Personal Philosophy of Life
By Swami Rama
I have come to share my joy truthfully with you. I say, ye human beings, among all the species on the earth, you are the greatest. You are the greatest for you can change your destiny, you can build your destiny, you can enlighten yourself. Other species do not have this privilege. From among the kingdom of animals, the kingdom of vegetables, the kingdom of rocks and clay you alone have that privilege. Why are you not enjoying that privilege? I have come to remind you of that. Have you seen guards at night? They roam around and say, “Remain awake, remain awake!” But you remain sleeping. I am like that guard. Uttishtata, uttishtata! Wake up, wake up! Jagrata, remain awake. Prapta varanya bodhasa, gain knowledge. This is my message to everybody. I know they are sleeping but yet I have to say this. This is my duty. This is my job. If I don’t do it, I will not be happy. We human beings, all of us, have the birthright to attain the final goal of life, and sooner or later we’ll reach that goal. So, everyone has hopes. But do you have the patience to wait for such a long time? I don’t.
I will try to cover the entire philosophy of life in these lectures. We need to understand one word and that is called freedom—freedom from all bondages, from all ignorance. That state which is free from stress, strain, bondage and ignorance is called the state of enlightenment and that can be considered to be the state of perfection.
What is the aim and goal of life? You think I am going to tell you it’s God? No, that’s not being practical. The aim of life is contentment and for that you need adjustment. Can you adjust yourself mentally, physically, and through speech so that you are content? What do you mean by being content? I always say: do not be satisfied yet remain content. Contentment is a great virtue that you can develop in your daily life. If it is not there, your God business is not going to help you, let me assure you. Repeating God, God, God, God, God, without understanding! What a waste of time and energy! I am not an atheist, but I have learned to analyze things with clarity of mind and that’s how I was trained. And that same thing I am imparting to you now.
You may say that the purpose of life is to attain God. I say no. In my childhood, one day I went to my Master, a great yogi and sage from Bengal, who lived in the Himalayas for many, many years. And I said, “My heart cries because you have not shown me God. And so I think you have destroyed my life.” He kept quiet. He said, “Go on.” I said, “I want to see God.” He responded, “You want to see God? Are you sure you want to see God?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “I will show you God in the morning, tomorrow morning.” So that whole night I remained restless and I could not sleep. I was filled with joy but at times doubts too came into my mind. I could not sleep. In the morning, without sleep, I was looking tired. I took my bath and that day I became an extraordinarily holy person bowing often in front of my Master because he was going to show me God. He said, “What has happened to you today? Your behavior has changed.” I said, “It’s because I want to see God today.” He said, “I promised to show you God. I will be very honest, but will you please also be honest with me?” I said, “Yes.” He asked me a question, “Tell me what kind of God do you want to see?” I was taken aback and asked, “Are there many kinds of God?” He said, “No. I want to know what is the concept of God in your mind?”
All your life you long to meet God, but you have no concept of God. What type of God will you meet? Everyone says, “I want to see God, I want to see God.” Someone is doing chanting, someone is meditating, someone is talking of Gita, someone is talking of Upanishads. Nobody sees God, it’s all mere talk. Why? Because you don’t have a clear concept. You should have a clear concept and then you should learn to work towards that concept. Only then will you get it.
So I said to my Master, “It means you bluffed me yesterday. You promised that you would show me God. And this morning you say what kind of God do you want to see?” He replied, “Look, I promised to show you the kind of God you wanted to see. Think about it. I give you time. At any time you can come and say that this is the type of God I want to see and I’ll show you that God.” I was speechless. So is the case with all of you. You want to see God without knowing what He is and that’s why He never appears before you. If He suddenly appears before you, perhaps you will not recognize Him. So if there is no clarity of mind, if there is no purity of heart, your whole life remains full of confusion. This is my point. What do you mean by seeing God? Are you at peace, are you happy, do you lead a balanced life, are you attaining your goal in life? These are the vital questions of life.
So after half an hour, my Master again called out to me, “Have you decided what kind of God you want to see?” I said, “Not yet.” He said, “Please decide and come to me and I will show you.” To this day I don’t dare to say that I have.
