|Died||25 July 1963(aged 79)|
Swami Ramdas ([sʋaːmiː raːmdaːs]; Sanskrit: स्वामी रामदास, romanized: Svāmī Rāmadāsa, born Vittal Rao on 10 April 1884) was an Indian saint, philosopher, philanthropist and pilgrim. Swami Ramdas became a wandering ascetic in his late 30s and later established Anandashram in Kanhangad, Kerala. He is the author of several books, the most famous of which is the spiritual autobiography In Quest of God (1925).
Early life: 1884-1922
Swami Ramdas was born as Vittal Rao in Hosdurg, Kerala, India on 10 April 1884, to Balakrishna Rao and Lalita Bai. Vittal was educated first at a local school in Hosdurg and was later sent to Mangalore to study at the Basel Evangelical Mission High School run by German missionaries. He was a voracious reader and was admired for his mastery of the English language; he was also deeply interested in drawing, sculpture and theatre. His indifference to his school curriculum, however, did not allow him to pass high school despite attempting his exams twice. After a failed attempt to run away to Bombay to seek his fortune and a brief stint as the director of an amateur theatre society he founded in Hosdurg (they opened with scenes from Shakespeare's King John), Vittal joined a course in drawing and engraving at the School of Arts in Madras. Before completing the course, however, he won a scholarship to study textile engineering at the Victoria Jubilee Institute in Bombay. This time, he completed the degree, and very soon found work as a spinning master in a cotton mill in Gulbarga.
Vittal Rao was now expected to marry, and within a few months of his finding a job, his parents had found a bride for him. He married Umabai (renamed 'Rukmabai' upon her marriage according to the custom of the Saraswats) in 1908. Within a couple of months of this happy event, however, Vittal Rao had lost his job at Gulbarga. He began to move quickly from one job to another all over Southern India, with spells of unemployment in between. A daughter, Ramabai, was born in 1913. Vittal Rao's fortunes continued to decline, and in 1917 he returned to Mangalore to join his father-in-law's business. This arrangement did not last long; in 1919, he started his own business of dyeing and printing sarees. This enterprise did not prosper either. By 1920, both his professional and personal lives had seriously deteriorated, and Vittal Rao became increasingly unhappy and frustrated. In his desperate state, he sought relief in the chanting of the syllable "Ram" considered sacred in India. Soon afterward, his father instructed him to repeat the longer Ram Mantra: "Sri Ram jai Ram jai jai Ram" and assured him that the constant chanting of this mantra would give him eternal happiness. Vittal Rao felt inspired to add "Om" to each repetition, and he began to chant the mantra "Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram" all through his waking hours. He was also deeply influenced by the teachings of Sri Krishna, Jesus Christ, the Buddha, and Mahatma Gandhi, and frequently turned for spiritual guidance to The Bhagavad Gita, The New Testament, The Light of Asia (Edwin Arnold's poetic retelling of the Buddha's life and teachings), and Gandhi's books Young India and Ethical Religion.
Renunciation and the quest for God: 1922-23
Vittal Rao soon lost all interest in the material world. He left home on the night of 27 December 1922 after writing a farewell letter to his wife. At Srirangam, on the banks of the river Kaveri, he adopted sanyas by giving himself the ochre robes of a renunciate. He changed his name to 'Ramdas' and made three vows: to dedicate his life to Sri Ram, to observe strict celibacy, and to live only upon food that was freely offered to him as alms. His practice was to view the world as forms of Ram – and thus to see everything that might befall him as the will of Ram. Ramdas was known for always referring to himself in the third person, which is a common spiritual practice in Hinduism.
After visiting various centres of Hindu pilgrimage in Tamil Nadu including Rameswaram, Madurai and Chidambaram, Swami Ramdas arrived in Tiruvannamalai. Here he met and received the blessings of the young saint already famous as Sri Ramana Maharshi. As a result of this momentous encounter, he went into his first retreat, living for 21 days in solitude in a cave in Arunachala. It was here that he had his first full experience of Ram, or God, as a presence that permeated everything. For him, from this point, "All was Ram, nothing but Ram."
