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In 1958 and 1972, Swami Kriyananda (a close and direct disciple of the great Indian spiritual master Paramhansa Yogananda—author of Autobiography of a Yogi) traveled to India, meeting a number of great saints in that distant land and writing about his experiences in a series of letters to spiritual friends, and brother and sister disciples.

This book captures the spirit of Yogananda’s classic autobiography and other enlightening accounts of sacred experiences in the East. In Visits to Saints of India we walk alongside Kriyananda and see India and its spiritual representatives through his eyes—the eyes of an advanced Western yogi and truth seeker.

As Kriyananda wrote in the prologue to this book:

India! Land of great saints and yogis. One has only to set foot on that sacred ground, if he is sensitive, to feel the blessings rising up therefrom. Fittingly did Paramhansa Yogananda end his life with the last words of his poem, “My India”:

“I am hallowed. My body touched that sod.”

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 I • Early Visits
Anandamayee Ma
Yogi Ramiah

Part II • Letters from India
Christian Shrines
India–First Impressions
Swami Muktananda
Sayers–Sooth and Unsooth
The Divine Life Society–Rishikesh
Swami Narayan
Ma Anandamayee
Calcutta Revisited
Signs and Portents
Departure from Northern India
Sathya Sai Baba
Last Impressions

About the Author

India! Land of great saints and yogis. One has only to set foot on that sacred ground, if he is sensitive, to feel the blessings rising up therefrom. Fittingly did Paramhansa Yogananda end his life with the last words of his poem, “My India”:

“I am hallowed. My body touched that sod.”

India is going through a period of transition, necessary for it as one of the great cultures of this world. She needs, for now, to reclaim her rightful place as a leader among nations. When I first went there, in 1958, there were still true saints to be found. I lived there, in all, nearly four years, with a six months hiatus in America and Europe in 1960. I returned, briefly, in 1972. Since then I came back several times as a visitor. Then in 2003 I came once more, to live and complete my Guru’s work in this country. Over the course of these nearly fifty years, I have seen many changes. Not all of them are pleasing for one whose life is dedicated to seeking God. But I see that they are necessary. And I believe the sacred vibrations of India will rise triumphant, at last, over the mists of materialism that now swirl like brume upon the earth here.

During my first visit I had the privilege to meet many saints and holy people. On my later visit in 1972 I met fewer. During the past four years I have met fewer yet. I am doing what I can to bring India
material prosperity as well as spiritual affluence. As I introduce my Guru’s concept of “World Brotherhood Colonies,” which by now I have well established in the West, I hope in time to cover the country with little communities where devotees live, work for God, raise families if that is their desire, and educate their children—all in a Godly way. The system has been proved by forty years of success.

There are now about a thousand people living in thriving Ananda Communities in America and in Italy.

May the following pages help to inspire people with a return to the spiritual living of India’s ancient, Vedic times! For this is, indeed, the spirit of our Ananda communities in the West, and recognized
as such by saints as well as by ordinary visitors to them from India. During my visits to saints during my first period in India, I wrote many letters about them to my brother and sister disciples in America. Most of those letters have been lost, or are now inaccessible. Those visits included several saints. One was an old yogi, 132 years in age, whom I met in Puri. I met several saints at the Kumbha Mela in Allahabad in 1960, among whom were Deohara Baba (aged
144 years, who told me he had known Lahiri Mahasaya); Kara Patri (mentioned in Autobiography of a Yogi); Hansa Maharaj, 122 years of age, who announced that he would leave his body in April of that year (in fact, he did so); and several other saints whose names I have forgotten.

I met, in New Delhi, a young woman who at the age of nine had announced to her parents that she was going into seclusion, and for them please not to disturb her, but to leave meals for her outside her door. From then on, she had eaten little, but had spent her time in prayer and meditation. Her only communication was by letter. When her family left notes outside her door requesting prayers for people, she would pray, and at least in most cases those prayers were granted. Her father was chronically ill. Prayers for his healing, however, were not accepted. She answered by note, “Prayers will not help him.” At last her mother complained to her that she was showing a sort of reverse prejudice in not healing him, “Just because he is your father.” The girl, then, had to agree to pray, but she said, “You will see what the outcome will be.” She healed her father, but soon after that he began living a dissolute life. His illness had prevented that karma from coming out. She had wanted him to expiate the karma fully, but now he would have to go through it, and, later on, pay the full consequences.

