Paramhansa Yogananda’s classic Autobiography of a Yogi was more about the saints Yogananda met than about himself—in spite of the fact that Yogananda was much greater than many he described.

Now, one of Yogananda’s few remaining direct disciples tells the untold story of this great spiritual 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 incomprehension and painful betrayals, and his ultimate triumphant achievement.

Swami Kriyananda’s subtle grasp of his great guru’s inner nature reveals Yogananda’s many-sided and extraordinary greatness. This book includes many never-before-published anecdotes.

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 over 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 of visitors annually visit 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 over 25 languages.

Why a biography of Paramhansa Yogananda, when he himself wrote a world-famous account of his own life in the book, Autobiography of a Yogi? The answer is, quite simply, that he wrote his book in a spirit of such humility that the reader could only intuit the author’s spiritual greatness from his perfect attitude toward every life situation. I myself read Autobiography of a Yogi in 1948, and was so overwhelmed by that perfection that I took the next bus across the country: New York to Los Angeles. I had already been seeking God almost desperately. The first words I addressed to Yogananda when we met were, "I want to be your disciple." He accepted me at that very meeting, and I was blessed to live with him as a close disciple for the last three and a half years of his life.

Will this book be a hagiography (the biography of a saint, often expressed in idealizing or idolizing terms)? That depends. I will spare no pains to share with you the very real greatness that I beheld in my guru. But if, to you, hagiography implies a work of fulsome praise, filled with glowing adjectives and numerous legends that might more properly be assigned to the category of myth, then this work will definitely not be such. I will share with you what I know, what I heard from the Master’s own lips (yes, he was indeed a spiritual master, and he himself would never use that word lightly), what I myself experienced, and what I sincerely believe because I heard it from others who were close to him, and whose words were, in my opinion, believable.

The advantage of this book is that it will be written from firsthand knowledge. I am not a historian. No doubt real historians will get into the act someday, as the world-impact of Yogananda’s life becomes increasingly known to the world. This book will lack the historian’s perspective, but it will be much more intimate than anything he could offer.

My sincere opinion is that Yogananda’s life will have a major impact on the world-that, indeed, it will change the very course of history. I hope by the end of my account to have convinced you that I have at least sound cause for this belief.

I will not repeat here stories that appear in Autobiography of a Yogi, though I may refer to some of them. I omit them because the charm with which Yogananda tells them deserves to stand alone: To retell them would be to do him an injustice. There are many other stories, however, that never found their way into his book-stories about himself that he would not tell publicly because he couldn’t, and simply wouldn’t, speak glowingly about himself. Indeed, although his book was an autobiography, it was in some ways almost more about other people than about himself. His book, too, is mostly a book of reminiscences about others.

The purpose of this book, then, is to tell you how Yogananda was perceived by others, and especially by me. I want to show you that Paramhansa Yogananda’s life was much more than that of a humble devotee who had had the good luck to meet many great saints, and to "stumble," so to speak, onto the highest levels of realization. The truth is, not every devotee, on entering the spiritual path, can expect to be blessed with anything like such lofty spiritual experiences!

Yogananda was a towering giant among saints-one of those few who come from age to age, having been sent by God with the divine mission of guiding mankind out of the fogs of delusion into the clear light of divine understanding. In the best-known Indian scripture, the Bhagavad Gita ("The Lord’s Song"), the statement appears, "O Bharata (Arjuna)! Whenever virtue (dharma, or right action) declines and vice (adharma, or wrong action) is in the ascendant, I (the Supreme Lord) incarnate Myself on earth (as an avatar, or divine incarnation). Appearing from age to age in visible form, I come to destroy evil, and to reestablish virtue." (IV:7,8) I might add that this is not the first time that this great soul, whom we know as Paramhansa Yogananda, appeared on earth.

Often and often he told us, "I killed Yogananda many lifetimes ago. No one dwells in this temple now but God." And the incredible depth of his compassion for suffering mankind is evident in these lines from a poem he wrote, named, "God’s Boatman":

"Oh! I will come back again and again!
Crossing a million crags of suffering
With bleeding feet, I will come
If need be, a trillion times,
As long as I know that
One stray brother is left behind."

That compassion is what I saw in his eyes every time I gazed into them deeply. It was no mere sentiment. It was the expression of his soul, as he reached out with yearning to help everyone who came to him with a desire to be lifted toward final liberation in God.

“This new biography of Paramhansa Yogananda will pave the path to perfection in the spiritual journey of each individual. I like this book. It is a masterpiece that serves as a guide in daily life. Through the stories of his life and the unfolding of his destiny, Yogananda’s life story will inspire the reader and flower a spiritual awakening in every heart.”

Vasant Lad, BAM&S, MASc, Ayurvedic Physician, author of Ayurveda: Science of Self-Healing, Textbook of Ayurveda series, and more

“Where did we come from, why are we here, and where does this life lead to? Swami Kriyananda is the most experienced philosopher that could help us understand how his guru answers these questions. Through this biography of Paramhansa Yogananda, people will discover their divine nature and potential.”

