Experiences with Radhanath Swami
Radhanath Swami (born December 7, 1950) was initiated by A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad (The Founder Acharya of the International society for Krishna Consciousness) in the summer of 1973. Over the past four decades Radhanath Swami has lectured widely in the USA, Europe and India. Radhanath Swami is based in the ISKCON Center in Chowpatty, Mumbai, India.
Radhanath Swami inspires millions on the spiritual path. How can one person inspire so many?! The phenomena of spiritual inspiration defies mundane logic and reasoning. Yet, the Vedas mark out a few channels through which inspiration flows.
The first channel is the process of vani, through the messages of the great souls. The Vedas say that associating with the message has the identical inspirational effect as associating with the advanced spiritualists delivering that message. In our case, it means that receiving the message of Radhanath Swami is identical to associating with Radhanath Swami. “I am present in the recordings of my lectures,” Radhanath Swami himself once said. This might sound absurd to many, but for thousands all over the world who hear recordings of Radhanath Swami regularly, this is an obvious reality; the proof of the pudding becomes obvious to one who eats it.
The second channel is the process of vapu, through directly associating and interacting with great souls. The interactions with the celebrities of this mortal realm can only influence one’s mind, and that too for a short duration. But interactions with celebrities of the spiritual realm leave deep impressions on the heart that can withstand the effect of time. Hundreds who have interacted with Radhanath Swami have vouched for this phenomenon.
A few souls share with us their experiences with Radhanath Swami.We retell them in this website. Some mail us their experiences, and we included them too. Again, it might sound mystical, but the Vedas say that hearing or reading stories of great souls is identical with associating with great souls. And in our case, hearing or reading stories of Radhanath Swami is identical to associating with Radhanath Swami! So, happy reading!!!
1.1 No Halters on the Cows
1.2 The Ugly Cat
1.3 Radhanath Swami, the Second Son
1.4 Radhanath Swami, he knows how to Releave you
1.5 Radhanath Swami’s disciple Shila
1.6 Radhanath Swami and the Medical logic
1.7 For Radhanath Swami, People are above Projects
1.8 Radhanath Swami, the cow and the White Ambassador
1.9 Radhanath Swami’s Warning
1.10 Radhanath Swami’s Encroachment
1.11 Radhanath Swami’s Encroachment
1.12 Radhanath Swami’s Approach
1.13 Radhanath Swami Erupts
1.14 With Radhanath Swami at a Traffic Signal
1.15 Radhanath Swami Appeals
1.16 Radhanath Swami’s Secret Strategy
1.17 Radhanath Swami – The Compassionate Author whom I Chauffeured
1.18 Radhanath Swami, My Compassionate Navigator
1.19 Radhanath Swami, The Himalayan Ascetic
2.1 Radhanath Swami – softer than a Rose or
2.2 Radhanath Swami, as sweet as a leader could be
2.3 Radhanath Swami, on the Eve
2.4 Something Sweet for the Burning Wound
2.5 Radhanath Swami Cuts a Joke
2.6 Radhanath Swami’s Transcendental Play
2.7 Radhanath Swami’s Witty Tips for Leaders
2.8 Radhanath Swami’s Balancing Wit
2.9 With Radhanath Swami, On a Destiny Drive
2.10 Radhanath Swami Could Unnerve You
4. HAVING EQUAL VISION
4.1 Radhanath Swami and a Special Security Guard
4.2 Radhanath Swami’s Divine Palms
4.3 Found Radhanath Swami Alone, Outside Vrindavan Forest
4.4 Radhanath Swami, Our Gardner
4.5 I Won’t Come Down Until I See Radhanath Swami
4.6 Radhanath Swami’s Unconventional Advice
4.7 Radhanath Swami Reassures
5.1 The Telephonic Conversation with Radhanath Swami
5.2 Radhanath Swami from the back door
5.3 Radhanath Swami’s unwillingness to take credit
5.4 Radhanath Swami’s Service Consciousness
5.5 A Window into Radhanath Swami’s Heart
5.6 Radhanath Swami – Our Star
5.7 Radhanath Swami’s ego – Less Opportunism
5.8 Radhanath Swami’s Reluctance to Take Credit
5.9 When Radhanath Swami had a Headache
5.10 Radhanath Swami Expresses a Loving Parent’s Concern
5.11 Radhanath Swami’s Analysis of Humility
5.12 Radhanath Swami: An Editor’s Editor
5.13 Being Proud of our Humility
5.14 Radhanath Swami’s Extempore Humility
5.15 Radhanath Swami and the Knock Out Scene
5.16 End of the Ride Adventures
5.17 Descending Closely Behind Radhanath Swami
5.18 Radhanath Swami’s First Visit
5.19 The Mysterious Passenger
7.1 Vrindavan Pilgrimage with Radhanath Swami
7.2 Radhanath Swami and the Scanning
7.3 Radhanath Swami’s Inconcievable Confidence
7.4 Radhanath Swami at the Confluence
7.5 What keeps Radhanath Swami Cool?
7.6 With Radhanath Swami on Rasa Purnima
7.7 Brigade Reports to Radhanath Swami
7.8 On a Pilgrimage with Radhanath Swami
7.9 From Chillums to Chants
7.10 The Unforgettable Dimly Lit Night
9.1 Austerity of Monkhood
9.2 Bhakti – Head Vs Heart
9.3 The Phone Call
9.4 Wish Granted
9.5 Radhanath Swami’s call
9.6 Discipleship under Radhanath Swami
9.7 Radhanath Swami at MAAN- Mandir
9.8 Radhanath Swami and the 1992 Riots
9.9 Radhanath Swami with the YPO
9.10 Radhanath Swami and the Turtles
9.11 Sweaty Meditations with Radhanath Swami
9.12 Radhanath Swami Accomplishes with no Casualities
9.13 What makes Radhanath Swami a Brilliant Teacher
9.14 My Questions
9.15 Radhanath Swami Forethought of my Dilemma
10.1 Radhanath Swami’s service attitude is beyond compare
10.2 Radhanath Swami’s devotion is beyond compare
10.3 Radhanath Swami’s detachment is beyond compare
10.4 Radhanath Swami’s affection is beyond compare
10.5 Radhanath Swami’s Humility is exemplary
10.6 Radhanath Swami has a brilliant sense of humor
10.7 Radhanath Swami-when his Heart Picks up Pace
10.8 When Radhanath Swami Seems an Overgrown Child
10.9 Management vs. Human Relationships
10.10 Radhanath Swami – an Embodiment of Shyness
10.11 Radhanath Swami’s VIP
10.12 An Exhilarating Moment With Radhanath Swami
10.13 ”What can I do for You?”
10.14 Radhanath Swami Takes us on a Pilgrimage within a Pilgrimage
10.15 On a Flight with Radhanath Swami
10.16 What was Radhanath Swami Still Doing Inside?
11.1 Radhanath Swami, Always Loving and Caring
11.2 Radhanath Swami Bears the Burden of Love
11.3 Is it the same Radhanath Swami?
11.4 Choosing a Spot for Radhanath Swami
11.5 Radhanath Swami’s Happiness, in Tolerance
11.6 Systematic Torture on Radhanath Swami
11.7 Radhanath Swami puts me in a Daze
12.1 One Night at the Monastery
12.2 Radhanath Swami and Cricket
12.3 The Magic of the White Rose
12.4 A Stinky Sewer
12.5 What do you think of this altar?
12.6 Radhanath Swami honors a friend’s wish
12.7 Radhanath Swami’s Lesson in Leadeship
12.8 Radhanath Swami, the Personification of
12.9 Radhanath Swami While Walking through the Courtyard
No Halters on the Cows
Nanda Nandan marched to the cowshed, armed with a sickle, as a crowd of onlookers smiled in approval. Rushing from one cow to another he cut open their halters. Just minutes ago, while conversing with Radhanath Swamiin the same place, the cow barn of Govardhan Eco Village (GEV), he had expressed how important these halters were. “These halters help us in administering medicine to the cows when they are sick. They are even approved by PETA.” But despite the explanation, Radhanath Swami wasn’t satisfied; he thought the cows weren’t happy with the halters around their mouths. So Nanda Nandan had walked out, looking for a sickle.
Now, having relieved the cows of their halters, Nanda Nandan too felt that the cows looked happier. “We shall never put them back on our beloved cows,” he proudly proclaimed to Radhanath Swami. The crowd that had gathered, hundreds of residents of GEV, cheered in approval. They had just witnessed one of the highlights of Radhanath Swami’s two day visit to the Eco Village.
The overcast sky drizzled, bringing along a cool breeze. The discussion in the barn now turned to the new challenge confronting the cowboys—how to administer medicines to the cows without the help of the halters? Radhanath Swami broke away from the crowd, to take a stroll through the spacious cowshed. He walked back and forth the long corridor that ran along the length of the barn. Was he contemplating on a solution?
After several minutes, he returned. “All the time if the cows experience sufficient affection and love coming from us, they won’t hesitate to eat even medicines from our hands; then there won’t be a need to use a halter to force it through their throats. So I request that all residents of GEV spend at least a few hours every week serving the cows, sharing kindness and love.” Applause filled the air, in response. Everyone heartily welcomed Radhanath Swami’s innovative way of dealing with the situation. Even the cows in the barn cupped their ears, as if welcoming the new announcement.
– S Chawla
The Ugly Cat
His countenance showed concern. Yet he strained a smile and requested me to accompany him. As I followed Radhanath Swami, I wondered where he was taking me.
It was a hot summer day and as we walked through the corridors of the monastery, a pleasant breeze flowed in from the nearby sea. Our march ended at the parapet of the first floor. Radhanath Swami peered down into the adjacent Laxmi Narayan Garden . “Do you know that cat?” Looking in the same direction I found an ugly cat bleeding profusely in the leg. Many stray cats loitered in that area. At night they moaned and shrieked, as they fought for a mate. The monks often lost sleep because of these creatures. Looked like this cat too was injured in one of those night brawls. “Served it right!” I thought.
Radhanath Swami interrupted my thoughts.”This cat is staying with us for a few years now; must be a spiritualist from a past birth. He’s also one amongst the residents of our monastery.” A chill tingled up my spine. Gripped by shame, I cast another glance at the cat. How lowly of me to have despised that soul!
“It’s our sacred responsibility to take care of him. Will you please take responsibility of getting him cured?” Radhanath Swami disclosed why he had brought me there. I consented and rushed the cat to the vet clinic. The injury would have been fatal if the treatment had been delayed, as the vet later conveyed.
One week later as I watched the cat spring out of the sack that brought him from the vet, I looked on him in a different perspective–as another member of our monastery.
Radhanath Swami, the Second Son
At dusk I chanced to meet Radhanath Swami near the temple gate. As he hurried out, he inquired, “So, everything alright?”
“I am heading to Mayapur tomorrow.”
“To submerge the ashes of my deceased father in the Ganges.”
“When did that happen?….” He stopped. His expression grew grave.
“Ten days ago. I had informed your secretary when my father was on his death bed. Didn’t he convey you?” I looked around. Vraj, the secretary, wasn’t accompanying him.
“No,” he replied. I saw he felt sorry. “I shall get back to you,” he said, and hurried into his car. The vehicle disappeared into the exhaust fumes of Mumbai traffic.
Later, Vraj came searching for me, and related what transpired after Radhanath Swami boarded his vehicle an hour ago. Radhanath Swami had called back to the temple to inquire from Vraj of the lost information. Vraj replied that updates about my father were duly sms-ed well on time. Radhanath Swami then searched all the sms he had received in the past ten days, but this sms was nowhere in the inbox! The two concluded that it was lost in the outage that had hit mobile networks ten days ago.
Radhanath Swami, Vraj said, now wanted me to give him a call.
“I am sorry. The message somehow didn’t reach me,” I heard Radhanath Swami’s apologetic voice on the phone. “If I knew, I would have given a call to your father as he lay on his death bed, and chanted Hare Krishna to him,” he continued. “But don’t worry. Right now I am chanting for your father on my prayer beads. And in my mind I am submerging his ashes in the holy Ganges.”
Two decades ago, my father felt a little pained thinking he lost his only son to the monastic order. Little did he know he had gained a second son, a pure soul who would be the first to submerge his ashes in the Ganges for his assured salvation.
Radhanath Swami, he knows how to Releave you
In 2009 Radhanath Swami’s autobiography The Journey Home was published. Fascinated by the book, and convinced that it had the potential to add value to society, I brainstormed—how to spread awareness of the book? Though shy by nature, I decided to try in my own way.
I requested a friend, a very famous Radio Jockey, to have Radhanath Swami as a featured guest on his show. He felt it was an honor. We fixed the date 3 August 2009 for the interview.
When August came closer I realized that the interview date lay amidst a cramped schedule: on 1st August Radhanath Swami was to arrive in Mumbai where thousands awaited his audience; on the 2nd was the Sunday Program at Radhagopinath temple where he was scheduled to discourse; and then on, he would be busy with the upcoming grand India Book Launch of The Journey Home that was to be held only days later. Thus 3rd August, the day fixed for the radio show—had got crushed in the middle. I grew tense. Pulling Radhanath Swami out of his busy schedule for the Radio Show was to cause him strain—and I hated to do that.
Perhaps he sensed my tension. And his soft heart raced for every opportunity to relieve me of that. On 2nd, I visited him with a proposal: was it okay if the RJ came to his room to interview him, rather than he having to go to the studio? After thinking for a while, he responded, “It will be better if you could liberate me from this place.” Through that one line he liberated me from my thought that going to the studio caused him inconvenience. It was decided that we would stick to our schedule and drive to the studio the next day.
The next day as we rode, the car was heated up with discussions about the upcoming book launch. I was silent, while remorse lingered in my heart. He is already strained. Perhaps I should have rescheduled the show in a way that didn’t cause him extra strain. Out of the blue, Radhanath Swami quipped, “And towards the end of the book launch, Sankirtan shall perform solo dance with spotlights focused on him.” His body rocked in laughter, as everyone in the car joined him in the joke; all knew how shy I was. Seeing him laugh, I was elated. Thus in a moment, Radhanath Swami had the remorse in me ebb away.
– Sankirtan Das
Radhanath Swami’s disciple Shila
I was visiting Baroda, when one night I received a call from Mumbai, “Shila is very sick and is admitted in the hospital.” Pressing engagements held me from visiting her. Three days later another phone call informed me of her death. I buried my head in my hands, grief-stricken.
Shila loved Bhakti Yoga, and I was her spiritual guide. Lately, inspired by Radhanath Swami’s life and teachings, she had expressed her desire to accept formal vows of initiation from him. Since I knew Radhanath Swami well, I had dutifully forwarded her photo and her request-letter to him. Now in the Himalayan town of Hrishikesh, Radhanath Swami was reviewing the thousands of initiation requests he had received, for as soon as he returned to Mumbai he planned to award initiations. Sitting alone in Baroda, my soul cried thinking of Shila’s unfulfilled desire.
Caught-up in pressing responsibilities at Baroda, I knew I couldn’t make it even to Shila’s funeral ceremony. Hurriedly I called a few acquaintances in Mumbai to ensure her last rites went as per the Vedic protocol, for her better afterlife.
Two weeks later I returned to Mumbai. One day as I conversed with Gaur Gopal Prabhu, a close associate of Radhanath Swami, the topic came to Shila. He exclaimed, “Yes! Shila! While we were at Hrishikesh, Radhanath Swami put her photo on the altar and requested all of us to sing Kirtan for the benefit of her departed soul.” I was cast into mixed emotions of joy and wonder.
How unfathomable is Lord Krishna’s affection for his devotees! One acquaintance in Mumbai I earlier called from Baroda had rung Gaur Gopal Prabhu in Hrishikesh to ask details of authentic funeral rites. Later that day Gaur Gopal prabhu mentioned in passing to Radhanath Swami that a lady named Shila who aspired initiation from him had departed. Radhanath Swami frantically searched for Shila’s photo from the trunk-load of initiation requests he had received, and arranged for a Kirtan in her memory. And in that kirtan Radhanath Swami poured out his affection for his disciple—whom he had never accepted formally, nor met personally.
– Dr. Bhaskar Hosangadi
Radhanath Swami and the Medical logic
Would Radhanath Swami follow his doctor’s advice? In concern, a group clamored impatiently outside the room, as Dr. Dhalal, accompanied by the president of Radhagopinath Ashram, conversed with Radhanath Swami behind closed doors.
After only five minutes, the doctor and the president emerged out and related what had just transpired. When they had entered Radhanath Swami’s room, they found him lying on the bed—semiconscious. Perhaps—they had concluded—the Swami’s adamancy was a rumor. In such weary health, it was impossibility for the Swami to even fantasize following his robust schedule. After exchanging some pleasantries, however, it was clear—that Radhanath Swami indeed planned to travel fifty miles, on bumpy roads, to Meera Road, suburban Mumbai, that evening; and then discourse to thousands, who aspired for a wholesome spiritual lifestyle. Upon repeated appeals to cancel the evening engagement, Radhanath Swami had spoken out his heart, “If I can’t serve humanity, what is the use of me living?” Still the duo pressed, and Radhanath Swami had finally relented, but with a clause, “If I am unable to walk to the car on my own, I won’t travel.” Given his condition—the two felt—the clause was redundant. He definitely couldn’t walk to his car, and that meant he didn’t travel.
Happily, Dr. Dhalal (who happens to be my husband) and I returned to Meera Road where we stay.
That evening, as we stepped out of Bhaktivedanta Hospital at Meera Road, a green Qualis zoomed by. All of a sudden my husband was thunderstruck. His mouth dropped open and his eyes filled with tears. “Didn’t you see?” he whispered. “It was Radhanath Swami in that car. I saw him hanging forward on his seat belt.” I didn’t believe.
An hour later we were at the pandal erected near Radhagiridhari Temple where Radhanath Swami was scheduled to speak. Now that Radhanath Swami wasn’t coming, who was his replacement, who dared to face the disappointment of the audience? I was in wonder, while my husband was in worry. He was sure Radhanath Swami was behind the stage.
And sure enough, Radhanath Swami walked from behind the stage and spoke a mesmerizing talk for about an hour—as per usual. My husband quietly shared his conclusion with me—that attitudes could indeed help one defy medical logic.
– Vishaka Priya
For Radhanath Swami, People are above Projects
When the clock struck nine, my duties at school called me—but I ignored. Held captive by Radhanath Swami’s oratory, I couldn’t move from where I sat. As the audience that numbered in thousands drank- in every word he spoke, Radhanath Swami launched into a call for revolution. With a voice pitched high in compassion, he declared, “We must perform our duty selflessly, as a sacrifice, in divine consciousness and in devotion to God for the betterment of humanity.” Hearing that, my conscience whispered, “Continuing to hear this class, despite the call for a sacred duty; isn’t that selfish?” Yes, perhaps it was. I quietly walked out of the lecture hall to attend to my duties.
I worked as a construction engineer for the upcoming school building of the Gopal’s Garden High School. Housed in rented apartments for years, the school was now shifting to this new structure. Being a project inspired by Radhanath Swami, the school aimed to provide quality education with utmost focus on building the character of its students; and that made every service connected to this project sacred—including mine.
The students eagerly awaited the completion of the structure, and so did Radhanath Swami. Construction went full speed, demanding my presence on the site from early morning to late night. I worked even on weekends. Every morning I visited Radhagopinath temple, but came to the site much before the morning class at the temple even began. On weekends however, since Radhanath Swami gave the morning class, I yearned to attend it. But midway through the discourse, guilt of insincerity would push me out of the lecture hall.
One day Radhanath Swami visited our site. Flanked by trustees of the project, he surveyed the building. Towards the end—to everyone’s surprise, including mine—he broke out of the elites and walked towards me. Did he know me?
“So, do you work here?” he asked.
“Do you work on weekends too?”
“Yes, I have to.”
“You will have to come here early every day, except on weekends when I give classes.”
I felt a tingle climb up my spine. How did he know my heart?!!! I was just one amongst thousands that attended his classes, and yet he knew of the ambivalence I was thrown into every weekend.
Apart from the mysticism that hovers about this episode, I was deeply touched by the humaneness of Radhanath Swami’s personality. For him, people are way above projects. Our project was on a deadline, but he ignored it to make my weekends happy.
– Siddeshwar Bhat
Radhanath Swami, the cow and the White Ambassador
‘Wasn’t that strange?’ A cow racing alongside our speeding car at dangerously close proximity!
This happened as we traveled towards the Himalayan pilgrimage of Badrinath. Fifty-odd devotees had gone ahead by bus, and way behind were the four of us riding in a white Ambassador with Radhanath Swami.
Close to Agra, stretching out on either side of the road was a village with fields, little shops and thatched houses. Our vehicle was the lone occupant of that muddy highway as far as the eyes could strain, until a cow appeared from the nearby fields. Strangely, this humblest of animals seemed to hold a lofty ambition—of racing ahead our speeding automobile. Our chauffer panicked, for even a gentle sidewise brush of the car could prove a fatal blow on her gentle body. He raced faster until her four legs were no match to his four wheels. Relieved, all in the car sighed in unison—except for Radhanath Swami. For him, relief was still afar, and he wouldn’t find it until he knew why that cow behaved abnormally. Was she in distress? Could he be of any help to her?
Upon Radhanath Swami’s request, we stopped to inquire from the locals. One man related the cow’s sad tale: sometime back a white Ambassador had knocked down her little calf, and ever since the cow behaved in this strange way whenever a white Ambassador passed by.
Tears filled Radhanath Swami’s eyes, as he visibly fought a battle to hold them from an outpour. Words fail me—how he shared the distress of that cow! Kneeling down, pressing his cheek against her cheek, rubbing his hands against her soft neck. They shared their feelings through an unknown language, the language of love. And time stood still to watch them converse.
After a while, we all knew we had to leave. We boarded our car and sped ahead, as the cow looked on until we disappeared from her sight. Today, she had finally won the race. A white Ambassador had finally stopped to console her.
– Vishaka Priya
Radhanath Swami’s Warning
I was rummaging through the car’s interior for Prasad, sanctified food, frantically. Meanwhile the street urchin who stood outside in the blazing sun grew in desperation and began to gesticulate wildly: he wanted Prasad. He was convinced we Hare Krishna’s carried it wherever we travelled. If not for the car’s glass window that separated us, he would have surely shoved me to accentuate his demand. I waited for the traffic lights to turn green, to zoom off; he hoped it remained red till he got his Prasad.
After a while he darted to the car’s window on the opposite side, where Radhanath Swami sat. As he thumped on the glass, Radhanath Swami glowered at me. “Garud, where is the Prasad?” I fretted. “No Prasad today,” I mumbled. I had seriously erred in not carrying any today. Radhanath Swami’s standing instruction was that the temple chauffeurs always carry Prasad, usually cookies, for the beggars at the stoplights. He knew the beggars loved it.
Radhanath Swami turned to the rear seat where the monks sat, “Does anyone have any Prasad?” Bags were searched in the silence that followed, until horns blared from the vehicles behind; the signal was green and we had to move.
As we lost sight of the boy’s disappointed face amidst the Mumbai traffic, Radhanath Swami turned to me. The compassion he felt for that boy was now a fury; he spelled out, “The next time when we travel, if you don’t carry any Prasad, I shall take off your shirt and trousers and give it away to the poor beggars.” I was mortified, and seeing that he quickly laughed to make me feel better. I laughed along, not knowing what else to do. A voice whispered from behind, “Did you follow what he told just now?” It was monk from the rear seat. He was shocked I was laughing after such a serious warning. Of course, he didn’t know I was sweating inside, and that the sweat glued my shirt and trousers tightly to my body.
After we reached the destination, I apologized to Radhanath Swami. With a loving smile that endeared him to me, he affectionately knocked on my forehead, indicating that he had forgiven me.
Radhanath Swami’s Encroachment
I darted over to Radhanath Swami’s room. There he was sitting, conversing with another devotee. I prostrated myself at Radhanath Swami’s feet and asked for his blessings to leave. “I am going. Now onwards I will come only on very special occasions,” I said. Radhanath shook his head in approval. Next moment, I was out of the room.
Once out, I climbed down the staircase and briskly walked along the courtyard to reach the gate of Radhagopinath Temple. Then stepping out into a narrow alley, I headed towards the bustling main street. All along I struggled to be resilient, but to no avail; I was burnt out by forceful sermons, and badly. I loved the temple, I loved Radhanath Swami, I loved the Hare Krishna mantra, I loved most practices of Bhakti Yoga, but I hated anyone encroaching on my free will. And a few devotees at the temple, I felt, did that with me. Now enough of it, I had decided; I couldn’t take it anymore. As I called for a taxi, I found in my heart no inclination to return.
Suddenly, from behind, I could hear screams, “Ashok, Ashok.” I turned around. Running up to me, a monk panted, “Radhanath Swami wants to have a word with you before you leave. He is waiting for you at the gate.” Straining my sight, I made out the frail figure of Radhanath Swami standing at the gate. How could I turn a deaf ear to his request? Escorted by the monk, I marched back through the alley.
As I drew closer to the gate, I could read concern written on Radhanath Swami’s face—in bold. It was an unforgettable visage.
Minutes later, I was sitting in Radhanath Swami’s room, and he sat facing me across a table. I learnt from him that at first he hadn’t registered what I had said after darting into his room. After I had stormed out, the devotee who had been conversing with him explained to him what I had meant. Immediately, Radhanath Swami had sprung up from his seat to stop me.
Radhanath Swami’s Encroachment
Radhanath Swami lay on the hospital bed before me, semiconscious. His body burnt at 104 degree Fahrenheit and writhed in discomfort. He mumbled something to the backdrop of silence. What was he saying? I crept closer till I could hear him distinctly. “Vrishabhanu Nandini. Vrishabhanu Nandini….” In deep love he called the names of the divine mother Radharani, the feminine counterpart of Lord Krishna.
Let this divine vibration enter my ears. Quietly, I placed myself on a chair nearby. But I wasn’t quiet enough! The creek of the chair brought Radhanath Swami’s consciousness back to the realm of the mortals. “Vishwaroop Prabhu!” He sounded delirious, yet elated. I now felt as if I was the only other person, not just in that room, but in the entire creation—the sole recipient of Radhanath Swami’s undivided compassion. “Vishwaroop Prabhu, I love you so much,” he murmured, pouring out the fatherly affection of his heart. My heart brimmed with unprecedented joy. And when Radhanath Swami repeated, over and over again, “Vishwaroop Prabhu, I love you so much,”—it overflowed.
The love that he was feeling for the divine had transformed into compassion when his consciousness re-entered the mundane world. And it’s this compassion, stemming from love of God, that pushes the great souls to tirelessly work for the welfare of the world.
– As narrated by Vishwaroop Prabhu.
Radhanath Swami’s Approach
Gloom lurked in the silence between us, as Radhanath Swami and I sat facing each other, pondering, “What action to take?” His student, whom I also knew well, had grossly blundered, adversely affecting many lives. Now we expected her here, at any moment. In fixing an appointment with Radhanath Swami, either she was daring, or she had no qualms about her blunder.
Radhanath Swami broke the silence. “What should I tell her?”
Disgust stirred in my chest as I whispered, “You should not meet her.”
“That might be your approach. My love, however, is eternal. Even if one commits the most gruesome crime, my love for that person will not terminate, not even change. ” Radhanath Swami, narrowing his eyes, continued, “But then, that love I express in a different way.”
Just then, the lady entered with her parents. After thoroughly scolding her, Radhanath Swami concluded, “Until you genuinely repent for your mistakes, the doors of our Radhagopinath temple will remain closed for you. You won’t be allowed to participate in any of the temple festivals.” The meeting ended.
Four years passed. One day, when I met Radhanath Swami in the temple corridor, he spoke of a phone call from the lady’s parents. They had conveyed to him the heart-felt repentance of their daughter. Radhanath Swami asked me, “Should we allow her to come to the temple now?”
“You please decide.”
“I think we should allow her now,” Radhanath Swami declared.
In that scolding she received from Radhanath Swami, if the lady had felt anything but love, perhaps she would never even think of returning.
Radhanath Swami Erupts
It was the April of 2004. One evening, after returning from a cultural program at Columbia University, Radhanath Swami sat at Bhaktivedanta Ashram, New York, conversing with his yoga students. At about 11.00 p.m., the conversation got exciting when Radhanath Swami began speaking about his early experiences with teaching bhakti yoga in North America. The amazing intensity with which he spoke and the shine in his eyes when he talked about each experience brought out the voracious appetite he has to give the precious gift of bhakti to the whole world. Each experience that he explained (although he joked and made the whole episode light!) showed me how much risk and inconveniences he took to give the pure message of Bhagavad Gita to so many souls.
