Radhanath Swami: Hare Krsna, I have been requested by the devotees who are so dearly worshipped within my heart to speak a message concerning the life of one of the greatest Vaishnava of the modern world. HH BTS Maharaj. By his loving friendship, kindness and mercy he requested me to remain with him for the last 7 ½ weeks of his life on this earth. It was truly amazing for the weeks that he was in his final stages, tens and thousands of people through internet and other sources were several times a day connecting to hear the reports about his life and his condition. BTS Maharaj deeply affected peoples’ lives with the impact of awakening a genuine and real yearning for krsna consciousness. I entitle today’s lecture A life of Compassion, Dedication and Love -HH. BTS Maharaj.
Lord Chaitanya’s Special Mercy
Yesterday, we celebrated disappearance day of Namacharya Srila Hari Das Thakur. We learned how Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he broadcast the most important message of this age of kali, Hari nama sankirtan, the yuga dharma to a person who was born in an outcast untouchable family by social standards. A person who came from a background which was rejected and suppressed by the Hindu society but yet Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu claimed that he was the crown jewel of entire universe. When Haridas Thakur passed this world, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu in ecstatic love held the body of Haridas in his hands and danced in ecstasy. Personally, bathed the body of Haridasa Thakur, Personally buried the body of Haridas Thakur. Lord Caitanya Personally begged from the common people to conduct a great feast for Haridas Thakur and glorified him as if he had mouths. Yes, this is the Lord’s message to the world. That, even those persons who are socially in a very depressed or rejected state can elevate themselves to the highest ultimate perfection and be fit to be spiritual masters of the whole universe. If they sincerely take to the process of Bhakti and the chanting of the holy names.
The most splendid and transcendental – Rags and Riches
I would like to speak something about the background of BT Maharaj’s race so that we can get an understanding, a better appreciation of his greatness – Where he was coming from and what he became! People are interested in hearing stories of rags to riches, success stories of people with nothing who came to top of their particular fields. We will find this in the most splendid form in the life of BTS Maharaj. Srila BT Maharaj ki Jay!
The Hypocrisy of the USA
He is coming from the African American race. In America the African people for centuries were oppressed and prosecuted. The first African came to America in 1619. When a slave trader from Holland came to the West Indies and he ran out of food and he traded about dozen African people as slaves in exchange for food. And soon this became very popular. At that time in the colonies of America one of the best profit making crops was tobacco and they needed a lots of workers in the fields. So, they were importing Africans to America as slaves. The history is long, it’s a fascinating subject. Perhaps, the greatest most obvious sign of hypocrisy of the United States of America. The country was founded on the principle that all men are created equal. These innocent African people their villages raided. They were turned out of their homes, put in concentration camps forcibly, not paid any thing, just literally kidnapped and held as prisoners, put on over crowded boats, shipped across an ocean and then sold as slaves.
According to the statistics, between in 12 and 20 million African are forcibly wiped out of their homes and send to America to be slaves between 1619 and 1867. 5% died in the prison camps in Africa, over 15% died due to over crowded inhumane conditioned on the boats and over 30% died within the first 3 months of being in America due to inhuman way they were treated. So, approximately 50% died before there were even made into slaves. Whipping in order to prove who the master was, they would brand them some times on their face with hot iron, they weren’t allowed to have their own name, they were given the name of their masters. They had no legal rights whatsoever. They were treated worse then animals. This went on for over 200 years.
Slavery after Freedom!
And then in 1861 America had civil war that began in 1861 and ended in 1865. One of the prime reasons for this war is that the North wanted to abolish slavery and the South wanted to keep slavery. 3 million men fought in this war, 600,000 Americans were killed. More than World War One, more than World War Two, more than any other war, Americans were killing each other. And ultimately with the victory of the North. In 1865, the 13the amendment of constitution abolished slavery. Previously, in 1667, slavery became and legal institution throughout America. After 200 years they finally came to the point of freeing the slaves. But in many cases, this was only a external, superficial, legalistic reality because the people, the African American people were so downtrodden and they were looked upon as such inferior beings by the white people that practically all of them were forced to live in the poverty of Ghettos. Little food, little sanitation, they were not given a rights to have proper education. Therefore, practically the only jobs they could get, if it was, was just hard labor. Specially, in the Southern States, blacks were not allowed to use the same Restrooms as Whites, they were not allowed to use the same drinking fountain, they had to go to the back of buses and they were never allowed in the same schools. Inferior education, keep them down, and if they tried to get some rights they were usually be beaten, tortured or killed. And factually, this was the way America was until 1960’s. Dr. Martin Luther king studied Mahatma Gandhi in India. Mahatma Gandhi was Martin Luther King studied Mahatma Gandhi in India. Mahatma Gandhi was Luther King’s siksha Guru… Because he was a Christian minister and he believed in no violence and peace and he felt that we cannot overcome the prejudice, laws and the system of America by force. So, taking the same type of psychology and techniques of Mahatma Gandhi, he began the civil rights movement in America and had great impact, tremendous impact. Of course ,he was murdered in the process, but many, over the last 50 years many rights have been given, that were never there before.
The Childhood Challenges of HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami
H.H.BTS was born before the success of Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement. He was born in situation where everything was against him, socially. He was born in a violent poverty street in Ghettos in Cleveland, Ohio. Freezing cold winters with practically no heat. He was from a broken family. His father left the family before he was even born and never did anything to help them. A single widowed mother had to do everything. Maharaj, personally told me that he never had more than 2 or 3 sets of clothes at the most and if a friend would come home whose clothes were more torn than his, his mother would always give that friend his clothes. Even though she couldn’t afford him to buy him anything more, because she wanted to teach her son the sprit of compassion. That it is more important to think in term of helping other than our owns needs. And she lived by that principal of her life and that had a deep impact in his heart. He was a minority. At that time, the African American people living Ghettos, the chances were 99.99% that they would live, suffer and die in Ghetto. It was a very rare hope against hope that they can ever get out and be successful in any field of life. So, he was poverty, broken family, minority, persecuted but that’s not all.
Born to Preach
When he was young boy he had speech defect, called stammering where he couldn’t speak. Some time it would take him…… he told me 3 or 4 minutes to speak one word. And when he was a little boy in a school he would be called to speak , if he was asked to speak he would try to say my house.. ma..ma ma ha ha..hau…. and he became so much anxiety that he would in so much anxiety that he would be slapping his hands against the desk and stamping his feet trying to say the word and all classmates would be laughing at him and joking against him. Very difficult, he was ridiculed even by his own people. That was a great trauma for the small boy. But at the same time whenever he would speak from the Bible, the teachings of Lord Jesus Christ, he never stammered. He could speak eloquently and his Bible teachers took note of this and were amazed. And since he became the child evangelist, he was teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ even on television and radios and for years he took classes on speech therapy and little by little gradually overcame his speech defect. It was obvious that he was not born in this world to speak about anything material. He as born in this world to glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Argument? – Show your Gun!
