On May 5th, 2014, Radhanath Swami was interviewed for the Recovery 2.0 conference, a free online conference showcasing the voices of top professionals and thought-leaders to deliver cutting-edge scientific, spiritual, and practical approaches to treating and overcoming addictions of all kinds. A transcript of the interview can be found below.
Tommy: Welcome to the Recovery 2.0 Beyond Addiction conference. I’m your host, Tommy Rosen, and I’m so honored to be speaking with Radhanath Swami. Radhanath Swami is one of the world’s most prominent exponents of Bhakti, the devotional path of yoga. He is the author of The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami, a memoir which documents his extraordinary odyssey as a (inaudible) teenage hitchhiker through Europe, the Middle East, and finally India.
Today, Radhanath Swami travels regularly throughout India, Europe, and North America. He is the head of the Radha Gopinath Ashram, a thriving spiritual community in Mumbai. For the past 25 years, he has guided the community’s development and has initiated a number of acclaimed social action programs, including Midday Meals, which daily serves more than 320,000 plates of nutritious vegetarian food to the children of the Mumbai slums.
He has also worked to establish missionary hospitals and medical camps, eco-friendly farms, schools, and ashrams, an orphanage, and a number of emergency relief programs throughout India. Radhanath Swami, thank you so much for your blessing and honoring us with your presence at Recovery 2.0. Welcome.
Radhanath: It’s truly my great honor and joy to be with all of you today.
Tommy: So Radhanath Swami, I want to just jump right in… I’m assuming that most of our audience, while they have heard the word yoga before, they may not have heard the words Bhakti yoga before. I know we’re going to talk about Bhakti and I want to begin with having you explain, if you would for our audience, what is Bhakti yoga.
Radhanath: Yoga means to reconnect our consciousness with our true self. It means to harmonize our body, our mind with our self and with God. Yoga is a practice of harmonizing all of our actions, all of our words, all of our thoughts with God, with all living beings, and with all of creation. This is really what yoga means. And Bhakti is the yoga of love, the yoga of devotion. In Bhakti it is taught that all of our material desires with their longings, gratifications, frustrations, they all stem from forgetfulness of the love that is blooming within each and every one of our hearts.
In Bhakti, we believe that love in its true sense is unconditional. It’s unmotivated by any selfishness, unmotivated by any egoism. And it cannot be interrupted by any circumstances that may come in our lives. This is a basic teachings of Bhakti, that the living force within all of us, that is seeing through the eyes and hearing through the ears and thinking through the brain and loving through the heart, that living force that animates the body is sat, cit, ananda – eternal, full of knowledge and full of bliss.
The body and the mind are like vehicles, like the inside and outside of a car. But we are the driver. The purpose of the car is to fulfill the purpose of the driver. Unless we understand who we truly are and what our needs are, and we harmonize all of our physical, emotional and mental activities with the real nature of our self, there can be no true fulfillment. That ananda, which is the happiness that everyone is searching for, is the happiness of the love that is within us, love for God.
Love for God is justly described as if you put water on the root of a tree… automatically that water will reach every part of the tree – the leaves, the twigs, the branches. So similarly, when we revive our natural love for God – in my tradition we call God by the name Krishna, which means the All-attractive, All-loving Supreme Being – then naturally that love will flow to every part of God, every living being, all varieties of humans, all species of life. And we also learn to live in harmony with the environment, the ecology.
That love is such a deep eternal experience. It’s what everyone is looking for but somehow or other we’re looking in so many other places for it. There’s an example in the Himalayas of the musk deer. This musk deer has an incredible fragrance in one of its glands. In fact, the secretions of that gland in the form of musk sometimes sells for about $45,000 per kilo. So this deer smells the musk and is looking for the source of it; he goes through the jungle, sometimes crossing rivers, sometimes getting thorns, never understanding that what he’s really looking for is within himself.
And similarly in this world, we’re looking anywhere and everywhere for true satisfaction – but it is within ourselves. It’s that love. It is our greatest potential, our greatest need. And Bhakti is the process of reconnecting with that love within us through chanting of mantras, through living a life where we try to harmonize everything we do in the spirit of seva. Seva means service for the pleasure of our Beloved, service in the spirit of being an instrument of God’s compassion in whatever we do.