Swami Ramdas spent the following months visiting centres of pilgrimage all over India, including Puri, Dakshineswar, Kashi, the Himalayan shrines, Madhura, and Brindavan; in all these places he was fed, clothed and guided by complete strangers. After paying his respects at the Muslim shrine of Ajmer Sharif, he moved southwards, visiting Dwaraka and Pandharpur. He then went further south to visit Sri Siddharudha Swami at Hubli. It was here, in 1923, that his family finally tracked him down. His wife and daughter arrived in Hubli and on Siddharudha Swami's advice, Swami Ramdas returned with Rukmabai and his daughter to Mangalore. But instead of going home with them, he immediately went to the nearby Kadri Hills and started living in a cave called the Panch Pandav Cave. He continued his spiritual practices here. It was also in this cave that he wrote his first book, In Quest of God.
Further travels: 1923-1928
In his book In the Vision of God, Swami Ramdas describes his spiritual state during his stay at the Panch Pandav cave:
For two years from the time of the significant change which had come over him, Ramdas had been prepared to enter into the very depths of his being for the realization of the immutable, calm and eternal spirit of God. Here he had to transcend name, form, thought and will--every feeling of the heart and faculty of the mind. The world had then appeared to him as a dim shadow--a dreamy nothing. The vision then was mainly internal. It was only for the glory of the Atman in His pristine purity, peace and joy as an all-pervading, immanent, static, immortal and glowing spirit. ... [T]hen a still exalted state came on; his hitherto inner vision projected outward. ...He would feel as if his very soul had expanded like the blossoming of a flower and, by a flash as it were, enveloped the whole universe embracing all in a subtle halo of love and light. This experience granted him a bliss infinitely greater than he had in the previous state. Now it was that Ramdas began to cry out "Ram is all, it is He as everybody and everything." ... With this externalized vision started Ramdas's mission. Its fullness and magnificence was revealed to him during his stay in the Kadri cave, and here the experience became more sustained and continuous.
Swami Ramdas soon left the cave to start another pilgrimage. The record of his further adventures all over India, published under the title In the Vision of God in 1935, is filled with colourful characters, some of them occasional fellow-travellers, most prominently a very spiritually-inclined but endearingly fallible young man named Madhav who adopted the name 'Ramcharandas' and insisted on joining Swami Ramdas in his travels. Ramcharandas weaves in and out of the narrative of In the Vision of God until he takes leave of Swami Ramdas for the last time in Srinagar, Kashmir. During this period, Swami Ramdas visited the Vasishtashram or the Vasishta Cave in the Himalayas, where he had a vision of Christ. He also began displaying the siddhis, or spiritual powers, that accompany enlightenment, and attracted large crowds wherever he went.
Anandashram, Kasargod: 1928-1931
After several years of wandering, Swami Ramdas settled down on 3 June 1928 in a small Ashram in Kasargod built for him by his devotees; it consisted of a single room and an open verandah. It was here that Krishnabai, his most important disciple, met him. A young widow desperate to find a Guru who would give her spiritual liberation, Krishnabai accepted the Ram mantra from Swami Ramdas and began her intense spiritual journey under his guidance. She began calling Swami Ramdas 'Papa' when she found that Swami Ramdas's daughter addressed him this way; later on, Swami Ramdas became 'Papa' to most of his devotees.
By the time a year had passed, Mother Krishnabai—as she would be later known—had left her two children and had become a permanent resident of the Ashram in order to complete her spiritual training. The presence of an attractive young woman in the Ashram of a renunciate subjected both Swami Ramdas and Mother Krishnabai to considerable public criticism; the Ashram also lost its initial popularity. Later, Mother Krishnabai would recall this period with wry humour: "When the ashram was started at Kasaragod, people were pouring in everyday, group after group for Bhajans and talks. They were spending hours together with Papa. But when I came to Papa, those people who were so much devoted to him, gradually stayed away and in a short time there used to be none there except Papa, myself and some crows."