I will tell you what he personally said about the neighbor where he lived in. It was so violent due to lack of food, lack of law and order, so much suppression and depression. He said, “People would argue with guns.” When he was not even a teenager the only he could survive and live amongst his peers was he had to carry a loaded gun with him at all times. Killings and dead were everyday affairs. He told me that people would always pick arguments and if you argued with some body, it would invariably breakout into violence and if you didn’t have a gun you would probably be shot. If you had a gun when the arguments reach its peak, you would show your gun, he would show his gun and then both realized that one of us is going to die unless we stop arguing. That was life in Ghettos of America. And yet from his hearts of hearts he was such a humble, compassionate non violent person. But this was the only way to survive.
The first African American to go to School!
In the Ghettos the best he could was an inferior education which practically no proper college would even accept. His name was then John favors. His mother called him Johnny boy. He was always so interested in helping others. He became a tutor and he was giving classes to help other students both his age and younger than him to help them in their studies, he really like to help others and also he would get paid something very little and be able to help his mother in her hard struggle for existence. How, Krsna arranges because he was such a genuine person, there was a – like a sangam or like a society where the tutor within the area who would help each other. So he met a Jewish girl, white raced from a very wealthy family. And she understood that this person is such a good hearted soul, he is so intelligent so creative, he has so much faith in God, he is so much devoted to what ever he does, he’s genuinely good, which is very difficult to find a person like that anywhere. So, this girl was thinking that he deserves a chance in life, he has no chance what he is living. So, she arranged for the principle of her school which was the most prestigious prep school for the wealthiest kids in the entire area – for him to go to a summer school. He was only black person, African person to ever go to the school.
The Best Colleges were Canvassing for him!
And it was in a very wealthy suburb. And during the summer he performed so well and his characteristics was so attractive that the principal of the school gave him free entrance and when he graduated from the high school – one of the best prep school of America. The principal told him, “I can get you in any university or college that you want, just tell me which one and I will get you in. How is that? Because, please understand that this was in the 1960’s, this is just after Martin Luther King, John of Kennedy, Linden Johnson really really push integrations of schools for the blacks. I can tell you the story that you would not believe that happened when I was teenager. The segregation was so strong, that just to get an African person in one school, University in Alabama, the governor of the state, the police force of the state vowed that they would never let an African into their colleges. And the President of the United States – John of Kennedy and Tony General took the domestic Army, National guard to fight against the police and the governor. The governor vowed publicly we would never allow and the president said this black man is going in your school or there is going to be a war. Thousands of military, the national guard, US army assembled in Alabama to escort this boy into college. The government was giving certain quotas to universities that would never take black people – if you take these African people we will give you government grant’s and we would give you tax exemption. If you do not, no government grant’s and no tax exemption. So, this was big money and most college and university are actually existing for money. So they, in order to get the government grant and exemption they had to accept so many African people. And most of them would have to be taken out of the very inferior schools of Ghettos. So, this principal said that I had thought you in one of the top white school of the country, any college in America will take you as a first choice, just tell me where you want to go to college? So, he applied and he got scholarship to Harbor, Yale, Princeton, Cornell, any college he got free scholarship. So, he was looking for which scholarship would be best. They were canvassing so much for him.
The Princeton Offer
The Princeton University gave such and offer he couldn’t refuse. Free tuition for 4 years, free living expenses, free food, free books, a salary, while you are going to school! (laughter) Plus every year 2 round trip tickets. From Princeton, Newjersey all the way to Cleveland to visit his parents, two round trip airplane tickets. So, this is the reason he decided to go to Princeton University. And when he got into Princeton, Maharaj told me all the stories, he said Princeton in those days, in the late 1960’s was mostly persons of wealthy southern people and they hated black people. So, he said to go to classes in Princeton the only way he could survive, he had to wear his gun every day. When people started pushing him the wrong way he would show them the gun and they would leave him alone!
Future Hope? – Global Humanitarian
He excelled in his studies. He excelled and became very very popular. He majored in psychology, he took into National Law and he was the president of the student counsel. And he was the leader of the civil rights movement for that area. He was very much an activist. Gopal Prabhu told me that he went to Princeton university and looked up the year book of BTS Maharaj’s graduation year and there was a picture of him and they interview each person and asked, “What they hoped they do in future?” and he said that his object was global, he wanted to be a global humanitarian. That was always in his heart. He got a graduation degree in psychology and because he was so proficient, intelligent, creative, dynamic he got a job for government office, I think it was a legal office. He was given opportunity for work in United Nations. He was a man that came from most down crowed situation and now all opportunities were opening before his life for immense influence and material prosperity.
Still seeking something higher…!
Now, usually a person, who is really born in poverty when they had the opportunity for big high position world with the lots of wealth they become quite attracted. But he was on a spiritual search. He was reading the scriptures. He made one particular Guru. Very famous guru who had come from India, who gave wonderful lectures, beautiful singer, and personal associate with him. And he was studying learning under other very very respected spiritual leaders. And he accepted one person like his guru but he was asking such deep questions. He wanted to know God, he wanted to love God. He wanted to do the greatest humanitarian work that a person can possibly do and he had that conviction – that God consciousness is the only real and true, real humanitarian work. He was asking such deep philosophical questions and he want in such a high level. He didn’t want the artha kama dhama moksha, which practically every one in this world is looking to God for, he wanted something more. So, finally after many months his guru told him. He said, “What you want I can’t give you. You want something so high you want something so deep there is only one person in this world, who can give you that. And that is A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami of the Hare Krsna movement (Haribol!). But do not tell anybody I told you this.
So, he began to associate with the devotees at the temple in New York and studying Prabhupada’s books, he became a devotee. On one occasion he had the blessed opportunity of meeting Srila Prabhupada. Now, please understand, at that time he was one of the only African American people in the Hare Krsna movement. And devotees didn’t know how to deal with him. Because he was a graduate of Psychology from Princeton University, IV League School and at the same time he was an African American. People were not treating him properly. He told me that at the temple he was staying only 2 or 3 people would even talk to him, others ignored him.
Prabhupada cuts through layers and touches his soul
So, he met Srila Prabhupada and very honestly revealed his heart to Prabhupada. He said, “Srila Prabhupada, it hurts my heart to tell you this but I must, there is racisms and prejudice within your movement, amongst yours devotees.” Maharaj told me that the answer Prabhupada gave him transformed his life. Would you like to hear? Prabhupada could have apologized, he could have said,” no that is not true.” Prabhupada said to him, “If you are affected by what these ignorant devotes say and think then what is the difference between you and them?” In another words, they are on the bodily conception of life, which is totally contradictory to the fundamental teaching of Bhagavad Gita. BG teaches that we are not this body, we are the eternal soul. A real Vaishnava sees the part and partial of Krsna, the soul in every living being. One who judge the another Vaishnava according to race, according to bodily designations, that person according to the scriptures have the mentality that lives in hell, Naraka buddhi. So, these people in the bodily concept of life, they are ignorant of the basic teachings of Lord Krsna, then they speak and act this way, but if you are affected by what they say then you are also in the bodily concept of life. So, what’s the difference between you and them?” Srila Prabhupada used that opportunity to just break through the various layers of mundane superficial consciousness. And at that point he just became so fearless, so confident, confident that Srila Prabhupada’s love and mercy was always with him.
