The transmission of an abiding state of liberation, of spiritual realization beyond identification as a separate being, is an aspect of all spiritual traditions. It is a non-linear process in which those whose longing for spiritual truth is ripening, coincidentally find themselves drawn to the company of a Master or to a circumstance that creates the conditions for the rarity of conscious awakening to our true condition. A Master (living or deceased) may be distinguished from a teacher in that he or she offers a transformative Influence, beyond spiritual wisdom, based on surrender to the movement of life or Reality. Such Masters arise through Grace (Divine favor) and not through any self-will based in ego, and they live to serve the creation and the process which takes us beyond self-meditation. The form of the Work and the human expression of such Masters differ dramatically during their lives, even among those in the same lineage; but the Law of Sacrifice (the universal principle in which everything is “food” for something else) that they embody is the same and is consciously lived in relationship to whatever need presents itself. Papa Ramdas was forever changed through the repetition of the Divine Name. Yogi Ramsuratkumar, who lived the life of a beggar, once commented that on one of his trips to see Ramdas, “…this beggar first understood the great Master Ramdas is this beggar’s Father.” Lee Lozowick said that he had been helped by Yogi Ramsuratkumar long before he met him in the body, and that he recognized that he had been drawn to him lifetime after lifetime. At some point in Lee’s own teaching, he began to refer to Yogi Ramsuratkumar as his spiritual Father. He also called the work that he communicated to his students the Western Baul path—given the similarity in essence with the practice of the Bauls of India, despite cultural differences. In addition to praising these Masters whose Work has served and impacted so many spiritual aspirants in the East and West, we hope that bringing attention to this lineage and to the Western Baul path will provide inspiration for others with the need to go deeper into the mystery and essence of traditional spirituality.
Papa Ramdas (1884-1963)
“Ramdas advises you all to keep God’s name and God-remembrance always with you with the sole object of realizing this goal of perfect union with and absorption in Him.”
Sri Swami (Papa) Ramdas, whose given name was Vittal Rao, was born in the state of Kerala, India on Thursday, April 10, 1884. It happened to be a day of the full moon, and the Hanuman Jayanthi—the birthday of Hanuman, the legendary devotee of Sri Rama. From an early age, it was the lighter rather than the serious side of whatever situation he was in which appealed to his natural sense of humor. He had a talent for art, immersed himself in drama for a time, and went to school for textile manufacturing. The death of a close friend had a deep impact on him. Vittal Rao struggled in business but would often lose himself in blissful states at the house of his brother when bhajans (devotional songs) were sung before an image of Sri Krishna. His father came to him one day and initiated him into use of the mantra Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram. He felt compelled to embark on a pilgrimage throughout India in 1922-23, which is described in the book In Quest of God. Leaving Mangalore with 25 rupees and a few books including the Bhagavad-Gita and the New Testament, he did not know where he would be led by the Divine. In Srirangam, he felt the blessing of his chosen deity, Ram, to take the name Ramdas (servant of Ram). A sadhu took him to have the darshan of the great saint Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai at the foot of Mount Arunachala. Ramdas addressed the Maharshi in English, asked for his blessing, and was filled with peace and joy as the saint gazed upon him. He then desired solitude and spent twenty days in a cave on Mount Arunachala. During this time, he became intoxicated with the Divine. He felt drawn to clasp trees in his arms in the vicinity of the cave and on one occasion startled a man he ran up to outside the cave by locking the man in a fast embrace. Ramdas felt that Ram attracted him from all directions. He then traveled throughout India in a state in which he saw everyone and everything as Ram. If a ticket inspector told him to disembark from a train due to not having a ticket, it was Ram’s will. When asked about the point of his travel since Ram is everywhere, he responded: “God is everywhere but wants to have this fact actually proved by going to all places and realizing his presence everywhere.” Love was the culmination of the path and Ramdas was imbued with it wherever he went. Help came to him in the form of everyone and everything, with people offering food and shelter on his journey. When he did not have these things, it was Ram’s blessings. Doors opened for him, and in Calcutta he met a sadhu who asked if he wanted to see places connected with the life of the great saint Ramakrishna in Dakshineswar. A room where Ramakrishna had stayed was unlocked for Ramdas, who felt the joy of the Influence that permeated the room. Up in the Himalayas, Ramdas experienced all things as an expression of Ram—both Hindu and Moslem shrines, the enchanting mountain paths, walking barefoot in the snow. He then spent over three months in a cave in Kadri before wandering India again as a mendicant, and a large number of spiritual aspirants were attracted to him. After a few years, Ramdas started a small ashram in Kasaragod, where Mother Krishnabai—who was considered his divine female counterpart—first had contact with him. Anandashram in Kanhangad was created around Swami Ramdas in 1931. Ardent requests for visits from devotees who were unable to visit the ashram were the impetus for tours he made through India in 1936, 1937, 1938, and 1949, described in the book Call of the Devotee. Ramdas visited many places in India at the invitation of devotees and, wherever he went, bhajans with the chanting of God’s Name were the main feature. In 1954, he undertook a tour around the world with Mother Krishnabai, and many people from Europe, America, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Ceylon had the opportunity to meet him. Papa Ramdas, as he was sometimes known, was always bubbling with joy. His realization was that the entire universe is the form of God, and his oneness with the Supreme Being was naturally coincident with the state of absolute surrender to the Will of God. Papa Ramdas entered mahasamadhi (consciously leaving the body in the condition of non-duality) on July 25, 1963.
