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Family culture in Eastern traditions
September 30, 2010  |  radhanath-swami

On his return to Janakpur, Richard (now Radhanath Swami) was fascinated to meet a young, friendly Nepalese student Vishnu Prasad. Vishnu Prasad was enchanted by Richard (now Radhanath Swami) who was an American and had taken to the life of a sadhu. Vishnu Prasad invited Richard to his home. Richard was cordially greeted and served by all the family members; he was served with sumptuous meals and considered to be part of the family.

Uncles, aunts, and cousins all lived under one roof, but Richard (now Radhanath Swami) never heard a single voice rise in anger. They had nothing but respect for one another. In the morning, the children respectfully touched the feet of their parents, and the parents, in turn, offered blessings. No matter what their age, the children, even the teenagers, were naturally obedient to their elders and the younger children showed honor to the eldest son as the representative of the parents. Having been brought up in 1960s America, Richard experienced this teenage respectfulness as a pleasant kind of culture shock.

Radhanath Swami recollects in his autobiography that each morning and evening, the family members would gather together for worship ceremonies in their small temple of Lord Rama in the center of the home where, during the day, the women performed various devotions. Radhanath Swami found nothing but happiness in their home. Radhanath Swami observed that every evening they would come together and perform devotional service united in spirit of love of God. From these gentle souls Richard (now Radhanath Swami) learned much about the traditions of family life in the East.

I observed these devotional traditions on a visit to Remuna in Orrissa, Eastern India. We were a group of 170 young college boys on a ‘yatra,’ piligrimage to the holy place of Jagganath Puri and Remuna. We were on an hour long harinaam procession (a procession of congregational chanting of holy names of God) through the interiors of the village. For most of us Mumbaities, it was a pleasant surprise to see families come out of their houses excitedly and happily greet us, exuding natural warmth and spontaneous affection. Elders offered respectful ‘namaskar’, women blew conch shells to invoke auspiciousness, and little children happily joined in, thus declaring our presence there to be a festive event for the community. Some of us couldn’t help comparing this response with the fast paced city life where our harinaams usually attract cold stares. Sky rise buildings and apartments have ‘beware of dogs’ or ‘trespassers will be prosecuted’ sign hanging, and uniformed security men with their buzzer alarm and other high tech gadgets get alert, ensuring we don’t ‘intrude’ on anyone’s privacy.

We stopped at our pre decided destination for dinner. Our host, Kamal lochan Das earns little from his traditional farming, and for a big joint family, he barely makes ends meet. He personally served all of us food and since it was dark now, he stood with a lantern to help us settle down for dinner. For generations this simple family, unknown to the world, has been serving devotees and piligrims. For the entire feast they cooked, they refused to take a donation to reimburse the costs. All of them happily joined us in kirtans, and many from the village also congregated. Later as we left the house and thanked the family, elderly Mr. Das, the head of the family, was in tears and made a heartfelt appeal to us to visit his house again.

In Nepal, Radhanath Swami witnessed the last traces of this dying culture. Radhanath Swami often explains that spiritual life is simple and easy if we focus on service and pleasing others. I could vouch for Radhanath Swami’s verdict on spiritual culture for I personally witnessed Kamal locan Das and his family as a shining example of a dying tradition that is most effective to guarantee a happy life. In a fast paced modern life, for someone to throw open his doors to serve and feed such a large number of strangers is rare. In a couple hours we were gone, and we might never meet this family again. However for Das family, we were an integral part of their life filled with love and service.

Reading Radhanath Swami’s book just confirmed my experience in Orissa, India as a special and rare event. By requesting people to preserve this culture of service, Radhanath Swami is giving spiritual vision for the smooth functioning of human society.

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119 Comments


  1. This is a heart touching narration because its about an even the author himself was part of. How nice will it be to have such events occur regularly in our lives? Radhanath Swami strives to create such opportunities for all of us.

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  2. It’s very nice story. How people is small village’s are simple & manganimous.

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  3. Such a piety that we are loosing this culture nowdays…

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  4. Radhanath Swami is kind enough to highlight such an experience. Lord personally provides for the people who want to serve His devotees.

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  5. When God is the center, everyone in a family can live peacefully and happily under one roof. Unfortunately today’s culture is based on greed and selfishness and therefore people are unable to stay together, especially in cities.

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  6. Very touching- how total strangers open their doors and hearts to other strangers.This is what Indian hospitality is all about

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  7. really it was touching . thanks for sharing this .

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  8. Very sweet experiance .

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  9. Thank you for sharing. A family that prays together, stays together. This is the beauty of Indian/Eastern cultures. Guests are seen and treated as god, “Atithi Devo Bhava”. On basis of these factors I’m proud to say “Mera Bharat Mahan”, my India is great.

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  10. Radhanath Swami has so aptly mentioned “spiritual life is simple and easy if we focus on service and pleasing others”

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  11. Amazing vision of Radhanath Swami for the smooth functioning of human society.

