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Awareness Magazine
5753-G Santa Ana Canyon Rd. #582
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In Loving Memory

Swami Kriyananda  (J. Donald Walters)

1926 - 2013

By Craig Parsons



A prominent and respected global spiritual leader, Swami Kriyananda, 86, passed away on April 21, 2013 in Italy of natural causes. The charismatic founder of the Ananda Worldwide movement, Kriyananda inspired thousands of people with his vision of a “conscious lifestyle” emphasizing peace, harmony, compassion and love.

One of Kriyananda’s earliest visions resulted in his establishing the first Ananda World Brotherhood Village 45 years ago, in the foothills near Nevada City, California, that integrates diverse businesses, schools for children, agricultural endeavors, a publishing company, a yoga and meditation retreat center and the Ananda College in Laurelwood, Oregon.

Under his guidance, the Ananda concept has grown to reflect his vision of a spiritual, non-denominational environment supported by a sustainable economic infrastructure. Today there are nine locations on three continents.

Born J. Donald Walters in 1926, Kriyananda was a direct disciple of the famed Indian guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, helping to bring Yogananda’s teachings to the world. One of the most significant spiritual figures in the last century, Yogananda is recognized as the founding spirit of the global yoga and meditation movement.

As a young man, Kriyananda was captivated by Yogananda, the author of the classic Autobiography of a Yogi and the first Indian guru to make his life’s work in the west. His emphasis on the underlying unity of all spiritual — not religious — paths made an indelible mark on Kriyananda, who met Yogananda in 1948, and lived with him as his disciple until his passing in 1952. Yogananda’s references to “world brotherhood colonies” further inspired Kriyananda to create communities known today as Ananda (which in Sanskrit means “joy”).

Kriyananda’s pursuit of his guru’s long-cherished dream of establishing spiritual communities led to his purchase in 1968 of the first land parcel for Ananda Village where, in his words “people could live in conscious harmony.” Today that 1,000-acre site in the Sierra Nevada foothills in Northern California is home to about 300 people living a spiritual and completely integrated life.

The global network of other Ananda satellite communities throughout the world includes India (New Delhi), Italy (Assisi), Los Angeles, Palo Alto, Sacramento, Seattle and Portland. More than 1,000 people live in these communities, all with what has been described as “a palpable feeling of harmony.” It is estimated that today there are more than 10,000 followers of Ananda’s teachings worldwide that reflect Kriyananda’s devotion to a life  “helping others experience the joy and living presence of God within.”

Ananda successes prompted Kriyananda to become known as the “father of the intentional communities movement” that began in the 1960s, with the publication of one of his earliest books, Cooperative Communities: How to Start Them and Why. The Ananda living concept is the focus of a soon-to-be-released feature-length film, Finding Happiness (Hansa Productions), which represents the last opportunity to see interviews with Kriyananda before his passing, which was within days of the film’s preview screening in Italy.

The film shows Kriyananda expressing his fundamental principles, namely that “people are more important than things, and that fulfillment can be found adhering to truth and dharma (right action).” More information about Finding Happiness can be found at: www.findinghappinessmovie.com

Among Kriyananda’s other accomplishments, he is a prolific author, having written an impressive 150 books published in 30 languages in more than100 countries, demonstrating how Self-realization can be effectively applied to every area of life — from yoga and meditation, to marriage and educating children, leadership and ethical business practices.

He wrote extensive commentaries on the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, and the yoga sutras of Patanjali, published plays, poetry and articles, and composed more than 400 songs. His works have sold more than three million copies worldwide, and his lectures, television and radio talks have a wide audience on the internet.

An often-cited passage among his many written words over the years encapsulates his goals for society: “The time has come for people to direct their spiritual awareness also into matter . . . to everything they do: to 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.”

His contributions to the upliftment of society will continue to resonate for ours and future generations through his books and plays, his music and his recorded talks. Visit: www.ananda.org