- Rama Tirtha, Swami
- (1873–1906)devotee of Krishna and Vedanta philosophyIn his brief life, Swami Rama Tirtha managed to spread the teaching of Vedanta philosophy and spirituality in India and around the world.Gossain Tirtha Rama was born at Murari-wala, a village in the district of Gujranwala in the Punjab, to a family of Gosain BRAHMINS, distant descendants of the famous author of the RAMAYANA, Gosain TULSIDAS. When he was only a few days old his mother died and young Rama was reared by his father, his aunt, and his elder brother, Gossain Gurudas. Throughout his child-hood he demonstrated unusual intelligence, a contemplative nature, and a love of solitude. He listened to recitations of scripture and discussed spiritual topics with religious teachers. At age 10, Rama was put under the care of his father’s friend Bhakta Dhana Rama, a teacher who taught sim-plicity and purity to the young Rama.A good student, Rama demonstrated a love of mathematics and achieved high marks at the undergraduate and master’s levels. After complet-ing college, he served as professor of mathematics at Forman Christian College in Lahore and, for a short time, reader at Lahore Oriental College. He began to read the BHAGAVAD GITA and became an ardent devotee (bhakta) of Lord KRISHNA. He could read Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu, and SANSKRIT literature. He studied VEDANTA with Sri Madhava Tirtha of the Dwaraka Math. His meeting with the famous Swami VIVEKANANDA in Lahore was decisive in turning Rama toward the vow of SANNYAS (renunciation) and wearing of the ochre robe.In 1900, he went to Brahmapuri, on the banks of the GANGES near RISHIKESH in the foothills of the Himalayas, to become a forest dweller with his wife, his two children, and a few others. Because of ill health, his wife soon left the forest with one of the children. In the forest, he real-ized the all-inclusive bliss of SATCHITANANDA, or SELF-REALIZATION. Then he returned to the plains to teach Vedanta. He traveled to Japan, America, and Egypt and spent a year and a half in San Francisco, where he founded the Hermetic Broth-erhood, dedicated to the study of Vedanta. In St. Louis, he spoke at the Religious League of the St. Louis Exhibition. Hailed as a torch of divine knowledge, he lectured in Christian churches all over the United States.On his return to India, he continued to teach in the plains, but his health grew worse. He returned to the Himalayas and took residence at Vasishtha Ashram, where he died at age 33 on the banks of the Ganges River on October 17, 1906.Considered a saint of modern India, Swami Rama taught the oneness and all-pervasive nature of God. He began as a devotee of BHAKTI YOGA, devoted to the image of Krishna, but he became more and more an ascetic and mystic who expe-rienced the non-dual nature of reality consistent with Vedanta.Under the guidance of a direct disciple of Swami Rama, Sri R. S. Narayana Swami, the Rama Tirtha Publication League was established in Lucknow; it has published most of Swami Rama’s writings in several volumes.Further reading: Rama Tirtha Publication League, Swami Rama: Various Aspects of His Life by the Eminent Scholars of India (Lucknow: Dayal Printing Works, 1939); Swami Rama Tirtha, In Woods of God-Realization: The Complete Works of Rama Tirtha, 19 vols. (Lucknow: Rama Tirtha Publication League, 1909–48).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.