How to Connect With Your True Self | Radhanath Swami on Impact Theory | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "How to Connect With Your True Self | Radhanath Swami on Impact Theory".
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Human beings are disconnected from their own true self. The senses, the mind, the intelligence requires to be in harmony with the heart. And with the living force within the heart, which we call the soul or the spirit. And when we understand the sacredness, the beauty, the eternal nature of our own spirit, then we can recognize it in creation. And we can recognize it in others. When we don't realize, experience, perceive the sacredness of our own true self, then our perception is an illusion of the world. But when we understand who we are and understand our harmony and relationship with the world around us and the people around us, then we're actually seeing everything as true. Hey, everyone. Welcome to Impact Theory. Today's guest is a mild-mannered swami from the suburbs of Chicago, but do not let the calm demeanor fool you. This guy is having an outsized impact on the world, a best-selling author of multiple books he has spent time with some of the most powerful and/or spiritually influential people on the planet. Not only do governmental officials seek him out as a conduit to the people, but he spent time with Mother Teresa, Barack Obama, and the Dalai Lama. And that is just scratching the surface of the incredible people you can find him surrounded by. And it is no wonder, given the laundry list of contributions he's already made to humanity, including helping to establish many missionary hospitals, eco-friendly farms, eye camps, schools, ashrooms, an orphanage, and even a number of emergency relief programs. Additionally, just one of his initiatives serves more than 260,000 meals a day. He has lived as a hermit in the jungle, dwelt in caves, and at the age of 31, took monastic vows, dedicating himself fully to helping people the world over fine fulfillment. So please help me in welcoming the author of The Journey Within and The Journey Home, an autobiography of an American swami, the uncompromising Radhanat Swami. Thank you so much for being here. It is absolutely wonderful.
Spiritual Enlightenment And Self-Exploration
The Illusion vs the Reality (02:36)
So the thing that I found so interesting in researching you is your idea of the difference between illusion and reality. And that so many people get lost in the illusion. And I want to go in on that. So define the illusion, how do people get lost in it, and what ultimately is the reality? The sun is full of light, full of heat. But if you turn your face away from the sun, then you see a shadow. So that shadow is illusion. But when we face toward the sun again, we see that everything is full of light. So in the Bhagavad Gita, it is said, a ham-sarva-sya-prabhava-mat-sarva-m-provar-titi. That's Sanskrit, which means the supreme source of everything. Everything is emanating. So we believe in one supreme truth, as many names. We could call God. And from that, everything exists. When we understand in harmony with that truth, what this world is, then we actually see it from a spiritual perspective. And we see its inherent spiritual quality. But when we're disconnected really from our own true self, then we see everything under the cloud or in the shadow of the false ego. And so everything is potentially spiritually if we see it in perspective and in relation and in harmony with our own true spiritual nature. So let's break that down.
What is our true nature? (04:22)
So as somebody who, at the beginning of my journey, I would have found that answer really, really-- it would have felt out of reach. Like there were too many parts that I didn't yet understand. So if we can, break those down. So what is our true self? What is our true nature? We'll use another analogy, a dream. Let us say we're dreaming that we're being attacked by a tiger. In that condition, we're really afraid. We're perspiring. We may even be rolling and screaming in our bed. Now, is that dream real or illusion? The reality is we are having that dream. And the reality, there are tigers somewhere. The illusion is we're identifying with it. We're thinking that that is me in this dream. And that tiger is about to eat me. But in actuality, the dream is real. We're real. But when we're misidentifying with that dream, thinking that that's happening to me now, then that's the illusion. In your book, though, you have a really good example, which is you're sitting on a rock in India, if I remember correctly, and a black snake slithers out, which would immediately trigger me that this is potentially a cobra. And you said you even had the thought of, there is a level. I do actually need to protect myself. There is some amount of, this is a real world. That is a real snake. If it bites me, I really will die. So as we're navigating that spiritual awakening, because there's so much talk, certainly in your teachings, which are an echo of the word that I find impossible to say. The bhagivatgita. Oh God, I hope I'm roughly close. I've said it literally a hundred times, and I just, I have so much trouble with it. But in that, so Krishna is all things beautiful. The creator of all things beautiful, something along those lines. So you put that together, the beautiful side of things, love, and yet, there is also the tangible notion of danger is real. And so how do people navigate between finding a way to focus on the beautiful? So turning their face towards the sun, not living their life in the shadow. And at the same time, recognizing that to some extent you have to function in life, you have to be afraid of the snake. So where is that line between the dream world of your focusing on the wrong things? You're obsessing over things like loss of money or status or things that are the dream, the perceived, you're seeing yourself as the one who either is good or bad based on those fluctuations. But at the same time, there is a line at which it does become a real snake. Like how do we navigate that? That's the idea of yoga or true spirituality to actually learn to