I am very grateful to be with all of you this evening. Thank you very much. With all the multitudes of alternatives offered on a Friday night in Mumbai, you have all chosen to be here, for this we are very grateful.
Radhanath Swami explains that spiritual progress is realized by putting Krishna in the centre
Spiritual progress is not something that we decided to do and then everything happens automatically.
Spiritual progress comes with our moment to moment choices, our sadhana, and our satsang. Satsang is associating with inspiring and enlightening people who strengthen our faith, who open our minds to higher levels of whole, deeper connections to God. Sadhana is where we cultivate those treasures to actually gain realization, and that gives us a foundation which we can build our life upon through our sadachar or through our activities. – Radhanath Swami
True peace, true happiness, according to our Vedic scriptures is realized to the extent we put our selfish interests outside of the center of the purpose of our life, and we put Krishna or God in the center. What does it mean to put Krishna in the center of our life?
ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ
Krishna tells in Gita that he is the source of all material and spiritual worlds. When we speak of Krishna, we are speaking of the One Absolute Truth. The one God has many religions that have appeared within this creation many times, at many places, and with many names. That one truth is the source of everything and everyone that exists. This is the beginning statement of the Brahma sutra.
The Vedic literatures are vast. There are the four Vedas, 108 primary Upanishads, 18 primary Puranas, Samhitas, Mahabharata, Ramayana, and practically every important subject and every level of life is discussed in various literatures of the Vedas. The compiler of the Vedanta is Vyasa Deva. He wrote the Brahma Sutra, to bring the essence of all this knowledge in one place, which has short quotes or the Sutras. He begins with janmādy asya yata that the supreme truth is the source of everything that exists, and from whom everything emanates. The Srimad-Bhagavatam is declared to be the commentary of the Vedanta Sutras by Vyasadeva himself and he writes that, “When you water the root of the tree, naturally that water extends to every part of the tree: the branches, the leaves, the twigs and the flowers. Similarly, when you put food in the stomach, the nourishment goes to every part of the body.” So, in the same way, when we put Bhagavan in the center of our life, that means we he actually put everyone and everything in the center of our life.
Radhanath Swami reveals the nature and effects of compassion
Sri Chaitanya explained it in this way, “When we actually put God in the center of our life, realistically, practically the happiness that we discover is through seva, through service.” Para-dukh-dukhi and true service is with the intention that other people’s happiness is my happiness, and other people’s suffering is my sufferings. This is compassion.
Compassion is the nature of love of God. Compassion is the nature of a true spiritual connection. Amanina-manadena is when we are actually accessing God’s grace, not just by talk or imagination, but with realization, then we will learn how to respect all others and how to truly be a well wisher of others. On one level, compassion is not to cause unnecessary harm to any living being, but on another level, compassion is to serve and to live in such a way that we inspire the highest opportunities for happiness in other living beings. – Radhanath Swami
All living beings within this world have a body, a mind; also the source of life is the atma, the living force for the soul and have many emotions.
Just as Vedanta Sutra begins with janmady asya yatha, when Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was teaching Sanatana Goswami, he spoke such a vast treasure of knowledge and wisdom from the very beginning stages of spirituality to the highest ultimate revelations of divine love. He built his whole philosophical explanation on one small sutra – jivare svaroop hoye krishnera nitya dasa – that we are all eternally the servants of Bhagavan, of Krishna, or of God. We are not meant to strive to be the proprietors, the enjoyers or the controllers, because it’s an illusion. The nature of the soul is beyond those fantasies.
We want to be controllers but we are constantly under control: we are under the control of time (we have to grow old), we are under the control of government leaders (whether we like it or not), we are under the control of powers (sometimes of envious people, sometimes there are very kind and compassionate people), we are under the control of the elements (the cold and the wind of the earthquakes and tsunamis), and so many of us are under the control of our own minds (we want to be the happy and we are not happy, we want to be peaceful but there’s not peace, and ultimately we have to grow old and get disease and die.) So, to try to be the controller in this world is a miserable situation essentially. We want to be the proprietor but to be a proprietor means you have control over what you own and ultimately everything is taken away from us. We want to be the enjoyer and so often this propensity for enjoyment is at the cost of other people’s well-being.
