Harvesting the Nectar

An Interview with Swami Lalitananda

April 8, 2010 by Sandra Hindson
7,516 views

All I want to do is keep my focus on her, serving her.” As editor of Swami Radhananda’s upcoming Timeless release, Swami Lalitananda shares with Lightwaves her experience as witness to a profound relationship between guru and disciple. The dedication that Swami Radhananda had to Swami Radha when she was alive is one that carries through now as president and spiritual director of Yasodhara Ashram.  Here is part one of a two-part interview with Swami Lalitananda, author of Inner Life of Asanas and Glimpses of a Mystical Affair.

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Swami Lalitananda on the steps of Many Mansions

Sandra: What has been your process of entering into the work as editor of Swami Radhananda’s upcoming book on her life in the Teachings?

Swami Lalitananda: Well, first of all it was getting to the Ashram, leaving Vancouver and turning everything at Radha Yoga & Eatery over to Deborah, who is doing a great job.  We then launched in right away. Swami Radhananda has done a lot of work over many years, going through her diaries, doing reviews, and sorting out all her material.

Our first approach was to brainstorm and generate ideas. We wrote them on big sheets of paper and put them up on the wall and what emerged were many recurring themes and images. We didn’t really know what direction the book might take; it could become either a compilation of articles, or her life story. Our paths had crossed at various points in our spiritual lives, so I knew different periods of her life. The constant thread was Divine Mother, and of course, Swami Radhananda’s relationship with Swami Radha.

After generating ideas, I actually went to the material. I read some of her diary reviews and I liked the tone of her personal voice. She felt like this was a good time to work with her personal story, so we reviewed her articles and journals and found that there was material here for more than one book, so we’re starting with this one.

That’s how we entered in, and for me, being involved with her material has been a great revelation in the unique unfolding of her personal story.  It is a very personal experience to read her diaries and reflections, and I don’t know if I would be comfortable turning that over to someone. She is such a transparent person. ‘What you see is what you get.’

Would you speak to the guru-disciple relationship that developed between her and Swami Radha?

The first thing that I’m really struck with is the depth of her love for and commitment to Swami Radha. It was the birth of her spiritual life, and it was Swami Radha’s words that were the awakening force that set it into motion.  She loved her spiritual mother and that growing part of herself, her spiritual baby. Her recognition and commitment to this very important person in her life was reflective of an early maturity and it was so intense and consistent over such a long time. There must have been a karmic relationship.  It was a love so deep that the thought of being separated was very hard.  She just wanted to be at the Ashram, to be involved in the teachings whole-heartedly, and to be near Swami Radha. Everything else in her life seemed to pale in comparison, but she had to overcome obstacles to get here.

Would you give our readers an example of this commitment and love Swami Radhananda had for Swami Radha?

Swami Radhananda's Inauguration as President and Spiritual Director of Yasodhara Ashram.

In December, 1993, Swami Radhananda had become president of the Ashram, and Swami Radha asked her to look after her in the night as well as do her day job. Every time Swami Radha woke up, she would help her get out of bed and read to her. So she was up a lot in the night. She was also program secretary, which meant taking care of the office with people coming and going. She did that for three months and it wasn’t easy, but I remember at one point she said,  “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good night or if it’s a bad night, all I want to do is keep my focus on her, serving her.” I think she was really tired but she didn’t take it out on Swami Radha. It wasn’t easy having no sleep for that length of time while maintaining that degree of respect and care, doing her very best. So that was a really amazing example to me.

What are the qualities that supports that kind of dedication to the teacher?

It was her love and gratitude for being given the teachings and the example of someone who lived them. Somehow it was her destiny to learn as much as she could from Swami Radha and she really took advantage of any time she had with her by being really receptive. The other quality is humility because she never thought she was right and Swami Radha was wrong. She always thought she had to learn something no matter what the situation. It is a combination of will and surrender, and the will was and is to engage.

The other is her real commitment and care for the Ashram with a vision to maintain the intention Swami Radha had for it. Swami Radhananda wanted to keep the ashram really strong, and to let it blossom. That’s what Swami Radha had said: “Don’t keep it the same; it needs to bloom. It needs to expand.” Swami Radhananda had the courage to change things, with an ability to look ahead and expand with what was needed.  For example, when she moved to the Ashram in 1990, the Temple was coming into being, and then Mandala house was completed in 1996 after Swami Radha had died. It was like the next phase had started with a recognition that the Ashram was going to grow. That’s when the Youth Program started. This was inspired by Swami Radhananda, bringing young people here and encouraging continuity.

At the end of Swami Radha’s life in 1995, Swami Radha was in Spokane, while Swami Radhananda was here directing the Ashram.  A lot of people were going to Spokane to work with Swami Radha. There was a lot going on here – a lot of emotions with a lot of people leaving, and there wasn’t much support. Swami Radhananada had promised Swami Radha they were going to serve her first. That was their first priority. So she said the only thing she could do was accept what was happening, be creative, and work within the limitations.  That’s one of Swami Radhananda’s important teachings that she gives people is what she has experienced – ‘to work within the limitations.’ You don’t always have to have what you want, you don’t always have to have more than what’s presented. Anything Swami Radhananda teaches, she’s lived through and that’s why it’s so strong. That’s why she is so firm about it.

Om Radha

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Yasodhara Ashram will be hosting Polishing the Diamond, a workshop offered by Swami Radhananda, spiritual director, April 26-May 1/ 2010. For more information call 1 800 661 8711, view our online course catalogue, or email email@yasodhara.org. To join the event on Facebook, click here. For printable posters, click here


4 Comments »

  1. What an insightful interview; thank you Sandra and Swami Lalitananda. I felt like Swami Radha and Swami Radhananda were being interviewed as well, their voices came through so clearly. It touches my heart to know of such devotion.
    Namaste, Terri

    Comment by Terri — April 8, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

  2. Radhananada thank you for bringing the young people and encouraging the continuity. something i will always support because, from experience, i know it so important.

    thank you too for knowing and practicing what love is.

    In the Light, Faith

    Comment by Faith Stuart — April 8, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

  3. It is humbling to read of the depth of dedication and grace in Swami Radhananda’s process. I look forward to reading the book and I am delighted to read that it is the first – others will follow Thank you

    Comment by carol cattell — April 9, 2010 @ 4:54 am

  4. This was really helpful. My heart is touched, and Swami Radhananda’s learnings are something I can apply in my own life right now.

    Comment by Faith Hayflich — April 10, 2010 @ 8:22 am

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