Radhanath Maharaja Dances At The Pontevecchio Bridge, Florence, 15 May 2007

Radhanath Maharaja Dances At The Pontevecchio Bridge, Florence, 15 May 2007

I was speaking to Mother Mathura Mandala at the Randburg Ratha Yatra in Johannesburg, South Africa, a couple of months back and she asked me if I had copies of my Gurumaharaja’s book, ‘The Journey of the Heart.’ It didn’t register, at first, that she had gotten the title wrong. After a pause, however, I thought ‘What an apt description for this book.’ When the publisher asked Maharaja to describe the book, Maharaja candidly said, ‘It is like a journey home.’ The publisher replied, ‘We’ll make that the title – The Journey Home.’

Maharaja writes in the epilogue that Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja had admonished him for not writing a book about his incredible journey, saying he would be a miser if he did not share his story with the world. Maharaja has shared his story many times over the years in public lectures and, privately, with disciples, family and friends. ‘The Journey Home’ is, in one sense, Radhanath Maharaja baring his soul to the world. It is the teacher revealing himself as a seeker and student. It is also Maharaja’s homage of gratitude to his principal teacher, Swami A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada.

The thing that struck me most about ‘The Journey Home’ is the author’s candour. He describes his personal history from the perspective of a boy following his ‘inner call’ as opposed to a master recounting his spiritual achievements. What Richard (Radhanath Maharaja’s family name) is looking for is eternal, unfathomable and unquantifiable. There is a sense of wonder in every page and in every step of the young man’s journey. It is a brutally honest jourey to the core of the heart.  It is also the story of a young man’s search of God.

The book is a feast of Maharaja’s characteristic humour, masterful storytelling ability, non-secarianism, willingness to honour others, determination, compassion, kindness, appreciation, humility and, ultimately, love. ‘The teacher’ is teaching us through the eyes of ‘the student.’ What is he teaching? How to find God.

The journey begins when a friend offers Richard and Gary (Maharaja’s lifelong friend) tickets to Europe for the Summer. (It should be noted that Richard comes from a jewish family from the suburbs of Chicago). There is a touching scene where Richard breaks the news to his family at supper and they reluctantly agree to let him go. ‘Write a little letter from time to time’, his younger brother Larry says as he fights back the tears.

The first part of the book is a journey of choices in terms of Richard’s geographic, moral and spiritual destinations. He has to make some very important decisions in order to follow his ‘inner call’ and remain true to his spiritual quest. I won’t go into the details here because I do not want to spoil your reading. The young seeker comes into contact with many cultures and spiritual points-of-view, yet continues his relentless search for wisdom and divinity, from Amsterdam to the Himalayas. He meets rabbis, priests, mystic yogis, charlatans, travel acquaintances and gurus from various traditions. His spiritual thirst is watered under the tutelage of a host of loving guides. But he knows, however, that if he is going to accept a teacher that he has to commit himself completely to that person. He is therefore careful to rush into such a serious commitment without being truly convinced.

The latter portions of the book bring us to the mysterious land of Vrindavan. Vrindavan, the author realizes, is home. It is also the home of bhakti or ‘devotion’ to Lord Krishna. It is the home to more wonderful friends, sadhus and teachers. Although I have heard Maharaja talk about his dear friend Ganeshyama in a lecture on ‘How To Take Proper Care Of Guests’, the episode about Ganeshyama is particularly moving. Again, I will let the reader discover the wonder and beauty of Ganeshyama’s devotion themselves.

Maharaja’s book is not so much a self-portrait as a series of portraits of the saintly persons he meets on his way. This is typical of Maharaja’s glorious ability of always glorifying others. His progressive search culminates in his meeting with His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami and the conclusive realization that here is my teacher.

Copies the ‘Journey Home’ will be available in South Africa in two to three weeks time from Mukunda Charan Das at the Vedic City Project (www.vediccity.org.za).

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