The journey of how Gadadhara Pandit Dasa became a monk spans many years and tells a tale of human sacrifice and renewal.
At the age of seven, Pandit moved to Los Angeles with his parents from India to make a new life. The doe-eyed child went along the Venice Beach Boardwalk soaking up American culture and falling in love with pizza, skateboarding, basketball, hip-hop, etc. America was magic!
Even more magical was the dream his family was living out. From humble beginnings, they created a multi-million dollar jewelry company in a few short years. Pandit suddenly found himself living a very lavish lifestyle straight out of 90210.
“But I guess it was not meant to be. After a few years of working around the clock and never taking a day off, my parent’s factory burned down. We lost everything.”
The year was 1992 and Pandit, at 21, had to start his life over. His family left everything behind and moved to explore new opportunities in post-Communist Bulgaria.
Just imagine a young man at his prime suddenly isolated from the world. In Bulgaria, Pandit knew no one and could not find solace anywhere as there was no English at all. He would have to walk two miles to the nearest post office to call friends or family in USA or India. TV and movies made no sense.
“Life drastically pulled out the rug from underneath me. But, it was the wake up call I needed. I was living in an illusion in L.A. Honestly, I still cannot fully process what this experience was like, although talking about it really helps.”
All possible distractions and opportunities for human connection were taken away, which pushed him to look for answers within. He read books on meditation and eastern wisdom teachings that helped Pandit confront deeper questions such as why this happened to him and about who he was.
As Bulgaria was too unstable, Pandit and his family decided to uproot again and return to the USA, but to the East Coast this time around.
It was Pandit’s third new beginning and by this point he was learning how to adjust. “These changes are like a roller coaster; scary at first, but then you get used to it.”
For the next two years, Pandit kept practicing and learning meditation until, in 1999, he felt like he needed a break from everything and went to live in a monastery in India for one month.
“How often do you take the opportunity to go deep inside and learn to just let go? I was hooked.” He loved the experience of living in the monastery so much that he extended his time there to six months.
Pandit really connected to the fact that monks decided to stay and live simply even though most were highly educated and came from very well off families.
This experience impacted him so deeply that after his 6 months in India, he decided to return to the USA and enter a New York monastery.
Having never imagined himself a monk, he was surprised to see how fulfilled he felt. He had found his calling.
As a monk he taught a conscious cooking course at the Columbia campus, which was a huge success. Students grew excited to learn how mindful cooking and eating helped remove guilt from food. Pandit was overjoyed to provide students with home cooked meals and he discovered his immense love of teaching.
Before he knew it, 15 years flew by.
But, when many of his fellow monks began to leave the monastery, Pandit felt alone for the first time. He wanted a companion to come home to and connect with.
At the age of 41, he was ready to make another change and left monastic living.
Today, Pandit is happily engaged to be married and continues to share his message of mindfulness meditation with the corporate world as our very own ‘urban monk.’
“I am grateful for the opportunity to make this message more accessible so more people get to reap the endless benefits of meditation. I am dressed just like everyone else as I go around and share tips to relieve stress in everyday life.”
For more on Pandit, watch his appearance on Bold Blend, read Urban Monk: Exploring Karma, Consciousness, and the Divine and check out his website!
Adam Johnson founded Insight & Action Advisors to help senior executives connect with investors and customers through video and live events. Previously, Mr. Johnson anchored several business programs at Bloomberg Television, interviewing CEOs, heads of state, Nobel laureates, asset mangers and policy experts. Mr. Johnson began his career on Wall Street, co-founding a private investment partnership and trading securities globally for ING, Furman Selz, Louis Dreyfus, Merrill Lynch. He earned his bachelors degree in economics at Princeton.
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for American Enterprise Institute scholar Edward Conard. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.
Gal grew up in the world of theatre and dance. She loves using that creativity to find what moves us and awakens our inner passions. Through sharing inspirational voices on bold.global and Bold Blend, Gal hopes to help ignite the belief that when we celebrate each other, it is possible to break boundaries and live a bold life!