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Swāmī Rāma

Category: Mystic

Swāmī Rāma (1925–1996) was an Indian yógī.  Born in India, he spent a considerable portion of his life teaching, specifically in the United States and Europe.   

He was the founder, for example, of the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, which has its headquarters in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, and branches in the United States, Europe, and India.   He also worked extensively with the Menninger Foundation

Beyond Biofeedback – Drs Elmer and Alyce Green

Before the Swami left, he agreed to return for an extended series of experiments. He said that his teacher had asked him to come to the United States to demonstrate to medical people that the mind can control the body and he would come back for further demonstrations.

Swāmī Rāma also founded other teaching and service organizations, including a large medical facility in the northern part of India (Dehradun).  Until about 1987 the rural poor in this region did not have access to health care, water, sanitation, or education. Dedicated disciples of Swāmī Rāma have worked since his death to make his dream of a region free of poverty a reality.

Life

Swāmī Rāma was born Brij Kiśore 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, travelled from temple to temple and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages.  

From 1949 to 1952 he held the position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India.  After leaving the post of Shankaracharya, he created his first ashram, the Hansada Yoga Ashram, in the outskirts of Kathmandu on the way to Dhulikhel. 

In 1966, the original Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science & Philosophy was established by Swami Rama in Kanpur, India. 2016 was the 50th anniversary of the institute.  After returning to his master in 1952 and practising further for many years in the Himalayas, Swami Rama was encouraged by his teacher to go to the West.

The experiments with the Greens

Swāmī Rāma’s most important legacy is from the experiments he conducted with the Greens.  Descriptions of the experiments are provided as observations, however, this is the background to Swāmī Rāma’s visit to the Greens at the Menninger Foundation

Beyond Biofeedback by Dr Elmer & Alyce Green

The yoga teacher of Rishikesh, India, Swami Rama, was our “Swami in residence" in the fall of 1970.We thought it would reduce culture shock if he lived at our house, and were pleased when he accepted our invitation.  …… During the first day we familiarized the Swami with the routine of being wired up and had a chance to become acquainted with him. He was forty-five years of age, tall and well built. He reminded me of an Italian Renaissance nobleman. At six feet one inch and one hundred and seventy pounds, and with a lot of energy for debate and persuasion, he was a formidable figure.

The reason for inviting Swami Rama is described in the following excerpt:

Beyond Biofeedback by Dr Elmer & Alyce Green

Alyce and Dale Walters and I began research in self-regulation of autonomic processes in the mid-1960s. Through a publication of the Menninger Foundation, which is sent to psychiatric alumni, our voluntary-controls program came to the attention of Dr. Daniel Ferguson, at that time, chief of the medical hygiene clinic of the Veterans Administration Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota.
In the fall of 1969, Dr. Ferguson telephoned me and said that he had become acquainted with a yogi named Swami Rama, who had demonstrated in the hospital an ability to obliterate his pulse. Dan suggested that with our psycho-physiology equipment it might be possible to obtain a record of what the Swami was actually doing. Would we like to conduct such a project? If we were interested, he would take the responsibility of bringing Swami Rama to the laboratory for a couple of days.
Our lab schedule was fully booked at the time, and Swami Rama tended to travel only when the spirit listeth, but arrangements were finally made and over the Easter weekend, March 28-30, 1970, a number of experiments were performed.

 

Skills and powers

Swami Rami was not only extremely co-operative in working with the Greens, but he was as fascinated by the process of being monitored and what was actually happening as the Greens were.  Only two weeks after the successes with his first experiments, he sent a letter with suggestions on what should be tested.  In this he more or less lists the methods he used and the effects he was capable of producing.  Psychokinesis, mind over matter, remote viewing, plus many more. 

April 16, 1970

Most Blessed Dr. Green,

Thank you very much for your sincere efforts in promoting the Truth. I like to give you a few suggestions for the future tests, in the Lab.

l.) Methods of Concentration and Meditation

a. Gaze outside in distance or one foot in distance.
b. Gaze on the tip of the nose, on the nostrils, gaze on space between the two eyebrows.
c. Concentration on different chakras, and if possible, the variation of the stability of mind can be recorded according to the plexus, and I want to know the brain waves.
d. Concentration with breathing will be very fruitful. Inhalation in the bellows.
e. Rhythmic breathing in retention and in making breathing finer.
f. Concentration on a very minute object within. Concentration on a very big and wide object.
g. Concentration on withdrawing the senses from outer objects. Concentration in nothingness. Concentration towards negativity. Concentration on positive thinking. Concentration on assimilation the forces of mind. Concentration on expanding the mind. Concentration on the control of conscious mind. Concentration on silencing the conscious mind and bringing forward the subconscious mind.
h. Studying the mind and heart completely in conscious condition,
i. The effects of samadhi can be demonstrated if you have any machine to test.
j. Samadhi with seed and without seed.
k. Samadhi in a plastic capsule which should be sealed. Or Samadhi in buried condition.

