072. Radhanath Swami

In 1970, at the age of only nineteen, Radhanath Swami left his home in America seeking adventure and spiritual knowledge. After trekking across Europe for months, he reached his long hoped for destination: India. After living there for many years as a sadhu or wandering monk, he returned to America in order to share the sacred knowledge and wisdom he had learned from the many holy men and women he had met there. 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 (San Rafael, CA: Mandala Publishing, 2009). Reviewers have called Radhanath’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 as his guru A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), the spiritual leader who compassionately spread the wisdom and culture of bhakti all over the world, Radhanath Swami cast his fate to the wind, cut his matted locks, and entered back into society.

More than a symbolic gesture, these were first steps toward an active, engaged form of devotion. This contemporary strain of the Bhakti or devotional yoga tradition maintains that people who become aware of their spiritual identity share an imperative to reduce suffering in the world—a truth slowly revealed to him in the years prior to his formal initiation by other famous spiritual teachers he had met including the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Ananda Mayi Ma, Swami Satcidananda, and many more who make their appearances in The Journey Home.

In spite of his constant global travels over many years, Radhanath Swami established his spiritual headquarters at Radha Gopinath Ashram 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 Meal, which feeds more than 260,000 plates of nutritious vegetarian food to indigent children daily; missionary hospitals and eye camps; eco-friendly farms, schools and ashrams; and a number of emergency relief programs 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.


Interview recorded 6/6/2011

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

36 thoughts on “072. Radhanath Swami

  1. Rick, You have interviewed some great people, but I don’t think any have touched me quite as deeply as this one.
    Thank You.

  2. greetings rick..
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  3. Hi Rick,

    I’m Jim Martineau. A Sathya Sai Baba devotee. A native Californian (LA). I’ll be 50 this year. I’ve been married (24 years) to a kindergarten school teacher and have a son. I’ve been a national champion tennis player and now coach a few pros who I think God kind of brought me.

    I give a little glimpse of an introduction of myself only because I feel like you are a dear friend, though, so far it’s been a one way street!

    My first love from the East was P. Yogananda. I’ve read his autobiography probably over 25 times. It’s one of my regulars.

    When you mentioned during this interview with Radhanath Swami that maybe THE JOURNEY HOME may even eclipse Yogananda’s autobiography, It perked my attention even more than it already was. (I could already see and hear that your guest was of a very high caliber!)

    After hearing a few of the stories (love the ones about he and his friend Gary) I can see that this is going to be a really fun book!

    Rick, I want to share with you how much joy you have brought to me thru your precious interviews. Thank you.

    Your own spiritual joy and wisdom and maturity shines thru each of your interviews. True humility, to me, is effortless, because there is a recognition of Divine Equality amongst us. I strive to be like this. And the way you are with your guests helps me with this endeavor.

    I am a very small time candidate for the US Presidency in 2012. Almost nobody knows about me….yet! (My website is not available at the moment…..but if you go to youtube and type in Jim2012.org there is a 6 minute video clip of me) Several famous Spiritual teachers have told me that I will one day lead this country. And they have been kind of preparing me. They’ve guided me to start this process this year, though it probably won’t culminate ’til some time in the future (I’ll be running in 2016, 2020 etc…..until things get going)

    If, one day, things do get going, I hope to connect with you.

    You’ve given a great gift to people like me, who savor these interviews as luscious spiritual meals!

    This particular interview with Radhanath Swami shines a light on many of my highest ideals.

    I’ve gained tremendous joy and insight from all of the others that I’ve listened to also.

    May God Bless you and your family and work abundantly!

    To me you are like a treasure box of spiritual treats.


  4. To Heat Seeker

    Thanks very much for your clarification. I agree that “awakening” appears to be growing at a seemingly increasingly rapid pace, and that it’s outcomes and authentic Reality are not, by any means, limited to any specific traditional dogmas or religious sectarian doctrinal systems.

    It’s my understanding that awakening to what’s called the Absolute can occur for one who is devoted to God – as well as one who holds to no God.

    Radanath Swami himself, made that point in his interview:

    “So, for those who seek this mukti, or this
    eternal freedom from all suffering, from all pain, from all ego, the ecstasy of mukti is the goal of those who seek the non-dual aspect of the Absolute.

    “And the goal of those who seek the personal aspect is ‘prema’ which means Divine love based on intimate, loving relationships which are forever.

    “The Vedas explain that beyond this material creation there’s the spiritual sky which is the all-pervading Brahman. Then there is many many spiritual planets within the spiritual sky where there are the different aspects of God; Ram, Shiva, Krishna. These different aspects of God are eternally existing and exchanging eternal unlimited loving relationships with their devotees.

    “Radhanath Swami recites a verse and explains it as expressing that we are inconceivably one with God and different from God.

