Hello Christian – USA
BY WILL MAULE Rahil Patel's journey of faith is nothing short of remarkable. Raised in a devout Hindu home, Patel went on to become a distinguished Hindu priest, travelling the globe preaching the message of spiritual discipline, meditation and Guru worship. But despite all his religious successes, Patel was desolate on the inside. He was depressed, confused, and spiritually dry. Then, he met Christ. HelloChristian.com caught up with Rahil to learn more about his embrace of the Christian faith.
17 November 2017
"My whole schooling was very Christian. I loved that. I was taking part in the Christmas plays. Singing hymns. Praying before lunch. But at home, it was Hinduism," he says.
"The word Hinduism is actually a geographical terminology, of where people originated. India consists of hundreds of different Hindu religions. Some eat meat, some have temple sacrifices." Do Hindus have any one thing in common?
"Certain scriptures," says Rahil. "Every denomination will be linked back to the ancient Vedas. They all believe in reincarnation."
"In our home, we had a special room dedicated to a house shrine. We had idols and statues in the house shrine. The main painting was of the Guru that we believed was God," he says.
"We never ate meat, we never drank alcohol. We went to the temple every Saturday and Sunday. This was life for me." What is the purpose of meditation?
"Meditation is to please God," Patel explains. "You do chanting, you read certain scripture. In meditation, you think of the Guru. The idea is that if you think of him, you will get his qualities in you."
"You incarnate his qualities of peace, generosity, kindness...his tolerance and patience."
Why did you worship that particular God, and not one of the many others?
"Because of my tradition. That's what my family did, so I did the same. That's typical with Indians. Many things are just done by tradition. You don't ask questions, you just do what the family does," explains Rahil.
"I had a slight turn in my own journey. I always had a spiritual hunger, but there were lots of problems in the home. My parents were arguing a lot. I was filled with a lot of fear and anxiety. As escapism, I used to spend more time in the temple."
"I made friends there. We started worshipping together, serving in the kitchen, learning scriptures by heart."
Then, one day, Rahil was asked to speak to a group of Hindus. The Guru was also there, and he was impressed with Rahil's speaking skills.
"Everybody loved it," he says. "When the Guru acknowledges you in front of everyone, it is a big thing."
The Guru asked Rahil to become a priest. "You just believe that this is because of your past lives and that God is recognising you. Also, it fed my pride. When the Guru acknowledges you in front of thousands of people, it is a big deal."
Patel ran away from home to train as a priest in India. "I was so focused, so fanatic," he says. "We trained in the monastery in India for six years."
What did you do there?
"A lot of discipline and a lot of academia. The monastery is in the North West of India, in the middle of this desert - a beautiful campus spread across 250 acres."
"You wake up at 4.30 am every morning. You have a cold water bath. You are not advised to use warm water on your body. This is so you do not give too much attention to your body. It is your spirit that is important."
"Then you have corporate worship at 6 am. You must not be late for that. Then you do chores. You clean the toilets, you serve in the kitchen."
"Then there is a sermon. You must take notes and you will regularly take a 3-hour exam on 14 sermons. Your classes go on until 11 pm at night."
What was your goal whilst you were there? Six years is a long time!
"It is three things. First, it is to develop your knowledge. Second is that the disciplines help to develop your character. Thirdly, it is a lifestyle you start getting used to - celibacy. You don't even talk to your family anymore, so there are no emotional strings to your past anymore. Now, you are completely dedicated to God or Guru."
"You constantly battle," explains Patel. "You suppress everything until you have a split soul. You start learning to justify your emotions. You give it a name. You downplay it. You think less of it."
Rahil says that he was deeply lonely whilst at the monastery. "We weren't allowed to love anyone, and you weren't allowed to receive love."
I have never said to anyone that 'I love you', he explains.
"It is like a cult. You start getting trained not to trust anyone in the world. You don't know where to go, or whom to talk to freely."
"So, to deal with this, you get busy, you try to achieve." What were some of your highest achievements?
"I built temples in Portugal, Paris and Belgium, and we had centres in 18 other cities in Europe. Which is funny, because after I had left, somebody in the street said he was from the temple, but that Europe had become so quiet since I left."
Despite being a famous speaker, Patel says that he was taking anti-depressants and fighting an internal battle. He would go to America and preach to 8,000 people at a time. But he was empty and alone.
So could he talk about his doubts and questions?
"No. You are not meant to have emotions," Rahil explains. "It shows you have signs of weakness. It shows the Devil has taken hold." Patel says that he was encouraged by the Guru, whom he says he "worshipped greatly."
