Engineering a better world- address to two thousand youth
This was the title of the 111th monthly Prerana youth festival held in Mumbai on 27th July’ 2013, Saturday.
Prerana, one of the most anticipated events in the itinerary of Radhanath Swami has been a monthly feature of Radha Gopinath temple activities since 2002 July. Saurabh Pandey, a noted Bollywood Actor and Producer and Mr Hari Vamsha, the chief editor of a prominent newspaper ‘Prabhat Khabar’ were the chief guests for the festival.
The programme began with melodious kirtans followed by a talk by Radheshyam das, a senior student of Radhanath Swami, and the President of the community in Pune, close to Mumbai.
In his address to the two thousand youth of Mumbai, Radhanath Swami shared how humanity today has spent enormous amount of time, money and energy focusing on outer space but there’s practically no focus at all in understanding our own inner space. Quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, he explained the reason the world is in such disunity is because humans have disunited from their own selves. He also pointed out how one of the prominent teachings of Jesus was ‘what will you gain if you achieve the whole world but lose your own eternal self’.
Offering a brilliant analysis on the way people see this world, he pointed out three common views. The first is the materialistic view, where people see the present world as the only real reality. The second is to deny the world by declaring it as an illusion. However a genuine spiritualist has the view that the world is a sacred property of God. Although the world is real, it’s a temporary manifestation and a devotee of the Lord serves the Lord and harmonizes his existence with God’s energies by engaging his life in the service of God and all living beings of this world.
First he explained the dangers of the conception that the world is the only reality. “When we believe that this world is the only reality, then even our so called moral principles are built on a weak foundation, because when temptation and fear threaten, we’d break our moral and ethical values. We then become the servant of greed, envy, lust, anger, arrogance and illusion.”
He then elaborated on another prevailing conception that the world is nothing but an illusion. For people living by this philosophy it doesn’t really matter if the ecological condition of the world is getting precarious. They are interested in their own salvation and are least bothered if they leave behind a mess. He revealed how holy rivers like Ganga and Yamuna are today polluted and lot of waste is indiscriminately dumped into these rivers.
“But then we have the sublime Vaishnav philosophy,” said Radhanath Swami, “that reveals how the Absolute Truth, God is perfect and complete and is the source of everything that exists. When we see the whole world as God’s property we are freed from greed, envy, anger and lust because we understand, ‘I am not the proprietor; I am the caretaker.’”
Imploring the audience to build their lives on the foundation of service to God, he said, “Exploitation is the symptom of the disease of a selfish egoistic heart. Compassion is the symptom of a person who has actually found inner fulfilment within his or her heart, and to live happily in this world we need to consider everything is a sacred property of God. ” Contrasting a vision separate from God which is characterized by ‘this is mine, and this is yours’, he explained how when we understand that we are all children of God, we respect all life. “In order to actually engineer a better world, we have to begin by engineering a proper perspective of this world” concluded Radhanath Swami.
He also candidly shared many personal stories and anecdotes from his memoir, ‘The Journey Home’. The programme concluded with a melodious kirtan and dinner feast for all the attendees and guests.
25th anniversary celebrations at Radha Gopinath temple
Radhanath Swami’s most successful and thriving project is ‘Radha Gopinath temple’, a loving spiritual community in downtown Mumbai. On 21st July’ 2013, Sunday, five thousand members gathered for the silver jubilee (25th anniversary) celebrations of the temple.
The programme began with devotees singing bhajans, devotional prayers and songs in glorification of Radha Gopinath, the presiding deities of the temple. The principal deities were installed on the sacred altar twenty five years ago on July’ 17 1988
Many senior members shared their heart felt realizations, and the journey down the memory lane went on for more than four hours. One of the senior members and the President of the temple, Govinda dasa, recollected how the area where the temple is situated is a mesmerizing blend of tradition and modernism. There are over a hundred temples in the three kilometre radius of the temple and the vicinity also hosts a high tech sports stadium, race course and it’s also the political headquarters of the state. He then analysed how another temple as ours stands out because of its exclusive purpose to add spiritual meaning and purpose to the lives of its members. Vishaka devi, another senior member who has been here since the beginning of the temple recollected how they learnt practically everything in their lives while being centred on the temple and devotees.
