Omkarananda, Swami
(1930–2000)
   Vedanta teacher
   Swami Omkarananda was a VEDANTA teacher who founded the first Hindu ASHRAM in Switzerland.
   As a 16-year-old in South India the person later known as Swami Omkarananda suddenly left his home and traveled north to RISHIKISH in the foothills of the HIMALAYAS. There, the next year, he was initiated into the renounced life (sannyas) by Swami Sivananda Saraswati. He remained at Rishikish for study and in 1954 was awarded a degree by the Yoga Vedanta Forest University. In the following years he met and studied with several other prominent Indian teachers, but from 1962 to 1965 he entered a period of retreat.
   In 1965, at the request of several Swiss intel-lectuals, he traveled to Switzerland to teach. He made a second visit in 1966; at that time he founded the Omkarananda International Ashram at Winterthur, Switzerland (near Zürich), the first permanent Hindu ashram in the country. The ash-ram grew and purchased a number of houses in Winterthur, identified by being painted blue.
   By 1975, tension had developed in the town between the members of the ashram and their neighbors. As the tension increased, some mem-bers of the ashram bombed the home of a member of the government of the canton of Zürich.
   The perpetrators were arrested, and the swami was also taken into custody and charged with complicity. He pleaded innocent but was con-victed. After seven years in jail, he was released but banished from Switzerland. He settled in Austria, near the Swiss border, and resumed his teaching work. His followers initiated actions to have his conviction overturned and to restore his reputation, but he died in 2000 before that could be achieved.
   In spite of the setback caused by the events of 1975, the ashram in Winterthur continues to operate, as does its sister branch in Rishikesh. Omkarananda wrote a number of books, many of which have been placed online at the Internet site posted by the ashram.
   Further reading: Omkarananda Ashram Himalayas. Avail-able online. URL: http://www.omkarananda-ashram.org/. Accessed August 16, 2005.

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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