"I spread his name throughout Europe. I worshipped him fervently."
But the doubts were growing. Then, he started experiencing different cultures and belief systems.
"I was exposed to different thought patterns when I was travelling the world," explains Patel.
"Then, I began to have a secret fascination with Jesus. I used to walk into Churches to see the architecture but I did notice that there was something special in the atmosphere."
"I just thought 'this just makes sense,'" he says.
"There was a beautiful simplicity about it. It felt like there were answers here."
"I began to search elsewhere for spiritual nourishment. I started studying Hebrew scriptures and self-help books," Patel continues.
"I saw that I wasn't changing, and the priests around me weren't changing. As my search grew, I came across Christ on my travels."
"I had this attractive fascination towards the cross. I just felt there was something special there. This slowly began to build up in my heart." How did you actually come to embrace Christ as your saviour?
"I left the Hindu denomination in 2011 after 20 years of serving. It was very hurtful for me because the Guru said some very harsh things at that time." What did he say?
"For 20 minutes, he pushed me. My theology was changing, my doctrine was changing. I was talking about a much bigger God, a better God," says Patel.
"He threatened me and said he would keep me in villages in India, and wouldn't allow me to go anywhere else because I was very influential." How did you come to the point where you felt you could challenge the Guru?
"The organisation needed me in the West and the Guru always had my back," he says. "I always challenged things and questioned things." How did you tell the Guru that you were embracing Christ?
"I said that there were lots of things that we could learn from Christians," Patel laughs. "He didn't like it at all and he got very angry. I started raising questions about the theology and doctrines that he wanted me to preach, and he started deflecting the answers."
The Guru wanted to build his religion and did not want Rahil to mess things up for him. "It was a huge business empire," he says.
The Guru ordered Rahil never to speak to anyone from the organisation again, even his own brother, who was still a priest. So what was the turning point for you in terms of having a living relationship with Jesus?
"One day I was walking to the train station and my head turned for no rational reason. I saw a beautiful Church," he says. "There were people at the door greeting everyone with incredible smiles. There was love. It was scary for me because I had not seen a face-to-face encounter with that kind of love. It was such a new thing!"
"I walk through the main doors, and the presence of God just fell on me. It was just like a blanket that had covered me in incredible peace."
"Then, a whisper and it just said 'you're home.'"
"It was the first time I saw worship with guitars and drums. I just felt this incredible joy in my heart."
Rahil decided not to get prayer, but to go and process this new-found faith on his own. "I went back to my hotel, I sat on my bed and I just kept on saying yes to Jesus," he explains.
"I was known to be a very difficult person to convince. Nobody convinced me about Christ. I just gave my life to Christ."
"At that time, I can't say there was a rational reason, I was just drawn. There was a deep sense of peace, love and joy."
Then, the most powerful moment of his life came to pass. He was touched by the Holy Spirit.
"I didn't have any money. My friend kicked me out of his hotel because I was going to Church," Rahil explains.
One night, he went to Church, feeling very sad about the situation he was in.
"One lady came and put her hand on my shoulder, and I had this powerful moment with the Holy Spirit," he says. "I had a baptism of the Spirit. I felt this deep river coming and flowing, and it was just such a joy that was coming from a deep place."
"This changed everything from inside out. That's when I realised and was convinced that Jesus Christ was alive. This is not a philosophy. This is not just an institution. This is real."
"Then, I chased Jesus."
Patel recalls how when he was a Hindu priest, he drove beautiful cars, stayed in luxury places, and never went hungry. Now, he was penniless, he hadn't eaten for three days, and he was travelling home on the bus. Despite these dire circumstances, he felt so fulfilled.
"I had so much joy in my spirit," he recalls. "I just didn't look back. I didn't have one second of regret. Even though my circumstances were so dire, I didn't have one second of regret that I hadn't stayed as a priest."
"I just wanted to chase this reality, this authenticity of this person of Jesus."
"When I had that baptism, I realised that this was what all the ancient Hindu scholars were searching for."
"What came as grace, Hindus will never understand because they always have to work for it."
"Jesus loves you as you are. You don't have to perform for Him, you don't have to strive for Him, you are just loved as you are."
"It is all grace," says Patel. What would be your number one piece of advice from your book for Christians who want to know Jesus better?
"Personal intimacy with Jesus Christ is the central message of my book," he says.
"That is key. For all security in life, all comfort in life, all affirmation in life, all confidence in life, is to develop that personal intimacy with the person of Jesus."
"That must never be compromised with ministry or gifts, or talents or abilities."
Article link: https://hellochristian.com/10270-rahil-patel-interview