Current day popular yoga has degenerated into little more than a fitness and beauty cult. But this isn’t the real purpose of yoga. Rather, yoga is a transformative fire. Yoga is a fire that incinerates all of our false identifications, attachments, confusions, and false beliefs. Yoga corrects our perception; it lights our vision. The goal of Yoga is to purify the mind to directly experience Truth.
One of the greatest adepts, teachers, writers, and humanitarians of the 20th century, Swami Rama (1925-1996) is the founder of the Himalayan Institute. Born in Northern India, he was raised from early childhood by the Himalayan sage, Bengali Baba. Under the guidance of his master, he traveled from monastery to monastery and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster who was living in a remote region of Tibet. In addition to this intense spiritual training, Swami Rama received higher education in both India and Europe. From 1949 to 1952, he held the prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India. Thereafter, he returned to his master to receive further training at his cave monastery, and finally in 1969, came to the United States where he founded the Himalayan Institute. His best known work, Living With the Himalayan Masters, reveals the many facets of this singular adept and demonstrates his embodiment of the living tradition of the East.
“We all talk about peace of mind, calmness, and tranquility, and we try to attain these states by acquiring external objects, but external objects have no capacity to give peace of mind or tranquility. They can only furnish certain comforts in the external world. If one is able to manage the affairs of the external world so that the external world no longer remains a source of distraction for the mind, that is a great achievement. The senses, which are used as avenues by the mind, definitely help one in conducting his duties in the external world, but without knowing the technique of controlling them, they are capable of disturbing peace of mind and creating imbalances. These senses are like the horses of a chariot; manas is like the driver; and the individual soul is seated behind. As untrained horses do not trod on the path, but always go here and there, so is the case with undisciplined senses, which are a source of conflict.
There is another faculty of our inner body that is called chitta, the storehouse of knowledge, memories, samskaras, and impressions. Though the center of Consciousness is beyond chitta, consciousness flows through chitta to the mind and then to the senses. It is important to understand the nature of the senses and the way they dissipate the energy of mind. When we talk of mind control or cultivating a peaceful and tranquil mind, we cannot ignore these avenues, which are constantly used by the mind. Chitta is not the individual soul, but the consciousness of the individual soul flows through chitta. It reflects the light of the soul. No human being ever looks at the sun when he walks, but he uses the light of the sun to see where he is going. In the same way, we do not have to look for the soul, but by being aware of the obstructions that prevent the knowledge of consciousness, we come to know that chitta is a storehouse of knowledge, but not the center.”
- Swami Rama in Choosing a Path pages 42-43