Radhanath Swami at Santiago de Compostela
on August 23, 2012
|Religion||Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Hinduism|
7 December 1950
Chicago, Illinois, United States
|Predecessor||A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada|
Radhanath Swami (born December 7, 1950) is a guide, community builder, activist, and acclaimed author. He has been a Bhakti Yoga practitioner and spiritual teacher for more than 40 years. He is the inspiration behind ISKCON's free mid-day meal for 1.2 million school kids across India, and he has been instrumental in founding the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai. He works largely from Mumbai in India, and travels extensively throughout Europe and America. In the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), he serves as a member of the Governing Body Commission. Steven J. Rosen described Radhanath Swami as a "saintly person respected by the mass of ISKCON devotees today."
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Born as Richard Slavin in a Jewish family, he studied a number of religious paths such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. At the age of 19, he began traveling through Europe and the Middle-East, aiming for India and eventually settling for over a year in the Himalayas. He was living as a sannyasi (monk) in India when he first met with Krishna devotees near Delhi. Through contact with the devotees in Vrindavan, and after receiving the name Ratim Krishna from Swami Bon, Radhanath Swami began to focus exclusively on his spiritual path in Krishna Consciousness. In 1971, Radhanath Swami observed A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada during the Cross Maidan festival in Mumbai. After leaving India, Radhanath Swami returned to the United States, where he joined the New Vrindaban ISKCON farm community in West Virginia during July 1972. There he accepted initiation from A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in February 1973 receiving the name Radhanath das, later to receive the name Radhanath Swami, when he received Sannyasa initiation from Kirtananda Swami in 1981.
Radha Gopinath Temple
Radhanath Swami has been instrumental in establishing the Radha Gopinath Temple, which "expanded beyond anyone's wildest dreams" and is particularly renowned for its "empowered preaching and teaching". Also known as Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir, the temple was founded in 1986 and joined ISKCON in 1994. The temple is situated in the elite area of Bombay – Chowpatty Beach – and enjoys great popularity. The congregation comprises several thousands of Bombay's elite. A prerequisite for those wishing to become monks and live in the temple is completion of university education and at least one year of work experience. The monks from the temple of Radha-Gopinath regularly conduct more than 30 cultural programs in University of Bombay. Under Radhanath Swami's initiative, the temple and its congregation has been breeding ground for many successful projects. The temple has in-house design studio and embroidery unit, where artisans meticulously work with clockwork precision, following briefs by designers, to dress up the deities in the choicest of regal attires.
Devotee Care and Relations Program
Based on the Hare Krishna ideology, Radhanath Swami designed the Devotee Care Program in Radha Gopinath Temple, which eventually led ISKCON to emphasize the need for such a program globally. In Radha Gopinath Temple at Mumbai, the program spans diverse aspects such as cultural education and school for children, an orphanage, youth preaching, marriage board, care for monks as well as the elderly, counselling for the householders, credit organization, hopsital, farm, annual pilgrimages, drama festivals and ISKCON Food Relief Foundation.
|“||Lead by Radhanath, the Chowpatty Temple’s Devotee Care and Relations Program was developed in Mumbia, India in 1986. This Devotee Care and Relations Program established the Bhaktivedanta Hospital, ISKCON Food Relief Foundation, financial aid programs, and many other institutions addressing the physical needs of devotees. In order to address the importance of emotional and spiritual care, the temple is known for developing Grihasta Counseling. This counseling has the “primary purpose to foster trust among devotees,” the program arranges a formal counseling system where experienced devotees help foster the spiritual development of new devotees. The temple also leads a trip to Govardhan Farm, a tropical fruit and bamboo nursery in the Caribbean, advocating for “spiritually healthy” recreation. A model for Devotee Care and Relations Programs around the world, this program serves as an example for developing Devotee Care and Relation Programs in New Vrindaban.||”|
—Johnson et al., Harvard Pluralism Project
Launched in 2004, ISKCON Food Relief Foundation – under the brand name "Annamrita" – is the Indian leg of the global Food for Life organization and is considered a "leader in this field". Inspired by Radhanath Swami and others, it operates the Indian Government's Midday Meal Scheme meant to improve both nutrition and literacy among school-going children. Since serving 900 meals on its first day of operations, Annamrita has expanded considerably over a decade and, as of 2014, daily serves about 1.2 million meals across 10 states in India from 20 of its high-tech, industrial (mostly ISO-certified) kitchens. The program is funded through public-private partnership, wherein the Government provides the ingredients, while the cooking and delivery costs are jointly covered by the Government as well as private sponsors. The program offers "different menu every day and simple protein-rich food [...] cooked in an innovative way along with seasonal vegetables for a wholesome meal", and has been credited with improving attendance in schools. Although launched for primary and secondary schools, on account of its success, the program has been extended to post-graduate students, hospital patients and NTR canteens. Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna is Annamrita's "Goodwill Ambassador", who pledged his support and efforts to complement the awareness and fund-raising efforts. Annamrita's efforts have been recognized by the President of India as well through several awards – to name a few, the D.Y. Patil 2012 Award for "Best Organization in Social Work", Lifebuoy National Child Health Award 2012 for "Exemplary work in promoting Nutrition", PP Mohan Shahani Trophy for the "Best Club Partner NGO" by Rotary Club, and Indian Development Foundation's 2012 "Best Partner Award".