Towards the end he stated in no unclear terms and with absolute intensity that helping people of the western world with bhakti was what Srila Prabhupad, his guru, really wanted. I said, “It seems so difficult to go out of the way to help others. I have tried so hard to do it…” He immediately cut me off, “Have you really tried hard enough? You have to use and really tax your brain to think out ways and means to help people with their lives. You have to take the risk. And when you take the risk, miracles will unfold. You have to become a compassionate instrument in God’s hands! That is the greatest joy! God performs miracles and you simply enjoy being the spectator of God’s miracles!”
I said, “It is so difficult even to pray to become an instrument…” He cut me off again with such intensity that I had my heart in my mouth for a moment. “That is because you are puffed up!! You have high birth, good learning, and lot of money, and you forget it’s all God given. How can you pray with intensity? You are simply puffed up, that’s all!”
The next day’s prayers felt so good, for they were perhaps the best prayers of my life; it looked like I was a little humbled by Radhanath Swami’s chastisement the previous night!
It was the rarest occasion of Radhanath Swami chastising me, or any of his students. He was imploring me to experience the happiness of selfless service that he himself experienced. But in the process, his compassionate heart erupted like a volcano, giving me a glimpse of the lava of humility that made it compassionate. I learnt one more lesson: we have to cultivate humility for our prayers to atleast touch our own hearts!
– Ramanath Subramanian
With Radhanath Swami at a Traffic Signal
October 1998, I was driving Radhanath Swami to a distant suburb in Mumbai. On a traffic signal street urchins knocked on our windows begging us to give something. Radhanath Swami asked me “Do you have some rice puffs or pancakes to give to them?”
I replied in the negative as I did not have any food item to give.
In a gesture of cupping his arms he looked towards me and said “Give me some money” I was relieved thinking he would give the money to the beggars. I immediately put out some change into his hands.
Looking at me he said “Now you give this money to them”.
I complied and drove off from the signal.
But for the next 20 minutes Radhanath Swami was driving the point to me that I was not carrying any food item to give to the beggars. He said “ It is a very humiliating experience to be begging” and then lowering his voice further “ It is even more humiliating when you do not give”.
In a mood of instruction and pleading Radhanath Swami said “ You must carry some food item like pancakes, rice puffs, grain biscuits etc. And as a last resort you can give money but know well that money may get misused”
This instance remains etched in my mind and I confirm the presence of small food packets in my car even before I look for the keys.
Radhanath Swami has compassion towards one and all without any consideration of race, caste, age, sex, religion, country or even economic status.
– Ujwal Jajoo
Radhanath Swami Appeals
My lower nature overcame me and I fumed with fury riled by the antics of my mother-in-law. My intelligence prompted me to sympathize with her: “After all, the poor lady is a victim of Alzheimer’s disease. Look how innocently and helplessly she stands in front of you. ” But my debased tendencies turned a deaf ear to those inner voices. As I was on the verge of exploding into a tirade, Radhanath Swami’s appeal to me spoke through my heart, miraculously curbing the anger that swelled in my chest. “On her behalf I beg forgiveness from you for all her misbehaviors. She is not in a position to understand what she herself does.”
These compassionate words had sprouted from his soft heart upon seeing the diseased condition of my mother-in-law, when he had visited our home. He had presaged situations like the one I was in, and had spoken those words to me. Then folding his palms in humble appeal before me, he created a telling impression in my conscience. Those impressions had once again saved me from brewing up an ugly hassle.
– Pushpa Ashok Shetty
Radhanath Swami’s Secret Strategy
This happened in Mayapur, a village close to Kolkata. I was with Radhanath Swami as he conversed with one of his students. I followed the pleasant exchanges closely, attempting to zero-in on Radhanath Swami’s secret strategy: how does he keep his students happy and inspired in spirituality? I already knew him as an expert manager, managing many big projects all over the world.
When the conversation ended and the student strutted away, all smiles, I turned to Radhanath Swami. “What’s your strategy for him?”
His reply left me speechless. “Strategies are for projects. But for people, it’s directly from the heart.”
– Navina Nirada
Radhanath Swami – The Compassionate Author whom I Chauffeured
With the setting of the sun, the lonely country road ahead now stretched out into the darkness. Our car stood poised on the roadside waiting to lunge into the dark night, but before we could reach it, well-wishers gathered around to dissuade us from traveling.
That morning I had chauffeured Radhanath Swami to this place, an isolated village near Nasik. After spending the day in a spiritual gathering, now we were headed to Mumbai.
“Long night-drives could be dangerous; it’ll be better if you start tomorrow morning,” a well-wisher declared. Someone else added in a menacing tone, “Daruk looks too tired. It’s unlikely that he can refrain from a nap while at the wheels. Better for him to rest tonight and drive tomorrow.” Radhanath Swami however was determined to return that night, and stopped his ears against this downpour of entreaties; he had meetings lined up for the next day at Mumbai, starting from early morning.
Still, he sought my opinion, “Can you safely drive now, or do you need some rest?” Another well-wisher chimed in before I could respond, “Perhaps we can arrange for another chauffer who can replace Daruk for half the way.” I declined that offer and affirmed to Radhanath Swami that I was ready for the long drive. Yet, he proposed, “If you are tired, even I can drive.” I shook my head in denial and shyly smiled.
As we put on our seat belts, Radhanath Swami gravely announced, “If we meet with an accident and I die, I don’t mind.” Startled, I looked at him. With his glistening eyes gazing into mine, he added, “But my concern is for the laptop I am carrying. If that is destroyed, my work for the society will be hampered.” Lately, I had seen him intently work on his laptop on every drive, typing out pages for his upcoming book. As we would ride down an occasional potholed road, I would peek from the corner of my eye and see him straining to focus on his work, as he and his laptop swayed in the rattling car. I often gloated at his eagerness to help the world through his writings. But the full glow of that burning eagerness was unveiled by what Radhanath Swami had just spoken—he was more eager for his writing to reach out to the world, to help the world out of its miseries, than he was eager to maintain his own life.
Radhanath Swami, My Compassionate Navigator
My new car glided over the Sea Link Bridge on to the expressway. I was privileged to be behind the wheels with Radhanath Swami as the navigator. The array of Billboards put on roadsides advertized products of all description: from electronic gadgets to crash courses in computer programming. One flashy billboard called for extra attention and as the car sped past it, Radhanath Swami announced,“Hit the bull’s eye.” That was the punch line on that billboard, assuring success for one taking to the crash course advertised.
After a few silent moments, Radhanath Swami added, “What a cruel way of describing success!”
It took me a while to grasp what he said. When it finally dawned on me, I pondered over the strangeness of human psyche. Because I was so familiar with that phrase, the ‘cruelty’ in it remained eclipsed to me until Radhanath Swami pointed that out. Toeing the same line of analysis, isn’t it true that we sometimes become so familiar with certain ways of climbing up the success ladder that we become desensitized to the cruelty that might be involved in the process?
It takes deep compassion for cutting through that thick fog of familiarity to become sensitive to even traces of cruelty that seeps into seemingly harmless facets of life—even traces found in the language that we use.
Radhanath Swami, The Himalayan Ascetic
As I emerged out of the haven, my blanket, into the frigid dawn, my thoughts rushed to management. Those thoughts occupied my mind during the day, and sometimes even during the night: I was the manager on this pilgrimage to the Himalayan town of Hrishikesh, and the facilities were inadequate by Mumbai standards. The guesthouse in which we stayed didn’t even provide electric-geysers in their bathrooms. A man living some distance away made-up by providing steaming water in steel buckets for small donations. So first thing in the morning, I had to arrange for hot water from him, for some fellow pilgrims—a few medicos and Radhanath Swami—who preferred an early morning bath. Since Radhanath Swami woke up earlier than the rest, I had failed to provide him with hot water so far during the pilgrimage. So today, I was up early, at three o’ clock, perhaps before him. I hurriedly fetched a bucket of hot water from our geyser-man, only to find Radhanath Swami in fresh clothes, after his cold-water bath.
Many such incidents made me distraught with guilt for not providing sufficient facilities for Radhanath Swami. Towards the end of the pilgrimage I approached him and apologized for all inconveniences. He consoled me by telling that I had tried my best. Then, as he stood in the guesthouse lawns with the Himalayas providing for a backdrop, in the spirit of a true Himalayan ascetic, he added, “My life is meant for inconveniences.”
At the time I failed to understand the full import of that statement. But in the last twenty five years I have observed how Radhanath Swami, living with that understanding of a selfless ascetic, never fears to take on inconveniences, one after another—exclusively for the benefit of society.
– Dr. Ajay Sankhe
Radhanath Swami – softer than a Rose or…
Afternoon-silence occupied the Radhagopinath Ashram as some monks napped while the others pored over the scriptures. …I heard ONLY the loud screams of my restless thoughts!
Taking a walk through the ashram corridors–for no particular reason–I met Radhanath Swami on the way. In reflex I struck a conversation—a long premeditated one.
“I have been unable to follow one of your instructions,” I effused.
“What is that?”
“Seven years ago when I had joined the ashram you had instructed me to keep sanctified food and water in the bird feeder every day.” I was referring to the bird feeder in the garden; Vrindavan Forest, the garden in our ashram backyard, serves as an oasis for birds of downtown Mumbai. “I haven’t been able to follow that instruction, sometimes circumstantially and sometimes due to personal negligence.” By now tears of sincerity were brimming in my eyes—and my greedy mind began to anticipate a sympathetic embrace from Radhanath Swami, the warmth of which I had experienced innumerable times.
Surprisingly, he remained stoic through my ramble. “You should do it,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone and walked away.
It was unlike his kind demeanor, for he wanted to teach me a lesson: determined perseverance in following instructions is essential for spiritual progress, while sneak-out excuses are detrimental.
Months later when Radhanath Swami’s Autobiography The Journey Home was published, a passage in it struck me:
It is said that a saintly personality can be softer than a rose or harder than a thunderbolt. This morning, one guest made excuse after excuse to defend his immoralities and spiritual weaknesses. Srila Prabhupada listened, then his voice rose like thunder, “If you are weak, rectify it. If you have no determination, you have no character. What makes you different from an animal?” The man shrunk like a punctured balloon. Bowing down, he promised to do what he knew was right. When required, Srila Prabhupada could be very strict to emphasize the urgency of a person’s predicament. Like a scalpel in the hands of an expert surgeon, his strong words cut only to heal. Or as he himself explained, “A spiritual teacher is required to have the courage of a British General and the heart of a Bengali mother.”
– Gajanan Bhat
Radhanath Swami, as sweet as a leader could be
“Great leaders get people to think more of themselves, not more of the leader.”
Radhanath Swami is a brilliant orator. Thousands all over the globe, and especially in India, hear his recordings regularly to nourish their spiritual lives. Many openly admit their addiction to Radhanath Swami’s lectures—and I am one amongst them. You can spot me in the front row whenever Radhanath Swami discourses at Radhagopinath Ashram.
A few years ago Radhanath Swami was invited to Kolkata for holding a series of talks on the Vedic scripture Srimad Bhagavatam. As he was about to depart from Radhagopinath Ashram, a throng gathered around to see him off. I stood at a distance, in feeling. I would miss hearing from him! Suddenly, Radhanath Swami gestured me to come closer. He embraced. Then as he gazed affectionately at me, lengthy few moments of silence passed.
Finally he said, “It will be hard for me to speak at Kolkata without you sitting in the front row.” He then left, as I stood there speechless–bashful, but with a bounty of self-worth.
– Siddeshwar Bhat
Radhanath Swami, on the Eve
First the Glossary(…a little unorthodox style )
Ananta Koti Vaishnavas –The millions of devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna; according to the Vedic understanding, the majority of them are in the spiritual world, beyond the material universes.
Pancha Tattva—The Supreme Lord manifesting in five features—Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, NItyananda Prabhu, Advaita Acharya, Gadadhar Pandit, and Srivas Thakur. Their activities are documented in the epic Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita.
Six Goswamis—The six saintly followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who wrote books that form the basis of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Theology.
The story begins now….
Exam was approaching!!! At least this time… will I successfully clear my MS in Orthopedics?
Incidentally, Radhanath Swami visited my home on the eve of my exam. My medico friends also joined in to have his holy association. But the ambience was deadly dull: the gathering knew of the exam tension that gnawed at me, and they felt for this dear friend.
“So, how many times have you attempted so far to clear your exams?” Radhanath Swami asked me. “Tomorrow will be the fifth,” I felt my parched mouth as I replied; I burned with anxiety.
“Fifth attempt? Don’t worry. The Pancha Tattva will be there to help you out tomorrow,” said Radhanath Swami. That was a quip, but nonetheless a blessings. I bowed down in gratitude. As I raised my head, Radhanath Swami peered into my eyes.
Perhaps, detecting that I was still edgy, he said, “Don’t worry. If you don’t make it tomorrow, on your sixth attempt, the six goswamis will be there to help you.” My friends burst out laughing. I broke into a smile, spontaneously fell on my knees, and bowed down before him. When I raised myself, Radhanath Swami studied my eyes—once again.
“Don’t worry. Even if you cannot clear in your sixth attempt, you can endlessly go on, for ananta koti vaishnavas will be there…” The last few words of Radhanath Swami drowned in the sounds of roaring laughter that now filled the room. That roar dispersed the cloud hanging over me, and I too had a hearty laugh.
The next day I performed well, feeling light and depending on higher powers. And it turned out to be a winning performance.
Looking back, Radhanath Swami had taught me a lesson of dependence and a lesson of detachment from results. Later on I came to know that he had also made sure that my preparations were good: weeks before my exam, he had secretly called on my friends to help me out with my studies. So, at the end of the day, the lesson was–work hard, but with dependence on higher powers and with detachment.
– Dr. Girish Rathod
Something Sweet for the Burning Wound
This happened years ago, when my daughter Vidhi was small. We were on our pilgrimage to Vrindavan with Radhanath Swami and thousands of devotees from Mumbai.
One day, as we circumambulated the Radha-Damodar temple in the seva-kunj area of Vrindavan, my daughter spotted a monkey who sat at the rear of the temple munching on his lunch; he looked cute and harmless until, Vidhi caressed his back. Suddenly, the monkey sprang on her. He dug his pointed teeth into her hands, ripped off a mouthful of flesh, and darted away—leaving behind a bloody trail. I rushed Vidhi to a doctor. After a stitch and a bandage, we decided to fly back to Mumbai the next day, for Vidhi needed to recuperate.
“If this is what happens on coming to a holy place, I will never come back again,” Vidhi said to me that evening, as she grimaced. Her tender faith was throttled. I fell short of words for a reply.
Next morning, before we left for Vrindavan, we encountered Radhanath Swami on the roadside. He already knew what had transpired. He looked towards Vidhi, who was visibly distraught. “Do you know why it happened? Because you are very sweet and your heart is as soft as butter. Even the monkeys cannot resist eating you.” A smile blossomed on Vidhi’s face, and she looked down shyly to hide it.
It was several weeks before that crevice in Vidhi’s hand filled-up, but it left behind a scar. I thought of going for a cosmetic surgery. Radhanath Swami, though, had a different opinion. He told Vidhi, “Don’t do it. This scar represents the mercy of the holy place which you can carry for the rest of your life.” Vidhi happily agreed and still is ornamented with those scars.
Yes, anything we undergo in a holy place, though apparently inauspicious, is the special grace of the Lord. This the scriptures say, and the holy men ascertain to be true. But Radhanath Swami had revealed it to Vidhi only when the time was ripe. In Vrindavan, when her hands burned in pain, that truth would have acted like salt and pepper on her sore. She needed something ‘sweet’, and Radhanath Swami had administered just that.
An expert guru is not just one who knows the truth, but one who knows how to administer it according to time place and circumstances.
– Mrs Kamal Arora
Radhanath Swami Cuts a Joke
“Am I getting old?” a thought sneaked into my mind. I was in my car, returning from a festival that bubbled with enthusiasm, with young men exuberantly dancing in kirtan in a style introduced by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a bhakti saint of the 16th century. Through it all I was feeling the opposite—unenthusiastic and sluggish. Now my intelligence figured out why—perhaps I was getting old. Slowly that thought snowballed, and I started feeling older and older and older, way beyond my years. My mind rolled towards old age faster than the tires. Soon I started imagining difficulties of old age mounting on my frail body. Finally, unable to bear it any longer, I expressed myself to my co-passenger Radhanath Swami, “I find myself out of the crowd and left out. All the other devotees are so enthusiastic and strong.”
He looked really amused by the jokes my mind played on me. But as a remedy he cut yet another joke. It was a witty one that sobered me up. “Those who are young, they are very soon going to become old. But if you are not very enthusiastic, you are very soon going to become young again.”
Wasn’t that deep?
– Dr. Ashok Shetty
Radhanath Swami’s Transcendental Play
Through the train window I watched as the plains of Andhra Pradesh Sate, India, spread out before me. Hot air wafted in from there, worsening the sweltering heat inside the compartment. Austerities of the pilgrimage have already begun. I sighed.
It was the summer of 1988, when I was a budding spiritualist. Though uncertain if spirituality (especially its austere side) was really my cup of tea, I had plucked up enough courage to be on this pilgrimage. My elder brother Dhaval, a practitioner of bhakti yoga since 1984, was my inspiration. Now on this train heading to the holy town of Jagannath Puri he sat next to me, while Radhnath Swami and the president of ISKCON Chowpatty sat on the seat opposite, facing us.
I kept my attention outside the window; Dhaval read a book; Radhanath Swami and the president conversed.
“When brothers take to spirituality, who makes swifter advancement, the elder or the younger? What do statistics say?” the President asked Radhanath Swami amidst their conversation, that had now sucked my full attention. I peeked from the corner of my eyes and found Dhaval also distracted into it. We awaited Radhanath Swami’s response.
“I don’t know about statistics.” Casting a glance at the brothers sitting in front, Radhanath Swami continued, “But in this case it is the younger.” Struggling to be modest, I restrained my gleeful smile. My mind that reeled with thoughts of austerities moments ago, now resolved to nudge higher in bhakti yoga. I didn’t look at my brother to avoid embarrassing him. Yet,I felt sorry for him. He had been slogging for over four years, yet I had …. 😉 !!! Then on, the pilgrimage was an ecstatic experience, and so was practice of bhakti yoga.
After years of practice one begins to understand the nuances of spirituality. So now when I look back, I can imagine Radhanath Swami winking at my brother after making that comparative statement. Certainly, my brother was, and still is, far more spiritually advanced than I. That statement was only a transcendental ploy to encourage me. And my brother perhaps, was also a part of the crime.
– Snehal Narendra Dalal
Radhanath Swami’s Witty Tips for Leaders
Everybody has two sides to his/her personality, one of which is the divine. You should focus on the divine side and fan it. Real leadership means to bring the best side of everyone.
I cling on to these words spoken by Radhnath Swami whenever I feel cynical about the people I lead. But it’s the attitude that we are simply servants, working for the welfare of our dependents, that takes these words to the level of action. Scouring through Vedic history for good kings, we see every one of them spend the formative years of their lives at the hermitage of a guru, where they engage in menial services as part of their education. Thus, later their kingship stood on the foundation of service attitude.
Some years ago, I was introducing a student of one of the premier technological institutes of India, IIT, to Radhanath Swami, “He is a topper in his department.”
Radhanath Swami asked him, “What’s the reverse of TOP?”
“One on TOP has to wash POT to become a good leader.”
On another occasion, I was introducing a leader of a project to Radhanath Swami, “He is the Overall Cordinator.” Radhanath Swami turned to him and said, “Over- all should be taken as all-(are)-over us. We are humble servants of those we lead.”
– Acharya Ratna Das
Radhanath Swami’s Balancing Wit
While we savored Bhakti Yoga during our stay at the monastery in Mumbai, we developed a deep longing to share that experience with others. Prodded by fellow feelings, the three of us, all Americans, first wanted to reach out to our countrymen touring Mumbai. We decided to visit a neighborhood tourist trap, Colaba. But first, we sought blessings from Radhanath Swami.
Radhanath Swami’s eyes gleamed with joy seeing us exuberant to share the gifts we received, for sharing one’s joy with others is the heart of spirituality. He exclaimed, “The three of you remind me of the trio—Srinivas Acharya, Narottam Das Thakur, and Shyamananda Pandit!”
Encouraged, we smiled from ear to ear. These were names of renowned saints of the seventeenth century who pioneered the spreading of Lord Chaitanya’s school of Bhakti Yoga.
Speaking of the philosophy and glories of Bhakti was exhilarating. But disinterested responses demoralized us. Our minds would then find a sanctuary in Radhanath Swami’s encouraging words, and that helped us go on with renewed enthusiasm.
Gradually, we started finding interested people. While on one hand it boosted our confidence, on the other we began to imagine halos around our heads; we now felt like messiahs.
When one brother flew to America to resume his duties there, the two of us went to Radhnath Swami. “Narrottama Das Thakur has left,” I said, remembering Radhanath Swami’s comparison of the renowned trio with our trio. Implicitly it meant we were indeed of the caliber of Srinivas Acharya and Shyamananda Pandit.
“Seeing the two of you now, I am somehow reminded of Jagai and Madhai,” Radhanath Swami’s body rocked with laughter. He had punctured our egos in split seconds. Jagai and Madhai were renowned criminals of sixteenth century India who were eventually delivered by the benevolent Lord Chaitanya. Of course, he didn’t mean we were criminals. But through his lambent wit he conveyed that we weren’t as holy as we felt we were.
Both enthusiasm and humility are pillars of bhakti yoga, and he knew which needed support when, and how to administer that support.
– Jean Paul
With Radhanath Swami, On a Destiny Drive
“Where do we go next?” asked the chauffeur, as he slowed down the vehicle. I gazed out through the window, and an eerie sensation seized me. Nothing looked familiar. Maybe, we were lost! I had recently arrived in Kolkata after being appointed as Vice President of ISKCON there, and knew only few sections of the city.
On this drive, Radhanath Swami and his secretary were my co-passengers. I was escorting Radhanath Swami from the ISKCON Temple, where he stayed during his Kolkata visit, to ISKCON House, Gurusoday Road, where he was scheduled to discourse. Though the distance was only two Kilometers, we drove on a chauffeur-driven car. It was a well-wisher’s, who had persisted that we use it. Radhanath Swami occupied the front seat, while Vikram and I occupied the rear. At the beginning of the ride, I had announced, “Gurusoday Road,” to which the chauffeur nodded. But once we had entered the crawling traffic, I got absorbed in a conversation with Vikram, and thus was oblivious to the new route taken.
Now, this neighborhood we had stumbled into, the chauffeur claimed, was Gurusoday road. But where is ISKCON House? My heart pounded. We were getting late for the discourse. Radhanath Swami turned around, “Better we take a taxi from here. Taxi drivers know all routes.” Straining a confident smile, I called up a person at ISKCON House instead, for directions. My one hand pressed the phone to my ear, my other hand fingered directions, and the car limped ahead. Meanwhile, time raced ahead, the finish point remained invisible. Radhanath Swami turned around, again to meet my strained smile. This time, however, my smile evaporated under his annoyed glower, leaving behind a strain on my face. Saying nothing to me, he stopped the car, stepped out into the pedestrian traffic, and waved for a taxi—all in a jiffy. I too jumped out, and so did Vikram. Finding a taxi, the three of us clambered aboard, and were in ISKCON House in minutes. The discourse began half hour late, at 9:30 A.M.
After the discourse, Radhanath Swami told me in private, “We were disrespectful in making so many people wait.”
“I had assumed that the driver knew the way,” I retorted. He shook his head, indicating the excuse wasn’t good enough. My heart sank. I had displeased someone whom I yearned to please. But yes! I have another chance tomorrow. Radhanath Swami was scheduled to again discourse in the same place the next day.
Back in my room, I pulled my socks up for the next day’s performance. First, I studied every route from ISKCON Temple to ISKCON House, and then, the traffic flow on each. I zeroed in on the best route. What about the driver? Radha Sharan was the best choice. A Kolkata man who commuted the chosen route routinely, Radha Sharan couldn’t miss directions there—perhaps even when blindfolded. But if misfortune personified were to reappear, Radha Sharan was no exception. Therefore, for added safety, I called up a few more acquaintances, and requested them to be in their vehicles at strategic points along the chosen route—next morning at 9:00 A.M.
That night, I dreamt driving though that route a dozen times, rehearsing.
Next morning at 9:00 A.M., as Radhanath Swami got into the front seat of Radha Sharan’s car, he declared, “Listen Acharya Ratna. This time if you lose the way, you won’t see the light of another day.” Then he turned to Radha Sharan who sat behind the wheels, “Understand, Acharya Ratna’s life is in your hands!” The car lunged ahead, to determine my destiny.
Everything worked well, and we reached ISKCON House well before time. Before getting out of the car, Radhanath Swami spelled his verdict to Radha Sharan, “You have saved Acharya Ratna’s life.” His naughty smile charming my heart, he rubbed my head and spoke a blessing, “May you see the light of millions of days…” I thought, “Through the entire drama, I now feel drawn to you, a million times closer.”
After the discourse, as we sat together, Radhanath Swami shared pearls of management wisdom. “Acarya Ratna, in management, never ever assume anything. That is the first principle of management. If you at all want to assume anything, assume that everything is going to go wrong, unless properly planned, organized, supervised and guided.”
– Acharya Ratna Das
Radhanath Swami Could Unnerve You
To be a dentist to Radhanath Swami can be an unnerving experience if you are an amateur. “Why are you doing this? Why are you doing that? Why are you using this material as Dental Filler…?” He puts forth a whole gamut of questions every time I treat him: he scrutinizes and wants to be convinced before I can take him through a dental procedure.
Radhanath Swami did the same even as he took on a ‘spiritual procedure’ for his soul. Recently I pored over his autobiography, The Journey Home, and saw how relentless he was to only walk that spiritual path that he was first thoroughly convinced of—to the core.
– Dr. Mukunda Shanbhag
Radhanath Swami at Kanchipuram
2 January 2011. Feeling tiny, I prostrated before the enormous form of Pandavadhut, the deity of Lord Krishna commemorating his role as the messenger of the Pandavas. Situated in Kanchipuram in South India, the deity is twenty two feet tall, his other dimensions proportionately set. He is visibly almighty, as the scriptures describe him—and seems perfectly capable of fulfilling all desires. Gazing up at him, struck by awe, I wondered what prayers he received from the pilgrims. Perhaps those seeking sensual pleasures prayed for success in endeavors, money or fame. Perhaps those in distress prayed for relief from trials and tribulations. And perhaps the enlightened prayed for ultimate liberation from repeated birth and death. But I couldn’t fathom the thoughts of those beyond even enlightenment, of those who actually loved God.
A few minutes later our little group consisting of Radhanath Swami, a few other monks and I returned to the car. Before the car lunged ahead for the next destination, Radhanath Swami remarked, “It is worth coming in to this material world and undergoing all the trials and tribulations of material existence, including the suffering of repeated birth and death—for getting a glimpse of the beauty of Pandavdhut.”
– Nityananda Das.
Going Out for Lunch with Radhanath Swami
It was 22 November 2004, Vrindavan, India. The Fogla Ashram Guesthouse, where I stayed, had swarmed with Radhanath Swami’s followers for the past two weeks. Now the pilgrimage was over and only Radhanath Swami and his personal entourage—Nityananda, Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Vasudev and I—stayed back. Radhanath Swami was now recovering from his extreme exhaustion; being the pilgrimage guide for four thousand, he had been over-stretching himself.
As noon approached, Radhanath Swami drove off to Radha Gokulanand Temple along with Nityananda and Sri Krishna Chaitanya, for lunch. It was in response to a loving invitation from the head-priest Nitai Prabhu, who knew Radhanath Swami since the early 70s when Radhanath Swami had first visited Vrindavan. Nityananda, the acting secretary of Radhanath Swami, had earlier asked Vasudev and me if we too wanted to join in for the lunch. But since Radhanath Swami hadn’t asked us personally, we weren’t sure and had declined.
Back at the guesthouse, our stomachs rumbled. For the past two weeks, piping hot Prasad, sanctified food, was cooked and served right here in the guesthouse complex for the pilgrims. But now we had to search for a food booth in the scorching sun. Monkeys that squatted on the compound walls seemed to share our melancholy; they too hadn’t been out for a while: sneaking into the makeshift kitchen that was erected in the complex, they had been getting plenty.
