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 only after you have learned to take care of the body that you can tread the path of inner life. Proper cleansing, nourishing, and exercise are the prerequisites for the next step in the cultivation of health. This step is called being still. It is very important and, if you study it systematically not very difficult. Once you have prepared the body, it is essential that you learn to sit quietly. Even if you eat the best diet, if you do not know how to be still your mind will not yet be under your control. The most magnificent sports car, if it is driven recklessly, will soon be destroyed: so it is also with the human being. A strong body willed by a reckless mind leads to restlessness and ill health. You should become aware of the integration of the mind and body, for the mind and body have such a close relationship that the body can disturb the mind: if the body is in a state of pain or disease, then the mind will also be ill at ease. Likewise, a restless mind creates a tense and nervous body.
It should be remembered, however, that in general the mind rules the body. The mind moves first, and then the body follows. So your body language is totally dependent on your mental functions. Try this and see. Try to raise your arm without first thinking about it. It cannot be done. In order to raise the arm you must first think “Arm, raise,” and then send this message through the nervous system from the brain to the arm. The arm will not move until the mind tells it to do so.
Furthermore, just as the mind sends messages to the body, the body is continually sending messages to the mind – “This chair is hard; this postures causes a pain in the back,” and so on. When then mind is constantly being badgered by all these body messages it becomes very active, agitates, and dissipated trying to integrate all the data. It cannot remain calm.
Therefore in order to learn to be still you must first quiet the chatter coming from the body. This begins by learning the art of sitting. By developing a steady, comfortable position you free yourself from the distractions of the body and are able to attend to the mind. For if your body is not steady your mind cannot be still; if you put your body into an uncomfortable position it will become a constant source of distraction. In addition, if you sit in a certain position for a week and then change to another position for a week and then change to another position the next week, your mental attitude will change as well. So choosing a position in which you can be still is very important.
The Bible talk s about the importance of stillness: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) If you learn this, then that godly part in you will reveal itself. But for that godly part to be revealed without being still is not possible. So you should direct your voluntary and conscious effort to learning how to be still. If you just learn this, there will be no problem. In the beginning this means not moving at all. Later, once you learn what stillness is, you will be able to move the body, to act and live in the world, yet remain still. Calmness, stillness, and a one-pointed mind are identical; when this is realized, it becomes possible to create them at all times. In other words, true stillness does not merely mean the absence of movement: it means having equanimity, and then performing your actions responsibly; it means attending effortlessly to your duties without being unduly affected by external circumstances.
To achieve this goal requires, first of all, self-discipline.
- Swami Rama in A Practical Guide to Holistic Health pages 55-57.