Radhanath Swami is an American spiritual guru, who follows the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. He is known for working as a community-builder, social activist, and author.
He did his schooling at Deerfield High School, Chicago, Illinois, United States. In 1969, he enrolled in Miami Dade College, Florida, to study psychology and humanities. However, he dropped out of college after completing his first year. The Sacred Connect
Height (approx.): 5′ 8″
Hair Colour: Bald (earlier black)
Eye Colour: Brown
He belongs to a family of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
Parents & Siblings
His father’s name is Jerry Gerald Slavin. In 1958, his father opened a dealership of Edsel cars which closed shortly. Later, his father started an auto repair shop. His mother’s name is Idelle. He has two elder brothers named Marty Slavin and Larry Slavin.
He is unmarried and follows celibacy.
After taking Sannyasa, he adopted Sanātana-dharma of the Gaudiya Vaishnavism sect. He follows the philosophy of Achintya Bheda Abheda and bhakti marg.
Life Before Becoming a Sanyasi
When Radhanath Swami was a child, he displayed certain behaviours that he later referred to as “traces of my past lives.” He didn’t like eating at the table like most people in America do, instead preferred sitting on the floor, as is customary in India. However, his parents didn’t allow him to do so, so he started eating at the table while standing. He had a strong dislike for meat and eggs and would feel sick just by looking at them. It took him several years to get used to eating meat without feeling nauseated. From a young age, he realized that a materialistic lifestyle would never bring him true satisfaction, and he was drawn to poverty and simplicity. He used to wash his new clothes multiple times until they looked old before he would wear them. He would scrape his new shoes with rocks until they appeared worn out. He admired the poor, and having nicer things than others made him feel uncomfortable. Once, during a dinner at a country club, he disrupted everything and ran away from the table when he discovered that the busboy serving him was his classmate. Even though he came from a well-to-do family, he chose to do a job at the age of 15, to support his family financially. When Radhanath Swami was 19 years old and attending Miami Dade College in Florida, he had a passion for adventure.
However, he soon realized that there was a deep longing in his heart for spirituality and a quest to understand subtle realities. He would chant the sacred syllable “Om” with reverence and practice meditation techniques taught by Maharshi Mahesh Yogi. He and his friends were disappointed with the materialistic ambitions of society in the 1960s and sought a deeper meaning in life. During this time, he also learned that hating those who hated him only perpetuated the same negativity. He participated in a civil rights march in support of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision. His presence as a white boy in an Afro-American march was unique, but the meeting became almost violent when the speaker used him as a symbol of everything they despised, hurling insults, and inciting hatred & revenge. He managed to escape in time, and later, he said,
If a person does not have an idea he’s ready to die for, he has nothing really meaningful to live for.”
Even though his parents weren’t religious, Radhanath Swami developed an interest in religion and spirituality from a young age. When he turned 13, he went through the bar mitzvah ceremony and learned how to pray from the local rabbi. On his 13th birthday, his older brother Marty gave him the debut album of the folk-singing trio Peter, Paul and Mary, whose songs spoke out against war and social injustice, particularly impressing him with their songs about God. In his free time, he used to fix cars with a couple of friends. Dissatisfied with the treatment of African Americans and opposed to the Vietnam War, he embraced the ideals of Martin Luther King Jr. After one of his close friends died in a car accident, he started contemplating the meaning of life. At the same time, influenced by his peers, he immersed himself in the hippie counterculture. Curious to find the meaning of life, he grew his hair long and started smoking. In the summer of 1968, his adventurous spirit led him to hitchhike to California, where he spent nights on the beaches and visited the famous Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco, known as a hub for hippies. Feeling disillusioned with the materialistic values he saw in America, Radhanath focused on his studies in college and began questioning the supposed “goodness of American life” he had been taught to believe in. After reading books on Eastern spirituality, he started practicing meditation. While he didn’t find immediate satisfaction in this practice, it made him realize the importance of finding a genuine spiritual guide. In the summer of 1970, after completing his first year of college, Radhanath attended a rock festival on Randalls Island, where he encountered the Hare Krishnas, a Hindu religious organization.
They gave him a pamphlet featuring photos of the Indian spiritual leader A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. That summer, Radhanath, along with his friends Frank and Gary, decided to travel to Europe.
