On his journey northeast to Nepal, Richard (now Radhanath Swami) arrived at Patna and met Narayan Prasad and his guru Rama Sevaka Swami. Rama Sevaka Swami was a practicing bhakti yogi and his devotion to Lord Rama moved Richard deeply. He learnt about the behavior of an honest and genuine holy man.
While staying at Rama Sevaka Swami’s temple, one evening a visiting sadhuoffered to cook for all. He cooked kichari made with rice, mung, and some potatoes. With the first bite, Richard (now Radhanath Swami)’s mouth blazed, as the kichari was unbearably spicy. While eating the kichari, Richard was sweating profusely, and in the excruciating pain he hiccupped uncontrollably. The others however were enjoying it so much they never could have dreamt of Richard’s suffering. The cook insisted on serving seconds and then thirds. Richard’s attempt to block his plate failed, and the cook was very pleased with Richard’s honoring the food.
Ever since he was a child, Richard (now Radhanath Swami) had always felt bad when he caused other people sorrow. So intent was the cook on pleasing them that Richard didn’t have the heart to reveal the pain the cook was causing him. Richard had tears in his eyes caused by the kichari, but the cook thought Richard was crying in gratitude. Radhanath Swami narrates in his autobiography:
“Yes, I’m crying, and it may as well be in gratitude, as he believes. To please others is not always easy, but it is part of my deepest nature to wish to do so. Enduring the burning pain of that food was a small price to please this sadhu.”
Pleasing others is difficult. I may want to please someone by taking him out for a movie. However he may like a game of cricket instead. A critical aspect of pleasing others, I now learn from Radhanath Swami, is to understand what the other person wants. I can’t impose my liking or dislikes on another and expect him to like the same. We are all uniquely different. Each one of us has unique likes and dislikes. I grew up hating one vegetable preparation, karela, but my family loved it. I could never understand how they enjoyed it so much while they too were perplexed by my dislike for the prep. I now learn that an essential part of pleasing others is to be willing to give up our conceptions of likes and dislikes, and accept some inconveniences voluntarily.
I guess for a person to be a spiritual leader of the stature of Radhanath Swami, one has to really extend oneself to please others. I wonder how Richard who loved to live in solitude, now as Radhanath Swami manages a huge community of devotees and inspires them in their spiritual lives. He is constantly surrounded by people who approach him for advice and guidance. His interactions leave people happy and encouraged. But that must be quite a price to pay. His privacy and comforts are disturbed, as he has to always extend himself for others. But the same mood that drove Richard is now inspiring Radhanath Swami- to serve others even if it means personal inconveniences.
Radhanath Swami’s account reminds me of an interesting experience I had in college. My two friends had a big argument and they swore never to talk to each other. Later they individually felt and confided to me in private that I should mediate and settle the dispute. I didn’t want to and was disgusted with the squabbles that they always had. Reluctantly, with great struggle I called for a meeting and I spent time trying to make each person appreciate the other. It took hours and in the end both of them were crying tears of gratitude to me, thanking me for resolving their misunderstanding. Now after reading Radhanath Swami’s autobiography I wonder if with great reluctance to please someone, I actually landed up pleasing them, how much more meaningful my life would be if I actually intend to please and serve others.