    “God is inconceivably personal and impersonal – and according to how we approach the Lord, the Lord will reveal accordingly.

    “And this was very important to me because I met people who worship Ram, who worship Krishna in a very very personal way and their goal in life was to have eternal loving relationship with the person of God.

    “And I met others who wanted to go beyond all form and enter into this all-pervading Oneness. And both sides, they were great saints. But in my heart, I was pulled toward prema – toward this eternal sweet, loving relationship that we can eternally have with Bhagawan.”

    Thanks again for your kind response.
    John Manning

  5. To Heat Seeker

    You wrote:

    > I have the sense that this new phase will
    > eventually become the pure direct non-dual
    > moksha for all beings. And that the bhakti
    > awakening into divine love for the deity,
    > for example, will fall away.

    You said that you’re not an atheist. Please explain how you see God – and exactly what will happen to Heat Seeker in a state of “Knowing” when there is no longer the physical body in duality.

    > One more point to make.
    > I don’t agree that the bhakti notion of
    > God and I is really the same as non-dual moksha,
    > as there remains, however subtle, a Krishna
    > and I, that I love, etc; I see this as Oneness, but
    > not fully non-dual enlightenment.

    Rick has done many interviews with both strictly non-dialists and those who accept the paradox of the continuity of duality within Unity.

    My understanding is that non-duality [Absolute]. and duality [Relative], are each eternally co-existing. Non-duality alone, in my understanding, is the undifferentiated unmanifest void. Nothing is there.

    > Look at all the people waking up in the West
    > these days, teachers or not, how many of
    > them are preaching Hare Krisha?

    I truly do not assume that in the infinity of a very conceivable multi-dimensional, multi-verse Reality, that God is limited to the definitions of the Hindu

    My question to you, again, since you stated that you are not an atheist: What specifically is your view of, and relationship with, God?

    Thanks very much for your responses, they help me to understand your perspective.

  6. To Heat Seeker:

    You said:

    > First off, I don’t agree that non-dual Reality is
    > some void which cannot be realised.

    I’m not saying it can’t be realized. I’m saying that the non-dual Absolute is undifferentiated and the duality or the Relative IS differentiated.

    > It does not mean there is no physical body.

    When your physical body is gone in “Knowing”, what kind of body do you think you will have? Are you saying that having a body can be non-dual? If so, how about everyone else who “has a body” that is non-dual? More than One isn’t non-dual.

    Please explain. Thanks.

  7. HS… as has been repeatedly addressed by Rick and several interviewees… the popular non-duality of the day… as the non-changing aspect of Reality is not THE non-duality of Total Life… it is only one aspect … and although it looks like non-duality … it still is duality … proof … you still are rude & disrespectful to others… which you consider other than your non-dual-self…

    and so you come here… start preaching your POV… with rudeness & disrespect to others POVs… and this you claim as your vision which will supersede the traditions that have been the life of eternal universal truths… for eons…

    the arrogance of western ego-mind… which has brought mankind to the brink of extinction… and now wants to highjack advaitic truths of Vedanta… and proclaim superiority…

    and many half-baked-non-duality teachers are still living in a dream … ignoring the other aspect of total life … the ever changing relativity of forms… whose life sustenance is guaranteed only … via love compassion & embracing all as part of One Life… including all animals & all of mother nature… and living in harmony… with respect sensitivity & worship…

    it may already be too late to avert the course of humanity’s extinction… but perhaps … a few vedic yogis in Himalayan caves will survive… and will be the Adam & Eve of a new age… when Mother Earth recovers…

    i disagree with your vision HS… even as i namaste to the Love present deep within the silence of your heart… which may or may not yet blossom in this lifetime… i challenge you HS… to name one western teacher who has evolved beyond Paramahansa Yogananda…
    “Only spiritual consciousness — realization of God’s presence in oneself and in every other living being — can save the world. I see no chance for peace without it. Begin with yourself. ” ~ Paramahansa Yogananda

    PS ~ one extreme is the never-changing aspect… the other is ever changing… and somehow mysteriously miraculously both are ONE LIFE… which some call God or LOVE… only awakening to this LOVE can save humanity now… and interviewees like Radhanath, Matt Kahn, Mooji, Burt Harding, Jan, Joi Sharp, Timothy Conway, Igor, and others … have addressed these points… to one degree or another… which can be cognized only by opened hearts…

  8. Truly a beautiful interview, very rich….Many thanks Rick and Radhanath Swami…..

  9. anatol,

    I’m happy that I have found another lover of Paramahansa Yogananda!

    Swami Radhanath is a beautiful soul, don’t you think!?

    With Love,


  10. To Anatol:

    Thank you for your informative comments.

