Monk offers students spiritual guidance
A Hardenberg Hall classroom nearly filled to capacity last night as the Rutgers University Bhakti Club held its last meeting of the semester, bringing in Radhanath Swami, a renowned monk who travels across the word discussing spirituality and Bhakti yoga traditions.
Giving advice on how to deal with stress, Swami said the key to happiness is gaining a powerful spiritual foundation so when it hits, there is internal strength to combat any circumstances that lead to it.
"It's our natural duty to try to do the best we possibly can and to be as progressive and successful as possible," he said. "But we should build our life on a solid foundation — a foundation that when things change dramatically, we will have stability."
Swami said a common mistake people make is they forget about the most important thing a human being needs — to love and to be loved. Instead, so many people focus on themselves and on feeling powerful rather than helping others.
"The desire for power is just an internal emotional weakness," he said. "Real strength is the desire to serve."
He questioned the notion that the world is happier today than it was years ago due to the rapid advances in technology and medicine, arguing that the world has become too focused on consumerism.
While he said these advances hold a lot of value, they could still be a distraction to people and cause them to lose touch with building a foundation that keeps them strong.
"We have seen when people don't have this spiritual foundation how much havoc it can cause in the world," Swami said in regard to rises in suicide, crime and drug abuse around the world.
He said technology is turning humans into consumers, as corporations constantly come up with new ways to convince people that artificial things like beauty products, cars and computers are necessities for happiness.
Swami called it a world full of "unnecessary necessities."
"All these things distract us from what we really need and what we really want," he said. "If we have fulfillment within, we don't need things from this world, rather our condition is to give things to this world."
Swami reminded students that while pursuing their studies, success is always something to be proud of, but it should never replace the basic spiritual necessities of human beings.
"The most fundamental need of each human being is to love and to be loved," he said. "Accomplishments are great but not as the substitute to the real need for the heart."
Swami was born and raised in Chicago. He left his home when he was 19 years old and traveled to Europe in search of spiritual knowledge. After traveling for months, he reached the destination he had been anticipating for a long time — India.
Since then, he has done charity work in several countries and continues to travel the world providing knowledge on Bhakti traditions and general wisdom on how to live a spiritually fulfilling life.
Bhakti Club President Aksh Sharma said Swami's wisdom inspired him. He often turns to him for answers to tough questions and situations.
"A lot of times I'll be in a situation and I'd [wonder] ‘What am I going to do?' Then I think, what would Radhanath do?" said Sharma, an Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy senior.
Bhakti Club Vice President Gopika Kapadia said Swami's experiences traveling the world and practicing Bhakti Yoga makes him the right person to talk to students about spirituality.
"He's honestly lived life — he has a real life story to tell," said Kapadia, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.