As we prepared to walk out, the car that had taken Radhanath Swami returned. The driver informed that halfway to the temple when Radhanath Swami realized our absence, perhaps when he turned back to look at the passengers sitting in the rear, he halted the car. He then sent the car to pick us up and decided that he would walk the rest of the way—under the sun that now beat down on Vrindavan.
We reached the temple on time to have lunch with Radhanath Swami and the others. Later, when the head priest Nitai Prabhu came to the door to see us off, he handed a parting gift to Radhanath Swami, some remnant paraphernalia of the Lord, something inexpensive by worldly standards. Spontaneously, Radhanath Swami braced it to his chest in joy and gratitude. At this, Nitai Prabhu remarked to Radhanath Swami, “This goes to show the devotion that overflows in you. Most influential men who come here hand over such gifts to their secretary—instantly—perhaps never to have a second look.”
– Damodar Dulal.
A Phone Call with Radhanath Swami
“Please call me as soon as possible to discuss about the book,” read the one-line mail from Radhanath Swami. I flipped out in excitement, pulled out my mobile, scrolled to his number on the contact list, and pushed the dial button. As my mobile tried to reach out to the other side of the planet, to the United States, I could hear its intermittent beeps—and along with it my heart beat.
I had been working in Mumbai on the publication of Radhanath Swami’s Autobiography, The Journey Home, chipping in whatever little I could. He had spent years penning it down, wanting to openly share the precious realizations of his arduous spiritual quest with the world. And to help him in that, in whatever little way possible, I considered the rarest opportunity.
Now, I would be hearing his voice after a long time. My heart almost yanked out of my chest when I heard his faint voice over the phone. After exchanging pleasantries, he went on to give me directions on how I had to proceed with my work.
Mid-way through the call, from amidst a high cloud of excitement, I was plummeted to the low ground of qualms, by a reality that dawned on me—all of a sudden.
It is now midnight in the United States!
I had acted stupidly in waking up Radhanath Swami with my untimely call. What could I do now, but apologize? But when I apologized, Radhanath Swami replied, “I am so happy to be woken up by your sweet voice.” Embarrassed, my mindwent blank. Knowing not what else to say, I blabbered out another apology, breaking the awkward silence. This time he replied, “I am eternally thankful to you for this service of helping me with this book.”
– Jean Paul
HAVING EQUAL VISION
Radhanath Swami and a Special Security Guard
The Heaven on Earth is a colossal structure recently erected on ISKCON’s property in Juhu, Mumbai, to meet this spiritual society’s growing needs. On the first floor of this building, two long, lonely corridors run perpendicular to each other, and at their intersection stands a security guard, dutifully. This guard is no ordinary person! Perhaps a year ago, when I was at Heaven on Earth, I realized how special he was.
On my way to a dear friend’s room on the first floor, I had come across this sentinel. Hardly noticing his presence, I had turned left at the intersection he stood guard, to enter the second corridor from the first. Just one step tread, and I saw someone familiar emerge from the corridor’s other end. It was Radhanath Swami.
Those who have had Radhanath Swami’s holy association know how it feels like in his presence! I call upon them to imagine: on this lonely corridor—I on this end and Radhanath Swami on the other—and the two of us walking towards each other! I was paralyzed in self-awareness. I forgot how to walk, nay how to breathe. In shyness as I tottered, my eyes gazed the floor, and my mind squirmed in a daze. I knew not what to expect when we met midway. Finally, after an apparently long trek, came the climax. As we crossed, I pushed my glance up towards Radhanath Swami, and he beamed back a beautiful smile. Then tilting his head forward, he folded his palms in front of his face, thus expressing his respects to me. I was elated and felt so special. “Indeed,” I thought, “he knows me since 1998, and he also knows I am a graduate from a premier institute, the Indian Institute of Technology IIT.”
When I reached the other end of the corridor, I turned back for no reason in particular, and saw: Radhanath Swami was at the intersection, and he tilted his head and folded his palms in front of the security guard, exactly as he had done with me! And I could vouch that he was meeting that security guard for the first time in his life, and the security guard was an illiterate!
Deeply humbled, I took to heart a sacred lesson: the Supreme Lord’s representatives know every individual living entity—as part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. And so everyone is special in their eyes, regardless of externals.Therefore, from a spiritual perspective, that security guard was very special—as special as I felt myself to be in Radhanath Swami’s holy presence.
– Siddeshwar Bhat
Radhanath Swami’s Divine Palms
Radhanath Swami and his entourage of monks scurried along the alleyway towards my home. Their presence had created a stir in the neighborhood, and out emerged curious faces from doors and windows of makeshift apartments that lined the alleyway. Why so many swamis in a not-so-religious neighborhood of suburban Mumbai?
It was 10 January 2006. My mother, 67, suffered from last stages of bone cancer, and that morning her body had stiffened—presaging her imminent death. When the news reached Radhanath Swami, by late afternoon, he promised to be on her side at the earliest, surprising me: he was altering his schedule that was planned atleast months in advance. Usually, thousands awaited him every evening at gatherings where he spoke from the scriptures, but today someone special and intimate awaited him. His father, 85, was visiting him from Chicago after many years, and the two were to dine together that evening at Mr. Mafatlal’s bungalow in downtown Mumbai. Radhanath Swami’s driving two hours to suburban Mumbai to visit my mother—a little-known old dying lady, one amongst thousands of his students—meant his old father would undergo an indefinite fast—of the stomach and the heart.
“Radhanath Swami is coming,” I had whispered to my mother. The pleasant shock triggered her instant recovery. Though she helplessly still lay in bed, her body loosened, and she started to converse once again.
Radhanath Swami, upon reaching our humble dwelling, sat at my mother’s bedside. With reassuring affectionate eyes, his voice choking, Radhanath Swami expressed his gratitude to my mother for her services to her family, to devotees and to society. The monks then sang a prayer in unison. Meanwhile, my mother clenched Radhanath Swami’s right palm as a person helplessly hanging from a cliff clings to the rope that separates him/her from death.
Thirty minutes passed by. Wanting to leave, now that my mother’s departure didn’t seem imminent, Radhanath Swami slipped his palm out of the tight grip it was in, only to have it snatched once again by my old mother. Now she held captive that palm, in more desperate determination than before. Radhanath Swami relented and sat down again. He waited for forty five minutes more, until he reluctantly broke loose of those shackles that ached for shelter.
He had to be practical. But at a higher level, was my mother to let go of his shelter? And was Radhanath Swami to really abandon my mother?
24 January 2006. In the night, my mother was seen stretching out her arms, as she lay in bed, towards the framed photographs of Radha Krishna and Radhanath Swami hanging on the wall opposite. “Please take me,” she pleaded again and again. The next day she departed from this world.
In the second week of February, my brothers and I went to the holy town of Mayapur to place our mother’s ashes in the holy Ganges. During this time Radhanath Swami was also in Mayapur for the annual meeting of the ISKCON leaders. A grueling schedule occupied his day, and also a part of his night. The meeting went from 7.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m., breaking at lunchtime for half hour. At 7.00 p.m. he met pilgrims waiting for him outside the boardroom, and he returned to rest at about 11.00 p.m.
A day before the vidhi, the rites that accompany placing the ashes in the Ganges, I stole enough time of Radhanath Swami to inform him of the vidhi schedule. “We are starting at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow.” That was the time convenient for the head priest of Mayapur, Jananivas Prabhu. Radhanath Swami initially said nothing. But after a while, after I had returned to the guest house, Radhanath Swami’s secretary came running to me. He informed what Radhanath Swami had just confided in him, “Why is Shyam Charan behaving in this way? I want to be there when his mother’s ashes are placed…” Radhanath Swami’s voice had trailed off in dejection. Immediately, I rushed to Jananivas Prabhu to reschedule the rites. He gladly agreed and it was decided that the vidhi rites would be held just when Radhanath Swami was free at lunch time the next day.
The next day, despite her three sons personally present, my mother’s ashes merged into the current of the Ganges after falling off the divine palms of Radhanath Swami, those same palms which had soothed my mother’s soul a few weeks ago.
– Shyam Charan Das.
Found Radhanath Swami Alone, Outside Vrindavan Forest
Looking back into the events of my life, I could see a river of divine grace carry me in her currents.
In 1993, when I was in fourth standard and poverty threatened to terminate my schooling, that river of divine grace brought me to Lady Northcote Hindu Orphanage (LNHO.) There I was given a chance to peacefully continue my studies and lead a healthy life.
It was only my second day in LNHO, when I first experienced the whirlpools of love, also of that divine river. Our mentor Bhagavan Prabhu took us, the new entrants, to Radhanath Swami who oversaw the Orphanage activities. When I was introduced, Radhanath Swami proclaimed, “I accepted him as my son the very moment I saw him yesterday.” He embraced me with an affection I will never forget.
As I floated along in the currents of that divine river, I was simultaneously writhed further in her love whirlpools. Everyday, while at the Orphanage, I walked into Radhanath Swami’s room—uninvited—to receive a sweetmeat and his loving smile. One late evening as I walked in, he was about to recline for the night rest. But seeing me, he sat up again. He then handed me prayer beads and we chanted the holy names together for a while, before I took his leave. Another day when we boys cleaned our orphanage rooms, Radhanath Swami walked in. Seeing me, he joyously called for me, “Jyandev, my son!!” Dirty and dripping in sweat I sheepishly walked closer. Placing his right palm over my head in blessings, he soaked me further in his affection, “Are you happy?” he asked. On my thirteenth birthday when I went to meet him, he first warned me of the dangers awaiting me in my teens. Then, gifting me his prayer beads for my protection, he said, “I have chanted 400 rounds of the holy names on these beads.”
Now it was 2004. After eleven years at the orphanage, just about to complete my graduation studies, I wondered how I could possibly reciprocate with the river of grace that had brought me such a long way, caressing me in her whirlpools all along . Seeing clearly the origin of that river in Radhanath Swami’s compassion, I wanted to ask him what I could possibly do as a gesture of gratitude. To one who is given much, much is expected of—it is often said. But though I had received extraordinary grace, I couldn’t see myself doing anything extraordinarily great in receprocation. I wasn’t a charismatic monk who could open temples and monasteries in the dozens, I wasn’t a rich man who gave billions in charity, nor was I an accomplished speaker who could inspire millions on the bhakti path. How possibly then could I reciprocate with the infinite love and affection I had been receiving?
One day I found Radhanath Swami alone, as he walked out of the Vrindavan Forest, a beautiful garden near Radha Gopinath Temple that is designed after the holy land of Vrindavan. A burning desire to reciprocate ablaze in my breast, I went up to him, “How can I please you?”
“You can please me by setting a nice example for others to follow. Are you chanting the holy names regularly on your beads?”
“Are you following the regulations of Bhakti Yoga?”
“I am trying.”
“Then, Jyandev, you are pleasing me.”
“I don’t think so,” I uttered in disbelief.
“Yes, you are pleasing me,” he said with a glance of assurance.
As he walked away, I found the fiery desire to please him rage in me all the more, having perceived the selflessness of his love. But now I had also found the way to satisfy it. I simply had to be the best I could be—for his pleasure. Bhakti wasn’t about being the best, but was about trying our best. And if I simply tried my best to please him, I now knew for sure, he would be pleased.
Radhanath Swami, Our Gardner
In 1993, a nine year old reached a safe haven—the Lady Nothcote Hindu Orphanage. He was rescued from the perils of child labour by a compassionate monk, Bhagavan Das. The boy had lost his father, while his mother struggled to make ends meet in a remote Maharashtrian village….. I was that boy.
We kids were like small seeds buried in the dry sands of a cruel world. That orphanage groomed us into what we are now—beautiful blossoms that beautify that same world. And our chief gardener was Radhanath Swami.
An incident from those formative years I vividly remember. Every year, we kids at the orphanage were allowed to accompany Radhanath Swami and his congregation on their pilgrimage. One year, spontaneously my thoughts floated to my mother in the village. How I wished she too could join us. My little brain thought little of the financial requirements of a pilgrimage, and I walked straight to Radhanath Swami. “Can my mother join us too?” I spoke to him in Hindi. He nodded with a smile. Again, I had witnessed the affection of the heart transcended all language barriers between us.
Yes, that year my mother joined me on that pilgrimage.
Later, our caretaker monk disclosed to me what had transpired behind my back. Radhanath Swami had called for a meeting of the pilgrimage organizers just to arrange for the finances and every other need of my mother’s pilgrimage. Towards the end he had told a manager, “You should take care of Jyandev’s mother as if she were Mr. Hrishikesh Mafatlal’s mother.” Mr. Mafatlal is a well known Indian Industrialist.
I Won’t Come Down Until I See Radhanath Swami
“I won’t come down until I see Radhanath Swami,” Sita yelled back from the tree top to her relatives who were pleading from below. Now their cocked up heads dropped into their hands: How on earth to get Radhanath Swami here, to this remote village?
Sita was abused, and so she had climbed a tree threatening to commit suicide. Eventually she came down. But when I heard of this incident, what amazed me was Sita’s trust in Radhanath Swami. The thought of Radhanath Swami was all that her anguished mind raced to, for safety.
Before returning to her village, Sita had worked as our house maid in Mumbai. She was 12 when we first saw her, a simple innocent girl. One Sunday when we were at Radhagopinath temple, she was with us as we met Radhanath Swami. “Who is she?” Radhanath Swami had asked. “She is our maidservant, Sita,” I replied. He glanced at Sita, a glance so gentle, and one that awakened faith and hope. In his simple unassuming nature he then said, “And I am her servant.” Sita’s eyelids fluttered and she bashfully looked downwards. Just that one statement had sown a seed of faith in her heart: here was a person who saw beyond who was rich or who was poor. In time that seed grew into an unshakable tree of faith that shaded her soul.
Later, even after she returned to her village, she never forgot him, and continued to follow his spiritual instructions.
– Dr. Girish Rathod.
Radhanath Swami’s Unconventional Advice
Radhanath Swami’s unconventional advice to us Bhaktivedanta Hospital leaders was, “Eat with the hospital staff in the same place where they eat, and the same food as they eat. Also, you should be seen mopping the floors and cleaning the toilets. The hospital staff will then be proud of their leaders.” While we discerned in it a brilliant management strategy, its application intrinsically required application of Radhanath Swami’s teachings: everyone is equal, as spirit souls, and it is humility, the bitter pill, that permits us to treat everyone equally.
We started, first with mopping. Every time we mopped, the mop felt like a scalpel that painfully operated on our hearts, wrenching off the tumor of ego. Nonetheless, we tolerated: it was all for the betterment of the work environment in the hospital, and of course, for our own spiritual welfare.
The next time we met Radhanath Swami, we reported, “We now mop the ground floor of the hospital.” Radhanath Swami replied, “What about the toilets?”
I got a message. Complacency is another tumor in the heart, but it’s invisible. It takes an expert spiritual surgeon like Radhanath Swami to wrench that off.
– Dr. Ajay Sankhe
Radhanath Swami Reassures
Premaka, our simple house maid, has been with us ever since she came to Mumbai twelve years ago. She embraced spiritual life almost immediately after she was employed; my family’s spirituality was perhaps a little too contagious. Sunday festival at Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Temple would occupy her weekly off. I would watch in silent amusement as she basked in the sound stream of Radhanath Swami’s discourses, though she understood only a little of English. His speeches somehow struck a deep spiritual chord in her, and invoked her faith and trust in him.
That faith and trust was deeper than I had gauged. When her father died, and the stab of grief occupied her entire being, her thoughts rushed to Radhanath Swami; she expressed her desire to meet him, for solace. Moved, we promptly agreed. But quietly, I wondered if she would be crestfallen upon meeting him. Radhanath Swami had thousands of admirers. How could he be expected to reciprocate with the feelings that each one felt for him? And that too, Premaka was a low profile simple girl.
Again, I had wrongly gauged the depths of love in a spiritually advanced person’s heart. When we met Radhanath Swami and told him of the death of Premaka’s father and the sorrow that had engulfed her, he turned to Premaka. With the compassion of his heart reflecting in his glance, in a tone that conveyed reassurance, he spoke words that left her wondering how she could ever reciprocate with his love. ” Now, I am your father. I am there for you.”
How different is a spiritual celebrity like Radhanath Swami! While ordinary celebrities fail miserably in reciprocating with the love of their admirers, Radhanath Swami had made his admirer feel incapable of reciprocating with his boundless love.
– Dr. Mukund Shanbhag
The Telephonic Conversation with Radhanath Swami
One night in Mumbai, I got a call from Radhanath Swami. He was amidst his North American book tour, to promote the US trade release of his autobiography The Journey Home. Visiting most major cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Dallas, Houston, and Vancouver, he also gave media interviews for radio, television, newspapers and magazines.
Sitting thousands of miles away, I felt excited about the whole affair. I asked him how he felt. “How’s it going Maharaj?” (Admirers often address Radhanath Swami as Radhanath Maharaj)
After a brief silence, I could hear his soft voice, “You know Jagannath Kirtan… do you remember the photo of the cave I lived in Rishikesh, while on my spiritual journey?”
I had worked on the design and layout of his autobiography The Journey Home. I remembered that photo distinctly.
“One side of me wants to go and hide in that cave right now,” said Radhanath Swami.
I felt special. I had heard his heart speak.
It wasn’t for popularity or self-aggrandizement that he was on a book tour. But that was the price he had to pay to reach more people with the wisdom he had gained through his travels.
He shares in his autobiography the reason he wrote the book. It was upon the request of a life-long friend who was on his death bed:
Nobody knew me better that Bhakti Tirtha Swami. He knew the details of my quest and also my hesitation to write about them. One day he clasped my hand, gazed into my eyes and said, “This is not your story. It is a tale about how God led a young boy onto an amazing journey to seek the inner secrets that lie within all of us. Don’t be miserly. Share what has been given to you.” His voice choked up and a tear streaked down his ebony cheek. “Promise me,” he said, “here on my deathbed, that you will write the story.” A few days later, on June 27, 2005, he passed from this world. This book is my attempt to honor his wish.
– Jagannath Kirtan
Radhanath Swami from the back door
It was a momentous occasion for Daya Rupa when Radhanath Swami asked her what services she rendered at the temple. “I maintain the garden,” she replied.
Visitors are greeted by the sight of a beautiful garden, maintained by Daya Rupa, in the front courtyard of Chicago’s Krishna temple. Special guests, however, miss the sight. They are taken by another alleyway, a less crowded one that opens at the back door of the temple.
Knowing well that Radhanath Swami had missed her garden, Daya Rupa added, “But you didn’t see the garden, for you came from the back door.”
“Yes,” Radhanath Swami said, “because servants come from the back door.”
As I stood on the side, hearing them converse, I was struck by the adamency of Radhanath Swami’s humble disposition. He never likes to be considered special.
– Vinod Gali
Radhanath Swami’s unwillingness to take credit
Whoever meets Radhanath Swami is inspired by his unassuming nature and natural unwillingness to take credit for the works he inspires—developing communities, massive food distribution to indigent children, missionary hospitals, eco friendly farms, schools, ashrams and emergency relief programs. As naturally as he avoids taking any credit for himself, he gives all credit to his guru Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Take for example the case of a missionary hospital in Mumbai, an outcome of his farsighted vision. In 1987, when I completed my graduation in Medicine (MBBS), a nursing home newly purchased for me by my loving father promised me a lucrative career. Earlier, during my final year of graduation, I, along with some friends—Dhaval, Ajay, Vivek, Bimal and a few others, popularly called the ‘spiritual medicos’— had idolized a life consecrated to social service, and would frequently organize free medical camps in the nearby villages. I had gained plenty of on-field experience in the process, and that could now be handy to dive plump into private medical practice in a new nursing home. It was a time when opportunities like these, for flourishing careers, were luring everyone in ‘spiritual medicos’, threatening to end the camaraderie we felt in selflessly serving society. We found ourselves at the crossroads of indecision: should we continue to walk together on our idolized path, or should we now resort to our own individual paths, pursuing our ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunities’? Befuddled, I one day approached Radhanath Swami. His saffron garments emanating a lambent glow under the morning sun, he sat cross-legged on a bench in the courtyard. As I disclosed my mind, kneeling in front, he mulled over every word I spoke. Then, as the birds warbled in the sky above, having found a direction to fly, Radhanath Swami gave me a direction to fly my life…“In my opinion, all of you will have flourishing careers if you individually take to private practices. But if all of you choose to stay together, you will do something which will be remembered in history.”After eleven long years, in 1998, the truth in those statements unfolded in the form of a missionary hospital in Meera Road, Mumbai. And guess what? Radhanath Swami named the hospital after his beloved guru, and called it Bhaktivedanta Hospital.
On the day of the hospital’s inauguration, we took Radhanath Swami on a tour through the new building. Midway along a corridor, Radhanath Swami asked in an irritating tone, “What’s that going on?” He was referring to the kirtan that played in the background. To create a spiritual ambience in the hospital, we had put up speakers in different locations—wards, offices, labs, and practically everywhere—and these speakers played devotional music all through the day. Now, what disturbed Radhanath Swami was, those speakers were transmitting recordings of kirtans sung by him. “When you have dedicated this hospital to His Divine Grace Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, it should be only kirtans sung by Prabhupada that should be played on these speakers,” he said firmly. Again, it was his natural humility!
– Dr. Girish Rathod
Radhanath Swami’s Service Consciousness
I’ll speak something on Radhanath Swami’s ‘service consciousness’—that’s striking and charming.
In 1994, when I started to lean towards spirituality, coincidentally Radhanath Swami started to frequent London. I remember. During this visit, someone had put up a notice at the Soho Street Temple asking for a volunteer to drive Radhanath Swami to different places. My heart already impacted by just two discourses I’d recently heard from this ‘new and lovely’ Swami, I happily volunteered. On the last day of his visit, as Radhanath Swami drove in my car to the Heathrow Airport, I felt an impulse to share my deepest feelings. From behind the wheels I said, “I feel you are my spiritual guru.” Before my eyes blinked came the reply, “I feel I am your servant.”
In 1999 I formally accepted Radhanath Swami my spiritual guru. With passing years, my spiritual life grew stronger—especially as my family life grew miserable. Sometime in 2001 during a chat I disclosed to Radhanath Swami how I flinched even as I remembered the cutting criticisms of my mother-in law. To my surprise, his body shook in laughter and he said, “She did a great service.”
– Gavin Alexander
A Window into Radhanath Swami’s Heart
This exchange with Radhanath Swami—though momentary—for me was momentous.
One afternoon after lunch, Radhanath Swami and I rambled along the edges of the lecture hall at Radhagopinath Temple. The sight of each painting that hung on the side walls stopped us in our tracks briefly, before we proceeded ahead.
For pure devotees, to see such depictions of Lord Krishna’s pastimes is to see through a window—into the spiritual world. Will Radhanath Swami be kind enough to share some of his feelings after looking through these ‘windows’?
My desire found its fulfillment when we reached one corner of the hall. There, a painting displayed Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan hill effortlessly, balancing it on the little finger of his left hand. His devotees—cowherd men and women, parrots, peacocks and cows—encircled him and looked on at this incredible feat admiringly.
“I like this personality, this cowherd lady,” Radhanatha Swami pointed to a lady in the painting. From behind the crowd that encircled Krishna, her face barely emerged out; she easily skipped one’s attention if the painting wasn’t examined with scrutiny.
“She is in the background and she is happy to be in the background,” Radhanath Swami said—and then said nothing. But the two lines that he spoke opened up a window into his heart. Seeing through that window I saw an ocean of humility.
– Srila Haridas Thakur.
Radhanath Swami – Our Star
In the overcrowded prayer hall of Radha Gopinath Temple, I sat on the floor softly chanting the Hare Krishna mantra on my prayer beads. My murmur merged with the murmur of thousand-odd others to fill the ether with the buzz of the anthem— Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
Usually devotees sat in small circles of eight or less during this prayer period from 5.45 a.m. to 7.30 a.m. But today, there were thousands of pilgrims from far and wide, and they all sat chanting the mantra with their visions converging on Radhanath Swami, their spiritual star, who sat cross-legged on the floor in one corner of the prayer hall. (And fortunately, I was sitting close to himJ.) Immersed in mantra meditation, his eyes shut, and his erect body gently swaying to and fro in spiritual ecstasy, Radhanath Swami at first seemed oblivious to his surroundings.
Suddenly, however, amid the prayer session, Radhanath Swami shifted to a different spot to continue his mantra chant. A devotee who sat close by whispered into my ears, “Perhaps the ceiling fan spinning overhead was bothering him. Why don’t you turn it off, so that we can have him sit closer to us once again?” I walked to the switch board and turned off the overhead fan.
No sooner had I returned to my place than Radhanath Swami called me with a hand gesture. “Why did you turn off the fan?” he asked. In the silence that followed, I sensed he anyway knew the answer. “I didn’t change my position because of the fan,” he clarified. “I shifted here because I can’t tolerate everyone looking at me. Please, why don’t you ask everyone to sit in circles and focus on the mantra, rather than focus on me?”
It dawned on me—he was not bothered by the fan, but by his fans.
I had to take the brunt of displeasure of the devotees who now reluctantly formed little circles, turning their vision away from their spiritual star—who always felt discomforted when looked upon like a star.
– Siddeshwar Bhat.
Radhanath Swami’s ego – Less Opportunism
Last year Radhanath Swami’s birthday celebrations came right in the middle of his writing marathon. In the Vedic tradition, the spiritual guide who helps one return to God is considered as a special representative of God, to be respected on par with God. So on the spiritual mentor’s birthday his students assemble together in his presence and express their heartfelt appreciation, love and gratitude to him through eloquently written offerings. Radhanath Swami often warns in his talks about the great danger that ego poses on the spiritual path. He also says that a sincere devotee feels most embarrassed to hear himself be glorified. Yet the Vedic tradition that he represents enjoins that he as a spiritual mentor hear the praises that his students shower upon him. No wonder Radhanath Swami often says that the day of his birthday celebration is for him the day of the greatest austerity in the entire year. For an ordinary soul whose ego is always hungering and hankering for praise, such a day would be the day to be most relished in the entire year. But Radhanath Swami’s natural humility makes hearing his own glories an immense austerity for him.
Despite the austerity involved, Radhanath Swami conducts himself on his birthday with consummate grace; he appreciates his spiritual teacher, he appreciates his spiritual peers and he appreciates even the sincere love of his appreciators. How does he not let such an even steal away his own humility? He has himself answered in his talks: whenever a devotee is glorified, he passes the glorification to Krishna.
During the last year’s celebration, one of his students praised him with heart-rending poetry comprised of captivating imagery. Immediately after the celebration, when we were working on his book, he asked me whether I had heard that poetic offering. When I replied, “Yes, it was beautiful,” Radhanath Swami immediately said, “When I was hearing this, I was thinking this would be so good to add in the book to glorify Krishna.” I was astounded at his devotional opportunism; far from delighting in his own praises, he had immediately seen an opportunity to literally pass that praise to Krishna. It was an inspiring example of how Radhanath Swami walks his talk: how his ego-less opportunism enables him to pass on to Krishna the glories that are offered to him.
– Chaitanya Charan Das.
Radhanath Swami’s Reluctance to Take Credit
Once I went in to Radhanath Swami’s room to suggest topics for a talk he would give to over a thousand youth of Mumbai. This is one of the most eagerly awaited festivals where Radhanath Swami addresses large youth and inspires them to practise spiritual life. While suggesting topics I also appreciated his tireless sacrifice and dedication to serve. However during the whole conversation that lasted for over fifteen minutes, he expressed utter humility and refused to take credit for anything. He changed the subject of our discussion and asked me about my services. After I briefed him about the same, Radhanath Swami congratulated me and said, “I am eternally grateful and indebted to you for your loving services”. Finally he approved one topic “Real Problems, Real Solutions” amongst the many that I had suggested. Again, in naturally humility, he expressed, “I am a real problem and you are the real solution”. Whenever any of Radhanath Swami’s students have expressed gratitude to him, immediately he refuses to take credit and instead glorifies his students for their sincerity.
A truly humble person always sees the good in others and refuses to take credit for his achievements. Radhanath Swami is always conscious that we are mere instruments in the hands of God; it’s only by God’s grace that we can do any good to others.
