At the foothills of Himalayas, the first sight of the mountain and river Ganges thrilled Richard (now Radhanath Swami) beyond imagination. The sight was like a spark that detonated an explosion of emotions. He spent some days at ‘The Divine Life Mission’, the ashram of the renowned Himalayan saint, Swami Sivananda. Richard was blessed to get the association of Swami Cidananda, the successor to Swami Sivananda. Swami Cidananda was born of wealthy landowner parents in South India. At the age of twenty he heard a calling of God and gave up all material comforts to serve God. Richard was struck by his call for practicing spiritual life. Swami Cidananda said that life is meant for the realization of God. “If you die without attaining God-realization, your life is in vain. You have wasted away this precious gift of human birth given to you by God.”
Richard is now Radhanath Swami and his message to humanity is to make the best use of this precious human life. “To explore higher and deeper levels of happiness, we need to understand that humans are a very special species in God’s creation, and they are capable of experiencing a much more satisfying and purposeful life.” Quoting his guru, Srila Prabhupada, Radhanath Swami says that humans and animals have the basic similarities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending. And the human society is endeavoring to make these four activities better each day. However we can be truly happy only if we explore the crucial difference that humans have in comparison to animals. That difference, Radhanath Swami asserts is our ability to enquire about the cause of our suffering and about the actual destination of our lives.
Initially I tended to think that the difference between us and animals is that animals can’t logically think reason, question or use intelligence. These are special gifts awarded to humans alone. However on carefully trying to understand Radhanath Swami’s teachings and on closer inspection of nature, it’s obvious that animals also use intelligence. For instance have you seen a cat sneak into the kitchen when nobody is watching? She knows exactly when to enter and she also knows where the milk is kept. Once, while staying in a monastery of monks, we were each given a couple of hangers to use for hanging our shirts. Since we dried our clothes in an open space, we left our shirts hanging in the terrace of the ashram. Slowly all fifty residents of the ashram lost their hangers and we all wondered who could have stolen them and when. As weeks passed we forgot the incident and one day as I was standing in the terrace, i saw something shocking. On the top branch of a tree facing the ashram was a beautiful nest of a crow family. What left me startled was that the nest was entirely made of our cloth hangers. I called the other inmates and we all saw in amazement the skills of these simple birds. Where did these birds learn to make a nest, leave alone an expert one made of hangers? We haven’t heard of any birds studying Civil engineering at the premier Indian Institute of Technology. This shows animals and birds also have intelligence; however the difference is they can’t think or use their intelligence beyond the four propensities of sleeping, eating, enjoyment and defending.
Therefore Swami Cidananda and Radhanath Swami are perfectly right in imploring humans to make the best use of their lives, and not waste it in pursuits of bodily pleasures.