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.
Renunciation is a path of fire, and should be followed only by those who have burned their worldly desires. On the spur of the moment many students become emotionally disturbed and disappointed by worldly gains and losses and consequently think of retiring from the world. Even though they may find an external situation that is very pleasant, the unstable world inside is still carried by such students no matter where they go. Disappointments, greed, lust, hatred and love, anger and jealously cannot be renounced without spiritual discipline. A frustrated and dissatisfied soul is not fit to tread the path of renunciation. Sitting in the cave and thinking of worldly pleasures is misery.
My master wanted me to lead a normal childhood rather than a frustrated one. During those years I used to buy the best cars and trade them in twice a year. I used to live better than any prince of India. Many of my relatives and friends and even the police department wondered where I obtained so much money to lead such a luxurious life. The secret was that my master used to give me whatever I needed. He never kept or used anything. When I realized the value of the things of the world, I calmed down and acquired that peace of mind which helped me to meditate properly. Latent lust is very dangerous because it manifests more in meditation that in active life. The desire for worldly gains creates barriers in fulfilling the desire for enlightenment.
My master once said, “Let’s go to the bank of the Ganges. I have yet to give you another lesson." I said," What is that?" He said," Why do you live in the Himalayas?" I said, “To practice spirituality." "Why do you want to practice spirituality?" he asked. I said," To be enlightened and become perfect."
My master replied," Then why do you desire worldly things - why do you need the world?" Being a renunciate and living in the cave and yet thinking of the world means you have a latent desire to fulfill. It is a headache that cannot be cured by any other means than self-discipline.
Self-discipline leads to self-training, and self-training leads to direct experience. Through direct experience you expand your awareness. Expansion is the purpose of life.
- Swami Rama in Living With The Himalayan Masters (pages 167-168)