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.
If you study the evolution of love, you will realize that love is actually the oldest and most ancient traveler in the universe. Love has been traveling constantly, and it will continue to do so from eternity to eternity. Even before this earth came into existence, the omniscient and omnipotent power that you call Truth had expanded itself and expressed itself because of the power of love. Love itself means expansion, and its only opposite in the universe is the force of contraction and hatred.
As love travels, it goes through many phases in its expression; it changes and evolved on its way. A child is born and comes to the earth because love has journeyed along with two people, and as a result, love creates a child. If the relationship of love between a husband and wife was complete and limitless, they would no need a child, but their love wants to evolve, so a child is born. No one needs to read a book to love a child; if you are a parent you have learned this already. Your son or daughter is born and you look at the child and you know that you love – and love has made another stop on its journey.
At first, the nature of a child’s love is self-love – it appreciates only its own existence, and then slowly it comes to appreciate the existence of its mother, who feeds it. The child becomes attached to its mother and loves her in the way it is capable of at this stage. Love continues on its way; soon the child loves its father and then its love travels to other things – to dolls, toy animals, or other bright objects. Then the child begins to love and become attached to other children and adults, as well as to games and activities. The child’s love travels on still further, to attractive clothes and then finally to a circle of friends. All along its journey, love lets go of some objects and attractions and moves on to others. As this happens, the child grows, matures, and becomes increasingly aware of the external world.
Finally the child becomes a young adult, and then love wants to find still another object for its attention. Love begins to move toward accomplishments and achievements, to many expressions of individuality. The love seeks a boyfriend or girlfriend, and finally love expresses itself in the choice of another person with whom to live one’s life. All along the way, as consciousness has expanded, love has traveled on, choosing increasingly fine and special expressions.
Eventually, love comes in a circle; it travels on, seeking a child and the experience of parenthood. As long as love travels, we are learning and growing, but whenever we try to stop love in its travels, we create a pool of stagnation. We create this stagnation by refusing to love or become involved with others because we are afraid of outgrowing our selfishness and our attachments to our own pleasures.
We can also create stagnation if we start a family but live only for our own ego.
Whenever we do this, we are holding love back on its journey. Love is meant to grow and to increasingly radiate outward in ever-expanding and widening circles from the center within ourselves to the entire world. The whole purpose of a loving family life is to serve as a way-station on this journey.
As love travels on its way it becomes increasingly powerful. In fact, love is the only force that can ever really change the world or help people grow. The greatest kind of strength that a human being can have is the gentle strength of love. Once, many years ago, in my travels in the Himalayas, I went to see a sage living far away from anyone else. As evening approached he told me I should leave, because he needed to make dinner for his children, and I was very surprised to think that he had children there in the wilderness. But before I could leave I heard a low growl – the sound of tigers! I was somewhat alarmed until he explained that those were his “children”. He had tamed two wild tigers with the force of his love, and they came every evening to take bread that he would make for them.
Love can tame all that is wild and uncontrolled; love is the only force that will help us end the violence and destruction in the world. Wherever we find young people who are growing up in a positive way, strong and self-confident, with the capacity to give to others and contribute to the world, we will recognize the effects of having been loved.
No one needs to learn to love; love is the natural capacity of human beings, if a person is not suppressed or constricted. Children will naturally develop the capacity to love and care for others, if their natural tendencies are allowed to be expressed. Certainly a person can learn to become negative and to hate, but that is not the natural pattern; it is a distortion. When we reach a certain stage in our development as human beings, we feel for others. Then, if someone else cries or is in pain, our hearts also feel their pain and we express our empathy. A person could be cold and cruel to another, but that is not the natural pattern.
Throughout life, love grows and matures, seeking its final fulfillment, the capacity to love all. When we have learned to love and eliminate all barriers, we achieve the highest state of consciousness.
- Swami Rama in Love and Family Life, pages 87-90