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 word YOGA is used to mean “union.” When your individual soul unites with the Cosmic Soul, when you are one with the Absolute, that is yoga. In the state of samadhi you are fully conscious; you are free. Your consciousness is completely expanded. In sleep you are there, but you are not conscious of it. It is a state very close to samadhi. Samadhi is that state of equilibrium that you attain through deep meditation. You remain fully conscious and aware, but your state of mind attains equanimity and equilibrium. In deep sleep you are very close to samadhi, but you are not conscious. There is a method called yoga nidra in which you can have conscious sleep. Yoga nidra is a state between sleep and samadhi.
It is a half-sleep and half-waking state: it is not a waking state, and it is not really a sleep state. It is a state where you can gain complete rest and a little bit of sleep, but remain fully awake. It is very beneficial. In it you will rest fully, experience good sleep, and also have a good state of consciousness. This practice is used by yogis to know or learn something that they ordinarily cannot know in the waking state. They use it to become aware of many things. Great men like Mahatma Gandhi, Napoleon, and Raja Ranjit Singh were not aware that they were practicing yoga nidra, but actually they approached this state of sleepless sleep. It alone could give them enough time to work and not waste many hours, as ordinary people usually do.
Yoga nidra is a state of conscious sleep in which you can record what is going on. It is one of the finest and most beautiful exercises; it will help you to solve problems and give you solutions to questions where the answers are consciously unknown to you. The proper technique is important, but in addition to understanding the technique, you need to have strong determination and desire.”
- Swami Rama in Path of Fire and Light, Volume 2 pages 165-166