Initiation and Book Distribution
On a very auspicious day he took vows before Srila Prabhupada at the initiation ceremony. SP gave him the name, Ghanashyam das. One of his first services was, because he was so very highly educated, he was send to Dallas Texas where there was a Gurukula, where he was the personally secretary of Satsvarupa Goswami Maharaj. Prabhupada moved that Gurukula to Vrindavan and Satsvarupa Goswami Maharaj entered into the field of book distribution with his party. BT Maharaj he would go out in books distribution. In those days they would do Harinama sankirtan and most everyone would distribute Back to Godhead Magazines in the big cities of America. He would sell Prabhupada big books. It was amazing – his infectious smile, his dynamic personality just charmed everyone’s hearts. He was the biggest books distributor in their party. Then when he would join the kirtan, he would dance in such an expert way with so much grace and enthusiasm, that crowds of people would gather around in the streets of America just to see his dance. He actually amazed the American people.
Seeds of College preaching are sown…
One of my dear God brother MahaBuddhi Prabhu, he told me something about BT Maharaj which were very sacred and very pleasing to hear. Maha Buddhi Prabhu was a graduate from Sandiego State University. And he was in the SDS which is a very radical student activist organization. He was in the student government and he was revolting against the American government for various discrepancies in their policies. He became around just after Ghana Shyam Prabhu. And when they met there was a deep bond of affection between them. Because they were both college graduates and they were both social activists and they both knew how to manipulate things in colleges to see higher purposes. So, they were thinking amongst each other, “Why don’t we systematically preach in the colleges? After all we were students and we know what students are like? So many of them are longing for higher answers to the problems of life. People are searching for something spiritual but what do are they getting? If we could give them the absolute truth according to the teaching of Srila Prabhupada it will transform their life.” And then they saw a letter by SP and in this letter, famous letter, SP said that we must focus on preaching to the college students. Because one college student has the value of over 100 ordinary devotees to the expansion of our movement. So, they decided, this is really what they wanted to do. So Maha buddhi Prabhu and Ghana shyam Prabhu they were going to colleges and distributing books and having kirtans and while distributing books having kirtan they will meet people and they will invite people in the evening for Satsvarupa Goswami Maharaja’s lecture. Soon, they were living in van. Traveling from college town to college town distributing books, having kirtan and having preaching programs.
The Empowered College Preacher
When Satsvarupa Goswami Maharaj was asked to join Prabhupada personal secretary for a month Ghanashyam Prabhu and Maha buddhi Prabhu open a preaching center in a small house in a college town of San Antonio Texas. And by the time Satsvarupa Goswami Maharaj game back one month later, they had made 10 full time devotes and all of them were duly initiated by His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in one month. This was in America, this was their enthusiasm. They met Hridayananda Goswami Swami Maharaj and he said that if you really wanted college preaching go to Boston. So many colleges are there. So they went of Boston and they started doing book distribution and Hari Nama and all types of other preaching there. And ultimately they started another preaching center in Yale university, right across the street from the college. And in hardly a month they made 10 full times devotees from Yale university in that area and Maha buddhi Prabhu told me that Ghanashyam prabhu, he has so much empathy, so much compassion. He personally took care of all these new devotees like their mother, their father, their best friend, their guide, their servant, their everything. And one feature he said that was very extraordinary that he just loved to serve. He was so enthusiastic to serve everyone but there is one thing he couldn’t tolerate and that was anyone trying to serve him. It was very successful.
A Bewildering Instruction – The BBT Library Party
Then one day they got a phone call from India – it was Rameshwar Prabhu, he told Ghanashyam and Mahabuddhi Prabhu’s that we have had a long talk with Srila Prabhupada. Satsvarupa Goswami was also present and Prabhupada wants to establish his books in the universities and in the libraries of the universities through out all over America. And how he wants to do it? He wants to have a system of selling, standing orders. At that time there was only few books out, but all the books that Prabhupada was pending to write and publish they were going to sell those! He said you should sell complete sets of SB, CC, BG and all others books to the colleges, professors and in libraries. And at that time SB was only upto about the 4th canto, and CC hadn’t even come out yet. They had to go the colleges and university with just a photocopy of cover of Vol.1 of CC, and convinced them to buy that any time the book is published, they will get it. Rameshwar Prabhu said that Prabhupada had already named yours party. He named it as the BBT Library Party especially for selling complete sets of his books to colleges and universities. Begin in America and go all over the world. This was a bewildering instruction. Maha buddhi Prabhu told me that Ghanashyam and he went out the first day, they had amazing success.
The Secrets of Success – Part One
Ghanashyam, he would just pray so intensely to Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda to empower him to serve his Guru. He is always praying like this in intense spirit of prayer. He simply wanted to serve and please his spiritual master. That was his one pointed exclusive desire in life. He personified the Gita teaching
bahu-çäkhä hy anantäç ca
Those who are in this path Krsna said, “They are resolute in purpose, their aim is one and the unintelligent are those who irresolute in many branched.” Visvanatha Chakravarti thakur in his commentary of this verse explains that one must make the order of the spiritual master as one’s life and soul. That was SP’s focus. Ghanashyam Prabhu saw that focus in his guru Maharaj and took that same sprit within the core of his heart, it was great. He was so unbelievable, he would take any type of risk. Nothing was impossible. He would go to colleges and meet professors in the most remote departments that had nothing to do with KC by any common person’s perspective. And he would just charm those professors so much to buy entire sets of Prabhupada books. He was unbelievable! Maha buddhi Prabhu came to the conclusion that this Ghanashyam Prabhu is a mystic. He believes that he had mystic siddhis because otherwise how could he convinced these types of people in the way he was doing. They began the Yale University then universities Philadelphia and they had so much success that Ghanashyam Prabhu, Maha buddhi Prabhu, Satsvarupa Goswami Maharaj decided they would sell sets of Prabhupada books in every single college, university in the entire united state of America. And they were doing, going from place to place, first they had a bus then they broke up in van. Then so many other devotees joined the Library Party because they say how much it was pleasing to Prabhupada.
