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.
It is not necessary to retire to a monastery to lead a spiritual life. We cannot escape from our inherent longings or postpone our utmost needs. In addition to the primitive urges for food, sex, sleep, and self-preservation, there is a higher urge to merge with God. We cannot be at peace unless that inherent divine urge is fulfilled.
We all want to experience the all-pervading, omnipresent God from which the entire universe, as well as each individual, has evolved. Direct experience of the truth that each of us originates from God, and ultimately will return to God, makes us secure, happy, and strong.
Today millions of educated men and women are suffering from a lack of purpose. Lacking also in self-confidence, young girls and boys have become victims of dissatisfaction and frustration. Along with a worldly education, we must provide some spiritual education.
Human beings have done research on three levels so far on mind, energy, and matter. Yet we have not found out a way to live in peace, to attain happiness that is free from all problems, pains, and miseries. We study this “ism,” and that “ism.” We go to this church and that temple. We seek advice from this swami and that other yogi. Yet, we have not found the way.
The whole confusion lies in the fact that we do not understand ourselves, and yet we introduce ourselves to others. We are strangers to ourselves yet we get married, have children, have homes, and claim to love others.
That training that helps us to attain a state of happiness free from pains and miseries, is missing from our daily life. Nobody teaches us how to look within, how to find within, how to verify within.
We are taught to know and see things in the external world, but this inner training and knowledge is missing. When we graduate with flying colors from colleges and universities, we find that we are still unsatisfied. The big questions about life still remain questions:
Who am I? From where have I come? What is the purpose of life? Where will I go from here?
Modern education helps us to understand and to be successful in the external world, the world of means. It doesn’t help us to know ourselves.
To know yourself, you don’t have to go anywhere. If you want to know yourself, you have to follow the path from the grossest to the subtle, then to the subtler, and finally, to the subtlest aspects of your life. You have to search for yourself, because religions do not fulfill this need.
I am not telling you not to follow your religion, or not to believe and trust in your religion. Often religions do not answer certain vital questions of life. Religions tell you what to do and what not to do, but religions do not tell you how to be.
No matter how many temples and churches we build, nothing is going to happen unless we accept one principle—that the greatest of all churches and temples is the living human being.
The scriptures say:
The greatest of shrines is the human body. Look within and find within. There His Majesty dwells in the inner recesses, in the inner chamber of your being.
The day you come to know this, you will be happy. To believe in God is not a bad thing. It is a very good thing, because at least you have faith; but you should not forget that God is within you.
As a part of our educational training, we must define spirituality in its most precise and universal terms. Spirituality means that which helps us discipline our thoughts, speech, and actions, that which leads us toward the center of consciousness, and thereby unfolds our inner potentials.
Education based on such spiritual guidelines will help humanity to become self-reliant, confident, and active in the external world. At the same time, it will enable humanity to broaden its world view, and to become inward to search for the perennial Truth. Only a spiritually based education can bring harmonious balance to our external and inner lives.
Knowledge of theories that prove the existence of God is not as important as learning to discipline oneself, so that God can be experienced directly. Children should be taught how to sit quietly and make their minds one-pointed. Through their calm and one-pointed minds, children can obtain a glimpse of true peace and happiness. We need not force them to believe that there is a God; however, we should provide them with the opportunity to unfold their inner potentials, gain confidence, and become inspired to search for God, according to their own inner tendencies and backgrounds. Children need to cultivate divine virtues within themselves.
That which is purely physical has its limits, like the shell of an egg. Spirituality has infinite horizons and limitless freedom. It is full of knowledge and perennial light, life, and delight. When one is completely detached, one realizes oneself in a wider and deeper relationship with the Universal Being.
When ego becomes aware of something that is higher than ego—the individual spirit, or soul—then spirituality dawns.
Spirituality dawns when individuality vanishes.
- Swami Rama in The Essence of Spiritual Life pages 13-16