    You wrote:

    > HS… as has been repeatedly addressed by Rick > and several interviewees… the popular
    > non-duality of the day… as the non-changing > aspect of Reality is not THE non-duality of Total
    > Life… it is only one aspect … and although it
    > looks like non-duality … it still is duality … proof
    > … you still are rude & disrespectful to others…
    > which you consider other than your
    > non-dual-self…

    Here are two quotes from a great saint which illustrate your point:

    “When Bhagwan (God) becomes manifest in the aspect of sakara (having form), at the same moment He is certainly in the shapeless aspect too. By the sakara (having form), the nirakara (formless) is successfully perceived – if not then who and what nirakara is, cannot be known.

    “In a similar way Paramatma ( another word for God) also becomes saguna (endowed with qualities) from being nirguna (without qualities).

    “This speech, that saguna does not come from nirguna, is altogether unacceptable. The way of the group of those who believe in non-duality (nirguna) alone spreads more wickedness, because these people do not accept the manifest form of Bhagwan and suppose that the nirakara cannot see or hear. So they do their mind’s desires; they have no concern for what is wicked and what is sacred.”
    ~~ Shri Shankaracharya Brahmananda Saraswati UpadeshAmrita kaNa 88 of 108

    “Appreciate all the world as ones own family be influenced by the pleasing ‘atmavatsarvabhuteshu’ (Treat everyone as if they were yourself).

    “This whole world is really the gross body of Paramatma (God); understand that you remain free from envy, malice etc and everyone can be a fortunate soul and work for the complete spiritual knowledge.”
    ~ Shri Shankaracahrya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, ‘Amrita-Kana’ (100 Droplets of Nectar)

    You also wrote:

    “it may already be too late to avert the course of
    > humanity’s extinction… but perhaps … a few
    > vedic yogis in Himalayan caves will survive… and > will be the Adam & Eve of a new age… when
    > Mother Earth recovers…”

    I have every confidence that we are rapidly headed toward a very rare an unprecedented golden era that involves the *direct* participation of the grand Divinely guided hierarchy.

    At this point in time it’s important to be able to discern with one’s heart the pack of lies and fearmongering that characterizes the media and to look very carefully at other reliable sources of information. Look carefully on the Internet for the truth of what’s really beginning to take place with Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants. Your innate intuition will guide you. You are not alone. You have a massive crowd of collective consciousness, *not only in this physical world* who are very much aware of your concerns and who are seeing to it that we are moving into a glorious transformation.

    Best to you Anatol,

  11. John i appreciate all your comments… please check out my FB… https://www.facebook.com/amarnath.zin.anatol … with all the positive aspects of spirituality and i even offer some very simple solutions to turn everything around… plant gardens in every yard, solar panels on every roof top, huge GREEN residential community centers… no eating animals… etc…

    so… i am not predicting gloom and doom… but realistically… while it’s ok to have the most positive outlook… it will be God’s Grace that will determine the outcome.. based on humanity’s actions… and as Tolle said… should extinction happen… Life continues… and i say… every soul will go according to just deserts… there seem to be innumerable other planets in the cosmos… and many spiritual teachers tell us … “earth is not our real home” …

    and YES swami Radhanath is a very beautiful soul… who i believe lives the whole of life… my thanks to others for their positive comments… Rick & the interviewees deserve no less for their labor of love… freely given…

  12. To Anatol:

    Oh! What a beautiful and inspiring Facebook page you have! That lovely Amma video led me to the another video of her called “In God’s Name.” It is so moving, it brought me to tears.

    Thank you for sharing your Facebook page.

    Wishing you well, Anatol

  13. Something seems amiss here. Don’t know what, but missing the mark regarding transparency. I’m adding this comment for confirmation for others who perceive the same thing. Projection is possible, but sometimes things are simply as they seem.

  14. Dear Rick,
    Thank you for many great interviews, many of which I’ve enjoyed. But after researching Swami Radhanath, I’m really curious why he was so important to interview on BATGAP. There is a very well documented criminal guru system in ISKCON which he is associated with, and a landslide of corroborated evidence by ISKCON members that he was involved on some level with a murder which took place at New Vrindavan and which he technically should be in jail for. And that at very least, he covered up sexual activity, some of which involved pedophilia. And there are many other serious issues that are impossible to ignore if one looks into it, which is very easy to do on Google. If you felt he still had some redeeming value as an interview, then why not question him about his past with ISKON in the interview? Truth, after all is the whole point of spirituality. And anyone who was authentic would embrace an opportunity to say the truth. There seems to be issues about his truthfulness in his book as I’m in no way involved in ISKCON and I do not know Richard. But I would really like to know why you wanted to interview him and if you had researched him beforehand? I ask because it’s too easy on this path to sugar coat everything and project spiritual power on to people who actually are very lost individuals. best….

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