About Swami Rama Tirtha

  • Know about the life and thoughts of Swami Rama Tirtha. Pranams.

Swami Rama Tirtha (1873- 1906) belonged to that genre of saints who became one with the Ultimate reality in his lifetime. His transparent purity, beatific smile, child-like simplicity and profound knowledge won him the admiration of his contemporaries both in India and abroad. He was compared to the sages of Upanishads, like Yajnavalkya, and hailed as ‘another Jesus Christ.’


Life and perceptions 

Born at Murariwala, a village in district Gujranwala (now in Pakistan), in an orthodox Brahmin family which traced its ancestry to Goswami Tulsidas, Swami Rama Tirtha underwent many hardships before becoming a professor of mathematics in the Forman Christian College, Lahore. He was well acquainted with European science, philosophy and literature, as also with mystical poetry in Persian and Urdu. His interest in spirituality took him to notable religious persons of his time, including Swami Vivekananda, whose inspiring lectures in Punjab motivated him to spend his life in spreading the message of Vedanta.


After renouncing his worldly ties, he meditated in the Himalayas, and subsequently visited Japan and the United States, winning acclaim for his public lectures, private talks and question-answer sessions. To him, the true gauge of success was not material prosperity but soul growth. He described modern civilisation as ‘sublimely stupid and beautifully dull’ since it was moving away from the Law of universal nature. He stressed the ideals of purity and self-control to gain inner freedom.


An ardent patriot, he identified himself with his motherland. ‘The land of India is my own body, the Comorin is my feet, the Himalayas is my head. From my hair flows the Ganga, from my head comes the Brahmaputra and the Indus; the Vindhyachals are grit around my loins; the Coromandel is my right and the Malabar my left leg. I am the whole of India, and its East and west are my arms and I spread them in a straight line to embrace humanity.’


Yet his patriotism was not narrow as he strictly adhered to the Vedic ideal of vasudhaiva kutumbakam-‘The world is one family.’


First published in Journal of Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan.


Mystical poems

Swami Rama Tirtha believed that his creative ability did not lie in his speeches which enthralled his listeners, but in the poems and articles he wrote in the solitude of the Himalayas. His poems reveal his creative genius and lofty ideals.


It stresses the divinity of human nature and oneness of mankind. ‘In one mirror there was one face. When the mirror was broken, the number of faces increased. Man is one.’ He saw his own self beaming in the whole universe. ‘I am all, nothing is other than me…I am in front and behind, above and below, manifest and hidden, lover and beloved, poet and poem, nightingale and rose.’


When someone asked, was he trying to assume the role of a prophet, he replied, that he did not need to do so, as he was god himself (aham bhramasmi). To realise one’s divinity one should shed one’s lower nature. ‘Let God always speak, think and act through you,’ he advised. Ceremonial worship was of little value to him. ‘Thou art all that truly exists in the idol. Thou pervade the flowers offered before it. How can I offer the Lord to the Lord? To bring the food would be an insult. How can I offer food to Him who feeds the universe?’


Vedanta and Harmony

Swami Rama Tirtha held that the true gauge of success in life was soul-growth. ‘To realise the truth is to become the master of the universe, and to entertain desires is to acknowledge bondage, thralldom and slavery of the things of this world.’


He considered the philosophy of Vedanta to be in harmony with the Law of evolution because it established ‘real integration through formal differentiation’ unlike dogmatic religions which aimed at uniformity of belief. ‘The whole world is I, my own flesh and blood.’ To hate the other is to hate oneself. So apply ‘the key of love’ to unlock the secrets of the heart, ‘martyr the ego’, and feel oneness with everyone around.


Let us kindle in us the message of Vedanta so ably explained by Swami Rama Tirtha. ‘O, what wonder of wonders! What joy! Bisect this body, cut this body, and I die not. The real self, the real me, the true I die not.... Realise, realise that you are the infinity within. Know that.’            


This article was first published in the Bhavan’s Journal, January 31, 2021 issue. This article is courtesy and copyri ght Bhavan’s Journal, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai-400007. eSamskriti has obtained permission from Bhavan’s Journal to share. Do subscribe to the Bhavan’s Journal – it is very good.


To read all articles by Dr Satish K Kapoor

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