Eastern Religion in the West - Part 6

Swami Rama (1925 - 1996) - arrived in West 1970

Swami Rama, born Brij Keshore Kumar, spiritual director and founder of the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, Pennsylvania claims a lineage. "It links itself to an unbroken lineage of sages even beyond Shankara. Our Himalayan tradition, though a tradition of Shankara, is purely ascetic, and is practiced in the Himalayan caves rather than being related to institutions in the plains of India." He calls the tradition Bharati ("he who is the lover of knowledge") and says it is one of the 10 original swami orders of Shankaracharya and is one of the four purest lines.

His background is controversial and at least some of it is spurious. He claims he was born into a learned, wealthy Brahmin family, was orphaned at an early age and raised and instructed in the Himalayas by his Bengali teacher and surrogate father, Sri Madhavananda Bharati. In 1949, he was appointed Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India, an ancient high religious office at age 24. In 1952 he renounced this position, and, after an 11-month solitary meditation retreat in a tiny Himalayan cave, Swami Rama headed west. He claimed to have graduated from a homeopathic medical school in India, and studied psychology and philosophy at Hamburg University, the University of Utrecht and Oxford University.

Drs. Elmer and Alyce Green had already demonstrated that ordinary people could learn to voluntarily control physiologic functions through bio-feedback such as brainwaves, muscle tension, heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature and blood flow in the skin. During a series of biofeedback experiments in 1970 and 1971 at the Menninger Foundation, Swami Rama could produce the same effects and that he voluntarily stopped his heart from pumping blood for 17 seconds. These claims are suspect however as they also claimed he telekinetically moved a knitting needle ie moved it from a distance with nothing but thinking. If true this would be a world changing event forcing a total paradigm change in scientific thought but no other confirmed tests have ever been made.

We do know, however, that the Swami could not control his penis and he has been regularly charged with fucking some of his female devotees and has responded with nasty slurs and lies. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that the great celibate Himalayan Master fathered at last one child in his ashram.

Andrew Cohen is unique. He was repudiated and rejected as a spiritual master by his mother but Swami Rama also has a unique distinction. He has been repudiated and rejected by his son. Robert Walter was 12 when he discovered that his father was the renowned Indian yogi Swami Rama. One of Swami Rama's earliest disciples in the United States, Shirley Walter, served as a founding director of the institute in the U.S. She also started the institute's center in Schaumberg, Illinois, and directed the center in Glenview, Illinois for many years. In early 1971, Swami Rama asked Shirley to meet with him alone and seduced her, despite her protests that she was married and he had taken vows of celibacy. She soon discovered she was pregnant. The Swami, who had taken vows of celibacy, frequently warned Robert and his mother, Shirley Walter, of the dire consequences should their relationship become known. Robert traveled with him to India and spent time at the Himalayan Institute's headquarters. There he lived among "His Holiness Swami Rama's" most devoted disciples, witnessing their extreme beliefs and cultish behavior. He learned that his father had had sexual relations with many women and after his father's death in 1996, he learned that Swami Rama had a wife in India and two children.

In order to attain samadhi, the yogi takes a vow of celibacy. The word celibacy does not mean mere suppression of the sexual urge. Brahmacharya means walking in Brahman, the absolute Reality or pure Consciousness, being conscious of Brahman all the time. Brahma means shakti, the primal force within, and charya means how to direct. A brahmachari is able to master and direct his energies toward the attainment of the highest state of consciousness. Brahmacharya is not limited to the control of the sexual urge but also involves the control of mind, action, and speech. - Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Rama, pp. 240-241

On September 4, 1997 in the United District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania a jury returned an award against the defendant Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the USA in the amount of $275,000 in compensatory damages and $1.6 million in punitive damages for the sexual misconduct of the Himalayan Institute's former 'spiritual leader' Brijkishor Kumar, popularly known as the 'Swami Rama'. The award was in favour of the 19-year-old Jasmine Patel (Jasmine Patel, plaintiff Vs. Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the USA).

What every up-and-coming Swami needs - a professional portfolio of spiritual poses

Jasmine Patel was 13 or 14 years old, when she was introduced to Swami Rama by her parents who treated him as their enlightened spiritual guide and family guru. In the summer of 1989 Jasmine joined the Institute's 'Self-Transformation Program' from when the swami started abusing her, ending up in full-blown sexual relationship, the American Court order states. It also states, several other women's similar experiences with Swami Rama.

