If you met someone in the heart of London’s financial district and told them a monk was speaking at the ‘Old Lady’ of Threadneedle Street, they would likely be in disbelief. Although he hasn’t had a bank account or signed a check since 1969, and to the humour of the hundreds that attended when he admitted that, Radhanath Swami spoke at the Bank of England on Wednesday 22nd March 2017. Founded in 1694,the Bank of England is a public institution responsible for maintaining the monetary and financial stability of the United Kingdom. It serves as the model on which most modern central banks have been based.
The event explored issues such as how leaders in large and influential organizations can improve their impact by actively considering how their attitude, actions and approach impacts those around them, whether there are practices that they could adopt from the field of mindfulness that could help leaders thrive, and how they can continue to promote the development of mental well-being and self-awareness to improve the working culture and environment.
The Swami also spoke of how the highest form of leadership is compassionate leadership, that greed isn’t the best formula to get the best out of people and that by appreciating others and encouraging them we can bring out the good in them, and when this is done, people go above and beyond their capacity. “To reach such a stage of compassion, we need to understand ourselves” he continued. “Emerson said that ‘the reason there is so much disunity in the world is because people are so disconnected in themselves’ so we must build an inner foundation of compassion within our hearts.”
One attendee reflected how Radhanath Swami narrated a story from his childhood that particularly resonated with her. He spoke of how when he was younger he stole the only rose from his mother’s garden to present to her on her birthday. “She broke down in tears” Radhanath Swami said, and told him that it’s not the thing that gives value but the purpose and love by which it is given in. She went on to mention how the principles being talked about have been useful for her because what it showed that these values (such as working with integrity) are beyond possessions or the typical tangible pillars of success in her career. She said that a key message she took away with her was “we all have a duty to make a difference and we are all connected”.
Professor Stephen Chan OBE, Professor of World Politics at SOAS University of London, had heard Radhanath Swami speak before at his institution. “I hosted him at my institution and he is very popular amongst the SOAS students. Everyone, whether they have a spiritual affiliation to him or not, really admires his outreach and compassion. We try to support him in every way possible.” The theme of interconnectedness and unity remerged in his interview as he remarked “I particularly like his redwood tree story and the interlinkage of the root systems. I really like seeing that as a way the world should be. That makes me feel happy and reassured that there are people who understand the need for unity, brotherhood and sisterhood in the world. The world at large, and I used to be a peace-keeping diplomat, is very turbulent. For instance, the message of not being overcome by fear and atrocity and still maintaining in one’s heart the possibility of redwood trees and humanity being interlinked should drive all of us.”
Radhanath Swami ended with words of gratitude that the Bank had invited him to share his realizations and experiences.