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.
A person walking on the path of self-transformation should be aware of the dangers of egoism. Even while practicing the great virtues of truthfulness and nonviolence, a person can feed the ego. The ego related to the realm of spirituality is more subtle and injurious than the ego related to one’s worldly success.
During the period of seeking, the student may become too intellectual, ignoring sahaja-bhava (spontaneous intuition); conversely, he may become too emotional; ignoring reason. An emotional trip is as dangerous as an intellectual trip; each feeds the ego.
A person becomes a slave to his ego when he thinks of selfish gains. A selfish person dwells in a state of doubt since his conscience constantly reminds him of his wrong attitude. On the one hand, he is pulled by his selfish desires, and on the other, he is alarmed by his inner voice. He is torn apart by these two forces.
Do not ever condemn yourself in any way. Learn to appreciate and admire yourself, but see that you do not feed your ego. It is the arch enemy on the path, though it can be polished with some effort.
Acknowledge your weak points, let the power of discrimination counsel your ego, and make a strong resolution to overcome your weaknesses. While working on the removal of weaknesses, you have to be very vigilant. Ego does not want its weaknesses exposed. The more you hide your weaknesses, the more they grow. Remind yourself that you are on the path of inner purification and self-discovery. It requires great courage. Stand firm during this internal battle, and support your Atman, even at the cost of dismantling the ego and all its retinue.
A human being is miserable if he fails to unfold and use his inner potentials. In order to unfold his inner potentials, he must purify the ego or surrender it to the higher Reality. After renouncing slavery to the ego, he can emerge from the confines of body, senses, and mind.
Only a profound method of meditation can help to purify the ego. A purified ego does not create barriers.
By practicing diligently, one may attain concentration of mind, one may speak the truth, and one may serve others, but one cannot realize the Truth unless one surrenders one’s ego to the higher Self. Only after rising above egocentric awareness, can one find the universe within. Only then can one learn to love all and exclude none. One who does not love one’s fellow beings, cannot love God at all.
Humanity is suffering from ego-born differences and inequality. People discriminate against their own brothers and sisters simply on the basis of race, religion, caste, or complexion. In order to be free from these problems, a political settlement alone is not enough.
When all human beings understand that their suffering has been brought on by ego, only then will they resolve all their differences. They will throw aside the confinements of race, caste, religion, and sectarian feelings. Instead of identifying themselves with a particular group or community, they will identify themselves with all human beings. They will love all as their own family members.
The ego is very useful in helping you to function in the world, but it’s not very useful as far as deeper happiness is concerned. The ego is that which separates you from the Reality, from the Truth, from the ultimate Source.
The most important step toward self-transformation is to shed one’s ego, to surrender it to the higher Reality, and thereby attain the light of discrimination and pure faith.
Once ego surrenders itself to the highest Truth, you have attained victory, and spiritual illumination is yours. Soon after the victory over ego, all other virtues, such as humility, love, selflessness, compassion, and kindness, spontaneously unfold. These virtues are prerequisites for self-transformation. When these virtues blossom, a human being becomes a saint. These saintly qualities send a silent invitation to the Lord of Life.
- Swami Rama in The Essence of Spiritual Life, a companion guide for the seeker, published by Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust, 2002.