In the above quoted verdict, the American jury found that Swami Rama (a) had fucked the plaintiff Jasmine Patel, (b) he had abused his position as the plaintiff's guru to secure her consent to the sexual relations; (c) he had breached the standard of care and fiduciary duties inherent in the relationship between him and the plaintiff; (d) he had intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the plaintiff; (e) had acted maliciously and with conscious disregard for the welfare of the plaintiff; (f) and he was acting within the scope of his agency relationship with the Himalayan Institute when engaging in sexual relations with Jasmine Patel.

Apart from holding the Himalayan Institute liable for compensatory and punitive damages on a respondent superior theory, the American jury also imposed direct liability on the Institute, finding that (a) it had been negligent in allowing Swami Rama to be a sexual predator for a number of years; (b) the actions and inactions of Himalayan Institute constituted the intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (c) the Himalayan Institute had acted maliciously and with conscious disregard for the welfare of the plaintiff.

These sleazebag gurus just go on as if their scandals and lack of realisation haven't been exposed to the public. Many of their followers are too invested to leave and new ones will never be told and the money keeps rolling in.

The 1st Convocation of the 'Swami Rama Himalayan University' was held on 1st April, 2016 in the University premises. The Honourable President of India Dr. Pranab Mukherjee, graced the occasion.

Swami Rama founded the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, based in Pennsylvania with centers worldwide, as well as various service and teaching organizations. He was also one of the first Yogis to be studied by Western scientists. Journalist Katharine Webster spent two years investigating the allegations of sexual abuse against Swami Rama, publishing an article in a 1990 edition of Yoga Journal or Click Here for an HTML version that documented the experiences of women abused by Rama.

"He would fixate on a woman and make her a sort of valet, and then he would tell her it was necessary to perform these acts to further her spiritual development," said Cliff Rieders of Williamsport, one of the woman's lawyers.

Baba Hari Dass (1923 - ) arrived in West: 1971

The "Silent Master" Baba Hari Dass taught a traditional version of eightlimbed (ashtanga) yoga at his Mount Madonna Center in California. He has not spoken since 1952 and uses a chalkboard to communicate. If there is any scandal attached to Hari Dass it has been kept as quiet as the man himself.

He left home at 8 years old to become a wandering sadhu. He learnt from a local brick-layer and had a talent for building and his story includes his work on several ashrams and temples. From 1954 until 1968 he spent 14 years associated with Neem Karoli Baba. He was appointed the main teacher of Ram Dass for five months but transforming Richard Alpert into an ascetic yogi was a task too difficult even for Hari Dass. Hari Dass left Neem Karoli's ashram under circumstances which have not been clarified though Hari Dass' wish for a structured disciplined environment and interpersonal problems appear to be the reasons. In 1970 a group of American friends and students of Ruth Johnson-Horsting, a sculptor and a professor of Arts at the University of California in Davis, who were interested in traditional Yoga went to India and invited Hari Dass to come to the USA. Ms Johnson-Horsting who had taken early retirement after a family tragedy sponsored Hari Dass and became one of his his most prominent students known to others as "Ma Renu."

Hari Dass has inspired the creation of a mini yoga-and-Hindu-empire in California.  [Be Here Now] He is slowly dying after have suffered a "neurological condition" in 2013 though his devotees have not provided specific information during the five years of regular health updates posted on babaharidass.org. One presumes he had a stroke or something similar. The Hanuman Fellowship is not paying for Dass' care as this is being financed by donations. A non-profit organisation cannot pay to support a single individual. Hari Dass would probably have become more influential if the section extolling him had not been removed from Be Here Now at the orders of Neem Karoli Baba. Professional jealousy maybe?

"I was taken back to the temple. It was interesting. At no time was I asked, do you want to stay? Do you want to study? Everything was understood. there were no contracts. There were no promises. there were no vows. there was nothing.

The next day Maharaji instructed them to take me out and buy me clothes. they gave me a room. Nobody ever asked me for a nickle. Nobody asked me to spread the word. And that day I met a man who was to become my teacher, Baba Hari Dass.

Hari Dass Baba is quite an incredible fellow, as I found out. I spent 5 months under his tutelage. He is 48 years old. He weighs 90 pounds. He is a jungle sadhu. he went to the jungle when he was 8 years old. He is silent (mauna). He has been mauna for 15 years. He writes with a chalkboard. He only uses His voice to sing holy songs. He reads and writes Chinese, English, French & Hindi. He taught me always in beautiful English.