live in harmony with one's own self. We have this physical body. We have the mind and all of the thoughts and emotions that come through the mind. But who are we? I am seeing through my eyes. I'm hearing through my ears. I'm touching through my flesh. I'm tasting through my tongue. I'm thinking through my brain. And I'm loving through my heart. But who is that me? That me is the essential consciousness that's giving life to every other aspect of our existence, our body and our mind. Do you see that consciousness is universal? Or is that unique to each individual creature? Simultaneously both. That consciousness is unique, but it's part and parcel of what is universal. And unless we understand that uniqueness of our own true consciousness, then we can't really appreciate the universal nature and how we're all actually connected. Everything is connected and everyone is connected and everything and everyone in this world is interdependent. And Emerson said that the reason why there's so many problems in this world is because human beings are disconnected from their own true self. The senses, the mind, the intelligence requires to be in harmony with the heart. And with the living force within the heart, which we call the soul or the spirit. And when we understand the sacredness, the beauty, the eternal nature of our own spirit, then we can recognize it in creation and we can recognize it in others. When we don't realize, experience, perceive the sacredness of our own true self, then our perception is an illusion of the world. But when we understand who we are and understand our harmony and relationship with the world around us and the people around us, then we're actually seeing everything as truth. We're seeing as a spiritual reality, even in this world. - Okay, I'm gonna, the great news is because so much of this I find simultaneously intriguing and confusing, I will play the part of the audience and try to walk us through this. So you have a really powerful story about the redwood trees. I think that's a really important piece of the framework. So if you can walk us through that and then I'm gonna have some additional questions after that. - A few years ago I was with a friend and we visited Muir Woods in Northern California.
The Underground Secret of The Redwoods (10:41)
And we go there every year together and our purpose is to get away from kind of everyone and everything and just climb some mountains and be with the redwood trees and quiet. So as we were walking through, there was a group of tourists and we wanted to kind of walk by them as soon as possible. There was a forest ranger who was speaking to them. And as we were rushing by the forest ranger said, "I want to tell you the underground secret "of the redwood forest." And I was a teenager in the 1960s. So I have this inclination to underground secrets. So I told my friend, "Let's just wait." And he already says, the forest ranger explained that in these forests are among the largest, tallest and oldest trees on the planet. Some of these trees are 2,000 years old. They're growing on a hilly terrain. The soil is very loose. And over the centuries, there have been massive earthquakes, wind storms, snow storms. How do these trees keep growing? Through all of the different challenges that have come. Many was quiet and everyone was thinking. He said, "Now I will tell you the underground secret. "The roots of the trees, under the ground, "reach out to connect with the roots of other trees." And as soon as two roots meet, they embrace one another. They wrap around each other. In this way, he said, "Every tree in this entire forest is directly "or indirectly connected "and giving support to every other tree." The big gigantic ancient redwood trees are reaching out roots and the little tiny redwood trees. They're just like threads, the roots. They wrap around the big ones and they get all their support. Unity is strength. This is a lesson of nature for humanity.
Unification Is Power (13:35)
That in unity, there is true strength. But we find if the branches wrap around each other, they're not going to have the same effect. It's the roots, the roots support. And similarly, the root of our consciousness really is our hearts. That's where all the blood is pumping from. And the heart is the sitting place of love. When we connect to that love within our hearts, then it expresses as compassion. And this is the greatest need in the world to understand how we are all interdependent with each other. What we have in common with each other. From a spiritual perspective, life is sacred. And when we recognize that in ourselves, we recognize that sacred potential in others. And then we live, whatever we may do. Whether we're swamis or doctors or lawyers or accountants or farmers or politicians, whatever our role may be in society, we're not trying to find happiness through the things that we can get. But we actually understand that true happiness is sharing what we have within ourselves. That journey within. Things can give some amount of satisfaction to the physical senses and to the mind, but things can never give fulfillment to the heart. - All right, so taking that analogy of the interconnectedness at the root, the connectedness at the love, if you will, that layer instead of the branches, which I think is really an interesting distinction, I understand that. And as a metaphor that works really well for me, the part that I don't quite understand is you have the individual self, and then you have the self as it is interconnected to all others. Is it that the individual self, well, I have two separate questions about that. So one, I don't fully understand. From first principles, I would guess that in your tradition, you would say that you want to dissolve the sense of an individual self, but that doesn't actually seem to be what you're saying. And then the other side of the equation is, I need to answer in my words to make sure that I understand this, is our true nature to be seamlessly connected to using your words all that is beautiful? Is that our true nature? - So go to the beginning of your question. Self is sometimes defined as ego. It's our sense of identity.
