Many people move—to a new house, new city, new relationship, new job, you name it—hoping to get away from stress and unhappiness. But more often than not, after some time, they find themselves still feeling stressed and unhappy. Why? According to Swami Rama, “Wherever you go, you will carry your mind with you.”
Much, or maybe most of our stress and unhappiness comes from our mind rather than from externals. The great Greek Philosopher Epictetus said, “Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning things.” These principles and notions are from the mind. So long as we interpret the world as in some way unfavorable to us, we suffer. Changing how we think is part of finding greater happiness and calm.
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.
"Human life has two aspects: internal and external. One helps the human being to relate to others, and the other helps him to know himself on all levels. The yamas, or restraints, are a way of practicing the art of living in the external world. If these five observances are practiced in daily life, the flower of humanity will bloom and there will be happiness everywhere.
Ahimsa means non-injuring, non-hurting, and non-killing. Normally, students think of violence in only physical terms, and civilized people refrain from gross acts of violence because of legal and social pressures. But ahimsa refers to non-violence in thought, action, and speech. All actions and speech are directed by the mind. Therefore, violence in speech or action is always preceded by violent thoughts. This has serious repercussions on the mental life and also reflections on the body.
Practicing ahimsa shows one how to avoid these consciously and to be aware of the fact that violence is injurious to the mind and body, as well as to those towards whom one expresses violence. The practice of ahimsa leads one towards the service of others, for its careful cultivation leads to a spontaneous and all-encompassing love. Ahimsa is a very practical way of expressing one’s love toward others. By not injuring, harming, hurting, and killing, one is learning to practice to love others, and loving others is the highest of all worships.”
- Swami Rama in Choosing a Path pages 120-121