It was 9:00 p.m., time to call it a day at the monastery. Spotting Radhanath Swami taking a casual stroll through the ashram corridors, some of us surrounded him. On such occasions our discussions were more informal, and Radhanath Swami often spoke of his personal life: his childhood, his travels in search for the truth, his realizations while staying in an austere monastery on a mountain in North America, and the adventures of his outreach programs. These intimate talks charmed the monks even more than the transcendental philosophy and drew us affectionately to him.
On this day, a fellow monk raised a question, “We occasionally get discouraged while undergoing even the basic austerities that accompany ashram life. How is it that you never complained even while living through extreme inconveniences in that monastery on a mountaintop?”
Radhanath Swami briefly describes his stay at a mountaintop monastery in his memoir, The Journey Home:
For the next six years I resided in an austere monastery on a secluded mountaintop that one had to trudge a three-mile muddy footpath through a forest to reach. The snow-blanketed winters were frigid there and we had no heat. To bathe, we used a rock to break a layer of ice, then dipped in the icy water. Our sanitation system was to climb down a hill with a shovel in hand and busy our waste in the mud.
Every monk was eager to hear the reply. We pressed ourselves closer.
After a brief silence, Radhanath Swami spoke, “If you simply realize what awaits you on the path of Bhakti, you will roll on the ground and cry tears of joy and gratitude. Krishna has given much, much more than what we deserve.”
It was like a father sharing his deepest secrets with his children. We felt blessed.