The Journey Home Book - By Radhanath Swami
At the age of only nineteen, Radhanath Swami left his home in America seeking adventure and spiritual knowledge. After trekking across Europe for months, Radhanath Swami reached his long hoped for destination: India. After living there for many years as a sadhu or wandering monk, Radhanath Swami returned to America in order to share the sacred knowledge and wisdom he had learned from the many holy men and women he had met there. It was an extraordinary choice, given what Radhanath Swami had survived to get there: a journey filled with bizarre characters, mystical experiences, and dangerous adventures. The story is recounted in his recently published memoir The Journey Home - Autobiography of an American Swami. Reviewers have called Radhanath Swami's saga "at once an engaging yarn, a love story, and the evocation of a transcendent paradise in all its savagery, solitude, and splendor.
Radhanath Swami emerged from his years of travel wanting to explain for others the beauty and rewards of a life devoted to God, and therein lay a dilemma. Radhanath Swami's many followers and friends describe him as completely selfless and consequently unwilling to take credit for his work and restless when a spotlight is focused on him. By choosing A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (1896-1977), a Bengali Vaishnava Saint, as his guru (after declining offers of initiation from several tyagis or renunciants in the Himalayas), Radhanath Swami cast his fate to the wind, cut his matted locks, and entered back into the society.
RadhanathMaharaj.net gives us a complete collection of the teaching of Radhanath Swami. Teachings consists of Transcriptions of lectures delivered by Radhanath Swami at various places. This website is to inspire the followers of Radhanath Swami to practice the philosophy of Vaishanavism.
It is said that wherever the devotees come together to chant the holy names of the Lord, that place is the most auspicious of all auspicious places. Mangalam mangalam… It is described in the shashtra that Krsna is all auspicious. And nothing in auspicious can remain in the presence of the Lord. Just as darkness cannot possibly remain in the presence of light. Nama chintamani Krsna chaitanya rasa-vigraha. And Krsna or Bhagvan is non-different than His names. Therefore nothing inauspicious can remain in the presence of God’s names. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu explained that the congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord, is the prime benediction for humanity at large, because all contaminations, all impurities, all inauspiciousness is removed, when sincere souls come together to glorify God’s name. therefore every occasion whatever it may be is auspicious when God is invoked, through the sincere chanting of His holy names. And therefore our Spiritual Master used to tell us, that whatever the particular ceremony may be, whether you know the rituals or do not know the rituals, it is not very important. Just chant Hare Krishna. And everything is perfectly auspicious and everything is taken care off. (Haan..?)
Actually Srila Prabhupada used to tell us sometimes that chanting the various mantras and shlokas has a very nice purpose in the sense that it gives authority to what we are doing but factually just by congregationally chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, everything is thoroughly taken care of, and there is no need for anything beyond that. Krishna says in the B. Gita 8.16
punar avartino ’rjuna
mam upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
That from the highest planet in this material world down to the lowest all our places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. People in this world in an unfortunate condition of life are very much anxious to try to find happiness, pleasure and security in the world where there is know security, where all happiness and pleasure is guaranteed to be frustrated in due course of time. There is a story of one great yogi and he performed great, great tapasya and he was given a benediction that for every hair on his body he would live one day of Bramha, which is billions of years. Now this yogi, lived on the bank of the Ganges and he did not wear even any clothes and when the rainy season came it was pouring monsoon showers upon him, and during the winter season the cold winds would be upon him and in the summer season he did not even have shade to protect him from the sun. So one admirer of his approached him and said, “My dear Swamiji! Why is it that you are undergoing such difficulty? Why not allow me to build you a small house or a small bhajan kutir to live in?” And although he had the benediction to allow him to live for trillions and trillions and trillions of years he replied that, “Why should I waste my time with these unnecessary arrangements? After all I’m only here for a very short time.”
