One of the greatest masters from the Himalayas, Swami Rama is the founder of the Himalayan International Institute and Yoga International Magazine. This official biography by Swami Rama's spiritual successor, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, is the definitive account of Swamiji's life and spiritual mission.
The Pages of this spiritual biography go much deeper than simply relating the life story of a great master. They shed light on the very essence of our journey toward the highest goal of life. This biography offers the most comprehensive account of Swamiji's personal spiritual journey, and shares precious stories of his mysterious master, Bengali Baba. These Pages serve as an experiential guide to esoteric and advanced practices of Yoga and Tantra that have been lost in our modern age.
This classic spiritual biography will give you an intimate introduction to one of the greatest masters of the Himalayas. The wisdom in these stories penetrates deeper than the power of words- you will feel a wave from the timeless depths of the Himalayan Tradition coursing through your heart.
Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD, is the spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute. Family tradition gave him access to a vast range of spiritual wisdom preserved in both the written and oral traditions. As a young man, he lived and studied with renowned adepts before meeting his spiritual master, Sri Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Pandit Tigunait is fluent in both Vedic and Classical Sanskrit and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the scriptures. He holds a doctorate in Sanskrit from the University of Allahabad, and another in Oriental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. He has written more than a dozen books, running the gamut from scholarly analysis and scripture translation to spiritual biographies and practical advice on applying yogic concepts to the problems of daily life. In addition to lecturing and teaching worldwide for more than thirty years, Pandit Tigunait is the inspiration for the Institute's rural empowerment projects and the motive force behind the Himalayan Institute Community Centers taking root in India, Africa and Mexico.
I HAD BEEN HEARING STORIES about Swami Rama since I was a child. They usually centered around his intense austerities, his association with the prince of Bhawal (who had returned from the dead), and his yogic powers. In all the stories, he seemed more like a hero in a fairy tale than a real person. For example, Agamachari, a great Sanskrit scholar from Banaras, once told me that when Swami Rama was a young man he did an intense meditation practice on the bank of the Ganga just across the river from Banaras, and a highly educated dwarf who had died ninety years earlier brought him milk and sweets every night. I found the story thrilling, but it seemed like a fantasy. Agamachari also told me that in those days Swami Rama was known as Bhole or Bhole Baba.
When I repeated this story to my father he dismissed it outright. He told me that, like his master, Baba Dharam Das, Bhole Baba had been a great yogi who left his body voluntarily. He had done this in the 1950s near a shrine in the Vindhya Mountains. Once he decided that the time had come, he dug a pit in front of his guru's cottage, seated himself in it, and asked his companions to fill it with dirt up to his throat. When they had done so, he pulled his consciousness to his head, and using his yogic power, he cracked his skull open. Then, as is customary, his fellow yogis filled the pit completely and built a monument over it in his memory. "That monument is still there," my father added. I was a teenager at the time and was more impressed with my father's knowledge of such things than with the story itself, which seemed like just another marvelous tale.
Then in 1972, when I enrolled in the University of Allahabad, I met a great saint, Swami Sadananda, who taught me some of the esoteric aspects of yoga. But whenever I asked him to teach me the science of Sri Vidya, he either ignored me or told me that I should seek Bhole Baba's guidance. He called him "Yogeshvara," the lord of the yogis, and described him as a sage who enjoys solitude. He is hard to find, Swami Sadananda said, because he never stays in one place for long. I wished that I could meet him, but even though Swami Sadananda spoke of Bhole Baba as if he were very much alive, according to my father he was dead.
Then later, my thesis adviser, Dr. Lakhera, told me that Swami Rama was now living in the United States, and had started an organization called the Himalayan Institute. My first reaction was that this Swami Rama must not be the same person as the Swami Rama I had been hearing about all my life. Why would a real sage go to the West? In fact, taken together, all the stories I had heard about Swami Rama were. So full of confusion and paradox that I didn't know whether to seek him out or not. But it turned out that destiny had its own plan.
