Built to advise the Crown Imperial since 1295, the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster hosted a gathering to acknowledge the 40th anniversary of Bhaktivedanta Manor. The House of Lords is the upper house of the UK Parliament. With the kind permission of the Lord Speaker, the event was hosted in the Principal State Room for an intimate gathering. Honorable guests included members of royal families from the UK, Europe, Burma and Russia, as well as over one hundred celebrities.
Through the philosophy and culture of Krishna Consciousness, Bhaktivedanta Manor has built a track record of improving the quality of life in the UK through its spiritual initiatives. The 40th anniversary this year is therefore a truly national celebration.
As a close relative of the UK Royal Family and one who frequently undertakes royal duties, Her Royal Highness Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia began by lauding the 40th anniversary as a great landmark celebration. She expressed the happiness of her aunt, Her Majesty the Queen of England, who enjoyed the hospitality of Bhaktivedanta Manor at the Krishna Avanti Primary School in her Jubilee year.
Radhanath Swami kindly interrupted his European itinerary to travel to London for this event. In order to personalize his speech and to directly help guests within their influential occupations of responsibility, the speech aimed to illustrate how a spiritual leader addresses national concerns and practically applies spiritual principles. As an international spiritual guide, Radhanath Swami was specifically requested to share his views and experiences on how spirituality, during difficult economic and political times, can be used to build communal love, uplift people, bring society together, and give hope and certainty of a positive future. He began by reflecting on his privilege in being present at a historical place of British Parliament, where many significant decisions have been made throughout history that have affected the entire world. Radhanath continued by describing the global propensity to quarrel over superficial objects as a waste of human life. Rather, he insisted, one should instead focus on fulfillment and love as the two sides of true importance.
Speaking on the subject of Parliament setting an example for society, Radhanath Swami noted that in a cultured society, people love people and use the things of this world. “But all too much it is seen that people love things and use people to somehow get them and keep them!” he noted. In order to check an uncultured society he promoted the universal principle of humanity, which involves loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. In this way one can begin to learn how to love all living beings and thus cultivate a cultured society. To qualify the type of love on which he was speaking, Radhanath Swami asserted that love is required to be unmotivated in order to give satisfaction to the heart. “This message is especially important for today in the face of so many challenges in the economy, in politics, religion and so many other aspects of life.”
Outlining the secrets of prosperity and nationwide development, Radhanath Swami explained that humanity, if it is to grow, must learn to reach out and care for one another by intertwining at the root. Although this may be a difficult task, he reminded guests of an experiential universal law for all difficulties: “When things come cheaply it is the nature to take it for granted. But when one has to struggle for the same thing, according to the nature of the struggle, one understands the value of what is received. Therefore, struggle gives rise to the greatest of wisdom and joy.”
In summarizing his personal spiritual journey, Radhanath Swami annotated his experience of living in the caves of the Himalayas. “The only way to survive amongst cobras, scorpions, deadly spiders and other dangerous native residents is to see, respect,t and honor the living force within them – the atma. Otherwise one will be killed!” He next illustrated how Srila Prabhupada put this wisdom into context as the greatest need of the planet today. “True wisdom is to see every living being with equal vision, regardless of color, religion, belief or species. Wherever there is life, there is a sacred part of God.”
Radhanath Swami emphasized the importance of realizing the sacredness firstly of who we are, so that we can then respect the sacredness of all other living entities. “This starts with loving the root in the form of the Supreme Lord, for by doing so, our love naturally extends to all the living being as His parts and parcels.” In addressing the concept of peace and its current emphasis in the world, he showed how society is predominately outwardly focused. “Today in the world, we have spent a tremendous amount of energy to discover outer space. But unfortunately, we very much neglect to discover our own inner space.”
Radhanath Swami next described the role of values both for oneself and the nation, and how easy it is to spiritualize one’s occupation. Quoting Shakespeare, he commented: “If you lose your wealth you lose nothing; if you lose your health you lose something; if you lose your values you lose everything.” The role of our individual values and occupations were described as either material or spiritual, depending on one’s personal intent. “Everything in the world – abilities, wealth, technology, sciences – when used for egoistic selfish purposes, is material. But when used in the service of God, in harmony with His will, in the spirit of compassion for others, then it is spiritual and will do great good for the world.”
