An Interview with Swami Kriyananda

In Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography with Personal Reflections and Reminiscences by Swami Kriyananda, one of Yogananda’s few remaining direct disciples, tells the untold story of this sublime master and world teacher—his teenage miracles, his challenges in coming to America, his national lecture campaigns, his struggles to fulfill his world-changing mission amid painful betrayals and his ultimate triumphant achievement. In this interview, Swami Kriyananda shares a few of these stories and some other remembrances he’s never shared before.

Integral Yoga Magazine (IYM): What was it like to be in Paramhansa Yogananda’s presence?

Swami Kriyananda (SK): It was the most extraordinary experience of my life. I felt that I was somehow—and this may seem strange to some people—in the presence of God. He said to me once, “I know every single thought that you think.” I felt great love from him and great bliss, but I was also overwhelmed by his greatness. I would look at him and never see ego in his eyes. I would see infinity, you might say. There was never a sense of personal reaction. Yes, he could experience joy, love and so on. On the rare occasions when he scolded me, I looked into his eyes and I saw this regret that he had to talk that way, because there was nothing but love—just love in everything.

IYM: What teaching did you take to heart that you could share with us?

SK: Master’s teaching was to eliminate your ego in everything you do. That calmness in his eyes showed that there was no ego there. This is what we have to do on the spiritual path more than anything else, it’s a matter of getting rid of the ego. Humility is usually thought of as self-abasement, but that is ego too. Either I’m big or I’m small—that’s the same thing.  We have to get rid of that “me” and realize that God dreamed this whole show and we are just a part of God’s dream. When I do my seva, I feel that God is doing it through me. I’ve done so many things in my life but I’ve done them all because I haven’t done them but, rather, God did them through me. The more we allow God to inspire us and to work through us, the more we can accomplish. There’s a great relaxation in the thought that God is responsible. Even when you do wrong, don’t say, “I’ve done wrong,” say, “God did it through me. God does everything through me.” Master said that God likes that. God likes the credit for those things, not the blame, but the credit for the things that are blameworthy [laughs].

IYM: Did you know anything about Yoga prior to meeting your master?

SK: I had never heard the word Yoga, but I was intensely seeking God. I didn’t know anything about Indian traditions but I had reached the point of realizing that I needed help. Every effort I made to try to improve myself was like washing a dirty shirt where you rub the areas of dirt against the clean side and the dirt just moves over to the clean side. In the same way, I’d work on a fault and that would take energy away from other faults I had, but then they’d come up. It was hopeless and I realized that I needed help. God made it possible for me to get the help: My father was sent to Egypt and then to France by the company for which he worked. Because he was out of the country at the time, I didn’t have to face what would have been a major block in my quest. The very day that I put my mother on the ship to go join my father, I went uptown in New York and found the book, Autobiography of a Yogi. There was something about the face on the cover that just really attracted me. I bought the book and it completely changed my life. After I read it, I took the next bus nonstop from New York to Los Angeles, which took four days and four nights. The first thing I said to Yogananda when I met him was something I would never have dreamed of saying to anybody, I said: “I want to be your. . .

Read the rest of this article in the Summer 2012 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.