Rahil Patel was a Hindu priest for about twenty years but in January 2012 he became a Christian. I first heard of his journey to faith when he spoke with John Dickson in an Undeceptions Podcast [i]. I wanted to learn more, so I read Patel’s book Found By Love: A Hindu priest encounters Jesus Christ.
Patel is Indian but he grew up in London after his parents migrated there from Kenya in the 1960s. His family were devout Hindus who belonged to a denomination whose charismatic leader was called Guruji. Guruji was revered by his followers as God personified.
In 1988 Patel came to Guruji’s attention when he gave an address at a Hindu gathering. He was only 16 years old. He so impressed Guruji as a gifted speaker that the leader took a special interest in him and Patel became increasingly attached to Guruji. Patel and his older brother Raj became more and more involved in Hindu activities. By 1991 their passion and commitment led them to leave their family and friends in the UK — without telling their parents — and go to India to train as Hindu swamis.
Even before Patel started the demanding training, a “silent voice” asked him whether he’d done the right thing. This voice of doubt worried him, but he tried to shake it off as a demonic temptation. Over time, this still small voice continued to ask penetrating questions that challenged and disturbed him. But Patel evaded them and pretended that everything was fine.
“The Hindu faith and theology are largely based around ‘doing things for God’” (p. 91). But, as a Hindu, Patel had never experienced either “a drop of deep satisfaction that suggested he [God] loved us” or “intense feelings for God” (p. 91).
After four years of training Patel became a Swami, and a very successful one. He helped grow congregations and established Hindu temples in the UK, Europe and Russia. The busyness of his work kept the “strange and honest voice” (p. 119) quiet for his first few years.
Patel’s success and reputation grew, but it was never enough to fill the void in his heart. At the same time, the health problems which had begun early in his Swami training, began to worsen.
Patel’s fame continued to grow. His travels extended beyond Europe to the US where he was a drawcard as a speaker at Hindu conferences. Yet as he continued the study of Hindu theology with scholars in India, “he began to disagree a lot and asked some tough questions” (p. 135).
One day while in Europe studying Hindu texts “that voice” returned and spoke softly in Patel’s ear: “Jesus Christ of Nazareth”. It shook him, yet “it felt like honey, good and authentic” (p. 138). Again, he threw it off. Jesus Christ was the very opposite of what he stood for. Fearful it would lead him into danger, he promptly buried it. As time passed, however, he became more drawn to Christianity. The Christian symbol of the cross was a source of comfort and protection, and Jesus Christ’s willingness to die a cruel death for all humankind attracted him. His heart was conflicted by these opposing faiths.
Patel persevered in his study of Hindu teachings, despite his heart being drawn to Christ. He hungered to be loved by God, but his craving was never satisfied. While Hindu songs expressed love to God, he felt none of God’s love or acceptance in return. No matter how hard he tried Patel had no peace.
He turned to self-help books which he found helpful in analysing his behaviour, but they didn’t meet his hunger for truth and love. He bought a children’s Bible. While he felt a genuine connection with what he read, again he was worried this exploration might prove perilous. He tried various yoga practices which gave him momentary peace but then fear and anxiety quickly returned.
In the middle of this inner turmoil, Patel’s health problems worsened and he spent ten months in a US clinic for medical treatment before returning to London in November 2011.
The next month he flew to India and met with Guruji and other senior Swamis. They were concerned that his theology was not right and said he needed to stay in India or a remote part of the US to get his theology right. Patel refused. He declared he no longer wanted to be a swami and wanted to leave the organization. So, after twenty years, his relationship with Guruji and the organization suddenly ruptured, and he returned to London.
Then one Sunday in January 2012 he happened to walk into a service at Holy Trinity Brompton, and “after years of searching [he] finally felt nourished, filled and fed.” After the service he returned to his hotel full of joy and “opened the door of [his] heart and said yes to Jesus Christ” (p. 194).
"Patel’s story reminds us again about God’s sovereign mercy — and patient kindness — in bringing sinners from different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds into his kingdom through trust in Jesus Christ."
So began Patel’s new life as a follower of Jesus Christ, and God’s transforming work in his life.
That’s not the end of his story, but you’ll need to read his book to find out what happened next.
Patel’s story is engrossing and easy to read. I found his book helpful because it explains some of the Hindu teachings and practices and tells about Hindu life. Reading about Hinduism in the context of Patel’s story is easier to absorb than studying a textbook about it.
Patel’s long journey to faith in Christ may be summed up in these famous words of the Church Father Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 CE): “You made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
Patel’s story reminds us again about God’s sovereign mercy — and patient kindness — in bringing sinners from different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds into his kingdom through trust in Jesus Christ.
On 4 November 2021, Hindus in Australia will celebrate the Festival of Diwali (also called Deepavali) or the Festival of Lights. The World Prayer Guides organisation is releasing their annual Hindu World Prayer Guide which calls Christians to spend 15 days learning about and praying for our world’s 1+ billion Hindu neighbours.
These 15 days coincide with Diwali and the informative prayer guide will help you know how to pray for the people within this major and very diverse world religion. The 15 Days of Prayer for the Hindu World: October 24 – November 7 2021 booklet can be purchased for $5 (or less depending on quantity) from https://worldprayerguides.org.au/.
Rahil Patel, Found By Love: A Hindu priest encounters Jesus Christ (Great Britain: Instant Apostle, 2016). Paperback, pp. 256. Available for $19.99 from Koorong.