On 18th March 2017, Radhanath Swami spoke to the metropolitan crowd of 140 people at the breath-taking Kirtan London day retreat at Bhaktivedanta Manor.

Started five years ago by a small team and launched with Russell Brand and Radhanath Swami himself, Kirtan London has grown into an attractive movement to spread mantra, music and meditation. Jahnavi Harrison, one of the founders of the project, said “the aim of the initiative is to take kirtan to everyone! We want to take kirtan to people who typically wouldn’t come across it.” Since then it has grown into a variety of projects:

– Six Hour Kirtan – an extended celebration of kirtan that occurs every season.
– Mantra Lounge – a bimonthly session of evening kirtan in the bustling heart of London, Covent Garden.
– Barefoot in The Park – a summer festival of singing and meditation under the shelter of the bandstand in Hyde Park.
– Bhakti Sangha – a discussion of philosophy and wisdom related to the practice of kirtan.
– Retreats – residential and single day retreats to dive deeper into the meaning and practice of kirtan.

On this particular day retreat, pilgrims were gifted with sessions of yoga, kirtan and even milking the cows on the local farm. The retreat’s finale was Radhanath Swami addressing the audience on overcoming negative habits. “Time is precious. Although we measure it in units such as seconds or minutes, in the Vedic literature time is described as a force which no amount of wealth can buy back” started Radhanath Swami. “Yet we are creatures of habit. Our actions set deep impressions as a mindset within us. Every time we do something spiritual we become happier, but if crave for prestige and worldly things then we get habituated. It is positive association that can help us change habits.” The talk was concluded by speaking of the mind being like a monkey and the only way to control it is by yoga: “Bhakti yoga is to experience the inner pleasure of connecting with our true inner self and real nature. We are not dependent on external things for our happiness. To connect with inner love and live with compassion is the higher taste we need to give up our binding habits.”

After the speech, Radhanath Swami signed copies of his bestselling book, ‘The Journey Within’ and took questions.

It was comments galore on social media after the event. “His talk was very amusing” said Lucy Munday, a yoga teacher and therapist from London. “I was so blessed to meet him. He asked me my favourite part of his book and gave me prasada!”

Craig Thomas, a student at Cass Business School, echoed the same sentiments. “A truly magical moment last night conversing with Radhanath Swami. Having spent hours listening to this man on YouTube and on his app, RISE, I picked up the courage to introduce myself, on this rare occasion he is in London, to let him know how grateful I am for what he has done for me. You don’t need to be spiritual or religious to connect with the ancient wisdom he imparts. I promise you that you will be taken aback by his majesty, gravity and humility.”

Special thanks to Kanhaiya das, Radha Govinda das, Radhika Ranjana das, Balaram Nityananda and the rest of the team from Kirtan London who oversaw and managed the event and continue to inspire the diverse crowd that Bhaktivedanta Manor for spiritual upliftment.

Written by Vinay Raniga