By Annette Kahmann, MA, MA
Radhanath Swami is a world renowned spiritual teacher, acclaimed author and social activist.
He is one of the most sought after speakers of our time and has spoken at Harvard, Stanford
University, London School of Business, Home State Bank, Intel, Google, Microsoft, the British
parliament and many other respected institutions. He has met with prominent leaders such as
the Dalai Lama, President Obama and Pope Francis. His messages are profound, simple and
timeless, yet timely in the tradition of all great teachers. He was instrumental in developing
several communities which are based on the teachings of simple living and high thinking. In
India, thousands of people attend his lectures and here in the United States his following is
strong as well. Here, we have the good fortune to see him in person, rather than looking up at
him projected on a huge screen as is often the case in India. How fortunate we are!
Born Richard Slavin in 1950, Radhanath Swami comes from a simple family in the American Mid-West. At the age of 19, Richard hitchhiked and traveled around Europe as many other young people did at the time, which would make him indistinguishable save for the intention which drove his travels. While many traveled to explore the outside world, Richard was on an inner search, seeking his true purpose in life. One day, while sitting on a rock meditating in Greece, he heard a voice which said, “Go to India.” Without a map, he started the long and arduous trek to the east. Wherever he went, he asked of people, both simple and learned, about their religion. After Richard reached his coveted destination, he continue traveling India as a traditional monk while living with different spiritual groups and studying with them. Always respectful of all religious paths, the deep connection from the heart was eluding him – until he met Srila Prabhupada, his future teacher, and was introduced to bhakti yoga.
There are different types of yoga, and in contrast to popular western belief, they are all geared towards reconnecting the soul with the Supreme. Bhakti yoga, Radhanath Swami explains, is “the path of connecting to God through serving others with love and compassion.”
The Bhagavad Gita says that all living beings are a tiny spark of the Supreme, which drives the material body. Thus all living entities are sacred beings, partaking in the qualities of the Supreme, although in a much smaller quantity. It is this respect for the sacredness in all life forms that fuels true compassion. “One thing that every spiritual path has in common is the characteristic of compassion. One who actually follows a spiritual path is an instrument of compassion,” Radhanath Swami says in one of his lectures. Compassion, seeing the beloved Supreme in all living beings and an unsurpassed attitude of humility and servitude have propelled Radhanath Swami towards establishing many charitable projects. One of the most prominent charity programs of Radhanath Swami and his followers is the feeding of 250,000 indigent school children in Mumbai with a daily lunch. In spite of the high demand for his presence and wisdom, Radhanath Swami hands out lunches himself whenever possible as he feels it is a privilege to serve — “A selfless life, a devotional life, a life of compassion — that is what real happiness is.” Radhanath Swami’s presence radiates this happiness of devotion and service.
Another famous project by Radhanath Swami is the Govardhan Eco Village (GEV) near Mumbai, a model that illustrates ‘Simple Living & High Thinking’ in modern times: “Govardhan Ecovillage is a model farm community and retreat center highlighting the importance of spiritual ecology: the need for us to live in harmony with ourselves, nature and the sacred.” The idea is based on old Vedic scriptures from India that focus on service, rather than exploitation. Govardhan Eco Village exemplifies the best in organic farming and peaceful coexistence of many species, the latest and greatest in water conservation and waste management; it is a place where the latest environmental technology is combined with ancient spiritual wisdom and time-proven agricultural and building technologies, all in harmony with Mother Nature. The center offers yoga retreats and other activities for visitors from all over the globe who come here to recharge spiritually and physically as well as to learn about technologies which promote sustainability in other places too. Details about Govardhan Eco Village can be found at http://www.ecovillage.org.in/
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“The essence of every religion is sincerity in cleansing our own hearts, and cultivating humility by honoring every living entity as a child of God.” This message is an intrinsic part of Radhanath Swami’s mission and lifestyle and its message is far reaching. His lively and gifted storytelling contributes to the impact of his lectures. His teachings are witty, clever and engaging; he is a master at coining catchy expressions such as, “When Apple and Blackberry were still fruit, life was much simpler.” Whatever topic Radhanath Swami speaks about, his message is always simple and profound, reaching both the mind and heart of his listeners, bridging any divisions of faith and uniting his listeners in their desire to be of better service towards the Supreme and our fellow living beings. Many of his speeches can be found at www.radhanathswami.com as well as on YouTube.
Radhanath Swami is also the author of the bestselling book The Journey Home and the acclaimed newly released The Journey Within. In The Journey Home he recounts the story of his travels through India. The story runs the gamut of emotions while providing highly enlightening insights. Combined with his engaging writing style, this book is a page turner and has been translated into a number of languages. The Journey Within focuses on traversing the inner path and is filled with his trademark wisdom and compassion from beginning to end. It enables all to gain a richer perspective and deeper insight to their inner selves.
A little swami with a huge impact
Radhanath Swami is a master at shifting human views from the dualistic ‘good versus bad’ towards seeing the divine presence in everything. In his recent book, The Journey Within, he tells the story of a severely disabled child, and how the family’s shift in perspective helps them see their child’s condition as a blessing. In this story, we can see the hand of the Supreme in all situations. Rather than being swept away by dualistic thinking and the divisions that dominate differing political parties, religions and personal viewpoints, Radhanath Swami helps shift our focus towards the blessings which can be found everywhere. Instead of seeing good and bad, we are left with divine arrangements.
The “little swami,” as Radhanath Swami likes to call himself, comes from an ordinary middle class family, like many of us. His love for God is steadfast and infectious. His compassion and tireless service are beyond the scope of most. When asked how people can make a difference in the world, Radhanath Swami replied:
“Every single one of us can make an incredibly beautiful difference in the world we live and that’s what gives life meaning. If we think, “I’m so small. I can’t make a difference,” then we won’t make a difference. But if we can even help one person in our life, that is a tremendous accomplishment, greater than winning the World Cup or being a world champion. The quality is really important and we could all make a difference, big or small.”
“God reveals true love to the world through the lives of those who love Him,” he once told his followers. He himself is one of the greatest revelations of true love in our time.