Spiritual leader talks mental health, compassion

Sam Krevlin, Reporter

Radhanath Swami, a spiritual leader, author and social activist, discussed the intersection between mental health and expressing compassion at an event Thursday evening.

More than 100 people attended the talk, hosted by six student groups and held in Lutkin Hall.

Organizers picked Radhanath Swami, a Hindu monk, to provide an outsider’s perspective on the stresses of college life. The swami said helping others can benefit one’s mental health.

“When the mind is connected to the heart, then the heart is satisfied,” he said. “If you have pain in your body but a peaceful mind, you can still be happy. But if you are suffering mental anguish, even if your body is in perfect health, you can only suffer.”

Material goods are nothing compared to the love one shares with others, Radhanath Swami said. He said in a past conversation with Mother Teresa, she told him greed — which she likened to hunger — is the world’s biggest problem.

“Not the hunger of the belly — some food can satisfy that — but hunger of the heart,” he said. “Only love can satisfy the hunger of the heart.”

The swami said his worldview comes from his childhood growing up in Chicago during the Civil Rights Movement and his internal struggles that led him to search for God. He ultimately ended up in India, where he met his guru and became a monk under the Hindu branch of Vaishnava, according to his website.

Shivangi Agarwal and Shivani Agarwal, postdoctoral fellows of the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at the Feinberg School of Medicine who are twins, led the way in bringing the swami to Northwestern. Shivangi Agarwal, who has known Radhanath Swami since 2012, said the swami has influenced her life through his service work and selflessness in her home country of India.

“His message has touched my heart,” Shivangi Agarwal said. “He holds a lot of value in my life. How he is inspiring youth and talking to universities inspires me. I see how people are being touched by his talks, and I feel like he has an incredible potential of making us transform.”

Sandeep Bharadwaj, a third-year McCormick student graduating after this quarter, is the former president of Global Brigades, which helped organize the event. He said he hopes the swami’s speech will help students cope with future stress.

“We are pulled in several different directions with things we have to take care of, being academics, family and extracurriculars,” Bharadwaj said. “In order to reason out these worlds of wars that are pulling you out in different directions, you have to be able to have your own mind.”

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