– Vraj Vihari
When Radhanath Swami had a Headache
As I silently moved towards the door—my heart pounding—and extended my hand to knock, a voice held me back. It was my own mind, reminding me of Radhanath Swami’s request that he not be disturbed. He was inside, behind that closed door, suffering from a splitting headache.
As I retracted from the door, worry again rushed through me like a whirlwind. Perhaps, he needs some help. Doesn’t the principle of caring for a sick guest rise above a mere request? I scrambled back towards the door. But I froze in my track before I reached it. Radhanath Swami’s request had echoed through my mind–once again.
Somehow this time, my eyes fell on the key hole on the door. Finding in it a way out of my indecisive oscillations, I fell on my knees and peeped in through it. The sight inside chocked my breath. Radhanath Swami writhed in pain on the bed, his head held tightly in his hands, as if it were to crumble otherwise. Emotion exploding in me, I pounded on the door. How could I sit back, seeing my guru suffer in this way?
The doors opened, revealing an apparently composed Radhanath Swami, “Why did you disturb me?”
Pointing to the key hole I confessed, “I saw that you were in such pain.”
Radhanath Swami whispered back, “I was trying to understand Lord Krishna through this pain. You broke my meditation.”
– Mr. Hrishikesh Mafatlal
Radhanath Swami Expresses a Loving Parent’s Concern
After one successful youth festival, many of us, the resident monks gathered around Radhanath Swami and expressed our joy and gratitude. One of us told him, “You have done a miracle. Today we have a powerful team of teachers of the science of God consciousness at our monastery, all by your training.” Immediately, in a natural voice, filled with the simplicity and devotion that very much characterizes his personality, Radhanath Swami replied, “I am not doing any miracle. I am simply like a cheer leader watching it all happen”. He then lovingly gazed upon us and smiled, for what appeared a long time. Then again he became grave and said, “Only if there is no tug of war and our monks are free from competition and desire for name and fame, and materialistic ambitions and desires, only then we can be peaceful and happy”. Then again Radhanath Swami smiled and encouraged all of us in our devotional service.
This is a special quality of Radhanath Swami. He becomes very happy when his students do well in their spiritual life. Yet as a loving and guarding father, he becomes alert and repeatedly guards us against falling prey to material motives and ambitions springing from false pride.
– Vraj Vihari
Radhanath Swami’s Analysis of Humility
Once on Radhanath Swami’s birthday, a few resident monks at the Mumbai centre entered Radhanath Swami’s room with a neatly wrapped gift. He graciously accepted the offering while the leader of our group expressed appreciation of his wonderful qualities, including genuine humility that he possesses. Then Radhanath Swami enlightened us on how the highest amount of humility of a soul of this world is nothing compared to God’s humility. He reasoned, “We approach God with this wretched foul smelling body; it’s nothing more than a bag of stool and urine. Still God accepts our service. Our mind is filled with most lusty and degraded thoughts of envy and pride. Yet when we offer some prayer, God gratefully accepts. With our tiny mouth and limited capacity how much we can glorify God as compared to great stalwarts and pure hearted saints. Yet when we glorify God, God accepts our appreciation. When we say ‘Oh God, I am offering my body, mind, and words to you’, God very happily and gratefully accepts it. Will we ever accept an offering which is externally so contaminating and impure? Never, yet God accepts our offering. So who is actually more humble and what is our humility?”
We left the room stunned at this analysis of humility and gratitude. Only one who is fully God consciousness can think like this. It is one thing to speak on humility but to be convinced of this principle and live by the highest standards of humility is a different thing. Radhanath Swami’s consciousness is filled with love for God and he has complete conviction that we are insignificant and God is Supreme in every respect.
– Vraj Vihari
Radhanath Swami: An Editor’s Editor
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to edit Radhanath Swami’s upcoming book (tentatively named “Yoga of Love”). When I received the book by email, I was both excited and apprehensive.
Excited because I would be able to relish the condensed wisdom that Radhanath Swami packs into his writings. Radhanth Swami’s speech is itself brilliant, permeated as it is with profundity, maturity, simplicity and beauty. But his writings are simply astounding; I like to call them as English Vedanta Sutras. (The Vedanta Sutra are the condensed aphorisms that encode the highest wisdom humanity has ever received.) Of course, there’s a difference; though both contain extraordinary wisdom, the Sanskrit Vedanta Sutras captivate by their complexity, whereas Radhanath Swami’s sutras enchant with their clarity. So, I was understandably excited to be among the privileged few recipients of a pre-publication manuscript of Radhanath Swami’s latest book.
But I was also deeply apprehensive. The very nature of editing is that it often brings out the differences between the author and the editor. Radhanath Swami is an exalted saint, a venerable monk, my foremost spiritual guide. I would normally never think of editing his writing, for it expresses sublime wisdom in superb language. Yet, now as a service, I was being asked to edit his writing. I didn’t want to displease him by seeming presumptuous and giving suggestions about how to improve his manuscript, yet I didn’t want to displease him by refusing the service he had given me.
Finally, praying for guidance to do this service in a sensitive yet competent way, I started the editing. It was a 250 plus page manuscript and it took a fortnight of some 12 hours work daily to complete it. When I mailed the edited draft to him I just didn’t know what to expect: his pleasure, displeasure or indifference.
To my great amazement, I received a call from his secretary saying that he was very grateful for my inputs. I was struck by the word “grateful”. It was I who had to be grateful to be considered worthy of this service. A week later, when I had gone to Mumbai for his birthday celebrations, he called me to his room and thanked me profusely. He said he had incorporated most of my suggestions, and added with a sweet smile, “Last several days, I have been doing your work.”
Relieved by his warmth and pleasure, I voiced my apprehension about editing the work of an exalted person like him. He reassured me saying that he was very pleased and asked me whether I would like to go over the whole manuscript once again to check whether the changes had been properly incorporated.
I was overwhelmed, not just because he had considered my service useful, but also because in him any attachment to his literary creation was conspicuous by its absence. As an author myself who gets published in international magazines, I often have to incorporate the changes suggested by the editors of those magazines. So, I know all too well how difficult it is for an author to change one’s own literary expressions to satisfy another. As I heard Radhanath Swami speak, from his tone and speech, I could realize that his writing was not to fulfill any literary craving, but to be an instrument to share Krishna’s message of love with the world. That’s why he could be so open to suggestions; he saw his writing not as his own creation, but as a contemporary rewording of Krishna’s timeless message, and if anybody could help word it better, he was more than happy.
When I contemplate on this experience in retrospect, I feel that, though, by my written comments, I edited Radhanath Swami’s manuscript, he, by his own example, edited my heart to point out to the attachment, the ego, the pride of literary creation that reside there. He promptly incorporated the changes I pointed out, I am still struggling to incorporate the changes he showed me.
Radhanath Swami’s “Intentional Mistake”?
When the editing of the book was nearing the end, Radhanath Swami told me to do a final proofreading of the 300-page manuscript. (During our editing, the draft had grown by over 50 pages) He said, “After you finish, tomorrow we will send the manuscript.” My mind started spinning at the thought of how I could complete the whole manuscript in one night. Fortunately, he got busy with some guests and so didn’t ask for the manuscript till the next evening. When he called me, I had carefully gone through around 240 pages and hastily glanced through the remaining. I gave him the manuscript, wondering what I should do about the remaining 60 pages. Again, fortune favored me, for he, due to his other engagements, didn’t finalize the draft till the next noon. By that time, I had carefully gone through the remaining pages. When I told him that some proofreading changes needed to be incorporated in the draft that I had given yesterday, he silently assented. When I pointed out that the spelling of “Bhaktisiddhanta” had been written as “Bhaktisddhanta” (the second “i” was missing), he suddenly exclaimed, “You passed the test!” Seeing the bewildered look on my face, he explained, “I had kept the spelling like that to see whether you would find it or not. Now that you have found it, you have passed the test.” I didn’t know what to say or even what to think. Laughing to see my confusion, he added, “Don’t worry; I was just joking.”
To this day, I don’t know whether Radhanath Swami made that mistake intentionally or unintentionally, but I do know that there was a divine intention in that whole incident. When we do a service, we should aspire to do it the very best that we possibly can, and not be satisfied merely because nobody can find any visible fault with it.
Radhanath Swami : The Prayer-er Writer
Radhanath Swami had a deadline for completing the editing of the book, but the deadline had come right in the middle of one of the biggest festivals of the year. He had to give discourses that thousands had come from all over India to hear, and he also had to attend to guests who had come from different parts of the world. An ever-courteous host, Radhanath Swami was hard-pressed for time and so had no time to put into words the several ideas he had come up with to improve the book further. Consequently, our roles changed; he asked me to write several things and then he would edit them.
On the last day of our editing marathon, he told me, “This is a book about bhakti and Hanuman is well-known the world over as a quintessential bhakta. So we should write something about Hanuman in the book.” (Hanuman is the heroic monkey-warrior in the devotional epic Ramayana) After a brief, animated discussion, we finalized what I should write. Suddenly, he said, “You can come back after one hour and then we will edit what you have written.” I was surprised at what seemed an unnecessary delay; over the last fortnight, I had at times worked for hours in his room itself, where I would write and he would edit, and, in parallel, he would write and I would edit. Now, when we had reached the last lap of the marathon, I wondered: why this delay?
Anyway, I went to the room that had my workspace and returned after an hour. Alert as he always is, he probably sensed the question in my mind and said, “Do you know why I asked you to come after one hour?” When I shook my head, he said softly, “I had gone to the temple hall to pray to Hanumanji to guide us how to best glorify him in this book.”
I was speechless. In the beautiful temple at Mumbai that Radhanath Swami has inspired, there is an inconspicuous deity of Hanuman near the one of the doors. Most visitors to the temple probably don’t even notice his presence. When we were discussing about Hanuman for the book, I didn’t even think about the deity. But Radhanath Swami, with his intense devotional alertness, not only remembered Hanumanji as the deity, but also delayed his work just so that he could seek the blessings of Hanumanji.
The contrast between his devotional consciousness and my intellectual consciousness simultaneously dismayed and delighted me. Dismayed because I was seeing the writing mostly as a literary activity, which I would excel at by use of my literary skills. Delighted because I was seeking the example of a person whose writing skills were far better than mine, but who was humbly offering prayers and seeking blessings to be able to write, not a whole book, but a few paragraphs within a book. Generally, during my writing, I pray only when my literary skills fail me and I am forced to realize that, without higher help, I am stuck. But Radhanath Swami was teaching me by his example of how prayer should precede action, not succeed action.
I remembered how before Radhanath Swami had written his first book The Journey Home¸ he had been asked, “Are you a writer?” He had humbly replied, “I am not a writer, but a prayer-er, one who offers prayers.” Of course, he is not just a prayer-er; he is a writer, an excellent writer at that. And his excellence in writing comes from his scrupulousness in praying. His writing, being divinely blessed, doesn’t just titillate the mind and impress the intellect, but touches and transforms the heart. From the depth of the devotion of his heart gushes forth the spring of his writing, a spring that cleanses and purifies all those who chose to bath in it. I hope to be blessed with many, many more opportunities to bathe in that sacred stream.
Radhanath Swami’s Embrace
On the last day of my editing service for Radhanath Swami, he went through the draft that I had written about the glorious service of Hanuman to Lord Rama. After refining it, he called me to have a look at it. In his own inimitably sweet and humble way, he asked me, as he had asked often during the last fortnight, “Is that good?”
As I read the changed draft, I marveled at how the text seemed to have come alive. Radhanath Swami’s excellence at descriptive writing has few parallels; he is a genius at describing events and emotions, places and people. Indeed, an early review of The Journey Home by the author Joshua Greene stated quite insightfully: “This book is a testimony to the power of words to express the affairs of the heart.” Of course, I would ascribe the power not just to the words, but also to the person whose heart is so sensitive to experience subtle emotions and whose words are so dexterous to express them.
When I finished reading the revised, nay enriched, text, I turned to Radhanath Swami and said, “This is beautiful. What I had written was like a report, but you have made it into a drama.” Radhanath Swami started smiling not so much because I was praising him, but because the glory of the bhakti of Hanuman had successfully manifested thorough his pen (or, shall we say, his keyboard). The selfless spiritual nature of his pleasure became apparent to me through the entirely unexpected but enchantingly unforgettable event that transpired next.
But before describing that event, I need to share a little background about Hanuman’s bhakti. When Hanuman returned to Lord Rama after performing unparalleled heroic feats in his service, the Lord being overwhelmed with gratitude offered his gallant servant the best that he could in those circumstances. The Lord offered Hanuman his own embrace, which was for the servant-hero the greatest of all gifts. This endearing exchange was expressed in eloquent and heart-rending language by Radhanath Swami and so I said to him, “Especially when Lord Rama embraces Hanuman, the emotions are coming out so sweetly over there.”
Radhanath Swami’s smile became broader and he said, “Then I will embrace you.” I was delighted to receive his long and sweet embrace. And as I thought – a bit self-indulgently, no doubt – that he was pleased with my service of editing – probably in some small way as Lord Rama was pleased with the service of Hanuman, my joy knew no bounds.
Later, as I reflected on the incident, the grave message that Radhanath Swami had communicated through this sweet exchange eventually registered in my dull mind. As devotees, we understand that the loving dealings between the Lord and his devotee are not just sentimental tales for pious entertainment or sweet stories from a bygone era. They are eternal realities in the spiritual realm which sometimes manifest to our perception as dramatic narratives in universal history. So as devotees, our goal is not just to relish their literary eloquence, but to experience their devotional essence –and to share that divine essence through our writings. Radhanath Swami was relishing Rama-lila at that exalted devotional level and, as my spiritual mentor, he wanted me to rise from my literary-intellectual level to that divine level. And so he embraced me – to give me an experience of his sublime love and to gently prod me to rise to the pure devotional level where I could constantly relish that divine love. I pray that the sweet memory of Radhanath Swami’s embrace – and the grave lesson taught through it – constantly illumine my hear and life.
– Chaitanya Charan Das
Being Proud of our Humility
Three weeks after I had joined the monastery in Mumbai, our group leader arranged a meeting of the newly joined monks with Radhanath Swami. We were over a dozen new members and were enthusiastic to serve. We had often heard Radhanath Swami emphasize that humility is most pleasing to God, and we should always render humble menial service. As the meeting progressed, Radhanath Swami enquired from us the nature of our services and the realizations that we had gathered over the past few weeks. One young monk enthusiastically spoke about his service to Radhanath Swami, “You’d be pleased to know that I am cleaning toilets daily for over two hours.” Radhanath Swami had in the past spoken at length about the humble services of Mother Teresa and St Francis, besides many other Vaishnava saints. The young monk obviously thought Radhanath Swami would be impressed by such services. However Radhanath Swami maintained a grave composure and shook us by the depth of his understanding. “One can even be proud of cleaning toilets”, said Radhanath Swami, “humility is not determined simply by the services we render but in what consciousness we perform them.” Later he also spoke on how one can get ‘proud’ of his humility. “This can happen”, said Radhanath Swami, “if we think that I am rendering the most menial service and therefore I am better than others.”
Radhanath Swami’s understanding of humility is profound. He is never impressed by the externals of spiritual life. Radhanath Swami holds humility as a sacred expression of the offering of our heart; it’s not simply a formality or a ritual. For Radhanath Swami, humility is the essence of bhakti; it’s also the substance he’s made of. I am grateful to the Lord that I often get to hear his classes, and thereby get a glimpse of his wonderful, devotional heart.
– Vraj Vihari
Radhanath Swami’s Extempore Humility
It was IIT Mumbai. Radhanath Swami had just delivered a spell bounding lecture to a group of young IITians. They now looked at him in indecision: were they really at the zenith of knowledge-acquisition, or were they merely like that infamous frog who thought of his puny well as the ‘be all & end all’ of existence? Radhanath Swami, through his stellar presentation, had very dexterously challenged their ‘froggish’ mentality with something so arcane, the awe-inspiring knowledge of the Bhagavad Gita. As some of these brainy IITians swarmed around him admiring his angelic demeanor, my chest swelled in pride. Standing next to him, I watched him hoisting within the hearts of these chaps the flag of the Supreme Lord’s mercy –fluttering its compassionate ripples.
Slowly, the just now formed fan club of Radhanath Swami dispersed for the free dinner arranged by the organizers. But a student in his late teens waited behind to have Radhanath Swami’s autograph on his recently purchased ‘Bhagavad Gita As it is.’ As he inched forward, I quickly pulled out my pen and handed it to Radhanath Swami.
As Radhanath Swami opened that divine scripture, his eyes searched for a suitable page to pen down his autograph. There it was; the first page of the book! As with all books, the first page was relatively empty with the title of the book written on top in bold, & way at the bottom were the credentials of the author. Obviously, anybody would have signed in the middle of that page.
But for Radhanath Swami, signing there meant a breach of etiquette: it would mean signing his autograph above the name of his Guru Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada who was the author of that book. Hence he spontaneously chose to sign his autograph way below Srila Prabhupada’s name, where there was hardly any space to scribble a word. I was so moved, touched & impressed upon seeing Radhanath Swami’s extempore humility. Someone who was just a while ago so victorious over these astute & brainy IITians was not at all deterred from his vows of humility, even after such an alluring accomplishment. I guess this is the secret of his success: Determined to remain humble.
– Sikshashtakam Das
Radhanath Swami and the Knock Out Scene
Radhanath Swami was on a stroll down the corridor of the monastery. At the entrance of a room that faced the corridor sat Krishnadas at his study desk. The desk held an open scripture with Krishnadas’s face resting on it. He resembled a boxer on the rings, after a knock out. Perhaps a difficult passage from the scripture had pulled him down. Radhanath Swami rambled on, as though he had missed that scene. But the others around could vouch that he hadn’t.
As providence would have it, this reoccurred the next day, and even the day after. Krishnadas was crestfallen. Due to emergency services he had insufficient rest for the past few nights. Yet, he sincerely tried to remain awake and study during the day. Coincidentally, however, just when Radhanath Swami was around, he fell asleep. How bad Radhanath Swami might have felt seeing his student asleep at his study desk!
Krishnadas approached Radhanath Swami with his tale of woe. Attempting to clarify the situation, he related an incident from his workplace; this had happened before he joined the monastery for a full-fledged training in bhakti yoga. “One day at office, when my boss came by for a stroll in the morning, I was reading the newspaper. When he came by in the afternoon and evening, again he saw me doing the same. He turned crimson and got on my case. But I had been working sincerely. And it was sheer coincidence that just when I held the newspaper for a break, he came by for a stroll.”
Radhanath Swami smiled warmly when he heard the story. Then he said, “But the difference here is, I am not your boss. I am your servant, trying to serve you in the capacity of a guru, a spiritual master.”
End of the Ride Adventures
Upon reaching the destination, I would slam on the brakes, turn off the ignition, and shove open the door—all in one action. After springing out, I would scramble to the other side of the car to help Radhanath Swami open his door. Every time I did it, I would see him discomforted by that air of royalty, but the high esteem I held for him pushed me on to continue with this extra service.
I distinctly remember that journey at the end of which two doors simultaneously swung open as the tires squealed to a halt. As I hurried out of the car to the other door, I found Radhanath Swami standing outside, his palms joined in pranam. His face as innocent as a flower bud, and an expression of plea draped over it, he conveyed a silent message into my heart. “Please, I can open the door myself.” That was the end of my end- of- the- ride adventures.
But I find Radhanath Swami’s face shine with delight whenever I offer the service of opening the car door to anyone else.
Descending Closely Behind Radhanath Swami
Cool breezes swept across the open terrace of the two- storied house as hundred-odd people sat there cross-legged, listening to a spiritual discourse. The three of us, medical students, had to settle in the rear, close to the exit that led to the floors below; we had joined late. The speaker was supposed to be Radhanath Swami, but his student was on stage instead. Wanting to know the reason for the change, I whispered an inquiry to a neighbor. “Radhanath Swami is sick,” he whispered back, pointing to a person who sat a few rows ahead. There sat Radhanath Swami, with his back facing us, and his head and ears covered with a muffler. My neighbor added that Radhanath Swami had come despite his sickness, for he didn’t want to disappoint his host. Nonetheless, his bad health wouldn’t permit him to discourse.
After the program ended, on our way down, something interesting happened on the staircase. We were closely behind Radhanath Swami as he descended. People had left behind their shoes on the stairway, leaving no gaps on the steps to even place a foot. But Radhanath Swami would neither step on the shoes nor use his foot to shove them aside. On every step he would bend down. Then with his hands he would carefully keep aside one pair of shoes that was on the next step, creating sufficient space to place his foot on. In this way he descended, step by step, handling as many pairs of shoes as there were steps.
Materially he was sick, but his humility disclosed his perfect spiritual health.
– Dr. Praveen Bairagi
Radhanath Swami’s First Visit
Many memories are washed off by time, but some remain vivid—especially those that touch emotions. People of influence spur emotions of awe and reverence, and thus create telling memories in those they meet. Radhanath Swami’s first visit to my home is memorable too, but he spurred emotions of a different kind: ‘soft’ ones, but which stabbed our hearts. He was an unusual ‘big man’ in the way he carried himself: not stately, but humble. He acknowledged any service rendered to him by anyone, whether it be the watchman, the liftman, or the housemaid. This work-crew is ‘invisible’ for most of my visitors, except on rare occasions when workers err at a chore. But never had I seen a visitor acknowledge my crew for their good job.
As I escorted Radhanath Swami in, the watchman at the gate greeted us with folded palms, with the traditional pranam. Radhanath Swami looked to his side with folded palms, as a smile expanded across his face. I witnessed my stoic watchman succumb to a surge of joy. Next was the liftman’s turn, but it looked like he would miss out on the experience: he couldn’t register-in the “thank you” when it came from Radhanath Swami for the first time; he was too distracted. Radhanath Swami repeated again, his complete attention on the liftman. “Thank you.” This time the liftman heard and was pleasantly discomforted: he wasn’t accustomed to so much attention from my visitors.
Unwashed by time, in our memories
– Mr. Hrishikesh Mafatlal
The Mysterious Passenger
The car pulled out of the airport terminal into the dense Mumbai traffic. I was now driving at snail’s pace with inches separating our vehicle from four vehicles on four sides. What could be more chafing for a driver? On top, my only passenger started to cough. With an air of annoyance I suggested, “Your health seems bad. You should take some rest now.”He replied, “Yes,” as I, through the rear-view mirror, saw him slightly nod in approval. Finally we reached the destination and my passenger patted my back and smiled graciously. His affection somehow pulled out my heart, but I didn’t know who he was. Being a newly appointed driver at Radha Gopinath temple, I hadn’t identified its spiritual head — Radhanath Swami.
I still regret for my impertinent suggestion on that drive, while I wonder how he could react the way he did. Even a trace of ego, if it were present in him, wouldn’t have let his stature remain inconspicuous to me: it would have pushed him to either retort in anger, or atleast hint me of his identity
Radhanath Swami- Is Spirituality Practical?
Katraj Kondwa Road runs through the silent outskirts of Pune, a city in western India. Since a few months, however, the sounds of stone-cutting chisels emerge from a five acre plot adjoining this road; the construction is on—round the clock. What’s up?
Four structures stand in the blue print: a temple for Radha-Krishna, a temple for Balaji, a monastery and a house for serving out free food to the masses. The estimated cost of construction is 300 million. The fund-raising committee is under stress—and so am I, being its head.
Recently, Radhanath Swami visited the site. “Why do you intend to construct the main structure that will house Radha and Krishna only in the end?” Radhanath Swami’s quizzical expression accentuated his inquiry.
Our plan was to construct the Balaji temple in the first phase, the monastery and the free food house in the second phase, and the Radha-Krishna temple in the final phase. The logic behind constructing the Balaji temple first was as obvious to us as the conspicuous presence of the hills that overlooked the plot from its rear. Like the Balaji in the Tirupathi temple, who is the richest deity in the world, we expected our Balaji too to attract ample donations from the pilgrims; the rest of the construction could then proceed smoothly.
“Do you think the Supreme Lord, who has appeared as Balaji, is a fund raiser? He hasn’t appeared for collecting donations. He has appeared to remove the burden of sins of his pilgrims.” Radhanath Swami’s words swam across the current of the evening breeze that flowed through the open plot. The breeze—obviously a cool one—now felt warm, inconspicuously.
And why construct a monastery and the food house before the main temple structure? We had felt that if the temple structure was ready first we couldn’t possibly raise funds for the remaining structures. Most pious donors were attracted by the ‘temple’ within the package of ‘temple, monastery and free food house.’
“Radha and Krishna are supplying everything for everyone in the universe. How could you keep them waiting from coming here thinking their coming will stop the supply of funds required for the rest of the construction?” Radhanath Swami’s words drilled through the package of misconceptions in our brains.
Though we accepted spirituality, we wanted to be practical in the real world. But for Radhanath Swami, spirituality was the only practical reality.
– Sri Guru Charan
Radhanath Swami- Is Spirituality Practical?
The car cruised along in the darkness of the night, its engine’s hum rising above the silence around. As I carefully steered the wheels around a pothole, a hand tapped me from behind.
“Could I use a restroom?” asked Radhanath Swami from the rear seat, clearing his throat.He was very sick and had been napping for a while. Restroom? It was India, and the only option I could think of, at this hour, was a deserted street corner. With many apologies, I presented to him the predicament. He consoled me with a smile.
I pulled over the vehicle in a familiar neighborhood, where only the stars saw through the cloudless sky. “What is this place?” Radhanath Swami mumbled. “We are in the neighborhood of Radha Swami’s Ashram,” I replied. Surely, he didn’t know Radha Swami, but the air of spirituality that the name carried was sufficient to draw out his respect. He requested that we continue driving till we found another spot. I was wonder-struck: here he was–sick and tired–and to nap again he had to relieve himself as soon as possible; in such an emergency, would the act be considered defiling a holy neighborhood? And after all, in India it wasn’t considered taboo. But for Radhanath Swami’s respectful attitude, emergencies were no excuse.
Fortunately, after a while we found a petrol pump, and its owner gladly allowed Radhanath Swami to use his toilet.
I often held a condescending attitude towards most other spiritual groups, but this incident was a turning point.
Radhanath Swami walks his talk
What truly are our requirements? Demarcating this elusive boundary between necessities and luxuries is a challenge that confronts environmentalists and spiritualists alike. Radhanath Swami’s method of demarcation is simple: we truly require only those things that we use in the service of God and society; accordingly, maintaining a healthy and fit body — for better service—is also a part of simple living.
Even during my initial interactions with Radhanath Swami, in 1987, I saw him live by this understanding. A monk at Radha Gopinath community had once requested me to get a pair of ‘simple’ slippers: inexpensive, yet protective. It wasn’t hard for me to find them; the road-side hawker across the street had plenty. But then, it was hard on me when I saw Radhanath Swami wearing them the next day. If only I knew the slippers were for him, I would have got another pair with better looks. But he looked least bothered over their looks, and used them for the next six months — as long as they assisted him in his service.
— Mr. Ashok Parikh.
Vrindavan Pilgrimage with Radhanath Swami
Our first pilgrimage to Vrindavan was in the winter of 1986; we numbered 22, all novices, and Radhanath Swami was our transcendental tour guide. It was a three day tour. We visited temples on the first day, circumambulated Govardhan Hill on the second, and visited Barsana and Nandagaon on the third.
As we walked around Govardhan Hill, a 21 Km trek, we sang kirtan. Radhanath Swami danced all the way. Stopping at holy spots, bathing at holy kunds, it took us sixteen hours to complete the circumambulation: from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Whatever meager luggage we carried grew in weight with every kilometer, and each tried to push it on to another’s shoulder. “You please carry my luggage. Please…..”
A year later, we visited Vrindavan with Radhanath Swami for the second time and went on a circumambulation of Govardhan once again. This time we found ourselves less inclined to push our luggage on to others.
And on our third visit to Vrindavan, the mantra during the circumambulation had changed to, “Please allow me to carry your luggage. Please….”
Who can deny the transformative potency of spirituality?
– Vishakha Priya
Radhanath Swami and the Scanning
Radhanath Swami’s room in the Radhagopinath Ashram, on that day, felt like the hollow of a scanning machine. What was scanned?—my mind, which had been for a while bristling with innumerable misconceptions—some related to philosophy and others to temple management. Who was the doctor?—Radhanath Swami, who diagnosed every wrong idea cooped in my skull and spelled out its folly.
How was all this happening? After all, these were the thoughts that bounced secretly—just between me and my mind.
