The text-message from Richard Parenti said he would probably check out within the next three weeks. I knew this meant he was about to die. Richard had cancer of the base of the tongue and had already outlived his doctor’s initial estimate of time left.
It just so happened that I already had plans to travel to the San Francisco area to visit another friend who was fighting cancer, so I postponed my return flight until later in the day so I could visit Richard too. I’d only be able to spend a brief time with each, but that was better than not seeing Richard.
Richard and I had a beautiful history. I first met him in at my teacher Swami Veda Bharati’s ashram in Rishikesh, Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama, called SRSG. I believe this was in 2004. Swami Veda had asked me to organize a trip to the holy shrine of Tarakeshwara (where Gurudeva Swami Rama was first enlightened) for some of the guests at the ashram and told me to invite Richard.
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.
"The question of what is prominent in your life matters a great deal. Whatever is prominent in life intensifies in meditation. Whether you are lusty, greedy, or lacking preparation; whether you are honestly and sincerely doing your practice - your tendencies and traits will become magnified. If you are irresponsible in managing your sexuality, that tendency will also increase, because in meditation your mind expands.
You need to examine honestly what is in your mind. Be honest with yourself. Do not meditate if you are being hypocritical and are just sitting and punishing yourself. If you do something honestly in the external world, then you reap the fruits according to the intensity and the one-pointedness of your action. The mind strengthens whatever particular desire is already there. So first, the mind should be emptied of those desires. There should be only one desire, the desire for meditation, the desire to go deep inside. At first you will fail to achieve it, but that does not matter; you should not give up. If you give up, you will only waste time in meaningless experiments and will gain nothing of value."
- Swami Rama in Path of Fire and Light, Volume 2 pages 147-148