Dandi Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
(Swami, Swamiji, Swami J, Baba)
(Swami, Swamiji, Swami J, Baba)
I was born in 1948 in Ohio, USA, spent most of my youth in Florida, and lived in seven other states in my worldly, pre-monastic life. My education included a BS in Management from Florida State University and an MA in Consciousness Studies, emphasizing Transpersonal Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, in California. My working life before monastic life focused on the business world and counseling.
Spontaneously practicing meditation and other yogic practices from early childhood, I have been a student of our meditation tradition since 1986 when initiated in meditation by Swami Rama (10 years to the day prior to Swami Rama leaving the body). Several months later I met Pandit Usharbudh Arya, through whom supplemental training was lovingly given from time to time during the next few years. I was given novice monastic initiation in 1990, was ordained as a monk (swami) of our Himalayan tradition and the order of Shankaracharya in 1993 by Swami Rama, in the non-ceremonious style, along with traditional imparting of mahavakya, contemplative mantra. . I was given one of the highest yogic initiations of direct experience in 1996 (piercing the bindu), with final teachings and instructions given by Swami Rama shortly before he left the body in November, 1996.
In 1994 Swami Rama asked me to move to, and remain in his Rishikesh, India ashram, saying it should be home for intensified practices and teaching. He asked me to set up residential training programs, and to facilitate meditation retreats. I did this until the year 2000, after which I returned to US, and established residence and an ashram in Florida. For several years I returned to India every March and November to facilitate retreat programs at the Rishikesh ashram. My last retreat there was in 2012.
In 1998 and 1999 I received training, practices and grace from the venerated sage Naga Swami Hanuman Giri at the cave hermitages in the high Himalayas beyond Badrinath and Mana (He left the body in 2002). In 2000, the sage Vratti Baba of Kalimath, Himalayas passed on his initiatory transmissions at the time of his dropping the body (Vratti Baba was a long time friend and spiritual brother of Swami Rama). A couple years later I was invited to be initiated as Mahamandaleshwar, said to be one of the highest leadership posts within some of the swami orders. The invitation was respectfully declined so as to remain focused on the service work at hand.
Initiation as Dandi Swami (a most honorific initiation in the Shankara tradition, in which a danda, or staff is bestowed) was given at the bank of the Ganges at Haridwar, India in 1999. The Danda (staff) was passed by Acharya Dandi Swami Indradev Ashram, a most revered acharya (teacher) of dandi swamis, along with three other dandi swamis. At age four, there was memory of the danda, and although it was sought, it was neither clearly understood yet, nor found, as there was no cultural context for this in America. I first saw a painting of the eighth century Adi Shankaracharya holding a danda many years later, and immediately recognized it as the type of staff being sought in early childhood. In late 1995, Swami Rama had said he would "arrange" this diksha, which has rarely been given to a non-Indian. In the true mysterious ways of the masters, this diksha came almost three years after Swami Rama left the body, and over forty-five years after the first childhood memory and seeking of the danda.
With all my heart, I cannot declare myself to be of one religion to the exclusion of the people of others. With all my heart, I cannot exclude anyone from the wholeness of that absolute reality called truth, divine, god, God or the many other names that declare the nondual one without a second.
If one day I say I am a Buddhist, the next a Christian, the next a Hindu, the next a Jew, the next a Muslim, and the next something else, has the "I" actually changed, or only the opinions of the mind? Who am I? That cannot be answered with a mere opinion of mind. It can only be experienced in the stillness and silence of direct experience, wherein these divisions evaporate.
"Ekam sat, viprah bahudha vadanti"
"There is a single Truth but
the wise call it by different names."
Rig-Veda 3000+ BCE
I embrace all peoples, philosophies, religions, and psychologies, while each unique, as emerging from the same, one Absolute Reality, Brahman, or God, which is also called by many other names. My personal views are eclectic, nonsectarian, and omnidenominational. I was never initiated into, nor did I ever join any particular religion (during childhood the decisions about religion were left by parents for my own later choice), and my renunciation as a swami was one of setting aside exclusive identity so as to embrace the whole. While embracing all, my personal leanings are towards the self-awareness and Self-Realization teachings and practices of the Upanishads and the Yoga Sutras, as well as the internal (antar) meditation practices of Samaya Tantra and Sri Vidya, all of which are outpourings of sanatana dharma, the never beginning nor ending way. Following the tradition of Swami Rama, no rituals are performed or promoted, and the practices of contemplation and meditation are internal, and non-sectarian.
While Swami Rama named no single successor of the lineage (although some manage institutions), I am one of those whom Swami Rama empowered as a conduit of the teachings of this over 5,000 year old tradition. Deeply inspired by the goal of providing the ancient wisdom and practices in what Swami Rama has called the "simplest manner possible," I give my best effort to share with others the practical aspects of meditation and contemplation, as expressed in Yoga Sutras, Vedanta, and internal Tantra, collectively emphasizing Antar/Inner Yoga, which permeates them all.
Our tradition is a shakti tradition and the bestowing of shakti (shaktipata) occurs along the way in the journey of sadhana, especially as it removes the final barrier leading to the realization of the Self/Atman. Although Swami Rama left no single successor and no single possessor of shakti, that shaktipata by (and of) the tradition operates through a wide variety of us. It is grace of formless guru that determines when and under what circumstances that gift of grace comes.
Here is a longer bio (54 pages) if you are curious to know a little more of my life. I entitled it "Witness Everything: My Life with Swami Rama," recalling the profound advice Swami Rama gave me one day when we were walking together, to " Witness everything!"