A story by Swami Rama (from Samadhi, The Highest State of Wisdom, Pp. 176):
“Someone went to a swami and said, “Sir, I have been dying to learn the method of meditation.”
Swami said, “Go to a small room—not a big room. Don’t hang any pictures in the room. Sit down there and meditate on a bull for seven days. Then you will learn the effects of meditation.”
“Only the effects?”
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.
"For a genuine and everlasting transformation, one must practice a systematic method of self-discipline and self-training. Mere philosophy and intellectual knowledge cannot stand in time of need, if one does not know how to use the essentials of that philosophy in one’s daily life. Applying theoretical knowledge and living with it in daily life is called practice.
Practice requires discipline. Discipline should not be rigidly imposed, but students should learn to commit themselves and accept discipline as essential for self-growth. Imposing rigidity and following it is not helpful at all.
On the way to self-transformation, self-discipline is indispensable to both those who live in the world and those who renounce the world and resort to monasteries. Even those who renounce their homes and duties still carry with them the deep-rooted samskaras sown in earlier lives. It takes a long time to become free of those samskaras.
Becoming a swami or monk is not so important. What is important is to accept a self-disciplined life. There needs to be a bridge between life within and without. Discipline is the foundation of that bridge. People should not be tempted by mere techniques, but should learn to cultivate discipline within themselves.
People have formed a habit of leaning on others. They always want others to help and tell them what to do and what not to do. This is a bad habit. You are a human being; you should take charge of yourself. If you become too dependent on a therapist, a preacher, or a healer, then what’s the difference between you and an animal? It means you are allowing your life to be governed by your trainer. By becoming dependent on such therapies and therapists, your power of self-motivation and self-guidance will never be allowed to unfold. The scriptures, the treasure house of the sages’ experiences, clearly state that self-help alone helps. For such self-help we need a sound method of self-training.
Among all the methods for training and therapies, the highest of all is self-training in which one remains conscious of one’s thoughts, speech, and actions. When you work with yourself you will notice that whenever you calm down your conscious mind, bubbles of thoughts will suddenly come up from the unconscious mind.
In learning to control the mind and its modifications, it is essential to go through the process of self-observation, self-analysis, and meditation. Learning to control the mind, and careful study of the relationship between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind, take a long time. Many times you may think that you have conquered your thoughts and your mind is under your control. After a few days, some unknown bubble arises from the unconscious and disturbs your conscious mind, thus changing your attitudes and behavior.
The process of transformation requires regularity and vigilance. Without regularity it is not possible to transcend one’s habit patterns or transform one’s personality. Patience helps one maintain regularity, whereas self-analysis and observation help one remain vigilant.
At times you may find yourself disappointed and depressed, but if you are determined and committed to self-training and self-transformation, you will certainly find help in one way or another. Do not worry about success, failure is a part of success. However, not to make an effort is wrong.
The kicks and blows and constant battles that I had to go through, I alone know. I am giving you loving advice and I hope you follow it with full determination."
--Swami Rama in The Essence of Spiritual Life.