Radhanath Swami also gave a heart-touching class on the occasion and revealed the secret glue that has held the community together for the last two and half decades, “In modern times, it’s natural for everyone to have reasons to fight, to hate, to be suspicious, and to go their separate ways. But our guru, Srila Prabhupada taught us that if we just keep this chanting and hearing very strong in our lives, individually and collectively, and put God, Krishna in the centre of our lives, then by Krishna’s grace we can overcome all obstacles. And then there can be an actual community.”
He recollected how during the budding stages of the growth of the community, it was inspiring to see the well-known industrialist Hrishikesh Mafatlal and his driver Laksman dance together in the kirtans and chant and pray together in the temple. Incidents such as these gave hope and inspiration to many others that here is a place where discrimination on the basis of caste, economic and educational status is absent, and members truly love and serve each other. “It’s these kind of relationships that creates a real community, where despite the differences in our background, education, income, and nationalities, we value and honour each other, and serve together”, said Radhanath Swami.
Giving credit to his guru, Srila Prabhupada, Radhanath Swami emphasized the tradition of establishing temples. Five hundred years ago, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu established temples through the six goswamis of Vrindavan. Since then many leading spiritual leaders presented a temple as a platform for bringing people together for a common cause and revealing how the sublime spiritual philosophy can be practically lived centred around God and service to all.
The day long programme also included a cultural presentation by the different children groups and melodious kirtans throughout the day. All members were served a sumptuous and delightful feast on the occasion.
Radhanath Swami’s Visionary address at the Eco-village
“As we are fighting for oil now, in future there could be wars due to shortage of water. This farm community is a humble attempt to show people how to live peacefully by optimally using water and avoiding wastage of God’s sacred and precious energy.” Radhanath Swami’s visionary words came at a time when the United Nations has declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. Through this initiative, the UN aims to encourage sustainable development of agricultural systems, communal units and indigenous groups, and thereby effectively combat world poverty and hunger.
On 22nd and 23rd July’ 2013, Radhanath Swami addressed the leaders of the Govardhan Eco Village (GEV) on developing a vision for the future. GEV is a farm initiative of Radhanath Swami that addresses the need for sustainable rural development.
Besides the opening of the Hanuman temple, Radhanath Swami’s two-day trip to this lush green community on the Northern outskirts of Mumbai focussed on a visionary plan for developing a Vrindavan forest at the GEV. Spread over ten acres, Vrindavan Forest will have replicas of twelve forests of original Vrajmandal, Vrindavan, Mathura, Nandagaon, Barsana, Govardhan, river Yamuna (around 450 feet long, 30 feet wide) and the different ghats. The dioramas depicting Krishna’s pastimes and the miniature replicas of seven major temples of Vrindavan will add to the beauty of the landscape.
PVK Rameshwar, the famous Landscapist designing the forest candidly admitted. “This project will test my twenty eight years of experience in this field.”
Radhanath Swami explained in his brief address that the thoughtful people of the world now understand that the world is sustainable only if we individually and collectively accept an eco-friendly lifestyle. He also revealed how the industrialization of the world is unsustainable without the foundation of a strong agricultural based society, that’s centred on noble and divine principles. “When people come here from all over the world, they will see a God centred life in a way that’s not simply a theoretical philosophy but also the most practical, and the most needed philosophy”, concluded Radhanath Swami.
Radhanath Swami’s address to Entrepreneurs and Business leaders
“In a cultured society people love people, and use things. But unfortunately in this world people love things and they use people to get them and keep them” Radhanath Swami made this poignant remark in his talk titled, ‘What to learn after you know everything about everything’ to hundred prominent entrepreneurs, corporate leaders and business men of Mumbai during the Artha Forum conference held in Chowpatty, Mumbai, on Saturday, 20th July’ 2013. Amongst the participants were Mr Sunil Shanghai, MD HSBC Bank, Mr. Ajay Piramal, CEO Piramal Industries, and Mr Amit Chandra, MD, Bain Capital. Besides, a host of other Investment bankers, authors and political leaders also attended the presentation.
The event was similar to the ‘Artha Forum Silicon Valley Event’ held a month ago at Santa Clara, California where Radhanath Swami addressed entrepreneurs and investors from all over the United States.