“How did you know what thoughts I had been harboring?” I asked Radhanath Swami.
“By observing you. Simply through observation I understand many things. In fact, I learnt the basics of my spiritual life simply by observing the Ganges,” he replied.
The air of mystery about his last statement was somewhat cleared-off years later, when I read his autobiography, The Journey Home. There he speaks in some detail of the times he spent on a rock amid the River Ganges.
– Krishna Das
Radhanath Swami’s Inconcievable Confidence
20 December 2010 to 1 January 2011. Radhanath Swami and some of his followers were on a pilgrimage to South India.
The management committee of the pilgrimage stood on ever-shifting sands. The decisions they took were in a constant state of flux, for the logistics of the tour were mind boggling. The pilgrimage involved feeding 5000 pilgrims thrice a day, arranging for their accommodations in remote locations were lodges were scarce, transporting them from one pilgrimage site to another, etc. And to enhance complications, uncertain weather conditions prevailed, with downpours at the least expected hour. Yet, everything transpired smoothly. Nothing less than a miracle, especially because it was all in India!
19 December 2010, Sunday. Managers crowded Radhanath Swami’s guest house room in Kanyakumari for last minute clarifications. While their expressions were strained, Radhanath Swami’s was relaxed, though he responded to the managerial queries with care and concern.
By the time the meeting dispersed, the day grew to twilight. Radhanath Swami turned to me, “Can I go for the holy bath at the sea?” In a flash, a scene appeared on the screen of my mind, a replay of what I had witnessed two days ago: Radhanath Swami standing shoulder high in the holy waters of the Payasvini River for over an hour, offering prayers. Payasvini flowed in quiet ambience untouched by tourism, about fifty miles from Kanyakumari. Now, how could Radhanath Swami take such a holy bath at the sea in Kanyakumari, that too on a Sunday evening when tourists occupied every inch of the sea’s shore and shallow waters? I had been to the shore a few hours ago, and had witnessed the crowds pouring in—first hand.
“I don’t think it is possible,” I muttered and then went on to explain why. Radhanath Swami turned to Sanath Kumar, a seasoned manager who had witnessed many pilgrimages led by Radhanath Swami. “It is possible,” Sanath Kumar spoke with a mysterious air of confidence. Radhanath Swami beamed, “He knows everything is possible.” Radhanath Swami and his entourage, I in it, then drove off to the sea.
As the sun dropped into the sea, it veiled the restless waters with a golden hue. The waves swayed and danced, as if to entice us—and only us—for practically no one was around! Where had everyone disappeared? Later I came to know that all the tourists had gone to another location that offered a better sight of the sun-set. But when we left the guest house, none of us had a clue that such a thing would happen. It was Radhanath Swami’s sheer confidence in the divine that had brought us here.
As Radhanath Swami took his holy bath, a re-enactment of the one at Payasvini, his words to Sanath Kumar rang out in my ears: He knows everything is possible.
It was just the beginning. In the next ten days, on several occasions I witnessed Radhanath Swami’s inconceivable confidence in the divine in action, as he took unbelievable decisions in management to make the pilgrimage a smooth and happy experience for all the pilgrims.
And on some occasions, to witness invisible powers leaving behind fingerprints—after making the impossible possible—was a visible reality for the managers.
– Baladev Das.
Radhanath Swami at the Confluence
Recently, in December 2010, Radhanath Swami was in Sri Rangam, in South India. Though himself a follower of Brahma Gaudiya Sampradaya, a sub-branch of the Brahma Sampradaya, he had taken five thousand of his followers on a pilgrimage to this spiritual sanctuary which is considered the head quarters of the Sri Sampradaya.
Brahma Sampradaya and Sri Sampradaya, the two streams of Vaishnavism! Whilst his followers groped for their confluence intellectually, Radhanath Swami floated in the confluence—being inspired divinely.
One afternoon, at Sri Rangam, Radhanath Swami spent a half hour in front of the main altar of Sri Rangam temple. On the altar reclined a stone figure of the deity Ranganath, Lord Vishnu, adorned with embroidered silks and glittering with gold and precious jewels. In majesty, the priests of Sri Sampradaya worshipped Ranganath, the Lord of Vaikuntha. Since the followers of Brahma Gaudiya Sampradaya prefer to see the Lord in his form of Krishna, the cowherd boy of Vridavan, adorned primarily with flowers and leaves and worshiped in simple devotion, I wondered as to what transpired in Radhanath Swami’s consciousness.
Later that afternoon, Radhanath Swami took a bath in the holy Cauvery River and then returned to his room. In the evening, when he emerged out, the smile that bloomed with divinity on his visage was conspicuous. As I escorted him to the gigantic pandal tent where he was scheduled to discourse, he disclosed to me the pleasure of his heart, “As I was taking bath this afternoon, I spontaneously was singing aa jaoo giridhari (Oh Krishna, the lifter of Govardhan hill, please come!) Lord Ranganath inspired in my heart loving separation from Vrindavan.”
– Nityananda Das
What keeps Radhanath Swami Cool?
I gazed inside the hall through the window. Were they monstrous serpents in there? They cleaved to the ceiling; they breathed cool air; and their huge bodies dwarfed the hall. Well, I knew what they were, but I was only stretching to imagine the thoughts of someone who didn’t know 😉
Along with me outside, stood top officers of India’s top air-conditioning company, Blue Star—sweating in anxiety. How long would this project continue? They had undertaken the project of cooling Radha Gopinath Temple three months ago. For that they built air ducts that resembled serpents, relegating spacious halls into low caves in the process. When I had sent the photographs of the ducting to Radhanath Swami in America, he promptly halted the project till he returned to Mumbai; he felt that the present design wouldn’t meet the needs of the temple. He even hinted at changing the entire design; and that meant undoing three months of work, something that worried the officers.
Now that Radhanath Swami had returned, a meeting was called, and here we stood awaiting him at the site. I watched blank stares exchanged all around, while an eerie pressure mounted on me—with every passing minute. Will the meeting be a heated one?
Radhanath Swami walked in. Obviously, he too knew what a task it was to alter the design at this stage. Nonetheless, he looked cool inside-out. What on earth could keep him cool, despite the heated issue at hand?
“Here are officers from the air-conditioning company, Blue Star,” I told Radhanath Swami. Spontaneously, his eyes lit up, “Krishna is also blue.” The question that had flashed across my mind a moment ago was now answered. He was cool—within and without—because he was always absorbed in Lord Krishna. We needed an air conditioner, he didn’t.
– Krishnan Iyer
With Radhanath Swami on Rasa Purnima
It was Rasa Purnima, the full moon night of October. According to the Srimad Bhagavatam this was the night when Lord Krishna performed the Rasa dance, a dance that represents the most perfect intimacy between the soul and God.
At Radhagopinath Temple, Mumbai, devotees had worked all day to transfigure the holy altar of their Lordships Sri Sri Radha and Krishna into a replica of the flower forest of Vrindavan. Now, in the darkness of the night, a veil of dim blue light (of course from concealed electric bulbs ;)) draped that forest; and amidst trees, creepers and fountains were deities of Radha, Krishna and the Gopis dressed in bright attires.
Radhanath Swami sat in front, singing kirtan in deep emotion, while devotees who numbered in thousands chanted in response. He chanted a slow melody that surfaced that yearning for devotion in every sincere heart; I played the mradanga drum in a soft beat while the hand cymbals chimed in the backdrop.
After hours of chanting, Radhanath Swami requested one of the monks to lead the Kirtan, now that he was exhausted. As the new singer took the microphone, upon a friend’s instigation I kept the mradanga drum aside and placed the dholak drum on my lap. BHOOM! It’s very first beat was foreboding, for my conscience whispered that dholak didn’t fit the occasion. Dholak is meant for roaring kirtans, not soft one’s. But that whisper soon drowned in the booms, and before long, my beats–and not the lead singer–controlled the kirtan; the kirtan roared, the crowd rose to their feet and danced in wild abandon.
Radhanath Swami looked appalled. The reason was obvious to me: the music didn’t reflect the mellow mood of the festival. Guilt rushed through me upon seeing Radhanath Swami’s displeasure, and my hands froze. Meanwhile, Radhanath Swami leaned over to his dear student Gaur Gopal Prabhu and told something in his ear. In response, Gaur Gopal Prabhu directed the kirtan party to swerve back to the soft melody. The music then fell to gel with the occasion.
I was mortified: I had ruined one of the best festivals of the year; I had desecrated the devotional sentiments of the devotees; and I had spoiled the Kirtan. I decided to beg forgiveness from Radhanath Swami the next day. But that night my mind reeled with apprehensions about Radhanath Swami’s response. Will he glower at me in disgust? Will he jab his finger into my chest and banish me from his sight? Or, in his natural self, will he forgive me with a sweet smile?
The next morning I caught Radhanath Swami alone in the staircase. Pressing my hands together I apologized, “I am sorry for spoiling the kirtan yesterday.” Radhanath Swami surprised me with an amused smile. “Gaurang, you don’t have the potency to spoil the kirtan of the Supreme Lord.” Softly touching my forehead in blessings, he walked away.
He had not only forgiven me, but had also deeply humbled me. How could any mortal like me spoil the glorification of the almighty Supreme Lord? We might imagine doing that, but no activity of the mundane realm can hinder the enjoyment of the Supreme autocrat Lord Krishna. And what to speak of disturbing the Supreme Lord, the consciousness of even the Lord’s exalted devotee floats above the undulations of worldly mishaps.
– Gaurang Chitphule
Brigade Reports to Radhanath Swami
First, in the early nineties, my wife and I took to bhakti yoga. Then our parents and brothers followed suit. With Radhanath Swami as our friend, philosopher and guide, bhakti grew more pleasing and exciting with every passing day. Soon, we ached for bhakti to fill our very lives, and in our enthusiasm sought Radhanath Swami’s guidance for almost anything. And lovingly, he always obliged.
Recently I arranged for a get-together of Radhanath Swami and our big bhakti family at my residence. But before it all began, we parents pleaded for peace, and taking pity on us, our brigade of kids marched to the terrace, a floor above. Their destination was wisely chosen. The concrete slab of the terrace was too thick for their shrieks to penetrate through; and they numbered only fifteen, too less to bring the slab down.
After the get-together, as Radhanath Swami stood to leave, the brigade marched down, and then to where we stood. Gauridas, my nephew, took it upon himself to introduce his comrades to Radhanath Swami. “This is Gandharvika, this is Rasika, this is Gopika, this is Balgovind, this is Jayananda …” Radhanath Swami heard all the names. Then, with a teasing smile, he told Gauridas, “Thank you Gauridas. But let me tell you something. It is I who gave all of them their names.”
Everyone exploded into laughter. I remembered how we had sought his guidance while even naming our kids. And every time he gave a name, there was the warm feeling that Radhanath Swami was all ours. Mysteriously, I have heard from many that they too feel the same—that Radhanath Swami is all theirs!
My conclusion: It’s a characteristic of God that he can be personal with everyone, and by his grace his devotees can also display a fragment of that potency.
On a Pilgrimage with Radhanath Swami
In 1990, I again visited Vrindavan, a holy place in North India. I had been there fifty-odd times before and knew its every nook and corner. Things changed little with time in these relatively remote places. So, even on this visit everything looked familiar, but with Radhanath Swami accompanying me, everything felt mysteriously different. His discourses, his devotional songs and his very presence seemed to unveil the hidden spirituality of that holy place. Everyday we traveled on foot, from dawn to dusk, visiting different places in Vrindavan: temples, hermitages, holy shrines and forests. Witnessing his devotion for Vrindavan, I was humbled: for the first time I realized that a holy place went deeper than its mere geography.
– Ashok Parikh
From Chillums to Chants
After reading Radhanath Swami’s The Journey Home,I too am inspired to write about my journey-from chillums to chants, from discos to discourses. By chillums and discos one forgets the miseries of life. But chanting gives the strength to tolerate miseries, while Radhanath Swami’s discourses provide knowledge to overcome them.
The Unforgettable Dimly Lit Night
An unforgettable night! It was pitch dark except for the faint light that shimmered from the crescent moon and the stars above. I felt real love touch my heart and I cried; I looked around and discovered more crying faces. Radhanath Swami’s devotional singing, having filled the silent skies, was now slowly seeping into our hearts.
We, numbering around three thousand, were seated at the holy spot of Man Mandir, Barsana, a place whose description also appears in Radhanath Swami’s autobiography, The Journey Home. It’s a favorite spot of pilgrimage for Radhanath Swami and his followers alike.
Amidst that soul touching experience, it all of a sudden dawned on me that I was crying after ten years. I was habituated to killing my sentiments with alcohol and drugs, for I had concluded that sentiments always culminate in misery: whenever I had nurtured loving sentiments towards someone, I had eventually suffered the misery of a broken heart.
But now, when Radhanath Swami tapped into my sentiments again, I didn’t want to restrain them. Through his song, I was able to channelize my sentiments to love God, and God is someone who never breaks anyone’s heart.
Radhanath Swami Inspired by Raghunath Das Goswami
The year was 1996; the day was 25 January, Vasant Panchami, the holiest of holy days according to the Gaudiya Vaishnava Vedic Calendar; and the time was 1:15 pm—when my wife gave birth to a baby boy. I was exulted.
Five days later, when Radhanath Swami returned to Mumbai after his week long visit to Poona, he expressed his desire to see the child that same day. So, in the afternoon, while my wife and I occupied a couple square feet of Radhanath Swami’s room floor, our infant occupied Radhanath Swami’s arms. There his body lay motionless and draped in cloth, bathing in Radhanath Swami’s unprecedentedaffectionate gaze.
“Please name him,” I requested Radhanath Swami.
He looked up at me. “What name should I give him? Have you thought of any?”
“No. I haven’t. You name him according to your choice,” I quickly retorted. At that moment, when everything in Radhanath Swami’s entire being—except for his heart—seemed dysfunctional due to affection, I was confident his heart exclusively would respond to my request.
“I will name him after a person who very much inspired me to gravitate towards the tradition of Gaudiya Vaishnavism while I treaded my path towards Krishna Bhakti in Vrindavan, in 1971. I was very much influenced by the determination, renunciation and lifestyle of this personality—Raghunath Das Goswami. Since this child was born on the birthday of Raghunath Das Goswami, I name him Raghunath.” Hearing this, I felt a chill tingle up my spine, and my mind awash with gratitude. My family’s fortune apart, what just transpired had revealed the sacred substance of Radhanath Swami’s consciousness. Raghunath Das Goswami, Radhanath Swami’s role model, was a saint of the sixteenth century renowned for his renunciation. He drank only a palm full of buttermilk once in three or four days for his own subsistence, and would devote all his time for devotion to God and selfless service to others.
Amid those exhilarating moments, my mind nudged me to be rid of a concern that gnawed at it. “What if after twenty five years of my laborious upbringing, my boy doesn’t become a devotee of Lord Krishna?” I asked Radhanath Swami. I was a Krishna devotee, and I wanted my son too to grow up to be one.
Upon hearing my words, Radhanath Swami’s expression became grave. “Whether he becomes a devotee of Krishna is between him and Krishna. But one thing is for sure. If you do your duty of providing him all care, Krishna will definitely take care of your devotion.”
He had imparted a lesson in true renunciation: attachment only to devotion and to service—selflessly. And, of course non-coincidentally, it was exactly what Raghunath Das Goswami had exemplified in the sixteenth century.
– Ashok Parikh
Radhanath Swami’s Heart-Renounced, Yet Soft
26 June 2006. My mother and I awaited Radhanath Swami’s arrival at Bhubaneshwar airport. He was flying from Mumbai and was headed to Jagannath Puri, a two hour ride from Bhubaneshwar. Bittersweet emotions churned in me. Soon I would be basking in the association of my guru Radhanath Swami on the car ride to Puri. But then, I would be missing my mother. The yearly visit to my home in Bubaneshwar was sadly ending. I stayed in a monastery at Mumbai emulating the life of Vedic monks, a life centered on studying and teaching the scriptures under the supervision of a guru. After the pilgrimage at Jagannath Puri I was returning back there; my duties at Mumbai called me.
An hour later, while Radhanath Swami sat in the car, I loaded my luggage into the car’s rear. When I approached the door, I found my mother standing there. She spoke to Radhanath Swami through the open window. Emotion cracked her voice as she expressed a mother’s feelings. Radhanath Swami asked me to translate her Oriya into English. “She is saying that I am now under your care,” I told him. Through gestures he assured her that her son would be taken care of nicely.
As we cruised along the highway, Radhanath Swami turned to me, “Why was she crying? Where they tears of joy, or where they tears of separation?” He still mulled over my mother’s sentiments.
“That was a confluence of both kinds,” I replied. My mother felt proud that I had dedicated my life for the welfare of society. Yet, her heart always wanted me on her side.
Silent moments passed. “That I now belong to you was what she actually intended to convey,” I now rendered the corrected translation. Swayed by emotions, I hadn’t translated accurately earlier. Instantly, Radhanath Swami replied, “No. It’s not that now you belong to me. You now belong to God.”
I had surfaced his renunciation from the depths of his heart. Though having a following of hundreds of monks and thousands of householders, he never thought they belonged to him. He felt himself only a caretaker, assisting them in their service to God and humanity.
That renunciation however, didn’t harden his heart. It was still soft and sensitive to the feelings of a mother.
– Smitharanjan Pattnaik.
In 2005, my mother wrote to Radhanath Swami complaining that I wasn’t communicating with my family after joining the monastery. Following this, Radhanath Swami instructed me to regularly call up my home, and I duly followed that instruction.
In 2010, my mother visited me. As we conversed in a garden adjoining the monastery, Radhanath Swami happened to come there. Walking to where we sat, he first asked me, “Are you calling home regularly?” Tears welled in my mother’s eyes. Even after five years, Radhanath Swami remembered the concern of a mother.
– Siddeshwar Bhat
Austerity of Monkhood
During a discourse, Radhanath Swami was relating the story of a saint who gave benedictions to a prince, a butcher and a monk. I sat in the front row of the audience, listening.
The prince indulged in sinful ways of enjoyment, maddened by wealth. If he were to die, only the karma of suffering awaited him. So the saint blessed the prince, “May you live forever.”
The butcher lived a miserable life of killing innocent animals, and even after death miserable karma awaited him. So the saint blessed the butcher, “May you neither live nor die.”
And what about the monk?
At this juncture, Radhanath Swami glanced at me. “Monk’s life is full of austerity. Take him for an example.” He was referring to me!
“He is a graduate from IIT, which is considered at par with Ivy League schools. And yet, here in this ashram he sleeps on the floor and has a little closet to keep his belongings.”
He went on for another few minutes—which seemed a few hours to me—describing what I did and what an exemplary monk I was J. An audience of 2000 sat in rapt attention.
“Monk’s life is a pious life, so his next life will be glorious. His present life, nonetheless, is filled with austerity,” he concluded.
Now getting back to the benediction story, he said, “So the saint blessed that the monk die.” No sooner did he speak that, he turned to me again with an apologetic expression. “I don’t want you to die. I am just continuing with the story.”
It had all happened spontaneously. He had showered his appreciation and affection, but the ending was a bit sour. He thought my feelings were hurt, though that wasn’t the case.
In my years of association with Radhanath Swami, time and again I have observed how sensitive and careful he is in making sure he doesn’t hurt anybody’s feelings.
The next evening, I met Radhanath Swami in the ashram corridors. He called me closer and embraced me affectionately, an affection I will never forget. “May you live a long life as a monk,” he blessed me.
With an affectionate spiritual father like him, the austerity of monkhood seems insignificant. So, who wants to die?
– Siddeshwar Bhat
Bhakti – Head Vs Heart
On 14th May a plane crashed in Jomsom, Nepal, and among those killed were eight Krishna devotees from Mumbai. Radhanath Swami’s reaction to the disaster revealed the heart of a transcendentalist on the Bhakti path. A Bhakti Yogi realizes that the soul is eternal, beyond death—and that understanding keeps the yogi equipoised in the face of the death of a dear one. Yet, the yogi feels separation, for now the medium of exchange of spiritual love, which was the material body, is no longer functional. Radhanath Swami said in the memorial ceremony, “When I learned about it the shock was so immense that it was difficult to try to philosophically reason. Sometimes things that affect the heart so deeply, we simply have to take shelter of the Lord. What is beyond our intelligence, what is beyond our ability to deal with is a time when we can helplessly cry out forKrishna.”
Radhanath Swami cut short his tour of the United States to return to Mumbai and help the near and dear ones of the departed take shelter of Krishna.
Few of us went to the airport to receive Radhanath Swami. As we drove back to the ashram, Radhanath Swami spoke of the eternality of the soul. He explained how the eternal souls of the devotees killed were under the loving care of Krishna. As a discussion ensued, a fellow monk chimed in, “I flew to Jomsom the day after the crash to collect the bodies of these devotees.” To the surprise of everyone around, Radhanath Swami responded appallingly, “Why did you go there?” Silent moments passed. Radhanath Swami was disturbed that another dear devotee had risked going to the same place. But this trip made by the monk was necessary, or else how could the dead bodies be procured for the last rites?
“I went to collect the bodies,” reiterated the monk.
“But…..but……. why did you go there?” Radhanath Swami sighed.
I thought. This sweetness of spiritual love amid a balanced philosophical approach to life is what makes Bhakti Yoga beautiful.
– Krishna Das
The Phone Call
Quite some time back, I was in US for few weeks in Pittsburgh. I had learned from my friends that Radhanath Swami was in Chicago and would be readily available. I somehow managed to get the number of the place in Chicago where he was staying. And early in the morning I called him. I was ignorant that US had 3 time zones and I was calling him at an unearthly hour.
I heard a groggy voice and immediately requested for Radhanath Swami, to which the response was “Speaking”. I immediately offered my respects and then for the next 5 minutes in a very polite and fatherly voice, Radhanath Swami spoke to me, praising me and offering very lovingly, kind and instructive words.
After a few weeks when I met Radhanath Swami back in Mumbai, I promptly told him that I had called him in US. He said “Oh…. It was you”. He apologized and said that he was heavily medicated on antibiotics and may not have been very attentive.
I was shocked!!! Here is a person who was disturbed in the middle of the night and was heavily medicated and sick, and yet his love and kindness was the same. There was no difference in his dealings and gentleness when he is fully conscious or heavily medicated and disturbed in the middle of the night.
I cannot think of anyone, even in own family who would have been so loving and kind even when heavily sick and disturbed in the middle of the night.
From the moment I had woken up at 3:30 in the morning, I was an engine revving to go. Go, go, go! Go to Mangal Arati, go to the Mayapur Academy, go practice, go chant, go! Get everything done so that I could go hear my guru speak tonight.
Radhanath Swami had been here in Mayapur for almost a week, speaking every night to 4,000 people on the glories of Lord Chaitanya. Even though the pandal where he was speaking was only a couple hundred meters from where I was studying, I had not yet had time to spend one full night to listen. I was just so, so busy.
But tonight would be different. I was scheduling my day meticulously to leave school on time. Not only that, I was going to sit up at the very, very front and look at Maharaj’s (Radhanath Swami is affectionately addressed by his followers as Radhanath Maharaj) face the entire time!
Night fell. Despite my planning, I was still at school. Still practicing for my exam.
The lecture had begun. The pandal was so close by the Academy that I could hear the echoes of the microphone as Maharaj spoke. I felt spikes of pain to be so close yet so far. My hopes from the whole day crashed around me.
And yet at the same time, I knew that by being here, studying for Krishna, that was what Radhanath Swami himself would’ve wanted of me.
So I stayed.
Later that night, I was walking home from dinner with my friend Jahnava. We were turning a corner on the road when I saw up ahead a figure in orange, walking by himself, his orange cloth lit up by a streetlight behind him. At first I thought he was a brahmachari.
Then I looked again.
“Oh my, Maharaj!” I exclaimed. I immediately knelt to the dust to offer my respects. Jahnava also knelt.
By the time I had stood up, Maharaj had walked up to both of us, his eyes shining, his face beaming.
“Bhakti lata devi!” he said and looked into my eyes. “I have been yearning to see you.”
I was speechless for a moment. “Maharaj… I… I’ve been yearning to see you!”
He was quiet for a moment, smiling, then he turned to Jahnava and asked, “What is your name?”
“Jahnava,” she replied.
“Beautiful,” he said, holding her gaze for several moments. He turned to me again and was quiet. Then, as if he had all the time in the world, he asked me gently, “How are you?”
“I am very well, Maharaj,” I said, and I was thinking I would just end it there. After all, this was someone who only an hour before had been speaking to 4,000 people. Surely he had other things to do, other people to talk to. But I found no such mood of rush in Maharaj’s face or his voice. He simply wanted to know how I was.
And so I shared with Maharaj a little about Mayapur Academy, and we spoke about how to learn the essence of every ritual we do. He said that he may come to my graduation in March to hand students their diplomas. “I may hand you yours,” Maharaj said with a smile.
Then we folded our palms and bid each other goodbye and goodnight.
Jahnava and I continued to walk home, and my eyes were wide and shining.
The holy land of Mayapur seems to grant wishes.
– Bhakti Lata
Radhanath Swami’s call
15 July 2007. At 7:15 p.m. my cell phone rang.
“Can you arrange for a driver please? Urgent! I am waiting at the gate.” It was Radhanath Swami calling.
“Yes. Sure.” I sprang to my feet and rushed down, searching for a driver.
None available! In desperation I rang up a neighbor and asked if he could drive for Radhanath Swami. He agreed.
Five minutes later the car keys turned on the ignition. I stood nearby to bid a good bye, still clueless about where Radhanath Swami was heading. Suddenly, Radhanath Swami peeked out of the window. “Do you know Nikunjabihari’s place?” I nodded yes. “Why don’t you join us then? Just to make sure we get there right.” Hurriedly, I hopped into the vehicle, and we zoomed into the Mumbai traffic.
Now it was clear: Radhanath Swami was going to Nikunjabihari’s, one of his followers who lived uptown. But why this unplanned trip, in such a haste? Asking him I felt was inappropriate, and he too never revealed all along the ride. Though our discussion meandered through varied topics, curiosity lingered at the back of my mind.
An hour through the thicks and thins of a typical Mumbai ride, and we were at ‘Kalpataru Estate.’ A neatly dressed watchman let our vehicle in after noting our names. Inside, an eerie silence isolated the residential complex from the rest of the city. We parked our car and went up to the third floor, to the Nikunjabihari’s. As I reached for the door bell, Radhanath Swami said, “Perhaps it’s better that we go to the community hall directly.” But for what? No time for explanations! Quickening his pace, he moved ahead, and we followed behind.
Once inside the community hall, we confronted hundreds of pleasantly-surprised faces. A buzz of excitement arose, and it only fell when Radhanath Swami was seated. The proceedings of the evening then continued. As I sat through the events, one more thing became clear: it was the birthday party of Rohini Nandana, another follower of Radhanath Swami and a close friend of Nikunjabihari. But why did Radhanath Swami have to come here uninformed? That became clear only towards the end, in Radhanath Swami’s concluding address.
Since that morning, half a dozen congregation members—at different times of the day—had told Radhanath Swami that there would be a celebration of Rohininandan’s birthday in the evening. These six culprits had revealed what was meant to be a secret. But why a secret? Monks at Radhagopinath Ashram were concerned for Radhanath Swami’s health, and wanted him to rest early. And they knew that if he came to know of the event, he would definitely attend to make Rohininandana happy. For Radhanath Swami however, now that he was aware of the event, he was in a fix. While he wanted to please Rohininandana, he didn’t want the monks to be anxiety-ridden either. Therefore, as a last resort he had become like fugitive.
Discipleship under Radhanath Swami
The need to accept discipleship of an enlightened guru is emphasized both by tradition and by the words of the scriptures. Yet, this step on the spiritual sojourn turns out to be a squirmy one for many. The difficulty arises due to ominous thoughts of loss of freedom. Haven’t you heard of grisly tales where disciples where punished by their masters for being disobedient?
Here I narrate my tale. Long time ago, I was afflicted by what I thought was bronchitis. My hacking cough pained me, but what pained me all the more was the thought that I caused disturbance to my monastery-mates at the Radhagopinath Ashram. None of them, in reality, expressed any sour feelings to me; on the other hand they were all very sympathetic and brought many doctors to help me out. Various medicines were tried, but all turned out to be vain.
They say, when everything fails, the guru gets on the case. Radhanath Swami arranged for my appointment with a top doctor of Mumbai. And alongside came Radhanath Swami’s stern order—that after the appointment with the doctor, I report to him the outcome of my medical examinations.
