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.
You have to light your own lamp. No one will give you salvation. I am talking of enlightenment. All individuals have the responsibility to enlighten themselves. Do not think you cannot do it. You have that spark. You are fully equipped. You simply need to discipline yourself. Discipline is not a prison. It simply means practice.
Patanjali says that you have the capacity to unfold yourself and lead yourself to a state of tranquility. Then you will understand things as they are. Otherwise, you create darkness for yourself and you are not able to see things clearly. The human mind remains clouded because the external world does not provide correct data. In the external world everything is fleeting. The moment you want to study something in the external world, that thing changes its name and form and you cannot study it. First, you will have to remove the clouds of ignorance from your mind. When you have clarity of mind, then you can study things as they are, and there will be no confusion.
Thus, when Patanjali says, “Atha yoganush-asanam,” he means that if you really want to unfold yourself, you first should learn to discipline yourself. People are afraid of the word “discipline.” Discipline is not a punishment. You will enjoy it once you know it. Discipline means self-commitment. When you commit yourself to your progress, then slowly you will find that the light is within you. These external lights—the sun, moon, stars, and electric lights—are superficial lights. The Upanishads say again and again, “hiran-mayena patrena satyasyapihitam mukham, tat tvam pushann apavrinu satya dharmaya drishtaye.” (Isho-panishad 15). “The face of Truth is hidden by the golden disc. Oh Lord, help me so that I can see the Truth within.” You keep trying to find Truth in the external world, but it is not there. Those who have found Truth within themselves can express that same Truth in the external world, and they are considered to be great people.
The discipline you need to learn this science, to follow the path for the inward journey, is not the discipline that you already have. You have to understand this subtle point. You had to have discipline in the colleges and universities to study things in the external world and to verify things in the external world. Learning in the external world is entirely different from yoga discipline. In the external world you move. However, when you want to go to the deeper levels of your being, stillness is important. In all other journeys you have to move. In this journey you do not have to move at all. The Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.” It is a simple formula, but very difficult to apply. From your childhood onward you are taught to move. Nobody teaches you how to be still. You have to learn not to move. “Anushasanam,” the discipline that you have to follow, you have not yet learned. Since it is a completely new undertaking, it seems difficult.
To learn yoga science, which leads you to the highest rungs of life, which takes you to the summum bonum of life, which leads you to the kingdom of wisdom, peace, and bliss, and which leads you to freedom from all pains and miseries, you first have to discipline yourself. In modern education there is enough knowledge, enough books, and enough freedom, but there is no training program for discipline. No one tells you how to study yourself or how to practice. Patanjali says this is not the way. That knowledge which you consider to be knowledge is not fruitful or helpful. First, learn to discipline yourself.
At any age, at any time, you can discipline yourself. It is not too late. You have to discipline yourself. Discipline is real learning. Learn to say no to yourself. Listen to that part of mind that tells you “no.” If you really want to practice, for some time don’t listen to that part of mind that says “yes.” If you understand “no” well, you will understand yes easily. When you want to steal something, mind says, “Don’t.” Another part of mind says, “Oh, yes. Come on, do it. You’ll enjoy it. You’ll like it. You should have it.” Don’t listen to the “yes.” Listen to “no” first. Tell yourself you’re not going to do that. You have to understand the impact of “no” and learn to use it with yourself and not with others. Never use the word no with others, with those with whom you live, or with those whom you love. Learn to use that no for yourself. This will give you strength.
Discipline should not be forced by teachers or by others. Patanjali says the whole foundation of samadhi is anushasanam. You have to understand the word “anushasanam” in a practical way. Discipline means to regulate yourself on three levels: mind, action, and speech. Determine that from today you will begin to discipline yourself. It is a simple thing. Do not make big plans or too many rigid rules for yourself. Start with small things: “I will wake up at four-thirty.” One simple rule. “After that, I will go to finish my ablutions and do my exercise. Exactly at five-thirty I will sit down in meditation.” Discipline yourself. If you do not have the zeal, vigor, and determination to discipline yourself, you cannot follow the path. When you have decided something, you need determination to act according to your decision. If you lack determination, you will not be successful, even though you have decided. If you have decided that you will practice yoga, that decision must be supported by determination. “Yes. I will practice it every day. The day I don’t practice, I will not eat.” The next day you will say, “I have to practice because I have to eat.”
When a student comes to a teacher he wants to see a miracle. You yourself are a miracle. How did Christ change water into wine? Only a perfect yoga master could do that. Do you know what Christ did? There was an essay contest on this topic among the writers of Britain when I was studying in Europe. One person answered the question in one line and he won the prize. The line was, “When the master looked upon the beloved, she blushed.” When Christ looked at the water, the water changed its color. Anything around you is subject to change according to the way you look at it. The day you understand this principle your entire environment can be changed if you are really disciplined. Do not blame nature, God, or others. Ninety-nine percent of your problems are self-created. You know it, though you do not accept it.
You say you cannot get enlightened, you can never see God. You have a desire to see God, yet you have no concept or understanding of what God is, so nothing is going to happen. You are searching for enlightenment in the external world, but that is not the way. Are you prepared for the journey from the grossest to the subtlest aspect of your being? Are you competent enough to discipline yourself on all levels? Can you practice? Are you prepared to know life within and without? If you are, come along. How will you do it? “Now, yoga science is being expounded.” What is that exposition? How can you create a bridge between the external and the internal? How can you understand all the mysteries of life here and hereafter? How can you understand your relationship with the universe? How can you understand the purpose of your life? All this will be explained, but first you should understand mind and its modifications.
- Swami Rama in Samadhi the Highest State of Wisdom pages 18-22