Swami Rama Tirtha, previously known as Gossain Tirtha Rama, was born in 1873, at Murariwala, a village in the district of Gujranwala, Punjab, India. His mother passed away when he was but a few days old and he was brought up by his elder brother, Gossain Gurudas.
As a child, Rama was very fond of listening to recitations from the holy scriptures and attending Kathas. He often put questions to holy men and even offered explanations. He was very intelligent and loved solitude.
Rama was barely ten years old when his father got him married. His father left him under the care of his friend, Bhakta Dhana Rama, a man of great purity and simplicity of life. Rama regarded him as his Guru, and offered to him his body and soul in deep devotion. His surrender to his Guru was so complete that he never did anything without first consulting him. He wrote numerous loving letters to him.
Rama was a brilliant student, especially in mathematics. After completing his degree, he served for a while as Professor of Mathematics in the Forman Christian College. It was at this stage that his spiritual life began to blossom. He began to read the Gita and became a great devotee of Lord Krishna. His intense longing gave him a vision of Sri Krishna. He used to deliver lectures on Bhakti under the auspices of the Sanatana Dharma Sabha of Lahore.
Rama Tirtha commenced his spiritual life as a Bhakta of God and then turned to Vedanta, studying under the inspiration of Sri Madhava Tirtha of the Dwaraka Math.
A great impetus was given to his spiritual life by Swami Vivekananda, whom he saw for the first time at Lahore. The sight of the great Swami as a Sannyasin kindled in him the longing to don the ochre robe.
His passion for the vision of the all-pervading Lord began to grow more and more. He longed and pined for oneness with God. Indifferent to food and clothes, he was always filled with ecstatic joy. Tears would often flow in a limpid stream down his cheeks. It was not long before he had the vision he yearned for, and thereafter he lived, moved and had his being in God.
Swami Rama was a living Vedantin. He saw and felt God in all names and forms. His beautiful words are often addressed to the trees, rivers and mountains.
Rama soon resigned his post and left for the forest. His wife and two children and a few others accompanied him to the Himalayas. Owing to ill-health, his wife later returned with one of her sons. The other was left at Tehri for his schooling there.
Rama Tirtha took Sannyas a few days before the passing of Swami Vivekananda. Swami Madhava Tirtha had already allowed him to take Sannyas whenever he wished.
A few years later he returned to the plains to preach. The effect of his presence was marvellous. His infectious joy and his bird-like warbling of Om enchanted everyone.
Swami Rama's burning desire to spread the message of Vedanta made him leave the shores of India for Japan. He went with his disciple Swami Narayana. After a successful visit to Tokyo, he departed for the U.S.A. He spent about a year and a half in San Francisco under the hospitality of Dr Albert Hiller. He gained a large following and started many societies, one of them being the Hermetic Brotherhood, dedicated to the study of Vedanta. His charming personality had a great impact on the Americans. Devout Americans even looked upon him as the living Christ
On his return to India, Swami Rama continued to lecture in the plains, but his health began to break down. He went back to the Himalayas and settled at Vasishtha Ashram. He gave up his body in the Ganges on 17 October, 1906, when he was only thirty-three.
The Rama Tirtha Publication League has brought out most of the writings of this great saint of India. They are given in several volumes, entitled, In the Woods of God-realisation. His inspiring writings show us that he saw his Beloved Lord in all names and forms. In many of his poems he sings the glory of nature.