Wisdom has invariably walked tall in the mystical Himalayas ...

By Sayantan Chakravarty


The pure wisdom of the ages was Swami Rama’s closest companion. He’d learnt early in life that merely wearing a robe did not make a monk. In fact he had seen that several householders led far superior lives to some renunciates. In his masterpiece Living with the Himalayan Masters he wrote that he came across two illiterate widowers in their mid-60s when he had camped at Uttarkashi for a month, on the way to Gangotri. Both of them were naked sadhus who were described by Swami Rama as “full of ego, anger, and jealousy.” They absolutely abhorred each other, and the serene mountains made no difference to their thoughts. One day he found them wrestling each other fiercely to the ground, quite unbecoming of two men who were supposed to exude serenity. When Swami Rama intervened, one of them said that the other one had “stepped on the straw that was drying in the sun.” Each claimed the drying straw as his. Two men who were supposed to be wise were fighting over mere pieces of straw. Swami Rama realized that mere renunciation of wealth, home, relatives, wife, and children was not enough to make someone a sadhu. Sagacity meant cultivation of a new mind that is a necessary first step for enlightenment and monkhood.

“Renunciation,” says Swami Rama in his book, “is a path of fire, and should be followed only by those who have burned their worldly desires.” Disappointments, greed, lust, hatred, anger and jealousy cannot be renounced without spiritual discipline. A frustrated and dissatisfied soul is not fit to tread the path of renunciation. Sitting in the cave and thinking of worldly pleasures is misery. When he was about 14-years-old, an unknown sage inscribed a piece of timeless wisdom on a bhoja patra—paper made of bark that was used to write ancient scriptures. Written in Hindi, the English translation of that inscription implies “Let the world be little with you. Let you be on the path of spirituality.” Maybe the naked sadhus were carrying too much of the world with them. 


Swami Rama kept the word he’d given to his Master, Bengali Baba, by inspiring the construction of the now famous Swami Rama Himalayan University. The lineage of the Masters, and their tradition of helping humanity, continues. At the campus and beyond, spirituality has blended seamlessly with world class healthcare, higher education, rural development, and social responsibility, all thanks to the grace and inspiration of Swami Rama.