Meditations on The Journey Home – Lesson from Chapter 1
Richard (now Radhanath Swami) wore his hair long, not as a fashion, but as an expression of discontent at the mainstream values driven by money, power and prejudice. He and his friends yearned for a meaningful life with ideals they could live and die for. However his appearance invited anger and negative reactions from many. People swore at him, called him a lazy parasite, and he was often harassed by the police. Richard struggled to curb the resentment that would swell up in his own heart, reminding himself about his spiritual purpose. Although he bore no malice towards anyone, he was a target of ridicule and hate. He sought to cultivate patience, perseverance, and prayer to overcome these obstacles.
It seems to be a rule that anyone not toeing the social line is marked as abnormal. It’s not just ordinary seekers like Richard, even great men, seeking to break free from the bonds of worldly prejudice, have been ridiculed and persecuted. Jesus Christ dared to stand up for love, and reclaim the lost children of God. Far from being appreciated, he was crucified. In the fifteenth century, Haridas Thakur, though born in a Muslim family in Bengal, India, became an exalted saint devoted to God in the form of Krishna, whom the religious zealots of his time considered to be a sectarian Hindu god. Consequently, Haridas Thakura was constantly tormented by those religious Zealots. His crime? He sought to chant the holy names of God, and broke sectarian barriers in spreading the message of love of God. A spiritual seeker never attempts to imitate great souls, and Richard had no desire to do so. He was unknowingly to himself following the footsteps of all previous God seekers, and humbly following the calling of his heart. Even as Radhanath Swami, he often guards himself and others that a spiritual seeker always aspires to follow the footsteps of great souls, but never in the wildest of his dreams should dare to imitate them.
Practicing spiritual life is always a challenge, especially in modern times when the goals and values of the modern society are determined by the print and electronic media. Today’s heroes are movie-stars and sports-stars, and their exploits are emulated by million others. Yet emptiness engulfs the heart of many of those superheroes and their diehard fans who have no tangible goal in life; their pain is compounded when they see saintly people, who have abandoned the pleasures of the world, to be much happier than them. Unable to contain their envy, some give vent to their frustration by hurling abuses at such seekers of spiritual enlightenment. This is a challenge for the spiritual seeker- not to nurse the same negativity, and on the contrary, love the very people who despise him or her. This requires internal fortitude and strong character, achieved through sincere spiritual practices. Thus a spiritualist, far from being lazy, has to strive hard with patience and prayer. While the world chases after the mirages of external growth and success, a seeker of God attempts to conquer his own inner enemies of anger, envy and pride. The endeavor alone, if filled with loving remembrance of God, fills the heart with a level of happiness that is far beyond the fleeting happiness of this world. History has borne witness to the sacrifices of thousands of saints who pursued their inner calling, despite the social wave flowing in the opposite direction. Richard too, was pursuing a similar goal.
He derived constant inspiration from flowing streams of water. Sitting on the banks of a water body, he felt soothed and driven to pursue his inner calling. He reflected on the secrets of life that were waiting to unfold and guide him to his destiny. During this time, his friends, Gary and Frank planned to go to Europe for a few days. Richard explained his plan to his parents, and pacifying their concerns as best as he could, set out determinedly, on an unprecedented adventure.
A burning desire to know and love God compels a person to leave the comforts of a safe home. Radhanath Swami sums it up eloquently, “The greatest joy is to make sacrifices for someone you love.” Richard desired to love God, and was ready to make his sacrifice.