The year was 1976 and the place was New Delhi's five-star Akbar Hotel-an unlikely place to encounter a sage. And it turned out to be not simply a meeting, but the beginning of a mysterious journey into uncharted territory. It took me two hours to figure out who he was, and when it dawned on me that the person I was talking to was the sage I had been hearing about all my life, I was flooded with a mixture of elation and embarrassment. A moment before I had been chatting with him comfortably; suddenly I was speechless. I did not know how to act. My whole being seemed to become an eye, and in a split second I saw him from top to toe, from inside out and outside in. I was sitting next to him and my head dropped into his lap. His large, piercing eyes were an ocean of compassion, and the love I received in this instant was beyond anything I had ever experienced. He knew that I was overwhelmed. Thought, speech, and action were suspended.
Swamiji said, "I have been waiting for you. When are you coming to the States? You have to help me." Then he began talking of mundane matters, and after a while he told me to leave and come back the next day.
I thought about him the rest of the afternoon and throughout the night, remembering what other saints and yogis, even my own father, had told me about him. In the next twenty hours, millions of thoughts passed through my mind: From now on I will live with this sage who is so loving, kind, and knowledgeable ... Now that I have met him all my problems are over ... He will take me to America and I won't have to face the corruption that is choking the life out of Indian society.... I was overcome with gratitude toward those who had inspired me to search and find Swamiji. I felt especially grateful to Mr. Anand Pratap Singh, who in an odd and mysterious way had been instrumental in bringing me to Swamiji. Anxiety and excitement made sleep impossible.
The next morning I went to the hotel. Swamiji kept me waiting in the lobby for an hour before he called me up to his room. When I got there his door was open, so I quietly walked in and found him dressed in a two-piece Western suit. I was about to touch his feet in a gesture of respect when he said, "Come with me. We have to do some shopping." In contrast with his calm demeanor the day before, he was now commanding and quite imposing. But still I gathered my courage and touched his feet to receive his blessing. His response was to roar, "What is this feet-touching business? Okay, let's go!" He handed me his bag and strode out of the room.
When we got to the car, he sat in the front seat and put me in the back, which made me uncomfortable because in India it is customary for subordinates to sit in the front-the back seat is meant for the person with status. We drove to Connaught Place, one of Delhi's major shopping districts, and as soon as the car stopped, Swamiji got out and began walking swiftly toward the shops. In my own easy way I opened the door, got out, and then checked to make sure we were leaving nothing behind. By the time I began following him, Swamiji was already fifty yards away and had stopped to wait for me. As I approached him, I saw his face: it was red, and it seemed as if flames were about to shoot out of his eyes and reduce me to ashes. The moment I was within arm's length he exploded, ''A slow person himself gets late and makes others late too! Don't be a slowpoke if you wish to be with me!" I got the lesson, and at the same time I saw an aspect of him that nothing I had heard had prepared me for.
The rest of the week was intense. For a while Swamiji was loving, kind, giving, and reassuring. He built my expectations beyond the heights my mind could create. I began to imagine that I was his most beloved disciple. Everything that he had, worldly or spiritual, would be mine, I thought. He would initiate me into the higher forms of spiritual practice, transmit his spiritual energy to me, and very soon yogic accomplishments (siddbis) would be at my disposal. Through his grace I would be free of the charms and temptations of the world. Through his grace I would not fall victim to my accomplishments. Three or four days passed while he fueled my spiritual ambitions.
Then the chairman of the University Grant Commission of India visited Swamiji and suddenly the tone changed. I did not know that Swamiji had asked him to offer me a position as a lecturer at Delhi University, and I was bewildered when Swamiji set out to convince me that becoming a lecturer at such a young age would be the best thing for me: I would soon become a professor, he told me; I could stay close to my parents and other members of my family. Furthermore, he said, a swami should not be counted on, for he has renounced everything and doesn't belong to anybody-today he is here, the next day some- where else.
