In 1970, at age nineteen, Radhanath Swami left his family’s home in America and traveled to India to live the life of a sadhu or wandering monk. After trekking across Europe for months, often barely escaping with his life, he reached the land of the Gods. Years later, he returned back to America in order to share what he had learned in India. It was an extraordinary choice, given what he had survived to get there: a journey filled with bizarre characters, mystical experiences, and dangerous adventures. The story is recounted in his recently published memoir The Journey Home (Reviewers have called Radhanath swami’s saga “at once an engaging yarn, a love story, and the evocation of a transcendent paradise in all its savagery, solitude, and splendor.”
Radhanath Swami emerged from his years of travel wanting to explain for others the beauty and rewards of a life devoted to God, and therein lay a dilemma. His many followers and friends describe him as completely selfless and consequently unwilling to take credit for his work and restless when a spotlight is focused on him. By choosing Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada , a spiritual activist, as his guru (after declining offers of initiation from several tyagis or renunciants in the Himalayas), Radhanath Swami cast his fate to the wind and entered back into the society. More than a symbolic gesture of moving away from the mindset of physically renouncing the world, these were first steps toward an engaged form of devotion. This contemporary strain of the Bhakti or devotional yoga tradition maintains that people who are aware of their spiritual identity share an imperative to reduce suffering in the world—a view no doubt implanted in the years prior to Radhanath Swami’s meeting with other teachers he had met including Ananda Mayi Ma, Swami Satcidananda, the Dalai Lama, and Mother Teresa.
Although he travels constantly, Radhanath Swami established headquarters at Radha Gopinath Temple in Chowpatty, Mumbai. For the past twenty years he has guided the community development and has initiated a number of acclaimed social action programs including Midday Meals, which feeds more than 175,000 plates of nutritious vegetarian food daily to indigent children; missionary hospitals and eye camps; eco-friendly farms, schools and ashrams; and a number of emergency relief programs, value education, orphanage, cow protection, etc., throughout India.
“He sees life as a continuous blessing of God’s grace,” one follower says, “and yet he never loses his humanness. His accessibility leaves people feeling that, with a little sincere effort, they too will find the path to inner peace and God realization.”