False Ego Vs. True Ego (16:58)
And in our tradition, we want to dissolve the false ego, which is our misconceptions of identity. - And what do you think those are based on? Like how do people get a false identity? - But when we do that, then our true ego actually awakens and it shines and it gives light in our life and to the world. So we are the eternal conscious spirit that's within us. The living force and the living force is living in a body and has a mind. It's not that the living force is a body and is the mind. Something like when we drive a car, you know, the car has such a wonderful use, at least potentially. And we have to keep the car really good if we want it to fulfill that purpose. But still we're the driver in the car. We're sitting through the windshield. We're pushing the horn and making sounds. So similarly our true self is within this body. And the false ego is when we forget that we're all a part of the Supreme Self. We're all inherently filled with the grace and the love of the Supreme Self. And we think I'm just this body and I'm just the ever-changing thoughts of the mind. And because of that, there's so many divisions. It's the cloud of ego that obscures the son of our true nature, our true love, our true consciousness. So in this condition, we're thinking, "I'm a man or I'm a woman or I'm black or white or red or yellow or brown or I'm Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Jew or Jane or Sikh or Parsi or agnostic or atheist or I'm a human being or I'm a dog or a cat or a cow or a tree." We're identifying with these designations as myself. But when we understand what my real self is, who I am and what my real potential is, then we actually respect that same sacredness of being a part of God in everyone, everywhere. - So I'm gonna ask a question that may be so weird to you as to be unintelligible, but is the purpose of reconnecting to your true nature, to rediscover or uncover, see beyond the illusion, like whatever words are the right words, to get to the point where you realize you're connected to that true eternal divinity, is that because one, of course, it would bring out compassion and we would be kinder and better to each other? So part one is at that and then is also a part of that, just the neurochemistry of in this body of feeling better. Like my real question through a really Western lens is it better on your side of the fence? Like is it just a more enjoyable place to be? Why do all of this? Like it's a lot of work to go living caves and shit. So like why, why put in all that energy? - Ultimately we're all seeking pleasure, whether we're the CEO of a corporation or head of a government or even the little ant that's on your kitchen cabinet. Wherever there's life, there's a search for pleasure. What is the origin of that? Whatever our species, whatever our status in society, we're all looking for pleasure. And we're all trying to avoid pain. Why? Because pain interferes with our search for pleasure.
What is love? (21:25)
Anandamayo Yashat, it is said in Sanskrit, because the nature of the spirit within us is pleasure. That pleasure is love. As we said before, things cannot give fulfillment to the heart. It's only love and being loved. That's the need of the heart. And when there's an emptiness of that love, when we're disconnected from that love, then we can try to find that experience, that pleasure in so many things that could be even harmful, power, fame, control, accumulation of more and more and more. But it never satisfies us. Because the example of the tree that we were discussing, if you put water on the root of the tree, that water naturally extends to every part of the tree. If you just put water on a branch, it's not going to have that effect. Things could give some pleasure. But love is what we're all truly searching for. Love is the most powerful motivating force. And in whatever we may be in this world, if we're motivated by that love that is within us, then we'll perform our occupation, we'll perform our domestic family duties with the best precision effectiveness because it's with compassion. So how do you begin to uncover that?
