Some years ago, I heard Swami Veda Bharati, my preceptor, advise planning your next three lifetimes. “But,” I thought, “I’ve not even planned this lifetime! Anyway, how does one plan future lifetimes?”
The answer, according to the Yoga Tradition, is that our next lifetime is formed along the lines of the totality of our personality at the moment of our death, including our desires and emotional habits. So, if we want to change our future, we begin by changing our personality now.
But why would anyone want to do that?
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 power of speech has a profound influence on the human mind and heart. One who controls his speech, who does not talk ill of others but speaks gently and never lies, his words are always beneficial and soothing to all. If the aspirant learns not to lie, he speaks the truth. And that truth which is greased with love is very helpful to others.
Teaching and inter-personal communication are carried on mainly through the medium of speech. The way we use words makes a difference: if the aspirant learns to speak truth in a gentle way, his speech will have an immense impact on the human mind and soul. But when the aspirant speaks only to fulfill his selfish desires or speaks that which is contrary to his thinking, he continually creates psychological barriers for himself.
The apta, the great man, speaks in accord with the way he thinks and acts; there is a complete coordination in his inward action and speech. He never intends to hurt, harm, or injure anyone through his speech. Many people waste their time speaking nonsense, talking too much, and gossiping for no useful reason.
In the first stage of practice one should learn to speak little, speaking only when it is necessary. In the second step he should establish regular hours of complete silence every day, and in the third step he should determine not to lie. Austere speech is a great virtue.
The practice of non-lying is important for many reasons. Those who speak lies are afraid and lie because of fear of not being accepted. But the power of speech is lost when one lies, and there is always a conflict in the mind, for one knows that he is lying, yet he continues to lie. Such people can never be known by others; they never prove to be good friends. They become victims of their habits, and then they lose the power of discrimination.”
- Swami Rama excerpt from Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita.