdom and attunement with Yogananda.
Years earlier, though,Kriyananda wrote that he would never start an organization that would be opposed to SRF because it would be "treachery" to do so. Some believe Kriyananda is an advanced yogi who has acquired certain spiritual powers through his practice of meditation. They believe these powers give him the ability to transfer shakti (spiritual energy) to others and to be aware of their deepest feelings. Some feel very blissful and uplifted and become convinced that Kriyananda must be a saint. Yoga teaches, though, that these powers mean nothing in themselves, and can be used for good or ill--to bless people or to control and manipulate them.
Kriyananda is a man of calculating intelligence, but his intellect is underminded by his narcissitic immaturity and pride. Narcissists usually have normal, even superior intellectual development while remaining emotionally and morally immature. They unfortunately have difficulty learning from and taking responsibilities for their past mistakes. Kriyananda is a prolific writer, poet, musician, with prodigious energy and volcanic creativity. Typically, however, his followers are the ones left to pay for and manifest his "visions". To those who follow him he is an inspired speaker. Seen as a keen student of human nature, he is adored by hundreds worldwide.
His initial sweetness, lovable personality and professed high ideals inspire fanatical loyalty. His ministers work tirelessly to build and promote what Kriyananda often refers o as his "great work"--his mission to disseminate Yogananda's teachings to the world. Kriyananda constantly reminds us of his Guru's words to him, "You have a great work to do," as though to convince us (and himself?) that Ananda is the great work Yogananda commissioned him to undertake. Many of the Master's other close disciples have another interpretation, based on what Yogananda told them about Kriyananda.
They believe the Master was referring not to an outer work, but to Kriyananda's inner work to achieve enlightenment. They say that the word "great" refers not to "important and wonderful," as Kriyananda wishes to believe, but to the herculean task of overcoming his spiritual pride. Yogananda told some of his close disciples that this was a pivotal life for Kriyananda-that he would either find God or fall for many more lives.
Other disciples of Master, liken Kriyananda to Brother Elias, a monk in St. Francis' order, who had desires to reform the order but fell due to pride. Kriyananda has privately admitted that Master did warn him- "do not be my Brother Elias". Ananda is Kriyananda's "proof" that he is not only destined for enlightenment but that Yogananda"s mantle has passed to him. As he proclaims, "Ananda could not have come into existence and flourished without the blessings of Paramahansa Yogananda on my life and work. But why not? Many far greater works are flourishing, after all, such as L. Ron Hubbard' s Church of Scientology, without the benefit of Divine blessings.
Brother Anandamoy, one of Yogananda's close disciples, and Kriyananda's best friend when he was in SRF, has said that for those who are drawn to Ananda, it will be their greatest test of discrimination in this life. This is because Kriyananda is very convincing. He seems so humble, loving and magnetic--people just want to believe in him. But Yogananda warned against following those who set themselves up as teachers in his name, claiming to be his channel.
This is what Kriyananda has done, urging that Ananda members should go through him in order to reach Yogananda: "Yes, you can go straight to Master, or to any other master in our line of gurus. Try it, please, if you like. See if they will accept you. Others have done so, however, and I have yet to see one of them flourish" (Ananda Directions, 1999).
Who, then, is Swami Kriyananda? For those who are seeking the truth and value their spiritual welfare, it would be wise to carefully check him out for yourself. There are many who knew him well when he was in SRF, and there are hundreds of former Ananda members who have their own stories to tell--many who have been severely harmed by him. Is Kriyananda a great spiritual teacher, as his followers claim, or a blind guide leading his blind followers into the ditch of ignorance and pride?
As Swami Vivekananda, the eminent disciple of the great master Ramakrishna, once said:
“Of one hundred persons who take up the spiritual life, eighty turn out to be charlatans, fifteen insane, and only five, maybe, get a glimpse of the real truth. Therefore beware.”
Kriyananda and Rosanna when were married