Gadadhara Pandit Das: Losing a Kingdom and Finding Connection

“If that’s what needed to happen, then I’m grateful for that.”

Gadadhara Pandit Das is a chaplain at Columbia University, New York University, and Union Theological Seminary. He recently published a book, Urban Monk, exploring karma, consciousness, and the divine. It’s his story about how he became a monk as well as what he does as a monk.

Gadadhara Pandit Das grew up in Los Angeles, California, and is originally from India. His parents established a multi-million dollar jewelry business and, for Gadadhara, it seemed as though life was set: When he graduated college he would take over their business, and until then, life was very comfortable.

In 1993, tragedy struck: The jewelry factory burned down and everything was lost in the fire.

Within the year, Gadadhara’s family gradually lost everything, including their cars and their home.

His father began to explore business interests in eastern Europe and the family soon moved abroad: they went from a mansion in Los Angeles to a one-bedroom apartment in Eastern Europe.

Gadadhara found himself in a foreign country with no friends, feeling very alone and uprooted. For the first time in his life, he started asking questions like who controls fate; he had felt destined to live a very comfortable life.

Gadadhara started reading the Bhagavad Gita.

He had tried to read it before but could not relate to the idea of loss; this time, he understood Arjuna’s situation and potential loss of his kingdom.

Through his great loss, Gadadhara realized that his purpose on earth was not to live surrounded by luxury, but to go deeper to understand who he is, how he got here, and what his ultimate purpose is in life.

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Video shot and edited by Edward Boyce

Accompanying text by Kristin Diversi