Artha Forum is an online community dedicated to connecting entrepreneurs, professionals and business leaders and bringing to them the relevance of ancient wisdom and literature in modern business. One of the objectives of Artha Forum is to create awareness amongst business leaders to share the profits of business for helping society. Artha Forum also emphasizes the importance of doing business without greed or pride.
Rajeev Srivastava, one of the founders of Basil Capital and with twenty years of experience in investing in U.S, Europe and India shared the wisdom he learnt from Radhanath Swami, “The turning point in my life was in 1996 when Radhanath Swami guided me ‘make sure that whatever you do, there is no greed or pride’”. Rajeev expressed that since then he and his friends Kushal and Sanjiv pledged 50% of the profits to social initiatives of Radhanath Swami. Rajesh Talwar, a former CEO of a non-profit hospital and presently a trainer and coach for corporate professionals shared his realization, “I have been lucky in life to be guided by Radhanath Swami for over thirty years.” Rajesh has over twenty five years of experience in the field of healthcare administration.
Mr Hrishikesh Mafatlal recollected Radhanath Swami’s wisdom he heard years ago, “God does not see what you give; He sees what you hold back”. Mr Mafatlal has known Radhanath Swami for over twenty eight years now, and he explained how over the years his understanding of charity underwent a substantial change, “Thanks to Radhanath Swami’s friendship, I now realize that charity does not include only money. It’s a matter of awareness, our thinking, our time, all our efforts, and certainly whatever privileges and background we have”. He confessed, “Our goal since then has been to carry out the projects in such a way that after taking care of our minimum needs, we can do the maximum to society.”
Nupur Desai then briefed the participants about the activities of Annamrita, a food- relief programme initiated by the students of Radhanath Swami. Through twenty kitchen centres across eight Indian states, Annamrita is presently catering over 1.2 million wholesome meals every day.
In his address Radhanath Swami contrasted the titillating sensual gratifications with the experience of real fulfilment earned from service. “The nature of flickering gratifications on bodily, sensual and mental level is the more you have, the more you need. It’s like fire; the more fuel you put, the hotter, bigger, and hungrier it gets. And that’s the way with wealth, power, prestige and all sensual pleasure.” He explained how these things can’t touch the heart whereas a rich inner life where we find the treasure of love within ourselves naturally manifests as compassion towards other living entities. “Whether we are little swamis travelling all over without any resources or we are farmers, businessperson, politicians or billionaires, all are wonderful when we are united with the right, fulfilling motivation behind our activities.”
Radhanath Swami presented a spiritual perspective to our occupations; “When we connect with God’s love, we recognize the sacredness of our lives. And that is our natural state. When we tune-in to that divinity, then we’ll naturally feel genuine compassion for others. And then our fulfilment in life is not simply in what we can get, but in what we can give.”
He appealed that if we are motivated by compassion and see the needs of the suffering world, we’ll truly understand that we are all one family and are God’s children. Then we’ll be motivated to make a difference in this world through our character, integrity and our efforts.
Radhanath Swami meets the Journey Home ‘fan club’
On the evening of 19th July’ Radhanath Swami met around two hundred enthusiastic readers of The Journey Home, at Patidar Samaj Hall, Opera House, Mumbai.
The Journey home book club helps the inspired readers of the book to connect with the author, Radhanath Swami. All the participants were meeting the author for the first time and they confessed that the book has inspired them to further their spiritual quest.
The chief guests of the programme included Ms Parkar, Dean of the prestigious KEM Hospital and Medical College, Mumbai. Mrs Asha Bhosale, the former Mayor of Satara and the CEO of Bank of Mauritius, Ms Subhalaxmi Chakraborty were the other dignitaries in the programme who appreciated the book and the author.
After a short kirtan, Radhanath Swami addressed the attendees by sharing his realization that although the details of the story he wrote in the book may be his own personal story, the principle of the quest for fulfilment is everyone’s story. “We are all trying to find a home; home is where we are completely free, where we are comfortable, where we are with people we love and people who love us. That home is within the heart of every living being, and if we cannot find that home within our own hearts, in the soul’s relationship with God, and in that relationship, understanding our spiritual relationship with all beings, then we’ll never really feel at home anywhere. But if we find that home within our hearts, we can feel our home everywhere” said Radhanath Swami.
