Spiritual Transformation through Art and Culture

Published on Feb 15, 2015 by RNS Video

I am very hopeful the people of India will rediscover the supreme treasure that has been our heritage, and through our arts, through our lives, we share it with each other and share it with the world. – Radhanath Swami

It’s my honor and pleasure to be with all of you tonight. Thank you to Juhi Chawla, Saurabh Raj Jain and to all of you who have given your precious time to be here tonight. The arts have been utilized throughout history to transform the hearts of humanity: politically, socially, and in practically every possible way. Being a swami, I’d like to focus on spiritual transformation.

The origin of the arts has a very spiritual foundation. In India, the concept of yoga is to harmonize, our body and all of its senses, our mind, our words, with the living force, the atma or the soul and then to connect the atma with the supreme atma or God. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna tells that he is the intelligence of the intelligent, the strength of the strong and the ability in everyone. It is one– from that one supreme source of everything that exists, who has many names, who has appeared in many religions, who, in Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna tells that he is providing the light of the sun, the air that we breathe, the rain, the earth, the food. Patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya payachati

“When we utilize the abilities and resources that we have in a spirit of gratitude for what we are receiving, and humility, and we offer it in that spirit, that is true religion; that is true yoga.” –Radhanath Swami

Srila Prabhupada, my guru, in 1969 he was in London and a journalist asked him, “Swamiji, why have you come to England?” And he said that, “The British ruled over India for well over a century, and took from India, bringing to London, so much of the wealth. But you forgot our most precious wealth, our culture. And I have come to give you what you forgot to take.” And he inspired so many people in this spirit of utilizing the God-given talents that we have as an offering of gratitude.

“And the greatest gratitude we can offer is to uplift others. Aham bija prajapita Because every living being is a child of the one supreme God. We are all related.” –Radhanath Swami

I’d like to speak very briefly in honor of one of my dearest friends. She passed away just about a year ago. Her name was Yamuna Devi, she was an American girl born in Oregon. And she came in contact, through with her guru Shrila Prabhupada, with this great culture of India. And it transformed her to such an extent; everything she did was like a masterpiece of art, as an offering of gratitude. I’ll give an example; she came to India to learn cooking. She was going to just common ladies’ homes and learning the art. She was going to various temples. She became so deeply absorbed, and she wanted to share these gifts with the world. She wrote a vegetarian cookbook built on– based on traditional Indian cooking, it was called Lord Krishna’s Cuisine. She did it so masterfully it was the number one cookbook, internationally, of the entire year.

She liked to sing, to express her gratitude to God and her love for God. She was living in London in 1969, and was singing simple kirtan with a harmonium. She had no money; she didn’t even have a place to live (her and her husband). George Harrison of the Beatles, when they were at the peak of their fame and success, he would disguise himself, because if he went out everyone would crowd around him, just to go and see her sing. And he was so inspired by the spiritual substance of her music that he wanted to record her on the Beatles own record label, Apple. And Yamuna Devi’s singing, her record was the number one record in all of England and all of Europe. She just played a little harmonium–– this is at the time at the peak of rock ‘n roll and all kinds of other music–– she just played a harmonium. There was a tambora, mridanga, (traditional Indian instruments) and her song was the Hare Krishna mantra: 

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna

Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama

Rama Rama Hare Hare

She had created an altar in her home. The way she designed that altar with her own hands– every day she would make beautiful flower arrangements, beautiful malas (garlands). People would prefer to come to her house than even the big glorious temples of India and the west, because they felt such devotion in every detail. In fact, with her own hands, she built her own house because she wanted to show how people could live very naturally. It was an environmentally friendly home that she made with earth and natural ingredients. It was so beautiful. Every inch, every detail of that home was meticulous, artistic, in the right place. I was there many times. I knew atheists who decried the concept of God, just by entering into their [Yamuna and husband’s] house, they were transformed. Seriously. “If a home is so meticulously, artistically designed, with so much care and so much love in honor of God, I have to believe in God.”

We all write our names. She was writing for Krishna. She mastered the art of calligraphy. Every word, every letter was like a beautiful work of art from her heart. And she never took credit for anything; she was so humble. She would say Krishna is the ability in all of us.

“Yoga, and the yoga of art is, through our music, through our dance, through every aspect of our life actually, we are tuning in to the frequency of divine grace. And through our art, we become transmitters to uplift humanity and uplift the world to that divine grace.” –Radhanath Swami

Art engages the senses, the mind, and has the power to transform the heart. It absorbs people. Rising India, I am very hopeful the people of India will rediscover the supreme treasure that has been our heritage, and through our arts, through our lives, we share it with each other and share it with the world. And I’m so grateful that this event, with such beautiful people, is happening tonight. Thank you very much.