1981: A Year of Major Changes

Ananda renunciates ride to Sunday service at the Seclusion Retreat. L-R: Asha, Anandi, Seva, Parvati, Nitai.

To a few close friends, Swamiji said, “I’ve already done almost everything I set out to do in life: starting Ananda, writing about my life with Master. Inwardly I feel a deep, inner freedom, a joyful sense of attunement.” Now, he said, he needed to change his orientation to be less about projects, and more about people. “But others, accustomed to relating to me in the old way, repeatedly seek to involve me in projects. I get drawn in, but my inner guidance also blocks my energy.”

The high blood pressure he described as “the physical expression of the mounting pressure of unfulfilled guidance. It isn’t the work itself, it is the way I approach it. I need to develop more of an intuitive, loving flow; less teaching on a mental level, more sharing on a heart level; less theory, more direct experience.” He knew a change was needed, but it wasn’t clear to him how it would come about.

In February, Arjuna and Shivani invited Swamiji to come with them on a vacation to Hawaii. At first he hesitated, then realized the atmosphere of Hawaii would support the inner shift he felt he needed. Perhaps an open-ended stay would be beneficial. At the Village, his basic living expenses were covered. In Hawaii, he would have to rent a house and take care of everything himself. But how? He had no savings; everything he earned he put back into the work.

In the early years, Swamiji rarely saw a photograph of Ananda that he felt expressed the real spirit of the community. So he began to take pictures himself. Then he started carrying his camera when he traveled—and soon had an impressive photo collection, not only of Ananda, but of people and places around the world.

“The secret of good photography is feeling a sense of communion with the subject,” Swamiji said. “Of course, people respond to your vibrations of love and good will, but so also do plants, animals, even Nature herself. Mountains, sunsets, flowing rivers all appear more vibrant when the photographer feels an inward connection with all of life.”

Maybe he could take pictures of Hawaii and sell them to magazines, shops, tourist agencies, even interior decorators. Perhaps other of his photos would also find a market there. “It would be a way of testing to see if this was Divine Mother’s will,” Swamiji said later. “If She made it possible to stay in Hawaii, that would confirm my inner feeling that it was what God wanted of me now.”

Uma Macfarlane had helped him with several photo projects and knew his collection well. He invited her to come with him to Hawaii and help organize and sell the pictures. They were going to the island of Kauai. She could stay with friends; he would have his own house. The income from selling photos could support them both.

The idea that Swamiji might move to Hawaii was alarming to the community, so he said, “I’m not planning to settle there. But I need a break. Virtually every one of our new directions has been initiated by me. The weight of that has been an ever-present reality. Not that I mind, but now it is time for the energy to gain its own momentum, and for me to step back from it. It will be easier to step back if I’m already far away!”

Just a few days after they landed, he went with Uma to visit a small art shop. The single employee was a woman in her twenties. “I was drawn to her immediately,” Uma said. “You could see from her face that she had a sensitive, intuitive nature. When she heard Swamiji’s name, she said, ‘I just ordered your autobiography!’”

Later Swamiji said, “That morning I had prayed deeply to Divine Mother for the grace to be able to change myself. Two hours later, I visited an art shop to see if they would be interested in my photographs of Kauai. The lady in charge rose from her seat to examine my work. Afterward, I couldn’t even recall what she looked like; a deep sense of her inner being crowded out all other impressions.

“In some way I still can’t explain, she seemed to be the catalyst for an experience I’d never had before. It was entirely inward—a sense of completeness within myself that has never left me.”

Her name was Kimberley, and she was married to a man named Eric, but her marriage wasn’t going well. “It is the same old story,” Swamiji said, “she wants the spiritual path, he wants the world.” Over the next few weeks, as he got to know Kimberley, “I saw in her great spiritual potential, even for leadership, and felt guided to help her, if I could, to realize that potential. It wasn’t a desire, or a sense of karmic debt—that I owed it to her; it was quite impersonal.”

Kimberley had never been to Europe. She loved art but had never seen the originals of the art she loved. Swamiji offered to take her to Europe and be her guide in a place he knew well. She felt a powerful spiritual connection with him. His invitation would allow her to explore that connection—and also extricate her from a difficult personal situation.