He also narrated humorous incidents from his life that happened after the era that he speaks about in the book. These events were related to his own outreach programs in the US and the challenges he faced in presenting the teachings of Bhakti Yoga in the American universities.
He concluded his talk by emphasizing how the universal principle of all spiritual paths is to render loving service to God and humanity that is uninterrupted by any situation- easy or difficult, honour and dishonour, and is free of any selfish or egoistic motivations.
“Service to God and humanity that is not disturbed by the inevitable changes of this world, and is motivated genuinely for God’s pleasure, and for the welfare of others, is the supreme goal of all genuine spiritual paths”, revealed Radhanath Swami. “And this is the beautiful gift that my guru Srila Prabhupada gave me and through my life and the ‘journey Home’, in whatever small way I can, I am trying to share with the world”
The programme concluded with the questions and answer session, and a short five minute film on Radhanath Swami made by Saurabh pandey, a Bollywood film actor and producer. He shared, “Radhanath Swami has so many facets to his personality and in this film I have tried to capture all those facets.”
Radhanath Swami Addresses Senior Bankers
On 16th July, Radhanath Swami addressed twenty five senior managers and Bankers of State Bank of India (SBI), in Kolkata. SBI is the largest banking and financial services company in India. Ranked amongst the top thirty reputed companies in the world by Forbes 2009 rankings, and being the only bank featured in the “top 10 brands of India”, SBI has a mammoth 20% market share in deposits and loans among Indian commercial banks.
Radhanath Swami spoke on “Balancing the Balance sheet of life”. He recollected a similar programme he attended with the HSBC in London. “I find it quite humorous and fascinating that you are asking me to speak to you because I have not had a bank account or signed a check since 1969. Someone asked me in London, “How do you survive without having bank accounts, and without signing checks?” and my reply was, “very happily”.
Radhanath Swami emphasized how money is sacred when seen from proper perspective. “Difference between material and spiritual is the consciousness in which it is utilized. If a knife is in the hands of a thief it will be used to cut the throat of a person. But in the hands of a surgeon it can save a life.”
In his talk, Radhanath Swami explained the secret to balance our lives means to see the sacredness of our occupation, to realize, ‘I have certain boundaries of values and ethics within which I earn, and the money I get I understand is what has God has entrusted me with it, and real fulfilment is when I use it with compassion
He also presented a refreshing insight on ‘evolution’ by sharing his thoughts that human evolution really takes place when we progress from our tendency of ‘need to get’ to the ‘joy of giving’.
“And Bhakti yoga helps us to reconnect with our inner nature”, concluded Radhanath Swami, “When we gain inner fulfilment through a balanced spiritual life, temptations and fears cannot disturb our values. We then truly leave a legacy that we are proud of.”
The bankers unanimously expressed feeling enlightened and enriched by the experience. All of them also got their copies of ‘The Journey Home’ signed by Radhanath Swami.
Radhanath Swami visits birthplace of Srila Prabhupada
On 22nd July, Monday, Radhanath Swami visited the sacred birth place of his guru, Srila Prabhupada.
Tollygunge Road is a busy and crowded street in the suburbs of Kolkata and it was here that Abhay Charan (Srila Prabhupada’s childhood name) was born in 1896. Abhay went on to become a renowned world teacher of Bhakti Yoga and in 1966 went to New York. Known as Srila Prabhupada to the world, he helped thousands transform their lives with the practise of the science of Bhakti Yoga. Radhanath Swami was one of his students who felt Srila Prabhupada personally touch his life with rich devotional experiences.
Accompanied by his friends from Kolkata, Dayaram das, Radha Raman, Acharya Ratna, and a few others, Radhanath Swami paid respects at the 150 year old jackfruit tree, the exact spot where Srila Prabhupada took birth. After leading all the devotees and friends present to a sweet twenty minute kirtan, Radhanath Swami happily exclaimed, “we are right under that tree, the same exact place”. He then distributed sweets to all the neighbours.
Radhanath Swami then visited the nearby Radha Madan Mohan temple, said to be 400 years old. Srila Prabhupada, as a young boy regularly visited this temple, and thus the place has added spiritual significance for all of his students and followers.
While leaving the premises, Radhanath Swami softly chanted Hare Krishna for a sleeping cat and gently patted her.
