I am very grateful to be with all of you in this holy place, Rishikesh, in the Himalayas, on the banks of the holy river Mother Ganga. My special gratitude to Her Grace Bhagavati Devi for being here, and to Param Pujya Sri Chidananda Saraswati Maharaj, for organizing this beautiful event, bringing people from all sectors of life together in this holy place.
Radhanath Swami speaks on ‘Assembly of Sages at Naimesharanya’
About 5000 years ago, there was a gathering of great yogis and sages on the banks of the river, not too far from here called Gomati, in a forest of Naimesharanya. These sages, rishis and yogis, came together for one purpose- to discuss how to be instruments of true compassion for humanity, for the present and for the future. The great saint Bhaktivinod Thakur has written that when love of God awakens within the heart, it is our natural, most essential, potential, then that love is expressed outwardly in the form of compassion to all living beings.
It is said that a true yogi is para-dukha-dukhi, which means the happiness of another is my happiness and the suffering of another is my suffering, and when we feel for the sufferings of the body and the mind, that is satva, that is goodness. Our eternal identity is the atma, the soul, which is sat-chit-ananda: eternal, full of knowledge, full of bliss, beyond birth, and beyond death.
Due to the ahankar, the false ego that creates the misconception, we forget our own eternal identity, mamaivamso jiva-loke jiva-bhutah sanatanah, we are all a part of God, and we have those qualities. We forget the love of God which is the inherent treasure and how to be an instrument of that love, ananda-mayo-bhyashyat. When we understand that the true source of all suffering is that forgetfulness of his or her own true identity, then we are prone to seek that same happiness through so many temporary and ever-changing things of this world, and so they become complicated and implicated. – Radhanath Swami
The great yogis and sages understand that the greatest compassion is to help people awaken their eternal, blissful, loving identity. And when they see people in this forgetfulness, in this dreamlike state, engaging in so many wasteful activities even in the name of pleasure, to cause pain and suffering to others for our own purpose, it breaks their heart. So these sages were gathered together because they could see that Kaliyuga was coming, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the age were irreligion is taken to be religion and religion is taken to be the irreligion. They could see it was already happening, and how due to disconnection from truth, it was going to get more and more severe. Even in the name of spirituality, religion, which is meant to awaken love and inspire kindness and compassion, people would be hateful, arrogant, violent, judgmental, and selfish, and use God as an absolute justification to serve their own egoistic tendencies. So they gathered together to try to somehow or other, to create a solution. So they were discussing the spiritual subjects and among them one great yogi, sage named Sukadev Goswami came. Not far from here, on the bank of Mother Ganga, is a place called sukha-taal where the Srimad Bhagavatam was originally spoken by Sukadev Goswami to the great King Parikshit.
Radhanath Swami explains ‘Advent of Srimad Bhagavatam’
King Parikshit was cursed to die in seven days and he considered it as a blessing of God, because he was given a chance to really focus on what is really important and meaningful in life, his relationship with God. He asked three questions to a gathering of sages:
- What is the essence of all the great religions of the world?
- What is the prime responsibility of a human being?
- And what is the duty of a person about to die?
Sukadev Goswami spoke 18,000 versus called the Srimad Bhagavatam, as an answer to those questions. One of them who was quietly sitting, listening, and remembering everything was Suta Goswami. He came to this gathering in Naimesharanya, on the banks of the Gomati River, and all the sages asked him the same essential questions. One of the questions of all the scriptures and spiritual traditions throughout the world is:
We see there are so many interpretations and so many argumentations that are dividing people in so many ways, what is the essence? The essence of all spiritual truths is sanatana dharma.
Suta Goswami initially answered with one verse that he expanded upon,
sa vai pumsām paro dharmo
yato bhaktir adhokṣaje
“The supreme dharma – dharma sometimes means occupation, sometimes means religion, the supreme dharma is not a sectarian conception, it is that process which awakens loving devotion to the supreme transcendent Lord – such loving devotional service, which he calls bhakti, must be unmotivated by any selfishness or arrogance, and uninterrupted by any changing circumstances that may come before us.”