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  12. It is very rare to find such a welcoming guests in the modern fast paced world. Every one are very busy after their own comforts. By following the instructions of Maharaj one can revive ones real service attitude. Thanks for sharing this wonderful meditation.

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  13. Culture of India is what Britishers did not loot from India. Penny wise pound foolish

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  14. When God is the center, everyone in a family can live peacefully and happily under one roof. it is so nice to read that strangers wecome each other.

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  15. With western kind of fast paced life coming in India these type of family values are being destroyed, but by association of saints like Radhanath swami one can hope to maintain these values.

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  16. Very inspiring article. Thank you prabhu for sharing with us the vision of vedic culture through the eyes of saint like Radhanath Swami.

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  17. Thank you Radhanath Swami for bringing forth what eastern culture is all about.

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  18. With advent of TV old traditional culture had died.It is to the credit of Srila A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada who worked hard to re-introduce this vedic culture thoughout the world through his Krsna Consciousness movement.Radhanath Swami and his godbrothers are continuing the good work of Srila Prabhupada.

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  19. I am speechless…. the author has double the effect with his own sweet experiences…..

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  20. This wonderful story illustrates how families can stay together with peace n harmony.

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  21. Maharaj personally illustrates such high standard of service attitude and is very effectively teaching the same to all his followers.

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  22. thank u for sharing

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  23. Very nice lesson we get here

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  24. Wonderful Article!! Thank you very much for sharing. H.H.Radhanath Swami clearly explains he how should a family be and what type of relationships should be there with one another

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  25. “Radhanath Swami often explains that spiritual life is simple and easy if we focus on service and pleasing others”. How deep and important this statement of Radhanath Swami. Normally we are obsessed with our points of view which completely blinds us of others needs and requirements. Radhanath Swami quotes elsewhere “Surrender means to put our wants last”.

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  26. This article makes it very clear, when God is the main center
    in any family, there is nothing but love,respect and service attitude.

    Author shares his own experience to support it.
    Very inspiring reminder from Radhanath Swami ” that spiritual life is simple and easy if we focus on service and pleasing others”.

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  27. Thank you Maharaj for inspiring us to live a spiritual life where main focus is to serve and please others.

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  28. The present influence of western culture is making the people who live in India shun their roots, values and culture. However Radhanath Swami’s book is reminding us of this rich tradition still present in this land.

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  29. All GLories To H.H.Radhanath Swami Maharaj

    What an beautiful article. The traditions of our country are really venerable and if kept alive or practiced sincerely, the Goden era of Bhakti will not be seen as an bygone era.

    Hare Krishna

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  30. thank you very much maharajfor sharing with us

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  31. One of the greatest meditations by Radhanath Swami.

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  32. What an amazing culture, where we care and serve everyone else without expectation and we get taken care in same reciprocal way.

    Radhanath Swami is personally setting this example(serving selflessly) and created a big family of devotees from various backgrounds(countries/states, social background etc) coming and selflessly serving the deities in the temple and serving one another, creating a small spiritual oasis in this desert like world to experience a tiny little drop of the Spiritual world

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  33. In present would of Gatted Communities and Gatted nuclear families where the circle of me and mine is narrowing down, evan knowing what to talk about witnessing such high culture of selfless service is the most refreshing thing.

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  34. wonderful,thank you maharaj

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  35. Big family big hearts big happiness….

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  36. These examples show that the highest truths can be approached by simple principles of selfless service and devotion.

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  37. Nice narrations. Thanks for sharing.

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  38. This ancient vedic culture of atithi- seva is dying & Radhanath Swami’s experiences in his book ‘The Journey Home’ is a great motivation to revive the ancient vedic culture of love & service.

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  39. hrishikesh mafatlal

    Such a warmth exuding from these poor but large-hearted people! This is the real India, the land of Dharma, tolerance and love.

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  40. this tradition is dying fast and is almost non existent in the cities of India we must try to preserve this culture

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  41. great visionaries always give the right path at every way of life and that is what HHRM wants to convey to the human society in this article is for one to continue their culture of service , regards, rajesh karia

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  42. very rightly said in this article that we must always have an attitude to serve others for the benefit of oneself, haribol, bhakti

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  43. Thank you! This article of Radhanath Swami has given us so much hope . Hope that the family culture in India which is so wonderful is not dying out totally. It is still vibrant in some parts of India. If practised well it can bring so much joy to families the world

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  44. Radhanath Swami Maharaj always emphasizes on loving relations within family!

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  45. Its so inspiring. We are raised in cities where sadhus are treated as beggars singing harinam on streets people think we are wasting time. There is great need people are starving in cities they need to understand what is real treasure in life.

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  46. swamiji has expertly guided the society throughout.

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  47. Tnankyou Radhanath Swami for sharing this inspirational passage with all of us

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  48. Family culture of India is indeed a wonderful gift to the world from the East.Please help revive this dying culture. Thank you Radhanath Swami for bringing this up!

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  49. A very heart rending article. It is not the resources or money which determine the service capacity, it is mood, love and the desire to serve which is required for us to reach out to others.

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