The Journey Home

Radhanath SWAMI, author of The Journey Home, answers questions put forth by Hiren Kumar BOSE

HKB: Many from the West come to India seeking spiritual bliss, but stay a spiritual vagrant all their lives. You have been different. You came as a seeker and remain so. How has the journey been?

RS: For all of us life is a journey, a journey in search of happiness. Some seek that happiness through external experiences, while others search for that fulfilment within themselves. Essentially, happiness is an experience of the heart and a state of mind. It is not necessarily determined by our external environment. Spiritual life is a life wherein we embark on a journey in search of the treasures which are dormant within our hearts. We all want to love and we all want to be loved. The essence of every great spiritual path in the world is to realise this: that the origin of the most fundamental need is our dormant love for god. When we find that love of god within our own hearts, that love naturally extends to every living being. I personally feel very grateful that I have been blessed to be on this internal journey for the past 40+ years and whatever jewels of wisdom and divine experiences I have been blessed with; my greatest pleasure of life is to share them with others.

HKB: Do we need god and why?

RS: From a spiritual perspective, god supplies us with the air we breathe, the water we drink, the earth that provides our food and the bodies in which we live. God is providing all of our needs; to recognise this reality and be grateful is an act of love. Ultimately, love is the fundamental need of everyone. Just as the stomach is hungry for food, the heart is hungry for love and that love that the heart is seeking is within us. When love of god awakens within us, it naturally manifests as compassion towards all beings. It transforms greed into generosity, arrogance into humility, vengeance into forgiveness, sectarianism into appreciation of others, hate into love, envy into compassion; it is this transformation that comes through a god-conscious life. This is the greatest need for all of humanity, especially in today’s chaotic and egoistic world.

HKB: Appropriated by religion, seeking god for the average person has been reduced to following elaborate rituals. Where does one find god?

RS: The essence of every great religion throughout history is the awakening of that dormant spiritual potential within us and to be an instrument of that divine power in whatever we do. Within various spiritual traditions there are different languages, different historical explanations, different philosophical interpretations and various rituals. A ritual is like an envelope that is meant to send a message. The envelope itself is meaningless without a proper message inside. Similarly religious rituals are ways of expressing the inner intention of our hearts. God sees our intention. God sees our sincerity. And, when our rituals carry a proper state of mind seeking wisdom and grace then the rituals can be a very powerful tool to bringing us closer to god and to purify our hearts.

However, when we identify with the external forms of rituals and philosophies, without understanding the inner intent of them, our spirituality becomes superficial. Such superficiality can be dangerous. It could lead to sectarianism, judgmentalism, egoism, hatred, violence and war. These qualities are contrary to the very purpose of every religion and every religious ritual. Their purpose is to transform our heart into being compassionate, loving servants of all living beings. The Bhagavad Gita teaches that a truly spiritual person sees every living being with equal vision, because such a person sees the spiritual essence, or Atma, within the heart of everyone, whether they be a saint, a common person, an elephant, a cow, or dog. Wherever there is life, there is the presence of the eternal soul. One who loves god will see the essence within everyone. That is the true test of one who loves god. Today, we find people using religious scriptures and religious rituals for the purpose of serving their own individual, or collective egos. In Sanskrit, there is a term, sāragrāhī, which means that a truly spiritual person is seeking the essence in every situation in life. Seeking the opportunity to grow, serve and love in every situation. The true purpose of spiritual practice and ritual is to bring us to that state of consciousness — of being instruments of the divine potential within us.

HKB: The lure of the guru poses the same challenge as any other affair of the heart. Is there a dummies’ guide to getting the right guru?

RS: In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells, Ye yathä mäà prapadyante täàs tathaiva bhajämy aham [Bhagavad Gita, 4.11], that, according to our sincerity the Lord within the heart directs us. So, according to our sincerity, we will be lead to a particular guru. The Vedas teach that a sincere person will try to understand the science of finding a guru, through guru, sadhu and shastra, which means the guru speaks what is in the scriptures and lives by those principles and understands the scriptures according to the tradition of great saintly persons who exhibited the universal spiritual principles that we have spoken of. In the absence of a guru how does a tenacious and persevering seeker know that they are on the right track?

HKB: Is Namasmaran the right way to be blessed by His presence?

RS: We should be sincere and genuine and approach god without ulterior motives. One who chants the name of god in such a state of mind, the Lord will certainly guide us to the association and to the guru who can help us to fulfil the final quest in life, self-realisation. If we seek the association of saintly persons, cultivate a sincere desire for spiritual advancement and earnestly follow our spiritual practices, god will certainly guide us. In this age, the Vedic scriptures emphasise that chanting the divine names of god as the easiest and most powerful practice to achieving spiritual perfection.

HKB: What is the relationship with god we should aspire for?

RS: The name of god — Krishna means ‘all attractive.’ We are naturally attracted when the heart is cleansed of pollution of egoism. On the path of bhakti we aspire to enter into relationship with god in the spirit of unconditional, unmotivated love. Lord Chaitanya taught us to aspire to be the humble servant of the servants of the Lord’s servants. This type of sincere humility attracts the All-Attractive One.

HIREN KUMAR BOSE, a senior print and digital media communicator, has worked with leading English newspapers in India. He was till recently the Editor-in-Chief of a Mumbai-based media house that specialised in lifestyle-themed periodicals. Bose, who’s travelled widely on international assignments, over the last 35+ years, is presently an independent journalist. He contributes regularly to leading web portals and print journals. Apart from being the contributing editor of the Swiss luxury watch portal, WatchWorld, Bose is also a weekend farmer and active blogger. He manages the blog, Sunday Farmer, which has a devoted following among farming enthusiasts across the globe. This article is ©Hiren Kumar Bose.

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