The Secters of Success – Part Two
I want to tell you some of the attribute of Ghanashyam Prabhu. He kept a diary. Every single day without fail, he would write a message to SP. He told me this, that he would just write a letter. He will just speak his heart completely honestly and openly to SP every single day praying for his help, for his guidance, praying for his mercy, explaining to him what he was doing, how he was doing. This was an integral part of his spiritual life. He was austerity personified. He ate once a day. And what does he eat? He would eat nothing but some fruit, some nuts and some times he would mix little sour cream with it. And he was traveling in a van with Maha buddhi Prabhu, who was not eating austere prasad. He was making all nice preparation but he said the amazing thing he even knows that the partner next door was eating quite opulent foodstuffs he never budged, never touch anything except some fruits and nuts. Basically, what sadhus eats when they go to the forest. No matter what time they take rest at night he would raise earlier than 2 o’clock in the morning. He would chant at least 42 rounds everyday. And they were living in a van, traveling from place to place, he would be out at the colleges, before the colleges were opened and he would be just meeting people preaching and distributing Prabhupada’s books in this very systematic way until the last door of the college closed, usually at 10 at night. Then he would have his one meal a day. And often time the other devotees in the van, little van when they woke up in the middle of the night, they would see Ghanashyam Prabhu with the flash light, intensely studying SP’s books in a way not to disturb them. He was always chanting and always reading even in the most difficult situations, and always eager to serve everyone.
Ghanashyam Das – The Mystic!
One Drop Of Nectar – Of Compassion/Empowerment
I will tell you one instant out of thousands and thousands. Would you like to hear? One day, Ghanashyam Prabhu, Maha buddhi Prabhu, they droved to a small college. The next day they were suppose to go a large college, which was many hours away in distance. When they got to this small college it was deserted. There was no car in the parking lock, there was no one walking around, then they found out that the college was close that day, it was some sort of holiday. So, Maha buddhi said, “Let’s go out of this place, let’s go. “Ghanashyam Prabhu said no. Lets try it Krsna will empower us, lets try it. Maha buddhi Prabhu said, “You’re crazy, nobody is here, all the offices are closed, the class rooms are closed, the whole college is closed.” They began a big argument. Finally, Ghanashyam Prabhu said, “All right, but let me just go to the rest room and I will be back in 2 minutes.” So, Ghanashyam went into the college and asked someone where the rest room was. All the halls were deserted, there were some care takers and he went in the rest room. One hour went by, 2 hours went by, Maha buddhi Prabhu told me that he was very agitated. He was sitting in the car waiting for 2 hours. The Ghanashyam Prabhu went to the toilet, where is he? He was very much becoming disturbed. And over 2 hours latter Ghanashyam Prabhu comes with his book back around shoulder over the hill, back to the car, opened the door he was beaming, smiling, ecstatically. Maha buddhi Prabhu was about to chastise him – Where were you? We had supposed to have gone 2 hours ago. But he decided that this person is mystic let me hear what he has to speak. I better hear what he has to say. He said – as per his word he went to the toilet and when he was in rest room he happened to see somebody and he made friend with him and he just started taking to that person, who is just… you know what people doing in the rest rooms? This person is going to the toilet and Ghanashyam is talking to him, he is going to the toilet and he made friend with him and person liked him, he happened to be the professor of Eastern religion and after talking to him, the professor brought him from toilet to his office. He said, “Actually I am not supposed to teach to day. I just happened to come by because I wanted to catch up some extra work but I am so happy to meet you.” Ghanashyam charmed his heart so much that for his own personal purposes he bought a standing order of all Prabhupada’s books. And then he took BG and decided that he would use this as a text book for his class for the next year. And Ghanashyam Prabhu said, “What about library? Would they like to set a book too for your school library so that all the students would have access. The library is closed. But the librarian is my friend, let me call me at him home. So he called librarian home. Librarians wife said, “Actually he went to the library, he forgot something there.” So, he calls him at the library. And Ghanashyam Prabhu went to the library and just preached to the librarian and within the few minutes the librarian just won over by his quality, by his compassion, by his enthusiasm, by his love, that the librarian bought all the entire sets of Prabhupada books for the university library. Maha buddhi Prabhu said this is what he did at the small college that was closed. Maha buddhi Prabhu asked, “How did you do that?” And Ghanashyam Prabhu said, “While I was waking to the toilet I was heavily, heavily praying, heavily praying to guru and Krsna to give me some service at this college, to give me the chance to serve them by expanding the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu . And because I made that prayer miraculously just the right people happened to be at the right place at the right time. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu prays “Na dhanam na jana na sundarim kavita…..
I do not want wealth, I do not want beautiful women, I do not want name and fame, I do not want to be known as a great scholar, I do not even want liberation from suffering. My only intense prayer is, I may serve you unconditionally birth after birth after birth …. This was Ghanashyam Prabhu‘s constant prayer. He simply wanted the opportunity to serve by helping SP expand the sankirtan movement.”
Success behind the iron curtain
After they covered all the colleges and university of America they went to Europe. Tremendous success, then he entered into the most dangerous region of Eastern Europe, which was in that time in 1970’s the communist blocked. Under communist régime. The government outlawed any religion that they didn’t comply with their state regulation. The KGB was the powerful organization of Government agents that practically were spying and were doing intelligence investigations on every men, women and child. Ghanashyam Prabhu was risking his life, against all laws he was smuggling books into the country, and he was giving to universities and colleges and other such libraries and institutions and conviced professors to buy books that were illegal. Very difficult. But he had such tremendous success. Recently, I talked to Gurudas Prabhu who for some time was in Eastern Europe in some of these countries with Ghanashyam Prabhu. And he explained how they would be doing programs in people houses – that they were preached to and the KGB would come in and they had to run out the back door and escape. They were constantly hiding, so much tension, so much anxiety so much pressure. Sometimes, they would sneak into the countries because they weren’t allowed to be there and then he had to sneak out. Because, they weren’t allowed to go out as they didn’t have the stamp in their passport to come in otherwise they would put into prison. This was type of life he was living for SP service and he was so unbelievably successful.
Srila Prabhupada – “This boy is amazingly empowered”
He would send reports to Prabhupada. Prabhupada was simply amazed. On receiving his report Prabhupada was shaking his head and smiling in great pleasure. He said, “This devotee is amazingly empowered, this Ghanashyam in this communist countries, he was probably the only black in the entire country, its not that he can blend in and look like every body else. African people were even not allowed in country most cases. He was only African person in the easted out and he just enthusiastically, he is going through forest and climbing mountains and going to meet people and selling Prabhupada’s entire book sets.” These reports gave so much pleasure to Srila Prabhupada. Srila prabhupada profusely blessed him, he was so grateful to him. He was an inspiration for devotes all over the world. So determined, against all odds, taking all risk and he did it blissfully. Soon, he was the biggest book distributor; he was getting world acclaim. People were really inspired by his austerity, by his sadhana, by his preaching, by his service. I was living in the mountain in New Vrindavan in those days. I didn’t even know who the President of United States was in those days but I heard of Ghanashyam Prabhu’s devotional service! So isolated, but still he was like the sun. His devotional service was like the sun illuminating all direction.