Tommy: Thank you. I’m wondering as somebody who… I live in the western world and people are very familiar with the physical practice of yoga. And what you’ve just described – you mentioned mantra and you mentioned the harmonizing of everything we do in the spirit of seva – I just want to say that what you’re talking about is so totally attractive to me. I want what you’re describing.
And I’m wondering, and I know as people who struggle with addiction, I’m wondering how did we get away from this if it’s our natural state of being? How did we get away from that? What does that? And what is the practice within Bhakti yoga by which we can get back to it? I want to try to understand because what you’re saying is beautiful and amazing, so how can I access it?
Radhanath: In order for love to be truly fulfilling, we must have free will. And that free will means we can choose not to love. We can choose alternatives to that love. And part of the perfection of our creation is that we have this free will, which facilitates a great intimacy in our relationships with God, with his creation and with all living beings. Somehow or other, due to the association of people and things that we’re exposed to, we have a tendency to be distracted from what our real needs and our real wants are.
Therefore, satsang, the company with people who are really focused on this universal, spiritual cause is so very, very important. And I think that AA has really developed and expanded this principle, about how important it is to be with like-minded people to help us overcome these tendencies, these temptations, these fears that we’ve somehow or other accumulated in our lives. Satsang, association with like-minded spiritual people, helps keep us focused. It helps to protect us and helps us to actually live our lives in harmony with what our real purpose is.
Tommy: Thank you. So with the satsang of 12-Step programs – I just want to underline this point – you’re saying there’s a connection with Bhakti, that in a sense the practice of going to a 12-Step meeting and sitting amongst people who share spiritual principles is actually a Bhakti practice, yes?
Radhanath: When that principle of coming together for a common purpose – to inspire, encourage, nourish, and protect each other – is directed toward devotion to God, then it is Bhakti. Actually coming together so that all of us become one in spirit to take shelter of this higher power, to take this higher power for the purpose of being instruments at the level of that higher power, then that becomes Bhakti.
Tommy: Thank you. Thank you. And obviously there’s a very powerful and beautiful tradition of chanting and song, mantra and music in your tradition. It really speaks to the power of words and to the power of congregating around this vibration, this high vibration of music. I wanted to try to understand and explain for people the musical piece of your tradition and how that fits into the Bhakti path, if you can speak to that.
Radhanath: The Sanskrit word “mantra” comes from two syllables – “man” means the mind; “tra” means to deliver or to liberate. So mantra is a transcendental or spiritual sound vibration that liberates the mind from the anxieties and the sufferings of material existence. When we experience something so much deeper, so much richer, so much higher, then naturally we can give up those entangling lesser distractions that our mind is preoccupied with.
So this mantra is the chanting of God’s names. And there are many names of God. The great avatar of Bhakti, Sri Caitanya Prabhu, said namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-shaktis. “My dear Lord, you have so many names that you have revealed through different religions and different times and different places. And in each and every one of these names, you have invested your grace.” The most powerful of all energies within creation is God’s grace. It’s sweet. It’s gentle, but it’s all-powerful.
And we can connect to that grace through the chanting of these mantras. It’s like a television or radio. There are many different channels you could tune into. That means the vibrations of all these different frequencies are everywhere. And according to what we tune into, that’s what we’re going to access. We can tune into a football game in Texas or we can tune into live news from Baghdad. The frequency that Bhakti yogis are seeking to tune into is grace – that grace that cleanses us, purifies us, and nourishes us with the true fulfillment that we’re all seeking.
So the chanting of a mantra and meditating in this way is tuning us into God’s grace, tuning us into God’s beauty, tuning us into God’s love. When we do this personally, at a private level, it has a great, great effect of restoring our true essence. And when we share with each other this chanting, then we become like one heart to that same grace. When together we are celebrating, celebrating the grace that is there through this kirtan or bhajan, we are also emitting like little antennas and we believe that the origin of all music is in the spiritual world, where in our tradition we approach God as Krishna. And Krishna charms the hearts of all living beings by playing on his flute.
