Lessons From a Hawk

I remember once, I was sitting on the banks of the river Ganga. Up, above me, I looked in to a cloudless sky, and soaring was a hawk. Its feathers of brown, gold, and red seemed to be illuminated by the sun. It was circling lower, and lower, and lower, till it was just a few feet above my head. I looked up at this hawk and saw its yellow eyes intensely gazing into the river, looking for something. Suddenly, the hawk dove head first right into the river Ganga. Then there was a skirmish, there was splashing. The hawk was under water and a few seconds later came out with a flapping fish in its claws. The fish was struggling and squirming for its life as the hawk flew into the forest, out of sight.

That fish was just swimming along like any other day. With friends and family, looking for food, having fun, swishing around, it didn’t expect anything traumatic to happen. But suddenly it was ripped right out of its reality, away from everything it identified with. It was about to die.

Isn’t that a potential situation for everyone? We just go about our lives like any other day and the hawk of fate strikes – there’s a death in the family, there’s a traumatic experience, disease, or death itself. Perhaps I was thinking at the time that the lesson is we should not be complacent. We should take the opportunities we have in our spiritual life very, very seriously. One of the greatest enemies for a yogi is procrastination. We just get into the groove of our lives and we put the most important things off for another day, but we do not know that this yellow-eyed hawk of fate may come for us at any moment.

But then there was another lesson; if that fish swam deeper, the hawk could not have caught it. In the same way, if we go deeper into our spiritual practices, deeper into our meditation, our satsang, our kirtan, absorb our minds to that deeper place within our heart where there is real fulfillment, then whatever situation that may come upon us in this world cannot really affect us.

While still a young man growing up in a Jewish family during the Vietnam war, Radhanath Swami's thirst for meaning and fulfillment took him on an amazing spiritual quest. Hitchhiking from Crete to India, he embarked upon a spiritual journey searching for truth in a world often ridden with hypocrisy and conflict. Upon meeting many esteemed spiritual leaders of the time, he eventually decided to take on the life of a monk in the Vaishnava order. Today Radhanath Swami travels regularly throughout India, Europe and North America, writing and giving spiritual discourses.

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