If a swami, a priest or a yogi comes to you, if your teacher or guru comes to you and says, “My child, what do you want? What do you want to know?” There are many things in your mind and heart. You want to become millionaire but you won’t tell him. You’ll say, “I want to see God.” You want to have a good wife but you won’t say that. You’ll say, “I want to see God.” There is a beautiful saying, any human being who gives responsibilities to the Lord, his own responsibilities, cripples human potentials. If you don’t want to perform your duties and then say God will do everything for me, this is not good. You are not utilizing the gifts given to you by Providence.
If I have no understanding of what God is, I cannot get enlightened, I can never see God. Even though I have a desire to see God, nothing is going to happen. Let us not cheat ourselves. There are things which we have been repeating without understanding why we are doing it. Tell me what is the purpose of God in your daily life? When you need food, you don’t eat God. When you want to wear clothes, you need clothes, not God. Where do we need God in life? Let us understand things rightly.
This human life is very precious. It’s not like animal life. Animal activities are completely controlled by nature. They cannot do anything. In the animal kingdom, nothing is by choice. But as a human being, you can do tremendous things, you can perform wonders. You have choice and the power to change. As easily as you can turn your face from this side to that side, you can change yourself. You can transform your personality completely. It’s a very simple thing, provided you are practical and you are truthful to yourself. We human beings live our lives based on how the world judges us. Take the case of a wife at home who looks toward her husband all the time, like a German shepherd, wanting to know what he thinks of her. And if he says, “Honey, you look very beautiful, you are wonderful.” She may feel, “He has made my day.” She leans on him all the time seeking approval. This great force on earth, called womankind, has never been utilized properly. It is only being exploited. And that is one of the causes of our suffering. Please, please, try to understand what I am saying.
I want to give you a glimpse of your individual self, because there are many false notions. When a human being suffers, the suffering is not because of external forces, not because of others. The suffering is because of his or her own thinking and understanding. So we will discuss that. We have many such fears in our life. We talk of God so much, we sing kirtans, we study the scriptures like the Ramayana, the Gita and Bible, we go to temples or churches. Yet our ignorance remains. There is no change in our daily life, in our behavior. What is the reason? The reason is that right from our childhood, we are trained to see and examine things in the external world. Nobody teaches us how to look within, find within, and see within. So we remain a stranger to ourselves, yet we want to know others; isn’t this strange?
So first of all, a human being should learn to understand himself on all levels and then he can understand all, the Self of all. And he can understand that absolute Self which is called absolute Truth. This is the right system and there are three schools, and any of these schools will help you: the school of meditation, the school of contemplation, and the school of prayer. If you learn to understand prayer, what prayer is, you can easily evoke your emotional self and attain that height of ecstasy and be there. If you understand the philosophy of life through contemplation you can attain the goal of life. If you understand the school of meditation and systematically meditate, you can attain the fourth state which is called sleepless sleep, you can attain the purpose of life. But if you practice meditation for a few days, contemplation for a few days, and then prayer for a few days, and finally decide that none of them suits you, you won’t attain anything. The basic thing is that we create certain problems and barriers for ourselves, because of our fears and confusion. We have certain questions in our mind and we should learn to tackle them first. As long as you remain under the pressure of fears you cannot do anything. And talking about God is a good pastime, but you don’t get anything. You may become godly but you cannot attain God, you cannot have peace, you cannot have happiness. Forgive me if I am crushing your sentiments but this is the truth.
Let us learn to enjoy one thing. All the great scriptures of the world, which have been revealed to the sages from the depths of their deep contemplation, say one and the same thing. A human being has been created exactly in the image of God. When God created human beings in His own image, why do human beings suffer? It’s because human beings have forgotten their Creator; that’s why they suffer. Otherwise there is no difference between man and God. The moment you realize that you don’t exist, but God exists, you are free. And in reality that’s true. All the scriptures say, God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent, God is everywhere. Then where are you? Where is there place for you to exist? How can you claim that you and I exist somewhere and this is mine and that is yours? It’s the human mind that creates all the barriers for individuals. We have to understand this whole philosophy, get rid of all our confusions, be at peace and start realizing the great glory that is hidden deep within our hearts and minds. Therefore every individual should try to understand one thing: I will know myself on all levels in this lifetime and get enlightened here and now. There should be this determination. That is the purpose of this series of lectures.