And there is singing – singing about the beauty and glories of his love for us. When we reciprocate by singing individually or together with beautiful music and wonderful instruments, it’s not a question of how expert musicians we are. The real connection comes from the sincerity of our heart. Some people are wonderful musicians with beautiful voices. But if we are using our full energy to reconnect to that frequency of God’s love, even if a person doesn’t have a good voice or isn’t very good with instruments, whatever we can do, whoever we are, the Supreme Being is not concerned with our material abilities or shortcomings.
Bhakti is offering the purpose and the intentions of our will to serve, our will to be instruments of the Lord’s compassion. Whoever we may be – educated or uneducated, rich or poor, man or woman, black, white, red, yellow, eastern or western – the atma, the soul is within every living being. Even within the elephant and the cow and the dog and the cat and the fish, there is the presence of the Divinity – the soul, a child of God.
To have the intention to respect, to honor, to be instruments of God’s compassion to others… as we develop that nature within us which is inherent, then whatever we do is a wonderful, wonderful offering. And kirtan is when we see in this spirit by tuning in to that grace, filling ourselves with that grace and then filling the world with that grace.
Tommy: Thank you. I’ve said to people when they ask me about the elements that are required for a person to recover from acute addiction – which could be drug addiction or alcoholism or food addiction, whatever it is – I’ve said I really feel people need two things. One is a spiritual path that leads to the truth. And the second is a community to support that path. It seems like – well, it doesn’t seem like – Bhakti yoga certainly provides both of those things.
There’s a path that leads to truth and there’s a built-in community that gathers on a regular basis and connects in this way and chants the names of God and does this work. So it appears to me that this is an extraordinary path for someone to get on who would like to reconnect with their heart and reconnect with themselves if they have been struggling with acute addiction. Now, I also feel that the 12 Steps may help lay a foundation so that the spiritual work they might do on the path of Bhakti yoga can be more effective for them.
I’m thinking now about how some people get very cut off from their heart through addiction – they might sit and chant the names of God and they may remark after that, “I felt nothing. I didn’t feel it. I couldn’t penetrate. This doesn’t make sense to me.” Because they’ve been so cut off from their heart, there’s not that open gateway…does this make some sense?
Radhanath: It makes much sense. Thank you, Tommy.
Tommy: Okay. So, I want to assist people who would be called to this path; I want to create access for them. I also want to make sure that for a person who is struggling with acute addiction, maybe there’s some groundwork that needs to be laid through the 12 Steps first that allows them to access this beautiful path if they’re called down the path of Bhakti. I don’t want somebody to be turned onto this path and experience a kirtan or a bhajan or a connection like this and then say, “Oh, it didn’t work for me. It just wasn’t my thing. I couldn’t feel it.” So could you comment a little bit about this?
Radhanath: I could try. This one is so beautiful and enriching. Thank you, Tommy. You have such a sensitive and genuine concern for so many people’s welfare.
Tommy: Thank you, Radhanath Swami.
Radhanath: Thank you very, very much for that. Your friendship and your presence really is a beacon of light and hope, to me and to some others, and I think for the whole world. Thank you. In my experience – I’m 63 years old so I have wandered around the world over the years, and I’ve found that so many of the people who become implicated in addiction, alcoholism, drug addiction are sensitive people who are fervently seeking something real and genuine in their lives, but the world puts so many frustrations in their path.
They’re looking for relief. They’re looking for alternatives. And oftentimes, that vulnerability is actually truly a blessing if we just redirect that vulnerable tendency that we have. In the path of Bhakti, we understand that we are parts of the Supreme. We are dependent on the grace of Krishna, God. And in Bhakti we can become independent of these frustrations, of these distractions by becoming completely dependent on the higher power of grace.
It’s not just trying to negate the problems. Rather, it’s about trying to take shelter of that which is above and beyond all of these problems. And so many people in this world have so much ahankar or false ego. People become very arrogant in order to try to satisfy that ego; or sometimes if the ego is not satisfied, they become very depressed. These are both the influence of this ahankar or false ego.
