Sri Goswami Kriyananda

Goswami Kriyananda (1928-2015) was a Kriya Yoga mystic, astrologer, author and lecturer whose selected books and teachings have been translated into French, Spanish, Dutch and Italian. He taught the ancient spiritual science of Kriya Yoga, which he learned from his guru, the yogi and kabbalist Shelly Trimmer, who was a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda.

In the 1960s, Kriyananda founded the Temple of Kriya Yoga in Chicago, Illinois. His French disciples later created the Centre de Kriya Yoga, France, which offers Kriya Yoga teachings and French translations of all of his works.

Early Life

Goswami Kriyananda was born Melvin Higgins in 1928 in Chicago, Illinois. His father passed away during his early childhood, leaving his mother with three young sons. His mother remarried a man who, unbeknownst to her, was already the father of eight children. Consequently, Kriyananda became one of the middle children in a family of 13. He said that growing up in this large family with much “insanity” and little money, was a profound training in learning to be emotionally unselfish. In later life, he recalled that his stepfather was a good man, and a highly evolved soul. Kriyananda was always deeply devoted to his mother.

As a young child, Kriyananda began having mystical experiences, but did not understand their significance. He recounted, “I would ask other people if they dreamed in color or dimensions, or if they felt certain vibrations or saw what I saw. They never did, so I thought maybe there was something wrong with my mental computer. Once I realized there were certain types of people called mystics, I knew I was not alone.” He also questioned certain Christian teachings of his childhood, that God is good but suffering exists in the world due to God’s wrath, man’s sins, or the devil testing humans. Kriyananda later wrote and taught extensively about the law of karma: that by our thoughts, words and actions, we alone are responsible for the circumstances of our past, present and future lives.

As an introvert and a prolific reader, Kriyananda eventually discovered a book about yoga. “By good karma,” he said, “I came across a library book on yoga that made one simple statement: the value of yoga allows one to experience and, through that experience, to know for oneself. And that gave me hope.”

While Kriyananda was in high school, a friend’s mother told him about Shelly Trimmer, who she believed shared his interest in yoga, and who was to become Kriyananda’s guru. Kriyananda stated: “I got Shelly’s address, and I wrote to him and asked, ‘Do you know anything about yoga?’ And he wrote me back a short note: ‘The only thing I know about yoga is what I learned sitting at the feet of a Hindu master.’ It was Yoganandaji of whom he spoke.”

Kriya Yoga Training

Over the next years, Kriyananda repeatedly visited Shelly at his ashram, a small cabin in northern Minnesota where Shelly lived with his wife, Marjorie, and their children. After two years in college studying mathematics, chemistry and physics, Kriyananda became Shelly’s disciple and moved to the ashram to study Kriya Yoga full time. He did so over the vehement objections of his mother, from whom he remained estranged for several years. Choosing to live his own life rather than his mother’s life was a key spiritual lesson for him.

In the ashram, he learned about Kriya Yoga from his guru, and also studied astrology. Initially, Kriyananda had no interest or belief in astrology until Shelly asked him to debunk it, and Kriyananda found he could not do so. In his book, “The Laws of Karma,” Kriyananda explained that the astrological chart is indispensable to softening karma, because it is “based upon a time-space relationship and is mathematically based. It does not get emotionally involved.”

Kriyananda’s guru, Shelly Trimmer (1917-1996), was a highly accomplished mystic who had studied with Paramahansa Yogananda in his youth and was accepted as a disciple by the world-famous Indian guru. He lived very simply, seldom taught in public, was employed as a television repairman, and did not seek to publish his teachings or publicize himself. Kriyananda called him a “hermit,” and described Shelly as being “a million times more evolved than myself.” He continued receiving instruction from Shelly for the rest of Shelly’s life, and beyond.

Military Service

During the Korean War, Kriyananda was forced to leave the ashram when he was drafted into the U.S. Army and, as a conscientious objector, became a battlefield medic. He witnessed carnage and death while trying to help both American and Korean soldiers. He later wrote that a soldier experiencing the loss of one of his arms, without self-pity, taught him a transformative lesson – that even when heavy karma fires, a positive attitude can soften the effect on one’s life. Attitude is everything.

Education and Early Career

Kriyananda was an excellent student, but as a youth, his family’s lack of social status placed obstacles, as well as lessons in his path. When teaching in his seventies, he recalled applying to one of the famous New England colleges and passing all the admission tests. In the final interview, he was asked what his father did for a living. He replied that his father had died and his stepfather was a railroad switchman. This disqualified him for admission, he was frankly told, as the college could accept only students with the appropriate social background.