The true nature of our heart is to serve, to serve with love. – Radhanath Swami
So, to show kindness through our words, through our actions, to be an instrument of mercy to others, is the mode of goodness. That is sattva guna. And the transcendental state is when that sattva guna become shuddha sattva, when it includes kindness to the atma, to the souls of others, because it is everyone’s deepest propensity to be happy. Bhagavad-Gita tells that, “When we find happiness within ourselves, we can be happy in any situation. When we do not find happiness within ourselves, we are always trying to adjust material energy for the purpose of happiness which never lasts and is always thoroughly incomplete. The atma is seeking love to connect with the infinite eternal love of God and to love God, which extends to all living beings.”
We are part of God and that is our propensity. So, the highest compassion is actually facilitating people, not in a sectarian way, but in a deep and powerful spiritual way to actually realize their propensity. – Radhanath Swami
On an external level to feed somebody is a form of compassion, to hospitalize somebody is also a form of compassion, to educate a person so that they can actually do something and meet a higher potential is even a deeper form of compassion. What is the potential of the soul due to a lack of this type of education? Due to amount of this type of direction and inspiration there is such a disconnection between people’s lives and their own hearts. Yoga is to reconnect our words, our thoughts, and our action every aspect of our life with the propensity of the heart or the soul, and that is to serve with love.
yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham
Krishna tells in Gita, “Time and again, I come to this world to establish true spiritual principles.” In every great and true religion in the world throughout history in all different countries, the same one God is coming to remind us of what we have forgotten. When my guru Srila Prabhupada came to New York City he was asked, “Swamiji, we already have our own religions in this country. Why have you come?” And Srila Prabhupada said, “I have not come to convert. I have come to enlighten, I have come simply to remind you what you have forgotten, that God’s message.” When he comes just to teach us what we have forgotten: what is our real need, what is our true propensity, seva or to serve with compassion, that is love for God.
Radhanath Swami points out basics of spiritual life
‘The Journey Home’ for everyone is to find that truth, that realization within ourselves and bhakti or true spirituality. It is completely practical. Due to certain types of propaganda or distractions, people think that there is a practical side of my life and then there is the spiritual or religious side of our life. Bhagavad-Gita is a scripture that integrates our spirituality with every aspect of our life. It is completely practical. It is practical to be happy. When we are looking for that happiness for physical and emotional comforts through things, our expectations become high and our frustrations rise usually always above our expectations, because the world doesn’t work that way. Brahma, who is the secondary creator of this world, he has spoken in the Bhagavat Purana that the whole purpose of how this world operates is to give people an opportunity, that there is something more, and unless we seek that there is something more that is within ourselves in our love of God, we will inevitably be frustrated in whatever arrangements we tried to make. So, when we take to spiritual life, the same challenges, the same potential frustrations, the same setbacks are going to be there for us. It is not that when we become spiritual, the world becomes favorable toward all of our worldly desires. We still get sick, we still have relatives that die, we still get be betrayed by people, we will still be dishonored from time to time, sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail, spiritual life is not just to make our external experience better.
Spiritual life is to give us such a strong internal spiritual foundation that the external circumstances do not distract us from our integrity or from the real joy that we have spiritual life is finding something so valuable, so rich, and so precious, something that is beyond time, something that is beyond all that inevitable changes the of worldly life. Spiritual life is about discovering that and sharing it with others. The basic principle of true spirituality is simplicity. Practical simplicity means to live without duplicity. It also means to be happy with very simple things. – Radhanath Swami
A little baby is really happy with simple things. They don’t need computers, they just want to be loved and they just want love and show their love. That is the most innate basic human principle. Even if we are scientists, even if are the great philosophers, even if we are leaders of political movements, when our happiness, when our values are based in these simple principles, then nothing can disturb our joy, and then we are really empowered to make a difference within other people’s lives in a deep profound and lasting way.