Through the performance of karma-kanda activities there is a section in the Vedas, by performing sacrifice and by (umm) satisfying the demigods and giving immense quantities of charity the ultimate goal of karma-kanda is elevation to the highest planet in this material world which is known as Bramha Loka, where one lives literally for trillions of years, where there is no such thing as disease, no such thing as troubles. But Krsna explains in Gita that whether you are in the hellish condition of suffering in this world or even in the lower worlds or whether you elevate yourself to Bramha loka, there is not much difference. They are all places of misery because they are all places where you must die. Death is not bad. Death is part of life! And there is no way we can argue against this. The spirit soul which is eternal is passing through various stages of life, within this body. Krishna says in the Gita 2.13
dehino ’smin yatha dehe
Kaumaram yauvanam jara
Dhiras tatra na muhyati
That as the embodied soul passes in this body from boyhood to youth to old age the soul similarly accepts another body at the time of death. It is simply another change. So there are so may changes in life and death is one of the inevitable changes. Therefore Krsna explains death is not to be lamented because the soul never dies. What we must really concentrate our human energy on is coming out of this bodily conception of life by which we think we are taking birth and dying. It is the bodily conception of life that is the source of all misery and suffering. It is not birth, old age, disease or death. These are not problems. The problem is that we are identifying with the body that is going through these changes inevitably. You cannot avoid it. You can at the most postpone for a few years. So therefore Bhagavad Gita is teaching in all the great scriptures of the world, how we can become free form the cycle of birth and death. And how we can help others become fee from the cycle of birth and death.
In this regard there is beautiful story in the Srimad Bhagvatam. And this story was narrated by a very, very great scholar of the Vedas. He’s very famous and his name has been heard and his activities and his qualities have been scrutinisingly studied by sages and sadhus for millions of years. His name is Hiranyakashipu. And Hiranyakashipu narrated this story to his mother. It was upon the occasion of the death of his brother Hiranyaksha. Hiranyaksha was killed by Krsna in the form of a boar, Lord Varahadeva. And everybody was weeping and crying too much. So Hiranyaksha (Maharaj actually means Hiranyakashipu) was actually a very, very learned scholar.
So he wanted to philosophically explain to them what is death and what is life. So he told his mother Diti and those around that one time there was a great King and his name was Suyagya. Suyagya was a very, very powerful man. He was a noble King. And of course in those days Kings were not like the rulers of today. When there was some disagreement, when there was opposition with another kingdom and there was war declared the first person to lead the armies in the battlefield was the King. Because they felt the responsibility. After all, the innocent soldiers have really nothing to do with why the war is being fought. It is the dispute between the two leaders. Correct? So therefore they were obliged first to lead the army. And if necessary first to die for their cause. ‘Course today this chivalry, this sense of honor is not so much. Today we read about a war and one ruler on one side he has his soldiers practically one million soldiers in the front lines ready to give their lives and he himself as a special shelter way, way deep, deep underground built by the Germans. It cost almost $1 billion. With thick, thick steel. It is said that if an atomic bomb dropped directly on top, it would hardly cause his glass of water to move. So formidably built. And he has enough food storage for one year for not him but all of his family members. So while the troops are fighting, and giving their lives with bullets and bombs dropping right on their heads he is very safe, although they have nothing to do, he has everything to do with the war. And of course on the other side he is 10,000 miles away no problem. Spend billions of dollars a day to shift the troops to the frontline but he is 10,000 miles away. We are not criticizing these leaders because after all God is the judge but they… times have changed.
So Suyagya was right there on the battlefield with his chariot willing to fight for his cause and give his life and exactly that is what had happened. He was killed on the battlefield. And he was laying there with his hair scattered and of course his blood all round him. And at that time his wives, he had many wives; they were crying and crying and crying and crying. ‘Oh! Our husband is gone!’ And they were crying so much beating on their chest, when it came to perform the funeral ceremony they grabbed unto the body and said, ‘No! No! don’t leave me. We love you, we love you. You cannot leave! They would not allow him to be taken away. They were so much grief stricken. At that time Yamaraj who is actually a very great devotee of the Lord, he is one of the Mahajans. He decided that this was a perfect time to preach to these queens. Usually most people will not listen to the truths of life until there is a disaster around them. That is our nature. When things are going well, it just becomes a form of entertainment to hear the truth. But we do not really, really, really imbibe within our hearts. So when there is a catastrophe that is beyond our control and there is nothing we can do about it, at that time our heart becomes a very, very ripened field for the seed of knowledge. But Yamaraj was thinking, because of.. I’m such a great personality in the eyes of men if I come before these ladies they will just offer me respects and they will go on with their crying. They will not listen. So therefore with his good intelligence, he disguised himself as a tiny little boy. Because after all the purpose of a sadhu is to change people’s hearts. The purpose is not to show how orthodox we can be or how much we can stick specifically and exactly according to the tradition. The purpose is to turn a person’s heart towards the Supreme Truth for the purpose of enlightenment.
