for ISKCON News on July 2, 2010
American-born spiritual teacher Radhanath Swami will set off on a North American book tour from August 1st to December 1st this year, to promote the US trade release of his autobiography The Journey Home.
The twenty-city tour will include book store signings as well as readings and question and answer sessions at universities, yoga studios, and temples across the nation. It will visit most major cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Dallas, Houston, and Vancouver, and will also include media interviews for radio, television, newspapers and magazines.
Radhanath Swami is also expected to appear at several yoga retreats and events with kirtan musicians Gaura Vani & As Kindred Spirits and Karnamrita, such as Bhakti Fest at Joshua Tree in California from September 9th to 12th.
First released in summer 2009 for a limited audience of Krishna devotees and yoga practioners, The Journey Home nevertheless sold 30,000 copies and was published in five languages, while a further five are under translation. So expectations for this year’s August 10th official US release to the publishing industry, which will make the book available to a wider audience through all major book retailers, are high.
The book tells the story of Richard Slavin, a middle-class Jewish boy born in Chicago in the 1950s, who at 19 years old set out to wander the world in search of a closer connection to God.
The life-changing journey down the path of enlightenment that followed led to his current status as one of India’s great spiritual leaders, Radhanath Swami. But not before he experienced a series of adventures and spiritual encounters that even the greatest novelist couldn’t have made up.
His story takes us hitchhiking across Europe and the Middle East—through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and eventually India. He survives multiple near-death encounters including run-ins with drug smugglers, robberies at knifepoint, an attack by a pack of wild dogs, being held captive by a large venomous snake, and nearly suffocating in quicksand. Penniless and half-starved, he arrives in India and climbs to remote regions of the Himalayas where levitating recluses are among the many famous and unknown mystics who train him in the life of a wandering mendicant.
He eventually finds himself in a holy forest where his long, matted locks and threadbare garments gain him entrance into the company of renowned yogis and saints. There, he begins to learn that beautiful things happen in life when we “let go of our own ego.”
Yoga teachers, authors, and academics alike have already lauded Radhanath Swami’s story, with Sharon Gannon, author of Jivamukti Yoga and Yoga and Vegetarianism, calling it “A profound opportunity to enter into presence with spiritual seekers, saints, and holy beings.” Shiva Rea, author of Yoga Wave, called it “An inspiring journey for all,” and Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now said: “It shows the inner journey of awakening in a fascinating and spellbinding way.”
Brigitte Sion of New York University commended Radhanath Swami for his candidness and remarkable honesty, while David Frawley, author of Yoga: The Greater Tradition said: “A generational journey to the East by one who found the real goal of all seeking, The Journey Home is one of the most remarkable and intimate portrayals of the life and adventure of an American swami, providing the reader the opportunity for a similar transformation.”
Radhanath Swami himself, however, remains humble about his achievements. A modest man, he resisted urging by many to write his life story for years, and only succumbed to honor a dying man’s final wishes.
The one-time Richard Slavin is now one of India’s premier spiritual leaders, with public appearances that draw thousands of followers.
Loyal supporters of his efforts donate millions of dollars each year, all of which is used to head up some of the most highly regarded community service projects in Mumbai. From the formation of a massive food distribution center for indigent children to emergency relief programs to the creation of an orphanage, an eye clinic, and a hospital—his contributions to India are so vast they have earned him a celebrity-like status.
Yet his own lifestyle remains simple and unglamorous. As a Swami—or “monk exclusively dedicated to God’s services”—he eats once a day, sleeps on a mat on the floor, and has taken vows of poverty, celibacy, and abstinence from intoxicants. He has no property, no bank account, and not a penny to his name. But he has found the one thing so many strive to achieve: the path to enlightenment.
And this brings us to Radhanath Swami’s greatest hope for his book The Journey Home: that readers will gain a greater sense of dedication to their own spiritual journey, and the faith to carry them on their way.
The Journey Home will be available as a deluxe paperback from Mandala Publishing (mandalapublishing.com) from August 10th. For a complete updated schedule for Radhanath Swami’s book tour, please visit Radhanathswami.com.