Richard (now Radhanath Swami) travelled to Pashupatinath at Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. He was disappointed at not being allowed entry into the famous Lord Shiva temple because of his being a foreigner. Being determined, he covered himself with sacrificial ashes and disguised expertly. This time not only he wasn’t recognized, he was also honored with exclusive worship of God in the temple. Richard felt humbled and also grateful at being allowed entry into the temple; he felt he deserved to be beaten for breaking the rule.
Reading this exciting adventure of Radhanath Swami attempting to enter a temple reminded me of Radhanath Swami’s closest friend, Bhakti Tirtha Swami, on whose instructions Radhanath Swami has written the ‘Journey Home’. Bhakti Tirtha Swami also once attempted to enter the famous Jagganath temple in Puri, India. In 2005 Radhanath Swami described this exciting story in a marathon six hour class on the glorious services of Bhakti Tirtha Swami.
Radhanath Swami narrated that in 1978, Bhakti Tirtha Swami was in India. At that time in history, not a single foreigner had ever been inside Jagannath’s temple in Puri, in the state of Orissa. Bhakti Tirtha Swami had been once told by his guru that in this lifetime he would see God. So he thought, “Maybe I will see God as Lord Jagannath in this temple.” He had a black complexion and thought perhaps the ever vigilant temple priests at Puri may think he is from from South India and they would allow him in. He tied a towel around his head to look Indian. There were big crowds, and he walked right by the gatekeeper. He went deeper and there was a massive crowd, thousands of people near the main altar of God. At that time, Bhakti Tirtha Swami thought, “If they catch me now they are going to really beat me, I don’t know what will happen”. All of a sudden, the pandas, the official door keepers in the temple stopped the crowed and began choosing people that they thought had money and called them forward. One of them called Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj forward, “You come.” He spoke in Oriya language, and Bhakti Tirtha Swami was afraid because if the panda spoke to him, he would be caught because he only spoke English. The person started asking questions. Bhakti Tirtha Swami couldn’t understand a word. He just remained silent and was praying to the Lord. The person brought him right up to the altar and pushed his head right on the altar, and let him stand there to offer his prayers of love. He then took him to circumambulate the temple, and meanwhile so many other pandas tried to get money from him but this one panda was saying, “He is mine, he is mine.”
After he had this amazing experience,, the panda who was actually the chief priest of the temple called him out and spoke to him in English, “I know who you are. I don’t agree that you people shouldn’t be allowed in the temple, so I have arranged this audience for you with the Lord. Bhakti Tirtha Swami was so overwhelmed with this divine spiritual experience that the next day he thought he would do it again. However this time the pandas discovered he was not an Indian, and they started screaming at him and chasing him and Bhakti Tirtha Swami ran. He narrowly escaped and realized we should be satisfied by what God has given us.
Radhanath Swami says that Bhakti Tirtha Swami was the first foreigner to have ever personally got the audience of the Lord at Jagganath Puri. His guru’s prophecy had indeed come true “You will see God in this lifetime.”