28th March 2011, Hyderabad, India: Radhanath Swami visited the Hi-tech Indian city of Hyderabad, also known as the city of pearls, for the launch of the Telugu version of his book ‘Journey Home’. The Telegu rendition called ‘Amma Vodiloki Payanam’ is translated by Yugal Kishor.
The book was launched in the presence of distinguished citizens at Shilpa Kala Vedika, a popular state of the art auditorium, in the heart of Hyderabad. The city is the capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh, and is popularly known by the sobriquet Cyberabad for being the major hub for the IT industry in India.
The eminent personalities gracing the event included the former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr Konijeti Rosaiah; Justice of the High Court, Mr T Gopala Krishna; Vizag Port Chairman, Mr Ajay Kallam; Telugu film actor, Mr Venu; Popular actress Ms Laxmiprasanna; and the Ex-Governor of the state of Sikkim, Mr Rama Rao. Leading industrialists, high- ranking government officials, reputed doctors, and CEO’s of leading multinational and software companies were amongst the thousand specially invited guests attending the book launch program.
The autobiography of Radhanath Swami received lavish praises from the chief guest, ex chief minister Mr Rosaiah. He ended his short speech, expressing a heartfelt desire to hear from the swami rather than offer his own comments on the book. Appreciating Radhanath Swami’s endeavors to reach India in search of truth, ex governor Mr Rama Rao drew parallels with Swami Vivekananda, “In the year 1893 Swami Vivekananda traveled from India to Chicago to attend the World Parliament of Religions and to do so he had to undergo a lot of struggle. We deeply appreciate how Radhanath Swami traveled all the way from Chicago to India to study the rich, spiritual heritage of this country with no less struggles on his path.”
High court justice Mr. T. Gopala Krishnan repeatedly exclaimed ‘amazing’ during his five minute talk, “In the recent past I haven’t come across a book like this. It’s amazing! Simply amazing! A man born in Chicago travels all the way to India in search of God without having any money. Every event of his journey is adventurous.”
Venu, a renowned actor in the Telugu film industry remarked, “Radhanath Swami is a big source of inspiration to thousands like me who are aspiring to seek spiritual enlightenment.” The actor was amazed to see Radhanath Swami’s message reach people of all nationalities, races, castes and age groups. “I am inspired by his message”, exclaimed Venu, “which is to serve.” He also noted that the book has infused faith in lot of people. “For people like me who are living in a world of turbulence, Radhanath Swami makes us aspire for inner transformation.”
During his thirty minute address, Radhanath Swami enthralled the audience with his wisdom. He recounted his struggle to come to India in search of God and candidly shared the lessons he learnt on his journey. He described the superficialities he witnessed in the American society of the 1960’s that compelled him to yearn for an ideal. As a nineteen year old, Radhanath Swami was driven by the motto “If you do not have an ideal you are willing to die for you have nothing meaningful to live for.” A burning desire to find the meaning and purpose to life made him leave the comforts of his American home, along with a dear friend, on a journey to discover the truth.
Radhanath Swami learned a profound lesson on happiness at Kandahar, Afghanistan, where a sixteen year old blind boy sang songs of devotion to God while thumping a one stringed instrument. Although he was poor and wore torn clothes, his face lit up with joy glorifying God. This was a culture shock for young Richard, (now Radhanath Swami) for he was educated in the West that happiness comes from wealth, nice family, and prestige. “But here was a boy who proved to me that happiness does not lie in things but in the state of our consciousness.
Happiness is determined by our wanting to share the love for God in our hearts”, revealed Radhanath Swami in his enlightening talk. Under the tutelage of a Himalayan hermit, Kailash Baba, Richard learnt to live with leopards, snakes, scorpions, wild elephants and lots of mosquitoes. Interestingly Kailash Baba didn’t speak a single word of English and Richard didn’t speak any Hindi. The Baba trained the young American simply by gestures, intonations, movements of eyebrows and by pointing to things around. Radhanath Swami offered a priceless insight, “I learnt that if a teacher really cares about a student and a student really wants to learn, then language is not a barrier. Knowledge is a transformation of the wisdom of the heart.”
Radhanath Swami also narrated graphically his terrifying experience at the leper colony in Rishikesh. About twenty lepers surrounded Richard and begged for money while breathing on him and oozing blood and pus on his body. Minutes later an old leper woman showered Richard with love and blessings. This had Richard wondering about the joy of giving. He found her to be the most beautiful person he had ever seen. Radhanath Swami poured out his heartfelt realization, “What is beauty? Is it a thing of the ever-changing condition of the body or the selfless sacrificial nature of a heart that wants to love and serve? As I left that place and sat on a riverbank, I was thinking how we have a tendency to judge people by things that are superficial and not what is deep within the heart.”
Radhanath Swami then described his travels to Bodh Gaya, Varanasi, Pahsupatinath and eventually Mumbai where in a spiritual festival with an audience of over 20,000, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who was to later be his Guru, had spotted him from the back and had asked of him to come and sit with him on the stage.
Radhanath Swami concluded his talk by explaining how he ended up in Vrindavan and committed to be a bhakti-yogi. He also expressed profuse thanks to the people of India, “‘The Journey Home’ is written to express my sincere gratitude to all my teachers, to my guru and to the great land of India. It is the incredible, all encompassing, deep culture, and the beautiful people of India who gave me more than I can ever repay.”
Earlier during the day Radhanath Swami also met Sri Anantakrishna, a world-famous spiritual activist and a homeopathic doctor, and Smt Jyotirmayee, a popular classical singer who promotes Indian culture and spirituality through her passion for music. Both of them expressed their sincere appreciation and gratitude to Radhanath Swami for sharing his story with the world.
The event concluded with many from the audience crowding around Radhanath Swami to get his autograph on their personal copy of the book. The High Court Justice, T Gopala Krishna was visibly affected by the book; the following day he invited Radhanath Swami to his house to address a gathering of important high court judges.
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