Rama, Swami (1925-1996)

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Rama, Swami (1925-1996)

Well-known Indian teacher of yoga, meditation, and holistic health. At an early age he was ordained as a monk by a great sage of the Himalayas and later journeyed to numerous monasteries and caves, studying with many spiritual masters. Notable teachers he encountered included Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo, and Sri Ramana Maharshi. He studied psychology and philosophy in Varanasi and Prayas, India, and received a medical degree from Darbhanga Medical School in 1945. At a later date, he pursued a formal education at Oxford University, continuing his studies of Western psychology and philosophy in Germany and Holland for three years before coming to the United States in 1969. In the following year, he served as a consultant to the Voluntary Controls Project of the Research Department of the Menninger Foundation at Topeka, Kansas. Under scientific controls, he demonstrated such feats as manipulating his heartbeat at will to 300 beats per minute (effectively stopping the flow of blood) for seventeen seconds.

The publication of the results of such tests generated a new medical interest in body-mind relationships and spurred public interest in yoga techniques among young adults already involved in reacting to the steady arrival of new Indian spiritual teachers.

Swami Rama consistently sought to establish a clear scientific basis for the practice of yoga and meditation. He published books and audiotapes for the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, first located in a Chicago suburb, which he founded in 1971. The institute later moved to Honesdale, Pennsylvania, and has a 422-acre campus in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Branch centers have also been established throughout the United States. The Swami also continued to teach and write from his centers in India. He is widely respected in the East, where he held, and later renounced, the office of Shankaracharya, Indian's highest spiritual position. His lifetime of contributing to a reconciliation of scientific and spiritual knowledge brought him the Martin Buber Award for Service to Humanity in 1977. As the scientific interest in yoga declined through the 1980s, Swami Rama lead the Himalayan Institute until his death in 1996. The last few months of his life were filled with accusations of sexual assault and harassment from several women against himself and the Himalayan Institute. In 1997, after the Swami had died, one of the women pressing charges was awarded almost two million dollars in damages posthumously.


Boyd, Doug. Swami. New York: Random House, 1976.

Rama, Swami. Lectures on Yoga. Arlington Heights, Ill.: Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, 1978.

. Living with the Himalayan Masters: Spiritual Experiences of Swami Rama. Edited by Swami Ajaya [Allan Weinstein]. Honesdale, Pa.: Himalayan Institute, 1978.

. A Practical Guide to Holistic Health. Honesdale, Pa.: Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, 1978.

Rama, Swami, Rudolph, and Swami Ajaya. Yoga and Psychotherapy. Glenview, Ill.: Himalayan Institute, 1976.

Tigunait, Pandir Rajmani. Swami Rama of the Himalayas: His Life and Mission. Honesdale, Pa.: Himalayan Institute Press, 1999.