Thursday, July 22, 2010


Swami Bua passed early this morning in India.

The NYC-based yogi was approximately 120 years old.

He came to the U.S. in the 1970s with the help of the Shah of Iran after Swami Bua had cured him of an illness, and he had been teaching in NYC's Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood ever since.

He is a household name to Windy City yogis who started practicing in the seventies, since he used to come to the international yoga congresses in Chicago that were arranged by Swami Rama of the Himalayan Institute (that was back when Swami Bua was in his 80s).

Unlike most of today’s yoga teachers, Swami Bua--the founder of the Indo-American Yoga-Vedanta Society in New York-- never asked a fee for classes and ate “only what is offered, fasting if nothing comes.” He never went on the record about his age.

A 2005 Men’s Health article asked him --“The world’s oldest man”--about various things, including:

-Karma (it’s real)

-The most painful way to die (suicide), and

-Why every single woman on Earth loves the movie Grease (“A man and woman must have companions. If you don’t have companions, it is a sin.”)

Swami Bua was a great friend of Sri Dharma Mittra and a true yogi. Dharma liked to quote him: "When you eat the animals, the stomach becomes a graveyard." He was also a teacher of Chandra Om, and the one who sent her to Sri Dharma.

During his long life, he met Swami Sivananada (in 1930), Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranatha Tagore, Theosophist Annie Besant and Subramuniyaswami's guru, Siva Yogaswami of Jaffna, Sri Lanka.

"No special practice is necessary for God Realization," he told us. I see God everywhere. If God is not there, how do so many things happen?" "My contention is that sickness is sin," Swami went on. "Don't kill other animals, don't make the belly as a burial ground. I teach hatha yoga, but I don't subscribe to the idea that hatha yoga is a physical gymnastic exercise. 'Restraint of the modifications of the mind' [according to Patanjali] is yoga. Altogether there are eight limbs. Yama, moral restraints, is a step. When are you going to perfect your Yama? How many lives is it going to take? When are you going to perfect your Niyama, spiritual observances? When are you going to perfect your Pratyahara, drawing in the forces of the mind? It takes time. And so has Swami been direct and outspoken throughout his life, and well deserved to be named "Hindu of the Year" in 1998.

I had the good fortune to take a class with him in 2006. Read about it here.

Om Tryambakam Yajamahe
Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam
Urvarukamiva Bandhanan
Mrityor Mukshiya Maamritat

We Meditate on the Three-eyed reality
Which permeates and nourishes all like a fragrance.
May we be liberated from death for the sake of immortality,
Even as the cucumber is severed from bondage to the creeper.

Hear the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra here.

Legendary Chicago jazz deejay Dick Buckley – the resplendent voice of jazz in Chicago from the 1950s until 2008 – also passed this morning, at age 85. He had the best. voice. ever. (And I got to meet him, too - while on an informal tour of the then-new WBEZ Navy Pier Studios with then-buddy Ira Glass. He was there to do his show and was in the hallway trying to use the then-new copy machine, and talking to it in that deep, rich voice of his). More on Dick here and here.

Om Tryambakam Yajamahe
Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam
Urvarukamiva Bandhanan
Mrityor Mukshiya Maamritat


  1. Anonymous5:46 PM

    He was also a great friend and teacher to Chandra Om, another true yogi. She often seems forgotten but in time the magnitude of what she is doing will be recognized.

  2. I think about Chandra every day.

    Swami Bua is the one who sent her to Sri Dharma Mittra. I will add it to the post. Thank you for the reminder.

  3. dick buckly? oh no. he had the best jazz show :-(
    i never heard of swami bua. 120 is a long life.

  4. Gary in NYC8:28 AM

    His message was that important, that the forces of nature allowed him to live so long. He was a true master of yoga and peace. If only every person on the Earth could have met him...

  5. Anonymous11:47 AM

    Swami Bua... your great spirit has rippled out like a wave... and I continue to encounter the ripples over 30 years later... in this I am blessed.