Krishnabai, however, persevered, and quickly achieved the state of nirvikalpa samadhi that takes the practitioner beyond all mental concepts and images. Shortly afterwards, strangers entered the ashram at night and attempted to assault her. Though she was not seriously harmed, Swami Ramdas decided to abandon the Ashram that very night.
Anandashram, Kanhangad: 1931-1963
Go to Anandashram main article
A new ashram, also called 'Anandashram,' was established in Kanhangad by Swami Ramdas's devotees on 15 May 1931. This would be Swami Ramdas's main abode for the rest of his life. The Ashram continues its work of helping local people and spreading Swami Ramdas's message of universal love and service.
Around 1950, another ashram named 'Ramdas Ashram' was founded in Swami Ramdas's honour by Gunvantrai T. Kamdar in Bhavnagar, Gujarat. Until he stopped travelling due to poor health, Swami Ramdas spent a couple of months here every year; during the rest of the year, this Ashram hosted other famous saints.
In 1954, Swami Ramdas went on a world tour, visiting Europe, the United States, and East and South-East Asia. His book World Is God (1955) offers an account of this trip. World Is God forms the third and last instalment of Swami Ramdas's autobiography, the other two being In Quest of God (1925) and In the Vision of God (1935).
In World Is God, Swami Ramdas gives an eloquent description of his state at the time:
Ramdas’ life has no future, as it has transcended time and space. It has nothing new to achieve or attain. It is one with Cosmic Reality. Birth and death have nothing to do with it. Eternal stillness and eternal movement are its centre and circumference—the centre fixed in eternity and circumference encompassing infinity; boundless existence reduced to a point and a point expanded beyond all conceivable limitations. … Thus Ramdas’ life is resounding with the music of Eternity. Its sweet strain is never-ending. It is a divine symphony of sublime serenity, calmness and peace that is ineffable, harmonised with spontaneous activity embodying the spirit of Universal Love and Service. Waves and waves of Bliss rise from it to dance on the bosom of Satchidanand and lose themselves within itself. Its creation is destruction, its beginning its own end. A resonant Silence! That is Ramdas!
Ramdas died in 1963.
Swami Ramdas' well-known disciples include Mataji Krishnabai, Swami Satchidananda, Swami Muktananda, and Yogi Ramsuratkumar. He also profoundly influenced many other spiritual seekers including the musician and writer Dilip Kumar Roy, the American mystic Mildred Hamilton, Maurice Frydman aka Swami Bharatananda, and Swami Chidananda Saraswati of the Divine Life Society.
Swami Ramdas did not discriminate between religions. He writes: "Ramdas does not belong to any particular creed. He firmly believes that all creeds, faiths and religions are different paths which ultimately converge to the same goal. The very sight of a Muhammadan reminds him of Muhammad; of a Christian, Jesus Christ; of a Hindu, Rama, Krishna or Shiva; and of a Buddhist, Buddha; of a Parsee, Zoroaster. All the great teachers of the world are from one God--the first eternal cause of all existence. Whether it be in the Gita or the Bible or the Koran or the Zend Avesta, we find the same note insistently ringing, viz., self-surrender is the supreme way to liberation or salvation."
On "Sri Ram"
When asked if the 'Sri Ram' that he constantly referred to was different from Sri Ram, the son of Dasaratha and the Avatar described in the Ramayana, Swami Ramdas replied: "Ramdas will answer you in Kabir’s words. He was also put the same question. He said, ‘My Ram is the great Truth, Impersonal, dwelling in the hearts of all beings and creatures in the universe. My Ram is the all-pervading, immanent and all-transcendent Reality. My Ram has assumed the forms of all beings and things and my Ram is Dasaratha’s son also. My Ram is the all-inclusive and all-transcendent Supreme Godhead.’”