In order to truly satisfy the self, in the next verse he speaks,
janayaty asu vairagyam
jnanam ca yad ahaitukam
“Such love of God, love of the supreme truth, is awakened from within our heart, and then we fulfill the culmination of all detachment from material things and all knowledge, vairagya and gyan.”
The yoga of love or bhakti, as a Bhagavati Devi was explaining the other day on the bank of the Ganga, is to take our own selfish interests out of the center of our lives.
janasya moho ‘yam aham mameti…
The root cause of all conflict and suffering in this world is, we are in this conception of thinking in terms of, ‘I am this body,’ ‘I am the designations of this body and whatever is in relation is mine,’ ‘I,’ ‘Me,’ ‘Mine,’ that creates so many divisions. – Radhanath Swami
Radhanath Swami on ‘Peace Formula’
I remember, I was giving a lecture once at a university, and there was a professor of economics who invited me to speak in this class. I asked him, “You’re asking me to speak on economics, but I have not had a bank account or signed a cheque since 1969.” But I spoke and afterwards I asked him, “According to your academic tradition, what really is the essential problem that economics is trying to solve?” and I will never forget what he told me.
He said, “From an academic perspective, the problem of economics is very simple: there is only a limited amount of resources within the world and every person has such selfish greed that everyone needs unlimited resources, so there are a lot of problems.”
In the fifth chapter of Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna tells what he calls the peace formula,
jnatva mam santim ricchati
“If you want real peace, just understand three principles: there is one supreme truth Bhagavan who is the ultimate enjoyer of everything, sarva loka maheshwaram, and that supreme Lord Krishna speaking is the proprietor of everything that exists, and he is the most intimate loving best friend for all.”
Radhanath Swami explains ‘How to put God in center’
So, how do we take ourself out of the center, our selfish needs, where everything is just about ‘Me’ and ‘Mine’? Param drishtva nivartate, it’s only possible when we have a higher experience and that is putting Bhagavan or God in the center.
The fourth canto of the Bhagavat Purana tells that, when you water the root of a tree, naturally that water extends to every part of the tree: the branches, twigs and flowers. And similarly, when we put seva, service to God, loving God, in the center of our life that love and that service extends to every living being. The Brahmasutra tells that janmashaya yatahah, that the absolute truth is the source of everything and everyone. We cannot love God and not love every living being, because every living being is a part of God, and nature is the divine energy of God.
There are so many problems, both in the way humans are living with such enmity toward each other, and such enmity toward other living beings, slaughter houses, cruelty. This is considered normal in Kaliyuga and it is due to pollution within the ecology of human hearts.
When through yoga, through the practice of our spiritual path, we clean the ecology of heart, of selfish passion and greed, envy, anger, illusion, and then naturally it is like a cloud that dissipates so that the light of the sun can shine freely.
God’s grace can shine through us in everything we speak, in everything we do, and unless we clean this arrogance and greed from our own hearts, then it’s unsustainable to try to clean the environment, because the pollution outside of ourselves is simply a manifestation of what is within human hearts. –Radhanath Swami
Radhanath Swami on ‘Ravana’s tendency vs. Hanuman’s tendency’
In the Vedic context, the absolute truth is one, and has both a male and female nature. The female nature, the Hladhini Shakti is the source of all compassion, forgiveness, and nourishment of wisdom and kindness. A manifestation of that feminine aspect of the divine or Sri Radha, Sri Sita is Ganga – just as the eternal soul is permeating this body and is conscious of every cell of this body – similarly the goddess Ganga, the mother of all living beings, who nourishes all her children, has assumed the body of this river to nourish us with kindness and with grace.