Participating in Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12-Steps program, is actually to humble ourselves to realize that we’re vulnerable, to realize that the powers of nature, the powers of addiction, the powers of the mind’s desires are really beyond our control. But it is said God helps those who help themselves – that if we just take shelter of God and give everything that we can to discipline our lives in a healthy way, then the higher power of grace will come to actually restore us.
Tommy: Thank you. I want to talk a little bit about Arjuna, if that’s okay.
Radhanath: Yes, please.
Tommy: In my estimation, when I look at the Bhagavad-gita through the lens of addiction and I try to relate, I relate to Arjuna in his struggle. I connect with the idea of being at the mercy of my senses and at the mercy of confusion. I see Arjuna in many respects not unlike any human being and I really resonate with the idea that, in his questioning, he very much resembles a person who is struggling with addiction. I was wondering if we could speak a little bit about what the Bhagavad-gita might suggest, what lessons it may offer for a person who is in the struggle.
There’s two struggles. One is, “I know I’m not in alignment with myself. I’m in the middle of addiction and I don’t know what to do next. Should I stop? Can I stop? How do I stop?” That’s one struggle. The other struggle is, “I’m already on a path of recovery and I don’t know if I should stay the course. I don’t know if I should continue on. There’s so much struggle. I’m having such a challenging life. I don’t know if this is the right path for me.” The Gita is so chock-full of lessons that I have been able to apply to addiction. And I’d love to get your commentary on some of that.
Radhanath: The Bhagavad-gita is a historical narration that took place within the context of Mahabharata, a great 1,000-verse scripture in the Vedic literatures. Bhagavad-gita takes us to Kurukshetra, where long ago there was a great world war or battle that was about to take place. On one side was the side of good, the side of compassion, the side of morality, virtue; on the other side was evil, exploitation, cruelty. Yoga, Bhakti yoga is meant for the purpose of transformation… transformation of our hearts and our consciousness, transforming arrogance into humility, greed into generosity, hate into love.
Arjuna is standing between these two forces. He has attachments on both sides. He’s helpless. He can’t come to a clear decision. He doesn’t have the strength to actually fight for what was right. At that point when he truly realizes his vulnerability, how confused he is, he says, “Krishna” – who is his chariot driver, who is the Supreme Being or God who had incarnated within this world – “Krishna, I can no longer protect. I can no longer sustain what my real purpose is. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Please help me. Please guide me.”
And this is the point where Arjuna realized that without this higher power, he was helpless in his predicament. We all have the divine and also the selfish tendency within us. There’s an example that there are two dogs living in everyone’s heart – a good dog, and a bad dog. The good dog represents humility and compassion and peace, generosity and love; and the bad dog envy, anger, selfish passions, illusion.
Each of these dogs are barking. They’re calling for our attention. For many of us, it’s very difficult because we have been so habituated to following the dictations of the bad, yes? Addiction is the howling of this bad dog. Sometimes we become so consumed that we can hardly even hear the good dog anymore. So yoga, Bhakti, is to focus on nourishing the good dog. Which dog is going to win this fight? It’s the one we choose to feed. That’s going to give it strength to overcome the other.
Similarly, in the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna was there between his negative side and his positive side, between all the influences of the world that were pulling him. And ultimately, he humbled himself before the higher power of God who was standing before him as Krishna. And he took shelter of Him. He surrendered. In the material sense, surrender means you’re defeated. But in the spiritual sense, surrender is the ultimate victory.
In surrendering, by humbling ourselves before that higher power and living in harmony with that higher power, we actually become liberated from all the influences of within and without that are dragging us away from our true essence and our true goal. Bhagavad-gita is a perfect scripture in the sense that it represents each and every one of us in the world that we live in today.
