On the evening of Friday, May 6th, New York’s Bhakti Center partnered with Upbuild to hold a dinner event featuring a talk by Radhanath Swami on the topic “Living Your Calling in an Age of Confusion”.
Upbuild is an educational social enterprise created by Rasanath Das and Hari Prasad, who both used to live and serve at The Bhakti Center as monks. Upon graduation from the monastic order they went on to launch Upbuild which aims at maximizing the human potential by creating environments that inspire genuine purpose and authentic connection. Among the dinner’s 100 guests were many leaders in business, journalism and other creative fields.
Below are excerpts from Radhanath Swami’s talk on how true wealth and happiness are found through finding and sharing the divine love that lies within the soul.
Living Your Calling in an Age of Confusion
Times like we are facing these days are periods in human history that could potentially bring a rise in enlightenment, or just the opposite. Times of difficult, individually and collectively, are crossroads where we have to really question our lives.
What gives a thing value to a person’s heart is not the monetary price of it, or how it may stimulate the eyes or the mind. What gives value to anything is the exchange of love.
What is valuable? Things can give some degree of pleasure to the senses and the mind but things can never give fulfillment to the heart. Only love can do that. The nature of the heart is to love and be loved. The heart is starving for love. If it is not nourished, no matter what we get, we can never be satisfied and we can never be an instrument to give true satisfaction.
When we realize that love within us, and make it our life’s service to be an instrument of that love, which is expressed through compassion for the body, mind and souls of others, then our life is truly meaningful and fulfilling. With that integrity we can work harder than anyone, if that is required, but it is not motivated by greed, envy or arrogance – it’s motivated by love. By really caring and wanting to make a difference.
The greatest thing that we can pass down through our legacy is compassion, love and care based on moral values – principles of spiritual integrity. There is a saying, that if you lose your wealth you lose nothing, if you lose health you lose something, and if you lose your character you lose everything. Of course we need wealth and we see that when the economy is struggling it can really bring out the worst in people. But where there is compassion, where we see humanity and life itself as a family, then we will make our policies with the mindset that we are caretakers of each other, whether we are in investment bankers, farmers or even swami’s.
My guru, Srila Prabhupada, would often cite a verse wherein there is a simple phrase, para dukha dukhi. What is a evolved enlightened consciousness? This is how we can evaluate how we are progressing. When another person’s suffering is my suffering and when another’s persons happiness is my happiness – para dukha dukhi. It is not just a poetic idea. It is life’s deepest reality – that in giving we do receive. In loving we can access love.
When our mind and consciousness become clouded by selfishness, greed, arrogance, illusion, anger and envy, then we identify with those things and it becomes our calling to satisfy them by any means. But there is no substance there. It is vey shallow and it cannot last.
Yes, there are times of confusion, but what is that confusion? Its like a boat in the middle of the ocean and doesn’t have a compass it doesn’t know where it is going. Its pretty confusing. But if we know where we want to go and how to get there then life is no longer confusing.
Yes, there are so many difficulties and challenges, but challenges are inevitable in this world. But if we know what our calling really is, the calling of the heart – the soul, then we can pass through those challenges and only grow and find deeper realizations and experiences.
We only become inwardly wealthier through the trials and tribulations as well as the joys and celebrations of life. But when we lose that connection with our true self, then life is really confusing. One race, one religion, one nation is saying we are better than you. One person says I have rights to exploit you. For me to get richer is just part of the business, and to achieve my goals I can squash you and crush you. There is no substance to such a life. And when society starts to glorify and honor those things it is really confused.
Spiritual values, integrity, love and compassion is real wealth. And whether we are millionaires or swamis we can all make a difference in the world. We can all serve together.