Radhanath Swami graces the Cultural festival in Kolkata
“To the degree our service is unconditional or uninterrupted by ego or selfishness, it makes us happy, and it makes Krishna, God happy and it will make the whole world happy”, Radhanath Swami shared his candid heart-felt realizations with thousands at Park Street, Kolkata.
Radhanath Swami is in Kolkata for the annual cultural-spiritual festival of Lord Jaganath’s rath yatra, an event celebrated with festivity and joy uninterruptedly since 1972.
Traditional Odissi dance by the renowned Dona Ganguly, mass distribution of sanctified vegetarian food, tents displaying Vedic education and distribution of literature, and Kids corner are some of the exciting things happening at the various camps put up in the grounds. Over a million people participate in this festival spanning over nine days. Radhanath Swami addressed the crowd on the 13th and 14th July when over three hundred thousand people attended.
While Ms Mamta Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal inaugurated the festival, prominent Indian leaders from various walks of life grace the festival. In the past noted former cricketer Saurav Ganguly, Indian President Pranav Mukherjee, Industrialist Harsh Goenka of the RPG group, Bollywood celebrity Hema Malini are some of the guests who have attended the festival and addressed the enthusiastic participants.
As part of ‘Clean and green Kolkata’- the theme of the festival for the last two years- the volunteers distributed 25,000 trees each year. This year the theme has been the ‘Temple of Vedic Planetarium’. Radhanath Swami along with his dear friends Jaya Pataka Swami and Bhakti Charu Swami inspired the thousands; Jaya Pataka Swami in his address expressed, “Radhanath Swami is not only my dear friend, he’s also a spiritual power, attractive to the whole world, and we are very fortunate to have him here in this festival.”
Radhanath Swami, remembering with gratitude the tireless efforts of his guru Srila Prabhupada, explained how the Ratha yatra festival is now held in every part of the globe. Rome, Philadelphia, London, Moscow, Melbourne, Mumbai and many other prominent cities of the world today host this festival.
Radhanath Swami noted how people love to chant and dance; they love colours and decorations; all love to eat a nice feast and Rath yatra is a festival when all these happen, and simultaneously profound, intimate experiences of Bhakti Yoga are relished by all participating in the festival.
Radhanath Swami also congratulated the efforts of his dear friend Jaya Pataka Swami who has not missed the festival even once since the last forty two years. “His sacrifice and love is the foundation on which this festival is built", said Radhanath Swami in his address.
Radhanath Swami also appreciated the festival as a glorious testimony of the splendour of Indian culture and spirituality. “So many people from India are going to the west to seek happiness in the form of material comfort and prosperity”, said Radhanath Swami, “and so many people from the west are coming to India to seek happiness through spiritual enlightenment. This shows how everybody is seeking happiness, and in the practise of Bhakti Yoga we seek happiness not in the temporary, changing things, but in our eternal spiritual nature.”
The festival concludes on the 18th of July with the return Rath Yatra where their Lordships Jaganath, Baladeva and Subhadra ride the magnificent carts to reach back to their temple.
The annual rath yatra, cart festival, in Puri
Radhanath Swami participated in the annual rath yatra, the cart festival in Puri on the 10th of July’ 2013, Wednesday. The festival attended by over a million devout pilgrims from all over the world is one of the most popular traditional festivals of India. Radhanath Swami was attending this festival after a gap of seven years.
The festival is to honour the Supreme Lord Jaganath who along with His brother Baladeva and sister Subhadra travel in three giant carts to nearby Gundica. The festival celebrates Lord Krishna’s return to Vrindavan from Kurukshetra. The devotees happily pull the carts with a desire to get Krishna back to Vrindavan, and the journey is accompanied by loud chanting and dancing. The festival represents a devotee’s sincere effort to invite the Lord into our own hearts. Our heart symbolizes Vrindavan, the eternal abode of the Lord and the chariot festival is an expression of our desire to once again reunite with the Lord.
Radhanath Swami chanted and danced the whole day in front of the cart with thousands of his students and friends. Earlier during the day, as part of the traditional rituals, the king of Puri, Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb personally swept the road to invite the Lord. Before Rath Yatra begins, a regal procession led by an elephant travels through the parting crowds to Sri Nahar, the king’s palace. After a formal invitation, the king of Puri advances slowly by palanquin towards the chariots to perform the chera-pahanra ceremony of sweeping for the Lord.