Travelling Through Europe
Travelling to Europe was a significant decision for him as no one from his family had ever ventured beyond America. Despite his parents’ shock and desperate pleas for him to stay, he remained determined to embark on this journey, even after his father emphasized the dangers of the world and expressed concern for his safety. His father’s words echoed the sentiments expressed in the religious scriptures of India, which describe the world as filled with dangers at every step. While in Europe, he was amazed by the diverse customs and cultures he encountered. Coming from the American Midwest, he found this exposure to different cultures to be mind-exploring. During his trip, he also enjoyed reading books about Eastern spirituality and the Bible, which he brought from America.
He had a strong interest in visiting churches and monasteries and never missed a chance to talk to priests and monks. In Rome, he had a lengthy conversation with Franciscan friars about Jesus and the connection between Christianity and Judaism. Radhanath and his friend Gary even got to attend a speech by the Pope at the Vatican. They witnessed Catholic monks meditating in the catacombs of a monastery, surrounded by the remains of their predecessors, and one of the monks spoke about how our physical bodies are fragile. Later, Radhanath separated from Gary for a while and went on a pilgrimage to Assisi, where he visited places related to the life of the famous Catholic saint, Francis of Assisi. He reflected on how his upbringing had conditioned him to interpret reality in a specific way, leading to a narrow-minded perspective. He hoped that his search for spiritual understanding would help him appreciate other people and their cultures. It was his open-mindedness that allowed the spark of spiritual yearning within him, ignited during his travels, to transform into an intense desire to know God.
Beginning of his Spiritual Journey
While Radhanath was in Athens, he and Gary had to find ways to make money. At first, they donated blood, and then they joined forces with a Swiss violinist and a French guitarist to play music and collect money on the streets. However, the police stopped them and took away their earnings. Feeling discouraged, Radhanath and Gary went to Crete, where Radhanath found a cave by the sea to live in. By that time, Radhanath was no longer interested in the carefree lifestyle and ideals of the hippies. His focus shifted more towards spirituality. One morning, while meditating and praying on top of a rock, Radhanath heard a voice inside him urging him to go to India. Surprisingly, on that same morning, Gary also felt an inner voice telling him to go to Israel. After parting ways with Gary, Radhanath embarked on his journey with no money or travel plan. However, he had a strong belief that by hitchhiking eastward, he would reach the country that held the answers to his prayers. Radhanath met two fellow hippies in Athens who were also headed east, so he joined them on a popular hippie route to India through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. In Turkey, they faced great difficulties due to a cholera epidemic. They narrowly escaped bandits in Istanbul and continued their journey by bus through Ankara to the Iranian border. They arrived in Tehran during the holy month of Ramadan. As Radhanath had developed an interest in Islam, he decided to separate from his friends and spent a few days in Mashhad, an important pilgrimage site for Shia Muslims. There, at the mausoleum of Imam Reza, he met an English-speaking Muslim who taught him the basics of Islam and Muslim customs. Upon reaching Afghanistan, Radhanath spent a few days in Herat, where a poor family offered him shelter. It was here that he experienced his first culture shock—seeing the Afghan people content despite their poverty. In Kandahar, he encountered a blind boy who spent hours singing songs about God’s love on the streets. This boy appeared to be the happiest person Radhanath had ever met, leaving a profound impact on him and causing him to contemplate the nature of happiness. In Kandahar, he also had a powerful and transformative experience with drugs, leading him to vow never to take drugs again. In Kabul, a young Dutch woman tried to seduce him and pressured him to engage in sexual activities. However, Radhanath, recognizing that such actions were inconsistent with his spiritual quest, firmly rejected her advances and made a vow to remain celibate. After enduring a challenging journey to reach India, Radhanath faced difficulties at the Indian immigration office. It took him six months of hitchhiking across Europe and the Middle East to finally arrive in India. When he reached the immigration office, Radhanath approached a Sikh officer with humility, pleading for entrance into the spiritual land of India. He tearfully explained that he had left behind the comforts of America in search of India’s spiritual treasures, risking his life along the way. Radhanath promised that one day he would do something good for the people of India. Moved by his sincerity, the Sikh officer granted him permission and stamped his legal entrance into the country. As Radhanath entered India, everything seemed both excitingly new and strangely familiar to him. On his first day, he witnessed a bustling railway station where people cooked, begged, and slept amidst the chaotic noise. In a daring move, he jumped onto a moving train and found himself in a crowded compartment meant for sixty people, but crammed with two hundred. He was even offered bhang, a drink made from cannabis, which left him under its hypnotic effect. In this state, a snake charmer approached him and demanded fifty rupees to place a deadly snake around his chest. During his travels in India, Radhanath met a yogi who sought charity from pilgrims. When ignored, the yogi became angry and performed seemingly miraculous feats to grab attention. He pulled out a live bulb from its socket and crushed it into powder, then drank it with a cup of water from the Ganges. Next, he balanced a steel rod on his cloth-covered eye socket and walked towards a wall, with the rod bending more and more with each step. Finally, he reached the wall, threw aside the bent rod, and revealed his undamaged eye. Pilgrims were amazed and donated money to him. However, the yogi confessed that his guru had taught him these powers but rejected him upon discovering that he was using them for personal gain. After watching all that Radhanath was disappointed and realized that mystical powers are not necessarily spiritual.
