The Himalayan Tradition
The systematic practices of the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Tradition come from the ancient cave monasteries of the Himalayas. The Tradition has an unbroken lineage of Guru and disciples relationships which is known to be at least 5,000 years old, and which traces its roots through the history of mankind and back to the primal energy or primal consciousness of the universe.Twelve centuries ago, Shankaracharya organized five centers of the Himalayan Tradition. As one of those five, our tradition is the Bharati lineage. 'Bha' means “the light of knowledge,” and 'rati' means “a lover who is absorbed in it,” thus, 'Bharati' indicates one, who as a lover of knowledge, becomes totally absorbed in its light. (Swami Veda Bharati, “The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation”)
In recent history, the Tradition has been represented by Swami Rama and his teachers, Bengali Baba and Mahavatar Baba (also known to some as 'Babaji').
The tradition has the following orientation
- One absolute without a second is our philosophy.
- Serving humanity through selflessness is an expression of love, which one should follow through mind, action and speech.
- The yoga system of Patanjali is a preliminary step accepted by us for the higher practices in our tradition, but philosophically we follow the Advaita system of one Absolute without a second.
- Meditation is systematized by stilling the body, having serene breath, and controlling the mind. Breath awareness, control of the autonomic system, and learning to discipline primitive urges are practiced.
- We teach the middle path to students in general, and those who are prepared for higher steps of learning have the opportunity to learn advanced practices. This helps people in general in their daily lives to live in the world and yet remain above. Our method, for the convenience of Western students, is called Superconscious Meditation. “I am only a messenger delivery the wisdom of the Himalayan sages of this tradition, and whatever spontaneously comes from the centre of intuition, that I teach. I never prepare my lectures or speeches, for I was told by my master not to do so.” - Swami Rama.
- We do not believe in conversion, changing cultural habits, or introducing any God in particular. We respect all religions equally, loving all and excluding none. Neither do we oppose any temple, mosque, or church, nor do we believe in building homes for God while ignoring human being. Our firm belief is that every human being is a living institution or a temple.
- Our members are all over the world, and for the sake of communication we also believe in education. Our graduate school imparts the knowledge by the sages, thereby fulfilling the inner need of intellectuals.
- We practice vegetarianism. We teach a nutritional diet that is healthy and good for longevity, but at the same time we are not rigid and do not force students to become vegetarians.
- We respect the institution of the family and stress the education of children by introducing a self-training program and not by forcing our beliefs, faiths, and way of life on them.
- Our trained teachers systematically impart all aspects of yoga relating to body, breath, mind and individual soul. Awareness within and without is the key, and the methods of expansion are carefully introduced to the students.
- To serve humanity we believe in examining, verifying, and coming to certain conclusions regarding the yoga practices, including relaxation and meditation.
- Our experiments are documented and published for benefit of humanity.
- We believe in universal brotherhood, loving all and excluding none.
- We strictly abstain from politics and from opposing any religion.
- Of great importance is the practice of non-violence with mind, action and speech. (Swami Rama, Living with the Himalayan Masters)
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The knowledge that is imparted by the sages and masters of the Himalayas guides the aspirant like a light in the darkness. The purpose of this message is to awaken the divine flame that resides in the reservoir of every human being. This flame, when perfectly kindled by spiritual discipline, mounts higher and higher into the vast light of truth. It rises through the vital or nervous mind, passes through our mental sky, and finally enters at the paradise of light, its own supreme home in the eternal truth. Then the illuminated practitioner sits calm in his celestial sessions with the highest of powers and drinks the wine of infinite beatitude. (Swami Rama, Living with the Himalayan Masters)
The initial purpose of the Tradition is to awaken the divine flame within each human being and the goal is for each student to become a master of the Tradition in coming to know his or her true Self. (Swami Veda Bharati, "The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation")
The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation combines the wisdom of Patañjali's Yoga-sūtras, the philosophy and practices of the Tantras, and the specific oral instructions and initiatory experiences passed on by a long line of saints and Yoga masters whose names may or may not be known. The Tradition is not an intellectual combining of three unrelated elements, but a unified system in which all the parts are integrally linked. – Swami Veda Bharati, “The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation”
The yoga described by Patañjali in his Yoga Sūtras is Raja Yoga, the royal path. It encompasses the teachings of all the different paths and because of the variety of methods it includes can be practiced by people of varying backgrounds and temperaments. It concerns itself with three dimensions or realms – the physical, mental and spiritual. Through the methods of Raja Yoga one achieves mastery of all three realms and is thus led to full realization of the Self. Raja Yoga is a systematic and scientific discipline that does not impose unquestioning faith but encourages healthy discrimination. Certain methods are prescribed and the benefits derived from these methods are also described. It can, therefore, be scientifically verified by anyone who accepts the prescribed method as a hypothesis to be tested by his own experience.
Raja Yoga is also called the Eightfold Path. These eight steps trace a systematic path of regulation and control from the gross (the physical body) to the subtler (the senses), and lastly to the subtlest manifestations of the mind. The eight steps are Yama, the restraints of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-possessiveness; Niyama, the observances of cleanliness, contentment, practices that bring about perfection, study of the scriptures, and surrender to the ultimate reality; Asana, meditative postures and postures which ensure physical well-being; Pranayama, control of the vital energy that sustains body and mind or science of breathing; Pratyahara, withdrawal and control of the senses; Dharana, concentration; Dhyana, meditation; and Samadhi, the superconscious state or fourth state which transcends waking, dreaming, and sleeping and in which man becomes one with the Divine Self and transcends all imperfections and limitations. – Swami Rama, Lectures on Yoga
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Various schools of meditation emphasize different methods. All the methods of meditation that have ever been taught in the history of mankind or continue to be taught this day are included in the system of raja yoga and are historically related to it.