Bikram Choudhury, Founder of Bikram’s Yoga College of India, author of Bikram Yoga

“A deeply insightful look into the life of one of the greatest spiritual figures of our time, by one of his most accomplished, yet last-remaining living disciples. Like the life it depicts, this book is a gem!”

Walter Cruttenden, author of Lost Star of Myth and Time

“As two individuals who include the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda in their nightly devotions, we were thrilled to read Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography with Personal Reflections and Reminiscences by his disciple Swami Kriyananda. Although Yogananda’s own Autobiography of a Yogi is one of the most popular metaphysical books in the world, readers learn more about the lives of Yogananda’s guru Sri Yukteswar and other saints than they do about the master himself. In this wonderful new work, we are treated to an intimate portrait of Yogananda’s quick wit and profound wisdom, his challenges and his triumphs. We see his indomitable spirit dealing with shattering betrayals and his perseverance in his goal of establishing a spiritual mission that has enriched the world. All seekers of enlightenment owe a great debt to Swami Kriyananda for giving them the biography of Yogananda that could only have been written by one who studied under the master and served him faithfully and who continues his work in the Ananda communities.”

Sherry and Brad Steiger, authors of Real Miracles, Divine Intervention, and Feats of Incredible Survival

“Swami Kriyananda’s book, Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography is a unique look at one of the greatest spiritual masters ever to live in America. The book is filled with hundreds of new stories and alive with luminous insights. It is not just a biography, but a window onto the nature of reality, the spiritual quest, and the life and teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda.”

Jyotish Novak, Spiritual Director of Ananda Worldwide, author of How to Meditate

“This delightful book recounts the story of Paramahamsa Yogananda from a fresh perspective. It includes details and adventures not found in the Autobiography. The reader gains a deeper sense of the robust greatness of this spiritual pioneer. Packed with history, anecdote, and wisdom, this honest examination of Paramahamsa Yogananda’s accomplishments and legacy helps further our understanding of yoga in America.”

Christopher Key Chapple, Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology, Loyola Marymount University

“Swami Kriyananda’s biography is a welcome addition to the growing literature on Paramhansa Yogananda. I especially like the author’s chapter on Yogananda’s legacy where he quotes Yogananda on his concept of ‘world brotherhood colonies.’ I am astounded to find that a consciousness-based theory of evolution predicts the evolutionary necessity of such colonies. Yogananda was a true seer and indeed, his words ‘shall not die.’”

Amit Goswami, PhD, quantum physicist and author of The Self-Aware Universe, Creative Evolution, and How Quantum Activism can Save Civilization

“If you were one of millions whose life was transformed by Autobiography of a Yogi, you will definitely want to read Paramhansa Yogananda: with Personal Reflections & Reminiscences. Swami Kriyananda masterfully presents and illumines Yogananda’s life and teachings. Hundreds of new stories about Yogananda will enthrall you. The chapter on Kriya Yoga is thrilling and adds a new dimension to our understanding of this liberating science.”

Joseph Cornell, author of the Sharing Nature book series, and Founder of Sharing Nature Worldwide

“Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography presents the most intimate account of Yogananda’s life, illuminating the multifaceted nature of his life and mission. Swami Kriyananda’s work enriches our understanding of Yogananda with revealing narratives told here for the first time. Here is a loving biography of a spiritual teacher, written by a disciple attentive to historical accuracy.”

Anantanand Rambachan, Professor and Chair, Religion Department, Saint Olaf College

“An extraordinary biography of an extraordinary life. A perfect complement to Autobiography of a Yogi. Kriyananda gives us stories and insights into the life of Yogananda that only a close disciple could have experienced. It provides deeply moving glimpses of what it would have been like to live with a spiritual master.”

Joseph Selbie, co-author of The Yugas

“On the face of the earth, there exists no one else more qualified to write the biography of Paramhansa Yogananda other than Swami Kriyananda. It is fitting, then, that he has done so, and done so with a level of love and revelation befitting the revered subject. A student of Yogananda since 1963 and of Kriyananda since 1966, I consider Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography with Personal Reflections and Reminiscences to be the second volume of Autobiography of a Yogi.”

Manuel Freedman, Filmmaker, Founder, Max Freedman Media

“Through this book one really gets a sense of what the great master’s life was like. Swami Kriyananda helps us to appreciate Yogananda anew—and with great clarity and depth grasp this spiritual teacher’s thoughts, intentions, and world-changing mission. I think it is clear that, of all Yogananda’s disciples who lived long after his passing, Kriyananda comprehends him best and portrays him as he really was. I believe that this book will move as many as Yogananda’s own Autobiography of a Yogi, and that millions will find inspiration in its pages.”

