The Bhakti Center is a non-profit cultural arts center on New York’s Lower East Side and a project that draws largely from the vision and inspiration of Radhanath Swami. On the evening of December 20th, 2014, The Bhakti Center hosted a special evening and dinner with Radhanath Swami exclusively for participants of some of the courses they offered during the Fall of 2014. The courses included…
- BHAKTI 101, a 36 hour course spanning 12 weeks covering the fundamental teachings of Bhakti Yoga as practiced in Gaudiya Vaishnavism and presented by Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The course was taught by Kaustubha Das and had over 50 participants.
- Yoga Teacher Training, an in-house training in teaching yoga taught by Shyama and Dhyana Masla, the directors of Yoga at The Bhakti Center.
- Embodying Dharma, a weekend immersion in advanced asana training and life lesson storytelling from the Ramayana with Raghunath.
- Kirtan Connection, an in-depth study and practice in the art of kirtan including the history and mood of kirtan as well as learning the instruments and singing. This popular course was taught by Bhakti Lata Devi Dasi.
- Vegetarian Cooking, a series of cooking classes exploring how food not only sustains us physically, but also nourishes us spiritually, taught by Doyal Gauranga Das.
All together the classes had approximately 125 participants, many new to the center and the practice of Bhakti-yoga. 80 students and friends attended the event. The evening was a special opportunity to hear from the person who is such an inspiration to the Bhakti Center and all of the teachers of the courses. Radhanath Swami began with kirtan, spoke, and left time for questions from the students. The program was followed by a delicious meal prepared by Taste of Bhakti, The Bhakti Center’s buffet.
You can read excerpts from the questions and answers session below.
Question: I have truly been touched by the teachers at The Bhakti Center. I love all of them. They have truly changed me and I wanted to ask you about your relationship with your guru.
Radhanath Swami: I kind of wrote a book about it (laughter). Srila Prabhupada saw something in me that I never understood that was there. That is that I really have the power to love, to be an instrument of compassion, connected to a power infinitely greater than my own. And he lived that life. With his wisdom he could answer the most difficult questions with the simplist answers and teachings. His willingness to live for the higher good for other people with such conviction and compassion moved my heart totally, and I could not think of anything else I could want to do in my life that would be better than to just assist him in sharing this love with the world. And in my small ways I am trying to do that.
And whatever you have said about the teachers at The Bhakti Center, I feel the same way (laughter).
Question: How can one develop the commitment required for spiritual life? To me this is the most difficult thing?
Radhanath Swami: It’s not so difficult….. but it is so difficult also (laughter). To accomplish anything in this world commitment is required. Did you ever go to college? Did you graduate? Because doesn’t it require commitment to study and pass the tests? For a mother to have a baby, doesn’t it require commitment to go through pregnancy and labor. You can have a job in New York City and drive through traffic jams everyday – doesn’t it take some commitment to your job. Why do you do it? Why do you stay in college till you graduate? Why do you sit through traffic jams and deal with all kinds of difficulties in your occupation. To be a great musician takes a commitment. You mind may want to do so many things while your sitting there but you have to keep practicing. To be a great artist takes commitment. Do you think politicians run for office and win election without commitment? Maybe commitment for the wrong things but commitment non the less!
So we are committing ourselves for so many material things that are coming and going. If we have faith in the importance and value in our own spiritual nature then the gift the of love of Godhead is within us. If we understand its value then why can’t we commit ourselves to that too?
If you go to all these gyms you see how people are really committed to running on these machines. They are running and running and pushin and pushing. It takes a commitment, but they believe that if their body is strong and healthy they will be happy, so they are committed to it.
So why do we take our spiritual life cheaply, that it has to be easy? I will commit myself to so many temporary little accomplishments in this world. But yes, If we want to make spiritual progress it does take commitment and if we understand the value of it then it becomes a great joy to commit ourselves.