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, CEO, Bhakti Centre, New York City.