Swami Rama was born to a northern Indian Brahmin family in a small village called Toli in the Garhwal Himalayas. He became the lineage holder of the Sankya Yoga tradition of the Himalayan Masters. From an early age he was raised in the Himalayas by his master 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 prestigious 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 in teaching, specifically in the United States and Europe.
He is especially notable as one of the first yogis to allow himself to be studied by Western scientists. In the 1960s he allowed himself to be examined by scientists at the Menninger Clinic which studied his ability to voluntarily control bodily processes (such as heartbeat, blood pressure, body temperature, etc.) that are normally considered to be non-voluntary (autonomic).
After leaving the post of Shankaracharya and going back to the master, he travelled to Nepal in the Himalayas barefoot with nothing but a kamandalu and tiger mat. It was here he created his first Ashram.
Swami Rama also founded other teaching and service organizations. ( see: www.hihtindia.org , www.bindu.org , www.swamiveda.org ). One of his significant achievements is the establishment of a large medical facility in the northeastern part of India in Dehradun to serve millions of poor people in the nearby mountains. Until about 15 years ago the rural poor in this region did not have access to health care, water, sanitation, and education.
Dedicated disciples of Swami Rama have contributed to make his dream of a region free of poverty come true. Stories of his leadership style and the way he achieved his goals are documented in several books. He demonstrated development impact that attracted attention from all over the world.
Swami Rama’s concept of “wellness” and not “medical repair” of the human being is gaining ground in many countries in North America and Europe. He demonstrated the impact of holistic health approaches on the Dehradun campus. On that campus he also established a medical university with his most senior disciple Swami Veda Bharati being the Chancellor.
Swami Rama authored several books in which he describes the path he took to becoming a yogi and lays out the philosophy and benefits behind practices such as meditation. One of the common themes expressed in such books as Enlightenment Without God and Living with the Himalayan Masters is the ability of any person to achieve peace without the need for a structured religion. He was critical of the tendency for yogis to use supernatural feats to demonstrate their enlightenment, arguing that these only demonstrated the ability to perform a feat.
Swami Rama, one of the most remarkable men of our time, left his body on November 13, 1996.
Shortly after 11:00 pm on his last day in his physical body, he consciously dropped the body, entering into “Mahasamadhi.”
Recommended reading: Living With The Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama