We were once talking with Swami Kriyananda about the best form of government. “Enlightened monarchy with a philosopher king is the highest expression,” he said. “But it’s only possible in a more advanced age in which mass consciousness is higher than it is today.”

For me Swamiji was a true philosopher king. As we celebrated the anniversary of his birthday on May 19, many devotees shared stories of how he had uplifted their life.

I remember sitting around a campfire one evening in a forest glade at the Meditation Retreat, listening to him play his guitar and sing some of his beautiful songs. As I gazed up at the stars, I was transported to a realm of nobility and divine consciousness that I knew was my real soul home.

For me that evening, and for everyone he met, Swamiji was ennobling, wise, compassionate—a man of dignity, vision, and inspiration. Even though we were the merest of spiritual beginners when the first generation of Ananda members came in the late 1960s, he made each of us feel our deep inner worth.

Swamiji gave me my spiritual name, “Devi,” in an unexpected way that also challenged me to live up to my highest potential. I was having lunch with a friend at a restaurant in Nevada City, California, when Swamiji walked in and came over. “I’m going to give you the name ‘Devi,’” he said. “It means ‘Divine Mother,’ and you’d better live up to it.” Through all the many years since then, I have felt him inwardly guiding me in how best to “live up to it.”

His dignity and nobility were always balanced. Once we were walking with Swamiji in a shopping mall in Sacramento, California, and he began telling us about a letter he’d received. Its author had praised Swamiji as a leader, a spiritual teacher, and a writer. Kriyananda said to us, “I could see that he felt he would never be able to accomplish such things himself. He needs to understand that I’ve just been doing this longer than the rest of you. All of you can do what I’ve done.”

Swami Kriyananda Quote Disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda

Everyone he met was welcomed into his kingdom of joy.

Throughout his life this “philosopher king” expressed tremendous generosity of spirit. Anyone who came to him for spiritual training—everyone he met, in fact—was welcomed into his kingdom of joy. The countless dinners, social gatherings, P. G.  Wodehouse readings, and informal teas that he hosted for devotees around the world were his way of making everyone feel included in his divine friendship.

But this generous, welcoming, noble consciousness didn’t end when Swamiji left his body in 2013. Play, or even better, sing his music. Read his books. Listen to his talks. Meditate on his words. Even now he is inviting each sincere devotee to enter his kingdom.

And what is his kingdom? It is the joy-filled realm of God-consciousness, which he attained through discipleship to his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. It is timeless and eternal, yet reachable at any moment by anyone whose heart and mind are open to God’s all-transforming love.

With gratitude for his gifts to us all,

Nayaswami Devi

Watch the inspiring new video about Swamiji that we showed at his birthday celebration:

Subscribe to the Touch of Light podcast. Download the audio recording of this week’s blog by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (4:24):


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  1. Thank you, dear friend, beloved gurubhai for living up to the name Swamiji gave you. He made his choices carefully, wisely and well. Namaste

  2. Thank you Devi Ji for the beautiful blog .. you are our dearest spiritual Divine Mother. And we are ever deeply grateful to Swamiji for showing us the way – a perfect role model, our beloved Saint and King.

  3. Dearest Devi,

    Thank you for sharing these stories and these lovely thoughts! It is wonderful to receive your insights.

    For the past year, I have been doing just what you have exhorted us to do in your article– reading Swami-ji’s books, listening to his music and talks, singing kirtan’s with him. I bought an old Ananda Village LP from the 70s with you all singing chants with Swami-ji and I play it almost everyday before meditation.

    I don’t have the words to express my feelings about Swami-ji (amazement, gratitude, love, inspiration – did I mention gratitude — the more I see into his thoughts through interviews, writings the more I am blown away by his perfect wisdom, kindness, humbleness and achievements that he made seem so effortless. He is the living example of what we all should be striving for.

    Even though I never met Swami, I have gotten to know him through his legacy, and through you all. He lives on in you, Jyotish and all the others whose lives he touched (so many). I have just come to love him dearly. I talk to him and I sometimes find that I need to shake the feeling that he is my guru. I wonder if others have been so challenged. Thank you Master for annoiting your disciple with your great work. He is one who showed us how to “live up to it.”

    By the way, the record store that I bought the old Ananda kirtan LP from wrote a note on the receipt — ‘Kriyananda has risen!’ 🙂

    Thank you, Devi, for also showing us how to “live up to it.”

  4. Dear Devi, How beautiful! He really was the Philosopher King, and by tuning in to him, one becomes wiser and can enter into his beautiful realm of Joy and bliss.
    I am tuning to him more now, after he has left his body, and I am feeling such special blessings.
    Thank you for this special message, as I now have another way to think of him, that I can carry into my daily life.
    When I meditate at Moksha Kurtir(where he left his body), I will ask him for more understanding, rather than help in untangling my messes, because he is my Philosophy King, that can impart wisdom, understanding that can help me to rise out of my delusion. Thanks again. Mary

  5. I respectfully disagree. We don’t need a King or Queen or enlightened monarchy. As your quote of Swamiji implies – we need to realize the enlightenment within ourselves.

  6. Dear Nayaswami Devi Ji,
    Thank you for the beautiful blog 🙂 Very touching!!!

    Swamiji has touched many souls and bringing us to the path and family where we actually belong.

    Sincere thanks to Divine and Master, very humbled to have seen Swamiji at a discourse in Chennai in a Jam packed auditorium. I felt a connection and every aspect of my life took a turn from there for good, like many souls who would have had this experience.

    One of my favorite saying by Swamiji is “At the end of my life, I believe Master would say GoodJob, Walter”. We strive and with Swamiji’s guidance and blessings, we will be a disciple like him and towards the end of our life getting the same blessings 🙂

    “All of you can do what I’ve done.” – How encouraging it is to hear from Swamiji 🙂

    Thank you for the beautiful video too.

    Jai Guru


  7. Thank You Devi Ma, for sharing your Inspiring thoughts and feelings.

    Divine Mother and Swamiji must be so very pleased that you live up to your name Every day.

    With Swamiji’s Love,

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