Two months later, in the middle of April, when Swamiji and Kimberley arrived at Ananda on their way to Europe, they had come to an understanding: they were spiritual partners. It was startling for the community to see the man we’d always known as a monk in partnership with a woman. He shared with us an inner dialogue he had had with Master.

“‘It has been good until now for the work you are doing to be a monk,’ he heard Master say to him, inwardly. ‘You may continue as you are with my blessings. But if you do so, you will not be serving the present needs of the work. The world does not need examples of withdrawal. They need guidance in their day-to-day lives.’

“‘Where, then, can I serve best?’ Swamiji asked.

“‘The greatest need is in the area of marriage. You have wanted Ananda to set the example. Is it doing so? Will it ever do so, without your leadership and guidance?’

“‘But Master, I’m a monk! I’ve vowed my life to God.’

“‘And what are your vows, ultimately, if not to serve Him as He wants?’

“‘But I’ve never felt the slightest desire to be a husband.’

“‘What if you were to live as one for a time only, to set an example for others? Your motive is pure: to do God’s will and to serve Him in your fellowman. With such complete dedication, your attunement with Him can only grow. Later, you and your divine partner could graduate to the higher, more impersonal level of union together in God, as was commonly practiced in ancient India.’

“Every time I prayed, I felt an expansive joy. If I rejected the guidance, my attunement lessened. Some of you have commented on the courage I’ve shown in taking this step. If courage is what it takes to act in the face of fear, then I suppose I’ve been courageous, for I’ve certainly had to deal with fear—not of public opinion, but of doing wrong in the eyes of God.

“Meditation has finally resolved this matter and dispelled the fear. Now I feel only blessings and deep inner joy.”

In acting from his inner guidance, Swamiji was setting a much needed example. “In too many ways,” he said about the community, “people are relating to their spiritual lives and to each other as they feel they ought to, rather than according to their own hearts.”

The dismay some felt about Swamiji’s decision was expressed in just those terms. Instead of asking, “What does Swamiji need in his life now?” or even, “What is best for Ananda?” they said, “Swamiji is a monk, and he ought to stay that way!”

He didn’t argue the point, just repeated his simple explanation: “I feel inwardly guided to do this.” Suddenly the question was on the table for all of us: not, “What should I do?” but “What is my inner guidance?” Ananda had been falling into the most common pitfall on the path: defining spiritual life by the form rather than the inner spirit.

Once that door opened, many of the sixty monks and nuns realized they had entered the monastery for the wrong reasons, and left to get married—many to each other. Thus a strong group of householder devotees formed at Ananda. I was one of them; I married David Praver.

“Renunciation is the core of a happy marriage,” Swamiji said. “Renunciation of ego, of ‘I and mine.’ The ideal of marriage is not to live for personal satisfaction, but for sharing and giving—to each other and to the world. This is not a precept that can be taught. People will learn from magnetism and example. Beautiful, fulfilling relationships at Ananda will inspire people to strive to create that in their own lives.

“With Kimberley, I am straddling both worlds. Others may see this as a change, but in my dedication, devotion, service, and renunciation, I am just the same.”


Uma’s hosts on Kauai were Steven and Irene Au. She asked their advice about where to sell the photographs. When they learned that the whole project was to provide an income for Swamiji, they were aghast.

“You mean the community doesn’t take responsibility for the founder, but leaves him to make his own way in the world?” They couldn’t believe it. “Swamiji is the heart of Ananda. The community will never flourish until it gives back to its heart.”

Uma explained, “This is the way Swamiji wants it. ‘I’m not here to take,’ he often says, ‘I’m here to give.’”

Steven decided to confront Swamiji on the issue. He was prepared for a fight, but Swamiji understood immediately. “The winning argument,” he said later, “was that it was important for Ananda that I allow it to take care of me. I had always viewed my relationship to the community in terms of what I could give. Virtually everything I’ve earned has gone toward building Ananda: hundreds of thousands of dollars by now. For me, the reward has been in the sheer joy of giving.