The medical report, when it came out, shocked me. I had Tuberculosis. My mind reeling with thoughts of months wasted on a hospital bed, I took the long bus ride back to the Ashram. In about an hour, I was standing dutifully before my guru, to give him the report.
“The report says I have…” I mumbled.
“Tuberculosis,” Radhanath Swami completed my sentence.
Mystified and mouth agape, my breath stopped.
“What is higher? The obedience of a disciple or the love of a guru?” he queried.
“The love of the guru,” I replied.
“My love for you couldn’t wait for your obedience. I rung up the clinic sometime ago and I already know your medical report,” Radhanath Swami said with an air of concern.
– Kiran Soni
Radhanath Swami at MAAN- Mandir
This happened in 2008, during our pilgrimage to Vrindavan. Around 3000 devotees from around the world were participating, and my service was handling the sound system. During these pilgrimages, we carry special mikes and mike stands for Radhanath Swami; the mike stands are flexible, lightweight, and easy to handle.
We were in Mana-mandir in Barsana. I fixed the mike stand on the floor, extended its handle towards Radhanath Swami, and connected the mike for him to speak.
The lecture went on nicely, and it was time for the kirtana. When Radhanath Swami started to sing and began pumping the harmonium, I noticed how the harmonium’s bellows were hitting the vertical bar of the mike stand. Because the kirtana was slow, the mike stand didn’t move much and it didn’t disturb Radhanath Swami. But when the kirtana picked up momentum and Radhanath Swami began pumping the harmonium vigorously, the bellows were hitting the stand strongly and Radhanath Swami seemed to express his discomfort.
I tried moving the mike stand a little backwards, but as a result the mike also moved away from Radhanath Swami, and so his amplified voice reduced in volume. I was thus in a dilemma: if I kept the stand close to the harmonium, the bellows would hit the stand; and if I moved it backward, the volume of the sound would drop.
I began to consider keeping the mike stand over the table. But I noticed that the table on which Radhanatha Swami was sitting was barely enough for him; there was hardly any space to fix the stand. I had no other option. I had to act quickly because the time available to move the stand from its current position was when the devotees responded in chorus, before Radhanath Swami sang the next mantra. I immediately loosened the handle, rotated the bars, picked up the stand, carefully inserted the base between their two legs, positioned the mike in front of Radhanath Swami’s mouth, and . . . oh Krishna . . . I couldn’t tighten it fully… Radhanath Swami began the next mantra! So I held the mike in one hand and the stand in the other and waited for the next opportunity, so I could set everything properly in its place. While I was busy fixing everything, Radhanath Swami had waved his hand, indicating that the mike stand should be kept in its original place. But I had failed to notice his gestures! Devotees began yelling at me from behind, “Keep it down! Keep it down! He doesn’t want it there!” I was bewildered. I decided to bring it down again. To make things worse, Radhanath Swami sang the next maha-mantra at twice the speed—two words in one beat. Thus my available time to reposition the mike stand reduced by half. Obviously I was late, and Radhanath Swami had to sing a few mantras without the mike until I was ready. And as before, as soon as I kept the mike stand on the floor, the harmonium bellows began hitting the vertical bar.
Radhanath Swami seemed to be getting furious, as he was unable to focus on the chanting. Finally, after a few minutes, he ended the kirtana. While chanting the prema-dhvani prayers, he angrily pushed the harmonium away, and I had to struggle hard to hold it along with the other equipments. He then walked out of the hall.
I understood that Radhanath Swami was unhappy because service to devotees was getting affected. Kirtana done with great absorption inspires everyone and resolves all differences among devotees. Because of my inefficiency, so many devotees were missing the real essence. I learned that I could not be careless while rendering such an important service. I had to make sure everything was right, foresee the possible problems, and be ready to act in emergency.
Radhanath Swami, at the same time, isn’t so particular when it comes to someone rendering him some personal service; he feels unworthy of receiving any service from anyone. Hence, he feels gratitude for any insignificant service rendered to him. One time when he was giving a class at a different spot, his handkerchief fell from the table. Since I was sitting close by, I immediately leaned forward, picked it up, and kept it back on the table. Radhanath Swami looked at me, smiled, and expressed deep gratitude.
– Murali Kaimal
Radhanath Swami and the 1992 Riots
Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Mumbai after the Babri Mosque demolition on 6 December 1992. Businesses closed. Taxis, buses, auto-rickshaws, and trains stopped running. There were murders and assassinations.
During this period, my wife and I were stranded in Radha Gopinath Temple for over ten days. The scene there was tense, as temples were likely targets for disgruntled Muslims. The resident monks strictly kept indoors, while Radhanath Swami remained concerned for all of us.
After about a week’s stay, one evening Radhanath Swami stunned me. “You are a rascal,” he said. As my mind spun in introspection, he invited me to his room for an explanation. Back at the room, he interrogated, “Are you meeting your wife regularly?”
“Yes. In the morning I meet her after the prayers and ask her if everything is Ok. Then again in the evening I ask her if she is Ok,” I replied. [Rest of the day I basked in the spiritual association of the monks, feeling that the riots was a blessing in disguise. This temple stay, I felt, was a brief opportunity to live the life of a monk, free from family hassles.]
“That is why you are a rascal,” Radhanath Swami exploded. “Your wife should perceive your care, love and protection. Otherwise she will become miserable. And then, in due course, both of you will become miserable.”
Spiced with numerous rascals, I found the magic porridge for happy family life served out before me, in minutes. Holding up a spoonful of that, Radhanath Swami proposed, “Now, immediately, you take her to the Chowpatty beach and spend with her a half hour. Tell her how you care for her. And when you return, come back here and report to me all that you told her.”
I bustled about the temple, and finding my wife in the temple kitchen, hustled her out. She was appalled. Were the rioters coming? Saying nothing about the discussions that had just transpired, I told her we were going out to the beach nearby to spend some time together. Her eyes widened, and her expression changed to wonder. As we walked to the gate, I spotted Radhanath Swami watching us from the first floor balcony. Sweetening the secret we shared, both Radhanath Swami and I laughed heartily. And my poor wife—her wonder now transformed to bewilderment.
Radhanath Swami’s standing up there, I felt was symbolic. He watched out for riots, both communal and familial—with deep concern, compassion, and wisdom
– Mr. Ashok Parikh.
Radhanath Swami with the YPO
From 30 January 2008 to 02 February 2008, a group of members from the YPO, Young Presidents’ Organization, were in Mumbai for a seminar series hosted by industrialists Ajay Piramal and Swati Piramal. YPO is a body of young Presidents, CEOs and Managing Directors of big corporations from across the world. The Piramals had them visit Radhagopinath temple in groups of 20. In all, 60 members visited the temple in a span of two days.
One member, a lady executive from South America was especially overwhelmed. Firstly, upon the group’s arrival, Radhanath Swami addressed them, and that was impressive. Then, when the group proceeded to the temple hall, the mood there was one of celebration. The altar doors had just opened to reveal the gorgeously dressed forms of Radha and Krishna. From inside the altar, incense smoke wafted out into the cavernous temple hall where hundreds happily danced and chanted to live music played with drums and cymbals. But what was the celebration about? This celebration was called kirtan—they were informed—and this formed a part of the practices of bhakti yoga; and amazingly, this was an everyday affair! Gazing at the kirtan, some executives smiled gleefully, while some swayed in tune to the music. But this lady from South America was especially touched by the ambience. She visibly waged a battle to restrain her feeling, as her eyes brimmed with tears of joy. Breaking herself off from the group she moved about the temple hall snapping away photos of the kirtan from all possible angles.
At the end of the visit, Radhanath Swami, Ajay Piramal and a few others stood at the gate to bid the group farewell. The South American executive, wanting to express her joy, innocently stepped ahead to embrace Radhanath Swami. Quickly, Radhanath Swami hopped back and folded his palms in greeting, but smiled generously to avoid the lady any embarrassment. The executive perhaps understood that a Swami in Indian culture wouldn’t embrace a woman. She retreated, but it looked like she also sensed Radhanath Swami’s concern for avoiding her embarrassment; so she covered any mortification with a broad smile and folded her palms.
After the group left, Ajay Piramal told Radhanath Swami, “That executive from South America was really impressed. She was telling me that her life had changed.” Radhanath Swami quipped, “She was about to change my life too.”His body rocked with laughter.
I realized it required a lot of mature sensitivity to share the precious gifts of Vedic spirituality with people who have little or no idea of Vedic culture, even though they might be very pure in heart.
– Mr. Prakash Nanjudiah
Radhanath Swami and the Turtles
The rising sun god stole a glimpse, through the stained glass windows, into the temple interior, where Radhanath Swami sat meditating. Then he proceeded upwards along his orbit. Perhaps he too, like many of us, ached to see Radhanath Swami in our ISKCON Nasik temple. Radhanath Swami had been promising to grace us with his presence, but his busy schedule had never allowed him to, for years. . Now, finally in his presence, we felt blessed.
After his japa, mantra meditation, I took Radhanath Swami around the temple; inspired by him I had taken charge of this temple and had recently renovated it. He observed everything keenly, as he always does, and with an air of appreciation. He especially seemed to like the fountain in front of the altar. Excited, I chimed in, “Apart from the fishes, there are two turtles in there.” Radhanath Swami peered into the pool of water at the base of the fountain, “Live turtles?”
“Yes, live turtles.”
“But turtles are not like fishes.” Worry washed across Radhanath Swami’s face, “They are not supposed to be in water all the time. How will they survive without a place to rest?”
“They do rest on the water pipelines that are laid for the fountain,” I tried to assure him.
“It will be nice if you could make a small island in that pool. Then the turtles can rest comfortably. They are now the Lord’s associates and have to be properly taken care of,” Radhanath Swami swung his hands towards the deities on the altar, accentuating his point. He went on to ask questions about what we fed them, whether they liked the food etc. It was as if his every other major project around the world lay eclipsed behind this newly found one: the happy-turtle-project.
During his one day stay, he brought forth the issue of the turtles atleast ten times. Towards the end, he summarized what he felt of his visit, “Everything about the temple is impeccable and exquisite, and I am highly impressed. But the only thing pinching my heart is the discomfort that the turtles have to undergo in that pool.” And just before his departure to Mumbai, he told me, “Remember what I told about what should be done for the turtles? Do let me know when you have done something for them.”
I got an island made for the turtles in the next 24 hours and sent a message to Radhanath Swami through his secretary: Because of your concern and love for them, the turtles are peacefully sitting in their new haven. When I look at them, they seem to be thanking you from the core of their little hearts for making this arrangement for them.
– Sikshashtakam Das
Sweaty Meditations with Radhanath Swami
I felt a bead of sweat crawl down my forehead. A chilly winter breeze whisked across the porch where I sat, dropping that bead onto my thighs. My meditation was distracted, and now that bead of sweat occupied my mind. How can I sweat when my body is still, in a lotus posture? I only held a string of prayer beads, nothing too heavy; I chanted a mantra, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, only in a soft murmur; and my mind had been more or less floating along with the sound of that mantra, no anxiety burdening it. Yet, I sweated. I was mystified.
My eyes still shut, my mind flashed back to a printed text in the Bhagavad Gita: “From wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the self.” And my mind swerved back into the mantra the next moment. But my body continued to sweat—until I was sweating like a pig.
This happened to me every morning during mantra meditation. I preferred to neglect this phenomenon, but the other monks who also meditated on the porch began to question me: what’s wrong? I had no answer, and I couldn’t care less to look for one. After all, I was now habituated to the sweating, and it didn’t disturb my meditation anymore.
During these days the temple hall on the first floor, where we sit and meditate daily, underwent renovation, and so we monks sat out with Radhanath Swami on the porch instead, during meditation. I always sat especially close to Radhanath Swami, to bathe in the aura of bhakti about him.
One day, amidst the meditation I opened my eyes to find Radhanath Swami staring at me. Before I could close them shut, Radhanath Swami gestured me to come close. I edged closer, dripping with sweat. “I appreciate your enthusiasm in mantra meditation,” he said as he smiled tightly. My ego ballooned as I savored the cooling sensation on my skin, caused by the evaporating perspiration. I silently thanked the mysterious watery guest that visited me in the stillness of the morning.
“But it looks crazy,” Radhanath Swami’s smile changed into a frown. A heat wave gushed through my body–more perspiration. His next few statements I couldn’t fully register, my ego still recovering from a sudden blast. But I managed to catch the essence: even during our personal spiritual practices in bhakti yoga, we should be sensitive to our surroundings; a new person could be bewildered seeing someone strangely sweating during meditation and could be scared away from bhakti yoga. A bhakti yogi’s every activity should encourage others to tread the path of perfection, rather than discourage others or scare them away. Radhanath Swami closed with a gentle smile.
Radhanath Swami had enlightened me about a new dimension of responsibility of a bhakti yogi. Now I had to sit back and analyze what caused the perspiration. Soon I figured that perhaps I chanted the mantras too fast, and while focusing on every syllable that now came by quickly, I tended to hold my body tight. So I slowed down my chant the next day, kept my body deliberately relaxed–and the perspiration never reoccurred.
– Siddeshwar Bhat
Radhanath Swami Accomplishes with no Casualities
Pin-drop silence filled the Radhagopinath temple hall, except for the soft yet commanding voice of Giriraj Swami. He sat cross-legged on a slightly raised seat (Vyasasana) along with Radhanath Swami, who was to speak next. The audience, numbering two thousand, sat cross-legged on the floor in rapt attention. They faced the Vyasasana that occupied one corner of the rectangular hall, close to the holy altar. The gold-leafing that embellished the ornately carved altars and altar doors reflected the golden glow from the chandeliers. Thus an all-auspicious golden hue enveloped the divine gathering.
Inches away from the Vyasasana I sat, listening. Momentarily, when my eyes drifted away from the speaker, they met those of Radhanath Swami, and found them gazing down right at me! With a movement of his index finger Radhanath Swami gestured me to come closer—he had something to say. My heart started to beat conspicuously. A wave of tension passed through my spine: I had to absorb every bit of his whisper in the first go, for asking for any clarification would mean disturbing both the speaker and the audience.
My life air circling around my ear drums, I pushed my head close enough to be able to hear his whisper. “Very politely, tell that girl not to lean against the deity’s doors.” I had heard every word clear and distinct. In quick reflex I looked towards the altar and found a lady who stood leaning against the altar doors. Making my way through the crowd, I reached her, and in all politeness pleaded, “Please madam, don’t lean against the doors. Or else, you shall ruin the gold leafing on it.” She obliged, and only when I re-occupied my seat did the four thousand eyes in the hall cease to follow me.
Sitting there I mulled over the sacred lesson I had just learnt. Often times, people emphasize just the aspect of detachment in spiritual life. Ironically, spirituality is more about attachment than detachment. A spiritualist is only detached from his/her selfish happiness. But he/she is completely attached to facilitating the happiness of God, and the happiness of those connected to God—and that includes every living entity. A temple is God’s home, and everything in it is designed for His pleasure. And to safeguard what gives God pleasure, a devotee considers that his sacred mission.
But what really hit me was that I had witnessed Radhanath Swami accomplish his mission with no casualties. He had safeguarded the happiness of even that lady who was also a child of God. He had perfectly structured his whisper. If the words “Very Politely” had featured anywhere but in the beginning of that statement, I would have definitely missed its import, given that I was high-strung at that moment. And impoliteness would have cost the lady’s happiness, and that meant casualty!
– Siddeshwar Bhat
What makes Radhanath Swami a Brilliant Teacher
In 1983, I became the first Asian and the youngest person in history, at age 19, to win Gold at the Salesmanship and Sales Management Exam conducted by the London Chamber of Commerce. This was indeed a laudable achievement, given that the exam is held yearly for the past hundred-odd years and attracts participants from over forty countries.
In 1989, during one of my initial interactions with Radhanath Swami, it was but natural for me to vent out the pride I felt in my achievements. He congratulated me with a gracious smile and said nothing more.
Several months passed before he picked on it again. In the middle of a conversation he discreetly conveyed to me, “If academic qualifications inflame our pride, it’s only a distraction for a spiritual seeker.” That obviously jolted my ego, but I knew he spoke for my spiritual welfare. I quietly nodded in agreement.
Later, I wondered how I would have taken that statement if it were to come in one of those initial interactions. I hadn’t developed sufficient trust in him then; I probably would have taken him otherwise and never come back again; that sentence, though true, would have probably plundered my spiritual life.
It’s not just wisdom that makes Radhanath Swami a brilliant spiritual teacher; it’s his deep compassion that makes him so. Driven by that compassion, he orchestrates the flow of wisdom in a way that benefits his students optimally.
– Ashok Parikh
My hand shot up, triggered by Radhanath Swami’s utterance, “Any questions?” He had just ended his hour long discourse and now sought to help out his audience with any clarifications. Unlike the vast majority around, I was new and knew little of spirituality. Yet, my eagerness to know more knew no bounds, and was already well known for my appetite to know more.
No sooner had I raised my hand than a silence fell in the audience. I could hear the audience think, “Oh no! It’s him again, with yet another of those basic and foolish questions.” I sympathized with them for what they felt was justified, and I appreciated their tolerance, for they never had translated those feelings into words or action. But my hunger for spirituality made me feel helpless. Yet, I also felt a little jittery, and I looked up at Radhanath Swami.
Then came a touching experience. I saw Radhanath Swami read my mind and he reassured me with gentle eyes. With the affection of a loving father, he slightly jerked his head, gesturing me to speak out.
Now, years later, recalling this incident and many other similar one’s, my mind seeks to confess: perhaps the warmth I felt in Radhanath Swami’s affection convinced me more about spirituality than the philosophy itself.
– Dr.Ashok Shetty
Radhanath Swami Forethought of my Dilemma
When I retired as the University Head of the Department of Chemistry, Bombay University, the sixty-odd research students I had guided during my career arranged for a one day symposium in my honor. For me, it was the second biggest occasion of the year, next only to the ceremony wherein I was awarded as the best university teacher for the entire state of Maharashtra.
On the scheduled day, I found myself sharing the stage with scientists, Vice Chancellors of Universities and many other dignitaries. The loudspeakers thundered my name, announcing my glories, but my mind drifted elsewhere. I could hear it whisper, “How wonderful it would be if Radhanath Swami were here.” I had invited him for the occasion, but he hadn’t turned up.
That weekend I met Radhanath Swami at the temple. His visage conveying both apology and concern, his words spoke out his heart. “If I had come for the symposium, you would have qualms about even sitting on stage. You would be discomforted all through the event, with me, your teacher, looking up at you from amongst the audience.”
Knowing my orthodox cultural background, he had rightly forethought of my dilemma and had thus avoided the situation by his absence. He had dived deep below the surface of superficial norms to avoid any discomfort to my mind. And in the process, though his concern, he comforted my heart.
– Dr. Bhaskar Hosangadi
Radhanath Swami’s service attitude is beyond compare
Vehicles honked and spewed out black clouds of exhaust. Pedestrians peacefully crossed the busy street, zigzagging through the sluggish traffic. Malls, swarming with customers, lined the sidewalk. We were at Connaught Place, one of the largest financial, commercial and business centers in New Delhi.
As our car headed towards Hotel Lalit, Radhanath Swami from the rear seat reminisced, “During my spiritual quest, whenever I passed through New Delhi, I stayed at the Hanuman Temple here, at Connaught Place. I stayed in the company of sadhus.” I was all ears. It was one of those special moments when the Swami candidly shared from his travels through India. Radhanath Swami continued, “It is my desire to walk through these streets again.” After a thoughtful pause, he added, “Somehow I never get to do what I want to do.” Hearing that, I felt pained. Perhaps in this visit, I hoped, there was a chance for him to fulfill his desire. The next day he was scheduled to deliver the Key note and Inaugural address at the All India Management Association’s (AIMA) second World Marketing Congress. I supposed that the conference would get over by 11:00 am; since our flight was at 2:00 pm, there was a free slot, sufficiently big for a stroll through Connaught Place.
The next day, things didn’t work out as I had expected. By the time the Swami got out of the conference hall, it was late; we had to rush to the airport.
Our next destination was Rishikesh, where he was invited for several talks at the International Yoga Conference.
While at Rishikesh, I re-read Radhanath Swami’s autobiography The Journey Home to further explore his connection with Connaught Place. Apart from what he had disclosed in the car, I discovered one more connection—an intimate one. It was at Connaught place that he first saw a painting of Lord Krishna. The passage in The Journey Home read:
Designed by the British, Connaught Circus was laid out in an immense circle surrounding a spacious park. Exploring the enclosed walkway, my attention was drawn to a hand-painted sign that read, “S.S. Brijabasi and Sons Religious Artwork.” Stacked on the sidewalk were hundreds of 8 x 10 prints. ……For about an hour I sat on the sidewalk searching the selection. Among the pictures was a beautiful woman with eight arms holding swords, choppers, and spears and riding on a lion, then a fantastical, somewhat pudgy man with the head of an elephant who was sitting on a mouse……..I came across a magnificent monkey, wearing a crown, whose eyes shone with devotion……….As I rummaged deeper through the stack of prints, I discovered a person with a dozen heads, each of a different species and multiple arms………
Suddenly, from out of the stack of prints appeared a personality that attracted me like no other. He had a bluish complexion, wore a peacock feather in his crown, and played a flute while posing gracefully beside a river. Behind him a white cow stared lovingly and a full moon bathed an enchanted forest in pearly light. Spontaneous tears filled my eyes. The person in the picture seemed to fill my very soul. Why was this happening to me? I felt him calling me. But how? It was only a painting, and of a fantastical person I didn’t even know. His name was written on the bottom in an ancient alphabet I couldn’t read.
I gave whatever money I had to the shopkeeper, but it was not enough. He smiled and gave me the picture anyway, a picture that I would not part with during the rest of my travels. Who was this person in the image? For a long time, that was to remain a mystery.
After our 4-day stay at Rishikesh, we were scheduled to return to Mumbai, and during transit we were supposed to change flights at Delhi. As I packed the bags for the journey, Radhanath Swami asked, “Will it be possible for me to visit Connaught Circus during our transit through Delhi?” “I will work out the logistics and let you know,” I replied. I hurriedly called a contact at New Delhi. The person said it was possible. So it was planned that after alighting from the flight at New Delhi airport, Radhanath Swami would collect the train ticket from my contact waiting outside, take the half hour train ride to Connaught Place, walk through the streets there, and then return back to the airport to catch the flight to Mumbai.
We landed in New Delhi at 1:45 p.m. The connecting flight to Mumbai was at 5:00 p.m. Things were going as per plan. But as I dialled the number of my contact who waited outside the terminus, Radhanath Swami interrupted, “Should I really go? Tomorrow is the Gaur Poornima Festival, and I have to discourse. I might well use this time for preparing.” What could I say? For him it was duty calling again. Thousands in Mumbai would be visiting the temple the next day to attend the birthday festival of Lord Chaitanya. And his lecture was the sought after inspirational event for the attendees.
We searched for a quiet place, and Radhanath Swami pored over the Chaitanya Charitamrita, the biography of Lord Chaitanya, whom the Gaudiya Vaishnavas believe to be Lord Krishna himself. At 5: 00 p.m. we boarded the flight that brought us back to Mumbai.
The next day Radhanath Swami discoursed 4 hours non-stop from the Chaitanya Charitamrita, as thousands listened in rapt attention. Later, many proclaimed this to be one of the most inspiring festivals of their life. As I listened to them, I was distracted by burning questions. When is the next time we will pass through New Delhi? And even then, will Radhanath Swami again sacrifice his personal desires for the sake of service?
Here’s one more incident that occurred when we were at Kanpur.
Reality belittled wildest imaginations on this impromptu ‘Grand Prix’ from the North Indian city of Kanpur to the Lucknow Airport. Our car raced at 130 Km/Hr! Still, Radhanath Swami yelled from the rear seat, “Faster, faster.” Radhe Shyam Prabhu—an illiterate in traffic rules—appointed himself the traffic-navigator, and shouted directions from the rear, while I, like a coach impatient for victory, sat next to our ‘race driver’ Vikas and kept nagging him, “How much longer will it take to reach?” And like a gramophone record stuck in its track, the jittery Vikas kept repeating a mantra hour after hour – “We will be at the airport in ten minutes only.”
8 January 2011, 5:30 p.m., Kanpur. As the car keys turned on the ignition, Vikas turned to Radhanath Swami, “My family has been decorating our home since last night—all night long—expecting your visit at our humble residence. My home is only a 5-minute drive off the highway. Please, if you could place your holy feet there, even for a moment, we will be blessed.”
How could Radhanath Swami deny? “I will come, provided you promise that you will help me reach the airport on time.” To catch the flight was critical, for that was the last flight to Mumbai, and flying the next day meant cancelling pressing engagements lined up for the next day at Mumbai.
Vikas nodded innocently, knowing not what awaited him.
At Vikas’s home, we were cordially greeted, but after a while it was time to leave. The whole family saw us to the gate, and bid us a fond farewell.
Yet, the family’s concern that we reach the airport on time continued to follow us. After 7:00 p.m., while the ‘Grand Prix’ was at its peak, the family called Vikas every five minutes with the same question I was bothering Vikas with—How much longer…? And Vikas repeated the same irritating mantra—We will be…ten minutes. High strung, I finally switched off Vikas’s mobile.
The car ‘landed’ at the airport terminus at 7:45 p.m. We rushed into the check-in. Radhanath Swami had once joked that India is the only place where sadhus can bribe with blessings. But here, we didn’t even have to do that. Our sadhu attire was sufficient to get us through in seconds.
Once aboard the plane, while I adjusted to the miracle that we had finally made it, Radhanath Swami asked me to dial Vikas’s number. As I dialed I screamed in my mind, “Oh no! I myself have switched off his mobile.” Fortunately, Vikas had turned on the mobile by then, and it rang. When he answered the call, Radhanath Swami gasped, “I am grateful and happy for your service of driving us here. But I would have been grateful even if we hadn’t caught the flight. Sorry for the anxiety we caused you. But the anxiety you had to undergo and we had to undergo was a small price that all of us had to pay for the happiness of your family.”
Yet another incident that exemplifies the Swami’s extreme service attitude occurred in 2005, when he guided a few wealthy families of downtown Mumbai around Govardhan Hill in Vrindavan.
Govardhan Parikrama, as the scriptures call it, is the circling of Govardhan Hill, and is considered one of the austere yet important limbs of bhakti yoga.
Having to shoulder management responsibilities of the parikrama, I could hardly rest the night before: went to bed at 11 and was up by 3. The lights in Radhanath Swami’s room were turned on, both when I rested and when I was up: he rested even less, or perhaps didn’t rest at all; certainly, he was preparing for the dozen lectures he was to deliver the next day.
On the day of the parikrama, devotees were ready by 6:00 a.m. at Govardhan Ashram, our starting point. We were 30 in all, 20 aristocrats—men, women, young and the old—and 10 monks. Radhanath Swami discoursed at the Ashram, elaborating on a text from the first canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam: Queen Kunti Prayed, ‘My Lord, Your Lordship can easily be approached, but only by those who are materially exhausted. One who is on the path of [material] progress, trying to improve himself with respectable parentage, great opulence, high education and bodily beauty, cannot approach You with sincere feeling.’ I wondered if any aristocrat felt flattered.
At the beginning of the 28 KM trek Radhanath Swami requested the participant who wore sports shoes, “It will be better to do the parikrama bare foot.” The shoes went out flying, and the participant, a middle-aged aristocrat, beamed. He was sincere and, as I was to discover later, reflected the sincerity of his class group.
As the day progressed, the sun beat down on us, and apparently a little more on my wealthy brothers and sisters. They puffed and panted, but never complained. I could see that they were indeed serious about spirituality, perhaps even more than I was. At noon we briefly halted for lunch at an inn, where I stole a nap. Except for lunch, we only halted at places of holy importance where Radhanath Swami discoursed denouncing the flickering happiness of the material realm and pronouncing the verdict of the scriptures—that only spirituality, and not wealth, could provide lasting happiness to the soul. His compassion amplified his voice rather than an external sound system [which we hadn’t carried anyways.]
By dusk the party was limping to keep pace with Radhanath Swami, as the destination still evaded sight. Radhanath Swami turned to the aristocrat who had earlier abandoned his jogging shoes, “There are different muscles for walking and running. Now that the walking-muscles are tired, let’s run.” The two ran for about five minutes, at the end of which the aristocrat was visibly grateful—rather than mournful—to walk the rest of the trek.
