Swami Rama (1925–1996) was born Brij Kisore Dhasmana or Brij Kisore 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 prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham (also Karveer Peeth or Karweer Peeth) in South India. After returning to his master in 1952 and practising 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.
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 who 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 afterwards travelled to Nepal in the Himalayas barefoot with nothing but a kamandalu and tiger mat. It was here he created his first ashram. It is at the outskirts of Kathmandu on the way to Dulikhel 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 Characterlogy movement. However, other programs are also conducted there.
Organization and achievements
He was the founder of the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, which has its headquarters in Honesdale, PA, and branches in the USA, Europe, and India. Swami Rama also founded other teaching and service organizations, some of which are linked below. One of his significant achievements is the establishment of a large medical facility in the northern part of India (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 about Swami Rama.
Swami Rama 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 (holding a Ph.D. from somewhere in The Netherlands) being the Chancellor, Vijay Dhasmana as the Vice-Chancellor, and one of his most development-oriented disciples—Ms. B. Maithili (Director of the Rural Development Institute)—as the Registrar.
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.