“But Ananda has grown to the point where I can no longer seriously contemplate financing major developments myself; and after doing so, cast about for ways to support myself. I am reconciled to this new direction because it will enable me to give even more, not as a fundraiser, but in a spiritual capacity.

“It is time I allowed the relationship to be reciprocal, to let the child stand on its own feet—and also to take care of its ‘heart,’ if this weak instrument is to continue to beat for many years to come.”


Dallas Atkins chose January 5 as the auspicious day to file our petition to incorporate Ananda as a California city. She was the attorney; I became the spokesperson. Rumors were flying, and we thought it best if the neighbors got the facts directly from us, so we called a meeting. We knew it would be disharmonious, with Swamiji as the primary target. His presence would merely inflame the opposition, so better that he not come.

He gave us this advice: “Relax in the spine; project a strong, positive energy from the Christ center; remember to be a cause, not an effect. A strong offense will be your best defense, but the offense must be of non-violent, spiritual energy. Above all, keep faith in God and Guru, and project that faith dynamically into the room and into the hearts even of those who oppose you.”

About one hundred of our neighbors, and an equal number from Ananda, gathered in the local school house. We did our best to follow Swamiji’s advice, and to defuse negativity with honest communication. It went as well as could be expected—which was not very well. It was going to be a long fight.

As it happened, another spiritual group was also trying to create their own city. Their method was different. They bought property in a tiny Oregon town, moved in dozens of their people, and tried to take over by outvoting the locals.

“Truth is one, the paths are many,” was printed on the masthead of The Banyan Tree. Swamiji didn’t usually comment on other teachers, but in this case, even before this latest caper, Swamiji had said this so-called teacher was undermining the integrity of the whole yoga movement in the United States.

Fine shades of distinction were lost on the local, state, and national media. Together, we were a better story. Few bothered to point out the differences between their behavior and ours. Our neighbors fanned the flames with letters to the editor and outrageous statements to reporters. Almost all the publicity was bad.

Swamiji conducts a Sunday service in the bare-walled dining room of The Expanding Light.

Our neighbors also sent angry letters to many of us, especially to Swamiji. At the same time that he was answering questions within the community about forsaking his monastic vow, and “taking money from Ananda”—now that we were giving him a salary—he was getting hate mail from the neighbors.

As yogis, we are trained to think in terms of karma. If something untoward happens to you, it is because, somewhere in the past, you put out a similar energy. The proper response is to see where you are at fault, and do your best to change. The Vow of Superconscious Living says, “In times of adversity, I will blame no one but myself.”

If our neighbors were upset, many in the community thought it must be our fault. Instead of standing together in defense of our principles, they wanted to make peace. The spiritual path is supposed to be peace and harmony, not a fierce fight—especially not a fight we ourselves had started, with what some now called this “mad plan” to incorporate as a city.

Fortunately, there were enough who did understand to keep going forward. But I spent as much time putting out fires within the community as I did answering accusations from our neighbors.

I tried to help people understand that negative energy is not always personal. It is not always a karmic balance for something you did wrong in the past. There is another kind of karma: to attract negativity because of the good you are doing. It is a mark of success, not failure; Darkness against Light. This kind of karma is called persecution. Jesus promises, “There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake… but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time…with persecutions.

Peter Caddy, the leader of the Findhorn Community in Scotland, came to visit Swamiji just a few weeks after an arsonist had burned down their temple. When Swamiji expressed sympathy, Peter replied gaily, “If they aren’t persecuting you, you aren’t working hard enough to do good.”


At the end of April, the night before Swamiji and Kimberley left for Europe, he gave a satsang at Ananda House. Usually when Swamiji left for a trip he blessed us individually, as a way of saying good-bye, and perhaps also to keep us safe while he was away.

“For all these years,” he said, “I have had the privilege of blessing you. Now I would like you to bless me.”

A wave of consternation swept through the room. “Who are we to bless you?” It had never occurred to most of us that we were capable of blessing anyone, least of all Swamiji; or that he would need or want a blessing from us.