Emerging from the Radha Gopinath Temple congregation, the Bhaktivedanta Hospital has become a flagship center for holistic health and spiritual care in Mumbai. What started as a dream to provide quality healthcare at affordable cost by a few fresh medical graduates way back in 1986, transformed in the present-day state-of-the-art 150-bed multi-speciality hospital by Sri Chaitanya Welfare Charitable Trust. As a tribute to ISKCON founder A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and by the inspiration of Radhanath Swami, it essentially functions as a "not-for-profit" institution with the motto of "Serving in Devotion".
In the early days, the doctors conducted medical camps in various areas in and around Maharashtra. These served the medically deprived and needy. Years of dedicated service to thousands of patients led to the launch of 7-bed ‘Sri Chaitanya Clinic’ (or Bhaktivedanta Clinic) in Mira Road, Mumbai in 1992, which eventually led to establishing the 60-bed Bhaktivedanta Hospital in 1998.
Though closed in 2003 due to a labour dispute, it reopened in August 2004 under a different trust. As of 2014, it also includes four ultramodern operation theaters, a 16-bed ICU, 120 consulting specialists and 360 medical and paramedical staff – about half of which are initiated Hare Krishna followers.
The hospital also houses an Ayurveda, Yoga and Rehabilitation Center as well as an exclusive department on Spiritual Care. On the educational front, it includes Institute of Nursing Education, Institute of Paramedical Science and a Certificate Course for Spiritual Care in Nursing. The Bhaktivedanta Cancer Institute, Eye Care/Vision Center, Urology Center and Center of excellence in Heart Care enhance the breadth of services offered. The hospital also has a special team for counselling patients and an impressive palliative care unit.
Community services form one of the core pillars of the hospital, which it extensively pursues. It has medically-equipped mobile vans to attend to eye care, cancer and maternity issues in remote sections of society; on the same lines, it also established the Hamrapur Community Healthcare Center in Wada Taluka, Maharashtra in association with Lions Club. In addition to social initiatives such as the Green Paper Forum, the hospital conducts regular free medical camps such as the Barsana Eye and Dental Camp, Pandharpur Camp, Senior Citizen Camp, School Camp, Cancer Camp and Dialysis Camp.
The annual Barsana Camp, in particular, has been highly successful in that the doctors perform 600-700 free cataract surgeries annually and have even attracted doctors from far-off lands like the US and Britain. Consequently, the efforts led to the founding of the Barsana Health Care Center in Uttar Pradesh.
In addition, the Bhaktivedanta Hospice Center serves those who desire to spend their last days in the holy site of Vrindavan with good medical care. The hospital is also proactive in disaster relief activities such as the Gujarat earthquake relief (2001), Tsunami relief (2004), Mumbai flood relief (2005), Mumbai bomb-blasts (2006) and Uttarakhand floods (2013).
In 2014, AmeriCares India awarded Bhaktivedanta Hospital the "Spirit of Humanity Awards" for their work in the category of Oncology, while it also won "Best Multi Specialty Hospital", "Best Hospital for Wellness & Healthcare", "Excellence in Hospice & Palliative Medicine" and "Best Teacher" awards in Indo-Global Healthcare Summit & Expo 2014. The Times of India, in association with New India Assurance Co. Ltd., recognized the hospital's persistent efforts and designated them as "Trendsetter in Quality Patient Care and Safety" in the Healthcare Achievers Awards 2014.
Spread over 75 acres of pristine farmland at the foothills of the Sahyadri mountain in the Wada district of Maharashtra, Govardhan Ecovillage (GEV) is a "model farm community and retreat center highlighting the importance of spiritual ecology: the need for us [humans] to live in harmony with ourselves, nature and the sacred". Inspired by Radhanath Swami, with its humble beginnings in 2003, GEV was officially inaugurated in 2011, in the presence of Nana Saheb Patil, Ex-secretary of the Agricultural Ministry for the Government of Maharashtra. To bring about holistic, sustainable ecological changes, GEV puts great emphasis on community initiatives such as integrated water conservation and protection, Wadi program, women empowerment, rural health care, food for life, biodiversity park, Vedic culture and educational center and animal shelters. GEV specializes in symbiotic recycling and strives to offer sustainable solutions for community living in issues related to food, water, energy and waste management. GEV is also home to the Lady Northcote Hindu Orphanage.
GEV's achievements in the area of integrated water conservation and protection were honored with the Skoch 2013 Platinum Award and Order-of-Merit. Its initiative to build houses with Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks (CSEB), Rammed Earth technique, Cob houses (Adobe bricks) with traditional thatched roofs was awarded 5-star rating by GRIHA (an indigenous rating system for green buildings in India). In recognition of its continued efforts towards environmental sustainability, a Special Jury Award was conferred upon GEV by the India Chapter of the International Advertising Association's Olive Crown Awards 2013.