When our heart is not simple, as a well wisher of everyone, there’s no envy. If there is one quality that destroys the beauty of simplicity, it is envy. Because we put our own ego so much in the center of our lives that we can’t tolerate when other people are doing better than us. We become arrogant in our success; we become envious in our shortcomings.
Why there is cruelty: cruelty to other living beings, to other humans, to other races or sexes, or religions of humans, cruelty to other living animals, the birds, and the fish? That cruelty is actually based on a deep seated envy and envy where we put ourselves so much in the center we don’t see that our true well-being is in giving happiness and quality to the lives of others.
Our guru, Srila Prabhupada asked us to have programs for protecting cows. When he came to America, he saw almost everybody was eating all kinds of different meat. Where I was born in Chicago, at that time in the 1950s, Chicago had the largest slaughterhouse on planet Earth; it was called the union stockyards. Sometimes, in the south side of Chicago, sometimes he would go to this concert arena called ‘The International Amphitheater’ and we have to drive by that neighborhood. Whenever we would drive by, my father would always say, “Roll up the window!” because it smelled like dead; it was horrible. The entire area, for miles, smelled like dead and I remember asking myself, “Why you are eating that stuff? We can’t stand to smell and we are eating it?”
Srila Prabhupada established cow protection, but he said, “Protection of the cows is not just not killing them. It’s actually respecting their rights as God’s children and living beings: by giving them love, by giving them happiness, protecting their natural propensity to be happy, and by giving them an environment where the holy name of the Lord is being chanted and seva is being performed. Even their souls, their atma are being inspired and protected.” In the world we live, the concept of cow protection in this way is because cows are completely dependent on human compassion. When we understand that principle, it naturally extends to all other animals and birds and all other living beings.
Radhanath Swami narrates his experiences in India
I would like to share one little story with you. When I first arrived in India in 1970, I was stopped at the border because I only had about $26 and they demanded that I must have $200 to come into India. The border guard told me, “We have enough beggars, we don’t want another one. You are rejected!” I pleaded, I begged. I argued, I cried, but the guard was more and more angry. I tried to persuade her each time, until they put guns in my face and made me go back. But I had nowhere to go back. I was in the no man’s land between Pakistan and India and I sat there. I kept trying for six hours and finally the guard changed. I begged the new guard, “Please give me a chance. I risk everything. Six months I’ve been hitchhiking from London just to find the treasures of your culture and your people. Please just give me a chance.” And ultimately he gave me a chance.
On January 26, Republic day, I was invited to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. It is the palace of the President of India. It is very beautiful place. It is not that too many people were invited for this event. We went through security and I went into the back gardens and it was a reception for the President of the United States and his wife, Michelle and Barak Obama and all the leaders of India’s politics. Narendra Modi, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh were all sitting together and I was there. As I was looking, there was military bands playing the songs and then there was national anthem.
I happened to look up and there was a bird flying overhead. I must say this is the highlight of my whole experience there, because I was honored to be there and everything like that, and I was thinking, ‘45 years ago, I came knowing no one and I was rejected, and now I’m being invited to the President’s mansion to receive the President of the United States.’ So, I was amused with how things change in life and then I looked up at this bird and it looked like the bird was looking at me too, because I kind of stood out as I was the only spiritual person in this crowd like this and everyone else was in tuxedos and every very nicely dressed. So as I was looking at the bird, I was thinking, ‘The atma in the bird, and the atma of the Prime Minister and the President and all of these competing political parties that are sitting before me, is of the same quality. They’re all a part of God, they are all the children of Krishna, and each has their own excellence. That bird definitely cannot rule a nation, but then the rulers of the nation cannot fly in the sky. They came on board Air Force One in your airplane, but they can’t fly on their own.’
So each living being is gifted by God with certain special qualities. Little insects crawl up the wall; none of us can crawl up walls. They can fly; we can’t fly.
