William Schindler, a.k.a., Brother William or Swami Mahavirananda, founder and Spiritual Director of Ashram West, obtained a B.A. in Sanskrit from UC Berkeley (1975), where he also studied Hindi and Bengali, and a Master's degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University (1986). He has been studying and practicing traditional Hindu Tantra since 1969. He lived in India for two-and-a-half years between 1972 and 1977 first as a pilgrim, then as a student at Banaras Hindu University, and finally as a monk of the Ramakrishna Order. He worked as a psychotherapist in a variety of settings and founded and coordinated a counseling program for at-risk youth at the public high school where he also taught English for ten years. He corresponds with students all over the world, and he welcomes inquiries regarding spiritual practice and Ashram West.
On 6 October 2013 Brother William received the vow of sannyasa from Pravrajika Vajraprana and became Swami Mahavirananda. Vajraprana receivedsannyasa from Swami Amohananda, a monk of the Ramakrishna Order.
Vajraprana, a.k.a., Vijali Hamilton, first joined the Ramakrishna Order as a nun in 1953. She lived at the Santa Barbara Convent of the Vedanta Society of Southern California for ten years. She now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she heads The World Wheel Project that utilizes art to foster international understanding and peace.