On June 19, 2011, Radhanath Swami spoke at the annual Boston Yoga and Chant Festival. For this weekend-long event, the Royal Plaza Trade Center—a large yet unglamorous convention center adjacent to a Best Western hotel in the MetroWest suburbs of Massachusetts—was at once transformed into a Mecca of spiritual seekers, spiritual teachers, yogis & yoginis, vegans & vegetarians, devotional musicians from the mantra scene, artists, dancers, new age healers, and everyday people in search of something higher.
In front of a big, beautiful backdrop of blazing orange and yellow colors that blended seamlessly with the saffron robes of a monk, Radhanath Swami told several stories before an eager and responsive crowd. The audience was swept away from the Massachusetts suburbs to a frantic scene in Vrndavana, India, where a pack of wild, voracious monkeys surrounded a newborn calf. As the calf shook in terror and cried out for its mother, tears streamed from its eyes. The mother, hearing the cry of her calf, ran to scene, fearlessly fought off the monkeys, and finally fed her calf to provide comfort. Analogous to the calf’s crying out in desperation for its mother, we too must sincerely call out and chant the names of God. Protection, fearlessness, comfort, and love will surely follow.
The audience was then transported to the holy place of Prayaga—where the sacred Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati rivers come together in a magnificent confluence. Radhanath Swami described how his well-intentioned swim across the river turned into the struggle of his life as he was forcefully pulled into the quicksand of the riverbank. After a long and terrifying struggle, he escaped the quicksand, only to face death again as he lost the strength to swim against the raging currents. He began to drown. A fisherman in a boat waved his hand in a sweeping motion, but simply passed him by. As he surrendered to the river and plunged under water, the Hare Krsna Mantra miraculously awakened in his heart. On the verge of death, he instantly realized what the fisherman had tried to tell him. Using his final drop of strength, instead of swimming against the current, he rode the Yamuna’s current and eventually swam to safety. Radhanath Swami then led the audience on a pilgrimage to a precious temple in Vrndavana—a simple closet where Ghanashyam—a devoted servant and devotee of Krsna—worshiped and served his beloved Radha Krsna deities every day of his life. As a young college-aged man many years ago, Radhanath Swami was led to Ghanashyam’s beloved temple.
Ghanashyam was so happy to meet him: “You are Krsna’s friend!” he said. “Krsna has sent you here, and I am your servant.” Since he saw everyone as a dear friend of God, for such a visitor to his simple closet temple, Ghanashyam wanted to give up everything—the 3 small rotis (round flatbread) on which he sustained himself each day, and even his blanket during the cold winter months. The story of Ghanashyam teaches us that we must too must see every living being as not just as a part of God, but a friend of God—and that we should love and serve each other in that same spirit of pure devotion and love.
Concluding his talk, Radhanath Swami taught the audience what is unarguably the most important yoga asana of all—Saranagati Asana—the asana of surrender. As he chanted the names of the Lord, the audience performed this asana, and chanted and danced with full enthusiasm. With the dependency of a newborn calf on its mother, like the sincere call for help by someone drowning in a river, and with the pure love and devotion of Ghanashyam, we should chant the names of the Lord: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.