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Our Spiritual Heritage

Paramhansa Yogananda

Paramhansa Yogananda

In 1920, a great teacher was sent from India to the West, to share with all sincere seekers the universal message that God is within everyone, and to offer time-tested techniques to empower us to live from this place of inner knowing.

Paramhansa Yogananda (1893 – 1952) was the first yoga master from India to make his home in the West. Trained by a line of enlightened yoga masters, Yogananda came with the mission of reawakening the world to the original teachings of yoga as taught in the East, and the original Christianity of Jesus Christ, both of which emphasize direct inner experience of God.

Yogananda instructed thousands of students in the art and science of meditation, and offered to sincere seekers the advanced meditation technique of Kriya yoga, which helps the practitioner to achieve the highest states of union with the Infinite. In addition, through his trans-continental lectures, writings and talks, he offered tools and techniques to uplift and spiritualize many aspects of every-day life, including health, diet, exercise, finances, relationships and psychological well-being. In short, Yogananda’s teachings offered a complete system of developing spiritual, mental and physical well-being that is particularly suited to the demands of modern life.

Many are familiar with his book, the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, which continues to inspire and guide millions.

Swami Kriyananda

Swami Kriyananda (Ananda’s founder)

Swami Kriyananda (1926 – 2013) was a foremost,direct disciple of Yogananda, and Ananda’s spiritual founder. As a young man of 22 in 1948, Swami Kriyananda (born J. Donald Walters) began a search for deeper truth and meaning that led him to discover Autobiography of a Yogi. Just one day after reading the book, he embarked on a cross-country bus journey from New York to California, to meet the teacher he had come to think of as “his truest spiritual friend.”

Trained and directed by Yogananda to teach, write and lecture, Swami Kriyananda’s life remains an extraordinary example of discipleship, service, and divine friendship to all who sincerely seek to know the divine as a living reality. Kriyananda has inspired many thousands throughout the world, and through his writings, music and recorded talks, continues to keep alive the spiritual revolution started by his guru.

Swami Kriyananda wrote more than 140 books that offer practical guidance and spiritual insight on subjects such as relationships, education, prosperity, leadership, and community, and composed over 400 pieces of inspiring music that speaks to the soul.

In 1968, Swami Kriyananda founded Ananda. The work has grown to include nine residential spiritual communities and numerous centers and meditation groups around the world.

Nayaswami Jyotish

Nayaswami Jyotish
(Swami Kriyananda’s Spiritual Successor)

Nayaswami Jyotish (1946 – present) In Swami Kriyananda’s Last Will, Testament and Legacy, Kriyananda declared, “My spiritual successor shall be John E. Novak (generally known by his spiritual name, Jyotish).”

Nayaswami Jyotish became a student of Swami Kriyananda in 1967 in San Francisco, California and soon after, began assisting him in a variety of ways, including teaching meditation classes.

Working closely with Kriyananda, Jyotish became one of the founding members of Ananda Village in 1969, and for ten years served as the community’s general manager. Jyotish has lived and taught in Ananda communities throughout the world, and has lectured widely in the United States, Europe, Russia, and India.

Nayaswami Jyotish and his wife, Nayaswami Devi (who has also worked closely with Kriyananda since the early years of Ananda), currently serve as Spiritual Directors of Ananda Sangha Worldwide, as well as ministers and kriyacharyas (those designated by Swami Kriyananda to initiate others into Kriya yoga).

During a simple ceremony at Ananda Village on May 19, 2013, Jyotish formally received the nine-stone astrological bangle formerly worn by Swami Kriyananda, reflective of his new role as Kriyananda’s spiritual successor.