Similarly that feminine potency appears as mother Earth. In Sanskrit, Bhumi is a very inseparable aspect of our yoga or our spiritual path. This is how we honor the compassionate Ganga, and the compassion of the Bhumi, of Mother Earth. In the Ramayana, Sita, the consort of Sri Ram, was born from the earth. Very symbolic! Ravana, who was a very powerful mystic, who performed tapasya at various places including Gokarna, a place where he attained such powers, he could change his form, could chant mantras to create unbelievable nuclear type weapons, could see distances, and had yogic siddhis. Yogic siddhis are only mechanical ways of manipulating subtle material energy.
We understand the essence of yoga is to transform the quality of our heart, from greed to compassion, from craving for manipulation, exploitation and proprietorship to the desire to serve. – Radhanath Swami
So he had all these powers, but the ecology of Ravana’s heart was filthy and he abducted Sita. He kidnapped her for his own personal exploitation, and he kept her on the island of Sri Lanka. He separated her from Ram. And then there was Hanuman – the symbol of bhakti or love. He jumped across the ocean and performed such incredible historical deeds to bring Sita back to Ram.
So in each and every one of us we have these tendencies: we have the Ravana tendency, the tendency to exploit, to be selfish and put ourself in the center, and the Hanuman tendency, to serve with love. At every moment we have the choice: are we going to follow Ravana’s example or Hanuman’s example? If we follow Hanuman’s example, we are instruments of compassion and grace to the world, to the environment, and to all living beings. If we follow the influence of Ravana within us, we will selfishly cause so much harm and pain to others.
So yoga is to harmonize the body with the mind, with the intellect, with the atma, with the eternal nature of our true self, and then to harmonize the self with the will of the supreme self, the parmatma, who we call Krishna, Sri Ram, and then to live in the spirit of seva or loving service. It is that loving service that actually gives true happiness to ourselves and it’s the true wealth we have to share with others. – Radhanath Swami
Radhanath Swami on ‘Analogy of musk deer’
In the Himalayas there is a metaphor that is often used by the yogis living here about the musk deer. This particular dear has a gland and that gland excretes a certain type of oil, that we call, musk. It costs about $40,000 a kilo. It is quite precious and it really smells nice. So the musk deer smells it and wants to find that fragrance and enjoy it. And according to the metaphor the musk deer spends his whole life crossing rivers, going through thorny bushes, going through jungles, risking everything, trying to find the pleasure of that smell, not knowing that it is within himself. It is a simple analogy, but it is a story of our life.
We are looking and we are striving for so much acquisition and physical, and emotional pleasure, not knowing that what we are really looking for, is within our own hearts, it’s the love of God, it’s our love for God, it’s is our love for all living beings, and then whatever we have, whatever we can do, we utilize it in that spirit of love and devotion. – Radhanath Swami
Radhanath Swami on ‘The Essence of Bhakti’
Whether we are billionaires and millionaires, or we are little sadhus living in a cave, big or small have no real importance, it is quality that bhakti is about. – Radhanath Swami
Hanumanji was building that bridge across the Indian Ocean, and he was so strong that he could lift mountains. Once, as he was carrying a mountain, and there was a little squirrel on the way. This little squirrel wanted to help. What he did was, he jumped in the water, and got all wet, then he rolled around in the sand, and he got on the bridge which was just being built. He started shaking himself and the sand went on the bridge, and that was his contribution, a few grains of sand. But while he was doing this, he was standing right in front of Hanuman who was caring a mountain.
Hanuman couldn’t move forward and said, “Please move!”
Lord Ram said, “No! He is doing as much as you, your capacity is to lift mountains, and his capacity is to lift grains of sand, but you’re both doing everything you can with the same spirit of devotion.”
patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
Bhagavad-Gita tells: “Even if you offer me,” Krishna says, “a leaf, a flower, a fruit or a little water, if it is offered with devotion, I accept it.” Bhakti understands that the Lord is
That means he only accepts the essence, and what is the essence, the quality of the sincerity of our love, of our devotion.