The Journey Home
On the request of his friend and godbrother Bhakti Tirtha Swami, who was on his deathbed, Radhanath Swami agreed to share his story and wrote his memoir "The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami". It is the story of how he grew up in a Jewish family in Chicago, Illinois and through his journey of prayer was led through the 1960s counter-culture movement in America into Europe, walking and hitch-hiking all the way through Europe to the Middle East and into India. Along the way, he met many people, who would share their wisdom with him, encouraging him on his search for the truth. He stayed with Yogis in Himalayan caves, in Buddhist Monasteries, Jewish Synagogues, and Christian Churches. He met many teachers and practitioners of spirituality and learned from them, such as the 14th Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa, to name a few. The book chronicles his spiritual quest.
|“||Like many a spiritual autobiography, the external events and details turn out to be the setting for the author’s inner quest. His journey is a humbling, learning to be poor, a series of tests that push the author toward living by faith alone. Like any pilgrim, he does not see all of this along the way, but in retrospect sees how he was being quietly, insistently drawn toward God all the time.||”|
—Francis Xavier Clooney, A Hare Krishna Swami Tells All
The book launch of the Gujarati edition was held in November 2011, and was attended by the then chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi (in 2014, he became the Prime Minister of India). In his speech at the book launch, Modi emphasized spirituality as the true identity of India and contrasted Radhanath Swami's spiritual journey with that of personalities such as Mirabai and Vivekananda.
A sequel to Journey Home, The Journey Within, was scheduled to launch in October 2014.
Radhanath Swami's lectures have also been thematically published in the form of books, which includes those based on his quotations, such as Nectar Drops and Nectar Stream, and those based on his lectures and teachings such as Evolve, Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, The Wisdom Tree, and The Real You. The book "Soul Wise" (later renamed to "The Real You") was reviewed on Spirit Sundae, SABC1, South Africa.
Radhanath Swami has a strong global influence and has been globally honored for his humanitarian deeds. He is one of the few members of ISKCON who influenced the movement globally and remains one of the most inspirational and respected spiritual leaders in ISKCON today. He is on the advisory panel of I-Foundation, which is credited with launching the first government-funded Hindu faith school in London.
Radhanath Swami’s interfaith discussion with Cornel West resulted in “greater possibilities for both interfaith and intrafaith dialog [...] on Princeton’s campus”. The event is regarded as a model for meaningful exchanges between followers of different beliefs, and was awarded the 2011 Santos-Dumont Prize for Innovation that recognizes "a unique and creative program, event, initiative, or project [on Princeton's campus] [...] which has had wide-reaching impact and visibility". His interfaith discussions with Francis X. Clooney were also very well received.
|“||For me as a Christian it was inspiring to hear this great Hindu teacher talk about finding ways to allow ourselves to be motivated and prompted by love of God and by God’s love for us. [...] I felt honoured as a Christian to sit in the presence of a great itinerant spiritual teacher.||”|
—Rev'd Andrew Willson, University Chaplain at Imperial College, London, His Holiness Radhanath Swami – the Guru comes to town
Radhanath Swami presented ancient spiritual solutions to modern subjugation at esteemed debating society, Oxford Union. The Union’s event, dubbed Malcolm X’s Speech in Oxford — 50 years later, marked the anniversary of X's acclaimed Oxford address. The event's aim: to rouse modern thought and contention on a radical approach to preserving liberty. Radhanath Swami put forth ecumenical spiritual truths as means of harmonizing society. Prominent participants included included Angela Davis, Dr.Cornel West, Prof. Stephen Tuck and Ben Okri.
Radhanath Swami appeared as the main speaker at a corporate workshop held by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The exclusive interactive session, deemed Spirituality: Leadership and Management, hosted over 150 of India's top corporate executives. Radhanath Swami conveyed the value of integrity, humility and simplicity in daily business affairs. Prominent speakers included Piramal Group chairman, Ajay Piramal and Future Group CEO, Kishore Biyani.
Many famous and influential people interacted with Radhanath Swami and expressed their appreciation of his character and work. Among them are Ajay Piramal, Anil Agarwal, Yash Birla and Chetan Bhagat. Renowned yoga teacher, B. K. S. Iyengar and Madhva sect spiritual leader Vishvesha Teertha of Pejavara matha also met him and appreciated his work. Steven J. Rosen described Radhanath Swami as a "saintly person respected by the mass of ISKCON devotees today".
|“||He's a beautiful fellow. He's got the answer. I'm a spiritual gent and increasingly that's the level I want to vibrate on.||”|
—Russell Brand, after meeting Radhanath Swami
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Radhanath Swami.|
- Radhanath Swami Official Website
- Radhanath Swami's Disciple Website
- Official Website for The Journey Home – Autobiography of an American Swami
- Talks by Radhanath Swami
- Books by Radhanath Swami
- Video Lecture by Radhanath Swami
- Radhagopinath Temple - An Offering of Love by Radhanath Swami
- Radhanath Swami's Letters
- Articles in The Huffington Post by Radhanath Swami