A Handbook on Discipleship includes lessons on discipleship and the Guru–Disciple relationship, the main theme of Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. These lessons are universal to all spiritual paths and traditions.

The following subjects are covered at length:

  • Does one need a living guru?
  • The role of divine grace in spiritual progress
  • How to follow a guru
  • How to draw on the guru’s power
  • The importance of attunement and magnetism

In addition, there is a section on what it means to specifically become a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda and the Ananda line of Gurus. Those who are interested can take part in a home discipleship initiation ceremony, joining thousands of other disciples who are part of Ananda.

Excerpt from the Introduction:

“Someone once asked Swami Kriyananda, “Do I need a guru?”

“Those present, knowing of his lifelong discipleship to Paramhansa Yogananda, were surprised to hear his response, “No, you don’t.” He then added, “But if you want to find God, you need a guru.”

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Swami Kriyananda

Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters, 1926–2013) was a direct disciple of the great spiritual master Paramhansa Yogananda (author of the classic Autobiography of a Yogi), a bestselling author, and an internationally known lecturer and composer. Widely recognized as one of the world's foremost authorities on meditation and yoga, he taught these principles and techniques to hundreds of thousands of students around the world.

In 1968 Kriyananda founded Ananda Village in Nevada City, California, dedicated to spreading the spirit of friendship, service, and community around the globe. Ananda is recognized as one of the most successful intentional communities in the world, and more than 1,000 people reside in Ananda communities in the US, India, and Italy. The European retreat and community located in Assisi, Italy, also serves Ananda meditation groups in Europe and Russia.

Ananda Village is home to The Expanding Light, a world-renowned guest retreat facility where thousands visit annually for renewal or instruction in many aspects of meditation, yoga, and the spiritual life. The nearby Ananda Meditation Retreat, located on Ananda's first property, functions both as a retreat and as the site for Ananda's Institute of Alternative Living.

An advocate of simple living and high thinking, Swami Kriyananda's more than 140 books cover a wide range of subjects emphasizing the need to live wisely by one's own experience of life, and not by abstract theories or dogmas.

A composer since 1964, Kriyananda wrote over 400 musical works. His music is inspiring, soothing, and uplifting. Many of his later albums are instrumental works with brief affirmations or visualizations. Chuck Dilberto of Awareness Magazine wrote, “[His] words and music are full of his life and light. His sole intention is to heal, something we could all use during these chaotic times.”

Through Crystal Clarity Publishers, his works have sold over 3 million copies worldwide and have been translated into more than 25 languages.

To learn more, visit the Swami Kriyananda website.


Part 1: Lessons in Discipleship

  1. Understanding the Need for a Guru
  2. The Disciple’s Part
  3. Attunement With the Guru
  4. Life with a Master
  5. Paramhansa Yogananda: Incarnation of Divine Love
  6. The Guru as Divine Friend

Part 2: Taking the Step of Discipleship

  1. A New Dispensation
  2. Becoming a Disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda


Spiritual Roots

Ananda Sangha Worldwide


Someone once asked Swami Kriyananda, “Do I need a guru?”

Those present, knowing of his life-long discipleship to Paramhansa Yogananda, were surprised to hear his response, “No, you don’t.” He then added, “But if you want to find God, you need a guru.”

No one would think twice about seeking an expert guide when climbing a mountain, learning a musical instrument, or becoming a competitive athlete. Yet in attaining spiritual freedom, surely the most difficult endeavor of all, many try to make their own way by cobbling together various beliefs and practices. Often these choices are based on nothing more than personal likes and dislikes.

This Handbook on Discipleship explains whay a guru is needed, what a true guru is, and how to follow the guru. It also clears up many common misunderstandings on the subject that are prevalent in current spiritual thinking.

These lessons offer a rare opportunity to learn about discipleship from a lifelong disciple of a fully realized Master. Swami Kriyananda has been a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda for over sixty years. For all of the extraordinary accomlishments of Swami Kriyananda’s life — over one hundred books, over four hundred pieces of music, successful spiritual communities all over the world, and more — he gives full credit to Yogananda and to what he has gained as his disciple.