So Yamaraj disguised himself as a little boy! Why? Because when a little boy speaks philosophy everyone is very, very anxious to listen. Just like today at the temple I gave a lecture from the Bhagavad Gita and people were patiently tolerating my lecture. And then these little, tiny children they got up and started reciting Bhagavad gita shlokas and everyone in the audience was thinking, ‘My God! These little children know Bhagavad Gita! I want to hear this Bg from them. Haan? What to do? In my next birth perhaps I will be able to get the message across better. But when a little child speaks philosophy, everyone wants to hear it. So Yamaraj came up to those ladies in the form of a little boy and said, ‘Why are you crying?’ ‘Because our husband is dead!’ How? (to someone ‘It’s all right). ‘But do you not know that the soul is eternal? There is no question of death. After all the body is still there. You’re crying over the body. If he’s the body you have nothing to cry about because he’s still there. And if he’s not the body but the soul, then the soul is eternal and there’s no death.’ So they understood this, that actually he’s not dead he’s just gone somewhere else. But then they had even more reason to cry! Because they said, ‘We’re helpless! Who is going to protect us? Who is going to provide for us? He’s our husband! He’s the King! We’re just wives! We’re women! How will we maintain and provide for ourselves in this world without our husband?’ and this little boy replied. He said, ‘Do you know? How old am I? 4-5 years old.’ He says, ‘I’ve been alone in this world for many years. You see me crying or in anxiety? God provides for everyone. If He’s providing for me fearlessly, because I have faith in Him, do you not think He’ll provide for you if you have faith in Him? And then he explained that there is no use lamenting for what you cannot change because life is too valuable and then he began to explain a story. It is the famous story of the korari bird.
Haan… There was a whole family of korari birds who were living together in a nest. And one day, the mother and the father decide to go out to collect food for their children. Meanwhile there was a hunter who spread a net. Special net just to catch korari birds. So the children they came out of their nest to play and somehow or other they fell right into the net. They were trapped. They could not get out. They were screaming for their lives. At that time the mother and father came and they saw their children helplessly in this condition of life. And they began to lament. “O our children! What are we going to do? There is nothing we can do to save them” so they began to cry and cry and cry. And as they were crying the mother bird fainted and fell into the net. And then the father bird he was thinking, ‘now I don’t have children, now I don’t have a wife. What will I do? What will I do? All I could do was lament.’ And he was simply standing in the brink of that net crying and crying and crying helplessly. And his crying was so loud that the hunter heard it. So he took his arrow and (Pssewt! Making the sound of an arrow being shot) and it pierced his head. And he fell into the net. Yamaraj explained, that human form of life is meant for self realization ayur harati vai pumsam udyan asncayan aso. That with every raising and setting of the Sun we are actually closer to death. Therefore time is on our side only to the extent that every moment is utilized in remembering God. But to the extent that we are concerning ourselves with any other purpose in life outside of the remembrance of God and His loving service, we are simply offering the oblations of our valuable human life and the moments of this life in the fire of death. Therefore every moment is so much valuable. Duralabha manava janma lobhiya samsare. That this human form of life so rare. Out of the 84,00,000 species of life to come to the point where you can come out of this cycle of birth and death to take the human form of life which provides this facility is so, so inconceivably rare. And we only have so much time to fulfill the real aim of life. We should not waste it.
Simply hankering for those things which we do not have and lamenting for those things which are lost. So rather we should do something very practical and very positive toward uplifting our own souls and uplifting the souls of others. On the basis of Guru, sadhu and shashtra, He has given us the greatest process, the most wonderful way that we can express the highest form of our love for those who are with us and those who have departed. By sincerely with great attention chanting the holy name of God, we amass tremendous, tremendous spiritual credit. We should pray to the Lord, that, “My dear Lord! Let me chant your holy name with all sincerity. Let me engage in your loving service with all sincerity and let me dedicate the benefits of that devotional activity the uplifting, the upliftment of those I love.” And if you’re prayer is sincere and you’re chanting of God’s names sincere and you’re execution of devotional service is sincere then it is guaranteed that Krsna will fulfill your desire. Even Hiranyakashipu who was a great, great demon who amassed inconceivable quantities of sins upon his soul. Prahalad Maharaj sacrificed his life in devotion to Lord Narasinghadeva, and he prayed to the Lord, ‘Please give my father the credit of my spiritual activities. Give him liberation. I don’t mind if I go to hell.’ And Lord Narasinghadeva explained that, “One who becomes my pure devotee without even asking I guarantee that all relatives and loved ones of that person, ten generations past, ten generations future they will all be liberated.” That is the benediction God gives upon all those devotees who surrender their lives in His service. So we cry for our loved ones. Why? Because we love them. But if we truly love them the greatest thing we could do for them is something that they will benefit by. Yamaraj was telling these ladies that you are crying over his body is doing nothing for him. With the same amount of human energy that you are spending crying chant God’s names, engage in devotional activities and you could liberate his soul forever.