On Ashrams and Institutions
Swami Ramdas believed that all spiritual norms and institutions were useful only up to a point. He says: “When the false conventions and ostentatious observations are broken through, the soul is liberated. For realizing the Truth no external paraphernalia is necessary. No garb, no sign, no cult and no creed can help you. The day will come when you have to leave all these behind, and go to meet the Eternal in the perfect nakedness of your Spirit, shedding all make-believe forms, customs and traditions. Simplicity, spontaneity and humility become the guiding principles of your life. You move freely with all. You love all alike. You break the boundaries set by the calculating human mind. You soar like a free bird in the infinite expanse of the spiritual firmament. You look upon all beings and creatures as the embodiment of the one divine all-pervading Spirit. Temples, Ashrams, mosques, churches, synagogues, Viharas, etc., cannot imprison your soul. You find your soul’s delight and joy in all places—in the best as well as the worst.”
A selected list of books authored by Swami Ramdas:
- In Quest of God (1925)
- At the Feet of God (1928)
- Krishna Bai (1932)
- Gita Sandesh: Message of the Gita (c. 1933; the link is to the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan edition of 1966)
- The Divine Life (1934)
- In the Vision of God (1935)
- Glimpses of Divine Vision (1944)
- Letters of Swami Ramdas (2 Volumes, 1946)
- World Is God (1955)
- Hints to Aspirants (1959)
- Stories as Told by Swami Ramdas (1961)
- God Experience (2 Volumes, 1975)
People do not know what the Name of God can do. Those who repeat it constantly alone know its power. It can purify our mind completely... The Name can take us to the summit of spiritual experience.— Swami Ramdas
Place yourself as an instrument in the hands of God who does his own work in his own way.— Swami Ramdas
Just as a flower gives out its fragrance to whomsoever approaches or uses it, so love from within us radiates towards everybody and manifests as spontaneous service.— Swami Ramdas
- Nama sankeerthanam
- Ramana Maharshi
- Bhagawan Nityananda
- Neem Karoli Baba
- Anandamayi Ma
- Haidakhan Babaji
- Jiddu Krishnamurti
- Nisargadatta Maharaj
- page xiii in: Swami Satchidananda (1979). The Gospel of Swami Ramdas. Published for Anandashram by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. OCLC 7173794
- Chandrashekar (1999). Passage to Divinity: The Early Life of Swami Ramdas (5th ed.). Anandashram. p. 63. ISBN 978-81-938386-7-9.
- Chandrashekar (1999). Passage to Divinity: The Early Life of Swami Ramdas (5th ed.). Anandashram. p. 8,65–66. ISBN 978-81-938386-7-9.
- Chandrashekar (1999). Passage to Divinity: The Early Life of Swami Ramdas (5th ed.). Anandashram. pp. 67–73. ISBN 978-81-938386-7-9.
- Chandrashekar (1999). Passage to Divinity: The Early Life of Swami Ramdas (5th ed.). Anandashram. p. 75. ISBN 978-81-938386-7-9.
- Chandrashekar (1999). Passage to Divinity: The Early Life of Swami Ramdas (5th ed.). Anandashram. pp. 77–83. ISBN 978-81-938386-7-9.
- Chandrashekar (1999). Passage to Divinity: The Early Life of Swami Ramdas (5th ed.). Anandashram. p. 82. ISBN 978-81-938386-7-9.
- Chandrashekar (1999). Passage to Divinity: The Early Life of Swami Ramdas (5th ed.). Anandashram. pp. 86–88, 93. ISBN 978-81-938386-7-9.
- Ramdas, Swami (1925). In Quest of God (18th ed.). Anandashram. pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-81-938386-0-0.
- Chandrashekar (1999). Passage to Divinity: The Early Life of Swami Ramdas (5th ed.). Anandashram. p. 111. ISBN 978-81-938386-7-9.
- Ramdas, Swami (1925). In Quest of God (18th ed.). Anandashram. p. 9. ISBN 978-81-938386-0-0.
- Susunaga Weeraperuma. "The Life of Swami Ramdas" (PDF). Retrieved 16 April 2020.
-  The Mountain Path
- Ramdas, Swami (1925). In Quest of God (18th ed.). Anandashram. pp. 169–72. ISBN 978-81-938386-0-0.
