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