I would like to conclude by telling a story that really moves me every time I tell it, because as I’m telling it, I get to hear it too.
Radhanath Swami narrates the life of Sridhar Kolavecha
Bhagavan Sri Krishna appeared about 500 years ago as Sri Chaitanya. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu lived in his early life on the bank of the holy River Ganga, downstream quite away, in Navadvip. The story I am about to tell you, happened here on the banks of the Ganga.
In his early years, he was known as Nimai because he was born under a neem tree, that tree is still there. He did not reveal his divinity until later. He was in the mood of a devotee to teach us devotion. He used to go down a little path in an area called Simantadvip and on the side of that dirt path there was a man named Sridhar. But nobody knew him by that name. He was socially, the most insignificant person possible. If anyone did know him, they just called him Kolavecha, which means the banana leaf seller. He would collect some banana leaves, sit on the side of the road, and sell them. Every now and then, they would find him with some bananas, or some banana roots or some banana flowers.
He was a different kind of businessman because usually businesspeople, their way of thinking is, how can I make the most possible profit from what I have, but he was thinking how can I make the least possible profit and survive. Now, how much the banana leaves cost? Very little! But he was thinking, ‘I don’t want to give inconvenience to anyone. Let me make it available, as much as possible, to everyone and somehow or other maintain myself.’ Whatever funds he would get, you know what he would do, he would take half of it immediately and worship Mother Ganga, because he understood the identity of the holy River Ganges.
The goddess Ganga is manifesting her compassion, her grace, in the form of the current of the river, and every drop of water is very sacred. The scriptures tell that just by seeing mother Ganga, by bathing in mother Ganga, by touching mother Ganga, by tasting the water of the Ganga, by being touched by the breeze that has comes from mother Ganga, we are blessed, and the divine love in our hearts is awakened. And to the degree we have faith, it has very powerful effects. – Radhanath Swami
So he wanted to show his gratitude by offering flowers and puja to mother Ganga, just as we are having a Ganga arati in a very elaborate way, he would do it in a very simple way, and with whatever was left he somehow or other survived with his family.
Radhanath Swami on ‘Childhood pastimes of Nimai with Sridhar’
So Nimai would come every day down that little road and ask him, “How much is your bananas?” Sridhar would say a really fair price, and Nimai would respond, “It’s too much! I’ll give you half.” They would argue about the price of the bananas, and eventually Nimai would just say, “Why are you cheating me, I will just take it for nothing,” and walk away. Sridhar was very happy because he was a devotee of Krishna; he did not know that Nimai was Krishna, but he loved him just like you love Krishna. It was very mysterious.
It is described that every day, this in the scripture, Nimai and Kolavecha Sridhar would argue the price of bananas for minimum three hours. If Nimai was coming down the road a little late, Sridhar would just be looking at the dirt path, looking and looking, thinking, ‘Where is Nimai? Where is Nimai? Is he not coming today?’ His heart would be beating with expectation, with longing, and yearning to see Nimai, and then when he would see Nimai coming, somehow he would contain himself, and Nimai would say, “How much is the bananas today?” and they would argue for a few hours. It was a loving exchange and then Nimai would take the bananas, and walk away.
One day Nimai said to Sridhar, “Why do you worship this Krishna? What is the use of this bhakti yoga? What is it doing for you? Look all around you, there are wealthy people and they don’t do this. They have nice clothes; you just have the same set of clothes. I see you wearing same set every single day and there are at least 15 holes in your clothes, and you don’t even have the money for needle and thread, you just tie a knot to close the hole. Your body is skinny and weak. Look at your house, it is just one room of a straw, with absolutely no furniture. What is God doing for you? You are doing everything for your God, what is he doing for you?”