We reached back the circle’s starting point—Govardhan Ashram—at 10 p.m. That night I hoped would be an endless night. Before he rested, Radhanath Swami confessed, “I am a little tired.”
– Vraj Chandra Das
Radhanath Swami’s devotion is beyond compare
Ever tried cooking for someone dear? It’s a powerful way of conquering your beloved’s heart. That’s why Bhakti Yogis, whose sole yearning is to conquer the heart of the Supreme Lord, ascribe such importance to cooking, a seemingly ordinary chore.
One day at Radhagopinath Ashram, as I sat chatting with the cook in the kitchen, Radhanath Swami entered. Spotting the milk that boiled on the stove, a sweet smile bloomed on his visage. He came closer and grasped the stirring spoon and began to stir the milk gently. Glancing towards the cook, he said, “You please become the GBC, and allow me to cook.” Silent moments passed as the cook groped for a reply. Then, as if reaching a conclusion after deep introspection, Radhanath Swami added, “I will have to serve as a GBC for many lifetimes before I could get the opportunity to cook for the Lord.” (GBC is the abbreviation for Governing Body Commissioner, the highest managerial position in ISKCON)
– Vraj Chandra Das
Radhanath Swami’s detachment is beyond
One day Radhanath Swami was invited by a family that lived in downtown Mumbai. I accompanied the Swami as we drove to their home late in the evening.
When the sun drops into the Arabian Sea, Mumbai is lit by Neon signs that line its busy streets. Being the economical capital of India, the city stands immune to the electricity shortage that plagues the rest of the country. Mumbaiites, the residents of Mumbai, get electricity in plenty, though they are often embarrassed by shortages of clean water and fresh air.
This day, however, was different. Our hosts had been preparing their home for Radhanath Swami’s arrival the whole day, and at dusk, unfortunately, electricity gave way. So, when Radhanath Swami’s entourage reached there, their home resembled a dark den. “Sorry, there’s no power,” our host sighed.
Radhanath Swami, without batting an eyelid, replied, “Anyways, I am not attached to power.” It wasn’t just a repartee; he had spoken out his heart. He holds no stakes in any of the projects that he has developed over the years: Radhagopinath Temple and Ashram, Bhaktivedanta Hospital, Govardhan Ecovillage, etc.; He has refrained from being even a signatory in any of these ventures.
Another incident that exemplifies Radhanath Swami’s detachment occurred when we were visiting Jagannath Puri, Odisha. We were put up in a hotel, and again, a well-wisher had invited us for lunch at his home.
The Swami, after finishing his lunch quickly, turned to me. “Sorry, I can’t wait till you finish. I have got an urgent appointment back at the hotel room,” he apologized and I shook my head indicating OK. As I continued with my lunch, Radhanath Swami hurried back. Our generous host, an Odishan gentleman, served me seconds and then thirds of all the local delicacies and I stuffed myself with every one of them: my ramble back to the hotel room would digest it all, I thought. The room was a twenty-minute walk away, but we had come by car for the sun beats down at noon time in Jagannath Puri.
After lunch, I thanked my host and as I exited, I found our car still parked on the roadside. Radhanath Swami had chosen to walk back in the scorching sun, to avoid inconveniencing me.
– Vraj Chandra Das
Radhanath Swami’s affection is beyond compare
Radhanath Swami is often invited for lunch at people’s homes. In the Vedic tradition an opportunity to cook for a sadhu and feed the sadhu is considered a rare service, a rare blessing. The more the sadhu eats, the happier is the cook; and even a word of appreciation about the preparations from the sadhu is eagerly awaited.
There are several stories of Radhanath Swami going out of his way to make the cook happy: sometimes tolerating the extra spices, sometimes tolerating the blandness, sometimes over eating, sometimes eating though not hungry and almost always eating preparations that go against his dietician’s advice. There are even grisly stories of him having to vomit after returning from the host’s. But every time, Radhanath Swami is appreciative of the preparations. Being his secretary, I am a witness to several of these stories.
With me, however, Radhanath Swami was once a little unorthodox. Yet, through that experience, I felt the intimacy of our relationship sore up to newer heights. This happened when Radhanath Swami’s favorite cook Radha Vallabha was sick. I then got an opportunity to cook for Radhanath Swami. I found my mind in ambivalence. While I obviously felt exhilarated, I also felt jittery: I was cooking for no ordinary person. The preparation before the cooking—deciding the menu, thumbing through the recipes and collecting the ingredients—seemed no less intense than preparing for IIT JEE, the entrance exam that I had cleared years before for getting admission in IIT. The actual cooking was more intense than IIT JEE itself.
While the flames rose to heat the vessels, the heat was already on me. When those flames threatened to burn the preparations, I was already dead-burnt in anxiety. All along, the stirring spoon moved in synch with my heartbeat.
Once ready, the preparations—lafda, karela sabji, beans sabji, chapatti, rice and daal—were taken to Radhanath Swami’s room by Damodar Dulal, where it was to be served out. After half an hour Damodar Dulal returned to the kitchen, where I was all ears to hear Radhanath Swami’s comments about my preparations.
“He asked me who had prepared today’s lunch,” Damodar Dulal began to narrate the exchanges he had with Radhanath Swami while he had served out the lunch.
As Damodar Dulal spoke, the suspense was building in me.
“I said you have prepared,” Damodar Dulal continued.
Now, that suspense was killing me.
“He told me…” Damodar Dulal paused.
My heart beat also paused. What did Radhanath Swami say????????
“He told me, ‘please tell Radha Vallabha to get well soon.’”
Another incident which stands out in this connection happened when the Swami’s dietary supplements were sent by an acquaintance in the United States. “Did you request for it, or did he send it on his own?” Radhanath Swami asked me. “He sent it on his own,” I blurted out a lie. I was pushed by a surge of subconscious fear, a fear of causing him pain. Bothering anyone for his personal needs was something that his humility couldn’t tolerate.
But the next moment, I found myself in an avalanche of guilt, “How could I lie to him, my spiritual preceptor?” And now, I saw that I didn’t even have the nerve to admit my lie! I walked out his room, my mind clouded by mixed emotions.
I sought relief in the chanting of the holy names on a veranda outside. With closed eyes, I fingered my beads. “Are you sure he sent it on his own?” Radhanath Swami’s voice broke my meditation and I opened my eyes. He stood right in front of me. “Yes,” I blurted. He smiled and went for an evening walk. Off guard, I had again succumbed to the push of my subconscious mind that now wanted to hide my first lie. My guilt compounded. I had lied for a second time! And the thought of confessing before Radhanath Swami scared me all the more . My mind tossed me in its waves of extreme guilt and fear. Was it going to kill me?
As a defense, I pulled myself together and plunged my mind into the sound of the holy names. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. That sound slowly gripped my squirming mind and I felt peace.
“Are you really sure he sent it on his own?” Radhanath Swami’s low voice brought me to the external world again. He had returned after his hour long walk. Before I knew, my subconscious mind barged in with a reply that barked out of my mouth, “Yes.” He smiled and went into his room.
I now felt as if I were ruthlessly stabbed to death. I didn’t want to think anymore, for if I did, my mind would strangle my corpse. Mustering all courage, I approached Radhanath Swami and fell on my knees, “I have lied to you. It was I who requested for the dietary supplements.” Suddenly, I felt my life force reenter my body. “I guessed you were lying. That’s the reason I asked you thrice,” Radhanath Swami responded gravely.
I returned to my chores, but my vicious mind kept pulling on me, “How bad he might have felt that you lied! You have broken his trust.” Night eclipsed the twilight, but I had already lost hopes of a peaceful sleep. My mind wouldn’t let go of me.
It was 9:00 p.m. when Radhanath Swami came to my rescue, after searching out my poor soul. He came to where I was and spoke with an affection that I will never forget, “Don’t worry. I still love you.” Tears of joy over-flooded my eyes and, struggling to restrain my bursting emotions, I bowed.
How could his soft heart rest in peace, knowing that another heart burned in anguish?
– Vraj Chandra Das
Radhanath Swami’s Humility is exemplary
The crisp morning air wished us a pleasant day, with the fragrance of fresh blossoms it carried. The window was open and overlooked a garden, beckoning us to sample the beauty of the town we were visiting—Hrishikesh.
Inside the room sat Govinda Prabhu and Gaur Gopal Prabhu at the computer, while I went about my daily chores. They were preparing a list of devotees who were to be initiated by Radhanath Swami during his forthcoming visit to Poona. While anyone and everyone can joyously try out Bhakti Yoga, those who are serious about the path, the scriptures recommend, should accept a Guru. In the Gaudiya Vaishnav Tradition, the Guru accepts a disciple in a ceremony called diksha, or initiation, during which the disciple is handed prayer beads. Those beads, the disciple always carries in a cloth pouch called the bead bag; this bag’s unique design allows one to finger the beads without having to take them out of the bag. Interesting?!!
As I looked for my bead bag to say my prayers, Radhanath Swami walked in. While on his way to the Ganges to say his prayers, called the mantra meditation, he had dropped by to see us. Radhanath Swami’s expression turned quizzical. Gaur Gopal Prabhu, as if in response, said, “We are working on the initiation.” Holding up his bead bag, Radhanath Swami shook it. The beads inside clattered. “And I am working on mine,” Radhanath Swami announced, “first trying to be a good disciple myself.”
He walked out carrying a smile that unveiled the gratitude he felt for his Guru. Though he had thousands of disciples round the globe, and thousands more queued to accept him as Guru, his humility wouldn’t allow him to consider himself a worthy disciple of his own Guru.
Radhanath Swami sat relaxing on the lawn with a few of his students. The Chakra Building veiled them from the noontime sun, while breezes breathed in and out of the ISKCON Mayapur campus, cooling this shade over nature’s carpet of green.
Radhanath Swami looked over as his students rapped on. After meandering along various topics, their conversation finally turned into a glorification session, each one glorifying the spiritual qualities of others. That’s something which devotees of Lord Krishna love to do.
“Karunasindhu is so gentle. Wish I could emulate his gentleness,” said one.
“Jagannath is so enthusiastic in Kirtan, wish I could be like him,” said another.
When everyone was done, Radhanath Swami leaned to finger a blade of grass on the ground, “Wish I could be like this blade of grass.”
Lines about a blade of grass from his book The Journey Home echoed in my mind…
You see this grass? It is happy to serve everyone, even by remaining in the most humble position under our feet. Whenever it is stepped on, it comes right back up, to serve. We can learn from this humility.
– Vraj Chandra Das
Radhanath Swami has a brilliant sense of humor
It was the festival of lord Ganesh, which is much awaited in Mumbai. Streets leading to makeshift temples of Ganesh get lined with countless hawkers who sell incense and flowers. The neighborhood of these temples that number in thousands in the city, transfigure into bustling bazaars. The crowd even spills out into the main roadways, causing traffic jams.
Radhanath Swami was to preside over a spiritual get-together at a well-wisher’s that evening, and I was to accompany him. Foreseeing the delay caused by the obstructed traffic flow, I suggested to him, “I think we will have to leave early.”
“But why?” he asked.
When I explained, he replied, “Ganesh is supposed to remove obstacles, not put obstacles.” His body shook with laughter.
A famous bollywood actor, Yuvaraj, was driving the car while Radhanath Swami and I were the passengers. At one point, when the car moved ahead, ignoring the turn we were supposed to take, Radhanath Swami asked, “Why didn’t we take the turn?” The reason was the traffic and the complex traffic rules. But unable to gather the right words, Yuvaraj spoke out, “It was difficult to take that right turn.”
Radhanath Swami said, “While living in this world, it’s always difficult to take the right turns.”
– Vraj Chandra Das
Radhanath Swami-when his Heart Picks up Pace
Months of contemplation shyly hides behind this once-in-a-lifetime experience that I am going to narrate. The photograph that plays the lead-role in this narrative is the sole witness that caught me everyday in those thoughtful moments, sometimes minutes and sometimes hours.
A blessed photographer had captured this image—the smiling faces of the deities of Radha and Gopinath ( Krishna, the enchanter of the cowherd girls of Vrindavan ) —and had gifted me a copy. Gopinath’s moon like face tilted beneath a sky-blue turban and Radha compassionately smiled in her dark blue sari. Even one with an iota of devotion would be endeared by this photo; what to speak of Radhanath Swami for whom, I had heard, these deities were ‘life and soul.’ Therefore an idea of gifting it to Radhanath Swami had sprouted in my mind the very moment I was gifted the photograph. Then on, every time I held the photograph, which was almost daily, I found myself lost in contemplation, and through that that sprout of an idea was watered. As months passed, the sprout gained roots, grew into a plant, expanded its branches, and the climax was a beautiful flower—a conviction that this gift, though simple by material standards, could charm Radhanath Swami’s heart. It was in December of 2008 that I finally made up my mind.
Radhanath Swami hadn’t been keeping good health during this period; he seldom kept outdoors. Still, one evening I found him alone in the corridor outside his room. I stole the opportunity. Meekly, I held out the photo. Seeing it, Radhanath Swami shuddered. Like a drug-addict finding his addiction after prolonged withdrawal, he underwent kind of convulsions. His right hand slithered out of the bead bag and raced to the photo, while his left hand yanked me closer and pressed my face against his chest—an affectionate brace. There, I felt his heartbeat picking pace. Then, releasing me, he erupted, “You have given me back my life and soul. Thank you very much.” The second statement he repeated four or five times before I took his leave. How simple it is to please the great souls!
– Nityananda Charan Das.
When Radhanath Swami Seems an Overgrown Child
Chiksoli is a remote village thirty kilometers from Vrindavan–externally a sprawling mass of poverty, but internally a treasure-house of pure devotion. It is the birth place of Chitra Sakhi, one of the eight confidential associates of the divine couple Radha-Krishna. In November 2008, during a pilgrimage to Vrindavan, I was at this place with Radhanath Swami.
Back in 1971, Radhanath Swami had first visited these holy villages surrounding Vrindavan during his spiritual quest. Though he was a sincere spiritualist even then, he was unknown to most of the world. But now in 2008, he was a world renowned spiritualist with thousands of followers.
One day at Chiksoli Radhanath Swami visited a mediocre family he knew since 1971, for lunch. I accompanied him. In the kitchen an old lady squatted on the floor besides the choola, traditional stove that’s fueled by firewood. She rolled dough, as a pan heated up on the fire. Meanwhile, Radhanath Swami after receiving a warm welcome freshened up with a bath and a change of clothes. He then sat cross-legged on the kitchen’s mud floor and thali, lunch plate, was served out before him. Vraj Rotis, hot and fluffy, after baking on the pan, landed on Radhanath Swami’s plate, one after another. Radhanath Swami consumed them with a gusto I had never witnessed before, though I have accompanied him for lunch at several palatial bungalows of down-town Mumbai.
Baking a roti on the pan the lady spoke, as if thinking aloud, “Aap bilkul badle nahi.”(You haven’t changed at all.) She went on to explain how Radhanath Swami was still as simple as he was in 1971. But for me, who hadn’t seen him here in 1971, Radhanath Swami seemed—through this entire visit—an overgrown child who had returned home.
Recently, on 16 December 2010, someone brought rotis from Vrindavan to Mumbai, for Radhanath Swami. Though it reached his lunch table after two days, Radhanath Swami remarked, “The rotis are the best. Every other preparation is a distraction.” Again, I sensed that his heart is always at his home, in simple Vrindavan.
– Damodar Dulal
Management vs. Human Relationships
This happened in the month of April 2005 on the day that Radhanath Swami was about to leave for his western preaching tour. Since he was scheduled to be away for at least 6 months , I put together a list of eight points concerning temple management that I needed Radhanath Swami to decide upon before he left. I then called up his secretary and told that I needed to meet Radhanath Swami, any time that was convenient for him, for half an hour. I did this in the morning, feeling pretty sure that at least some time during the entire day Radhanath Swami would give me some time.
The day dragged on. Radhanath Swami throughout the day was meeting devotees who wanted to say good bye to him and was happily spending time with all of them. I called up Radhanath Swami’s secretary in the evening, about an hour before Radhanath Swami’s scheduled departure to the airport, and inquired from him anxiously whether Radhanath Swami was finally free. The secretary told me that there were half a dozen devotees in his room and if I wanted I could come and wait outside the room.
This is what I did…I rushed to Radhanath Swami’s room and from the corner of his eye Radhanath Swami saw me and nodded, indicating I should wait. Finally, all the devotees left and there was just me and Radhanath Swami; and twenty minutes were left for Radhanath Swami to leave to the airport.
After prostrating myself I was about to begin, when Braj Bihari Prabhu from Vrindavan, who heads ISKCON Resolve, entered the room. Radhanath Swami immediately got up, welcomed him with a bear hug like a long lost friend, and both of them sat down and went on chatting—completely oblivious of me. I was frantically looking at the watch with every minute passing by, and was gently sweating. Radhanath Swami continued to talk to Braj Bihari Prabhu as if he had all the time in the world, inquiring about everything concerning Braj Bihari Prabhu’s family, services, etc., until finally Braj Bihari Prabhu seeing my restlessness, remarked, “You both must be having a lot of things to discuss about…sorry for barging in like this.” And then he was gone…Now, just ten minutes to go and eight points to discuss…I started blurting out and Radhanath Swami nonchalantly answered all my points.
Anyways, having got my answers, I paid my obeisance once again and prepared to leave. Just then Radhanath Swami said, “I am seeing Braj Bihari Prabhu after a very long time and he specifically came to say me goodbye. My spending time with him was more important then your managerial questions, which are important but not as important as spending time with him. Anyways, if you get stuck on any issue, send me a mail or call me up.”
I came out from the room thoroughly crushed and humbled. Radhanath Swami gave more time and importance to a devotee who had come from far to meet him than to a ‘big’ manager. I understood that human relationships were far more important for him than management was.
– Krishnan Iyer
Radhanath Swami – an Embodiment of Shyness
Few days before the launch of the ‘journey Home’, devotees and well-wishers from all over the world were excited. Resident monks and members of the ashram in Mumbai, where Radhanath Swami was staying during this period, were particularly keen that he speaks from his book in his usual weekly classes. However in none of the programmes that were building up for the book launch did Radhanath Swami mention about ‘Journey Home’. As we were intrigued by his silence on the book, we also got desperate to hear him speak some stories from his autobiography. During this period, one evening Radhanath Swami was scheduled to address over two thousand youth at a spiritual festival. A few of us decided to meet Radhanath Swami before his lecture and request him to speak from his book. He patiently heard our appeals, but said he feels shy to speak about himself. We insisted this would be a great source of inspiration and joy for all the assembled guests and devotees. Taking pity on us, Radhanath Swami reluctantly agreed to speak a little bit, provided some participants asked questions indirectly referring to the book. He insisted he wouldn’t on his own take the initiative to speak from ‘Journey Home’.
As the lecture began the hall was pregnant with anticipation of stories; none however came out. Finally, the master of ceremonies, Gauranga dasa asked the two thousand plus audience if they would all like to hear from ‘Journey Home’. As the crowd roared in unison, expectations rose. However Radhanath Swami continued to enthral the audience with his discourse, without speaking anything from his autobiography. Finally Gaur Gopal dasa and I decided upon a trick; we selected fifteen students from the crowd and fixed questions indirectly referring to incidents from the book. Soon the boys fired questions on ‘Naga Babas’, ‘Mother Ganges’, and myriad gurus. With each question the hall reverberated with laughter as it was now obvious to all that Radhanath Swami was being cornered and forced to speak on ‘journey Home’. However in all humility and with a straight face Radhanath Swami replied on the merit of each question, without once referring to the book. Although the class was ecstatic as usual, a few of us were simultaneously disappointed that he hadn’t spoken any story from his autobiography.
Later at night, after the programme, Radhanath Swami came to the ashram and relaxed; many monks including myself gathered excitedly around him. He then began to narrate in graphic detail the various stories and events related to ‘Journey Home’. He also profusely apologized to the devotees that he hadn’t spoken from the book during the class. “I am sorry”, said Radhanath Swami, “I feel very shy to speak about myself and my book. You tried your best, but I refused. I am really sorry.”
It’s amazing that Radhanath Swami hadn’t spoken most of these stories for all these forty plus years. And if ‘Journey Home’ hadn’t been out, the world would have forever been bereft of his realizations. He went through a plethora of strong spiritual impressions and unforgettable experiences as he came to India searching for God. And only because his friend, Bhakti Tirtha Swami insisted and took a promise from him, Radhanath Swami has finally told the story to the world.
Having known Radhanath Swami and observed him closely, I am convinced that his present tour for the ‘Journey Home’ book launch is with reluctance. He wants to share his story because he is convinced that’s not his story but the story of God’s grace. This is also an exhibition of his magnanimous heart; he wants to selflessly share the wealth of his heart with the whole world. Personally he remains ever humble and shy.
This is a genuine quality of a spiritual seeker. He is naturally humble and shy to speak about himself; he is always enthusiastic and keen to glorify God and other devotees. That’s Radhanath Swami for you- reluctant to share his story but enthusiastic to glorify and appreciate others
– Vraj Vihari
Radhanath Swami’s VIP
11th January 1998, at the opening of Mira Road hospital, I was given the service to make continuous announcements over the public address system. Also I was expected to guide different categories of guests and invitees. Radhanath Swami was already in the hospital taking a guided tour. When Radhanath Swami reached the reception area where I was standing he immediately complimented me “ I could hear your voice over the PAS – you sound like the airline announcers.”
I was immediately happy to hear that and inflated quite few kilos immediately.
Then Radhanath Swami asked me “But why are you standing in the podium area?’ I replied I am trying to guide the visitors and spot VIP’s so that they could be guided separately.
Immediately Radhanath Swami lowered his voice and tone asking piercingly, “How do you know who is a VIP?”
I was dumbfounded and fumbled to even give a reply. Sensing my discomfort Radhanath Swami said “Everyone here is a VIP – why are you discriminating?”
This incident stuck on to my memory and even now when I am at functions I remember to treat everyone with great care and patience, trying to remember the amazing instruction – Everyone is a VIP. And we can see in the life of Radhanath Swami how he treats everyone like a VVVIP.
– Ujjwal Jajoo.
An Exhilarating Moment With Radhanath Swami
In 1998, I often rode Radhanath Swami from an Ayurvedic Clinic in suburban Mumbai to Bhaktivedanta Hospital. He seldom spoke during these journeys, for he would be exhausted after his treatment at the clinic.
On one ride something interesting happened. He was nonchalantly fingering the vehicle’s cassette player and accidently pressed the play button. And guess what? Emerging from the silence, Radhanath Swami’s voice filled the car: the player had Radhanath Swami’s lecture tape in it.
He let it play. After a while, as we soared through the highway, Radhanath Swami reclined on his seat and apparently fell asleep. The mesmerizing lecture played on, every word of it surcharged with the power of devotion. Whenever it sparkled with wit, I peeked from the corner of my eye. And each time I saw Radhanath Swami smile. His eyes were shut, but he was awake and listening.
At the end of the two hour ride, the car halted at the entrance of Bhaktivedanta Hospital. A small group had gathered there to welcome Radhanath Swami and many stood with garlands in their hands. Radhanath Swami opened his eyes, saw them waiting, and closed his eyes again. The lecture played on. Outside the car, people exchanged confused glances. Why was Radhanath Swami not coming out?
Time ticked slowly. After ten minutes the lecture ended. Radhanath Swami opened his eyes. He sat straight. As he opened the car door, turning to me he said, “Good class! Wasn’t it?”
Something I had read about the sage Kardama in the Vedic text Srimad Bhagavatam sprang to my mind.
Kardama Muni, being a saintly person, was living in a humble hermitage, but when he saw the palace constructed by his yogic powers… he himself was astonished. That is the way of a God-gifted person. … When a yogi’s power is exhibited, the yogi himself is sometimes astonished.
I had just witnessed a Bhakti Yogi being astonished by the exhibition of his own power of Bhakti.
– Prakash Nanjudiah
”What can I do for You?”
From 1993, when I was nine, to 2007, Lady Nothcote Hindu Orphanage was my home. At the time it was located close to Radhagopinath temple, in the heart of Mumbai. Recently, it is moved from there to a village named Galtare, so the students can be raised in an environment free from the pollution and dangers of the big city.
While at the Orphanage, every morning before I went to School, I was drawn up the staircase to Radhanath Swami’s room on the first floor. I found his company irresistible. Whenever I arrived, he extended the same affectionate greeting, “Hare Krishna.” Everyday he offered me the Lord’s prasadam, sacred food, usually a Cookie. Conversation was sparse for I knew very little English. But affection of the heart transcended all language barriers.
One day, desiring to reciprocate with his affection, I shyly asked him in whatever English I knew, “What can I do for you?” He had a large following among the rich and the famous. What could I, a poor boy, do for him? Yet, when I asked this question, his eyes shone with delight. With the excitement of an overgrown schoolboy he replied, “You can please me by learning English. Then we can talk so much.” I grinned from ear to ear. Within, I felt sheltered by his affection.
Then on, he frequently would ask me, “Have you learnt English?” and I would respond, “Little. Little”
A leader awed by thousands around the globe, he was as simple as I was, in my company.
Radhanath Swami Takes us on a Pilgrimage within a Pilgrimage
I and my wife were at Vrindavan, the holiest of holy places, but our minds remained distracted, dwelling on the misbehaviors of a co-pilgrim, an acquaintance. He, like us, had joined Radhanath Swami’s entourage of students and friends on this pilgrimage. But some of his rude activities and behaviors made him an odd man out.
One day at Vrindavan we met Radhanath Swami in his room and spewed out a barrage of complaints about our co-pilgrim. He silently listened, the expression on his face veiling any of his thoughts. Once we were finished, and were all ears to hear his response, he took us on a pilgrimage. Through his words he journeyed us to those holy moments of the past when the saintly qualities of our co-pilgrim had shined out. His sincere words of appreciation for him pierced through the layers of negativity that had clouded our minds and a feeling of guilt arose in our hearts: “how lowly of us to have highlighted the faults of such a wonderful person”.
As we hung our heads in shame, Radhanath Swami concluded with a confession. “I once judged a person wrongly when I was boy. Since then I have stopped judging people.”
– Dr. Mukunda Shanbhag
On a Flight with Radhanath Swami
That journey will be forever etched in my memories. With Radhanath Swami sitting next to me, I wouldn’t be in a sweat even if that plane had flown forever.
At the Netaji Shubas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata, Radhanath Swami and I boarded our flight to Mumbai. This was in 2002 when I was sixty three, and yet I felt the excitement of a six year old boy, out on a trip, alone, with his favorite sports star. Radhanath† Swami occupied his seat, while I occupied the one next to his.
Time crawled, and I was conscious of every passing moment, not knowing what to expect at the moment next; everything around seemed to disappear, except for myself and the passenger next. As the plane lunged ahead on the runway and soared into the sky, Radhanath Swami turned to me and grinned. “Should we discuss some spiritual subjects?” I nodded in approval. “You should begin the discussion. Speak something,” he implored me. A story from the Caitanya Lila flashed by my memory, and I babbled that out—quickly: I was restless for what would come next—drops of spiritual nectar from him.
He began to speak from the Srimad Bhagavatam, an episode called ‘Brahma Vimohana Lila’. Every word that spewed out was soaked in the spiritual conviction of his heart. My mind slowly tuned-in to only visualize the episode he narrated and everything around—the plane, the crew, the passengers, and even I and Radhanath Swami—now seemed a distant reality. Time now flew faster than the Jet we were in. In the midst of that enthralling experience, I was interrupted by a thought—untimely, yet profound.
Radhanath Swami is discoursing to me with the same intensity and absorption as he discourses to a crowd of several thousands!
The plane unfortunately landed, and the world around jostled into my mind once again. But I still wonder what makes Radhanath Swami speak the way he speaks. From my observation on that flight, he definitely isn’t driven by the externals: the stature of his podium or the numerical strength of his audience.
– Dr. Bhaskar Hosangadi
What was Radhanath Swami Still Doing Inside?
As I waited outside to have a last word with him, I wondered what Radhanath Swami was still doing in his room: his luggage was already out and a chauffeured car waited for him at the gates. He was returning to Mumbai after a three day spiritual retreat, which had just concluded with his discourse to a crowd of three thousand in the idyllic lawns of Mafatlal Bungalow.