Yogi Ramsuratkumar (1918-2001)
“My Father alone exists. There is nothing else, nobody else—past, present, future--here, there, everywhere! Anywhere. There’s nothing else, nobody else. My Father alone!”
Along the banks of the Ganges is the sacred city of Varanasi, a living repository of India’s spiritual culture and for centuries a haven for saints and sages. On December 1, 1918, in a north Indian village near to Varanasi, the boy who would become known as Yogi Ramsuratkumar was born. He had an extraordinary devotion for the Ganges and loved playing on its banks. He was drawn to the many saints and sadhus residing nearby, and he listened with rapt attention to the tales and legends they narrated. At age sixteen, impelled by a strong urge to seek God, the boy named Ramsurat left home without thought of food or money. Entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Kasi Viswanath Temple in Varanasi, he became absorbed in the blissful presence of the Divine and was gone from his home for a week. He returned to his life, completed higher education, and became a school teacher, but his spiritual need intensified to the point that he began to search for a Guru who could guide him to the fruition of the path. He began his journey to south India in November, 1947, and went to the ashram of Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry, where a disciple suggested that he also visit the ashram of another great saint, Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai. A newspaper clipping shown to him by a disciple of Ramana directed him to Papa Ramdas at Anandashram in the state of Kerala. Ramsurat returned home and then made a second trip to see the great saints. While sitting in meditation and feeling the powerful, loving gaze of Ramana Maharshi, he experienced transcendence of the limitations of the body. After returning to north India, he continued his search by wandering through the Himalayas, where he learned about the deaths of Ramana Maharshi and Sri Aurobindo. Ramsurat then made a third trip to south India, during which he recognized Papa Ramdas as his spiritual Father. He was unexpectedly drawn to Ramdas, who seemed to know a number of intimate things about his life and mission that no one else knew. Ramsurat asked Papa Ramdas to be initiated, and Ramdas pronounced the mantra Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram three times in his ear and told him to repeat the mantra twenty-four hours a day. (Ramdas added “Om” to the beginning of the mantra he was given by his father.) After seven days, Yogi Ramsuratkumar was raised to the heights of divine ecstasy. He wandered the hills around Anandashram singing the praises of God in total joy and abandon. He wanted to stay with Papa Ramdas, but Ramdas refused to allow this. When Ramdas asked where he would go, Yogi Ramsuratkumar was inspired to reply, “To Arunachala.” He departed from his Master’s ashram in 1952, wandered India for seven years, and finally settled in Tiruvannamalai at the foot of Mount Arunachala in 1959. Yogi Ramsuratkumar lived in the streets as a beggar, as a “hidden saint” who could not always be located, blessing all who found him while holding a palmyra fan and coconut bowl. His radiance was gradually recognized as more and more devotees began to seek out his presence. But he also was the target of hostility and was beaten at times by ruffians who harbored resentment toward northern Indians in a heated political climate. Yogi Ramsuratkumar’s response was to bear suffering and continue with Father’s Work. After decades as a beggar living on the street, he accepted residence in a house which was bought for him on Sannadhi Street, just opposite a brass market, in 1977. In the early 1990s, he moved into Sudama House and began to refer to Ma Devaki, a woman devotee who along with three others was constantly in his presence, as his “Eternal Slave.” Construction of an ashram began and was inaugurated in 1994. Yogi Ramsuratkumar came to be widely known as the “Godchild of Tiruvannamalai” in recognition of his divine state, childlike innocence, infectious laughter, and ecstatic worship of “Father in Heaven.” The repetition and chanting of his Name is considered to be a way of remembering, praising, and opening to the help of the Divine. Yogi Ramsuratkumar continued blessing all those who came to see him until his last breath in taking mahasamadhi shortly after 3:00 a.m. on February 20, 2001.