In Patna, Radhanath met the Indian sanyasi Narayan Prasad and his guru, Rama Sevaka Swami would chant the Holy Names of Lord Rama for hours and personally fed Radhanath with his own hands. One day, a visiting monk cooked khichari for everyone, but it was unbearably spicy and caused Radhanath much suffering while others enjoyed it. The cook insisted on serving Radhanath more despite his attempts to refuse. Although Radhanath was in pain, he didn’t have the heart to tell the cook. The cook mistook Radhanath’s tears for tears of gratitude. Radhanath realized that pleasing others is not always easy, but enduring the burning pain was worthwhile because it pleased the sadhu (holy person). At Kurukshetra, Radhanath studied the Bhagavad Gita while sitting under the same banyan tree where Krishna originally spoke to Arjuna. He found immense solace and guidance in the immortal words of Lord Krishna. In a world filled with dangers, temptations, and fears, Radhanath discovered that the Gita became his practical handbook, providing him with direction and comfort.
Met Various Spiritual Leaders in India
While Radhanath was in India, he saw cows freely roaming the streets of Delhi, which led him to develop an aversion to meat and become a vegetarian. In Delhi, he participated in the “World Conference of Yoga,” which brought together over 800 gurus, yogis, sages, and scholars. During the conference, Radhanath had the opportunity to meet Swami Rama, the founder of the Himalayan Institute. When Radhanath sought his blessings, Swami Rama advised him that his spiritual progress would be based on his connection with saintly individuals, who would assist him in overcoming obstacles on his spiritual path. Radhanath also had the chance to meet Swami Satchidananda, a renowned disciple of Swami Sivananda, who explained the fundamental meaning of yoga to him. Swami Satchidananda emphasized the importance of not focusing on the flaws of others but instead recognizing their good qualities. He blessed Radhanath, hoping that he would “discover the treasure of his heart.” Radhanath attended a series of lectures by Jiddu Krishnamurti, an Indian guru and philosopher known for his ability to answer any question and dismantle arguments. From Krishnamurti, Radhanath learnt that spiritual life cannot be superficial, as people often become attached to external things and rituals, forgetting the main purpose of spiritual practice, which is to purify one’s heart. The last day of the conference took place at Vigyan Bhavana in New Delhi, attended by over 3,000 individuals. However, the event ended with the gurus competing for the microphone, each trying to convince the audience that their path was the best. In January 1971, Radhanath travelled to the Himalayas in search of a guru. Upon reaching Rishikesh, he spent a few days at the “Divine Life Society,” an ashram founded by Swami Sivananda. There, he engaged in lengthy conversations with Swami Chidananda, a student of Swami Sivananda who took charge of the ashram after his guru’s passing. Swami Chidananda encouraged Radhanath to practice japa meditation, which involves chanting mantras on a rosary.