I met her when she was nineteen. She still had the body of a young girl. She almost never came out of her room, but she came out for me, and meditated with me for a time.

Very soon afterward, she was seen weeping before her image of Krishna. The next day, she was dead. I met also Bhupendranath Sanyal, or Sanyal Mahasaya, the oldest living disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya. This was at his ashram outside of Puri. It was a hallowed meeting, filled with mutual divine love.

I spent time at Gowardhan Math in Puri with Bharati Krishna Tirth, the Shankaracharya of that same Math. I had prepared his lecture tour in America in 1957 or ’58.

I spent much more time with Anandamayee Ma than is indicated in the relatively brief episode related in these pages. I used to call myself, and was known to many of her disciples, as her “chhoto chele” (little child). Truly, she was like a spiritual mother to me. I could have the sense of familiarity with her that I never had with my own Guru, whom I held too much in awe. Part of my difficulty was that I was so young. And part of it was simply that he was, truly, so commanding in his personality. (Ah, how I wish I could devote many pages to my precious visits with her!)

I found India less blessed with saints during my 1972 visit. And for these last four years, I have met very few. Those blessed days will come again, however. I am sure of it.

And I pray that my labors in this country will help significantly to speed their coming.

In divine friendship,
Swami Kriyananda

Excerpt from Part 1: Early Visits
Anandamayee Ma

My First Meetings with Anandamayee Ma
February 1959

Sri Daya Mata and her party, consisting of Ananda Mata, Sister Revati, and myself, had been visiting Sri Yukteswar’s seaside hermitage in Puri. On about February 9th, we returned to the YSS Baranagar ashram outside Calcutta, where we were living. Soon after
our arrival we learned that, during our absence, Anandamayee Ma had come to Calcutta.

What a thrill! Paramhansa Yogananda’s beautiful account of her in Autobiography of a Yogi had inspired all of us, his disciples, with her example of divine love, with her ecstatic absorption in God’s infinite bliss. One of our greatest hopes in coming to India had been that we would have the opportunity of meeting her. Now Divine Mother had brought her figuratively to our doorstep! We looked
forward with keen anticipation to meeting her.

My own eagerness, however, was not unmixed with a certain anxiety. On Friday of that week I was scheduled to fly to Madras to lecture at the SRF/YSS center there. Would I be able to see the Mother before then? It all depended on whether I could find someone to take me to her, as I had no way of getting there on my own.

On Wednesday evening, February 11th, the four of us were sitting with two or three Indian friends around the dining room table. Talk turned (inevitably!) to Anandamayee Ma, and to our prospects
for visiting her. “But,” we lamented, “we’ve no idea where she’s staying!”

“It must be in Agarpara,” said Mohini Chakravarty, one of the friends who were present. “That’s where she stays when she comes to Calcutta.”

“Do you know how to get there?” I asked. “Yes, I could take you.”

“At what time does she generally see people?” “At about this time.”

This was not an opportunity to let slip away! I said, “Why don’t we go there right away?”

My proposal was a bit sudden for the others in our party, but Mohini agreed to accompany me, and minutes later we were on our way.

I meditated as we drove through the darkness. A peculiar joy filled me. Did the Blissful Mother already know we were coming? Was she blessing me before I even met her?

“Mohini,” I said, “please don’t tell the Mother who I am (that is to say, a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, who was of course well known to the Mother’s devotees). I don’t want the formality of an
introduction. Let me just slip quietly into the back of the room and sit there in meditation. That will be a sufficient joy for me.” I wanted a spiritual, not a social, contact with the Mother. Also, I felt timid at the thought of representing Master before such an exalted being, unworthy disciple as I am. Better just to come in and sit unnoticed.

I saw her first through a series of French doors which ran the length of one wall of the assembly hall. At once, and every time I saw her again during the days to come—even in semi-darkness, when I couldn’t distinguish her features—I understood anew the meaning of Master’s words when he wrote of the blessing that flows from the mere sight of a saint. There was no mistaking it. I was beholding a truly divine being.

I slipped quietly into the room and sat cross-legged on the floor at the back. There must have been about 150 people present. The Mother was speaking and laughing amiably. Her voice, as pure and bell-like as a little girl’s, thrilled my heart. I closed my eyes in meditation. Soon I began to lose myself in inner peace and devotion.