- Ramdas, Swami (1935). In the Vision of God (8th ed.). Anandashram. p. 8. ISBN 978-81-938386-2-4.
- Ramdas, Swami (1935). In the Vision of God (8th ed.). Anandashram. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-81-938386-2-4.
- Ramdas, Swami (1935). In the Vision of God (8th ed.). Anandashram. p. 336. ISBN 978-81-938386-2-4.
- Ramdas, Swami (1935). In the Vision of God (8th ed.). Anandashram. p. 252. ISBN 978-81-938386-2-4.
- Ramdas, Swami (1935). In the Vision of God (8th ed.). Anandashram. p. 18,84,119,314. ISBN 978-81-938386-2-4.
- Krishnabai, Mother (1964). Guru's Grace. p. 29. ISBN 9780949971227.
- Satchidananda, Swami (1991). Vishwamātā Krishnābāi: Some Glimpses. Anandashram. p. 4. ISBN 978-93-88315-27-2.
- Satchidananda, Swami (2006). The Gospel of Swami Ramdas, Volume II (3rd ed.). Anandashram. pp. 671–72. ISBN 978-93-88315-00-5.
- Krishnabai, Mother (1964). Guru's Grace. p. 76. ISBN 9780949971227.
- Krishnabai, Mother (1964). Guru's Grace. pp. 79–80. ISBN 9780949971227.
- Ramdas, Swami (1935). In the Vision of God (8th ed.). Anandashram. pp. 431–435. ISBN 978-81-938386-2-4.
- Ramdas, Swami (1935). In the Vision of God (8th ed.). Anandashram. pp. 438–449. ISBN 978-81-938386-2-4.
- Ramdas, Swami (1935). In the Vision of God (8th ed.). Anandashram. p. 456. ISBN 978-81-938386-2-4.
- Ramdas, Swami (1955). World Is God. Anandashram. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
- "Swami Ramdas, Mother Krishnabai, Sw Satchidananda World Tour". YouTube. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
- Ramdas, Swami (1955). World Is God (1st ed.). Anandashram. p. xi-xii. ISBN 978-81-938386-3-1.
- "Sri Ram Surat Kumar". Retrieved 26 January 2022.
- Patel, Amruta Paresh (2002). Lover of Light Among Luminaries: Dilip Kumar Roy. Ahmedabad: L D Indology. p. 132. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
- Hamilton, Mildred (2018). My Blessed Papa: Letters to Swami Ramdas from Mother Hamilton, 1954-1960 (PDF). The Cross and The Lotus. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
- Pant, Apa B. (June 1991). ""An Early Devotee: Maurice Frydman"" (PDF). The Mountain Path. 28 (1–2): 35.
- Chidananda, Swami. "Autobiography of Swami Chidananda". The Divine Life Society. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
- Ramdas, Swami (1935). In the Vision of God (8th ed.). Anandashram. p. 7. ISBN 978-81-938386-2-4.
- Satchidananda, Swami (2006). The Gospel of Swami Ramdas, Volume I (3rd ed.). Anandashram. p. 449. ISBN 978-93-88315-00-5.
- Ramdas, Swami (1959). Hints to Aspirants (5th ed.). Anandashram. p. 55. ISBN 978-93-88315-26-5.
- Ramdas, Swami. The Essential Swami Ramdas, World Wisdom, 2005.
- The Tribune, Reflections
- The Times of India, SACRED SPACE: Caring and Sharing
- Homepage of Anandashram
- My beloved Papa, Swami Ramdas - Swami Satchidananda
- Biography of Swami (Papa) Ramdas - Hinduismwayoflife.com
- Video and Audio Clips
- Footage of Swami Ramdas and Mother Krishnabai from Arnaud Desjardins' documentary Ashrams
- Account of Swami Ramdas's Meeting with Sri Anandamayi Ma
- Swami Chidandanda Saraswati's autobiography containing a description of his relationship with Swami Ramdas