My mother’s death and the forces around me have led me to look for solace in books. I try to review all my reads on Goodreads but it’s only the recent 3 on spirituality that I’m sharing through this and the next 2 posts here. I’d be interested to get impressions from others on these books or any other that come close to this direction of learning.
The book took many weeks to finish because of distractions and preoccupations but I did seek it out despite much mental and physical confusion. It offered a fluid and believable read. Radhanath Swami’s journey from a 19 year old American Jew boy to become Srila Prabhupada’s follower 2 years later was full of tough travels, conflicting experiences and much exploration. It took him 6 months to reach India through Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan by land and with little or no money. I admired his determination and belief in his own quest. It was a surprise that the idea of India came to an American teenager in the 1970s when this country was even less tourist-friendly or known. It was good to know about all the sadhus he met–including Neem Karoli Baba who I’d heard about only in Steve Jobs’ context–and his genuine interest in learning from them. I felt sorry for his troubles so many times and heaved a sigh of relief each time he got to eat anything substantial. After all his doubts, learnings, struggles, I’ve to say, however, that I was disappointed with his final decision to connect with a glamourous brand like Iskcon. Much as I enjoy going into clean and large Iskcon temples, eating its lovely prasad or buying rosary beads from its Delhi store, in its present state, Iskcon’s concept brings many doubts to mind about its mission. And, this is when I believe in Krishna as a God too. Recently, when I asked a young Sivanand Ashram Swami about his impressions of Iskcon’s mandate and method, he said that it has evolved into something that may not have been Srila Prabhupada’s vision of it. To my own mind, Iskcon promotes a cult movement by offering music, dancing and single-minded chanting of a mantra. It’s almost as if it’s created a template that is attractive to adopt by Western seekers. I realize that many would advice me to keep my own heart and quest clear instead of deriding any sect but for now my impression of Iskcon is based on my experience of it…however limited that may be at this stage.
And yet, I do not mean to trivialize Richard Slavin’s journey to find God and a guru. I’m full of admiration for his hardships and bravery to leave a comfortable life. The book itself is well written for someone who hadn’t kept notes on his experiences and wrote about them 35 years later.