2.) Heart Tests

a. Slowing down beats to twenty and immediately jumping to 250.
b. Complete stoppage of heartbeat without muscle contraction.
c. Complete stoppage of heart from one and one half to three minutes with will power.
d. Heart stop through rhythmic way of pranayama by controlling vagus nerves.
e. Heart stop with lowest temperature can be examined.

3.) Blood Flow, Temperature, on the Right Side of Body and Reversing Up to Two to Three Degrees Fahrenheit.

a Creating artificial tumours and dissolving them with will power.
b The Blood Cell Experiment.
c Piercing the needle on any part of flesh without bleeding or any damage.

4.) Respiratory Tests

a. You can make any mask for nostrils and mouth and verify the retention of breath.
b. There should be two masks; one for nose and mouth, and another for the eyes. So that close up to ten feet object can be located after closing the eyes, or any book can be read. Note: There are four methods in seeing the things after closing them. The first: after closing the eyes, anything can be visualized clearly at any distance, but eyes should be properly sealed and closed.
c. Through touching the closed envelope can be read, but eyes should be closed
d. Anything can be read from one room to another, but eyes should be closed.

5.) Moving Things From One Place To Another

a. All the spiritual and psychic as well as physical demonstrations will be done in the lab ONLY, and not before or definitely not in public lecture. Those who are anxious to know the results should come to the lab and only lab. It should be available exclusively for Doctors and Scientists.
b The experiment of Prana-Solar Science can be done on sunny days and we will fix up the date when I come.
c I thank you very much for your achievements and I hope you keep in touch through letters before we meet.

I will be sending the lab report from London with film to you. If you wish, I will bring another Swami to give more elaborate tests in the field of respiratory system and heart and weight control. I forgot to mention the sound experiments, which will be very interesting in studying the brain's vibrations and other internal states. It is most amazing that people do not understand the power of mind over body. My effort is sincere and you will see that there is nothing unscientific in it. Of course, I find some difficulty in explaining certain things which I can do, but cannot explain how they are done. Doctor, meditation alone is real life. There is nothing higher than meditation, that is my experience in life. Please give my regards to Mrs. Green. Love little kiddies. Let me thank you again for your kind and gentle behavior. My present address will be: care of American Express, London, ENGLAND.

Please remember me to the members of your Lab.

Thy Own Self,
Swami Rama

The Greens needed funds to continue the work with Swami Rama and this letter along with the results of the previous demonstrations resulted in a grant of forty-two thousand dollars over the next year to carry out the various tests and demonstrations described in Swami's letter. ….. Swami Rama returned to India after the March sessions, but came back later in the year to begin the research program described in his letter.  In the end the experiments were never completed and Elmer Green explains why:

Beyond Biofeedback – Drs Elmer and Alyce Green

After five weeks the Swami left for a week for lecture engagements in Chicago and Minneapolis. He was back for a few days and then off again for another ten days. Gradually it became apparent that the seminars and lectures he was giving in various cities were making it almost impossible to keep to a laboratory schedule.
Unfortunately, we conducted only about one third of the experiments outlined in his letter. We had planned to study items (I.i) through (I.k) toward the latter part of our time together, scheduling the simpler things for the first weeks of our research and the more complex things later. In retrospect it is clear that we went at it in exactly the wrong way, at least with Swami Rama.
He had been practicing his austerities before he came to Topeka and was keyed up for the demonstrations in the laboratory. If after a short period of adjustment to the research setting we had challenged him to do the most difficult things, he would have immediately attempted to demonstrate them. As it was, however, life at the laboratory became more and more boring to him, and his enthusiasm for the research began to diminish.
He mentioned this indirectly on occasion, we realized later, but the significance of what he was saying wasn't immediately apparent to us. He was indirectly telling us that his ability to do things depended upon a kind of emotional activation, or excitement. It depended to some extent upon being challenged, to "put up or shut up," as they say.

One of the additional interesting aspects related to Swami Rama’s involvement with the Greens is that he saw the potential of biofeedback in training his own disciples and, as he put it, eliminating con men.

Beyond Biofeedback – Drs Elmer and Alyce Green

In November 1970 I was invited to attend a conference on yoga and science, to be held in New Delhi. I did not want to go but when the Swami heard about it he said that he wanted to attend, and wanted to take some biofeedback machinery with him. I had misgivings about his leaving the United States before we had finished our research, but he was eager to go. I asked why he wanted to have biofeedback machines; he could already control physiological functions. He said these machines were going to be useful for "training young yogis and eliminating fakers." I gathered from him that one of the main problems in India is that some people are yogis only by repute and a skilful con man can generate a huge following without ever having to perform. Physiological detectors would make short work of these people, he felt. Complying, we built some special biofeedback machines for Swami to take to India in a foam-lined suitcase.

