Founder & Chairman
John Stewart is one of the founding partners and key visionaries behind Kamalaya Koh Samui. His first large scale project, Kamalaya is inspired by his dedication to a life of service and his wife Karina’s passion for health and wellness.
A former art dealer, John was introduced to Asian philosophy and spirituality at the age of fifteen. He left home at age 16 and after 7 years in North America and Europe, he arrived in the jungles of northern India. He spent the next 16 years living there under the tutelage of a Himalayan yogi master, helping to build and develop a renowned Himalayan ashram. Many years spent in a traditional yogi lifestyle taught him the values of truth, simplicity, love and sanatana (eternal) dharma, in addition to patience and discipline.
A regular visitor to Thailand since 1977, John returned to Thailand in 2000 with health problems. He was drawn by the healing nature of Koh Samui, and stayed four months to rest and regain his health with the help of the local herbs and his wife, Karina. Kamalaya’s location – then a densely forested piece of vacant land - and the synergy of the ancient, granite boulders, high cliffs, lush vegetation and pristine coastline immediately inspired him. He was especially drawn to the cave that is situated at the heart of Kamalaya, once used as a place of meditation and spiritual retreat for a lineage of Buddhist monks.
John’s defining view of business as a medium of cultural exchange, and in this sense worthy only of projects that ‘make a difference’, is central to Kamalaya’s creation. Kamalaya unfolds from a learned truth – that happiness comes from giving - and combines John’s wish to both communicate spiritual teachings in a way that is easily understood, and share with others the healing power of nature.
In John’s own words, “Kamalaya was created to offer a nurturing environment to guests, so that people feel immediately intrigued, full of excitement, and at the same time welcomed, comfortable, and at ease, like they are in a magical little village.” It represents an unprecedented and life-affirming realm where ancient wisdom can be enhanced with the latest innovations in alternative and contemporary health care, to offer healing in the broadest sense, encompassing heart, mind, body and spirit.
John continues to guide the development of Kamalaya’s vision and services in his role as Chairman, through an operational management team responsible for its implementation.