Radhanath Swami’s journey began at nineteen when he hitchhiked across the world in search of the truth. Since that time, Swami has founded schools, a welfare system, hospitals, and a food distribution program that feeds over 1.2 million meals a day to the children of India. All of these projects are now evolving into a beautiful eco village that shows how sustainable living can be scaled to villages all across India.
The world-renowned spiritual leader, philanthropist, and New York Times best-selling author’s work has been recognized by everyone from former President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He’s spoken at Harvard, Princeton, Cambridge, Oxford, Apple, Salesforce, and Google.
If you’re a seeker or looking for deeper meaning in your life, Swami gives you the tools you need to be flexible to overcome situations in life and build grit, resilience, and adaptability through service.
Living the Monk Life
Radhanath Swami has lived a monk’s life for over forty years, and he believes that everyone has a unique reason for what they decide to do with their lives. He lives by the idea that as a monk, you should be in this world but not of this world. This means that you are performing your work, but at the same time the purpose, goal, and intention are to be higher than the world.
“Monks are not motivated simply by greed and arrogance, envy and selfishness,” Swami explained to Jay Shetty. “But we’re motivated by compassion, love, and by harmonizing our body-mind with our souls and with the world. When one becomes a monk, it separates from many of the externals of this world, but it’s doing it for the well being of the world.”
A Swami is an ordained monk within the yoga or Hindu tradition. They do not have a specific family that they need to work an occupation to support. Instead, they make the whole world his or her family. Everyone has a unique and special role. Monks give their full energy to the community and society by providing an example of spiritual focus that can inspire and give others direction.
Jay Shetty feels there is a great need for examples and role models who radiate internal character.
“I always say that if we want to learn something deeply, you have to go to the person who’s doing it with their whole lives,” Jay Shetty shares with Swami. “I feel if people want to understand service, give their life for others, and understand how to overcome the impurities of the mind, then we have to go to monks because that’s what monks are dedicating their whole lives to.”
Be the Change You Want to See in the World
Life as a teenager in the 1960s was full of turbulence. The Civil Rights Movement was something that impressed Swami. He was fifteen and working a job with African American people the same age as his parents. Swami witnessed them beaten down by racial discrimination, poverty, and limited educational opportunities to help them make a living. Many turned to alcohol to deal with the hardships.
Swami explained to Jay Shetty that these same people were his best friends in many ways.
“When I would go to school the next day and pledge allegiance to the flag, we would say, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. That didn’t make sense to me,” Swami explains to Jay Shetty. “The principle was excellent, but how people were living in America wasn’t like that. It was a contradiction, and I couldn’t just put that away. I had to address that in my life.”
He lives by Gandhi’s famous phrase, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Meanwhile, the Vietnam War waged on, and when Swami turned eighteen, he faced the decision of going to jail or going to war. Many people disagreed with the war, yet they were forced to enlist. They saw their friends coming back dead, wounded, and traumatized. Swami joined the counter culture, the Civil Rights Movement, instead.
“I was an activist because I felt that was true to who I was and what I believed,” Swami tells Jay Shetty. “After some time, I understood what Gandhi meant, and I wanted to be that change. I concluded that change requires a spiritual connection.”
That revelation led Swami on a spiritual journey. The majority of all religions he experienced were sprinkled with hatred in the name of a loving god. It included arrogance and superiority. So much of what is wrong in the world was coming from interpretations of religion.
“I either had to reject that concept of religion, or find something at the heart of all religion that’s universal and beautiful that brings out divine qualities and a person,” Swami shares with Jay Shetty. “I concluded that, yes, there is something at the heart of all true spiritual paths that can transform us and unify, and I went looking for that.”
Judaism, Christianity, and various forms of yoga all took place in the Swami’s studies of different religions. He traveled to Europe and studied in cathedrals, monasteries, museums, and forests until he got the call to go east.
“While I was in the Middle East countries, I studied Islam,” Swami tells Jay Shetty. “I eventually took about six months to hitchhike from London to the Himalayas, in India. I studied various forms of Buddhism and Hinduism and yoga and other such spiritual paths, and I met some great spiritual people. I was looking for that essence, and I found that essence is the inherent nature of every living being. We are all a part of God. Our greatest potential is to awaken the dormant love for God that’s within us.”
When you understand yourself, you can understand your relationship with everyone and everything. The love that awakens within your heart naturally extends to all living beings.
The more profound love we have for other people, our own family, and the broader family of humanity, the easier love expands to include more people of all varieties. Once you discover that love within yourself, it will be expressed in compassion through your actions, words, and whatever role you play in society.
Adaptability and Flexibility
Yoga is thought of as a physical exercise to help with flexibility. Yoga can also help you reach deep within yourself to help frame the mind and harmonize the body, mind and soul. You can create that good foundation which allows for flexibility in many areas of life.
“When situations come, even the most difficult situations, we learn how to adjust and make a positive difference in our own life and for our loved ones as well as the world,” Swami explained to Jay Shetty. “That’s really the idea of yoga, and spirituality. That’s the purpose of religion.”
Jay Shetty agreed with Swami and added that the reason we struggle with flexibility and adaptability is that we try so hard to hold on to something that is trying to change. We struggle to keep things the same when that thing is trying to change.
“I find that flexibility and adaptability come from when we realize that everything has to change, everything has to move,” Jay Shetty shared with Swami. “Hopefully that spiritual realization allows us to move a little bit every day and recognize that things aren’t going to stay the same. Then we can start developing that flexibility and adaptability.”
Think of flexibility in terms of a surfer riding a wave. Just as the surfer has to adjust to stay upright and continue to ride on top of the wave and keep moving forward, you need to adjust to whatever storms may come in life and keep moving through them.
“By having a connection to higher values, purpose, and satisfaction, the waves that come externally or within our own minds can help us to move forward,” Swami explained to Jay Shetty.
Whatever may happen in the ocean of life, there are so many different kinds of waves that will come. Sometimes those waves come by how other people treat us, or how society and politics are. Sometimes the waves are within our own minds. We have habits and conditioned experiences of the past that are sometimes like tsunamis. Unless you can be adaptable, aware, and observing, that wave can take you down.
Swami lives his life in service of others. You do not have to go to the extremes he goes to, but when you find it within yourself to live your purpose, you can connect that inner peace and love to those around you.
“When we recognize and appreciate the potential in someone, we can bring out the best in them, Swami explained. “If we only focus on people having problems and the mistakes people have made, then usually that just makes them worse. When we see potential through education, and culture, we can bring out the best in people. That’s the greatest power to actually overcome weaknesses in all people.”
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode with Radhanath Swami ON “Building Grit, Resilience & Adaptability Through Service” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.