On May 2, 2015 the graduate students of MIT University in Cambridge, Massachusetts hosted one of the largest India conferences in the US. The MIT India conference, in its 11th year, has established itself as an important forum for leaders in industry, academia, and policy to discuss current issues and future innovations in the context of India, in the region and abroad. Radhanath Swami was invited as a distinguished speaker to participate in MIT India conference.
This year the conference brought together business leaders, government officials, spiritual leaders, philanthropists and many other professionals to engage in a conversation about leading business and socio-economic opportunities and challenges in one of the world’s largest economies.
Radhanath Swami began his talk on the topic “Unveiling the Hidden Treasures of Indian Culture“ be telling his extraordinary story, beginning from a trip to Europe with a friend. Swami travelled abroad as a young man, often hitchhiking, through Europe, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, finally reaching India. When he was allowed to enter India he immediately felt at home and as if his own mother was embracing him.
In his quest of finding the purpose of life and answers to some important questions he studied Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and various sects of Hinduism. He visited the caves of the Himalayas and eventually transformed from a young seeker to an ascetic. He recounted his interactions and relationship with his parents during his expedition and later as a renounced monk in the Krishna-bhakti tradition. His parents did not understand what he was doing until they went to India and experienced the spiritual culture and hospitality of Indian people. When his mother passed away, his siblings and father decided to cremate her and spread her ashes in the sacred rivers of India. When Swami immersed her ashes in river Ganges, in the presence of two thousand Krishna devotees, he said, “I was crying that the mother of my biological physical birth is now uniting with the mother of my spiritual birth, Mother Ganges, Mother India. To me that integration of our body, mind, and heart aspirations was so meaningful and so significant.”
Radhanath Swami mentioned an interview his spiritual teacher, Srila Prabhupada, had with a London journalist in 1969. Asked about the purpose of his visit to London, Srila Prabhupada replyed that the British ruled over India for almost two centuries and took away many valuables, forgetting the most valuable treasure – the spiritual culture of India. He had returned to England, giving it to them for free.
In his exposition, Rahanath Swami pointed out the essence of all spirituality by reciting and explaining the Bhagavad Gita’s Text 5.18. At schools, colleges and universities throughout the world we seek technical knowledge, but this is the foundational knowledge that actually brings real meaning and inner prosperity to our lives – the ability to see every living being with equal vision, whether one is Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Jew, Christian, Zoroastrian, or Buddhist; whether one is agnostic, atheistic, black or white; whether one is male or female’ whether one is rich or poor; whether one is human or elephant or cow or dog or cat, wherever there is life, it is sacred. When we understand the sacredness within ourselves, then we can naturally appreciate it wherever the life exists. To love God is not just a concept, it is expressed through compassion and the larger the sphere of our compassion, the deeper our love grows for each other.
Radhanath Swami also shared his thoughts on simple living and high thinking. “Simple living and high thinking is not about what we have or what our position is – it is about having a simple well-wishing heart. Simple living and high thinking means whatever knowledge, influence, skills or any other possession we have should be utilized with compassion and not with arrogance or envy. We are not proprietors of anything but caretakers and should use our possessions, especially our knowledge, with the sense of true responsibility to each other.”
As he wrapped up his talk, Radhanath Swami emphasized that our character is the most important principle of the legacy that we can pass down to the generation. “We can’t do that unless we embrace it in our lives. Everybody is ultimately looking for happiness, if we do not find happiness within ourselves then we cannot find it anywhere else. Real knowledge or science is finding that happiness and peace within us. For thousands of years people from all over the world have gone to India, to find that hidden treasure that is actually within us.”
In conclusion, Radhanath Swami said if we can somehow or other keep hold of that foundational culture – to be connected to our true self, to be instrument of compassion with whatever we do, we can truly make a wonderful difference in the world.
His speech was well received by the audience of 300 intellectuals from different disciplines and cross sections. The event included an array of eminent panel speakers such as Shiv Shankar Menon – an Indian diplomat, Nikhil R. Meswani – Executive Director and a Board Member of Reliance Industries, Sanjay Kirloskar – Chairman and MD of Kirloskar Brothers Ltd, Dr. Yatindra Prashar – CEO of Symmetrix Pharmaceuticals, CP Gurnani – CEO and MD of Tech Mahindra, Neeraj Singhal – Head of Expansion for India and the Subcontinent at Uber, Rishi Jaitly – India Market Director at Twitter Inc, Srikanth Nadhamuni – CEO and Co-Founder of Khosla Labs, Dr. Isher Judge Alhuwalia – Chairperson, Board of Governors (ICRIER) and many luminaries from business and academic world.