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“I saw so much hatred, divisions and prejudice in the name of a loving God. So I was at a cross roads: either I had to totally reject the whole concept of the validity of religion or there must be a beautiful essence that is there at the heart and core of all spiritual traditions.”
by Shobana Muratee
A promise to a dying friend and the time spend together sharing thoughts on the singular subject on how to bring each other closer to God, was the seed-premise to Radhanath Swami’s best seller, “The Journey Home – Autobiography of an American Swami” in 2010. It was different this time with his new book “The Journey Within – Exploring the Path of Bhakti” launched on May 17, in the United States. On the auspicious day of Nrsimha Chaturdasi, Friday, May 20, Radhanath Swami unveiled the book at the ISKCON of Houston.
On Saturday, May 21, a book launch event was held at Unity of Houston church where over 500 Houstonians, devotees, and fans gathered for the book launch of “The Journey Within”. The event started with soulful kirtans led by Visvambhar Sheth the lead singer of the world-renowned kirtan group The Mayapuris, accompanied by his wife Vrinda Devi Sheth who did a narrative dance, and included ISKCON kirtan artists Nilamadava das and Bhagwan das.
Patricia Gras, Emmy award winning journalist, founder of LoveSmartLivingMedia and blogger was the Mistress of Ceremonies. She invited Dr. Helen Rose Ebaugh, acclaimed author and professor of World Religions at University of Houston, to speak of Radhanath Swami and his work. Gras expressed her deep gratitude for the opportunity.
Welcoming Radhanath Swami, Dr. Ebaugh spoke of his early book “The Journey Home,” that describes his boyhood in Chicago, his teenage years and his visit to India. “This is a book that will grip you,” she said. About his second book, the Journey Within, she praised his wonderful writing style in his stories where he tells experiences from his own life and people that he met throughout his journeys. “And from those experiences he draws the lessons that he discusses in the books. It is a very sublime book, a very deep book but one that’s readable.
Having taught religion for 40 years and having read a lot of Eastern religions, they are very difficult sometimes to grasp for us Westerners. This book is written in very straight-forward accessible English,” was her endorsement.
A bhakti yoga practitioner for more than 40 years, Radhanath Swami is a spiritual teacher, community builder, activist and accomplished author. His spiritual quest stared when he was just 19, and was called Richard Slavin, a Jewish boy from the suburbs of Chicago, who went backpacking in Europe for two months and never came back!
“I saw so much hatred, divisions and prejudice in the name of a loving God. So I was at a cross roads: either I had to totally reject the whole concept of the validity of religion or there must be a beautiful essence that is there at the heart and core of all spiritual traditions. And I believed within my heart that the essence was there. And there was no greater goal to life than to understand and connect to it.”
Renowned author Bapsi Sidwa of Houston, on whose book “Cracking Earth” was made into the film ‘Earth’ by Deepa Mehta, was immensely touched by Radhanath Swami’s humility and simplicity. “He is so approachable and unintimidating,” she said when she introduced him at a small gathering on Friday at ISKCON of Houston. She also praised his fascinating style of storytelling which is so paramount for a good writer.
When Amy Hertz, editor of a leading New York publishing company, had a strange request to write a book for a middle-class housewife from Minnesota, Radhanath Swami was perplexed. “I was thinking, ‘I’ve never met a housewife from Minnesota. How am I supposed to write this book?’ But she insisted and persisted, and was gracious. Then I wrote the book “The Journey Within.” Hertz who attended the event admitted that she had a knack of getting such great personalities to write and Radhanath Swami delivered beyond expectations.
Radhanath Swami, one of the most prominent leaders of ISKCON (aka the Hare Krishna Movement), is the founder of the Radha Gopinath Ashram in Mumbai, India. Under his inspiration and spiritual guidance, the project has grown to include missionary hospitals and medical camps, orphanages, spiritually based eco-friendly farms and sanctuary, schools and temples as well as emergency relief and food distribution programs that feed more than 300,000 impoverished children in Mumbai every day.
His latest book, “The Journey Within: Exploring the Path of Bhakti,” is about the beautiful universal teachings of Bhakti yoga that I discovered in my life,” he said. “Supreme religion is not about a sectarian concept. It is based on awakening of our love for the divine, for God in ourselves,” he explained and he took us on his personal journey of quest within.
HH Giriraj Swami who also spoke on the occasion said, “It seems now more than ever, people are torn apart with differences and we are even trying to part within ourselves, there’s conflict within us between individuals, groups, and at this most critical time this most important book “The Journey Within” has come to us.”
Rev. Greg Han, Director of Interfaith Relations at the Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston spoke eloquently quoting richly J.R.R. Tolkien – ‘Not all those who wander are lost.’ and Pascal’s “The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing”.
The event was concluded on a high note with more kirtans and dancing by the guests while Radhanath Swami tirelessly signed his book for a long line of enthusiasts, many of who were overwhelmed with his presence that day. His words of wisdom were resounding throughout the noisy hall. “The higher purpose is to love and help each other,” he had said. “No matter what profession we may be, to learn how to express that love – that is dharma!”