Krishna Prem

Ronald Henry Nixon (10 May 1898 – 14 November 1965), later known as Sri Krishna Prem or Sri Krishnaprem, was a British spiritual aspirant who went to India in the early 20th century. Together with his spiritual teacher Sri Yashoda Mai (1882-1944), he founded an ashram at Mirtola, near Almora, India. He was one of the first Europeans to pursue orthodox Vaishnavite Hinduism. Remaining a strict Gaudiya Vaishnavite the rest of his life, he was highly regarded, and had many Indian disciples. (Correction: By all accounts, and especially by the account of his foremost disciple Sri Madhava Ashish, Krishna Prem transcended the dogmas and practices of his early Vaishnava sectarianism and affirmed a universal spiritual path shorn of "orthodoxy" and blind traditionalism.)[citation needed]

Sri Krishna Prem
Sri Krishna Prem.jpg
Ronald Henry Nixon

(1898-05-10)10 May 1898
Cheltenham, England
Died14 November 1965(1965-11-14) (aged 67)
Alma materKing's College, Cambridge
  • Spiritual teacher
  • Author

Early lifeEdit

Ronald Henry Nixon,[1]: 218  more commonly called Ronald Nixon, was born in Cheltenham, England, in 1898,[2] and educated in Taunton.[1] His mother was a Christian Scientist and his father was reportedly in the glass and china business.[1]: 218 

At age 18, Nixon became a British fighter pilot in the First World War:[1][3] he was commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant on probation on 10 May 1917,[4] was confirmed in his rank on 12 June,[5] and was appointed a flying officer in the Royal Flying Corps on 15 June.[6] On one occasion, he experienced an escape from death that he believed was miraculous, in which a "power beyond our ken" saved him from several enemy planes.[7] His experiences of death and destruction during the war filled him with a "sense of futility and meaninglessness".[1]: 218  He was transferred to the unemployed list of the Royal Air Force on 11 January 1919[8] and relinquished his temporary Army commission on 3 December that year.[9]

After the war, Nixon enrolled in King's College, Cambridge, where he studied English literature.[1] During this period Nixon also studied philosophy, and became acquainted with Theosophy, Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, Buddhism, and Pali, and developed an interest in going to India to learn more about the practical aspects of Indian religion.[1]: 218 [3]

Life in IndiaEdit

In 1921, while still in England, Nixon accepted the offer of a teaching position at the University of Lucknow, in northern India.[3] As it turned out, the university's vice-chancellor, Gyanendra Nath Chakravarti, was also spiritually inclined and interested in Theosophy, and offered Nixon assistance. Over time, Nixon came to regard Gyanendra's wife, Monica Devi Chakravarti, as his spiritual teacher. In 1928, Monika took vows of renunciation in the Gaudiya Vaishnavite tradition, where these vows are called vairagya.[2] She adopted the monastic name of Sri Yashoda Mai. Soon thereafter, she initiated Nixon into vairagya, and he adopted Krishna Prem as his monastic name.[2]

In 1930, Sri Yashoda Mai and Krishna Prem together founded an ashram at Mirtola, near Almora, in mountainous north-central India (state of Uttarakhand). The ashram "began and has continued to be"[2] aligned with strict orthodox Vaishnavism. In 1944, Yashoda Ma died and Krishna Prem succeeded her as head of the ashram.[2] He travelled little, but in 1948 he visited South India, meeting Sri Ramana Maharshi, as well as Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa ("The Mother").[2] Sardella states that Nixon appears to have been "the first European to embrace Vaishnavism in India".[10]: 143  Haberman states that Nixon "was perhaps the first Westerner to tread the path of Krishna-bhakti, and was certainly the first to have any official affiliation with the Gaudiya Vaishnavism of Braj."[1]: 223 

Krishna Prem, despite his English origins, became widely accepted and admired in the Indian Hindu community. Brooks wrote that "Krishna Prem's evident intellectual and inspirational qualities gained him wide fame and many disciples in India, as reflected in numerous books on his life and teachings."[3]: 100 Gertrude Emerson Sen wrote that "I know of no other person like Krishnaprem, himself 'foreign' to begin with, who has drawn so many Indians to himself".[1]: 220  His biographer Dilip Kumar Roy wrote that Krishnaprem "had given a filip [stimulus] to my spiritual aspiration".[11]

Haberman wrote that Krishna Prem "was recognized as a Hindu saint by many Indians of his day."[1]: 217  When Nixon died in 1965, he was hailed by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, then president of India, as a "great soul".[1]: 221  Nixon's final words were "my ship is sailing".[1]: 221 


  • Krishna Prem; Madhava Ashish; Karan Singh (2004). Letters from Mirtola. Mumbai, India: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. ISBN 9788172763565. OCLC 223080940. (194 pages) (original edition 1938)
  • Krishna Prem, Sri (1988). The yoga of the Bhagavat Gita. Shaftesbury, UK: Element. ISBN 9781852300234. OCLC 59891805. ISBN 185230023X (224 pages)
  • Krishna Prem, Sri (1976). Initiation into yoga: An introduction to the spiritual life. London: Rider. ISBN 9780091256319. OCLC 2440284. ISBN 0091256313 (128 pages)
  • Krishna Prem, Sri; Ashish Madhava (1969). Man, the measure of all things, in the stanzas of Dzyan. London: Rider. ISBN 9780090978700. OCLC 119543. ISBN 0090978706 (360 pages)
  • Krishna Prem, Sri (1955). The yoga of the Kathopanishad. London: John M. Watkins. OCLC 14413144. (264 pages)
  • Krishna Prem, Swami (1938). The search for truth. Calcutta, India: Book Land. OCLC 35694199. (138 pages)
  • Kaul, Narendra Nātha (1980). Writings of Sri Krishna Prem: an introduction. Bombay, India: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. OCLC 7730748. (111 pages)

Biographical sourcesEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Haberman, David L. (1 July 1993). "A cross‐cultural adventure: The transformation of Ronald Nixon". Religion. Routledge. 23 (3): 217–227. doi:10.1006/reli.1993.1020. ISSN 0048-721X.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Krishna Prem, Sri (1898–1965) Western-born Vaishnavite Guru" in Jones, Constance; James D. Ryan (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase Publishing. p. 246. ISBN 9780816075645.
  3. ^ a b c d "The Case of Sri Krishna Prem" in Brooks, Charles R. (1989). The Hare Krishnas in India. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 98–101. ISBN 9788120809390.
  4. ^ "No. 30100". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 May 1917. p. 5309.
  5. ^ "No. 30181". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 July 1917. p. 7053.
  6. ^ "No. 30181". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 July 1917. p. 7050.
  7. ^ Page 17 in Ginsburg, Seymour B.; Madhava Ashish (2010). The masters speak: an American businessman encounters Ashish and Gurdjieff (1st Quest ed.). Wheaton, Illinois, USA: Quest Books/Theosophical Pub. House. ISBN 9780835608824. (on page 283, the quote from Nixon is cited to page 54 of Roy's biography, 1975 2nd edition)
  8. ^ "No. 31162". The London Gazette. 4 February 1919. p. 1801.
  9. ^ "No. 32399". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 July 1921. p. 5900.
  10. ^ Sardella, Ferdinando (2013). Modern Hindu personalism: the history, life, and thought of Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199865901.
  11. ^ quoted in Haberman, p. 221.

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