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.
“Some people think that many men and women turn to married life only for the sake of security, motivated by selfishness and the fear of being alone. Actually, the institution of marriage exists for a much higher purpose; it is not simply a biological or emotional convenience. The great sages teach that marriage is more sacred than a mere contract or arrangement in which two people decide to get together and live with each other. Marriage has a goal, and both partners should have a common purpose, regardless of the country from which they come or their cultural, religious, philosophical or historical backgrounds. Everyone seeks happiness in life, but the problem is, how do we achieve a state of genuine happiness in the world, when everything around us in changing constantly? Whatever makes us happy will not last forever. This external world of people and objects is transient and impermanent. So how does a human being achieve a state of enduring happiness?
Most people wait for others to make them happy, and they think that at some specific point they will achieve happiness – when they are married on a child is born or they purchase a home. But none of these joyful events creates lasting happiness. Thus, the mind itself creates suffering, because it harbors expectations that are unrealistic – the only real happiness lies within.
We expect marriage or family life to make us happy, but this institution is not the goal itself, it is only a means to a deeper happiness. If two people share this understanding, then they can enjoy their married life with a sense of contentment, rather than expectation.
The highest aim of life is to possess the deeper happiness that is eternal, undisturbed, and unchanging. To achieve such happiness, human beings need to understand not only themselves, but others as well.
In ancient times men and women did many experiments and finally decided to live together with a certain understanding in the arrangement that we call marriage. In Persian the world for marriage is cushy, which also means “happiness”. In Sanskrit the word for marriage is vivaha, which signifies that two people have decided to tread their paths together and attain the highest state of happiness in this lifetime.
But I have observed that all too often, marriage does not lead to such happiness. Rarely have I seen a genuinely happy couple. Couples often come to see me smiling, and I feel very happy when they affirm their love for one another. The first question I ask them is whether they love each other, and they usually insist that they do, but often after some time passes, I discover that their claims are false. I have tried to understand the root cause of this superficial level of commitment and insincere life, and I have found that the cause lies in their individual selfishness.
When people decide to marry, they need to recognize that up to that point, they have lived alone, which is easy, because a single person can think only of himself or herself. Now, they must learn to live with each other. People who wish to marry should ask themselves, “Do I have the capacity to live intimately with this person? Can I adjust to him or her? Do I have the essential qualities that are needed to live with others – truthfulness, sincerity, faithfulness, tolerance, patience, acceptance, and self-sacrifice? Do I have the qualities that I will need to live peacefully with another person? If not, I must develop them, or I will not succeed in my marriage.”
- Swami Rama in Love and Family Life pages 13-15