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 goal of life is not the drama being played,
but the lesson that it offers.
“Out of the tumult of human life comes the decision to look for lasting peace and joy. Where is one to look for this treasure, and how can it be found? Going back to the story of the angel who was given the job of hiding life’s meaning, this treasure is hidden within. It also might be said that the treasure is buried under layers of ego, desires, emotions, habits, and other imbedded thought patterns. Atman, the individual’s real identity, is waiting there. It takes nothing more than realization of this fact to truly know it—just be awake to it, as the Buddha taught. It is as simple as flicking on a light.
Peeling off the layers of ego, emotions, and imbedded thought patterns is not so easy. Shankara said that a treasure doesn’t come out when you call it. It must be hunted for and dug up. All that is heaped over the buried treasure must be removed. The decision to look for the treasure is only the beginning of the hunt. The promise that it sits waiting within is taken on faith, but there is also a feeling, a voice calling out from what is at once a great distance and no distance at all. The debris that covers the treasure is identified as maya and the effects of maya. On account of maya, one is not conscious of the real Self. A seeker must start the search in earnest and begin digging.
What separates a human being from his or her true identity? What are the rocks, dirt, and rubble under which the treasure is buried, and how does a person go about removing them? What are the necessary tools to accomplish the same?
This digging is the reason for worldly human existence. Knowing which tools to use and when is the art of life. This work is life, and it is a magnificent adventure with Atman, the treasure, as its goal.
We learn as we gradually dig, scrape, and peel off the layers of what is not our real and permanent nature, until finally the work is done and we know who our true Self is. This is why we come to this world, why we create it, why we compose the dramas that are enacted across the globe.
The goal of life is not the drama being played, but the lesson that it offers. Every human being is the playwright of her or his own drama. Most people forget this. They think the dramas of their lives are created by God, or by others, or by the chance of mathematical probability in an inconceivably vast universe. They also fail to remember that the drama of life is just that, a play that is momentarily being acted out for a desired result. Instead of understanding life as a play, they take life to be the ultimate. Then the lessons promised by the drama are missed and a great deal of pain and sorrow is experienced.
So it is. This is how our individual development is shaped. We create and recreate dramas that we fail to see as such dramas. We mistake them to be the ultimate, and get tossed about in the turmoil of pain and pleasure. Finally the day dawns that we turn toward another perspective. We are able to step back and watch the drama from a distance. The pain diminishes and the wisdom and humor of the drama become more apparent.
Each person creates a stage, a laboratory, a drama—however you prefer to understand it—to penetrate the layers of barriers covering the Atman. The day will eventually arrive when we will realize our true identity as both the one who is watching the drama, and that which is being watched. There is only One, as the Upanishads state. Each individual is a wave in the single vast ocean of pure consciousness.”
- Swami Rama in Sacred Journey: Living Purposefully and Dying Gracefully pages 19-21