On January 6th, 2010, in honor of his service to the Country of India, Radhanath Swami was invited to meet India’s President Pratibha Patil. The meeting took place at Rashtrapati Bhavan, The Official Residence of the Head of the State, at Raisina Hill, New Delhi. Below is an excerpt from an article written by Radhanath Swami about the meeting. It was previously publish on The Huffington Post. The article can be read in it’s entirety here.

“As a 19-year-old, I set off on a journey to find God. On a path fraught with danger, I hitchhiked from Europe through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. After six months I arrived at the Indian border haggard, sickly and covered in dust. I was a penniless pilgrim, but full of excitement in anticipation of the riches of wisdom lying just beyond this final hurdle. Naively, I handed my passport to the boarder guard. “How much money do you have?” I had 26 cents. “We have enough beggars, go back!” she replied. For six hours I pleaded. For six hours I received verbal assaults, threats and rejection until, after the changing of the guard, a sympathetic Sikh gentleman finally relented and allowed me entrance. For me, it would be an entry not only into the nation of India, but also into a vast spiritual tradition — rather, a fusion of traditions, commonly known as Hinduism. This would serve to develop my understanding of the world and my place in it, and radically transform nearly every aspect of my life.”

“Recently I was reminded of my initial entry to India, when I was granted the privilege of an audience with India’s president, Pratibha Patil. I had to smile, recalling how dramatically things had changed in my life since my first entry to India. Four decades had passed and as much as my life had transformed, so had my reception. Unlike the border officials who had rudely rejected me, India’s top security personnel greeted me with folded palms and cheerfully escorted me through a series of checkpoints. Ceremoniously, they brought me directly to the President who stood to greet me with a warm, gracious smile and a basket of fresh fruits. I found President Patil to be a modest woman of culture and integrity. Our discussion was meaningful and like so many people I meet, both in India and abroad, she posed a familiar question. “As an American who has studied and experienced many of the world’s religions, why did you choose to follow Hinduism?” I honestly revealed my heart, expressing my genuine appreciation for all the great religions of the world and my belief that one could attain a spiritual perfection by properly following any of them with honesty and sincerity.”

“My childhood conviction that the inherent beauty of God must lie at the essence of all true spiritual paths has only grown over the years. Of course, the accounts of tragedy in the name of God have endured as well. Whenever I hear such unfortunate news, I can’t help but think that perhaps a prudent addition to the premise of God’s greatness would be that God is greater than our comprehension of Him — greater even than the religions we dedicate in His honor. God is independent and not restricted by our expectations or demands. This is the premise of the Bhakti tradition and the starting point of the journey to reawakening our love of God: God is so much bigger than we imagine.”

“I enjoyed the honor of meeting President Patil and felt that she was genuinely moved by my appreciation for her culture and people. And I find it somehow pleasantly ironic that, in answering her question, “Why did you chose to follow Hinduism?” the answer would lie in how this one religious tradition has helped me see the truth and beauty of all the rest.”