As it is said in the Bible, we should be “in this world but not of this world.” This is very much a message of the Gita. We can perform our duties in harmony with the true calling of our hearts, in harmony with the natural love for God and for others that is within us. The mantra that is very much focused upon in our tradition – “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare” – this is called the Maha Mantra in the Vedas. There are many, many mantras. This mantra is very much highlighted. It is a universal principle that actually reconnects us with that divinity, with that potential that we have. We can live in this world as instruments of grace, compassion, and spread real happiness. Addiction is just a temporary disconnect.
We are trying to find relief from the anxieties and the sufferings and the shortcomings that are facing us in this world. Addiction is trying to find relief through the higher power of intoxication. Because in one sense, addiction is a very high power. It actually helps us to, at least momentarily, temporarily forget all of these things. But unfortunately, it’s a higher power that eventually makes things even worse. And now we’re under the control of this higher power. Bhakti is seeking shelter in the highest power that can liberate us not only from the addictions, but also from the situations that were the cause of our seeking our addictions. True recovery is just coming back to our natural, spiritual, healthy condition.
Tommy: Thank you. Thank you. So the word transformation… in a sense we’re transforming, I guess, our perspective, our vision, our understanding of things. But truthfully, what we’re really being called to do is more to realize what is already within us more than to transform. There seems to be a slight difference there, but I wanted to clarify that point. Is that true?
Radhanath: Yes, it is very true. It’s a matter of how we define transformation – it’s transformation in the sense from illusion to reality, transforming our awareness from that of illusion to the truest reality. When we come into contact with our true self, what actually transforms is our character. The actual experience of enlightenment is more an awakening than a transformation. It’s an awakening to who we are and who we truly have always been.
As that awakening takes place, our desires, our aspirations, and the character with which we live, those things are naturally transformed upon the awakening taking place. And this awakening takes place in a gradual way for most people. As you asked previously, some people when they first begin hearing kirtan or doing meditation, they may not experience immediately that happiness, that joy, that transformation. But countless people over countless generations have been awakened and restored to their natural quality through this process.
In India, jaundice is quite common. And the cure for jaundice traditionally is sugar cane juice, natural organic sugar cane juice. When you drink sugar cane juice in a healthy state, it’s very sweet. But if you have jaundice, it’s terribly bitter. It’s not the juice that’s bitter, it’s our diseased condition that perceives it as bitter.
Radhanath: But if we just keep taking it gradually, it has the power to purify us. And as our disease is becoming cured, we actually taste the sweetness of it. So, similarly in the process of Bhakti or in the process of our spiritual path, at the beginning it may be kind of bitter because of our unhealthy condition. But with satsang, with people who actually are helping to support us, there’s the faith that “Yes, this will work. It has worked for so many and it will work on me. Let me just keep taking this purifying medicine.”
Then in the course of time, we’ll taste its sweetness. We’ll feel its joy. We’ll attain that liberation that we’re seeking. But anything good in this world takes perseverance and patience. We have to have enthusiasm to accept the disciplines that will really bring us to the state of recovery. But at the same time, while we are persevering, it’s very important that we have patience. It may take some time. And in the company with one another, the greatest thing we can give each other is the faith to carry on however difficult it may be, however it may seem like it’s working or not working.
We are united, as you said. We have a process and we have communities to support each other, to carry on in that process.
Tommy: Thank you. Thank you so much. One of my favorite lessons from the Bhagavad-gita is dharma, and the importance for a person to pursue their own dharma as opposed to being caught in the dharma that somebody else perhaps thinks you should pursue, or pursuing another dharma – your duty, your calling in life – for the wrong reasons. What I understand is that the Gita explains this can never bring happiness and contentedness if we’re pursuing a calling that’s not meant for us.
It seems to me that people who are struggling with addiction, particularly drugs and alcohol, and if they’re really, really, really stuck in it, that in a sense the dharma that they’ve chosen in life, at least at that time, that the calling is actually to be an addict. And the reason I bring that up is because I’m absolutely sure that nobody’s dharma is to be an addict. Therefore, for people who have taken that on as their identity – “I am a drug addict,” “I am an alcoholic,” “I am an addict in this way, that way, the other way,” – have to be out of alignment with their dharma.