Richard Salva, author of Walking with William of Normandy: A Paramhansa Yogananda Pilgrimage Guide

“Intimate in reflection and perspective, Kriyananda’s biography of Yogananda is notably more revealing of its towering subject than any merely factual account could be. Yogananda comes to life in this book in luminous, full view: generous, joyful, and unswerving in his mission to bring souls to God. That’s because the author lets the stories of his guru speak for themselves, unembellished by superlatives or personal praise. Each of them is a pure delight, forming in total a body of teachings and truths that are offered in such an easy, unlabored style, readers will absorb them deeply, as if in conversation with the master himself.”

James Surendra Conti, Co-Manager of East West Bookstore

“What a blessing to be gifted with a whole new insight into the magical world of Paramhansa Yogananda! Thank you, Swami Kriyananda, for your efforts!”

Deva Premal and Miten, musicians, composers of The Essence, Soul in Wonder, and other works

“Swami Kriyananda is surely one of Paramhansa Yogananda’s most serious and dedicated disciples. Here he has given us the missing link to that great master’s life, the link which that ego-free being could not himself provide: a book about himself. Swami Kriyananda has brought his guru once again to life! Congratulations for a courageous, honest, and inspiring work!”

Dr. Jurgen Klein, biochemist, naturopath, Founder of Jurlique Company, and author of Unearthing Nature’s Secrets

“His holiness Paramhansa Yoganandaji continues and will ever continue to lead us on our spiritual path. His Autobiography of a Yogi is already a sourcebook of inspiration for all of us. This new biography of his holiness by an eminent disciple like Swami Kriyanandaji will add to the inspirational treasure of Yogananda’s life.
“Long live Paramhansa Yogananda and his immortal and universal message!”

Dr. Ram Karan Sharma, author of Researches in Indian and Buddhist Philosophy

“This is a monumental classic. In this enthralling dedication to his guru, Kriyananda has once again grasped our Zeitgeist and given us the incredible story behind the man, the great avatar, Paramhansa Yogananda.”

Selima Gurtler, Founder, East Meets West Peace Foundation

“I devoured Swami Kriyananda’s anticipated biography of Paramhansa Yogananda like a hungry devotee in order to come closer to the great master of Kriya Yoga. I highly recommend this book to all spiritual seekers, and with heartfelt gratitude to Swami Kriyananada for sharing the life of such a Great Soul with poetic candor and factual imagery. I love the way this book is written like a historical novel, in which one who was so near and dear to our beloved Yogananda has shared with intimate detail, remembering every word of the great master’s dialogues so that those conversations came alive for me. Sri Sri Anandamayi Ma devotees around the world, as myself, will be thrilled with this intimate portrait of Paramhansa Yogananda, who we so greatly love and regard.”

Dr. Swami Ramananda Maharaj, President of the Nevada Institute of Asian Study, author of Bliss Now and From India with Love

“Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography expresses Swami Kriyananda’s sincere devotion to one whom he calls ‘master’ and ‘avatar’ and in whom he sees the image and likeness of God. But Yoganandaji was also a human being, and Kriyananda reveals this humanity in a way that speaks directly to every reader, whether a devotee or just a seeker. I thank the author for not retelling episodes already narrated in Yogananda’s own Autobiography of a Yogi. What a reader does not find in one book, he or she may find in the other. The voices of disciple and master sing in counterpoint, in which dissonant passages are resolved in harmonious cadences. Other voices need to be heard, since Yogananda’s contribution to humankind cannot be confined between the covers of two or three books. Peter Heehs, author of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, has offered us a model of historical research, both scholarly and reverent, into a great Indian master, who was a distant cousin of Yogananda. When the archives currently kept under lock and key are finally opened, the scholarly study of them will surely enhance our understanding of Paramhansa Yogananda’s life and teaching. In the meantime, Swami Kriyananda’s biography is, and will remain, a primary source for knowing him who was the twentieth century’s greatest yogi.”

Thomas Matus, Camaldolese-Benedictine monk and kriyaban, author of Yoga and the Jesus Prayer Tradition

“Paramhansa Yogananda is one of the stalwarts who brought yoga to the West in its original form. While Autobiography of a Yogi is a book on Paramhansa Yogananda very difficult to be outdone, personal interactive information presented in Paramhansa Yogananda: A Biography with Personal Reflections and Reminiscences brings out information on Paramhansa from a vantage point most of his followers would cherish. Many early age events in Yogananda’s life are helpful to see how those elements already in his life manifested later into his stature. This book will help many who are inclined spiritually to connect events in their lives to their higher pursuits.”

Bal Ram Singh, PhD, Director, Center for Indic Studies, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

“This biography of Paramhansa Yogananda by Swami Kriyananda captures the flavor of his age and it provides a complementary perspective on Yogananda’s life that is already well known by the great yogi’s autobiography. Yogananda stressed non-sectarian and universal aspects of yoga and he was able to establish connections with people from diverse backgrounds. This book has many interesting personal anecdotes. I enjoyed reading it.”

Subhash Kak, Regents Professor and Head, Department of Computer Science, Oklahoma State University, author of The Gods Within: Mind, Consciousness and the Vedic Tradition