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.