The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami

Image of The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami
Release Date: 
January 18, 2010
Mandala Publishing
Reviewed by: 

Every spiritual seeker who has found his or her personal path has a story. But there are not many stories as powerful and moving as Radhanath Swami’s The Journey Home.

In the summer of 1970, at age 19, Richard Slavin (later Radhanath Swami) travels to Europe with a few high school buddies. They plan to spend the summer overseas and return to college in the fall. All their money is stolen the first night of their trip, and from that moment on nothing ordinary happens.

After a short time, Richard and his best friend, Gary, find themselves traveling together on a spiritual quest through European cities with their cathedrals, religious sites, and countercultural enclaves. While in Greece, Richard decides he must go to India, while Gary heads to Israel.

Alone, small of stature, and innocent, Richard travels through some of the most dangerous areas of the world: Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. After facing near death in Afghanistan and Iran, he manages to enter India (not without more difficulty at the border) and into the heart of his spiritual quest.

A sincere seeker, Richard travels as a wandering mendicant—penniless and following no particular schedule—but with a definite agenda: to find his path and, hopefully, a teacher/mentor. He manages to meet and spend time with many well-known gurus and spiritualists such as Mother Teresa, The Dalai Lama, Muktananda, Neem Karoli Baba, Ananda Mayi Ma, Swami Shivananda, and others. It would be impossible to replicate his adventures today, but in the early 1970s very few young Westerners were traveling through India as sincere seekers, so contact with the acharyas of those ashrams was not so difficult—making his quest all the more richer and interesting to the reader. As he travels, we learn the lessons he learns, and we watch him mature and grow spiritually.

The most beautiful and moving stories (and the author is a wonderful storyteller) come from his time spent with unknown but extremely advanced souls who serve their higher power with humility and sincerity. Indeed, that is one of the beauties of spiritual India: that even to this day such saintly individuals exist in humble anonymity. But there are also frightening stories, including those of frauds in the guise of holy men that he also encounters along the way.

After wandering India, searching for that one person, that one guru who might end his search, Richard surrenders his heart to A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, the personality he knows he can spend his life serving.

Years later, Radhanath Swami is now known around the world as a spiritual leader of great humility whose projects feed and school thousands of poor children throughout India, and who continues to inspire many more thousands on their paths to self-realization.

In the early 1970s my friends and I were all reading The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahamsa Yogananda. It sparked our desire for finding a spiritual teacher. The Journey Home belongs to this generation of seekers. As a young Westerner who grew up in a vastly different tradition than the one he adopts, the author and his experiences will resonate especially well with modern seekers of all nationalities. The Journey Home will gently challenge all to consider their own spiritual quest.

This book is an absolute page-turner of rare beauty and candor. This reviewer read it in a day and a half, ignoring most of her other responsibilities to travel with Radhanath Swami’s gentle heart through all he experiences in his formative travels.

When you finish this wonderful book, perhaps you will compare it to your own spiritual journey—or be inspired to begin one.