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.
"One sense of the word dharma means to organize one’s life in such a way that individual action is in harmony with interpersonal relationships and with the community, local and global. It implies morality, righteousness, and virtue. A life that is led with unselfishness, harmlessness, compassion, non-possessiveness, and non-covetousness in personal relationships and toward the greater global community and earth itself, is a spiritually healthy life. However, if a person is selfish, harms others, brings harm in some way to the community, and feels a sense of possession of things and people, such a person’s life is contracted, and spiritual progress is hindered.
Another interpretation of dharma is the notion of destiny. Dharma is a person’s duty in life. Put another way, dharma is the path a person takes to best use this life to most effectively reach the goal of life.
A person’s dharma is related also to personal karmas and samskaras. What does a person need to earn, burn, and discard in order to move forward in spiritual life? What is the dharma that can effect that learning and burning? Whether that dharma is to be a carpenter, social worker, fireman, nurse, computer technician, mother or father, Californian or Italian, it doesn’t matter. From a general point of view, no dharma is better than another. From the standpoint of making spiritual progress, being a small vegetable farmer or street cleaner is as valid and efficient a dharma as being president or pope. Each person has a dharma that best suits his or her spiritual needs.
It is vital then to look for and establish a personal dharma that provides a personal set of values to follow and develop, and identifies those duties that will be helpful in the process of personal growth."
- Swami Rama in Sacred Journey: Living Purposefully and Dying Gracefully pages 42-43