Impatience took me over, and I slightly pushed open the unbolted door, to have a peep.I was stunned—Radhanath Swami was going around picking up scraps strewn on the floor. As I tried to close the door again, it creaked, inviting Radhanath Swami’s inquisitive glance. When he saw me, he called me in. Then, as if explaining his action, he said, “We should vacate the room cleaner than what it was when we first occupied it.”
His civic sense apart, I was enthralled by his simplicity. But for my impatience, neither me, nor the three thousand people waiting outside to see him off, nor anyone else on the planet—except for God—would have ever known what he was doing behind those closed doors—and yet he delighted in that menial service.
– Dr. Ashok Shetty
Radhanath Swami, Always Loving and Caring
Its not unusual to find Radhanath Swami to be in midst of important engagements but still be conscious of apparently simpler things in life. However, on this occasion my opinion was nearly challenged. Radhanath Swami’s secretary was sick and had to be admitted in the hospital. I was trying to fill in the gap and I was expecting that why Radhanath Swami is not asking anything about his secretary. Does he care about him or is he just unconcerned? Fortunately my skepticism could not last long. It was a warm evening and Radhanath Swami had just returned after a very important meeting with some distinguished citizens of Mumbai. I was arranging for few last things of the day and Radhanath Swami was about to take rest when he suddenly asked me about his secretary. I explained to him how he was in the hospital and was now recuperating. I specifically told him that physically he is very weak. Radhanath Swami while sipping his glass of milk very gently and with an air of humor said, “that’s how I always feel” and he began to laugh. I was immediately reminded of the extraordinary sacrifices that Radhanath Swami has done in his life in order to serve others. At times, even at the cost of his health. However this was not enough, a more heart melting experience awaited me when Radhanath Swami asked me, “How are you?” and I replied that I was fine. He continued and said, “Is there anything I can do for you?”, for a moment I was speechless. Here was a man of such spiritual caliber, interacting with so many important people of society but his heart delighted in the simple aspects of life. This interaction has left a deep impression in my psyche and certainly I can no more afford to be skeptical about his caring and loving demeanor towards one and all.
– Abhishek Tyagi
Radhanath Swami Bears the Burden of Love…
Scene 1: Radhanath Swami returns to the banks, drenched in the icy cold waters of the Alaknanda River. But his clothes!!! They aren’t there, where he had left them. A pilgrim comes up and brags, that those clothes are now spotlessly clean. Gleefully he points in the direction where he spread out the clothes on a rock for drying.
The chilly winds are far from being co-operative. Under their sway the moist-clothes have frozen into a crisp icy-ware. Radhanath Swami puts them on, with no complaints.
The next day, we hear he is sick.
Scene 2: Outside Radhanath Swami’s guesthouse room in Badrinath, crowds impatiently clamor. His followers have gathered, and want to render some service to their Guru. One follower appears out of the blue and barges into the room. As others watch on, he quietly places his blanket upon Radhanath Swami whose form lies curled beneath a single blanket. With a content smile he walks out. The crowds disperse, only to reassemble after minutes. But now, each one is carrying a blanket.
In hushed voices, they communicate to form a single line that leads to Radhanath Swami’s room. Ceremoniously, each follower enters and drapes their Guru with a blanket, an offering of love. (Fortunately in 1990 when this incident occurred, only 50 odd of Radhanath Swami’s followers were on this pilgrimage with Radhanath Swami.)
Very soon, it’s a hillock of blankets over the bedstead, and buried beneath is Radhanath Swami. The followers wait outside, their chanting of mantras droning on. They await the recovery of their Guru. Hours pass by.
The hillock slightly trembles. The droning ebbs into an eerie silence. Everyone is transfixed in the sight of the shaking hillock. As some hundred eyes watch on, Radhanath Swami crawls out from beneath, sweltering.
“How’s your cold now?” a concerned voice inquires from Radhanath Swami.
“Cold?!!!!!……I had a stomach ache.”
– Vishakha Priya Devi
Is it the same Radhanath Swami?
Psychic bafflement was the state my mind was cast into on the evening of 31 January 2011.
First time, when I entered his room, Radhanath Swami’s demeanor effused weariness. A rocking chair held him in a sitting posture, still he seemed half asleep. A book held in his hand deserved a better grip, to avoid a fall.
I was aware of the long day of seva, selfless service, he had been through, but nonetheless felt my reason to disturb him good enough. After excusing myself, I proposed, “There’s a professor from Europe who is waiting at the reception. She is touched by your autobiography and wants to see you. Can I bring her in?”
“Anything specific for which she wants to see me?” Radhanath Swami drawled nonchalantly.
“Nothing specific, but…” I was speechless. My rationales were frail vis-à-vis his detachment from honor and recognition.
Radhanath Swami quickly offered a smile, not wanting to embarrass me.
“Just for five minutes please,” I quickly added. I had already promised the professor an audience.
“All right,” his desire to avoid me any disappointment shined in his eyes, through the thick cloud of fatigue.
Second time, when I entered Radhanath Swami’s room after ten minutes, the guest accompanied me. The scene that was to encounter me was jaw-dropping. Radhanath Swami sat erect at his low desk, the same book held firmly in his hand. Hearing our knock on the open door, he leaped up in excitement, as his bright face carried a brilliant, contagious smile. The twinkle in his eyes joined that smile to extend a heart-felt welcome to his guest. Was it the same Radhanath Swami I saw a few minutes ago?
They say a sincere intent touches the soul. The guest broke down upon receiving such hospitality from a revered author. As the two conversed, time flew. All the while, I strained to detect even a speck of weariness in Radhanath Swami’s demeanor, but it eluded my scrutiny. All his weariness had drowned beneath the tall waves of his desire to serve and please his guest, his desire to make her feel welcome and not a burden.
– Abhishek Tyagi
Choosing a Spot for Radhanath Swami
Our little group made a curious sight for the local villagers: though clad in traditional Vedic attire—dhoti and kurta—we had red sports-cap on. We security volunteers wore them to distinguish ourselves from the other pilgrims during this pilgrimage to Vrindavan.
Rice paddies stretched out on all sides. We scurried—one behind the other—along the narrow bank that enclosed the swampy paddy fields, heading towards Malhar Kund way ahead of Radhanath Swami and the other thousand-odd pilgrims. Before they arrived there we had to search out a suitable location for Radhanath Swami to sit and discourse, amidst Malhar Kund’s rural landscape.
Upon arriving at Malhar Kund we found it picturesque. The ponds there radiated serenity; the trees swayed as if in spiritual ecstasy; and the oasis-like feel of the place was enhanced by the treeless fields in the vicinity. But we also found the soupy mud that carpeted the earth and the noon sun that scorched the air inescapable. After desperately meandering around and after much deliberation, we finalized a spot—a little hard ground shaded by trees—for Radhanath Swami to sit and discourse.
After a while the pilgrims headed by Radhanath Swami arrived. Walking up to Radhanath Swami we directed him to our chosen spot. But after brief contemplation Radhanath Swami walked away into the blazing sun and sat on the muddy ground to discourse; he sat facing our chosen spot. Naturally, some of his audience now had to occupy the spot that was chosen for him.
Radhanath Swami tolerated the sun and the swamp, while he discoursed for hours to his audience, at least some of whom fitted in the comfort of the shade and the hard ground of the chosen spot.
– Mr. Abhay Poarekar
Radhanath Swami’s Happiness, in Tolerance
26 November 2009. It was 4:59 a.m. when Radhanath Swami, visibly tired, entered the Radhagopinath temple hall for the morning prayers that would begin in a minute. He hurried towards the deity of his Guru Srila Prabhupada to pay his obeisance.
The last few days had been particularly hectic for Radhanath Swami due to spiritual get-togethers that went till late in the night. I could see how much of an effort it was for him to come for the morning prayers. Today, I could not control myself and I approached Radhanath Swami and blurted, “Why do you push yourself so hard and come for the morning prayers everyday?” He smiled and replied “Because I feel really unhappy when I do not come.” I burst out “But I feel so unhappy to see you in the morning prayers. And I feel really happy when you do not come, knowing that you are taking your well deserved rest. Please do not push yourself so hard.”
“Thank you so much for your genuine concern.” He then laughed loudly, his shoulders heaving, and continued, “However, better that you become unhappy rather than me becoming unhappy.” I retreated, completely defeated.
Attending morning prayers is crucial for one who is serious about progressing in bhakti. But for one who has reached perfection, whose life itself is a prayer, of what value are these regulations? Yet, Radhanath Swami derives happiness in stretching himself, as far as possible, to inspire his followers through his personal presence in the morning prayers.
– Krishnan Iyer
Systematic Torture on Radhanath Swami
As a doctor, day in day out I see people in pain. Some, I see, can tolerate only a little of it, and some a lot. But I am yet to meet another person as tolerant to pain as Radhanath Swami.
Radhanath Swami once had a frozen shoulder. I called our Dr. Chako to be his physiotherapist. Sitting on pins and needles I watched every session of the exercises, in burning anticipation of Chako over-stretching the frozen shoulder, which he often did. And whenever he did, my heart quaked to see Radhanath Swami grimace with pain. I would then jump to rein in the situation. “Chako! This is enough. Don’t stretch the shoulder so much.” But only occasionally did Radhanath Swami himself utter, and every time that he did, it was in favor of Chako’s treatment. Once he said, “No pain. No gain.” Another time he even made a quip. “I am undergoing systematic torture.”
After eight long months of treatment the shoulder recuperated.
A few weeks rolled by and I asked Radhanath Swami, “How’s your shoulder? How’re you feeling now?” He wrinkled his brow. “Which shoulder was it?” I simply smiled. There was no need to answer that question. It looked like the whole eight month experience wasn’t for him—painful enough. If it where, how could the arm that caused it, fade off in his memory? Perhaps this pain was trivial in comparison to the pains, both physical and mental, which he underwent while he was on his spiritual quest, and which he underwent now for helping others in their quest.
– Dr. Girish Rathod
Radhanath Swami puts me in a Daze
“It’s the same as yesterday,” Radhanath Swami mumbled, as his face contorted with discomfort. Nausea had been nagging his frail body for days, and the previous night he had called me up for medical advice. Now hearing that my advice was of no avail, I felt deflated. I excused myself and wandered into the cavernous prayer hall of Radha Gopinath temple, a few minutes walk from his room. It was a Sunday and the weekly Sunday program, a blend of bhakti songs and bhakti discourses was to begin there in an hour’s time.
Devotees thronged in with every passing minute and soon the place was abuzz with eager anticipation of Radhanath Swami’s arrival. He was scheduled to sing and discourse. I felt sorry for the crowd for I knew of the letdown to follow. In the condition he was in, Radhanath Swami couldn’t be blamed if he were not to come.
My jaw dropped open when I saw Radhanath Swami come and take the stage. Initially, his discourse came as an amplified whisper, the microphone serving as a support to his faint voice. But with passing minutes, his enthusiasm swelled and the whisper slowly turned into a thunderous outpour of devotional conviction. Towards the end of his two hour discourse, the microphone looked redundant. Radhanath Swami then went on to lead his group in Kirtan, devotional singing, for another half hour.
I sighed and shook my head in disbelief.
Later I approached Radhanath Swami. Seeing me in a daze, he first looked amused. Then he gravely revealed his heart, which served to explain why he had stretched himself despite his bad health. “Even if God wants this nausea to remain for my whole life, my service to him will not change.”
That evening, with Radhanath Swami’s resounding discourse still echoing in my mind, I returned home struggling to comprehend the extent to which the genuine desire to serve God and humanity had the power to overcome bodily limitations.
– Dr. Ajay Sankhe
One Night at the Monastery
It was 9:00 p.m., time to call it a day at the monastery. Spotting Radhanath Swami taking a casual stroll through the ashram corridors, some of us surrounded him. On such occasions our discussions were more informal, and Radhanath Swami often spoke of his personal life: his childhood, his travels in search for the truth, his realizations while staying in an austere monastery on a mountain in North America, and the adventures of his outreach programs. These intimate talks charmed the monks even more than the transcendental philosophy and drew us affectionately to him.
On this day, a fellow monk raised a question, “We occasionally get discouraged while undergoing even the basic austerities that accompany ashram life. How is it that you never complained even while living through extreme inconveniences in that monastery on a mountaintop?”
Radhanath Swami briefly describes his stay at a mountaintop monastery in his memoir, The Journey Home:
For the next six years I resided in an austere monastery on a secluded mountaintop that one had to trudge a three-mile muddy footpath through a forest to reach. The snow-blanketed winters were frigid there and we had no heat. To bathe, we used a rock to break a layer of ice, then dipped in the icy water. Our sanitation system was to climb down a hill with a shovel in hand and busy our waste in the mud.
Every monk was eager to hear the reply. We pressed ourselves closer.
After a brief silence, Radhanath Swami spoke, “If you simply realize what awaits you on the path of Bhakti, you will roll on the ground and cry tears of joy and gratitude. Krishna has given much, much more than what we deserve.”
It was like a father sharing his deepest secrets with his children. We felt blessed.
– Venugopal Acharya
Radhanath Swami and Cricket
India, a land of billion plus, has an obsession with cricket; not the grasshopper you know that produces a rhythmic chirping sound. This cricket is a game played between two teams with balls and bats. Although hardly a dozen countries in the world play cricket, Indians pride in being one of the best in the world and almost every Indian is glued to his television when India plays an international game.
Radhanath Swami is well aware of this distraction for sincere spiritual seekers in India. Once we arranged his talk on ‘Cricket’ during the peak world cup season. The topic promised to attract thousands of youth to our centre in downtown Mumbai. As the day approached, our community was abuzz with excitement. All wondered what Radhanath Swami would speak on this subject, for cricket awoke intense passion amongst the youth.
In the afternoon, a few hours before the event, Radhanath Swami called me to his room and asked about the game. He didn’t know any details about the sport, except that Indians go bonkers when matches are played. He keenly inquired about the intricacies of the sport and desired to know what aspect of this game would be a relevant theme to discuss in the evening. I spoke on how many top cricketers had been exposed in match fixing scandals and bribe taking. This had bought lot of disrepute to the game. I expressed that he should speak on the theme of ‘greed’ and ‘character’. He liked the idea and promised to address this issue.
An hour before the event, I couldn’t contain my excitement; I too had an obsession for this game before I took up to spiritual life seriously. Many cricket scandals and the dark side of its players was well known to me. I rushed to Radhanath Swami’s room and told him that I would like to share some very serious stories that would help him address the issue better during his talk. Immediately he showed interest and took out his notebook and pen. He then asked me to narrate the stories. I began the tale of famous players who fell to greed, and I was enjoying speaking these stories. However I observed that as I was enthusiastically narrating, Radhanath Swami was intensely gazing at me. At one point I became nervous, wondering why he is concentrating so much on each word that I was speaking. Nevertheless I rambled on for a long time.
After finishing, I honestly said, “If you speak these stories, the audience would be shaken to the core.” He paused, reflected deeply, and soberly replied, “To be very honest, I am not sure if I will speak these incidents. I would want to focus on the spiritual theme of character and need to overcome greed.” Then he continued, “But I am not going to forget these stories. These are very instructive to me personally. I shall take note of them for my personal life. We have to learn lessons from these mistakes and be humble while serving others” Then he thanked me, “You have done me a great favour by instructing me on the dangers of greed. I pray we are protected from this deadly vice.”
I left the room in a daze; I was earlier hoping the talk would shake the audience, but here I was shaken to the core. Most of us in the ashram had been excited about the event, but Radhanath Swami was taking this as yet another opportunity for reflection. He sees every event in life as a learning lesson. I too learnt a valuable lesson that evening; as teachers of spiritual science, we should be more eager to internalize and imbibe lessons in our own lives before being enthusiastic to share with others. ‘Physician heal thyself’, and a teacher teach thyself. Thank you Radhanath Swami, for showing us by your personal example that practice is better than precept.
Once Radhanath Swami and his dear friend, Devamrita Swami were scheduled to give a talk on cricket. Although the world cup season was on, and most Indians were busy watching cricket, the temple courtyard was packed with thousands of youth. The audience was eagerly anticipating an exciting talk by two American monks on a sport that Indians are crazy about.
As both the speakers sat on the chairs, Gauranga Dasa, the master of ceremonies, introduced both of them. Then he picked up a coin from his pocket, and revealed how a game of cricket begins. Each cricket match begins with the two captains of the respective teams walking to the centre of the field and tossing a coin. One of them calls out ‘heads’ or ‘tails’, and on winning the toss, the captain decides how the game would begin. “Similarly”, Gauranga Dasa announced, “amongst the two distinguished speakers this evening, who would speak first shall be decided after tossing the coin”. He then turned to both of them and asked, “What would you prefer, heads or tails?” Spontaneously, without blinking an eyelid, Radhanath Swami replied, “Tails of course, I always like to be a tail. I can’t be the heads”. Sitting close by and hearing this instant response, I was amazed. Radhanath Swami often teaches in his classes on the need to be a servant of all, and on the importance of helping others go ahead in life and achieve success. He always shuns materialistic competitive attitude, and this principle is so deeply internalized by him that even during an insignificant coin tossing, he was conscious of being the ‘tail’ or servant of others.
– Venugopal Acharya
The Magic of the White Rose
I am an Israeli who spent 10 years in New York and only recently went back to Israel with hopes of helping peace arrive in this region that needs it so badly. Since I read Radhanath Swami’s book a few years back, I attended all lectures he gave in New York, always thinking about each lecture for months after and telling everyone who are open enough, about him, his journey and his lectures. Magical things have always happened when his light is around me.
On Tuesday, May 9, I went to see Radhanath Swami speak in Jivamukti of New York, to get energized and focused as I always feel after his lectures. Not knowing if the Swami ever arrives in Israel, I knew this could be the last lecture of his I will see for a long while. I was saddened by this fact but was also thankful for the privilege I was given to see him so close to my departure.
The lecture was inspiring as always and at the end, while Radhanath Swami was giving away cookies to the audience, I walked up to him, scared to take time from him as he looked so tired. I very quickly explained that I was leaving to go back to Israel and desired his blessing to help me bring peace to the Middle East. Radhanath Swami’s eyes lit up and he took my necklace and closed his eyes, investing time in blessing it for the social change I am hoping to help bring to my country. When he was done, he opened his eyes, handing me a cookie and a white rose and asked that I give the flower to someone on the way home.
I walked out of Jivamukti into the hectic Union Square at about 10pm on a Tuesday. The street was rushing and gushing with people and I stood there for a few minutes examining the crowd but my heart couldn’t find the right person to give the flower to. I went underground to take the train home but couldn’t find anyone on the platform or in the train to hand the flower to either. As I got off the train and walked home I felt so disappointed with myself – here I am wandering through New York City without being able to hand out a flower. Walking up my street, I saw a man smoking a cigarette in his yard and decided he would be the one to receive the Swami’s rose. When I came closer to him, I realized I recognized the man – he was the same man who 2 years before, on the night of the Holocaust commemoration, started speaking to me randomly but when he heard I was from Israel, he lashed out at me. It didn’t matter that I was a pro peace Israeli, he hated Israel and felt like he had to yell about it to me for a good hour. Being the granddaughter of 4 Holocaust survivors, it was especially hard to hear his shouts that night and when I got home the tears rushed down my face.
And here this man was, 2 years later, standing in his yard and smoking a cigarette. My heart felt like it stopped as I walked up to him and with the white rose in my hand said, “I don’t know if you remember me, I am Jewish and hope one day you can forgive me”. He caught my wrist and said he has been looking for me for 2 years, embarrassed to speak to me when he saw me in the neighbourhood. He asked me for my forgiveness, said he stopped drinking after that night and how thankful he was that I approached him with the flower. We said goodbye after a few minutes but this story still brings goose bumps to me as I write it. This type of magic kept me up that night, and I am so full of thanks for Radhanath Swami’s energy that allowed such an incident to occur and had given me the honour of being a participant in it. It reinforced my thought that Radhanath Swami’s influence works outward, influencing people beyond the immediate people he touches. Through our Swami I became a messenger to his healing powers, allowing this amazing incident to happen.
I am so thankful.
– Shani Manor
A Stinky Sewer
Shyly I walked into Radhanath Swami’s room and occupied a corner. Radhanath Swami, sitting relaxed on a rocking chair at the other end, beckoned me to come closer. And I sat closer.
He broke into a beautiful smile. “How are you? How are your services going?”
I had joined the monastery a few weeks ago. Being insisted upon by a senior monk, I was here, in Radhanath Swami’s room. The monk had intended to make me feel at home. Yes, now experiencing the gentle smile of the Swami, I felt at home.
“I serve guests who visit our monastery.” I replied. I went on to explain how I liked the service, and the challenges I faced while serving. As I rambled on, at one point Radhanath Swami’s expression grew yucky, as if a stinky sewer had just burst open. I paused. Did I speak something which I wasn’t supposed to speak? In a flash I realized. Inadvertently, I had criticized a guest.
Diverging to another topic, I saved my skin. I had heard from many that Radhanath Swami hates to speak or hear the criticism of anybody. Today I had gained a first hand experience.
– Manish Rajan
What do you think of this altar?
I sat in the temple hall, facing the altar and chanting on my prayer beads. As streams of the faithful flowed in and out of the temple, Radhanath Swami stood in front of the altar, praying. After a while he walked up to me. “What do you think of the altar?”
“It’s beautiful,” I fumbled.
He walked back and stood in front of the altar. After a minute he again walked up to me. “What else do you think of this altar?”
“It’s….it’s……it’s beautiful.” I felt sorry about my inadequate description. Surely, he was thirsting for words that matched the joy he felt as he gazed upon his worshipable deities of Sri Sri Radha Gopinath on the altar.
Radhanath Swami walked back to the front of the altar, only to return after a minute or two. This time as he approached me, a twinkle adorned his eyes, and a contagious smile bloomed on his face—as if he had discovered a suitable description himself. He said, “According to me this altar is the most amazing thing in the fourteen planetary systems.”
– Venugopal Acharya
Radhanath Swami honors a friend’s wish
Nobody knew me better than Bhakti Tirtha Swami. He knew the details of my quest and also my hesitation to write about them. One day he clasped my hand, gazed into my eyes and said, “This is not your story. It is a tale about how God led a young boy onto an amazing journey to seek the inner secrets that lie within all of us. Don’t be miserly. Share what has been given to you.” His voice choked and a tear streaked down his ebony cheek. “Promise me,” he said, “here on my deathbed, that you will write the story.” A few weeks later, on June 27, 2005, he passed from this world. This book is my attempt to honor his wish. –from Radhanath Swami’s Autobiography ‘The Journey Home’
Even before I knew much about spiritual life, destiny made me experience the friendship and love that Radhanath Swami and Bhakti Tirtha Swami shared with each other.
I had just started to frequent Radhagopinath temple. One Sunday, during the weekly discourse that’s attended by thousands, I found an Afro-American sharing the stage with Radhanath Swami. He spoke with exuberance and filled my heart with spiritual inspiration. After the program, I too stood in line to have a personal audience with this new Swami, whose name I came to know was Bhakti Tirtha Swami.
No sooner had I knelt before him that he proclaimed, “You should take initiation”. I was jolted. Though it was an honor to take initiation, and though I had a desire to take initiation, I knew I wasn’t qualified. One had to chant a prescribed number of rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra on prayer beads for several years before one could even think of getting initiated. But before I could put forth my thoughts, Bhakti Tirtha Swami had repeated several times, “You should take initiation”, and every time he said that he indicated that I should take it from Radhanath Swami. As I struggled to adjust with this dream-like situation, Radhanath Swami leaned over to me and whispered, “Who is your counselor?” It was just a week ago that the temple management had recommended my name to a spiritual counselor who would be advising me in how to progress spiritually. I told his name to Radhanath Swami, and quickly walked away, out of the uneasy situation.
A few days later, my counselor called me, “Would you like to take initiation?” Again I was jolted, but this time I knew a reply, “Yes, of course.” As the conversation proceeded, I came to know that Radhanath Swami had contacted my counselor and expressed his desire to give me initiation if I desired to take. Radhanath Swami wanted to give me initiation, though I wasn’t qualified, simply because he wanted to honor the wish of his friend Bhakti Tirtha Swami.
Soon, I was initiated.
– Krishna Das
Radhanath Swami’s Lesson in Leadeship
During a press conference, former tennis great Billie Jean King was asked how she dealt with pressure, and she responded, “Pressure is a privilege. It only comes to those who have earned it.” This quote is one of my favourites, but it’s nonetheless hard when pressure gets on your nerves.
I remember. My husband and I were called upon to take a major responsibility some years ago. Bhakti Rasamrita Swami, the charismatic leader who developed a flourishing congregation of thousands in Belgaum, India, had moved out of Belgaum to answer an emergency elsewhere. The congregation, desperate for a leader, approached us. But how could my husband and I—even when put together—match the leadership calibre of Bhakti Rasamrita Swami? Fretful, I awaited an opportunity to seek the guidance of my guru Radhanath Swami before accepting the offer.
In my seventy-odd years in this world, I have often learnt lessons in the most informal settings. And this time I learnt one on a walkway. My daughter-in-law and I were on a stroll. Suddenly, we spotted Radhanath Swami walking out of Vrindavan Forest, his favourite garden in Mumbai, unaccompanied. My daughter-in-law probed me to grab this opportunity to discuss-out the Belgaum issue. So I walked to Radhanath Swami and burst out, “I am scared!”
“Are you scared of ME?” He first faked a quizzical look, before his body rocked in laughter. Even this initial exchange lifted half the pressure off me. “No,” I replied. “I am scared of taking up a leadership position.” I then went on to explain him my situation.
In the conversation that followed he explained how leadership is about becoming a servant of those we lead, it is about giving love to those we lead, it is all about being the best we can be—for the welfare of those we lead. “So just be yourself,” he concluded. “Don’t try to impress, but give love.”
The conversation lifted off all the remaining pressure.
– Kirtida Devi Dasi.
Radhanath Swami, the Personification of …
The Festival of Inspiration is held in the Appalachian foothills of West Virginia during the delightful mid-spring season. Filled with inspiring lectures, seminars, workshops, entertainment, and dramas, it has become one of the most spiritually inspirational and motivational events of North America. For this year’s festival, I too had joined in.
Radhanath Swami was at the festival, as every year. I had been hearing a lot about him, but we had never met, though both of us are disciples of Srila Prabhupad, the founder of ISKCON.
The day he arrived, as we were crossing each other in the hallway of the guesthouse, he stopped. After studying my eyes, he declared, “Let me tell you the last time I saw you.” His eyeballs rolled up and his index finger shot up, as he strained his memory. Silent moments passed. I was gathering words to convey that it was unlikely that he had ever seen me before, when he interrupted my thoughts, “It was Pittsburg.” After a few seconds’ break he continued, “1972. You were on stage. You were putting up a drama before Srila Prabhupad at Syrian Mosque.” That was 38 years ago, and still he remembered me! My mouth dropped open, my eyes filled with tears, and my heart bustled with the joy of meeting an old friend; I suddenly felt so close to him. We embraced.
All I can say is Radhanath Swami is the personification of personalism. When he sees people, he sees amongst them—every individual person.
– Chandra Shekar Das
Radhanath Swami While Walking through the Courtyard
This happened in 2000. My daughter, age six, played with her friends in the courtyard of Radhgopinath Temple, while my wife and I socialized in a nearby garden. Radhanath Swami, while passing through the courtyard, stepped right in front of my daughter. His face radiating a smile, and his fingers pointing to her, he announced to no one in particular, “She is my friend.” Then he walked away.
My little daughter felt assured that Radhanath Swami knew her and loved her. Her confidence in that relationship wouldn’t diminish, despite any second interaction with him, for years. My wife and I were amused by her childish innocence, “Radhanath Swami might have passed that remark to thousands just to make them feel good. How could he know all of them, let alone love all of them?!” But we didn’t have the heart to disappoint her.
In 2010, one Sunday, my daughter, now sixteen, talked with her friends in the courtyard of Radhagopinath Temple, while my wife and I socialized in the nearby garden. Radhanath Swami, while passing through the courtyard, stepped right in front of my daughter. His face radiating a smile, and his fingers pointing to her, he announced to no one in particular, “She is my friend.” Then he walked away.
Now, even we felt assured that Radhanath Swami knew our daughter and loved her. How unambiguously had he conveyed the feelings of his heart to a child, through just a little interaction! And how wonderfully was the truth of that relationship revealed to us today!
– Rajendra Kumar mahadev pujari