|His Holiness Radhanath Swami|
I dreamt of a great saint the other night, but sadly I did not act as I would have liked.
I was inside a temple where many people had gathered. I was not sure why I was there, but then in the background I noticed Radhanath Swami, an initiating spiritual master in ISKCON and author of A Journey Home. He was standing silently and looking to the ground. He looked peaceful and illuminated, but while others were moving around he was silent and alone. I called out to him, “Radhanath Swami, Haribol. Can I please talk with you?” He looked up and smiled and replied, “Come with me.”
I hastily followed as he led me to a large hall where people were eating prasadam. He sat down and asked me to sit beside him. I tell him that he has always inspired me from afar and that I just loved the service he was doing all over the world. He nodded in appreciation and then said quietly, “Did you float for a while,?” seeming to indicate that I had strayed from the path of pure bhakti for a while. He then put his hand on the back of my head, and looked at me kindly.
“Well I…yes, I guess you could say I floated for a while,” I replied.
“What happened,” he asked me inquisitively.
“Well, I never had a good relationship with my guru. I was never attached…” I said sheepishly. I was trying to justify why I was not visiting the temple as much, but in truth, my spiritual quest was a keen as ever; I had just decided to take a new approach for a while and this necessitated challenging my long held dogmas.
He did not seem at all interested in my response.
He then gave me some kind of confection and then served me kitchri (Indian vegetable stew), but for some bizarre reason I did not take it. I then asked him, “Can I give you a copy of my book, FOOD YOGA?”
He was silent.
I then offered, “I have a softcover book or an ebook.”
He seemed somewhat interested, but said, “I am not sure I want a hard copy.”
“Well I can give a copy to one of the brahmacaris?”
“No, just give me an ebook,” he said smiling.
Maharaja then walked away with his plate of kitchri. I then saw the server and asked for some kitchri.
What I can take from this dream is that great devotees of the Lord are always kind, tolerant and patient with others. They offer light to the world; teach selfless love and live it through their unflinching determination to help others, despite numerous challenges. Radhanath swami is one such devotee of the Lord.
It was rather pretentious of me to offer him my book to someone so wise, and yet that was all I could do, rather than continue the conversation and open my heart for spiritual guidance. Yes, I had “floated” for a while, and interestingly, it was during that time that I last saw the swami. Just like now, he was incredibly kind and non-judgemental and sat with me and my friends and shared stories of his younger days when he cooked and served food to University students.
In hindsight, I can see that my response to his query was weak, dismissive and very wrong. The truth is we always have a choice, and at one time in my life I chose to walk a different path for a short while. Fortunately, that choice did lead me to new realisations, ideas, and opportunities. I took of the “hat” of past conditioning and dogma and took and honest and abrassive look at my life and motivations. I revisited past mistakes and challenges and shined a new light of objective perspective on them. I studied a variety of spiritual literature and asked myself frank questions about what it means to be God conscious? Was it just a philosophical conviction or did it all have to do with how we related to the world around us? I came to realise that it was certainly both, but more so the later. In other words, actions spoke much louder than words or convictions. Making a show of devotion is a crime against the world as much as it is a crime against oneself. The words of Srila Prabhupada now rang strongly in my ears, “First become conscious, then become Krishna conscious.” We had to live our spiritual truth in all of our daily activities and not simply in the temple.
It was during this time of reinventing myself that I began writing FOOD YOGA and set myself on a new path of teaching the wisdom of the ancient vedas in ways that were both digestible and accessible to a much larger audience. Of course, every new realisation that came to me was always connected to the culture of spiritual hospitality, for it seems without of shadow of doubt, that is my calling in this life.
I now look back at that short period in my life with gratitude, for without that fresh new perspective I could not have arrived to where I am now.
Sadly, in dreams, we don’t always behave or speak in ways that we are later proud of. But nonetheless, they serve to freshen our conviction, open our hearts to the truth and help us to see the lessons behind the veil.
I do hope next time I eat the kitchri offered by Radhanath swami. 🙁