Kriyananda, Swami

Kriyananda, Swami
(1926– )
   kriya yoga guru
   Swami Kriyananda is the founder of the ANANDA MOVEMENT of religious and communal organiza-tions, designed to spread the teachings of KRIYA YOGA and the principles of cooperative living.
   James Donald Walters was born in Toleajen, Romania, to American parents. As a youth he was sent to boarding schools in Switzerland and England and later attended Haverford College, a Quaker school in Pennsylvania, and Brown University. He left school before completing his degree and settled in South Carolina.
   In South Carolina, he had his first serious contact with Hinduism, when he read the Bhaga-vad Gita followed by Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa YOGANANDA. At about the same time he became a vegetarian. In 1948, he moved across the continent to meet Yogananda and offer himself as a disciple. He quickly moved into a leadership position with Yogananda’s relatively small organi-zation, the SELF-REALIZATION FELLOWSHIP (SRF), and within a year was lecturing on its behalf. His leadership role increased after Yogananda’s death, and in 1955 he was named the main minister at the center in Hollywood. It was at this time he took the vows of the renounced life and became known as Kriyananda.
   In 1960 he was selected as a member of SRF’s board of trustees and named its vice president. However, by this time he had become focused on exploring the communal aspects of Yogananda’s thought, and in 1962 he resigned all posts with SRF and decided to put his time into realizing the development of several small economically inde-pendent communities. He wrote several books underscoring the rationale for such communities, including Cooperative Communities: How to Start Them and Why (1968). His lectures from this time would later be compiled and published as Crises in Modern Thought (1972).
   In 1967 he purchased land in the foothills of the Sierra as a site for the first Ananda Coopera-tive Community. The next decade would be spent in building the community, making it a center for teaching the kriya yoga he had learned with Yoga-nanda, and writing.
   In 1983, Kriyananda abandoned his vows of SANNYAS (which included celibacy) and became a lay believer/teacher. He began using his birth name again and married in 1985. Members of the community accepted this change with relative ease. In 1990, he led in the establishment of a new religious community, the Ananda Church of Self-Realization, part of the ANANDA MOVEMENT.
   The progress of Ananda has been punctuated by several traumatic events. First, in 1976, a for-est fire swept through the Ananda Village in the Sierras, destroying almost all its structures and threatening the survival of the community. How-ever, it was rebuilt. After the incorporation of the church, Ananda began a lengthy litigation with SRF over usage of the term SELF-REALIZATION. SRF also sought to deny Ananda the use of a number of Yogananda’s books and images. Ananda won most of the issues being litigated, although the community faced a huge bill for more than a decade of legal work. When a former member successfully sued Ananda claiming sexual harass-ment, Ananda was thrown into bankruptcy, from which it is slowly recovering.
   Most recently, Walters has resumed his vows of sannyas and is once again known as Swami Kriyananda. In November 2003, he and several leaders in Ananda moved to Delhi, India, and opened an Ananda branch in India. He has contin-ued to turn out numerous books as well as music (his role as a composer is one of the less known aspects of his career). The Ananda movement has also established a center in Assisi, Italy.
   Further reading: Swami Kriyananda, The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita (Nevada City, Calif.: Crystal Clarity, 2006); J. Donald Walters, The Art and Science of Raja Yoga (Nevada City, Calif.: Crystal Clarity, 2002); ——— , Cooperative Communities: How to Start Them and Why (Nevada City, Calif.: Ananda, 1968); ———, Crises in Modern Thought (Nevada City, Calif.: Ananda, 1972); — ——, The Path: Autobiography of a Western Yogi (Nevada City, Calif.: Ananda, 1977); Ted A. Nordquist, Ananda Cooperative Village: A Study in the Beliefs, Values, and Attitudes of a New Age Religious Community. Religion-historiska Institutionen Monograph Series (Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala University, 1978).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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