R.I.P. Asheville’s Swami Virato

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Photo of Virato by Jenny G. Bowen, via viratolive.com

According to a post on his Facebook page, colorful local character Swami Virato, whose birth name seems to be Joseph Banks, passed away on Saturday.

Banks was known locally as a former URTV host, former radio show host (New Frontier on the Air and VIRATO LIVE!), and former publisher of the New Age publications New Frontier magazine and AshevilleMagazine.com.

His online biographies state that he was a former Fortune 500 corporate executive, “world lecturer,” “shape shifter,” psychotherapist, and “tantric master” descended from medieval Lithuanian royalty, with a radio-show audience of 400,000. His New Frontier website refers to him as being “known by millions in many countries.”

He also arranged “tantra parties” in Asheville and seemed to be in the business of introducing American men to Russian brides.

From his Facebook page, a notice of his death:

Swami Virato left his body today very peacefully at Solace hospice in Asheville. His wife Dhiraja is holding a three day Tibetan-inspired vigil at their home. Those of you who knew Virato ~ a well known local figure and editor of the online Asheville Magazine, as well as a former radio host who interviewed hundreds of New Age and spiritual teachers ~ and would like to make a contribution to help defray his medical and cremation costs, can do so by sending a donation to Ludmila Bacanskas (Dhiraja), 83A Indiana Ave., Asheville 28806. On her behalf, thank you for your generosity.

If Banks’ NationMaster biographical information is correct, he was 73 years old.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. Albino November 12, 2015

    Joseph Bacanskas, isn’t that Lithuanian? I know he spoke some Lithuanian.

  2. anita February 28, 2014

    Virato was the first person to open my eyes about tantra back in philly in the 70’s..I loved the new frontier magazine.. he was a bit fake with his approach to tantra and women including me..just wanted to seduce whatever he could and pretend to show what tantra really was. But I am grateful that he opened my eyes to it… it was actually the beginning of my path
    Anita ( http://www.tantrawisdom.com)

  3. Veer October 30, 2013

    Good! motherfucker bastard died.

  4. ANTARA May 6, 2013

    PS: Alan Gordon’s comments above, are the most meaningful, and his list could be extended for many pages similarly.

    [Folks just love to sling sh#t at someone who becomes a “celebrity” – which even if are sordid truths, merely reflect upon their own paltry existence which would be better spent trying to further planetary conscience.]

    Even just .01% of his influence might help!!!

    ciao mi amour, rest in comedians’ & musicians’ heaven. 🙂

  5. ANTARA May 6, 2013

    His birthdate was Dec. 14, 1938.

    I probably knew him better than anyone during his prime.

    He was definitely responsible for introducing more people to the New Age in Philadelphia, Delaware, South Jersey region than any other single person.


  6. Al Fitzgerald April 21, 2013

    In everything I could find on the net about Virato, I did not read one negative comment. My experience as well as others that I know of show that he was a real “politician”, and a cruel sadistic sociopath. I know that he derived pleasure from making others feel like less than they were. Anyone care to chime in ?

    1. Jennifer April 24, 2013

      Just a quick chime. I am his biological daughter whom he abandoned along with my two older brothers and my mother (his first wife that he abused and tortured for ten yrs) What you say about him is dead on. If you knew everything about his seedy past, your comment would have been much worse.

      1. Beverly Oliveira April 25, 2013

        Dear Jen- glad you chimed in-yoiur mom and you three know “the rest of the story!’

        from Brenda’s mom

    2. Nate April 26, 2013

      Intriguingly, there was a long and fairly critical comment on this post just after it went up that alluded pretty clearly to the Swami’s problematic sexual politics, and hinted at some power issues. It disappeared after just a day or two, though, and only positive comments had been posted in the intervening weeks. As an outside observer, it’s good to get some balance to the portrait . . .

  7. raj April 21, 2013

    please send informtion

  8. Mukesh Mali April 17, 2013

    Virato offers unconditional love and enlightenment to all. He has been a part of the human potential movement for over 40 years and has been seen by millions. He has assisted in creating spiritual transformation in thousands of people.

    1. Dan April 26, 2013

      Unconditional love to all? Try asking his biological children!!!!! Oh what a web we weave…….

  9. Alan Gordon March 16, 2013

    From Leeds, England, belatedly: This obituary must have been written by a youngster who could not possibly have understood Virato’s impact among the world’s celebrities, spiritualists, and scientists. You might think it an exaggeration if you hadn’t seen with your own eyes the love and warm welcome of celebrities like Ram Dass, George Carlin, Deepak Chopra, Tim Leary, Shirley MacLaine, Mickey Hart, Ritchie Havens, and an entire generation of the people who’ve shaped the way society thinks and feels. Having worked with this true Renaissance man, and seen this with my own eyes, I can attest to it. We had a gem of extraordinary clarity in our midst, and we largely failed to recognise him, for in his bombasticity, he was a humble man. For all his boasting, he told not a fraction of his own story. So many did he heal in their times of darkness… Until we meet again, my mentor and teacher. Blessed Be.

    1. Dan April 26, 2013

      You said: “For all his boasting, he told not a fraction of his own story. ”

      Maybe that is because if he told you his “story” you would have found out what an evil man he really was. Dig a little deeper and find out about his life from 1964 to 1974 and you will find the truth. He abused and abandoned a wife and 3 children. Left them with NOTHING and never looked back. That’s the real Joseph Bacanskas. Easy to hide when you become a fraud called Swami Virato!!!!!!

  10. senatorairedale February 5, 2013

    brother Virato.
    peace to you & yours,
    dhiraja,my condolences,
    let the light shine,
    what a wonderful radio
    program he and you gifted
    asheville with.
    om satsang ohsha,
    from captain marvel,
    from the heart

  11. Mo Roland February 4, 2013

    Rest in peace my friend. I sat with Virato in studio many times – what a true talent and kind man. He interviewed Depak Chopra and Tommy Chong (masterfully, I might add) – opening the phone lines for folks from Asheville to chat with them. I will miss you, Virato. Enjoy paradise!

  12. indie February 4, 2013

    I thought I felt a change in the force.

  13. The Blunder Years February 4, 2013

    Looks like this dude lived the good life!

  14. Aaron Michael February 4, 2013

    Virato was the very first show that I was a producer for when he worked for 880 The Revolution. Working with him was always a fun experience and I learned many things from Virato. He was always the kindest and friendliest person. Thank you Virato for all the kind words you gave me.

  15. Lesley February 4, 2013

    Virato was one of the first on-air talents I met at 880 AM when Blake and I started Local Edge Radio. He could not have been more gracious and supportive. When our show needed callers, he was the first one on the line. He helped us book guests, suggested topics and provided research, and gave us shout-outs on his own show. He was a colorful thread in the fabric of Asheville and I will miss him.


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