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Introduction Nitai or Nityananda was a Vaishnava saint, famous as a primary religious figure within the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition of Bengal, is an expansion of…
Sri Swami Rama (1925–1996) was an Indian yogi. Several Indian yogis have influenced Westerners including Swami Vivekananda, Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Paramhansa Yogananda and much more. Swami Rama was one of the first yogis, however, to be studied by Western scientists. In the 1960s he was examined by scientists at the Menninger Clinic who studied his ability to voluntarily control bodily processes (such as heartbeat, blood pressure, and body temperature) that are normally considered to be non-voluntary.
Swami Rama was born Brij Kishore Dhasmana or Brij Kiśore Kumar, to a northern Indian Brahmin family in a small village called Toli in the Garhwal Himalayas. From an early age, he was raised in the Himalayas by his master Bengali Baba and, under the guidance of his master, traveled from temple to temple and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster, who was living in a remote region of Tibet. From 1949 to 1952 he held the position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India. After returning to his master in 1952 and practicing further for many years in the Himalayan caves, Swami Rama was encouraged by his teacher to go to the West, where he spent a considerable portion of his life teaching, specifically in the United States and Europe.
After leaving the post of Shankaracharya and going back to the master, he afterward traveled to Nepal in the Himalayas barefoot with nothing but a kamandalu and tiger mat. It was here where he created his first ashram. It is at the outskirts of Kathmandu on the way to Dhulikhel on the mountain of Janagal. He later granted it to Swami Vishuddha Dev. The ashram is known as Hansada Yoga Ashram. Now it is the headquarters of the characterology movement. However, other programs are also conducted there.
Then in 1966, the original Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science & Philosophy was established by Swami Rama himself in Kanpur, India. 2016 was the 50th anniversary of the institute.
Over many years a pattern emerged with the various organizations and teaching institutions Swami Rama founded around the world. He would start an organization to disseminate the teachings of the Himalayan masters, the people of the organization would either change or abandon the teachings, and Swami Rama would then renounce that organization. This has happened in Asia, Europe, and North America, and possibly other places. I personally know of at least seven such instances.
By the time Swami Rama left the body in 1996, the only remaining organizations with which Swami Rama was affiliated were the Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust and Sadhana Mandir Ashram, both of which are in India. I do not mention the names of the organizations that Swami Rama dropped because that would sound too negative towards them, and most still claim affiliation with Swami Rama. New people have come to these organizations, and most of their students are probably not aware of this history. It is not my place to reveal those organization names here.
Swami Rama often taught us through his books, lectures, and personal guidance that our tradition is a purely meditative tradition of the Himalayas, and that we perform no external rituals; our practices are purely internal. However, during the years since Swami Rama left the body institutions or groups founded by or related to Swami Rama have increasingly started performing external rituals under the guidance of Hindu pandits, priests.
Swami Rama believed in, and taught the universality of the realization of spiritual truths, in the inner chamber of one’s own being. He never asked to be followed or worshiped, or for any change in culture, or for or any conversion of religion. Rather, he encouraged self-awareness through practices of yoga meditation and contemplation, with an attitude of self-reliance. The job of the external teacher, he taught me, is to find the teacher within.
Swami Rama continued to spread the teachings his own teacher had given him, that the first goal is to seek freedom from fears, and second, to seek the direct experience of the absolute reality at the core of your being, the center of consciousness that goes by many names.
Swamiji taught that one should “know yourself at all levels,” explaining that “After visiting hundreds of countries I have discovered that all over the world there is one great problem, and that problem is that the human being has not yet understood himself or herself, and tries, instead, to understand God and others.”
While teaching the profound depths of the Himalayan masters, Swami Rama was also committed to simplicity. He writes, “You really do not need to know many things, but you definitely need to practice what you know. It is a sad thing to tell you, but I have not really learned anything new since I grew up. That which I learned in my childhood is what I have been practicing.”
That balance of depth and simplicity is one of the most beneficial and loving gifts of Swami Rama to humanity, his many students, and to me personally. This balance has been a major source of inspiration since Swami Rama instructed me to pass on the teachings to others as a representative of the Himalayan tradition.
On September 4, 1997, almost a year after Swami Rama’s death, when Swami Rama didn’t have the opportunity to defend himself in the court, a federal civil Jury awarded nearly $1.9 million to a 23-year-old woman after concluding that Rama had forced her to have sex with him up to 30 times while she lived at the Himalayan Institute in 1993. In his closing statements after a three-week trial, Irwin Schneider, the Himalayan Institute’s attorney, argued that even if the sex took place it was consensual.
Swami Rama dropped the body on the evening of November 13, 1996. Although naming no individual person as the successor of the lineage, he is succeeded by many people who each serve others in his or her own way. Unfortunately, it is sad to say that there has been significant politics in the years since Swami Rama left the body, and at least two people falsely claim to be the SOLE successor of Swami Rama.
Swami Rama wrote extensively on the path to Self-Realization through traditional Yoga, Vedanta, and Tantra. He writes from the highest perspective of a Himalayan master, yet explains the path in straightforward, understandable language. Following are many articles written by Swami Rama.