It’s not the color of your juice. Nor the rays of a setting sun. This muted orange is called saffron.
My travels to India with men in saffron, revolved around Radhanath Swami, about whom I’ve written before.
Originally from a Chicago suburb, Richard (his birth name) left the States after his freshman year in college to find his dharma. He ended up in India. In an orange robe.
The Importance of Orange
According to Radhanath Swami, saffron represents the principle of purity and renunciation. “It is like a flag. You are representing your guru. It is a great responsibility. We should always be aware of who we are representing and we should always be very, very, very careful… and that pressure of awareness is very helpful for us to be on guard against maya.”
My recent travels to India included ample time with Radhanath Swami, and his social enterprises, about which I’ll write later. However, Travels to India Part 2, is a continuation of learnings shared by two disciples of Radhanath Swami, with whom I traveled for more than a week. It was important to spend time with men in orange. Shivani Agarwal, a student of Radhanath Swami, explained that a traveler on the road to spirituality must learn from a master. “A holy place has to be seen through ears. Otherwise, a visit to these places is reduced to a picnic spot. This is an important aspect of spirituality, and also the reason why we added classes with these monks.”
Shyamananda Das and Chaitanya Charan each became monks about three decades ago. They may be renunciates, but they are fully in touch with worldwide current events, public opinion, and modern technology. So much so that Chaitanya has 750,000 followers on one facebook page alone. Meanwhile, Shyamananda feels the pulse of society by lecturing at yoga centers around the world. He’ll be in New York City, for two months, this summer.
Part 2 of Travels to India with Men in Orange are excerpts from an open-air classroom, at dusk, at Agra Fort. The topic: love.
Learning About Love From Monks on Travels to India
A mogul ruler, Shah Jahan, built the Taj Mahal in memory of one of his wives. Mumtaz died following the birth of her 14th child. As a supposed display of love, Shah Jahan ordered the construction of this over-the-top marble 170,000-square-foot complex. Despite the crew of 20,000 workers from India, Persia, the Ottoman Empire and Europe, plus 1,000 elephants, it took 17 years to complete the project. Thus, the Taj Mahal (in my eyes) is an obscene display of inequality, abuse of wealth, and power. Not love.
Too many of us seek love in a material way, because that’s all we can touch, see or comprehend.
It’s the intrinsic nature of life to avoid pain. That’s life. That’s the reality and the motivating force for everything and anything. But there’s only one thing that satisfies the soul.
To Love and Be Loved
Free will has no meaning without love. But, what is true love?
Chaitanya Charan beautifully expresses on his website“True love begins with a clear understanding of our spiritual identity. The Bhagavad-gita describes that we are spiritual beings, beloved parts of the Supreme All-Attractive Being, Krishna*. In our pure state, we innately love Krishna and delight eternally in that eternal love. When Krishna – the source and pivot of all love – is at the center of our heart and life, then we naturally love all living beings, for we see them as beloved children of our Lord. When our relationships are thus divinely-centered, then we can relish and share true love.”
In divinity, exploitation is replaced by love. Krishna allows himself to be loved when we are completely free of arrogance.
When You Love God it Includes Everything
The purpose of our existence is to show love to God. When you love Krishna, you love everyone. Just like when you pour water on the roots of a tree, it extends to the leaves and branches. Everything is the energy of Krishna.
To exemplify that, on my travels to India we visited the first temple built in the holy city of Vrindavan, Madhan Mohan (top picture). Our monks call this a spiritual wifi hot spot. The word madhan means cupid, or the God of love. Mohan is the one who attracts, such as a captivator or mesmerizer. At this temple, Cupid tried to capture Krishna. But alas. It didn’t work. Rather, Krishna attracted Cupid. One explanation is that Krishna reciprocates, or reflects, as is the case with Cupid and this reversed arrow. Krishna delights in the reciprocity of love.
We are taught that God is not loved, but a lover, in Krishna’s playground (Vrindavan). Krishna can be our very best friend, child or lover.
To put this in perspective, consider familial love. Generally, a daughter or son is expecting things from their parents. However, a mother’s love is so pure. She expects nothing from her child. Just as a child needs things from the parent, people tend to pray to God for what they may find lacking.
In Chaitanya’s book, “Science and Spirituality,” he states, “Love of God is our original and real nature, but due to prolonged and excessive contact with mater, it has become completely obscured and is now misdirected towards various objects. All genuine spiritual practices are meant to revive this love of God which is presently dormant in our hearts…a heart that does not love is profoundly empty. And an empty heart makes for a dry life, bereft of purpose and will.”
Pure Love is Like Searching for a Pot of Gold
For some, that search for the pot of gold is similar to the search for a true guru. Be sure it’s 24-karat rather than gold-plated. When you hit gold, with a real spiritual teacher, it’s like seeing through high res glasses. Suddenly you can distinguish between illusion and reality. There is true friendship, and true love.
Next installment of Travels to India with Men in Orange: Karma.
*The Vedas talk about the thousands of names for the lord. In these talks during my travels to India with Men in Orange, the names Krishna and God are used interchangeably.