The social body is like the human body. A healthy body is when all the organs and different bodily parts are working in harmony for a common purpose. Within the bodies we have our hearts, kidneys and pancreas and they all have different sizes, shapes and colors and very very different functions. They eyes can’t do what the feet can do but its not like the stomach is telling every part of the body, if I don’t give you food you die. The stomach is serving every part of the body and when every body has a common higher purpose the body is healthy but if different body parts are disunited from each other then the body gets diseased.
So similarly there are different occupations such as mothers, teachers, politicians, engineers and farmers and little swami and we all have our role to play as one social body with a common interest. And if we can’t realize and appreciate each other. then we can’t make a positive difference in this world. Its not sustainable, not very deep. Thats why people throughout the ages who have been activists, to truth, spiritual and social activists, they have tried to teach us what the Bhagavad-gita says, that real wisdom is when we see everyone with an equal vision and to really care. Thats love and thats compassion. Thats true humanity.
In the Bible it is said the first and great commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind and soul and that the testimony and expression of that love is that we will love our neighbor as ourself. And everyone is our neighbor. Wherever there is life, life is sacred. Compassion is very very integral. A confused society is when we lose touch with ourself, then we lose touch with each other, and we lose contact with God, and then naturally greed and envy, selfishness and anger perpetuate. But each and everyone of us have an opportunity and the sacred responsibility to make that journey within.
There are three principles that are universally very effective in helping us in that journey. In Sanskrit, satsanga, sadhana and sadachara.
1. Satsanga means to be in the company of people who elevate our consciousness, who inspire us, who deepen our faith in these true values. To be with enlightened people, or like minded people, who are on that journey to enlightenment. It gives us courage, strength and direction.
2. Sadhana means putting some time aside each day to really make that inner connection, to gain that inner strength, to cultivate that love. Like a gardner to water that seed of devotion that is within us of truth and joy.
3. Sadachara means to actually live with principles because its those principles that make our life truly meaningful. And its those principles that give us a chance to be an example that could really help other people’s lives. The world needs examples. We don’t have to be big or little examples, each and everyone of us could change the world by the sincerity of our own example.
Question: Would you say that people who have had loving parents in their lives can experience the feeling of surrender spiritually better than people who have not?
Answer: Its a wonderful opportunity. I write about this in my book The Journey Within. We all have our free will.
If we have loving parents it can give a deep deep samskara or impression in our hearts, and if we are grateful for that then we will deepen that to a greater spiritual connection and share that with the world. Thats how we can really show our gratitude.
But even if we didn’t have that, we can understand what it feels like not to have it and feel compassion for people. So in every situation we should try to be the change we want to see in this world.
The Bible says seek and ye shall find. Knock and the door will open. If we are seeking to grow, seeking to love and seeking God, in a true way, then even the hard times only helps the goodness of our own hearts to grow. And thats why keeping company who remind us of that, who help us to keep our compass of aspirations and values in life in the right direction, is very sacred and important.
Question: Earlier you were talking about how we are working together with a higher goal in mind. Is there a way to know in your own heart that you are doing the thing that is most helpful towards that?
Answer: The details are not always what’s important. Its the value and principles that motivate us. And there are universal principles. If we are sincere it’s quite easy to understand.
Are we seeking to be an instrument of God’s love? Are we seeking to exemplify values of humility rather than ignorance, generosity rather than greed, compassion rather than indifference, being a well wisher instead of being envious.
Is this our wealth? To serve and find happiness in whats really meaningful and good in God. Not in a sectarian way, but as a true well wisher. Is this the way we are doing our investment, or being a father or mother? Is this the way are being a student or running our business?
In this world we have to be competitive to survive, but that competition doesn’t mean we have to be evil or selfish. We have mentors, guru’s, and enlightened scriptures and books that give these essential values that we should live for. And if we are sincere, then we are doing the right thing. If you have the higher purpose in mind of being the caretaker of others, then you are doing the right thing. The purpose of this little place, The Bhakti Center, is for people to come together who share these values and try to give strength to those values that we have within ourselves and each other.
Photos by Dennis Fialkovsky