In the 1980s, Radhanath Swami shared in an interview with Larry D. Shinn about his spiritual practices in India. He found a secluded spot on the banks of the Ganges where he would chant “Hare Krishna” and other mantras for hours each day. It was there that he met a sadhu who asked him to throw all his Western clothes into the Ganges. In return, the sadhu gave him a simple garment worn by Hindu ascetics. Radhanath began practising strict austerities, meditating on a rock in the middle of the Ganges from sunrise to sunset for a whole month. He sustained himself with a diet of raw vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Later, he met another sadhu who taught him new meditation techniques. Despite his efforts, Radhanath couldn’t find a guru in the Himalayas, so he continued wandering throughout India. He lived among Advaitins in Varanasi for a period and also spent time with Buddhist monks in Bodh Gaya, the place where Buddha attained enlightenment. Upon arriving in Bombay (now Mumbai), Radhanath noticed a poster announcing festivals organized by American Hare Krishna devotees and their spiritual master, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Out of curiosity, he attended a Hare Krishna program that evening and heard Prabhupada speak for the first time. Prabhupada’s lectures had a significant impact on Radhanath. The Hare Krishnas passionately preached their beliefs to their fellow hippie countrymen, but Radhanath wasn’t yet ready to fully embrace their teachings. He believed that all paths led to God and didn’t comprehend the necessity of specifically following Prabhupada and his followers.
Radhanath Swami in Vrindavan
After parting ways with the Hare Krishna devotees, Radhanath continued his journey, travelling from one ashram to another, and seeking different gurus. Several months later, he was in Mathura during the celebration of Krishna Janmashtami. Radhanath stayed in Vrindavan at the ashram of Swami Bon, a famous Hare Krishna guru and a godbrother of Prabhupada. Swami Bon affectionately gave him the name Ratheen Krishna Das. At this point, Radhanath resembled a true Indian hermit with a skinny body due to poor nutrition and dreadlocks on his head. However, people at the ashram complained about his long and messy hair. Bon Maharaj asked him to shave his head like everyone else at the ashram. He explained that shaving his head symbolized surrendering to a mentor, and he didn’t feel ready for that yet. Maharaj suggested that he at least cut his hair shorter since it was halfway down his waist and very tangled. He agreed, but his hair was so thick that regular scissors couldn’t cut it. They called a gardener who brought special loppers used for cutting bushes. The gardener, a barber, and their assistants struggled to cut his hair with the loppers. Finally, after a lot of effort, the blades of the loppers snapped together, and the haircut was finished. Asim, a friend he made in Vrindavan, found the situation so funny that he laughed until tears ran down his face. Later, in Vrindavan, he visited the tomb of a famous saint named Rupa Goswami. While kneeling before the tomb and silently praying, he felt a powerful energy filling his body and mind. At that moment, he realized that the path of devotion, known as Bhakti-yoga, was the right path for him. All his previous doubts and reservations disappeared, and he knew that by following this path, he would discover Krishna’s love. However, he still felt a sense of emptiness because he knew he needed to find a guru to whom he could fully dedicate himself. Throughout his prayers, he intensely asked for guidance and direction. Later, Prabhupada visited Vrindavan with a group of American students. While listening to Prabhupada’s lecture, Radhanath felt convinced that the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy was perfect and that Prabhupada genuinely loved God. Witnessing Prabhupada singing Bengali bhajans with deep religious devotion left a lasting impression on Radhanath. He believed that Prabhupada was the greatest guru and saint he had encountered during all his wanderings in India.
Prabhupada answered all of Radhanath’s questions, providing scriptural quotations to support each answer. Radhanath also sensed that Prabhupada’s actions aligned with his teachings. However, at that time, Radhanath decided not to join the Krishna consciousness movement and chose to remain in Vrindavan even after Prabhupada and his disciples had departed. When Radhanath was with a saint named Ramesh Baba in the mountains of Varsana, he learned about the importance of having faith in God. One day, a young boy pointed to a painting of Krishna and said, “This is my God,” with pure innocence and faith. This reminded Radhanath of the words of Lord Jesus, who said that only those who have the purity and faith of a child can enter the kingdom of God. Inspired by this, Radhanath prayed to have such unwavering faith. Ramesh Baba, despite being constantly threatened by dangerous people with guns and knives, remained fearless because he took refuge in chanting God’s names in kirtan. He firmly believed that if Krishna was pleased with him, it didn’t matter what the thugs did. Radhanath witnessed Ramesh Baba’s incredible faith when he saw him sleeping with a small stick by his side to protect himself from a leopard. When Radhanath questioned the effectiveness of the stick, Ramesh Baba explained that only the Lord can truly protect them, but he kept the stick to show his willingness to do his part. Ramesh Baba taught that chanting the holy names of God is our ultimate protection, and we should cultivate faith in these names. While in Varsana, Radhanath personally experienced the importance of having faith in the holy names. Once, while he was in the fields, a poisonous snake approached him while he was squatting down. Fear surged through him, but he softly chanted the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra. As he continued chanting, he gradually felt a sense of peace, and his fear disappeared. The snake slithered away into the bushes, and Radhanath realized that he was like a tiny child on the spiritual path. Just as a child seeks protection from their parents, he found shelter in the holy names of God. Through his adventures, Radhanath gained profound insights into the power of faith. He realized that when everything seems to be going wrong in life, faith alone can help us see God’s guiding hand and understand that everything will be alright. He emphasized that true happiness is not dependent on wealth but on our faith in God. He compared faith to a tree that takes years to grow but can be destroyed in a short time.
