Rudi was born at the beginning of the Depression and raised in Brooklyn, NY, along with his two older brothers David and Arthur. Abandoned by their father when they were very young, their mother Rae worked in burlesque to help support her family. Rudi and his brothers had to work to make ends meet. At 18 Rudi enlisted in the Army. After being discharged, he attended night school, got his high school diploma, and then went to North Carolina State College. Soon after returning to New York, he opened an Oriental Art shop in a small closet of a store on 7th Avenue next to the famous jazz club, the Village Vanguard. Within several years his shop became one of the major Asian antique stores in America. Soon he moved to larger quarters on 4th Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets and grew into a wealthy businessman and landowner as well as meditation teacher.
Rudi was aware of his spiritual potential as a young boy and spoke of experiences that guided him into this spiritual path. His earliest teachers, he said, were Tibetan Buddhists who appeared to him in visions. In his early 20’s, he studied Gurdjieff work and Subud. Most of his studies however were spent with Hindu masters, Sri Shankarcharya of Puri, Bhagwan Nityananda, and Swami Muktananda, who, in 1966, recognized Rudi as a swami, and gave him the name Rudrananda.