He sat in the front of the room, silently meditating. Shyly, with some trepidation, one by one we approached him. Placing the forefinger of the right hand at his spiritual eye—the way he always blessed us—each prayed to be an instrument of Master’s blessing for him.

Of the many inspiring experiences I have had with Swamiji, that satsang was one of the deepest and sweetest. After years of taking from him, we now discovered, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

A few days later, on April 30, we had a community meeting. It had been a rocky few months and we were still reeling; and, to an extent, still divided in our response. Some people had already left; after the meeting, more would go.

Many people spoke, openly and honestly, about their initial reactions, their meditative reflections, and present understandings. One comment near the end summed it up: “Swamiji may have changed his lifestyle, but his consciousness is the same. He is, as he has always been, our divine friend.”

The meeting was recorded and a copy sent to Swamiji in Germany. “I am so indifferent to what people think,” he told us later, “that I listened to the tape for the first time with two men I barely knew sitting there with me. One of them was the leader of the SRF group in Munich.

“You all spoke beautifully. They were so impressed to hear people be so open with each other, so honest in front of such a large group. Nowhere else in the world are people like that. I think it did more to draw them to Ananda than anything else could.

“In San Francisco, I asked you to bless me so you could understand more deeply that you are responsible for being a channel of blessing in this world. I love you all and want to be with you, but on a more mature level of sharing than in the past. Ananda really is a community of saints.”


Swamiji returned to Ananda right after his birthday—but without Kimberley. In Europe, she had begun to realize the magnitude of the change God was calling her to make through her closeness with Swamiji. She felt the need to step back and consider what her future would be. She went to stay with her mother in Southern California; then with Eric.

True to his intention to shift his focus from projects to people, Swamiji hosted afternoon teas at his home, accepted invitations to visit in the homes of others, gave classes, led weekly meditations, held question and answer sessions, and had informal conversations with guests and residents. He was now receiving a modest salary. Still, we knew he might feel the need to go out and teach to earn money for his special projects: new directions for Ananda that couldn’t be supported in any other way. For that fund, the Retreat manager persuaded Swamiji to accept money for the classes he gave at Ananda.

With many former monastics now in relationships, the balance of the whole community had shifted toward the householder life. Instead of trying to be spiritual, now we just tried to be ourselves. It felt like we had been holding our breath for a long time and had finally exhaled. The incorporation was progressing. Dallas and I were working on the environmental impact report, but it wasn’t very interesting to reporters. Occasionally there was some bad publicity, but for the moment the controversy had faded into the background.

It was a very happy summer.

After three months, Kimberley returned, seemingly resolved now to embrace wholeheartedly her life with Swamiji. Swami is a title usually reserved for monks. Occasionally a swami is married, but it is not common. So he officially became “Sri Kriyananda.” For formal occasions, instead of orange he now wore white, or sometimes lavender, which “matches our ray of divine grace,” Swamiji said.

There was community-wide discussion about what we should call him. Swami also means teacher, and in India, many spiritual leaders, monastic and married, use it that way. Ji is a suffix connoting both affection and respect. Swamiji’s status as a monk had changed, but not his relationship to us as teacher. Officially, he was Sri Kriyananda, but we agreed that he was, and always would be, our Swamiji.

An Indian astrologer had given Kimberley the name Parameshwari (supreme goddess). Swamiji had chosen a simpler, more humble name for her, but he allowed his choice to be overruled by the astrologer.

The organizer of a new-age tour of Egypt had invited Swamiji—and now, Parameshwari—to help lead it. Before leaving on the trip in November, Swamiji wrote an article for Yoga Journal, the main publication for the wider spiritual community in the United States. It included a picture of him with Parameshwari and an official announcement of the change in his life. Lead time for print media is several months, so the announcement wouldn’t appear until the end of January.

Parameshwari intuitively remembered past lives in Egypt in which she had attained high states of realization. She thought if she returned to those ancient sites, it would reawaken in her the power she had then. When that did not happen, her disappointment was profound. Swamiji said later, “This was, of course, God’s test, to see if she loved Him truly for His love’s sake, or for her own sake.”