What does the body mean to us? Is human being a body alone? No. He breathes too. Then you see we are breathing beings. This breath of ours creates a bridge between our thinking process, or mind, and body. Why does the body not fall apart, separating itself from the thinking portion? Because there are two guards, called inhalation and exhalation. Life is breath and breath is life.
How does our mind function and from where does our mind receive its power and energy? There is a center of consciousness beyond mind and that is called your individual soul. So it is from here that you receive consciousness and energy. Individual souls are like ripples in the vast ocean of bliss called Brahman, the summum bonum of life, the very source of all life force, from where all the ripples rise, play, and again subside.
Let’s begin with the body. We take care of our body but do not understand anything about it. So if you want to be physically fit, understand the importance of a good body. Good body means, physically healthy body. You need to understand something about diet and nutrition, and about body language. Your body speaks to you.
When you learn to understand your body’s needs and body language, then you should learn how to breathe. We all are breathing but we are not breathing correctly, not breathing diaphragmatically. You’ll find that a child spontaneously breathes diaphragmatically but because of our defective living, our breathing changes after some time. So deep diaphragmatic breathing is very necessary for health (see Appendix A).
What is diaphragmatic breathing? When you push in your abdomen as you exhale, it will help your diaphragm to empty your lungs and will help you to expel the used up gas. When the abdomen moves out it will expand the lungs and draw in the oxygen.
It’s easy to know the body and breath, but it’s a little bit more difficult to know the mind, because there is no such education that teaches and trains us to understand our mind. So let us have simple understanding. Scientific research and scientists today say that 80% of diseases are created by the mind. They originate in the mind and are expressed in the body. All of the body is in the mind, but not all of the mind is in the body. You don’t see your mind but through your mind your eyes can see. If you are frustrated all the time, never happy, then your wife says, “What can I do? He’s never happy, no matter what I do. Very unhappy person, nobody can please him in this world. No matter what I do he’s never happy.” Poor husband is heading towards some problem!
As it is important for you to eat good nutritious food and to do some exercise daily, it is important for you to maintain mental health, spiritual health, by learning to do certain exercises of breathing, relaxation and meditation. It’s very good for you. Once you have learned how to use your deep diaphragmatic movement to regulate the motion of your lungs, then you watch your breath stream. It’s very joyous, wonderful. Who is giving you life breath? The Lord of life who gives to all. It’s your direct link with the Lord that you have all the time. Watch your breath, the flow of breath and the mind will find an easy way to attain peace, to taste peace.
For a few minutes every day you should learn to sit quiet, to sit still, to make your breath serene, to make your mind calm. Practice will make you perfect, not mere theory. This is something that you have to practice. I cannot meditate for you. I can do anything for you; I can cook your meals, I can drive you from one place to another. But meditation is that something which you should practice yourself. Buddha clearly said, “Ye, light thy own lamp. Nobody can give you salvation.” Meditation you should practice. A guru, a teacher, a priest, can give you blessings, and that gives you solace, good solace, but meditation practice you have to do yourself.
When you know you are not a body alone, that you are a thinking being, that you have a mind, then you ask, “Who am I? I have body and mind, who am I? Am I the body? No. Am I the mind? No. Then who am I?” You wonder. Then you don’t identify yourself only with your body and mind. That which you are is called soul, hub of the whole wheel. How do you know that? Unless you make your body quiet, breath calm and mind completely resolved, you cannot reach your finest self. You are constantly identifying with the objects of your mind, forgetting your true nature. Your true nature is peace, happiness, and bliss. But you are suffering because you do not know yourself. You know only the small self called body, breath, and mind. You have three selves—mortal self, semi-mortal self, and the immortal Self. The mortal self is this body that goes through change, death, and decay. Semi-mortal self is that which enables you to think. The real Self is that which makes you free, completely free. Then, there are no fears, there are no anxieties, there is no pain.
