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The Rathayatra Chariot Festival organized by the Kotahena Sri Sri Radhakrishna temple paraded the streets around Kotahena on September 27. In the picture statues of Lords Jagannath, Swami Baladev and Goddess Subadhra have been placed on the Chariot. (Picture by Rasiah Rajalingam)

An Indian based monk who practices Krishna consciousness explains how perfecting one’s character through discipline can raise performance in office

There is something intriguing about a Hare Krishna devotee. It could be a man clad in white or saffron attire, just walking by. He might do nothing sensational, but the peaceful manner in which he walks makes you want to ask him the secret of peace and bliss. These devotees of Lord Krishna shave their heads and leave string of hair at the back which they tie into a knot. They choose to live simple lives and if you develop a relationship with one of them you’ll find that he is willing to share his knowledge.

This is what Lord Krishna devotees have been doing for many centuries. Canadian born Bhanu Swami is no exception. He was in Sri Lanka last week to participate at the annual Chariot Festival of the Sri Sri Radhakrishna Temple, situated in Kotahena. “If you study the Baghavad Gita and start chanting the name of the Lord, eternal bliss is promised,” he said.

When this writer went to meet him at the temple in Kotahena, he was working on his laptop. He gave the impression of being a ‘high tech’ Swami. But after chatting with him for sometime he was quick to point out that one need not be skeptical about religious devotion disrupting your office schedule.

Bhanu Swami“In fact, the religious life a devotee leads together with the practice of Krishna Consciousness will help an individual perform better in office,” he explained.

Swami said that Krishna Consciousness helps devotees lead a better family life and be ethically sound. He said that these character changes in devotees help them lead a stress-free life.

Bhanu Swami is the name given to him by his teacher Guru Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada after he decided to take up robes in the renounced order. His lay name was Bruce Enomoto. He renounced the material world and became a monk in 1984.

He was born to a Christian family with Japanese roots. He travelled to many countries and like any other ordinary guy went to university and obtained his degree, which was in oriental fine arts. In his quest to find the truth in life he tried Buddhism. But the aspect of impermanence in this philosophy, which is best explained by the word ‘nothingness’, didn’t settle well with him. “The Baghavad Gita makes references to material possessions being temporary. I am more comfortable with the word temporary as opposed to nothingness,” opined Swami. He said that before coming to his conclusions about the meaning of life he had read on Buddhism and studied Philosophy.

The Baghavad Gita teaches devotees that the five senses are limited tools when used in the search for the true meaning of life. Swami said that the mind and intelligence are also limited in this endeavor. However he had this to say. “Consciousness is however different from the mind. This has been testified by doctors. If you study the scriptures, you’ll realize that consciousness belongs to the soul,” he explained. The Baghavad Gita explains that the soul is eternal and the body is temporary.

He seemed eternally happy and the smile on his face left him only during brief moments when he stopped to concentrate and form an answer to this scribe’s questions. The Baghavad Gita tells its readers that Krishna, the incarnation of God, had played the role of Arjuna’s charioteer in the battle of Kurukshethra. My next question to him was ‘is the battle of Kurukshethra documented?’ “The scriptures state that it happened about 5000 years ago. Like with most religions when incidents are said to have happened so long ago, one is encouraged to cultivate some belief. However the important lesson here is that the book provides us with a comprehensive definition on the soul, something which other religions don’t do very clearly. The Baghavad Gita gives a high opening to this realization,” he said.

The Baghavad Gita often refers to this present era as the ‘era of quarrel’. People are egocentric and argue on most things. Swami said that it’s ok to be open-minded and be inquisitive. But he added that people can take the initiative and begin their spiritual journeys, but affirmed that they must refer to the scriptures. “There should be some parameters when doing religious studies. Otherwise there is the risk of you having a false perception about what the truth is,” he warned.

Hare Krishna devotees take many vows. Great importance is given to taking up a lifestyle where only vegetarian meals are consumed. Krishna consciousness becomes easy when the mind is calm. Swami spoke at length about practicing nonviolence and how being a vegetarian helps in this process. “Practicing vegetarianism one day of the week will solve most of our ecological problems,” he stressed.

Swami said it’s quite natural to pursue our jobs with interest and earn a decent living, as long as ‘material aspect of our lives is balanced with what we term as spiritual’.
He lives in a temple in Channai, South India and propagates Krishna Consciousness. Asked what he had to say about some spiritual teachers marketing spirituality and charging exorbitant fees from devotees when attending retreats, Swami responded with a beautiful answer. “Spiritual life can’t be sold; it is 100% free,” he said.