Becoming Disciple of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
During his time in Vrindavan, Radhanath had the opportunity to meet A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, also known as Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON, who was visiting with his disciples from the western countries. However, some of Srila Prabhupada’s leading disciples would sometimes scold Radhanath and pressure him to make a commitment to join their movement and travel with them. Although he was accustomed to such pressure, Radhanath didn’t like it. He believed that surrendering to a guru should come from deep faith and inspiration, not from external pressure. One afternoon, Srila Prabhupada asked Radhanath how long he had been staying in Vrindavan. Radhanath expected Srila Prabhupada to criticize him for living there for so long. He replied, “About six months, Srila Prabhupada.” After a moment of silence and looking into Radhanath’s eyes, Srila Prabhupada affectionately rubbed his head and said, “Very good, Vrindavan is such a wonderful place.” In this brief exchange, Radhanath felt the love of an eternal friend, a caring parent, and God. It had a profound impact on him that he couldn’t fully comprehend or explain. Radhanath closed his eyes and contemplated why Srila Prabhupada, who had countless people waiting for his attention worldwide, took the time for him. Radhanath considered himself a penniless nobody who slept under a tree. He wondered if perhaps the miracle of being an instrument of kindness was the most powerful thing of all. Later, Radhanath made the decision to surrender to Srila Prabhupada and accept him as his guru. He received initiation from Prabhupada in the United States in February 1973 and was given the name ‘Radhanath Das.’
Association with the New Vrindaban Community
In 1972, Radhanath had to go back to America because the Indian government did not extend his visa. He stayed in Krishna temples in Amsterdam and London before reuniting with his parents in Miami. Later, he went to New York and met Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON, who asked him to stay in America and help develop the New Vrindaban community in West Virginia, guided by Kirtanananda Swami. Radhanath followed Prabhupada’s advice and settled in New Vrindaban. He took care of cows and read Prabhupada’s books in his free time. After being convinced by the philosophy and examples of the people in the community, Radhanath accepted Prabhupada as his guru on 11 February 1973. He stayed in New Vrindaban for the next six years, contributing to its growth, even though life there was simple and lacked heating and hot water during the cold winters. Radhanath practised Hare Krishna’s spiritual traditions, took care of cows, and served the temple deities. On 1 August 1976, he received Brahminic initiation from Prabhupada.
Becoming a Sanyasi
In the early 1980s, Radhanath gave lectures at universities in Ohio and Pennsylvania and taught courses on vegetarian cooking. In 1982, Kirtanananda Swami, a community leader, offered him the opportunity to become a sannyasi (a renunciate).
The sannyasa initiation ceremony took place in May 1982 in New Vrindaban, and Radhanath received the title “swami,” becoming known as Radhanath Swami. At first, Radhanath was hesitant because he felt that the honour and respect traditionally associated with sannyasa could interfere with his spiritual progress. However, after being persuaded, he eventually agreed. In 1983, he made a pilgrimage to India and reunited with old friends. In 1987, Kirtanananda Swami and the members who remained loyal to him, including Radhanath Swami, were expelled from ISKCON due to various deviations. In 1988, Radhanath Swami arrived in India and took charge of a project in Mumbai. He established the Radha Gopinath Temple, an ashram, and a spiritual community. The way he developed and nurtured his community in Mumbai is a remarkable example of his tolerance. The place where Radhanath Swami lived during the late 1980s was in a poverty-stricken area. The neighbourhood was noisy, and he had to share his living space with large rats that even scared cats away. Even by Indian standards, the place was extremely dirty and unpleasant. However, Radhanath Swami lived there happily, chanting the names of God and influencing others through his exceptional qualities of tolerance and patience. He was deeply absorbed in selfless service, which allowed him to transcend the limitations of his physical surroundings. In the 1990s, Kirtanananda faced legal troubles and was sentenced to prison for mail fraud. In 1994, Radhanath Swami returned to ISKCON and became a leader, serving on the Governing Body Commission and as an initiating guru. From 1995 to 2010, Radhanath Swami led ISKCON in various locations including Maharashtra, Goa, Daman and Diu, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Italy, and Belgaum.
