One time in the 1990s, while staying at the ashram of the great Himalayan sage Swami Rama, which is located south of the town of Rishikesh along the River Ganga, I saw Swami Rama go out of the ashram and begin walking along the river toward the dam downstream. A little later, not able to contain my curiosity, even though he was long gone, I went looking for him using intuition as my guide.
Swami Rama was fascinating to me. So majestic, so filled with life, such a mystery. Swami Veda Bharati, my preceptor, once told me that Swami Rama was a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. It certainly was true from my point of view. Each time I was in his presence, my full attention was captivated by this most uncommon man.
On a previous stay at his ashram, Gitanjali and I were in a storage room that looked out towards the front gate of the ashram. She was peeking out through the metal shutters that covered the window at Swami Rama who was in the yard near the gates. It was dark in the room and bright outside, so it was not possible for someone outside to see in through those shutters. Suddenly, she let out a gasp of surprise. When I asked what happened, she said that Swami Rama walked up to the window and looked right at her.
On another visit, Charles told me that if, in my mind, I asked Swami Rama a question, he would come in person and answer it. So, that night, I repeatedly imagined asking Swami Rama a question. The next morning, when I opened the front door of our room, Swami Rama walked up to me (which he’d never done previously) and answered my question. I couldn’t even believe it happened!
As amazing as those experiences were, what I remember most about Swami Rama was the way I felt when near him. It was a feeling of love in the heart that I once described as “warm honey.” That love I felt, and the support to grow and transform, to make myself into a better vessel, a clearer channel for love, is what I am most grateful for.
Now, back on that day when I followed Swami Rama, it was a long walk down the path along the river to the dam where I crossed the river. Then, on the other side, my journey continued down the paved road beside the racing water that runs 18 kilometers in a channel to a power station. Eventually, I came to a branch in the road, and some feeling inside nudged me to take the branch and head down the rough dirt road there. After a while, to my amazement, I came upon Swami Rama, who was just coming out of the gate of a tiny temple compound. He looked at me, his smile radiant, and pointed at the temple, saying “this a good place to meditate!” Then he strode off in the direction from which I’d come. Taking his advice, I went to the temple. There was a powerful meditation energy there. Since then, this temple has been a regular pilgrimage place for me.
Recently, while in India again, I was taking a day of silence, meaning I wasn’t talking and was endeavoring to calm my mind by mentally focusing on a mantra. However, this was also the day that I’d planned on making my pilgrimage to the tiny Shiva shrine. So, although in silence, I went. On the way, I stopped and wrote a note to my friend Stephan, inviting him along. The two of us rode the two or three miles to the shrine on our bicycles.
It’s not so easy to bicycle with a friend and maintain silence. He was talking, I just listened and enjoyed the bicycle ride.
We went down the paved road, crossed the river at the dam, and kept going until we veered off onto the rough dirt road to the temple. It was good that we had sturdy Indian-made mountain bikes, as the road was filled with boulders and stones.
Soon we arrived at the gate of the temple compound and entered. On the temple grounds there is a tiny shrine to Hanuman, the monkey-God hero of the Ramayana, and also the tiny Shiva shrine. We visited both.
The Shiva temple was cool and quiet inside, and the usual mosquitos were absent. It’s so small. There is just a Shiva Lingam (an elongated stone that represents Shiva) in the center and barely enough room to sit near it. The two of us sat there and meditated. It was peaceful and cool.
Then we rode back, taking an alternate route, on another rough dirt road just for fun.
Every time I make the pilgrimage to that temple, it reminds me of that great Himalayan yogi who told me to meditate there, and instantly my mind makes an inner-pilgrimage to my heart where I am filled with gratitude and appreciation for Swami Rama and the vast love and profound teachings of the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Tradition. Maybe that’s what all pilgrimages are about; an outer journey that evokes an inner experience.
Postscript: Swami Rama dropped his earthly body on November 13, 1996; 18 years ago. Those who were present say that he left consciously, according to the tradition of the great yoga sages. This post is in celebration of this incredible being and of his teachings which continue to uplift people all over the world.
This painted image of Swami Rama was used with permission of HIHTindia.org. To read "I Want to See God" by Swami Rama and other HIHT News, please click here.