Every living being has certain very special gifts of God and the nature to the big gift that a human being has, athato brahma jnjasa; we have the opportunity to actually be instruments of God’s love and God’s grace to all other living beings. We have the power within this human life to actually understand who we are and once we understand who we are, we naturally can perceive who everyone else is, not just on the physical and emotional level, but on the spiritual level. – Radhanath Swami
So this was such a special gift to see the bird and the leaders of several nations with this appreciation. The true potential within all of us is that we are immortal children of the same God. That God is all attractive, all beautiful, all loving and all merciful, and that makes we have those same qualities within ourselves, maima vamso jiva loke, as parts of Krishna.
Radhanath Swami recounts the story of King Ambrisha and Durvasa Muni
Seva means to be an instrument of that grace in whatever we do; disconnected from that propensity within ourselves is the cause of so much suffering and so many problems. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, there is a beautiful story of a king whose name was Ambrisha. Ambrisha, even though he was such a wealthy powerful person, he was such a great devotee of the Lord. He had a wife and children and he had such a high level occupation. He was the king of an empire with high responsibility. Yet he always saw that everything was God’s property and everyone was God’s child. He was not the master, he was the caretaker on behalf of God, and he saw every living being like his own children.
So he fasted, he performed tapasya for the purpose of purifying his own heart so that he could render deeper loving service to Krishna and all beings. He also performed his tapasya to try to set an example for others, because what leaders do, common people are very influenced by it. Yad yad acarati sresthas – what leaders do, common people follow; mahajano ye na katha sapanta – what great people do, common people will naturally follow. We all have a choice of who were going to consider great and who were going to take example and inspiration from. Sometimes our children go into the company of games and people, who do things that are very detrimental to their health and to society, because somehow or other they see someone as their leader, or as they say in certain parts of Mumbai, “They see somebody is being very cool,” so they want to emulate that and that becomes their standard. Human evolution is when human society starts seeing people who are actually beyond egoism and greed, and who are actually compassionate beings and God loving beings, as great and inspiring. Otherwise, whoever could cut through processes and make the most of the money, get the most amount of power, and have the most amount of physical pleasures, are considered great.
So, Ambrisha was a king and was fasting and performing tapasya as an example for the world. The Rishi named Durvasa came with 60,000 disciples to Ambrisha’s house. Ambrisha said, “I want to feed you prasada, please sit for prasada.”
Durvasa Muni said, “I must first take my bath.” This took place in Madhuvana, which is a part of Vrajbhumi. So, Durvasa went to the Yamuna to take his bath and then he went into a state of samadhi. It was taking a long time and for Ambrisha, his fast had to be broken by a certain parana time. Some brahmans came to him and said, “You have to break your fast now!” He said, “But I don’t want to eat before my guest. What should I do?” So he remembered the word from the scripture that by drinking a little water, carnamrita, it is simultaneously fasting and not fasting. So he took a drop of water that was offered to Krishna, carnamrita. Durvasa Muni understood what happened and he was furious, ‘You invited me, and ate before me.’ Ambrisha said, “I am just trying to do what’s best for everyone.”
Durvasa Muni pulled the hair out of his head and threw it on the ground, and through a mantra a fiery monster was created. This monster was a devastating being; he was vicious and he came to destroy Ambrisha. He was only inches away but Ambrisha didn’t call his armies. He folded his hands and he just prayed to Lord Narayana, to Bhagavan, “My lord, if you want to protect me I have nothing to fear. If you want to kill me, if you want me to die, then I want to die because my soul is immortal. Nothing can kill my soul. All that matters is I’m remembering you.” With such gratitude and love he just remembered Krishna in this most desperate situation. He was fearless and he was peaceful.
Vishnu sent his Sudarshan Chakra, his weapon and he eliminated that fiery monster and then the chakra went to Durvasa. Now, Durvasa is sannyasi, he is swami like I am. Swamis are supposed to be renounced.
