for Washington Square News (New York University) on May 1, 2008
Sacinandana Swami visited the Kimmel Center while in New York this week.
Sacinandana Swami is here to teach us nothing that we do not already know.
The German Hare Krishna monk is a kind of celebrity within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness community. He spoke at the Kimmel Center last Monday night and at a Village Hare Krishna temple last Tuesday as part of his month-long visit to the United States.
Sacinandana Swami teaches and writes prolifically on the movement and has translated the Bhagavid-gita into German. He was initiated into the movement in 1971 by its founder, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, according to his website.
Tuesday's lecture, titled "The Mind - Our Fiercest Enemy or Best Friend," focused on the individual's relationship to the mind and ways that that relationship could be improved.
"For he who has not conquered the mind, the mind is always talking to him, like a roommate who is never quiet. It is very difficult to tell him to shut up," Sacinandana Swami began, seated cross-legged before rows and rows of listeners.
He spoke about the spiritual pilgrimages that we must all pursue and about how to form healthy relationships with our own minds. He described his own pilgrimage to the top of Mount Kailash in Tibet and explained how everyone could pursue pilgrimages without leaving home simply by opening themselves up to new ideas.
"In a way, all of us human beings should be on pilgrimages," he said. "In your ordinary life, leave behind your old space, tables covered with junk mail, unwholesome relationships and accept a new space in your life that has new practices."
But he said that he isn't trying to teach us anything that we couldn't know by ourselves.
"I believe that people sometimes need a little impetus to remember what they have forgotten," he said. "I feel myself to be something like a midwife. A midwife doesn't create a child but helps the mother to see what is already inside of her. I believe monks should be midwives," he added with a chuckle.
"A simple definition of craziness is to keep on doing the same old things every day and to expect a new result," he said.
Ironically, the Rolling Stones were what got him into the Hare Krishna back in the '70s.
"One day, I remember it was in television. I was a fan of the Rolling Stones. One of the members, the guitarist, had died from an overdose of drugs," he said. "I cried tears - my model had died. After this, an exciting new group, the Radha Krishna Temple, came on and sang the Hare Krishna mantra. I immediately felt deep solace."
A 16-year-old boy at the time, Sacinandana Swami set off to introduce himself to the Hare Krishna community in Germany and began the life of learning, teaching and traveling that he continues to this day.
"I don't know that his talk was so much helpful as his person, his demeanor. ... He has a very loving nature, very humorous," said CAS sophomore David Corner, who attended Tuesday's lecture.
Sacinandana Swami will be giving lectures this week and the beginning of the next at The Sanctuary at 25 First Ave. He will deliver the second part of his lecture next Tuesday at 7 p.m.