Radhanath Swami with Bhakti Tirtha Swami
Bhakti Tirtha Swami, who had a close relationship with Radhanath Swami, played a significant role in inspiring him to write the book ‘Journey Home.’ Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s life exemplified the beautiful concept of God’s grace. Despite experiencing external suffering such as cancer and amputations, especially during the later stages of his life, he accepted these difficulties with grace and dignity. His example taught others how to gracefully accept suffering in this world. According to Radhanath Swami, heartfelt sentiments like those of Bhakti Tirtha Swami help us understand the purpose and necessity of suffering.
Radhanath Swami with Stoka Krishna
When one of Radhanath Swami’s young students, Stoka Krishna, was battling cancer and nearing the end of his life, Radhanath Swami stayed by his side, offering spiritual guidance and support. He repeatedly emphasized the kindness of God and encouraged Stoka Krishna to focus on remembering God and finding hope in him, rather than relying on material comforts. Radhanath Swami vividly described Stoka as the spiritual realm, giving Stoka Krishna a glimpse of the eternal world beyond this temporary existence. Despite the challenging circumstances, Stoka Krishna smiled and expressed gratitude to the Lord and the devotees. His passing was not only a testament to his courage in facing death, but it also filled the lives of Radhanath Swami’s followers with hope in the boundless mercy of the divine.
With the inspiration and guidance of Radhanath Swami, a dedicated community started the development of the Govardhan Ecovillage in 2003. The main objective of this project was to showcase the principles of self-sufficiency, localized economy, and living in harmony with nature by presenting a sustainable living model. Over time, they established various essential aspects of the eco-village, including organic farming, cow protection, education, rural development, alternative energy, eco-friendly constructions, and sustainable living practices. The Govardhan Ecovillage, situated near the Sahyadri mountain range, around a two-hour drive from Mumbai, was officially inaugurated on 24 December 2011.
During the inauguration, the eco-village was introduced as a retreat centre that included environmentally friendly cottages, an auditorium, seminar & conference rooms, an Ayurvedic wellness centre, and a yoga centre. Radhanath Swami shared his vision and aspiration behind the creation of the Govardhan Ecovillage, emphasizing the principle of “simple living, high thinking.” He highlighted the importance of living in harmony with Mother Earth, as she is the common mother to all life on the planet. He emphasized that it is our responsibility to honour and care for her, as we are heavily dependent on her. The Govardhan Ecovillage was designed to meet the modern lifestyle needs of both individuals and corporate groups while integrating spirituality with the demands of contemporary society. It aims to serve as a model, demonstrating how spirituality can be harmoniously integrated with the needs of the modern world. Radhanath Swami expressed the importance of reciprocating with Mother Earth, not only taking from her in our pursuit of technology but also giving back and caring for her. The structures within the eco-village are constructed using natural materials such as cob, rammed earth, and Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks (CSEB).
Bhaktivedanta Hospital & Research Institute
The Bhaktivedanta Hospital, an extension of the Radha Gopinath Temple community is a prominent centre for holistic health and spiritual care in Mumbai. In 1991, five young medical graduates Madhavananda Das, Visvarupa Das, Giriraj Das, Dwarkadish Das, and Vaishnavananda Das, who had become devotees of lord Krishna while in the medical college conceived the idea of providing holistic care with a Krishna-conscious ethos to as many people as possible. They began by organizing medical camps in different areas of Maharashtra, reaching out to underprivileged individuals who had limited access to modern medical facilities. Eventually, they established the Bhaktivedanta Clinic, a small seven-bed facility on Mira Road, a suburb of Thane near Mumbai.