The first part of the book shares teachings that are universal to the Guru-Disciple relationship, even though they are based on the specific relationship of Swami Kriyananda with Paramhansa Yogananda. Some of the subjects covered in the first part include:

  • Does on need a living guru?
  • The role of divine grace in spiritual progress
  • How to follow a guru
  • How to draw on the guru’s power
  • The importance of attunement and magnetism

The second part describes the process of becoming a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. It includes a Discipleship Initiation Ceremony, which helps to connect the new disciple to the thousands of disciples who are part of Ananda — a worldwide movement of people who have been following Yogananda for many decades.

Through these lessons, we hope you will come to know how to draw the grace of the guru into your life, and how to receive it more fully until you become one with God.

Chapter 2: The Disciple’s Part

When I met my guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, he said to me, “Allow me to discipline you.”

“Why sir?” I inquired.

“When I encountered my guru, Lahiri Mahasaya,” he replied, “my will was guided by whims. But when I attunded my will to Lahiri Mahasaya’s wisdom-quided will, my own will became free, because guided by wisdom.”

In the same way, I discovered that by attuning my will to Sri Yukteswar’s wisdom-guided will, my will, too, became free.

This is the purpose of discipleship, and the obedience that it entails. The aim of obedience to the guru is not to enslave the disciple, but to liberate his will from that which enslaves it truly: whims, and much more — bondage to likes and dislikes, and to desires and attachments.

Most people consider it an affirmation of freedom to indulge their desires “freely.” They don’t see that desire itself is compulsive. It blinds their discrimination. Where is the freedom in any act that leads one more deeply into delusion? Spiritual healing requires willing cooperation on the disciple’s part. It cannot be achieved by passivity. Surrender to the divine will, as expressed through the guru, must be offered freely, willingly, and intelligently.

The Essence of Self-Realization: The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda, by Swami Kriyananda. See Resources.

The Disciple’s Part

Taken from Talks by Swami Kriyananda

The guru-disciple relationship is perhaps the most important relationship the soul can have in this world of relativity. It is also the most important relationship the ego can have in the sense that it’s the one relationship that thoroughly demoishes the ego. The worldly person, however, doesn’t see the attractiveness of this relationship; he does’t like to put himself in the position of subordination to what he considers to be just another person. He feels that his opinion is as good as anyone else’s. In the matter of seeking God, he doesn’t see the need for another human being to intercede, but thinks to establish his own relationship with God directly.

It’s very important to speak not only of why we need a guru, but more particularly of how we can be good disciples. This is an even more difficult question, and one that, generally speaking, people don’t understand on a deep level.

A true disciple is not somebody who is always trying to proselytize others, or who goes around outwardly saying, “Oh, Master, Master, Master.” Neither is he somebody who acts as though he were a member of a special club. A true disciple, first of all, has to have the right attitudes that make him a good disciple. Increasingly he has to develop that kind of consciouness which the guru brings to him.

Discipleship to the Inifinite

In the beginning it’s absolutely inescapable that the disciple will see the guru only in human terms. After all, the guru has a body, a personality, and ego — all the things necessary to make a body function. But the guru resides in his own Self and watches these things. As Master wrote in his beautiful poem, Samadhi, “I, the cosmic sea, watch the little ego floating in me.” There has to be an ego, or the body couldn’t be sustained, but it’s a different kind of ego. It’s not the ego of pride or of identification with an individual consciousness. In a sense you could say there is no ego, because the deeper meaning of ego is the soul identified with the body. A great master is not identified with the body at all. He merely sits back, watches, and directs it.

There was a period of time when I was out at Master’s desert retreat with him. Every evening after finishing that day’s dictation on his commentaries of the Bhagavad Gita, he used to go out for a walk with me. He would walk quite slowly because he was in a very deep state of consciousness. At this time he was manifesting the wisdom aspect of God, and was very impersonal. Sometimes he would rest his hand on my forearm for support as we walked along. Then he would stop, sway back and forth, and lean on me so he wouldn’t fall over. Once he said, “It’s so difficult to know which body I’m supposed to keep moving when I feel myself equally present in all bodies.”

It took great effort on his part just to hold his mind down to that little body. You might even say that it’s as difficult for a master to keep his mind down on our level as it is for us to get up to his, except he can make it and we can’t. But we must remember that we can. We must not constantly think of our limited humanity, but always inwardly think of our divinity. This is one of the attitudes that is so necessary for a true disciple.

The Need for Right Attitude

The chapter continues…