Leela Bruner was born in 1944 in Ft. Dodge, Iowa in the United States to very loving and talented parents. Her mother taught her about prana and talked of the yogic masters. Throughout her teen years, every night Leela would dream of searching for her guru. In 1973, she saw a painting of the guru she had been searching for years. Her bliss could not be contained. However, Bapuji was in India and Leela was in Nebraska with 2 small children and husband and no money to travel. For 5 years, everyday Leela would sit in her meditation room and plead with Bapuji "If you are my guru, then you have to come to me".
In January of 1978, Leela got a call from Ramesh Panchal saying that he heard from Bapuji and that he was coming to Nebraska and to contact Leela. Ramesh is a spiritual son of Kripalu. It was at Ramesh and Neeta Panchal's home in Columbus, Nebraska that Bapuji gave mantra diksha to Leela. Afterwards, Vinit Muniji said that Bapuji had arranged this trip to America for Leela. Prior to this time Bapuji had said that he would do no traveling and he had refused to give mantra diksha for years and years. Leela was unaware of these boundaries that her beloved Bapuji had stated. Read Pilgrim of Love by Atma JoAnn Levitt for more details.
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Kripalu (Swami Shri Kripalvanandaji) is lovingly referred to as Bapuji (beloved father). Bapuji devoted his whole life to the determined quest of truth and liberation. For 28 years he maintained a rigorous discipline, spending 10 hours a day in meditation while keeping silence for over 18 years. Having mastered all previous stages of yoga, he finally reached the transcendental state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi in Columbus, Nebraska on April 6, 1978. He achieved this state during the very next meditation after bestowing mantra diksha on his spiritual daughter, Leela Bruner. Bapuji had been concerned for years, knowing that this state of Samadhi was beyond breath and mind. With no breath or mind, how would he know to come back in his body? For many years his meditation sessions had lasted exactly 3 hours and just like clockwork he was able to return to the physical plane on that April evening.
Kripalu means blissful bestower of grace and indeed he expressed this grace not only as a compassionate saint, but also as a scholar, poet and musician. He wrote many books in Gujarati and Hindi including Asana and Mudra (an encyclopedia of all of yoga) as well as Premdhara (a book of devotional songs) and many others. He also restored the ancient city of Kayavarohan as an International Yoga Center and place of pilgrimage.