The Journey Within, becoming spiritual (23:13)
So you're entirely amazing book, The Journey Within. How do you advise is probably a better way to ask it. How do you advise people to go on that journey? Like, it feels like not the sum total of what you're trying to accomplish because it's pretty clear that you're very efficient at alleviating immediate pain. But in terms of helping people find that spiritual awakening, what does that pursuit look like? How do people begin or how do they recognize markers on the path? How do they know they're making progress? A beginning is who we choose to spend time with. There's a simple analogy. If you take an iron rod and put it in fire and keep it there a little, it becomes red and hot like fire. And if you touch that rod, it's the same as touching fire. And if you put the same rod in ice and keep it there, then it becomes as cold as ice. So what we associate with, we so much become influenced by that. And we see throughout the ages, people's spiritual awakening is due to circumstances of life where we feel a need for something deeper, something beyond just all the external experiences I'm having. There must be something more to life than this. In India, I'm in villages with very simple poor people. And I'm also with millionaires and billionaires. And I really don't see too much difference because if a person doesn't find satisfaction in their own hearts and in the purpose of their life, they're not going to be happy people, whatever they have or whatever they don't have, because the real treasure is within ourselves. So when we feel that need, when we feel that purpose in our life to find something deeper, something beyond, then we connect with people who can inspire, enlighten us to make that connection. And by being with enlightening people, people who are really positive, people who are on a journey, on a journey to engage whatever they have and whatever they know for a higher purpose within this world, then our desire for that is strengthened. It goes deeper and deeper. And then the next step is sadhana. Satsang is Sanskrit which means to be with enlightening people. Satsang is when we have that, we have faith in something beyond, we have faith in our potential. And then we nourish that potential with the spiritual practice. Every day we nourish our body by eating and sleeping, and we nourish our minds by being with people who encourage us, who appreciate us, who empower us, and we also need to nourish our spirit through a spiritual practice, meditation prayer. In our tradition we chant these beautiful mantras of divine names. And these spiritual practices open up our hearts to make a direct connection to our true potential, with that love, with that peace. What do you think about psychedelics as a way to have breakthroughs like that?
I know they've started experimenting with cancer patients who are terminal that are really having deep anxiety over passing away, and that there seemed to be some pretty profound effects. And I know you've spoken of Burning Man, which is pretty notorious for the use of psychedelics as a child of the 60s. Have you experimented? Have you seen people try it? Do you have any... You know, if somebody has very limited time and they haven't had that breakthrough, is that something that you would ever consider sort of, yeah, try it? For the purpose of medical reasons, you know, medications of various forms, you know, could be beneficial. From the perspective of self-realization or enlightenment, psychedelics could potentially, at the most, kind of open ones awareness that there's something beyond all this stuff that everybody's mixed up in in this world. You really can't take you beyond that, because our true spiritual nature is our natural self, and it requires to be awakened through spiritual practice, through SAVA, through valuing the opportunity to serve, rather than being a slave of this desire to exploit and consume. And it's when we actually come in contact with enlightened people, whether it be through their books or through their audience, and through our own intuition, when that desire, when that propensity awakens within us for spiritual enlightenment, then we need a spiritual path, a spiritual process by which we awaken that. A difficulty with psychedelics is it may open a little door that there's something beyond, but beyond that it could actually be a serious distraction. We become dependent on a substance rather than awakening our true self.
What is a spiritual practice? (30:31)
I don't think I fully understand what a practice would look like. So reading your book, obviously, I get ideas about what you did and the mantras and chanting around other people and exploring nature. In fact, that's something I'd love to know more about. So if one of the contributions I want to make is to give people instruction manuals. So I'm obsessed with this idea of there are just some people for whom, until it gets to the point of step one, do this, step two, do this. It's always going to remain sort of far away. And how do people, is asked another way, is there something about being out in nature, walking through with a mantra that has that effect of opening that door? The one experience that really stood out to me in your book was you were chanting and that you said that it opened something inside of you and you felt connected to that eternal spirit. And you said you expected it to fade away, but for some reason that one was just, more profound than you'd ever had before. Is there a way to work towards that? Is it the repetition of the mantras? Is it belief in the words behind the mantras? Is it being out in nature? Like how can people, you know, really walk that path that you're talking about? Our spiritual practice is like a foundation. It's kind of like charging your cellular phone. You know, there's so many functions that a cellular phone has these days, but you need to charge it for all of them to be activated. So we may have so many functions in our life, with our families, with our occupation, with the world around us, with our health. But, you know, in order for them to be spiritually connected, we need that connection, and that's what our spiritual practice is for, and that's what being with enlightening people helps us with. And that's prayer, meditation. In our meditation we chant this beautiful mantra.
What is your purpose of meditation? (32:46)
And are you trying to clear your mind when you meditate? Are you trying to soak in a certain feeling? Remember that you're connected, like if you had to say in one sentence what the purpose of your particular meditation practice is, what is the purpose? Purification. Excuse the example of the mind which you just spoke. The mind is like a mirror. We're the Self. And we're seeing the world and we're seeing ourselves through the mirror of our mind. We all have the experience time. When we're agitated, nothing really looks good anymore. And when we're in really good mood, kind of everything looks good. Yes, when you're in a good mood, the trees look so sweet. And when you're in a very bad mood, you know, you just couldn't care less about the trees. So we're seeing ourselves as a reflection through the mirror of the mind. And we're seeing the whole world in a similar way. The purpose of the mirror is to see ourself. But when the mirror is covered by layers and layers of dust and dirt and debris, that's all we see is that dust and dirt and debris. What is the dust, dirt and debris? What's it made of?