The king performs the menial service of sweeping the carts with a golden-handled broom. He then offers flowers with scented water on all three chariots, first Balaram’s, then jagannath’s, and finally Subhadra’s. The meaning behind this function is that although the king is leader among men, he humbles himself before the Supreme Lord, Lord Jagannath.
Radhanath Swami witnessed these events in the morning and the whole afternoon danced and chanted in procession to the Gundica temple. Lord Jaganath’s cart didn’t reach the destination that evening. The next morning all devotees again gathered in front of the cart and pulled the cart to Gundica.
Puri Book Launch
Radhanath Swami’s Journey Home received appreciation and recognition at Puri during the annual cart festival. At the giant tent erected for the daily classes and kirtans for devotees taking part in the Puri pilgrimage, it was a treat for all on the 8th July, Monday.
Amongst the prominent residents of Puri and well known celebrities of the state of Orissa who graced the occasion was Mrs. Shantilal Pradhan, the chairman of Puri town. She extended a warm welcome to over five thousand devotees, guests and friends of Radhanath Swami and requested them to come to Puri every year for the rath yatra, the cart festival. Mr. Somanath Khuntia, a recognized commentator of the cart festival in Puri and a renowned spiritual writer and founder of orphanages, acknowledged the efforts of Radhanath Swami and his guru, Srila Prabhupada in presenting the Bhakti science. Ramachandra Pratihari, a veteran award winning actor expressed the dire need of modern times to accept a God centred life. He said this alone can guarantee a happy life. Pintu Nanda, a famous movie star of Orissa and Sushant Kumar Raj, Professor and Head of Department of ‘Rashtriya samskrit sansthan’ also took part in the programme. All these guests unveiled ‘Ghara Bahuda’ the Oriya translation of the Journey Home.
A beautiful traditional Orissa dance called ‘Gotipua’ was performed by young local teenagers on the theme of Lord Krishna’s pastimes. Radhanath Swami also addressed a press conference in which he spoke his message to the people of Orissa. “Our home is wherever our dearest friend, our mother and father are, and the most intimate of all is the Lord in our own hearts” said Radhanath Swami in his interview to the media, “and The Journey Home is about bringing our consciousness back to the Lord within our own hearts
Kirtan and sanga with four thousand devotees
On the shores of Bay of Bengal, amidst the gentle breeze blowing from the ocean to the giant pandal tent erected for the kirtan and discourses, Radhanath Swami’s voice resounds over the amplifiers.
Radhanath Swami is in Puri for a week long pilgrimage with over four thousand of his friends, students and well-wishers. The tour culminates on the 10th of July, with the eagerly awaited rath yatra, festival of chariots, where the principal deities of Puri, namely Lord Jagganath, with his brother Baladeva and sister Subhadra ride on three magnificent chariots, amidst over a million faithful who accompany the procession with loud kirtans and dancing.
The daily itinerary begins at 5.00 am with devotees coming together for early morning chants and japa meditation session in the tent. This is followed by a lively discourse by Radhanath Swami on the teachings of Lord Chaitanya, the bhakti apostle, who incarnated in the fifteenth century in Eastern India. Radhanath Swami speaks on this subject from the bhakti scripture ‘Sri Chaitanya Chaitamrita’.
From 10.30 am onwards the congregation scatters to tour the various holy places at Puri. Some visit various temples in and around Puri, while others bathe in the sea. And some others tour the sacred places associated with Lord Chaitanya and His followers. Then again at 5.00 pm the congregation gathers at the pandal, and this time Radhanath Swami leads the group on kirtans and class on the pastimes of Lord Jagganath. The pastimes of Lord Jagganth are recounted in various Vedic texts and Puranas, which Radhanath Swami quotes abundantly. Around 8.00 pm, Radhanath Swami leads a melodious hour long kirtan with everyone joyfully dancing and chanting to the various melodies.
In the group accompanying Radhanath Swami to Puri, are associates and students from across the globe. Radhanath Swami’s dear friends Chandramauli swami, and Bhakti Purushottama swami have also joined him; they accompany the various groups during the day as they visit the sacred places and together participate in the morning and evening sessions at the tent.