Last week one of our devotees, his father who was also a very, very spiritual person, he was in his, I think he was almost eighty years old, and he was very sickly. He knew he was going to leave this world soon. And he wrote a note and kept it under his mattress for people to find after he left. And this note said that when I die please do not cry and lament. Chant Hare Krsna and do something for me. And do something for yourself. Crying and lamenting will not satisfy me, nor will it do any good for me. Sincerely chant the names of God, in this way you will not only liberate your own souls but you will liberate my soul. In fact this according to the shashtra is the first most important duty of a son. And actually a daughter as well. A son is called ‘putra’. Pu means hell and tra means to relieve. A putra or the son is meant to engage in spiritual activities, devotional activities and offer the credits of those spiritual activities to the father to release him from any hellish conditions that his soul may be in. and this is the ultimate expression of love. Of course in this society today, people are very much thinking that ‘if you really want to help the family, why are you taking this spiritual life so seriously. You should get job and make money, and support us and not only that you should do the menial work that needs to be done at the home. And to the degree you are chanting the names of God and doing your puja you are not really helping the family. Haan? This is the greatest, supreme illusion. And factually practically everyone has to face it if they become too serious about God consciousness. This is due to unfortunate ignorance. If we neglect our worldly responsibilities that is sinful. But to utilize as much time as possible to make a priority in our life too elevate our consciousness and worship God is the greatest service we can do for ourselves, for our family and for humanity.
Just like in my own life, my father has business he’s given his life to develop. He has three sons. None of them are interested in his business. What to do? I took sanyasa. I’m in India chanting Hare Krsna. Year after year after year he’s appealing to me “Please take my business. I’ve dedicated my life to it. I was bankrupt three times trying to build this business. At times in trying to raise you we had no money. It was just a struggle for existence. And now by working like an ass sometimes ten, fifteen, twenty hours a day, now this business is worth several millions of dollars. Take it. Otherwise what will I do with it?” so I explained to him that, “My dear father. You have two sons beside me. As far as I can see no one is taking care of the business of delivering you soul. Your body is being maintained, you are maintaining it. When you get older, it will be maintained, but there is no one doing anything for your soul. So that is my business to make sure that you go back to Godhead. And I’m working very hard. I might not be doing such a good job but I’m working very hard to try to make sure that you go back to Godhead. And that you’ll never have to suffer birth and death again. So let me take charge of this business and let your other two sons take care of that business.” And he said, “All right. It’s a deal.” And now he’s very happy. Just chanting Hare Krsna. Thanks to our devotees in Bombay. Not only is he chanting but he’s dancing. And my mother also she was dancing. She was dancing with Dr. Desai’s mother. Quite a sight to see. It shows that anything is possible, by the grace of God.
So tonight, of course we are gathered together. We are gathered together in the blessed memory of Chandrabhan Das Lalwani, who is the father of our very, very friend Puri Das. What is his other name? Prakash. Prakash means throwing on, throwing light.
And Puri, well the most common definition of puri is a very tasteful type of Prasad which means you not only shed the light but shed God’s mercy. Puri also means a holy place. And this blessed occasion the real way that we all here together could share our love for this noble gentleman is to truly deepen our own devotion to God. By associating with saintly persons, by offering whatever God has given us in His loving service, by sincerely chanting his names and then dedicating these credits, dedicating this purification to the upliftment, to the enlightenment for the eternal life of our near and dear ones. After all let us be practical. Let us contemplate very sincerely how I can best show my love for this person now. What I can do for this person now? You’re working your job will do nothing for that person. You’re making money will do nothing for that person. You’re getting a good education will do nothing for that person. These things might be practical for the bodies of this world but your spiritual practice, your prayers, your loving service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead will do the most wonderful and great service to the true soul of our loved ones. So to come together to cry is natural, but let us not end it like that. Let our tears further deepen our commitment to do something positive for him, for all other loved ones around us and for the world.
So I would like to umm ask all of you to chant the holy names with us with great feeling, with great attention. And let us all offer this kirtan of the holy names in the blessed memory of Mr. Lalwani.
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