The greatest service we can do is to encourage others
When I was with him in the month of May of this year he told me one story that was really transformational in his life and his service to SP. In 1976 he was in Mayapur, for the Gaurpurnima festival and most all the library party in the Eastern Europe were also there with him. It came to his attention that the others members of the library party were considering resigning because Ghanashyam Prabhu was just putting too much pressure on them. His standards were so high, he was so austere, practically no sleep, practically not eating. Just long, long hours of enthusiastically serving without expecting anything on return. He was practically beyond human. So, they were just talking we cannot cope with him. The pressure, because he is expecting us to be like that also. He was a their leader; he told me when he got that information his heart was broken. He was so much in the world wind of devotional service, he hadn’t considered how it is affecting the others. He had no idea that it was affecting them in this way. He felt so crushed, He felt so bad and he prayed to SP and thought very deeply and came to the conclusion that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu teaching is to be
gopibhar tor padakamal yor dasa dasa dasa anu dasa
The servant of the servant of the servant……….. And the greatest service we can do is encourage others. To discourage others is to disservice. So, he decided that better than my own results which Prabhupada has praising me and so many people are praising me. More important in my won results is to encourage others to get big results. To encourage others in their devotional service. And at that point to Mayapur India in 1976 he resolved in his mind that his primary service to SP is in inspiring and encouraging devotees as a selfless servant of the servant of the servant. And it was that sprit that carried with him through the rest of his life on earth.
Ghanshyam Das reports – The Best Medicine
When SP was in Vrindavan performing his Lila of passing away from this earthly plane. His body had become emaciated. Often times he was unable to eat anything. He was mainly laying in his bed in Sri Krsna Balaram temple, Ramana reti of Vrindavan. Prabhupada said that my maintenance what sustains in my life is the medicine of kirtan and one of the greatest forms of kirtan is spreading the mission the Caitanya all over the world. And Prabhupada’s favorite medicine was receiving the letters sent by Ghanashyam Prabhu. Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaj was Prabhupada’s personal secretary at that time. And he personally told me this that the highlight always of the day was whenever a letter from Ghanashyam Prabhu came. Because Bhakti Caru Maharaj, the servant and Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaj, the secretary they knew how much joy and enthusiasm Prabhupada experienced when he received Ghanashyam Prabhu reports. Their reports were the greatest mystery and adventure and total surrender against all odds and miracles just manifesting one after another. SP one day, he shook his head and smiled, this is his last month in Vrindavan he just remarked how much potency this boy has! He is practically preaching in the jungles of Eastern Europe, he is black and different than all of them, he doesn’t speak the same language as all of them and yet he is selling 100’s of complete sets, standing orders of my books. Prabhupada said that this is amazing. Prabhupada would have Ghanashyam Prabhu’s letters read over and over again to him and whenever distinguished God brothers or Vrindavan guests. From Delhi guests would come he would often have Tamal Krishna Goswami read to them, Ghanashyam Prabhu’s report. Prabhupada was so proud of his loving disciple.
The Most Special Mercy – Part One!
Srila Prabhupada’s causeless mercy, he reciprocated so lovingly with his devotees because his disciple all over the world would give so much and surrendering life and he wanted to reciprocate with their love. Here he was emaciated, there was nothing but a thin layer of skin covering his bones. His doctor said if you travel you die. But Prabhupada decided I will go to London and then I will go to America to inspire the devotees. He couldn’t give lectures, he just wanted to go there just to show how grateful he was for what they were doing. He wanted to be with them just to show his love for them – that was SP. They had to carry him lay him in car, carry him, lay him in a seat of airplane, carry him on a wheel chair, through immigration and custom carry him to his room at Bhaktivedanta manor. At that time devotee from all over the European continent were coming to see SP. It was the grand festival. But when they saw his physical condition their hearts were broken but at the same time they we such ecstatic joy. Prabhupada’s love for them was love of the spiritual world, it was absolutely unconditional it was Krishna’s love. Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj told me that when he got the news that Prabhupada was coming to Bhaktivedanta Manor in London. He was in Eastern Europe. He drove practically nonstop with Krsna Ksetra Prabhu and Bhakti Dayal Prabhu they drove all the way to London. Then when Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaj found out that Ghanashyam Prabhu is there, he was rejoicing. This will make Prabhupada so happy because there was no greater happiness to the devotees than SP happiness. What ever would make Prabhupada happy was the life and soul of every devotee. So Prabhupada personal entourage understood what could make Prabhupada happier, then seeing Ghanashyam Prabhu. His reports were happiest brightest moments. So, Tamal krsna Goswami personally went down and brought Ghanashyam Prabhu by hand into SP quarters. He offered his prostrates obedience to his Guru Maharaj. SP smiled ear or ear with tears in his eyes to see his beloved Ghanashyam. He said come here, come here. He came right up to SP. SP embraced him with tears of love and gratitude. Then he rubbed Ghanashyam Prabhu’s head and said, “Your life is successful, thank you very much.” Prabhupada said this with tears of gratitude in his eyes. And then Prabhupada expressed from his heart, this is the parampara system. As he rubbed Ghanashyam Prabhu’s head with deep affection, this is the parampara system. My Guru Maharaj pushed me and now, I am pushing you and you are pushing others, to spread the mission of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This is the type of mercy that is very very rare. For Prabhupada to be crying and embracing and rubbing the head of disciple was something very special. Soon all the devotee of Europe throughout Bhaktivedanta Manor were hearing about the good fortune of Ghanashyam Prabhu. The special mercy he received from SP.
The Most Special Mercy – Part Two!
How many of you have heard this story before? Now there is part of the story that Maharaj told me just a few months ago. Part TWO – Devotees all over the Europe were in the Bhaktivedanta Manor. No one got this mercy. Prabhupada crying, Prabhupada embracing, Prabhupada rubbing head, Prabhupada saying your life is successful. You are carrying on the Parampara. So, Tamal Krsna Goswami was so moved by Prabhupada’s pleasure, he was always thinking how to please Prabhupada more, so he had an idea, a fantastic idea that – because Ghanashyam Prabhu brought a new report with him and gave it to Tamal krsna Goswami to read. Tamal krsna Goswami Maharaj said, “It will bring Prabhupada the greatest joy, for the first time ever YOU please come and read the report personally to the SP.” All, this was such an honor and pleasure for Ghanashyam Prabhu. So, Tamal krsna Goswami Maharaj said, “Today SP, Ghanashyam Prabhu will read a report to you of his preaching activities in Eastern Europe”. Ghanashyam Prabhu was very reverential towards Prabhupada and quite nervous about doing this. But on the order of Goswami Maharaj he started to read. BT Maharaj told me as he was reading Prabhupada looked totally disinterested, he didn’t look like the one who listen, he is reading and Prabhupada was talking to someone here, looking this way and he was getting very nervous, he read one page of several pages. He read one page, he really felt that he was disturbing SP. And Prabhupada actually was looking disinterested. And then Prabhupada stopped him and looked at him with a very grave expression and Ghanashyam Prabhu stopped reading. Prabhupada spoke KRISHNA IS THE DOER. Ghanashyam Prabhu was practically paralyzed and the Tamal krsna Goswami who watched the whole thing and said Ghanashyam Prabhu, “I think its time for you to leave now.” So he offered his obeisance and came outside. And Maharaj told me – that was one of the most intimate loving experiences, that he ever had in his life. Prabhupada’s love for him. The first day he embraced him, he cried tears of affection, he stroked his head and said, “Your life is successful and you are carrying on parampara.” and next day it’s not that Ghanashyam Prabhu did any thing wrong that day. He just came in the next day and Prabhupada just ignored him and instructed him Krsna is the doer. Do not expect any credit for yourself. BT Maharaj told me all of the world – they know the first part of the story, said, “but for me my favorite part of the whole story is the second part. Because that’s the most important part Prabhupada showed intimate special love toward me.” He showed his deep love and his deep gratitude but at the same time he wanted to protect him from all time to come. And Ghanashyam Prabhu said, “those were the last words Prabhupada personally spoke to him, Krsna is the doer”. And after going out of the room and offering obeisances and thinking about it he was ecstatic because he knew Prabhupada‘s most intimate love and mercy.