Hari Dass Baba - this little 90 pound fellow - achitecturally designed all of the temples and schools, supervised all the buildings and grounds, had many followers of His own, slept 2 hours a nite, His food intake for the last 15 years had been 2 glasses of milk a day. Thats it. His feces are like 2 small marbles each day. His arms are about this big around, tiny, but when the workmen can't lift a particularly heavy rock, they call for "Chota Maharaj" - the little great king. As in a comic strip, He goes over and lifts the rock, just with one pointedness of mind …" - section removed from Be Here Now

[Hari Dass Eating]

His main centre is the Mount Madonna Center "a learning community inspired by the example of our teacher, Baba Hari Dass. Located on 355 acres of redwoods and grasslands, our peaceful haven is a place where you can step back, slow down, and reconnect to your center, to nature, and to a more authentic flow of life." The Mount Madonna practice includes vegetarian diet, purifications, devotional singing, rituals, mudras, a traditional fire ceremony, selfless service, meditation, and hatha yoga and the selling thereof.

Hari Dass' disciples finance an orphanage in India which houses 50 children. A drop in the bucket but worthwhile, nevertheless.

He has published many books including translations of Hindu classics.

I can't help but wonder what might have happened if all the Eastern religious teachers of the past 60 years had emulated Hari Dass.

Guru Maharaj Ji aka Prem Rawat (1966 - ) arrived in West: 1971

Prem Rawat attained brief public notoriety and ridicule as the "Guru Maharaj Ji" (Param Hans Satgurudev Shri Sant Ji Maharaj), the teenage fat boy guru whose apparent skyrocketing following in the early 1970's had journalists in the "West", especially the USA and Great Britain, astonished and eager to write about his Divine Light Mission. This success was partially caused by the media publicity as a 14-year-old Indian guru was ridiculous enough to make the major news media, something that only the Maharishi and his brief love affair with the Beatles had done before.

[Prem Rawat (Maharaji) dressed as Lord of the Universe] 

The so-called Guru Maharaj Ji was not one of the Indian gurus "club." He claimed He was the Divine Incarnation of the Age and all other gurus were worthless weeds. Strangely enough this did not endear him to his peers. The fat young guru did not endorse Yoga, Tantra or Vedanta. He claimed to heve 4 secret meditation techniques that only he could empower though these were well known in India. The period of apparent sky-rocketing growth in number of "premies" ended with the failure of the "most Holy and significant event in human history", Millenium '73. The debts left by this failure and his personal extravagance nearly bankrupted the organisation.

For another few years stories about Rawat became more derisory as knowledge of his bleeding ulcer, his materialistic and extravagant life style, his claims to Divinity and the worship of his followers became common. His marriage to a much older and taller devotee in 1974 was followed by his own mother disowning and disinheriting him in 1975 for his meat-eating, drug abuse and general "playboy" lifestyle. Since the early 1980's, he has continued to minister to his core of devotees in self-imposed obscurity until this century when he has attempted to become known as an internationally respected teacher of peace and renowned philanthropist through the use of phony public relations publicity.

Prem Pal Singh Rawat was born on December 10, 1957. His father's self-proclaimed title was Param Hans Satgurudev Shri Hans Ji Maharaj. Prem Rawat claims he was a descendant of Indian Royalty, and Hans also claimed to be the living incarnation of God of his time from whom Prem inherited his position. The process of Prem's incarnation, as he described it often, began on July 19th, 1966 when his father left his body in samadhi (died) and ended on August 1st to the ecstatic recognition of him as the new Perfect Master by thousands of his father's followers in the party of the century.

In the early 1980s the guru renamed himself. Prem Rawat or Maharaji (his translation: "Ultimate Ruler" formerly known as "Guru Maharaj Ji") dropped off all public Indian trappings from his cult's activities and now claimed to be nothing more a mild-mannered inspirational speaker and wealthy private investor living in well-deserved luxury in Malibu. He claims to work tirelessly to bring people the possibility of inner peace and bliss, a possibility that is completely unique and absolutely "the best thing happening" and that only he can reveal and inspire so not really all that much has changed. His face and body show the effects of a hard drinking and smoking lifestyle and reveal the emptiness of his claims to provide the supreme Knowledge to his "students" who seem to have forgotten the hopes they had for enlightenment and perfect bliss that the young guru promised them. Still the wealthier ones get together most years at his compound at Amaroo in Australia to kiss his feet and renew the ties of devotion to their Master, for whatever that's worth.