Many years ago, when traveling in Arizona, I saw a design that the Navajo silversmiths sometimes put in their jewelry. The design was composed of a human figure in a maze.
This Man in the Maze image, to me, sums up the state of being human: Each of us is born into a maze. These mazes are composed of the conditions and experiences of our lives, and everybody’s is different. Plopped down at birth into the world, seeking fulfillment, each of us tries to find a way through. Nobody can solve our maze for us. We each have to solve our own.
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.
“Grace comes to a human being when he or she has completed their own work. No one receives grace without first doing work themselves; otherwise, the law of cause and effect would be disturbed. That law says that you have to make your own endeavor. It does not matter if you fail. The important thing is your real effort. After that, grace and wisdom appear.
If you want to know what grace actually is, there are four aspects to it: the grace of God, the grace of the Bible or scriptures, the grace of the guru, and---most importantly---the grace of the self. If there is no grace of the self, then nothing is going to happen: all these other graces do not work. But if you have the grace of the self, then these other graces work.
If you are satisfied with all the little toys, pleasures, and sweets you are getting in the world, then you will not gain the more important goal. But if you do not settle for life's small pleasures, then the ultimate goal will be yours. Everyone feels a lack of satisfaction with life and its pleasures, but sometimes we push it aside to follow the path of escapism. Sometimes we become very pessimistic, negative, or depressed. It is necessary to develop and strengthen the flame of desire for higher goals. You have to practice nurturing it. At first it is a small flame of light and life. But by feeding it and allowing it to grow, it will become like a raging forest fire. Then the flame of desire for the Ultimate cannot be put out by any means.”
- Swami Rama in Path of Fire and Light, Volume 2, pages 12-13