In a sense, that should end any mental confusion about whether they are going to continue doing drugs or not doing drugs. If they are going to live up to the calling of their spirit, it can’t be on the path of using substances and behaviors that are self- destructive. That couldn’t possibly be somebody’s dharma. The Gita talks of this, yes?
Radhanath: There are various levels of understanding of the word dharma. Some people translate dharma as one’s occupation, some as one’s religion, some as one’s nature. In the true sense, sanatana dharma, or our true dharma, is explained like this – that which is inseparable from who we really are. The dharma of water is that it’s liquid. You could temporarily put it in a situation where it’s freezing. But as soon as you bring it to a more natural climate, it melts. It’s liquid.
The dharma of a chili pepper is it’s hot. So, similarly, what is our inherent, inseparable nature? In the path of Bhakti we understand, and this is what the Gita is emphasizing, that our dharma is seva – to serve with love. This is our eternal nature. The supreme all-loving Lord, we believe, is a supreme, all-attractive, all-loving person. And we are people. And we are all brothers and sisters within this world, and we have personal relationships.
To serve with love, to serve with compassion is actual dharma. But when we forget that dharma, we become so much preoccupied in others’ conceptions of our identity. I’m American or Indian or Russian, or I’m male or female, or I’m a musician or a businessperson, or I’m a drug addict or an alcoholic, or I can’t get drugs out of my mind, I can’t get eating food out of my mind. These are all impositions. And we identify with them oftentimes because they have a strong pulling and because we’ve been identifying with that pulling for a long time.
But Bhagavad-gita and all the true great scriptures of the world are teaching us how to awaken to our real dharma – that I am sat, cit, ananda. I am the living force that is within this body, that is activating the body and mind and is the witness of life, and I am eternal. And I am, by nature, full of the ananda, the bliss, which is our capacity to love.
I have one very dear friend. She was dying of cancer. She lived in London and I went to visit her on her deathbed. I remember she was a very active woman. She had five children. She was very, very independent in the sense that she loved to accomplish things. And here she was paralyzed. She couldn’t walk. Her husband was there to clean her urine and her excrement because she couldn’t even do that. She had to be spoon-fed. Can you imagine such an active, dynamic person in that state? And she was expressing to us how she felt so helpless and almost humiliated by this whole situation.
But then she shared a beautiful realization, which came from her heart. She said, “I’m feeling so insignificant on the material level. But actually I have unlimited significance. Even in this state, I have unlimited value because Krishna, God, loves me. Because Krishna loves me, God loves me, that gives me unlimited importance in any situation in my life.” And she was smiling.
And she said, “But God loves everyone, every single one of us.” Whatever our situation might be, whatever difficulties we may be in, we have unlimited importance, unlimited value. Our existence is unlimitedly glorious. Nothing could ever take that away from us because the unlimited love of God is always there for each and every one of us. If we just awaken to feeling that love, which is the highest of all high powers, and then once we receive it, also sharing that love that with others, we’ll discover what our real dharma is.
Tommy: Thank you, Radhanath Swami. We have a few minutes left and I would like to chat with you a little bit about seva, which we’ve touched upon a bit in our talk already. The interesting story of Bill Wilson, who is the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s very fascinating that he was in a hospital for who knows how many times and he was back in the hospital suffering alcoholic withdrawal. He couldn’t stop. And he knew that when he left this hospital, despite what he knew about himself, he was going to drink again.
But he was visited by an old friend of his who had found religion. This is what he had said to Bill Wilson, “I found religion.” And he had been transformed and he had connected with God. He was not drinking and this is a man with whom Bill Wilson used to drink quite a bit, and it was amazing to him. That man dropped some spiritual seeds into Bill Wilson’s mind. Sometime after he reached a point of humility, a bottom, if you will. And he had what they call a white light experience.
He had a very quick spiritual awakening. One of the main ideas that came out of that awakening was simply, “If I can share my experience, my strength, my hope with what I’ve gone through, with alcoholism, if I can share it with another person who’s struggling with the same affliction, that somehow…”. He couldn’t explain why, but he knew he was going to be healed from alcoholism. And this was the core of his enlightenment – “I have to give it away; I can’t keep it myself.”
