Radhanath Swami’s spiritual memoir is a model of modesty and candidness. He tells his story with remarkable honesty—the temptations of the 1970s, his doubts, hopes, and disappointments, the cultural shock and the friendships found and lost. His path is that of an ordinary American from the suburbs of Chicago, born Richard Slavin in a secular Jewish family in the 1950s, who goes on a spiritual quest to give meaning to his life. Less ordinary is his journey—literally, through Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, and spiritually, trying out various religious practices and studying with guides of different faiths, before settling in India. Add a zest of danger, suspense, and surprises, and Radhanath Swami’s story is a deep, genuine memoir that reads like a novel.
His style reflects the humanity, kindness, and compassion that he developed after meeting a guru in India and joining the Hare Krishna movement, where he found his spiritual home. This book is accessible, effective and offers a mine of information about the quest of so many young Americans in the 1970s, about the city of Calcutta that is so rich spiritually, so poor economically, and about the Hare Krishna movement and its evolution to this day. Other readers will be moved by Radhanath Swami’s spiritual saga, and will find echoes of their own quest in his journey.
(Brigitte Sion is Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow in New York University’s Program in Religious Studies.)