Swamiji felt little attunement with Egypt and thought whatever inspiration he might feel would be through her. To his surprise, he had deep experiences. His inspiration made her disappointment worse. She became uncertain about everything, including her life with Swamiji.

After Egypt, they were scheduled to go to Rome. Instead, Parameshwari decided to go to Southern California to see her mother, ignoring Swamiji’s hints that this was not in her best interest spiritually.


A group of about thirty charismatic Catholics, and the priest who guided them, came from Sorrento, in southern Italy, to see Swamiji in Rome. They had all read Autobiography of a Yogi, were eager to meet a direct disciple, and hoped he would initiate them into Kriya Yoga. They were practicing Hong Sau, but hadn’t learned any of the other techniques.

During Master’s lifetime, discipleship and Kriya were two separate initiations. It takes time to qualify for Kriya; recognition of Master as one’s Guru can be instantaneous. Only after Master’s passing did SRF drop discipleship initiation, and make Kriya Initiation serve for both. When you take Kriya, the focus is necessarily on learning the technique. Discipleship may not get the reverent attention it deserves. With only one initiation, a person will have to wait at least months, perhaps even years—depending on how disciplined he is in his practice—to get his discipleship confirmed. A person of great devotion, who lacks discipline, may never qualify for Kriya, and therefore never be initiated as a disciple.

For all these reasons, Master kept the two initiations separate. Meditating with the group in Rome, Swamiji asked Master, “How can I serve these souls you have sent to me?” The answer was: “Do as I did.” So he initiated them all as Master’s disciples.


Early days at Ananda Village: Ananta repairs a pipe. On a single rainy winter day before the Village roads were paved, Ananta pulled ten cars out of ditches.

When Swamiji returned to Ananda, communication from Parameshwari was not encouraging. “When she called me from her mother’s house,” he said later, “there was a childish quality in her voice that I didn’t hear when she was with me. I felt her trembling before the responsibility for spiritual growth, wanting instead to recapture the ‘security’ of childhood, mother, and all the ‘dear old things of the past.’”

By the middle of December, when it was clear that she was not coming back, Swamiji became quite withdrawn. He grieved, not for himself, but for her lost spiritual potential. “God gave her a great opportunity,” he said. “I recognize the magnitude of what was being asked of her, but it was her karma. God would have given her the strength. When He gives you a gift like that and you reject it, it is a long time before such a gift comes again.”

For himself, he was profoundly concerned that he had misunderstood Master’s guidance. “I asked the question many times,” he said, “because it seemed almost inevitable that Master would disapprove. But always when I prayed, the bliss increased.”

His withdrawal continued for several weeks. Then, gradually, he came back to being himself. “Naturally I assumed the relationship would last longer,” he said. “But when I look at myself, and at Ananda, I see that everything has changed in just the way I had hoped. Divine Mother has done what She intended to do.”

By the time the announcement came out in Yoga Journal, the relationship was already over. Swamiji had sensed Parameshwari’s doubts, and thought it better not to make a public statement until after they returned from Egypt. “If you change your mind,” he told her, “it will be a great humiliation for me.” But she insisted, so he acquiesced. Now he said wryly, “Given the circumstances, I could be quite embarrassed. But I choose not to be.”

Parameshwari had gone back to Eric and joined SRF. Swamiji heard that she was now talking against him. “She has taken the route taken by so many others,” he wrote to Uma, “blaming me instead of herself for her failure to succeed at Ananda. She has begun to resent what were only my efforts to help her, reading self-interest in my motives where there was none. I was the one who brought her to Master; that is a tie that should be respected.” He was concerned for her spiritual well-being in violating that.

“We see her great potential, but I think all of us have also seen the other side was there as well. I think we have to leave her to herself, and to the life she has elected to follow. I have done all for her that I could—far more than she herself realizes. My love for her is, and has ever been, for the God in her.”

The incorporation project had heated up again. Abuse was being heaped upon Swamiji from that side as well. Mostly he felt secure in Master’s blessings, but when doubt assailed him, he had to fight the battle all over again. It was a difficult period.