Over time, the clinic grew into a state-of-the-art 210-bed hospital with a dedicated staff of 1,000 devotees. The hospital features six modern operation theatres and a comprehensive heart centre equipped to perform angiography, angioplasty, and open-heart surgeries. Annually, the hospital serves approximately 250,000 outpatients and admits around 20,000 inpatients from India and abroad. Additionally, Bhaktivedanta Hospital has established twelve satellite centres, primarily in Maharashtra, including a hospice in Vrindavan, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, and an eye hospital in Varsana, the birthplace of Radharani. The hospitals practice predominantly allopathic medicine but also offer alternative therapies such as homoeopathy, Ayurveda, naturopathy, yoga therapy, and acupuncture. Their approach to patient care is holistic, addressing not only the physical body but also the mind and soul. Spiritual care is an integral aspect of the services provided at Bhaktivedanta Hospital.
Radhanath Swami- A Philanthropist
ISKCON Chowpatty (Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir)
Under the guidance of Radhanath Swami, an orphanage ‘ISKCON Chowpatty’ has started which is located on the outskirts of Mumbai. The orphanage currently shelters fifty children who receive comprehensive care for their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. A dedicated team of trained teachers, supervised by a trustworthy group of individuals, ensures that all the needs of the children are met. To deepen their understanding of spiritual principles, the children regularly perform dramas in nearby villages, providing spiritual education and entertainment to thousands of villagers. Additionally, in 2004, the Indian Government’s Midday Meal Scheme, which aims to support underprivileged children in public schools, approached ISKCON Chowpatty to be one of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in implementing the program.
Radhanath Swami’s inspiration led to the establishment of the Annamrita school meal program. On its first day, the program provided meals for 900 children. Over the course of 15 years, Annamrita has made a significant impact on the lives of more than 1 million children in over 6,500 schools across India. The name “Annamrita” means “food as pure as nectar.” Poverty and hunger are widespread issues in India, with a large portion of the population lacking access to even one nutritious meal each day. This unfortunate situation is primarily caused by a vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy that has affected the country for many years. Annamrita is determined to break this cycle by offering pure, plant-based meals to underprivileged children. These meals are not only strictly vegetarian but are also prepared in a technologically advanced and highly hygienic kitchen, creating a spiritual atmosphere. It is believed that such pure food nourishes the mind, body, and soul of the children it serves.
Gopal’s Fun School
Gopal’s Fun School (GFS) is a weekend program for children living in urban areas. It was established at ISKCON Chowpatty under the inspiration of Radhanath Swami. GFS focuses on providing holistic education to children, nurturing their character and personality development. Through engaging workshops, children are encouraged to develop essential values and talents. A simple act, such as offering flowers to the altar, helps cultivate the value of giving and being compassionate towards others. In this program, children of different age groups receive expert training in spirituality. The aim is to awaken their awareness of God and help them become responsible and law-abiding citizens. Over time, they learn to make wise decisions that align with the values any caring parent would want for their child.
As part of the program, students learn various aspects of the Bhagavad Gita, engage in outdoor games rooted in Krishna Consciousness, participate in kirtans (devotional chants) using musical instruments, and learn bhajans (traditional Indian folk music). Alongside these activities, they also develop a sense of responsibility towards themselves and society as a whole. GFS has approximately 350 enrolled children, ranging from ages 3 to 21, divided into different age groups. The school continues to grow, with many parents expressing their satisfaction and appreciation for the institution and the positive impact it has on their children’s lives. Currently, there are two schools in Thane and a couple more in South Mumbai.
Gopal’s Garden High School
Gopal’s Garden High School was founded in July 2001 with the guidance of Radhanath Swami. It began in a rented flat with 9 children and 6 staff members and has now grown to have more than 175 students. The school maintains a dedicated team of trained teachers and staff members who possess professional qualifications and extensive experience. The school is well-equipped with essential facilities including a library, a computer lab, a science lab, a sports room, a music room, and a counselling department. These resources contribute to providing a comprehensive educational experience for the students.
In order to foster a spiritual culture among the students, the school includes an aarti ceremony and a short Bhagavad Gita class as part of the daily schedule. These activities aim to imbibe spiritual values and teachings in the students. Overall, Gopal’s Garden High School strives to provide a nurturing and holistic learning environment for its students, combining academic education with spiritual development.