The Dust, Dirt, and Debris of Life (34:14)
Selfishness. Arrogance. Envy. Which creates depression. Anger. Greed. Illusion. Fear. These are all things that have collected in our minds. And they're so much directing our lives, our words and our actions. And we're identifying so much with it. When we have obsessive greed, we're thinking, if I get more and more and more, I will be happy. It may be fame, it may be money, it may be power and control over others. When we have this envy, then we're thinking by pushing somebody else down and putting myself up. So all of these symptoms of this false ego are like the dust and dirt of the mind. And when we're meditating, when we're chanting God's names, it's a process of cleaning the mirror of the mind. To actually become free from these unwanted things. And then from our very mind, when it's clean, we see our true self. And we see the true equality of all living beings. And we see the beauty of nature inherently. Everything's changing. We're born, we exist for some time, we grow, we may produce offspring, but then inevitably we grow old and we die. That's just the way nature is in this world. But we see the inherent eternal essence within ourselves and within everything. And we try, we live with Sadatya. When we make that connection through our meditation, through our parathour, through our spiritual practice, and our mind becomes clean, then we live with character. We live with values. That's the greatest need in the world. The value of compassion, the character of integrity. There's so much poverty in India, there's so much poverty in Los Angeles, there's poverty everywhere. It's not just because of environmental problems, it's because of the way humans are living. We're creating so many of the environmental problems and we're creating so much poverty. If we have compassion, if we really care about each other deeply, then each and every one of us, whoever we are, we could make a difference. And that's a life of values. Whether we make a big difference or whether we make a tiny little difference doesn't make any difference. What really makes the difference is we're doing what we can with the value of compassion in our life. And then we're really contributing something wonderful. And our life becomes wonderful, to the degree we contribute something wonderful with love.
Moving to Enlightenment (37:49)
Your journey was very movement oriented, which I find fascinating. And as somebody who thinks in movies, there's a moment in Forrest Gump where he has to put himself to movement in order to sort of clear his mind. So in the 60s, you're feeling deeply unsettled by what's going on with the Vietnam War. And instead of just protesting, you begin to move and you're traveling around, you end up in Greece, you have this tremendous calling, I think you've said, and you begin your journey to spiritual India. There's so much movement in all of that. Is there something to that? Or is it just getting out of all the things that create the illusion? The second part? It's passing through all these things that create delusion to a higher goal, to a higher purpose, which is living an enlightened life. And each of us is an individual. My destiny, we could say, was to hitchhike from London to the Himalayas, to try to find a deep meaningful purpose in my life, a connection with spirituality with God. But I know people who don't go anywhere, and they get much more than me. It's not a matter of where we go, it's a matter of how we try to change our own hearts. It's not a matter of changing the environment, it's changing myself. A few days ago, I was seeing people surfing, and I was reflecting how life is very much like surfing, because the waves, a surfer can't change the wave, but a surfer can adjust herself or himself to the wave so that he or she keeps moving forward. And the environment around us, sometimes we can control it to some extent, but there's a limit to that. Happiness, distress, honor, dishonor, pleasure, pain, and the wave may be a wave where everything is going our way and everyone is praising us, or the wave may go, or it seems like everybody's abandoning us. Nobody likes what I've done, and these are the waves of life that come to everybody, whoever we are. But yoga, spirituality, is meant to help us to adjust our life to whatever situation may be so that we can move forward.
That is a wonderful way to say that, I love that. Where can people learn more about you? By watching your show. That is amazingly kind. What's the impact that you want to have on the world? My greatest aspiration is to be an instrument of God's grace in whatever I do in my life. I'm a very small person. I haven't had a bank account since 1969. I haven't signed a check. I only went to one semester of a junior college, so I'm a little person. But I found that the greatest wealth, the greatest achievement I can possibly attain is the opportunity to humble myself to be an instrument of grace to serve others. I love that. Thank you so much for being on the show. That was extraordinary. You are extraordinary. Thank you. It's very kind. Guys, man, there's some people can create a certain vibe that just is so rare in this world. And I really hope the way it feels in this room right now comes across the screen because it really was an extraordinary ride. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe. And until next time, my friends, be legendary. Take care. Thank you again so much. You can 15, 20 years time and ask yourself the question, "Is that where I want to be?" And if the answer is no, then you need to find a new part. To just get to understand yourself. You don't know what you need in your life until you figure out who you are.