Renunciation really means you have nothing to fear, because you renounced the illusory conceptions. – Radhanath Swami
You renounce the separateness of egos between ourselves and all other living beings, and Krishna, God. But as soon as the Sudarshan Cakra came toward Durvasa, he ran away. He ran really fast. He was a mystic. He ran as fast as he could run, and when he could not run fast he started to fly, and he flew from planet to planet. Chakra was right behind him. Ultimately he came to Brahmaloka, to Shiva loka, to Indra loka, and then he went to Vaikuntha, to the abode of Narayana. He said, “I’m surrendering to you. Please take your weapon away,” because Krishna promises, ‘If you surrender to me I give you all protection.’ What Vishnu spoke was beautiful, “Because I’m always within the heart of Ambrisha Maharaj, and Ambrisha Maharaj is always in my heart, when you attack one who loves me, you are attacking me. I have no power to protect you, because I’ve given my heart to my devotee who loves me. If he forgives you, then I have no power to punish you. If he doesn’t forgive you, I have no power to protect you.” That is the reciprocation between Lord and devotee.
So, Durvasa Muni went back and Ambrisha was waiting for him; he still hadn’t honored his prasada. When Ambrisha saw the chakra behind Durvasa, he prayed with all his heart, ‘If I’ve ever done anything to please you my lord, please take all my credits just to forgive him and make him happy.’ When Durvasa Muni saw this, Durvasa understood, ‘This is a yogi. One who can forgive even in such difficult situations and one who is eager to serve even in the most challenging conditions is a yogi. This is real renunciation. I’m living in caves and he is living in palaces. I’m just doing sadhna all day, and he is ruling over armies, he is ruling over nations, taxing citizens and is doing all of these things, and he has a wife and he has children. I am a celibate but he’s a better yogi than me because he’s peaceful in any situation, he just wants to serve with love, he has the power to forgive, he is the power of compassion and he is humble. Durvasa fell at Ambrisha’s feet and Ambrisha fell at Durvasa’s feet. Durvasa started to praise him and Ambrisha said, “No! No! No! You are a great saint. I am nothing. I just want to give you prasada. Please take your prasada.”
Radhanath Swami speaks on the practical applications in day-to-day life
So what is really valuable in life –
grhe thako vane thako sada hari bole dako
sukhe dukhe bhulo nako vadane hari nam koro re
gay gora madhur sware
“Whether we are grihastha with families, husbands, wives, children, or whether we are living in the jungle as yogi’s or swami’s, those are external responsibilities, but if we are connected to that divine source within ourselves, we can be beyond all the apparent happiness and distress of this world, because we experience something higher – param drstavani vartate.
harer nama harer nama harer nama he kevalam
kalau nastv nastv nastv gatir anyatha
In this age and time that we are living now, the most powerful, the most direct and simplest way of making that connection and finding that inner transformation is chanting these beautiful names of God.
enechi ausadhi maya nasibaro lagi
hari nama maha-mantra lao tumi magi
It is the medicine that cures us of this envy, arrogance, greed, anger, and selfishness. It is the medicine that restores our original natural health. And when we make that choice to make this as the foundational value and purpose of our life, then we build everything upon that. We make our home a temple of God, we make our family a community of God’s people, and we make our own body as a temple of God, just by recognizing the truth. And in this way in a very practical way, at every moment of our life, when we live with this spiritual direction and this integrity of seva, every day we are coming closer and closer in our journey home.
In the book ‘The Journey Home,’ I write about how I traveled to so many places and studied so many religions and studied under so many people. And when I find my guru, Srila Prabhupada and the path of bhakti to Krishna, which is so beautiful, it is enriched me and I felt it included everything else I had ever learned. I visited my parents when I was a teenager in the 1960s. Like most American young people in the counterculture, we just wanted to get out of our homes and do something special. Here I was back at their home and I was thinking, ‘Whether I’m in Vrindavan or the Himalayas or my parent’s home? If I’m remembering Krishna and I am trying to live in the spirit of seva for Krishna, I’m actually at home everywhere and anywhere.’ When we find our home within ourselves, in our own connection to God, then we see every living being as our family and that’s home. So, I wish and I pray that together we can all make progress in our ‘journey home,’ and inspire everyone we come in contact with.
Thank you very much.