It is not easy these days to find models of righteous leadership. We see plenty of negative examples but few that truly inspire us. I thought it would be helpful to write about Swami Kriyananda, the most uplifting example of leadership that I’ve ever encountered. Not only did he teach principles of good leadership but, more importantly, he modeled them in his own life. Here are some of the key points he shared:

Focus on principles: Swamiji was very clear about the ultimate purpose of life: to achieve Self-realization personally, and to help others do the same. When working with people, he always guided them toward the appropriate next step in expanding their consciousness, but he also recognized that every person was different. One time after a Kriya Initiation, during which he had blessed each person individually, he told us, “I had an amazing experience. As I blessed each person, I could see his unique pathway to God, and every one was different.”

Work with each individual as they need: For me, and I think it was true for many of the men, he mainly guided me by working on projects. We would often talk over community decisions, and he would offer advice on how to accomplish something. At first I thought he was talking about the project, but later I realized the advice was usually his way of helping me change my attitudes. One time he corrected me strongly because I was blocking a project that I was sure would fail. He said, “Let him try, even if he doesn’t succeed. That’s the way he will learn and grow.” But he was also saying, “Each person has to play out his own karma. Don’t be too eager to interfere.”

Be patient: He rarely gave personal advice until he thought a person was ready to accept it. There was a woman at Ananda Village who drove everyone crazy by being bossy and critical. One time our son, about seven years old at the time, came home crying and asked us, “Who made her the boss of the world?”

After many complaints, Swamiji finally said, “I’ll talk to her.” We all waited expectantly for the details of how he had told her off. We found out, though, that he had simply invited her to dinner and praised her for her high energy. He knew she was too fragile to hear criticism.

On the other hand, for those who were ready, he could be very direct. If we were dedicated to finding God and serving the mission of the Masters, he didn’t hold back. Often he gave us advice or assignments that were quite untimely. He sent Devi and me along with our young son, first to San Francisco and later to Italy, even though it was very disruptive to our family life. When we asked him about the effect on our son, he said, “He chose you as parents. When you serve selflessly, he also reaps the benefit.”


Help everyone: Swamiji not only helped his friends, but often went out of his way to comfort strangers. One time he bought an expensive massage table for a young man he’d met for the first time. The man burst into tears. “I grew up on the streets as an orphan,” he said, “having always to fend for myself. The one thing I have always yearned for was the love of a father. Today I felt it for the first time in my life.”

How we work with others is an indication of how we work with ourselves. We can apply the principles above to our own lives as well.

  • Always make major decisions in attunement with your highest principles.

  • Work with different parts of yourself as if they were individuals. Be firm with those habits and attitudes where you’re ready and willing to grow. Be patient with yourself in areas where you still have heavy resistance to changing. If you keep making a spiritual effort, the resistance will eventually fall away.

  • Help everyone, including strangers. Every great religion has some version of this advice: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

In divine friendship,

Nayaswami Jyotish