And Sridhar smiled and said, “In my life, I have observed that there is a king, who is living in a big palace, eating the finest foods and wearing the nicest clothes and then there’s the bird, living in a tree, and it is wearing the same old set of feathers every day, and he just eats whatever little berries are growing. But as far as I could see, they are passing their lives in the same way: sometimes they’re enjoying, sometimes they are suffering, sometimes they are confident, sometimes they’re fearful. I’m finding such inner satisfaction by just chanting God’s holy names, I don’t require anything else. I just want to serve.”
Nimai said, “Someday I’m going to expose you as being a hypocrite.”
Sridhar said, “What do you mean by that?”
He said, “You are such a wealthy person, you have such a great treasure, but you’re hiding it from the world. Everyone thinks you’re in poverty, but I’m going to expose you.”
Sridhar said, “Whatever you see outside is what’s inside, I’m not hiding anything.”
“I will expose you!”
Would you like to know how he exposed?
Radhanath Swami speaks on ‘How Lord reveals principle of unconditional, unmotivated love’
Years later, Nimai manifested his lila, his pastime as being Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He established this Harinam Sankirtan movement in Navadvip. He offered a prayer,
namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktis
tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah
etadrisi tava kripa bhagavan mamapi
durdaivam idrisam ihajani nanuragah
[Sri Sikshastakam, Verse(2)]
“The one supreme father and mother of all living beings has many names and in each and each one of these names, the Lord has infested grace and power, compassion and love, and there’s no hard and fast rules for chanting these names, anyone young or old, from any place, can attain, can awaken their love of God simply by sincerely chanting these beautiful mantras”
cheto darpana marjanam
The mind is like a mirror. The mirror is covered with dust of our lust, envy, anger, greed, arrogance, and illusion. But when the mirror is cleaned, we see our true self, our true divine nature as loving instruments.
So he taught this profound system of yoga of harinam sankirtan
kaler doṣa-nidhe rājan
asti hy eko mahān guṇaḥ
kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya
mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet
The scripture tells us, “In this age of Kali where there are so many faults in the world today, there is a special benediction – simply by chanting the names of Krishna one can attain the supreme perfection of liberation.”
So he was having kirtan with his devotees and he was revealing his true nature of Krishna to his most confidential associates. He asked them, “Bring Sridhar!” but even the devotees did not know who Sridhar was. He said, “Just go,” it is the middle of the night, “just go this direction and you will hear somebody crying out God’s names, Krishna’s names, that’s Sridhar,” and they brought him. Then Lord revealed his divine form of Krishna to Sridhar and said to him, “I want to offer you any benediction, I can give you everything anything you ask. Ask!”
Sridhar looked up, such a simple person, he said, “I don’t want anything.”
And the Lord said, “But I want to give you something. Ask for anything. I will give you the wealth of the heavens. You are so poor, and I’ll give you palaces and land and opulence.”
Sridhar said, “I have no interest in property or houses or opulence.”
Lord Chaitanya said, “I will give you the perfection of the yogic siddhis, you can read people’s minds, you can travel on light beams of the sun, you can create through mantras anything you want. I will give you the mystic powers!”
Sridhar said, “If I have these mystic powers, they will only distract my mind. I don’t want.”
Lord Chaitanya said, “I will give you liberation, mukti. Liberation, no more birth, no more death, complete peace. Ask!”
Sridhar said, “I have no interest whatsoever in mokshya.”
Lord Chaitanya said, “Ask for something!”
Sridhar said, “Please do not be disturbed, I don’t want anything.”
Lord Chaitanya said, “I am not disturbed.”
Sridhar said, “I only want to please you.”
And Lord Chaitanya said, “It will please me, if you for something.”
I will end with this request.
Sridhar said, “If it pleases you that I ask for something, then grant me this one benediction, every birth that I may take anywhere, that you will always come to me in your beautiful form of Nimai to steal my bananas. I want nothing else, but to be the servant of the servant of the servant, and always remember you and chant your holy names- Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.”
This is one little historical episode that took place on the bank of Mother Ganga that reveals the principle of unconditional, unmotivated love.
I thank you very much.