Prabhupada’s Departure and African Yatra begins
Soon after this, in November of 1977 SP departed from the world, the closing chapter of his pastimes on this earth, caused the whole world of ISKCON to drown in an ocean of separation. Ghanashyam Prabhu was one of such persons. The thunder bolt of the news of Prabhupada’s disappearance struck our hearts and casted us all in intense spiritual pain. We were all living to please SP. We were only living for next time he would come and see what we have done. But now he is not going to come anymore. Ghanashyam Prabhu, he took the order of his spiritual master as his life and soul. After Srila Prabhupada departed from this world and after some years after that many of his disciples fell away from their spiritual practices. Many removed themselves from the mission for various reasons. But a few people including Ghanashyam Prabhu felt that deep determination to follow in Prabhupada’s footsteps. When Bhakti siddhanta Saraswati thakur left this world SP made the order he give him as his life and soul. And even almost 40 years later he went to the west and established the International Society for Krsna Consciousness. Ghanashyam Prabhu deeply studied Prabhupada life and teaching and understood love for my guru means surrender his order, love in separation. Soon the library party, I believe after they finished Eastern Europe they covered South America. Now, one place in the world that was most difficult to preach, very very difficult. In fact, so difficult that few people preached there usually getting so sick and getting in so much trouble that was intolerable. West Africa, very difficult. Leaders of ISKCON appealed to Ghanashyam Prabhu to go to west Africa to preach. There the people of your race and you have received Prabhupada mercy share it with them. He went, very difficult.
I am your Obedient – Since 1973!
In 1978, Ghanashyam Prabhu came to New Vrindavan to accept the vows of the sannyasi. He decided to take sannyas from Kirtananand Swami Maharaj. I was there for that ceremony. I would like to tell a few things that I remember. But before telling you that I am going to tell you some things else very personal. It was about 1973-74 that I first met Ghanashyam Prabhu, he came to New Vrindavan and I remembered we sat in this wheated field for hours and hours and hours talking about Prabhupada and Krsna. Just pure Krsna katha and from that time we developed a very deep loving friendship, and when he told me his name Ghanashyam, I told him about the person name Ghanashyam that I once knew in Vrindavan dhama. And I told him many stories about Ghanashyam baba. The one story that really struck him was how whenever I would come before Ghanashyam Prabhu he would always fold his hands and greet me I am your obedient servant. I am your obedient servant. And after sometime he won’t even say servant, Ghanashyam would just address me with tears in his eyes in such heart felt humility that he would say I am your obedient. And after I told him this, Ghanashyam Prabhu with folded hands and tears in his eyes, he said, “I am your obedient.” Then I said to him I am your obedient. And from that time in about 1973 this was always the way we addressed each other with so much affection and joy – I am your obedient. And when even he would say it there is just so much intimacy sweetness and love in his heart I am your obedient.
Sannyasa and the first kirtan of HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj
He loved his name Ghanashyam which is Krsna’s name, which means which is beautiful, beautiful like a dark monsoon rain cloud. And he used tell me that Prabhupada gave me perfect name because I am very dark. But how a monsoon rain cloud pours showers and showers of rain upon fields and rivers that are just drying up. In the same way Krsna showers His mercy on those living entities within this world who are just drying up starving due to the forgetfulness of him. Being burnt by the scorching heat of material existence. Krsna showers sweet mercy, therefore he is Ghanashyam. He loved his name Ghanashyam Prabhu. Ah! how he loved it. Prabhupada gave him that name. So, he came to New Vrindavan at the Radha Vrindavan Chandra temple in Bahulaban. And first, he sat at the fire as a bramachari Ghanashyam Prabhu and then he was asked to go out of the room and change into sannyasi clothes. Then I remember a very dear devotee named Sri Galim Prabhu, he helped, he was at one time personal servant of Vishnujana Maharaj. He taught Ghanashyam Prabhu how to put one the clothes of a sannyasi, because it is different from bramachari clothes. So, he came out, then the lecture was given and then the Kirtananand Maharaj handed him the danda and said your new name will be BTS Maharaj. And I was looking at Ghanashyam’s face, he was shocked, he couldn’t believe, he changed my name. Because, Prabhupada practically never change the person’s name, if you are Satswarup das – you would become Satswarup Goswami, Visnujana das – Visnujana Goswami, Tamal Krishna dasa – Tamal Krishna Goswami. Yes… It was very very unheard of – of the change. And I looked at his face. I was looking at him, and he said your new name is BTS! First I saw in his face – like shocked. What did you do? I could see in his eyes his eyes, he was saying that I am attached to my name, Ghanashyam – you just changed it. Then I saw just a huge smile on his face just totally blissful because sannyasa means surrender, renunciation and he just blissfully accepted name BTS Maharaj. And after taking his vows and receiving the sannyasa mantra, there was a fire yajna and after the fire yajna there was kirtan in front of the beautiful deities of Radha Vrindavan Chandra, devotees from all over the New Vrindavan were gathered, men, women and children ecstatically chanting. This was the first kirtan of BTS. And he was so ecstatic he was so energized just renouncing his life for Prabhupada service. The spirit of sannyasa means your body, your mind, your words and your life exclusively property of guru and Krsna and there is no other consideration, that is sannyasa. And he took those vows with the true spirit, that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and all the acharya had taken sannyasa, not for fame, not for prestige, not for position but for service. His absorption was so, he was ecstatic, and for the first time in history BT Maharaj danced with a danda. And later on it became a legendary pastime, but this was the first and he was dancing wild, wild, magnificent, graceful but dancing ecstatically with his danda in his hand and his Sannyasa clothes and at one point he leaped high up the air calling Hari Bol!…… His danda raised up in his raised arms while he was very high in the air, his dhoti fell off!! Just fell right off unto the ground and he was just in mid air in his Kaupins, in is loin cloth. In one hand he was trying to grab the dhoti and in other hand he had his danda and he was very….. It was cultural shocked for him. And he just picked up his dhoti and triedy to just really quickly just cover him…. and I remembered I said to him Maharaj, “You are really renounced”. I said, “Maharaj, you are following in the footsteps of the six Goswamis, they also only wear Kaupins”. He was really embarrassed, and said, “I don’t know what to do?” I said, “Maybe we should go outside and try to put it on better.” So, he went outside and he tied such a tie knot to that dhoti. He just tied up and pulled in the double knot pulled and ran back up to the kirtan, grabbed his danda and started dancing in ecstasy. But the mean while, when he was dancing all the men, women and children were all a big circle around him when his dhoti fell off. And the men were like shocked, and the women covering their faces with their saris and children were laughing. That was the first kirtan of BTS Maharaj! And when he came back to the temple room, the temple room was so surcharged, because we were thinking he was just embarrassed or something but he was just came in with his gigantic ear to ear brilliant smile with his white teeth just glistening and radiating energies, and he started dancing and he got everybody dancing. The whole temple was shaking and shaking and shaking for hours and hours and hours.
