Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fond memories of ISKCON, Juhu, Mumbai; Great Bhajan by Loknath Swami; ISKCON, Chowpatty, Mumbai; Radhanath Swami

I have very fond memories of time spent enjoying and being engrossed in Bhajans at ISKCON, Juhu, Mumbai,, in the early 90s. It was perhaps my first serious effort at trying to focus the mind in Bhakti (devotion) of the Lord, through song (bhajan) in an atmosphere of community devotion (satsang). Here's a great bhajan by famous ISKCON singer Loknath Swami, Mukunda Madhava Govinda bol, 7 min. 15 secs,

I should also say that I did read fair amount of ISKCON literature, both on Bhagavad Gita, and the Bhagavatam. I was not entirely comfortable with some aspects of this literature and that held me back from becoming more committed to ISKCON as my spiritual guide-organization. [This was prior to me knowing about Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and then associating with the Sathya Sai orgn.]

I should also say that, by no means, am I finding fault with ISKCON literature! NO, NOT AT ALL. I am not getting into that sort of vaad-vivaad (argument & counter-argument, theological debate). It is just that some aspects of it did not click with me; perhaps that was due to my lack of proper understanding.

A good friend and younger colleague of mine (Sri Sandeep Kamat), in a software company in Mumbai named Mastek,, that I got associated with later on as a consultant, in the 90s and early 2000s, was an ardent follower of ISKCON. He took me to his main ISKCON temple in Girgaon, Chowpatty (walking distance from Grant Road Railway station, if I recall correctly), Mumbai, I clearly recall me enjoying and admiring the holy atmosphere as well as the intricate beauty of the main temple there (the website shows a pic of it, which revived that memory). He was associated as a lay (family man) follower with a spiritual leader there, whom he greatly admired and revered. If I recall correctly (actually I am quite sure), he was referring to the main spiritual leader of the temple, Sri Radhanath Swami,, who is an American from Chicago who became an ISKCON sannyasin. An extract from the earlier link:

Radhanath Swami is a Vaishnava sanyassin (a monk in a Krishna-bhakti lineage) and teacher of the devotional path of Bhakti-yoga. He is author of The Journey Home, a memoir of his search for spiritual truth. His teachings draw from the sacred texts of India such as The Bhagavad-gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, and Ramayana, and aim to reveal the practical application of the sacred traditions, while focusing on the shared essence which unites apparently disparate religious or spiritual paths.

Born Richard Slavin, on December 7, 1950, in his teens he came to confront a deep sense of alienation from suburban Chicago life and the civil injustices of mid-century America. At the age of nineteen, while on a summer trip to Europe, his internal struggles culminated in a commitment to search for God wherever it might lead him. Meditating on the Isle of Crete, he felt a supernatural calling and the next morning set off alone to find spiritual India. The Journey Home documents his odyssey as a penniless hitch-hiker though Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and finally India. There he lived as a wandering ascetic, first amongst the forest dwelling Himalayan yogis and later amongst a wide variety of gurus and spiritual practitioners throughout India and Nepal. Ultimately, he was led to the holy town of Vrindavan, where he found his path amongst the Bhakti-yogis.

In Vrindavan he found the teacher he was searching for in A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977) the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), and representative of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, (the Krishna-bhakti tradition stemming from the 16th century mystic avatar Sri Chaitanya). In choosing Bhaktivedanta Swami, as his guru, Radhanath Swami felt compelled to shear his matted locks and reenter Western society with a mission to share the sacred wisdom he had received. This return exemplifies the form of devotional yoga which is at the heart of Radhanath Swami’s teachings, a spiritual practice expressed as tangible action meant to bring about personal fulfillment and benefit the world.

At the the age of 31 he took the monastic vows of a Vaishnava sanyassin and became known as Radhanath Swami.

--- end extract from ---

I did not have the privilege and pleasure of meeting Sri Radhanath Swami. I think he may not have been free (or in town) at the time my friend took me to his temple.

[I thank and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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