By Radharaman dasa
Thursday 11th November 2010 saw history in the making with its first corporate sponsored event in the financial industry to host a Gaudiya Vaisnava sannyasi. In the heart of UK‚Äôs financial district of Canary Wharf, over 200 bankers and traders assembled 512 feet high in Barclays skyscraper for an evening event to celebrate the message of Diwali with His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami.
Over the past year bankers and traders from Directors to analysts have been gathering fortnightly to investigate the Vedic view from fellow banker Sri Radharamana dasa on investment banking and topics of economics. The lunch & learn sessions are committed to providing genuine information from the ancient classical Vedic texts to help spiritually direct one of the most powerful bodies and group of individuals in corporate responsibilities. Free from religious motivations, the sessions have sparked demand across all cultures and faiths due to the emphasis on philosophy and spirituality. Session organiser Ashika Patel comments: ‚Äúthe success of our objectives can be gleaned from the fact that most of our attendees are from non-Indian origins or affiliations. By providing spiritual concepts from the Vedas, our European, American, Afro Caribbean and wide range of western attendees highly appreciate the thought provoking Vedic versions for both inside banking and in their own lives too.‚ÄĚ With the grand success of last years annual Diwali event, this years event was geared towards providing a finale of the lunch sessions by hosting His Holiness Sripad Bhakti Charu Swami.
As the clock struck six, bankers slowly but surely escaped from desks to travel high into the tower that was magically transformed to depict the festival of lights. With a full house, the director of sales and trading welcomed the event and handed the festival to the MC for the evening, Sri Radharamana dasa. Having welcomed another years festival, the MC began with explaining the roots of Diwali and how cultures and faiths around the world commemorate Diwali. The festival was then inaugurated by the magical classical singing of fellow banker Priya Parkash who vocalised the ancient Thumri which puts to note in Brajabhasha the sentiments of separation between the Sakhis of Vrindavana and Lord Krishna. The second piece seemed to shatter the floor through an esoteric bhajan by medieval poet Kabir who asks the mind to focus on singing the names of Govinda, Rama and Hari. The solo performance was accompanied by tabla maestro Hanif Khan.
With the ethos of the room brought to a standstill, the MC elaborately introduced His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami both from his spiritual affiliation to the worlds oldest monastical tradition but also through his versatile community projects. With special gratitude expressed for travelling all the way from India to join the festival, His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami began with an invocation to the previous acaryas and ushered into the panca tattva and mahamantra. From the very start, His Holiness encaptured the assembly with his devotional gestures and sweet words that vibrated the glories of Sri Rama. As he smiled on, His Holiness described the purpose of Sri Rama‚Äôs advent and moved on to technically define the concept of an avatara. With great compassion and understanding His Holiness discussed the weaknesses of modern day misunderstandings of God and described how one can and should properly probe the subject matter of Gods existence. Having exemplified the difference between matter and spirit, His Holiness elaborately described the philosophy of Sankhya by which the entire material manifestation is understood. With the scientific nature of the Vedas established, His Holiness described the nature of the soul and its relationship to the Supreme father through verses from the Bhagavad-gita. The discourse concluded with the advantages of accepting spiritual culture and the results of experiencing the nature of transcendence.
Following a few more speeches and cultural items the event closed with prasadam. During this time however, while His Holiness was seated, individuals one by one requested the MC for audiences with His Holiness with questions and to share appreciation. It seemed that the entire assembly consisting of people from a wide range of races and nativities were queuing to meet with His Holiness. A number of senior banker colleagues commented that they have finally experienced the concept of a genuine spiritual master and guide in His Holiness and are planning to visit him in Ujjain. One in particular who heads up Sales & Trading commented to accept the attire of a Hare Krishna and sit at the feet of His Holiness to learn about the Absolute Truth. Every person who met His Holiness felt an overwhelming amount of love and was not able to understand how he made everyone feel the same. At times His Holiness was extensively describing the nature of God and at others he was probing questions of science with unlimited explanations. His compassion and genuine spiritual concern for individuals even humbled many senior management colleagues who sat there with heads lowered in pleasure. A sense of profound respect for His Holiness was established unintentionally with each and every individual who had an interaction. Some walked away marvelled with his humble attitude saying that they have never met someone more pure in everyway than he.
With innumerable relationships and arrangements made by both parties to stay intouch His Holiness eventually departed to the ground floor. However, individuals who were unable to meet earlier took the opportunity to have an audience with His Holiness in reception. In particular, one of the most respected bankers who through his PhD in physics helped to pioneer the Large Hadron Collider (world‚Äôs largest and highest-energy particle accelerator) had a lengthy dialogue with His Holiness in German. It will take many pages to elaborately describe the effect of a pure devotees association amongst probably one of the most intellectually demanding groups. The after effect is enough to demonstrate what transpired. This banker in particular is eagerly looking forward to follow up his discussion when His Holiness next visits London.
As His Holiness was leaving, the marble floor and walls all reflected his radiant saffron robes in all four corners to light up the bank. His entrance was as startling as his departure. The added difference this time was that he left with giving the beauty (caru) of bhakti to bankers of all walks of life. By being true to his name, one can at least begin to understand the purport of his name ordained by his spiritual master, His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada through this episode. Only an empowered representative of Srila Prabhupada would be able to move the hearts of many such influential and academically proficient bankers. Infact, may be one such in a million. Bhakti certainly hit the bankers!
