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The Way Home
The Way Home


Two Talks


Sri Swami Rama


The author of many books, including the classic “Living with The Himalayan Masters”, Swami Rama is the founder of the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, and of other centers throughout the world. He was born in northern India and trained in the tradition of the cave monasteries of the Himalayas. He served as a research consultant to the Menninger Foundation Research Project on Voluntary Control of Internal States, where he demonstrated control of his own autonomic functions. Swami Rama died in 1996.

These two talks by Swami Rama appear in the book “At The Eleventh Hour: The Biography of Swami Rama” by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, successor to Swami Rama. We are grateful to the Himalayan Institute (, which holds the copyright, for permission to present them here.

Ampersand at The Zoo Fence

Light Your Own Lamp

I pray to the Divinity in you. I am grateful to all the speakers who have been so kindly sharing their knowledge with you. I’m glad you are listening to them attentively. You Americans are great people. I love you and I have great respect for you. But you people have a serious problem: you are trying to find the solution to your problems in the external world. Let me tell you — the objects of the world are disappointing. You have made all kinds of experiments in the external world. Today you can fly in the air, and you have already landed on the moon. But you are not able to understand the importance of turning your mind inward and finding the truth within. Unless you know yourself, unless you know your body, your mind, and the center of consciousness — which yogis call Atman — you will remain alien to this world. You will not be able to adjust yourself to the world around you. Happiness comes from within.

In the pursuit of happiness you have tried all sorts of things — sex, drugs, and hundreds of other things — and you know that such things cannot make you happy for long. But still you continue to run into the external world, trying to learn the art of health and happiness from this teacher, from that priest, from this guru, from that swami. But let me tell you that unless you find the teacher within, these teachers and preachers in the external world cannot make you happy. You must learn to light your own lamp. An external object can simply show you the way, but ultimately you have to walk on the path by yourself.

If you are not clear about the goal and purpose of life, then no matter how clear the instructions you get from external gurus, you will be haunted by fear and doubt. The fear and doubt will not allow you to walk on the path wholeheartedly. Therefore, first you sit down and contemplate on the urgent issues of life: What am I doing? Why am I doing it? What is the purpose of my life? What do I want to achieve in life? What did I do in the past? What were the consequences of my previous deeds? What lessons did I learn from my past actions? Which of my actions were healthy and conducive to my growth, and which were not? Where did I make a mistake, and how can I not commit the same mistake again?

This is called contemplation. During the practice of contemplation, be honest to yourself. Listen to your inner voice. Make sure your inner voice is not contaminated by the noises of your mind. Your own sincerity and honesty will help you hear and heed the voice of your soul. Once you come in touch with that inner voice, the theories and practices taught by the teachers in the outside world will begin to make sense. You will instantly know which particular practice is truly helpful to your growth, and which other practices are just a waste of time.

There are three kinds of aspirants: some are like elephants, others are like ants, and a few rare ones are like honeybees. An elephant is a strong, powerful animal, but is not able to separate the grains of sugar from sand. An ant can separate sand and sugar. But a bee gathers the sweetness from all different sources and mixes it skillfully to form honey. Similarly, there are three kinds of students. Some students are not able to distinguish the great wisdom from dogma, superstition, cultish practices, and ceremonies; they remain confused about spirituality. Another kind of student has enough insight to see the difference between the genuine and the fake, between useful and useless practices, but is not strong from within. The best students are those who are blessed with both insight and inner strength. They gain knowledge from all possible sources, and modify the knowledge to suit their needs, for they know exactly what they are trying to achieve in life.

The Upanishads, the great scriptures of the East, say that this world is full of light and darkness, good and bad. You as a human being have the capacity to distinguish light from darkness and good from bad, and embrace only that which is full of light. Don’t waste your time running around from this teacher to that teacher. Don’t expect Swami Rama or anyone else to give you enlightenment. How can you expect that if I eat for you, you will attain freedom from hunger? Expecting that you will overcome your hunger by having someone else eat for you is a false expectation. Do not listen to those who give you such expectations.

Be practical. You have a body, but you are not a body alone. You are a thinking being too, for you have a mind. In order to be healthy and happy, you must learn the dynamics of your body and mind — their relationship and how they are connected to each other. Between body and mind there is something called breath. You are a breathing being too. Breath holds the key to your physical and mental health. Proper diet and exercise ensures your physical health. Proper thinking and one-pointedness of mind ensures your mental health. But without proper breathing you cannot have a good grip on either your body or your mind.

When you learn to eat properly and exercise properly, breathe and think properly, you don’t become a Hindu or a Buddhist; you simply become a healthy person. With a healthy body and clear mind, you can practice your religion more efficiently and creatively. Once you are healthy in body and clear in mind, you can easily contemplate on the higher purpose and meaning of life. Once you have clarity of mind, you will not need an Eastern swami or Western preacher to tell you what is good for you and what is not good for you. Therefore what I tell you is to learn those techniques of holistic health and spirituality that can help you become healthy and strong, clear and energetic.

