The Namaste Counsel


Radhanath Swami: The Journey Within, Part 2*

The soft-spoken swami still finds time to share his words of wisdom via books and workshops. Herein, are remarks made at Chicago’s Bhakti Fest, particularly relevant given our current political atmosphere.

Unity in diversity is at the heart of Bhakti — Radhanath Swami

“Like a flower garland, the diversity makes it beautiful,” he said referring to the strands of colorful buds that are placed around people’s necks to display respect and reverence. To extinguish diversity is regrettable, he says.

“True wisdom is to see everyone with equal vision. Whether it’s a human or a cat, wherever there is life, it is sacred. Spiritual people have been in so many places and languages trying to give humanity this teaching.”

That philosophy is part of the concept of the first yogi commandment: ahimsa. When we talk about ahimsa (non-violence) we don’t just say, do no harm to your loved ones. Rather, we are inclusive. In other words, do no harm to any living being.

“There so much conflict in the world,” he says. To paint the picture, he gives an example of someone suffering from a blood disease. You can’t use a band-aid approach to address the symptoms. Rather, you must go to the root of the matter. Determine what is causing the disease. “The same with politics.” Therefore, with societal woes, we can’t just resolve them with tax breaks or other panaceas. We must zoom in on what plagues our society at its core.

Radhanath Swami sees a lack of spirituality as a festering problem.

“Spirituality is that science that deals with the core problem of conflict. When there’s greed, arrogance, anger, it (conflict) comes out.  These qualities can become monstrous. Somehow or other, the false ego is obsessed.”

“The law of karma is a scientific analysis of how the world works. As you sow, so shall you reap. What goes around comes around. Like the law of gravity. Whatever we believe, whatever goes up must come down. It’s not that we can always see the results. If you plant a nice flower, it takes a long time for the flower to bloom. It takes its time. Karma is like that. Sometimes there’s immediate reaction. Other times not until another life. But in due course, it will blossom.”

The greatest value of life is compassion — Radhanath Swami

We’ve all seen those bumper stickers that say COEXIST. But, unfortunately, there are too many us-versus-them mindsets in our population. People that believe, “We are superior to others. My race… my religion… my beauty… my education. We look for ways to be superior to others. If others outshine us, we are vulnerable to depression or envy. If we outshine others we are vulnerable to condescension.”

“Victims make other people victims. The oppressed, when given power, become oppressors. Real greatness is overcoming that ego. Unless we understand who we are we can’t understand our unity with others.”  That’s why the journey within is so important.

At the core of Bhakti yoga is mantra meditation. Radhanath Swami explains, “This chanting of mantras is an ancient eternal way in which is love is awakened from within our hearts. Only to love and be loved can give pleasure to the heart.”

Most forms of yoga help us to go within. The aim is to quiet our monkey minds. Bhakti is one way to keep the mind from jumping which “can really get us in trouble.” Inner peace, love, and bliss are within reach when we still the mind.

According to Radhanath Swami, in the Bhakti tradition, it’s not about whether we have a lot or a little. Nor, does it matter whether one is a surgeon or a garbage man.  Selfless love is the greatest thing we can pass on to our children, he teaches.

He told a story about a CEO from Chicago that he met in London.  The CEO traveled on a private jet. Radhanath Swami hitchhiked there. The CEO was on the verge of being a billionaire. Radhanath hasn’t had a checking account since 1969. Despite their differences, they are in the same place.

Does it really make a difference what one thinks he or she owns? In the shared yogic and ISKCON beliefs, we don’t really own anything. Thus, the universe is the true owner.

Everything comes from the same source — Radhanath Swami

“The difference between spiritual life is not just interacting with the world, but how we interact. From a Bhakti perspective, I’m a caretaker of god’s property. Not the proprietor. But, if we forget the origins, it becomes material versus spiritual.”

Prestige. Possessions. Abilities. Those things are unimportant. Rather, we should seek inner peace. Compassion. Love for God.

The first principle taught in the Bhagavad Gita is that we are the life that animates this body, Radhanath explains. “The souls can never die. This body is like a car. If there’s not a driver in the car, what can the car do? When the body dies, the soul travels on. When we awaken, our true consciousnesses discover we are all from the same source.”

“What does it mean to be humble? It’s such a profound and deep subject. We are not the controller or the owner. I didn’t make the sun. All the organs of my body are gifts given to me.”

“We have our choices. We always have free will. Whether in pleasant times…or in hard times. We can make choices to live with integrity. This is what life is about. But how many things in the universe can we not control?  It’s limitless. That should humble us.”

* Part 1 and Part 2 are based on a workshop Radhanath Swami gave in Chicago at Bhakti Fest. This was one of many workshops I have attended with him, over the years, at Bhakti Fest. To read more about his prior remarks, use the search engine on

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