Prophecy fulfilled “You will see Krishna in this Lifetime!”
Soon after that he was in India, one of the few devotees to go to Jagannatha Puri, this was in 1978, at that time in history I do not believe a single foreign devotee of ISKCON had ever been inside temple Jagannath’s temple. In one exchange between BTS Maharaj and Prabhupada, Prabhupada was so pleased with his service that Prabhupada told him, “You will see Krishna in this life time.” So, BT Maharaj was thinking may be I will see krsna as Jagannatha in this life time. So he was thinking I have a black complexion, perhaps they will think I am from South India and they will allow me in. But he knew they banned, in those days they even banned Indian devotees from ISKCON, because they considered that Indian devotees were associating with western devotees, so they had no right enter into inside Jagannatha temple. So he was thinking I will wear Karmi clothes, I will were regular civilian dress. Then they will never think I am from ISKCON. But he didn’t have any Karmi clothes. So he just asked some people and he borrowed a set clothes that didn’t even fit on him, just some pants and shirts. And then he tied a gamcha around his head because his head was shaved with sheikh. And there were big crowds and he walked right through the gate keeper and he went deeper and deeper and there was a mass of crowed people, thousands and thousands of people in that hall and he went by the Garuda Sthambhauru and people were having a very difficult time coming close to Jagannatha. But he took darshan of Jagannatha from the distance. But meanwhile, while he was just praying to Jagannatha – if they catch me now that I am inside they are going to beat me, they are going to really beat me, I don’t know what will really happen. So, all of the sudden the Panda’s and pujaris they just stopped all the crowed and they were choosing people that they thought had money and called them forward and one of the Panda’s called BTS. He said, “You come.” What he said was in Orriya language. And BTS was really afraid because he was going to talk to him and he only speaks English, he doesn’t speak any language except English. So, he was thinking what am I going to say? I will tell him that I am Indian and I was born up in America and I only know English. So the person started talking to him and he didn’t say anything, he was asking him questions. Very seriously asking him questions and he, BT Maharaj couldn’t understand any word he was saying and didn’t know what to responds! He just remained silent and was praying to Lord Jagannatha. The person actually brought him right up to the altar and pushed his head right on the altar near Jagannatha, Baladev and Subhadra’s Lotus feet and let him stand right inches of Jagannatha, Baladev and Subhadra to offer his prayers of love then he took him to circumambulate Jagannatha, Baladev and Subhadra and mean while so many other Panda’s tried to get money from him but this one Panda was saying, “He is mine, he is mine.” and then in the end after he had this amazing darsan of Jagannatha he offer prayer he told me that he prayed, he prayed to Lord Jagannatha to protect all the devotes on ISKCON to give them pure bhakti and to empower them to please SP by spreading his mission all over the world. This was his only prayer that he could be an instrument of mercy and compassion in his life and all the devotes would be happy in Krsna Consciousness, that was his prayer to Jagannatha. Then as this pujari, who was the chief pujari called him out and he spoke him in English he said, “I know who you are, I don’t agree that you people shouldn’t allowed in the temple, so I have given you this darsan.” BT Maharaj told us it was such a divine spiritual experience that the next day he thought he will do it again. Actually it was that night, it was that same night so late at night he again put gamcha on his head, put on his unfitting civilian clothes and he walked in. And Panda’s discovered him. He was not Indian and they started screaming at him, chasting at him and he was running, he had to run away and people were trying stop him but he said that because of dancing he was a quite in good condition. So he ran and ran and ran people were trying to find out and finally he just ran out of the Simha dwaram and then he realized that we should be satisfied by what Krsna had given us. But as far as I know, he was the first foreign devotee of the International Society Of Krsna Consciousness to ever personally have the darshan of the Ishtadeva of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Jagannatha, Baladev and Subhadra BTS Maharaj ki Jay. Prabhupada’s prophecy came true “You will see Krsna in this lifetime.”
Preaching in the most difficult part of the World
On the request of his Godbrothers he based himself in Africa. When he went there the movement had a couple fledgling centers that were falling apart, very difficult. It was just so impossible to preach there. I believe he first went Nigeria and practically all the preaching. Prabhupada said, one time Prabhupada came to Kenya where they opened the centered in Nairobi and so many Indian people came. And Prabhupada chastised, it is nice so many Indian people are coming but Africa is place of Africans. Why are you not preaching to the Africans?” The reason was because it was so difficult, nobody knew how but Bhakti Tirtha Swami, he just had such determination. Such a creative, intelligent empowered by Krsna. He was just making dozens and dozens and dozens of devotees opening centers starting farm communities. It was incredible what he was doing. He told us how difficult preaching in Africa was. Would you like to hear a few things? (Haribol!)