When you repeatedly do something, you form a habit pattern. What is individuality, what is an individual? An individual is a character composed of habit patterns. You say God created you the way you are. That’s not true. God created you and you are beautiful. You are a most beautiful person. Don’t look at the mirror to admire yourself. You are most beautiful because you are unique, there is no one like you on this earth. No one can be compared with you. So don’t compare yourself with others. You are most beautiful, be aware of this. You are wonderful, be aware of this. God has created you in a wonderful way, try to learn this. So human beings have not attained the next step of civilization because of certain things, not because of God. If God comes down and says, “Ok son, what do you want from me?” What will you say, tell me? “I want to become a millionaire.” “There are many millionaires.” “I want to have two dozen cars.” “There are many people with dozens of cars.” What will you ask of God? What do you want from God? Finally you will say, “God, give me peace.” God will say, “My child, I have given you all the potentials to attain peace.” You can be at peace, you can make your mind tranquil and thus establish peace.
Our deeds, our karma, are the cause of all suffering. How can one live in the world, yet remain unaffected? First you have to understand the inevitable law of karma, which is a universal law, no matter from which community you come from. If you are a Hindu, you’ll have to follow it. If you are a Christian, a Buddhist or of any other religion, you’ll have to follow it. Never forget this universal law, accepted by all the great religions and bibles of the world: as you sow, so shall you reap.
I am doing my actions and I reap the fruits of my actions. And those fruits again motivate me to do actions and there is no end. It becomes a whirlpool. You all boast that you are doing your actions, duties, truthfully and you are right. But there is something missing in your statement. I once asked a housewife, a very gentle, very chaste, very loyal housewife, “Can you sit down for a few minutes?” She wanted to go home, but just to test her I said, “Just sit down for a second.” She replied, “I would like to, but what to do? I have to do my duties.” It means your duty has made you a slave. How to deal with it? You don’t know how to handle it. So the great men say, learn to love your duty then duty will not make you a slave. A simple thing, grease your duty with love. Otherwise your duty will create bondage for you, you cannot live without doing your duty. If you have understood this key, then you will try your best to perform your actions and learn the philosophy of nonattachment which is called love. What we mistakenly call love is actually lust. Love means nonattachment. Love does not mean attachment. Attachment leads to misery and pain, nonattachment gives you freedom. As St. Bernard has said so beautifully, all the things of the world are to be enjoyed but God alone should be loved. Our scriptures also say this.
You have to make a formula if you really want to practice and enjoy life. I’m not telling you to renounce the world and go to the Himalayas with Swami Rama, this is not my point. I want you to live here and enjoy life and yet remain above, as a realized being, a jivan mukta. How is it possible? Many people become swamis and how many swamis disappoint us? I once asked my Master, “What is this fun in the world? So many swamis?” He said, “Look here, everybody has good intentions to do something but they don’t. They are not competent, they are not able, they don’t find the way, so don’t blame anyone. They are trying, they are making efforts.” I said, “Ok. Out of 13,000 swamis I met in my life, I met only three people, rare people.” Then I said, “Why, why this?” He said, “All other swamis are like a hedge, and the rare ones are like the real flowers.” He told me, “Come on. I’ll make a formula for you. Share it with your students, share it with the people who come in touch with you: All the things of the world are meant for you. Please enjoy them. But they are not yours, don’t get attached to them.” You have no right to get attached to them. There is nothing wrong with your enjoyment. If there is anything wrong it’s getting attached. Where are you committing a mistake? You get attached to the things of the world which are not yours. Actually they are meant for you. So the first principle is that all the things of the world are meant for me. I will enjoy them but I will not get attached. Second principle, I will be conscious of the truth or fact that the Lord of life is within me. Thirdly, I will meditate, go within, beyond body, breath, and mind, to enjoy that silence which is the living silence within. If you just follow these principles, you are free.
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of Swami Rama of the Himalayas