This is a scientific path. All yogic practices can be verified scientifically. Yoga is a spiritual science. To practice this spiritual science, you do not need to change your religion. There are no commandments in yoga. Yoga requires self-commitment. Self-commitment is the basis of self-discipline, and self-discipline is the key to self-transformation. It is self-transformation that will bring you everlasting joy — not changing your clothes or your lifestyle or becoming part of a particular group or organization.

The preceding text is provided by the Himalayan Institute (

Take me up!

The Sacred Fire

The word guru is a very pious word. In fact we don’t use this word by itself. It is always accompanied by the word deva, “bright being”. We always say “gurudeva”. The word guru means “one who dispels the darkness of ignorance”; gurudeva means “divine being, the bright being that dispels the darkness of ignorance”. Gurudeva is the one who dwells in the innermost chamber of our heart and guides us in all situations and circumstances of life. It is the inner light.

People think that a particular human is the guru. That is a big mistake. Just like you, me, and everyone else, that human guru is born and dies one day. Whereas, gurudeva is immortal. It is unborn and not subject to death, decay, or destruction. Since the beginning of history, people have been trying to find guidance from this guru, that teacher, this priest, that swami. But so far they have not been successful.

No matter how many books you read and how many teachers and preachers you study with, you can never be completely free from your doubts and fears. Unless you are free from doubts and fears, you cannot commit yourself to your practice wholeheartedly. Unless you practice wholeheartedly, you cannot gain direct experience. Without direct experience, you cannot have true solace.

When you receive guidance from the Divine Being within you, your doubts and fears vanish. You no longer feel a need to validate your path, your way of life. Inner light infuses your heart with an unshakeable conviction. Your conviction becomes the source of your strength. When the lamp of conviction is lit by the Divine, you become immeasurably strong.

To avoid frustration and disappointment, search and find the teacher within, the gurudeva within. In the light of the inner guru you will be able to distinguish what is right for you and what is not, what is good for you and what is not. If you cannot distinguish right from wrong, good from bad, you will always remain a victim of abuse and exploitation by the external world.

No matter how enlightened you guru is, he cannot guarantee your enlightenment. He can guide you; he can show you the light. But it is you who have to go within, find and embrace the light within.

There are not very many perfect masters. And even if you are fortunate enough to meet one, he will not interfere in the law of providence. He will help you in identifying your strengths and weaknesses. He will help you learn how to overcome your weaknesses and cultivate inner strength. If it is appropriate, if it is the right time, and if it is in conformity with the divine will, he will light the inner flame on the altar of your heart. Before doing so he will make sure that you understand the value of self-responsibility, that you understand how to keep the flame alive and how to bask in its light. This is called preparation for receiving divine grace.

Let me explain further. It is your job to gather the lamp, the wick, and the oil. When this preparation is done, the dormant light within you inspires the awakened light within the teacher to light the lamp. In other words, it is at the request of the teacher within you that an enlightened master is spontaneously motivated to serve the eternal flame that resides in you.

A true teacher never gives false expectations to his students. He never says, “You serve me and I will do the practices for you”. Let me tell you strongly and clearly: Just by being around a great person, you do not become a great person. Just by being around an adept, you don’t become an adept. By doing what an adept did, you become an adept. Look at the great masters: Krishna, Rama, Buddha, Christ. Millions of people knew them, and thousands of people lived with them — but how many were enlightened? Hardly one or two. These great masters were powerful and compassionate, and yet people around them remained ignorant and miserable. In fact, very few made an effort to take advantage of the wisdom of these masters, and as a result almost without exception all of the followers of these great teachers suffer from hatred, jealousy, greed, anger, desire, attachment, and ego, just like those who did not have a chance to be in the company of these great souls.

This Guru Purnima, the full-moon day, is a reminder that your gurudeva is within you. That bright being manifests in you in the form of enthusiasm, courage, self-confidence, self-trust, self-motivation, and faith in God. On this occasion, you make a resolution to commit yourself to your practice with renewed energy. Don’t be dependent on anyone, including the physical form of the guru. It is important that you love and respect your guru. Have faith in him — but don’t make the mistake of identifying your guru with the body. Rather, conceive of the guru as the sacred light, the sacred fire. That sacred fire is not different from you. It is you.

The preceding text is provided by the Himalayan Institute (

Editor’s Note: “Guru Purnima” is an event celebrated every year, at the full moon in July, by the Himalayan Institute in honor of the teaching tradition of Swami Rama’s lineage. (Return to text)

Take me up!


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