Devotee Care and Relations Program
Radhanath Swami, following the principles of the Hare Krishna ideology, introduced the Devotee Care Program at Radha Gopinath Temple in Mumbai. This program, which later expanded globally within ISKCON, focuses on supporting and nurturing the devotees within the temple community. The Devotee Care Program at Radha Gopinath Temple offers a wide range of services. It includes cultural education and schooling for children, care for orphans, outreach and preaching to youth, facilitating marriages, support for monks and the elderly, counseling for householders, a credit organization, a hospital, a farm, annual pilgrimages, drama festivals, and the ISKCON Food Relief Foundation. Under the guidance of Radhanath Swami, the Chowpatty Temple in Mumbai established the Devotee Care and Relations Program in 1986. This program aims to address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of devotees. It led to the establishment of the Bhaktivedanta Hospital, the ISKCON Food Relief Foundation, financial aid programs, and other initiatives that focus on the physical well-being of devotees. To cater to emotional and spiritual care, the temple developed Grihastha Counseling, which fosters trust among devotees. This program offers formal counselling from experienced devotees to support the spiritual growth of new devotees. Additionally, the temple organizes trips to Govardhan Farm, a tropical fruit and bamboo nursery in the Caribbean, providing spiritually enriching recreational activities. The success of the Devotee Care and Relations Program at Radha Gopinath Temple serves as a model for similar initiatives worldwide. It sets an example for the development of similar programs in other ISKCON communities, including the one in New Vrindaban.
Radhanath Swami- An Author
At the request of his friend and godbrother Bhakti Tirtha Swami, who was terminally ill, Radhanath Swami reluctantly agreed to share his personal journey and experiences. He wrote a memoir titled “The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami.” Initially hesitant, Radhanath Swami decided to fulfill Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s wish and documented his life story in the book. Swami has penned down various spiritual books like:
- The Journey Within: Exploring the Path of Bhakti, which became the New York Times Bestseller in July 2016 under the category of ‘Religion, Spirituality and Faith
- Nectar Drops and Nectar Stream
- Six Goswamis of Vrindavan
- The Wisdom Tree
- The Real You
Radhanath Swami’s influence extends globally, and he is widely recognized and honoured for his humanitarian efforts. He has played a significant role in promoting the teachings of ISKCON and is highly regarded as an inspirational and respected spiritual leader within the organization. His involvement extends beyond ISKCON as well. He serves on the advisory panel of I-Foundation, which successfully launched the first government-funded Hindu faith school in London. Radhanath Swami’s interfaith discussions, such as those with Cornel West and Francis X. Clooney, have fostered meaningful dialogues and understanding between followers of different beliefs. His discussion with Cornel West at Princeton University received the prestigious 2011 Santos-Dumont Prize for Innovation, recognizing its impact and visibility in promoting interfaith and interfaith dialogues. He has also shared his spiritual wisdom and insights in various prestigious forums. He has presented ancient spiritual solutions to modern challenges at the esteemed Oxford Union debating society. Additionally, he was the main speaker at a corporate workshop organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), where he addressed over 150 top executives from India’s corporate sector. During the session titled “Spirituality: Leadership and Management,” Radhanath Swami emphasized the values of integrity, humility, and simplicity in daily business affairs.
Alleged to be Involved in Sulochan’s Murder
- 2011: Radhanath Swami receives the DY Patil Award for the ISKCON Food Relief Foundation
- 2012: GCL Award Giving Lecture Radhanath Swami ISKCON Chowpatty
- 2017: Global Award for Excellence in Innovation at the UNWTO Awards for Govardhan Eco-Village
- In his leisure time, he loves to do meditation, listen to music, sing bhajans, and read spiritual books.
- During his teenage years, he used to do jobs during his school vacations.
- While studying in school, he was passionate about wrestling. He won various fight competitions. However, during one of his matches, his shoulder got dislocated, and he decided to quit the show.
- He has a self-titled YouTube channel and has around 434k subscribers on his channel. On his channel, videos of his speeches are uploaded.
- He has delivered speeches on the Bhagavad Gita at different universities and gatherings. He presents the Gita’s teachings as going beyond historical and religious boundaries. According to Radhanath Swami, in order to truly benefit from studying the Bhagavad Gita, one must approach it with an open and receptive heart, ready to absorb Krishna’s message of love. He emphasizes the importance of being earnest and sincere in the spiritual pursuit.
- Radhanath Swami has appeared as a guest speaker at various events.
- He is an avid animal lover and has worked for the welfare of animals.
- His speeches are aired on various religious TV channels like Aastha.