I was shocked. "What about your promise to take me under your wing?" I asked. "Don't be emotional," he replied. "Only a fool ignores such opportunities." I became quiet.
Swamiji continued poking at me, but I did not respond. "Why are you not saying anything?" he demanded. "I'm a busy man. Either you listen to me or get out of here." I said, "I'm trying not to be a fool. I don't want to refuse the opportunity you presented to me the first day-that is, to be with you."
Swamiji became stern and said emphatically, "I never expected you to be so stubborn and arrogant. Now go; we will talk tomorrow."
The next day when I visited him he was loving and kind. He asked sweetly why I had rejected the teaching position, and I said, "Swamiji, because I want to be with you."
At this, he became serious. His big bright eyes seemed to roll inward and he said in a deep, heavy voice, "The life of a swami is constant torture. If you are ready to be happy with pain, only then think of being with me." I didn't know what he meant, and assumed he was trying to get rid of me.
''All I want is to be with you," I pleaded. "After leading me to the summit of my imagination and fantasies, please don't toss me down."
"Is it what you really want?" he asked softly.
I said, "Yes."
"Then give up all your desires," he said. "I will make sure that you get what you need and keep what you have achieved."
I placed my head at his feet, and he put his hand on my head, saying, "Rise and promise that you will not involve yourself in astrology, politics, or petty sectarian religions." I did not understand the full implication of this promise, but I gave it anyway.
From that time on, I grabbed every opportunity to be in Delhi so I could spend time with Swamiji. Often it was impossible to see him for even two minutes, but at other times he allowed me to be with him for hours, and on those occasions there was usually no one else around. Swamiji seemed to enjoy discussing my doctoral dissertation, which was related to philosophy and spiritual practice, but to me the most exciting thing was knowing about Swamiji himself yet when I tried to ask him about his life he skillfully ignored my questions. It seemed that he had no past.
Luckily for me one of my father's friends, Mr. Anand Pratap Singh, had known Swamiji for a long time and was the personal assistant and family friend of His Highness Raja Dinesh Singh, the son-in-law of the king of Tihri Garhwal. Swamiji was born in this kingdom and had lived there with his master, and the royal family of Garhwal knew them both well. Within a few months Mr. Singh had told me so many stories about Swamiji's life that one day, driven by a childish impulse and unable to contain my excitement, I asked Swamiji's permission to write his biography. With a sweet smile he said in a gentle yet emphatic tone, "Yes. Twenty-one years from today you will write it." I felt a flash of embarrassment at my immaturity and presumption, as well as a burst of elation at the conviction with which he spoke. Swamiji immediately changed the subject and then dismissed me. I did not see him again for almost ten months.
I was fortunate to have two other people in my life at the time who further enriched my understanding of Swamiji. The first was Mr. Singh's mother, a pious lady who had spent much time with Swamiji from 1962 through 1964, when he was living in the city of Allahabad. She was a walking encyclopedia not only on Swamiji but also on hundreds of saints and yogis from different traditions, and the moment she heard that I would be working for Swamiji she generously extended her counsel "Don't be mistaken by his external appearance," she said. "He belongs to no one but his master. He lives in the world, but he is not of the world. He appears to be cool, but he is the living fire. Being with him means sitting in the kunda [the sacrificial fireplace]. He is like the wind-don't try to bind him, for your efforts will go in vain." She took me to Shiva Kuti in Allahabad, where Swamiji had lived, and shared a number of her experiences with me. What she told me helped me gain an insight into Swamiji's esoteric side. It was she who first traced for me Swamiji's life from his present identity as Swami Rama back to his identity as Bhole Baba. She also told me about Bhole Baba's master, Bengali Baba, who was also known as Baba Dharam Das (a name he was commonly known by at the beginning of the last century). She described Swamiji's ability to die at will and remain dead for several hours before coming back to life-an ability Swamiji had demonstrated to a group of eminent professors from the University of Allahabad.
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