Lee Lozowick (1943-2010)
“There is only God. There is nothing outside of God, there is nothing inside of God, there is no relationship that takes place in terms of God. There is only God.”
Lee Lozowick was born in New Jersey, in suburban America, which generally tends to regard mystical spiritual tradition as foreign or cultish. His father Louis was an artist, a master lithographer of the twentieth century who knew many of the great artists of his era. Adele, his mother, was a vibrant woman of intelligence and character. Lee’s early life was ordinary in many respects. He went to graduate school, got into the stamp business, and attended a lecture on psychic development as a young man in 1970. He immediately became involved with the Silva Method and soon became a state director. He immersed himself in a passionate experiential study of the potentialities of mind, and naturally came to encounter information about traditional spiritual teaching and transformation. Lee went to sit with teachers and to open to the vast array of teaching that came through the New York spiritual scene. He frequented meetings with the American mystic, Hilda Charlton, who he first met in 1971 or 1972. Lee’s need to “live God”—to be surrendered to the Divine Process—became very focused and internal as he fell asleep chanting the Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram mantra one night in July 1975. When he woke up the next morning everything was different—there had been a shift in context from self-reference to God-reference. A community spontaneously began to form around him. Lee decided to make a pilgrimage to India with a few students, and probably first heard the name Yogi Ramsuratkumar during a visit to see Hilda, who recommended places and Masters that Lee might visit. Lee’s encounters with Yogi Ramsuratkumar on India trips in 1977 and 1979 were notable for the magical, synchronous events which seemed to point him toward the Beggar Saint. In 1980, he moved across country from New Jersey to Arizona to establish an ashram with a small group of students. Unknown to anyone, he began to write poetry to Yogi Ramsuratkumar and at one point in the early 1980s recognized that the Indian Master was actually his teacher before he had ever met him. Lee drew freely from different spiritual sources and developed connections with teachers of many traditions. In 1985 he said that, if anyone asked about his community, “Tell them we’re Bauls” because of the resonance he instinctively had with the Eastern Baul path. Another trip to India in 1986 was remarkable in that, after the extraordinary interactions that had occurred on previous trips and the poetry that Lee had been sending, Yogi Ramsuratkumar only saw him briefly and then sent him away. Lee said that he did not think he would return to India if his Master did not want to see him but continued sending poetry to his spiritual Father. In 1988, he unexpectedly received an invitation to a celebration in India for Yogi Ramsuratkumar and immediately knew he should attend. Upon arrival at the site in Nagercoil, he was greeted with a banner that welcomed him as the “Spiritual Master of the West” and “Divine Effulgent Flame of Yogi Ramsuratkumar.” Lee subsequently visited Yogi Ramsuratkumar in 1989, 1991, and then every year from 1993 through his Master’s death in 2001. He began to teach in Europe in the late 1980s and established an ashram in France and one in India. In the spirit of the Baul practice of expressing the teaching through song, he wrote hundreds of lyrics which were put to music by students and performed by rock and blues bands that he created and sometimes performed in. He also wrote two rock operas that were staged by the Baul Theater Company that he initiated. Lee worked with students very directly; he incorporated aspects of other traditions including Gurdjieffian “work on self” into his teaching in the eclectic way that Bauls employ whatever is useful in their practice. About the time of Yogi Ramsuratkumar’s death in 2001, Lee began to collect and deal in sacred statuary and paintings—mostly Asian and antique. He became passionate about the value of owning and experiencing the presence and power of sacred artifacts as an aspect of his teaching. Lee worked for Yogi Ramsuratkumar until his last breath, after having written over 1,300 poems to his Master, passing from this realm in mahasamadhi on November 16, 2010.