Francis X. Clooney, Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology and Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions, introduced Radhanath Swami on Tuesday November 23 at Harvard University. “I am happy to know that the tradition that Radhanath Swami represents is a very very important and very very old tradition in India. No one here needs to be reminded that the International Society for Krsna Consciousness did not simply begin in 1965. Many things don’t begin until they come to New York, but this is the one that is the exception, and older.

“I also more personally feel that when I was reading Radhanath Swami’s book The Journey Home, that in some ways our lives have a certain kind of symmetry to them – we’re about the same age, both of us were searching, and it was around the same time we found our vocation, devotion, and the calling God gave to us. Reading the book, I was kind of looking into a mirror. So I was particularly happy when I was invited to come tonight to finally meet Radhanath Swami for the first time and to realize that our lives not only had much in common then but also at this moment our lives intertwine.

“The book is kind of a paradigm or model. It is about the unpredictable nature of the search for God and how God works in our lives, in our families, in our upbringing in so many different ways. It may be divine providence and it may be a plan that God has for us. But we rarely know that plan when we’re young. And to see in Swami’s life how he went on his journey and found his way around India, in the most interesting circumstances, in the most interesting events. As I mentioned when I wrote about the book in one of my blogs, my visits to India have been much less interesting. I tend to say I went to the library and I studied, and then I went back to my room. But swami’s life was a series of events that could be a movie some day.

“But I think the deeper point of it is, that as we live our life, as we experience the things that happen around us – God is calling us, speaking to us, drawing us forth. To see that Swami then – some 30-40 years ago – was able to hear that call in miraculous ways to meet Prabhupada. To feel the call to touch his feet, to receive initiation, and then to say, ‘for the rest of my life I will live that out’ is a beautiful thing. There are many ways we can see beauty in this world, but one of the most beautiful is when somebody hears the voice of God when they are young and continues to hear that voice throughout the rest of their life.

“The final thing I would say is: I think it is wonderful he has come here tonight, has written the book, and has shared the experience. We realize that if we, in our various points in life, receive the gift of being touched in various ways by God it is not something to put in our pocket and keep for ourselves. It is not something to be selfish about, to hide away, but to write it down, and to go around and share the wisdom with others – brothers and sisters of many backgrounds and many other journeys.

“I’m sure tonight that by hearing swami speak, simply, directly from the heart about his experience, we’ll also be remembering both how God has touched him and also how God in many ways is touching us even as we are gathered here tonight.”

Lisa Hallstrom, who has a PHD from Harvard and author of Mother of Bliss – Anandamayi Ma, also introduced the swami by saying, “it is a story of a seeker whose determination, courage, and faith carried him on his journey. I was sort of on the journey at the same time, but I had 2 little children and I couldn’t really do the adventure that he did, so I felt as I was reading this, I was actually with him going through this amazing journey of the heart. I highly recommend the book and I’m so grateful to you for being here.”

Lastly Vinay Gidwaney, software wizard and MIT graduate, mentioned that The Journey Home resonates with all of us in relation to our own journeys of enlightenment.

Radhanath Swami shared many stories from The Journey Home and the lessons he learned from those experiences.

Towards the end he described how when his mother passed away, his whole family decided to cremate her body, and give the ashes to him to bring to India because they felt she was so proud of what her son was doing there. “As I offered her ashes into the Ganges – who became my mother, nourished me with water, mantras, and wisdom – I remember thinking, ‘this is really what bhakti-yoga is. To harmonize our physical, our emotional, and spiritual in one as an offering to God. Here today my material mother and my spiritual mother are becoming one.'”

 

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