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.
“Among all the fine arts, the finest is music. Music is not composed of songs, melodies, or words only, but of the most subtle sound – nada – the vibration that spontaneously inspires all the cells and makes them dance. There could be no dance without the vibrations of nada. Because of this nada the stream of life sings with a particular rhythm and flows through various curves of life, giving its environment a new experience every time.
The most ancient traveler of this universe is this stream of life that sings and dances in its joy from eternity to eternity. In the ecstasy of meeting the Beloved, it finally unites with the ocean of bliss. From beginning to end there is a perennial sound, but on various pitches which make seven key notes. In music all over the world there are seven key notes, which personify seven levels of consciousness. These sounds make one aware of the various levels of consciousness and finally lead one to the fountain of consciousness, from where arises the stream of life which vibrates in all directions. In one direction it is called music, in another dance, in a third painting, and in a fourth poetry.
There is one more form of this sound, which is called soundless sound. Insiders alone become aware of that sound which is called anahata nada (inner sound). This flows through the vocal cords and is called music. Kabir says, “O sadhu, lift the veil of ignorance and you’ll be one with the Beloved. Light the lamp of love in the inner chamber of your being and you will meet the Beloved. There you hear the fines of all music – anahata nada.”
In the path of devotion yogis learn to hear this soundless sound, the voice of the silence, the perennial music going on in every human heart. But how many of us hear that music? Genuine musicians, overwhelmed by this para-bhava [ecstasy], chant the words and sing the praises of the Beloved. This devotional music has a profound influence in directing the emotional life of an aspirant toward ecstasy and enables him to enjoy the highest moment. This is called meditation in music. No self-effort is necessary – but that which does seem to be necessary in this path is to kindle a flame of love for the Beloved. The path of devotion is the simplest, and leads one to the height of spiritual ecstasy. Love expressed through music is meditation in music. Gradually the mind becomes one-pointed, and the day comes when the aspirant starts listening to anahata nada. There are numerous and inspiring sounds. With their help the aspirant attains the highest state of joy. In the path of devotion, music becomes a means for self-realization.”
- Swami Rama in Living with the Himalayan Masters, page 120