Meditations on The Journey Home – Lesson from Chapter 1
While attending Miami Dade College in Florida, Radhanath Swami, as nineteen year old Richard, had the passion for adventure. However, he soon noticed an overwhelming desire taking precedence over everything else in his heart: the desire for spirituality, and an inner quest for subtle realities. He reverentially chanted the sacred syllable Om and practiced Maharshi Mahesh Yogi’s mantra meditation techniques. Thus the seed of spiritual inclination was now slowly growing.
The Vedic teachings extol a human to seek a spiritual goal of life. This quest is a unique endowment of human beings in comparison to animals, who can’t think beyond the four needs of eating, sleeping, mating and defending. The dormant spiritual spark in all of us needs to be fanned, and we need to go beyond mere bodily needs.
Richard’s long hair and open expression of rebellion towards the norms of establishment attracted hatred from many. However, he felt it an honor to be persecuted for a noble ideal rather than ‘sell out’ to popular opinions or fashions of the society. Richard and his friends were disappointed with the temporal ambitions of the materialistic society in the 1960’s, and preferred to seek a deeper meaning to life.
The Vedic sayings assert that a human who refuses to search for inner meaning of life is no better than an animal. Richard’s desire to rise above mediocrity and live a life centered on a noble ideal is noteworthy. Crass animal pursuits by modern man have caused havoc in modern society. Men, due to their insatiable greed have degraded themselves to lower than animals, for an animal society doesn’t face scarcity of food caused by a member of the same species. Animals also do not face a threat of extinction created by other animals; it’s the humans who create artificial scarcity and threaten to destroy all life on this planet. Animals do not have addictions, insomnia or suicidal tendencies, a feature unique to a hedonistic human society.
During this time Richard also began to understand that to hate those who hated him was to share the same disease. He took part in a civil rights march in support of Dr Martin Luther King’s vision. His participation in the march was unique because a white boy had shown up for an Afro-American march, but the meeting almost turned violent when the speaker hurled abuses, incited hatred and revenge, and used Richard as a symbol of everything they despised. Richard escaped in time and later reflected on a passage, “If a person does not have an ideal he’s ready to die for, he has nothing really meaningful to live for.”
Whether it’s the Afro-Americans v/s the whites, or the hundreds of other ‘us’ v/s ‘them’ issues, cultivating hatred rather than love, while seeking justice, is a sad reality of modern times. Radhanath Swami often appeals that the major hunger problem in this world is the hunger to love and be loved. He is emphatic to declare that if we can tap this power of love within all of us, the world will not only be a better place to live in, but also we can have a higher degree of motivation to serve. His logic is simple; he asks, “Who will take care of a child more-a nurse who’s paid thousand dollars a week, or the mother who isn’t paid anything?” what’s the motivation for the mother vis-a vis the nurse? It’s love. He tirelessly appeals to the world to tap the power of forgiveness. “If there is to be any peace of mind or harmony in this world, forgiveness is absolutely crucial. If we cannot forgive, then there is no possibility of any relationships surviving at any level”, says Radhanath Swami.
Young Richard’s realizations grew with his spiritual quest, and from knowing that he shouldn’t hate those who hated him, he now shares a profound wisdom, “If we understand the underlying cause of what we think of as bad in someone, instead of being hateful, we will be compassionate. For is not every soul inherently good? A saintly person will hate the disease but love the diseased.”