This is a beautiful idea. I know it is reflected throughout the Vedas and throughout Bhakti literature, so I wanted to bring up this idea of “passing it on,” because it’s so core to 12-Step programs and I know it’s also core to Bhakti. And so I thought we might finish on that note.
Radhanath: In giving, we receive. All living beings are God’s children. What will give the greatest pleasure to a mother or father is if we do something to make his or her children happy. And the origin of that principle is in our supreme mother and father. So seva is when, without expecting any selfish results for ourselves, our actual joy is in giving pleasure, in giving relief to others.
In Bhakti, there is a Sanskrit phrase para dukha-dukhi – that a true saint or a person who is truly pursuing saintliness is one who feels in regards to other people, of all species, of all varieties, “their happiness is my happiness. Their suffering is my suffering.” We become instruments of peace. St. Francis, in his famous prayer, he’s praying, “Let me seek not to be consoled as to console. Let me seek not so much to be loved as to love.” We really connect with God when it’s not just about me. It’s about how I can actually serve others.
The spirit of seva liberates us from our selfish nature and our ego, which bind us to so many complications in this life. Seva is the purest gift that’s been given to all of us – the opportunity to serve. Service to God means to be an instrument of God’s grace in whatever we can do. This liberates us.
There’s a beautiful story. Hanuman, who’s a great personification of Bhakti or pure devotion, was building a bridge across an ocean in the service of Rama. Rama is the Supreme Lord.
He was building this bridge by taking huge, gigantic boulders, even mountain peaks, and putting them on the surface of the water. They floated because he had written the name of Rama on them. Rama is the name of God and it caused these huge rocks to float. Hanuman had such strength. As he was carrying an enormous boulder, there was a little spider. And the spider with his tiny little legs was kicking individual grains of sand to contribute to building this bridge.
The spider was right in Hanuman’s path and Hanuman didn’t want to step on him. He said, “Move over, spider.” Rama, the Supreme Lord, who ultimately Hanuman was trying to please, said, “Hanuman, that spider is doing as much seva as you because you are serving according to your capacity and that little spider is serving according to her capacity. And I see the intention.” Each and every one of us, whoever we are, we can perfect our lives and do the most incredible, wonderful things for God and for the world if we just have the right intentions to humbly serve.
And according to our capacity, we do the very, very best we can. Hanuman was most happy when he saw that this little spider was pleasing Rama as much as him. That was his greatest joy, to see another soul getting blessings from the Lord.
Tommy: Thank you so much for that story. That’s a heart-opening story. What a wonderful tale. Well, Radhanath Swami, I’m wondering –
Radhanath: Hanuman had a wonderful tail (laughter).
Tommy: That’s true. It is true. Well, thank you for blessing and honoring us with your time and your wisdom, your spirit and your heart, and most of all, your love. I know this is going to be a very meaningful presentation for many people. I’m wondering, for the people who are watching who would like to connect more deeply with the work that you’re doing, maybe some people want to contribute, perhaps some people would even want to come visit, how can we connect with you? Is there a website? Is there a call center? What do we do?
Radhanath: There is a website, radhanathswami.com. I’m so grateful that you are giving me the opportunity to be a part of this show and to be a little instrument of service to all of the wonderful people who are with us today. I want to give a little message to all the people who are with us – to please understand the true value of who you are as a part of God, a part of Krishna, and the wonderful, wonderful things that all of us individually or collectively can do for this world and beyond.
If we only appreciate the beautiful opportunities that we are given, and if we focus on those opportunities with a very, very positive and grateful attitude, then we can awaken, we can be transformed – and we could be instruments of awakening and transformation for so many others. We have all seen that people who have gone through very, very difficult times are actually people who have the greatest opportunity to help others who are going through the same struggles. So the struggles that we have are blessings if we just learn how to transform them. Thank you very, very much.
Tommy: Thank you, Radhanath Swami. I just love you. I’m so grateful for your presence. I can’t wait until you come visit us in the United States.