After returning from the army, Kriyananda studied philosophy for four years at the University of Illinois. He then began a business career. In his teachings, he often mentioned being employed as a well-paid junior executive for a cosmetics company, and the lessons chemistry can teach us about karma. Once, when a disciple gave him some chocolate from a well-known company in Chicago’s River North area, Kriyananda told her he used to work there. Eventually, he left the business world to teach Kriya Yoga full-time. He said that despite the financial hardship this caused, he was far happier doing spiritual work.

Kriya Yoga Teaching and Legacy

Beginning on a small scale, for several years in the 1950s Kriyananda taught a group of about 15 students in his home near the University of Chicago. In the late 1960s he opened the Temple of Kriya Yoga in the Fine Arts Building in downtown Chicago. The Temple was in several different downtown locations over the subsequent years. In the early 1970s, the Temple offered the first hatha yoga teacher training program in the Chicago area, and also sponsored the first yoga festival at McCormick Place Convention Center.

Kriyananda was extremely hard working, lecturing, and teaching classes for the public and his disciples and aspiring swamis (yogic priests). He conducted an astrological consulting practice, published books and managed the Temple. Most of the responsibility for paying the Temple’s heavy expenses fell on him. He impressed those drawn to his teachings by his deep knowledge of astrology and mystical subjects, and his easy approachability and simple, unpretentious lifestyle.

In 1979, the Temple moved to the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago, remaining there for the rest of Kriyananda’s life. Kriyananda and his large group of disciples offered a wide variety of classes on Kriya Yoga, hatha yoga, astrology and mysticism. In the ensuing years they expanded the Temple’s reach by offering courses through the mail. Some of these courses included four-day retreats that Kriyananda would teach at the Temple, or at retreat centers in the Chicago area. The Temple certified graduates as professional astrologers, meditation teachers, hatha yoga teachers and swamis. Eventually, the certification courses began to be taught online.

The Temple of Kriya Yoga became a mainstay of hatha yoga training, astrological teaching and consultation, esoteric learning, and spiritual inspiration. By the time he reached his eighties, Goswami Kriyananda was receiving hundreds of emails daily from spiritual seekers, and was regularly contacted by the press with questions about yoga. By this time, Kriyananda was teaching over the internet as well as in person. Many of his video teachings can be viewed online. 

From the beginning of his teaching career, Kriyananda considered the sharing of his guru’s teachings to be overwhelmingly important. Most of Kriyananda’s classes were recorded and/or filmed. He hoped that these teachings would be shared with students in the future, after the death of his physical body. Likewise, he expected his disciples and students to remember the oral teachings and share them far into the future. He always intended that the recorded and written teachings would be shared via the Temple of Kriya Yoga.


Kriyananda published numerous books on Kriya Yoga, mysticism and astrology, from 1968 to 2015. All of his books have been translated into French, and some into Spanish, Italian and Dutch. His best-known book is The Spiritual Science of Kriya Yoga, originally published in 1976. The books in English are now available in electronic form as well as hardcopy volumes.

Personal life

Kriyananda lived in Chicago until the late 1980s. After experiencing health problems, he semi-retired from Temple work and moved to Kauai, Hawaii, teaching there and managing the Temple from a distance for seven years. He then relocated to southern France, where he lived and taught until his passing in 2015. He was married and widowed twice. His first wife, Joanna Higgins, passed away in 1981, and his second wife, Rebecca Romanoff, passed away in 2013. In his teachings, he always referred to both with the utmost love, gratitude and respect, frequently acknowledging their attainments. In addition to pursuing successful careers, both were ordained Mahaswamis of the Temple of Kriya Yoga.

Final years

Upon leaving Chicago in the late 1980s, Kriyananda continued a full teaching schedule despite being semi-retired. He guided a large number of students and disciples, and managed the Temple of Kriya Yoga until the end of his life. He returned to Chicago annually to teach in-person at the Temple. In addition, he also taught at other locations in the United States, in France, and in other countries.

Kriyananda continued to work until the end of his life, completing his last internet course, The Astral of Rebirth, a few months before his passing at age 86 in April 2015. Although Goswami Kriyananda has transitioned beyond the physical earth plane, the Temple he founded goes on. The swamis and instructors of the Temple continue to share the Teachings of the Kriya Lineage that were originally transmitted by Sri Sri Babaji and handed down, generation after generation, through Goswami Kriyananda to the current swamis and teachers of the Temple of Kriya Yoga. The Temple swamis continue to offer spiritual guidance to members of the public, as well as officiate at baptisms, weddings, and death-rebirth rituals. Furthermore, Goswami Kriyananda’s disciples have opened Kriya Yoga teaching centers and yoga studios in the United States and abroad, training their own disciples and students in the timeless tradition of Kriya Yoga. In this way, Goswami Kriyananda was a link in a living lineage, and the Flame of Kriya continues to burn brightly around the world.

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