A particular school might teach concentration on light, or on sound, or use some other technique. A teacher of the Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation is trained in all the possible methods of meditation. Where a particular school may describe a specific method for everyone, a yogi thoroughly trained in the tradition prescribes
· One of many methods,
· To a certain depth,
· For a certain length of time,
· For a specific personality type
· At a certain stage of the person’s development.
– Pandit Usharbudh Arya (now Swami Veda Bharati), Superconscious Meditation
Philosophically, we follow Advaita Vedanta of one absolute without a second. According to Advaita Vedanta philosophy, Brahman is the word used to denote absolute reality, pure consciousness. Brahman is the Absolute non-dual Reality, and Its essential nature is existence, consciousness, and bliss. There is a perfect identity between the Self and Brahman; the difference between Brahman and the Self is mere illusion. – Swami Rama, The Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita
The central teaching of yoga is that man’s nature is Divine, perfect and infinite. He is unaware of this divinity because he falsely identifies with his body, mind, and objects of the external world. This false identification makes man apparently imperfect and limited, subject to sorrow, decay and death because his mind and body are subject to the limitations of time, space and causation. Through the meditative methods of yoga, man can cast off this ignorance and become aware of his own true Self which is pure and free from all imperfections.
The whole process of yoga is an ascent into the purity of that absolute perfection which is the original state of man. It implies, therefore, the removal of enveloping impurities, the stilling of lower feelings and thoughts and the establishment of a state of perfect balance and harmony. All the methods of yoga have ethical and moral perfection as their basis. – Swami Rama, Lectures on Yoga
There is one thing unique to our tradition. It links itself to an unbroken lineage of sages even beyond Shankara. – Swami Rama, Living with the Himalayan Masters
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Transmission is the central point of the Himalayan tradition. From times immemorial the tradition has been passed on experientially in an unbroken chain of master disciple relationships. A meditation guide in this tradition must have at least some degree of the power of transmission, to transfer shakti, the primal force, to those being taught. S/he should be able to create a common mind-field when leading a class or a group in meditation and be able to induce a meditative state by her/his mere presence and voice. One may do so only up to the degree to which s/he is qualified and authorized. One cannot advise a concentration on, for example, the heart chakra unless one can trigger the experience of the energy configurations there at least to some degree. Advanced preceptors teach meditation through such a transmission, while using their voices to gently guide their students into a meditative state. – Swami Veda Bharati, “The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation.”
Tantra philosophy is the highest of all the practical philosophies of the East. In tantra yoga, the chakras are used as centers of worship of Shakti, the primal force and Mother of the Universe. In tantric literature, the awakening of the kundalini force is systematized and organized, and with the help of a competent teacher, any aspirant can awaken the kundalini, the primal force latent at the base of the spinal cord, and lead it to its final abode of Shiva, unmanifested consciousness, the union of the individual soul with the cosmic soul. – Swami Rama, Choosing a Path
The knowledge of Srī Vidya is imparted stage by stage. Srī Vidya is a treatise that establishes relationship of microcosm with macrocosm. It is an advanced study in that relationship. – Swami Rama, Living with the Himalayan Masters
In summation, the following may be said.
The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation is distinguished in that it:
1. Is the first meditative tradition
2. Is the most comprehensive, integral and all-inclusive tradition
3. Has given birth to the major meditative traditions of the world and has continued to enrich them all
4. Does not require adherence to a belief system, but experientially helps verify metaphysical reality
5. Has an unbroken lineage whose continuity is ensured through transmission of shakti in meditative and initiatory states
Swami Rama of the Himalayas has presented this tradition in its scientific format in his lectures and writings and has initiated the disciples to continue a certain degree of transmission.
The student can study the writings of the Tradition and read about the experiences of the great masters of the past for him or herself. The Himalayan Tradition is not a tradition where a teacher proclaims himself a guru and students are expected to believe whatever he says, rather, the teachings come from the Tradition and the student can look to the Tradition to support and make sense of what the teacher says. The initial purpose of the tradition is to awaken the divine flame within each human being and the goal is for each student to become a master of the Tradition in coming to know his or her true Self. It is the task of the teacher, through the Grace of the Guru to selflessly help his disciples on the way of highest enlightenment. Passing on of knowledge is done experientially through the transmission of a pulsation of energy.
When one reaches the end of the practices prescribed in any one part of the Himalayan system, continuity is to be found in the system as a whole. - Swami Veda Bharati, “The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation”
The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation is not a religion, and students are not encouraged to leave whatever religion they practiced when starting the Tradition. Existing students come from all major religions found on Earth and often express the fact that with their yoga practices they have come to a greater understanding of their own religions.
Religion offers certain creeds and beliefs that one is encouraged to accept, whereas yoga is a philosophy in which one is not said to know anything until one has known it experientially. Students are given a method. Applying that method, their lives become an exploration.
“…those who consider the prime questions of life such as: Who am I? From where have I come? Why have I come? and Where will I go? are not interested in only the intellectual answers to these questions. The subject matter of Eastern philosophy leads the student through a systematic way of directly experiencing the truths of experience and the height of Self-realization.” – Swami Rama, Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita
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