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.”