Along with some photos, below is the unedited speech prepared by His Holiness for the event. This will give you an idea of the lecture although His Holiness also spoke spontaneously.
This festival ‚Äúdipavali‚ÄĚ literally means the festival of lamps. Lord Sri Ramachandra, after 14 years of exile came back to His kingdom, Ayodhya, and that evening the entire city was lit up with multitude of lamps. Although that incident took place thousands of years ago, every year, on this day, this festival is celebrated everywhere in India, practically by everyone. In this way people of India express their gratitude towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead for annihilating the miscreants and establishing the ultimate standard of law and order.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead descends to this material nature from the spiritual sky, mainly to fulfil two objectives ‚Äď to protect His devotees and annihilate the demons. And by doing that He establishes His authority in this material nature.
This appearance of the Lord is known as incarnations or ‚Äúavatars‚ÄĚ. Lord Ramachandra is known to be the ‚ÄėMaryada Purusottama‚Äô incarnation of the Lord Who appeared in order to reestablish the principles of morality and virtue. He taught by His own example ‚Äď by displaying all the divine qualities like honesty, truthfulness, honor, detachment, forbearance, humility, tolerance. He was the personification of virtue and played the role of the ideal king.
In order to uphold the word of honor of His father He sacrificed His right over His kingdom and went to the forest for 14 years. There He killed the king of the demons, who kidnapped His wife. These activities which are known as ‚Äúlilas‚ÄĚ or pastimes are meant to set the right examples to increase our attachment to the Lord and obtain the perfection of our existence.
In today‚Äôs world due to intense materialism and total absence of spiritual education, most of the people have become rather indifferent towards such topics. Many of them, without proper probing, conclude that God does not exist and many others become hard-core atheists.
To do justice to any topic first of all we have to properly study the subject before making any comment or passing any judgment. Abundant information is actually available on this topic, especially in the Vedic literatures. Those informations are not based just on some silly sentiments or blind superstitions but on profound philosophy and practical scientific observations.
In order to properly understand this topic we have to first understand the difference between inert matter and conscious beings. To begin our quest on this topic, let us start from this very room. Here are some objects ‚Äď these chairs, tables, walls and floor; they are all inert matter, however, you and I, although our bodies are made out of inert matter, we all are conscious.
What causes this difference ‚Äď the presence of the soul. As long as the soul is present in the body, the body is alive, but as soon as the soul leaves the body, the body becomes dead.
In the Vedic wisdom, through sankhya philosophy this subject has been elaborately discussed. Through this branch of philosophy the entire material nature has been analyzed through 24 different factors -
5 elements ‚Äď earth, water, fire, air and ether;
5 senses ‚Äď eyes, ears, nose, skin and tongue;
5 objects of the senses ‚Äď sound, touch, form, taste and smell;
5 working senses: legs, hands, anus, belly and genitals;
3 subtle elements: mind, intelligence and false ego
and finally the total element of creation ‚Äď mahat-tattva.
After analyzing the entire material nature in this way, they considered that all these 24 factors are objective in nature, and the object cannot exist without the subject or the observer, and the observer is the self. Therefore the self is non-material or spiritual. In this way they transcend the material domain and reach the spiritual reality. The Supreme Personality of Godhead also makes a similar analysis in the Bhagavad Gita. He says:
bhumir apo analo vayu kham mano buddhir eva ca
ahankara itiyam me bhinna prakritir astadha
That is ‚Äď the material nature is composed of eight elements: earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego. And they He says -
apareyam itas tv anyam prakritim viddhi me param
jiva-bhutam maha-baho yayedam dharyate jagat
Beyond this inferior material nature there exists another superior nature of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material nature.
To understand the spiritual reality we have to transcend this realm of inert matter and recognize the existence of a spiritual reality. Through common sense also we can understand this point.
Say, for example, I am here talking to you all. If I drop dead now, you will say that he is gone. Although my body will be lying here but you will say that he is gone. Now, who is that ‚Äúhe‚ÄĚ. He is the soul, that kept this body alive and as soon as he leaves the body, the body becomes dead. That soul is the source of our consciousness. It is such a powerful source of consciousness that it can make even a body made of dead matter conscious. This soul is not a product of this material world, but it comes from another world ‚Äď the spiritual world. In that spiritual world everyone is conscious, everything is conscious. And the source of all conscious beings is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the Supreme ‚Äď no one is equal to Him or superior to Him. He is a person and we all are His parts and parcels. As His parts and parcels we, everyone of us, have a relationship with Him.
Since we all came from Him, He is our Supreme Father. Yes, we have a father who is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Supreme proprietor and controller, and if we can become aware of that fact and become related to Him then all our problems will immediately be solved. However, if we don‚Äôt, then our lives become full of misery and distress.
One boy went to a fair with his father and he is so happy that his father is buying him all the toys that he wanted. But then, all of a sudden, he becomes separated from his father. In that crowded fair he can‚Äôt find him. Can you imagine how will he feel at that time? In spite of all the toys he will become absolutely miserable. Our condition in this material nature is like that little boy, although we have all the things for our enjoyment, we are miserable because we have become separated from our Father, but if we re-establish our relationship with Him then we will immediately become free form all anxiety and full of joy.