The corrosive effect of American culture

Rather inevitably, the Greens' experiments caused something of a stir in the scientific community.  Articles appeared in Journal of Transpersonal Psychology (1970), New York Times Magazine (September 1971), Times Weekly (July 1972), Playboy (December 1972), Psychology Today (August 1974), and other popular journals such as Esquire (December 1972), Time (April 1973), Saturday Review (February 1975), and Prevention (June 1978). The publicity he obtained was not always that helpful, gaining him a following which might not have been the one he wanted. 

His early American followers had been spiritual seekers of the counterculture who found him at his ashram on the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh, India. 

His later followers appear to have been on occasion quite damaged people needing psychotherapy far more than spiritual training.  In many ways, the Swami and the Institute he later founded appealed to the personality that yearns for what psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton calls a "totalist" environment, where virtually every aspect of one's life is subject to father figure like control.  This is religion, not spiritual development and it appears that many simply sought an alternative religion.

From her childhood Carolyn had been steeped in Catholic faith and educated in scientific skepticism; now it seemed the Institute could help her harmonize these two seemingly contradictory ways of perceiving the world. At about the same time, Carolyn was accepted into the residential program at East West Books Chicago, the Institute's downtown branch. The program seemed to provide the ideal family she'd never had, where everyone shared her values and spiritual goals…. Terry and Brian say they …. came from prominent Midwestern families; each had an alcoholic parent, and they now believe they were seeking …. a strong parental figure.

In contrast, the Himalayan Institute, founded in Illinois in 1971, had as its mission, "to make known to the members and people in general the real, synthetic, and harmonious view of world religions and philosophy in terms of modern scientific achievements and undertake researches for all around ethical, social, economical, and spiritual development of humanity to attain world peace, international integration, understanding, and spiritual awakening of the human race."  

So its objective was to aid people on the spiritual path.  Unfortunately because of the publicity, the Institute attracted people who hadn’t even be ‘called’, let alone started on the path, who appear to have been seeking solutions to the side-effects of the materialistic American dream and the spiritual emptiness and isolation it produces. 

The problems and baggage they brought with them were impossible for one man to deal with – guru or no guru - and it appears that in later years, the Swami, ground down by this corrosive atmosphere sunk - unable to counteract its influence. 

He must have felt he had failed - remember that his teacher had asked him to come to the United States to demonstrate to medical people that the mind can control the body.  And medical people had taken no notice.  But the experimental results recorded by the Greens were never lost and when the time is ripe, the phoenix can still rise from the ashes.

The Honesdale Institute today

Forty plus years on from its founding, the Honesdale’s curriculum is totally different from that of the original institute:

 “Well-to-do New Yorkers flock to Honesdale on weekends for seminars in stress reduction, meditation, and diet and nutrition. Some stay longer, for a few weeks or months in the Self-Transformation retreat program. … The Institute offers a dizzying array of education programs, including a diploma program for hatha yoga teachers. The Institute also offers instruction to counsellors and psychotherapists in the application of yoga and meditation techniques to therapy..”

There is clearly no harm done here and probably quite a lot of good, but the fact remains that the Swami’s teachings have largely been forgotten.  But perhaps they can be revived by using the work of the Greens as their foundation. 

Swami Rama - Living With the Himalayan Masters

Unpurified ego is an evil which obstructs one's own progress. But the purified ego is a means in discriminating real Self from not-self-real Self from mere self. No one can expand his consciousness if he remains egotistical. Those who build boundaries around themselves because of their ego problems create suffering for themselves

 

References

Books

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 and progress along the spiritual path, without the need for a structured religion.

Elmer and Alyce Green appointed their son Doug Boyd, to help Swami Rama with any adjustment difficulties whilst he was in the USA. Doug published his recollections of his association with Swami Rama and other yogis he met later in India, in his book Swami (1976).

The other main biography is by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, (2004). At the Eleventh Hour: The biography of Swāmī Rāma. Published by the Himalayan Institute Press; Honesdale PA.

  • ·       Swāmī Rāma: - Living with the Himalayan masters
  • ·       Swāmī Rāma – Meditation and its Practise
  • ·       Swāmī Rāma - Hansada Yoga Ashram.
  • ·       Swami Rama, Rudolph Ballentine & Alan Hymes - SCIENCE OF BREATH: A Practical Guide
  • ·       Swāmī Rāma – The Art of Joyful Living
  • ·       Swāmī Rāma – Perennial Psychology of Bhagavad Gita
  • ·       Swāmī Rāma – The Path of Fire and Light
  • ·       Swāmī Rāma – The Royal Path:  Practical Lessons on Yoga
  • ·       Swāmī Rāma – Fearless living:  Yoga and Faith
  • ·       Swāmī Rāma - Enlightenment without God:  Mandukya Upanishad
  • ·       Swāmī Rāma – Om the Eternal Witness:  Secrets of the Mandukya Upanishad
  • ·       Swāmī Rāma – Choosing a Path
  • ·       Swāmī Rāma – Book of Wisdom Ishopanishad

 

Videos

Swami Rama the Himalayan Master, part 1

Swami Rama the Himalayan Master, part 2

Observations

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