Giving an example of the Vedic model for wealth management, Radhanath Swami asserted that wealth is considered the energy of Lakshmi, the Supreme Mother and Goddess of Fortune. Perhaps the first time ever in Parliament, a speech claimed that wealth is sacred! “When we understand that we are not the proprietors but trustees of wealth, we then understand how wealth is meant to be utilized for higher purposes,” Radhanath Swami explained.
The assembly, consisting of guests who were either successful millionaires or billionaires, amazingly broke into a round of applause when the Swami concluded this topic with an outstanding revelation: “If you want to find out how rich you are, then find out how many things you have that money cannot buy. That is real wealth.”
In terms of spiritual efforts, Radhanath Swami established a benchmark for recognizing genuine spirituality in any claimant: “People talk about loving God; but seeing everyone with equal vision and being an instrument of humility, forgiveness, and compassion is the actual testimony that there has been love of God awakened within us.” Moved by this statement, the entire assembly expressed its united agreement.
To summarize the medium of success and prosperity for any nation, Radhanath Swami commented: “When we learn ourselves and teach our children about true values and wealth, then only will the world prosper, economically, politically, in religion, education and all other aspects of life.” In addressing the issue of maintaining integrity despite existing in a world of duality, he suggested that one give time to develop a strong spiritual foundation, from where one can remain equipoised, fulfilled, and upstanding even in the face of great storms in life. Quoting from the Bhagavad-gita, he described how the actions of leaders in society tend to establish examples for the common people. With the assembly consisting mainly of individuals in the upper echelons of their occupations, he rightly encouraged: “It is a desperate need in the world for leaders to really set examples of true moral and spiritual values.”
Detailing the sacrifices and efforts of his spiritual master to bring the message of Bhakti throughout the entire world, Radhanath Swami shared how he found such a perfect example of these principles in Shrila Prabhupada. He specifically took delight in sharing the prayers of Shrila Prabhupada after his celebrated cargo ship journey from India to the U.S. He revealed how Shrila Prabhupada prayed to the Lord to please make his words relieve people from suffering and to make them truly happy. In describing how Shrila Prabhupada inspired people all over the world in this way, he spoke about George Harrison, who was inspired to purchase Bhaktivedanta Manor for ISKCON. Radhanath Swami concluded: “He was inspired to utilize what God had given to him to educate and inspire humanity in a wonderful way. And in this great place, the House of Lords, we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of this offering of love and compassion. Thank you very much.”
Following an extended round of applause, an international favorite in show business and a celebrity icon in the UK, Ms. Patti Boulay echoed this gratitude on behalf of the entire assembly during the next speech. She began by saying: “I have never been so nervous, having to follow the speech of His Holiness. I was hanging onto every word. All that I prepared to say is out of the window because we heard from the expert!”
Ms. Boulay explained that she would like to speak a little about herself since it happened to tied in with the purpose of the event. She explained that she had started show business 40 years ago purely by accident. While on holiday she went to Madame Tussauds. However, upon arrival she mistakenly stood in an audition queue for a show called Hair at Shaftesbury Theatre. After queuing for two hours she asked the doorman how much it was to enter. “You don’t pay – you sing!” he replied. Wow! Ms. Boulay had thought. “I put my money back in my pocket,” she said, “because…I can sing!” When she arrived at the stage she noticed that all were singing the same song. She continued, “When it came to my turn I got the job because they were looking for a soprano to sing: ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.’ The entire assembly was stunned to hear the maha mantra sung in an exquisitely beautiful traditional tune in Patti’s sweet voice. Everyone joined in singing and delightfully clapped along! “So my job in show business, thanks to Hare Krishna, started with that! And it is an honor to be here tonight and to hear His Holiness Radhanath Swami. I look forward to visiting the Manor.”