He said for a person who is not born or raised in Africa, there are so many diseases much more than in India. That’s one of the reason any person from the West in Hare Krsna movement couldn’t survive in Africa – So many diseases, always getting sick. He said that the food that the devotee cooked for him is unpalatable, he could never digest it. He said that when you make this tribal people, when they turn against you, you make their son or daughter devotee, you don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s the regular thing amongst those people, if you want to kill someone you put poison in their food. He was getting threat from the parents of the devotees that they would poison him. And other persons practicing voodoo. Do you know what is voodoo? It’s like an African type of tantric, tantricism and they put curses and the curses are actually affective. Those voodoo curses can torture people, can cause people to go insane, to cause people illness, terminal illness, the voodoo curses have the power to kill people. And all sorts of people were putting voodoo curses on him, powerful people. People were hiring voodoo priest to put curses on him but he persevered, very difficult. One of the most difficult thing, is the instability in the government. He was telling us that if you didn’t have government support they would crush you but the problem is if the government supports you and you became anyway close to the government then if another party takes over the government, you’re finished. Because it’s a very revolutionary place. They have political coups, happens all the time in West Africa – where some party or mafia people, gangsters or military just forcibly, violently take over the government. And there were certain regulative principles of what they would do. They would kill the prime minister, kill the president, kill all the cabinet members and kill any party that’s closed to the previous government. And the coups are happening regularly and they were happening regularly while he was there. So he explained that if you don’t come close to the government they will crush you and if you do get close to government, if there’s military or mafia take over then you are gong to be killed because you were close to the previous government. So, with such intelligent sensitivity he had simultaneously
Achintya beda beda tattva
He had to get close enough to get the support of government but far enough so that if they were take over and the takeover did come while he was there that they didn’t connect you as being close to them. Very tense anxiety ridden situation. And for a person of America, the heat of West Africa was of pressing and they had no air conditioners. It’s very very poor country and the people he was preaching to is the most tribal people, very very poor –City- but still very poor, no facilities, very primitive circumstances, disease, heat, dead threats voodoo curses and yet despite all that. And there was even revolution amongst all the devotees. Taking over the temples and some of the top devotees were threatening even to kill him. Very difficult but he stayed.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami charms the hearts of world leaders
And what happened in Africa? Because of his determination, his enthusiasm, his dedication and his incredible compassion, it was expanding like no where else in the world. Soon he was regularly on every television station preaching, he was in all the media, majors news papers, major magazines, major radio shows, he became a national hero. The Prime ministers, the President, the Heads, Minister of states were coming for spiritual guidance from him. In fact, he was awarded the highest civilian honor a person could get, he was made the honorary chief of the “Wary” tribe in Nigeria. That’s the highest position the civilian would get. And there was the whole ceremony where they coronated him the king of the tribe. He has such immense, immense influence. He became a spiritual counselor for Nelson Mandela, he became a spiritual counselor for at that time in 1980’s – this person was voted the most popular man in entire planet earth. Time Magazine, Life Magazine they all came together and they made poll amongst the people of the world, the most popular man on earth and in that time who was it? Mohammad Ali! Now you are all from Chowpatty, Bombay, India. I don’t know if you know who is Mohammad Ali. But he was the world champion fighter. He was the athlete of all athletes.
He is another success story.
He was born in ghettos of Louis villes Kentucky downtrodden, just to survive he had to learn how to fight and he made into an art and a science, then he became the world champion boxer. His name is Cascious Clay and he was a passific. Because at that time there was Vietnam War and he was drafted to go on military and he filed as a conscientious objector, that according to his religion he adopted Islam as his religion, according to religion he follows non violence, he cannot fight or be violent. It would be nice if all people of that faith follow this principle. Of course he was beating people up like anything in the boxing, but that was an occupation. So he went to prison for non violence and that increases his popularity more. So now here is the most popular man all over the world. Very difficult to meet some body like this. So high in the public eye and BT Maharaj was regularly going to his house to give him spiritual guidance. He was confiding in BT Maharaj, he was telling BT Maharaj problems and asking him how to overcome his weaknesses. Yes, BT Maharaj was becoming so influential in the world that United Nation was calling for him, for counseling, guidance and advice. Heads of countries were calling, Celebrities etc. In the early 1980’s during apartheid in Durban South Africa was grand opening of Radha Radhanath temple, magnificent. One of the most beautiful temples in all over the world, Nelson Mandela was the chief guest. The devotees, the leaders of ISKCON requested BT Maharaj to come to South Africa to give the opening address representing ISKCON. One of the most historical speeches ever given in ISKCON. There were the leaders of all the various religion and all the religious, political parties, everyone were there for this function and BTS’s address just enthralled everyone’s heart. He spoke so powerfully, so convincingly and so charmingly when he announced the welcoming of Nelson Mandela and Nelson Mandela so impressed by BTS words, his incredible devotion the he just came to the stage and embraced BT Maharaj and from that point on they were dear friends. Nelson Mandela met him on many occasions. They met and he received spiritual guidance from HH BTS Maharaj.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami – A Friend in Need
In about 1985 I remember I was in Cincinnati Ohio giving a Sunday feast Lecture, after the lecture there was a Kirtan we had a nice center right across the street from the university of Cincinnati and there were about 70 guests, all young American students they were all dancing ecstatically in Kirtan when I got the message that Kirtananand Swami Maharaj was brutally attacked and they feared that he would die before the night was over. So I drove it was about a 5-6 hours drive and he was in a coma for about 40 days. But I remember after going to the hospital in the middle of the night I went to New Vrindavan where the devotees were devastated because there was practically no hope that he would live and I remember at about 4 o clock in the morning I was chanting Japa in front of Prabhupada in a dark Temple room with many devotees. The 1st leader of ISKCON who came to give support and prayers to the community was BTS Maharaj. He stayed with the devotees for some days just giving so much support and prayer. He was such a friend.
An inconceivable service for HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami and HH Radhanath Swami
After this after some time many of you do not know the story and I have not discussed this story anywhere else but because we are at Chowpatty Bombay and we are an intimate part of the story I will share some things with you. In 1987 according to the GBC’s new resolution Kirtananand Maharaj was expelled from ISKCON and New Vrindavan and anyone affiliated with him or projects affiliated with him were expelled from ISKCON because of certain charges against him. I was in Mayapur that year with BTS Maharaj and Barsana Maharaj and we really could not understand why this was happening. Later on, we could understand how it was perfectly justified. But at that time it just didn’t make sense to us. He was just hit on the head, he was a month in a Coma, he was taking medicines with heavy side effects, he may have acted strangely and must have been doing things that people were disturbed with but all the years he served with Srila Prabhupada why not give him a chance? How can we just expel him? So, BTS who is just a compassionate person felt so hurt by the decision as did myself and several others. So at that time for 8 years I was just doing lecturing and cultivating people in the colleges of America and we developed about 8 Temples started from nothing and they were all thriving in college towns. So I just thought I just didn’t know anything about all these resolutions. I was just going to go and take care of the people I am trying help in Krishna Consciousness but on the way back I stopped in Bombay because that’s where my flight was out of. I came in the morning and my flight was to leave in the evening and at that time Kirtananand Maharaj had some disciples here and they were ex-communicated unless they rejected their Guru, which was very difficult for them. So, at Sea Face Park at a little apartment, I just came to say goodbye and Kirtanananada Maharaj said, “You stay here in Bombay!” and I said, “But I have a flight in a few hours. He said, “No! you stay!” I said, “I have just given 8 years of my life to all these 100s and 100s of people who are cultivating in America. I Just can’t leave them.” He said, “You have no other service except this you stay here.” Now, in those days we were obedient to our authorities, so I stayed in Bombay and with in a few months all the centers in America that I worked so hard to develop and they were flourishing so nicely, all except one were closed down without even asking or telling me . But anyways I was stuck here in Bombay living in different peoples houses and gradually we got one little room down stairs, little tiny room with rats and cockroaches and compared to the Brahmacharis we had in those days, the rats and cockroaches were very spiritually advanced. They were the best association I could find at that time. But any ways we started developing this center along with so many wonderful devotees. Many came and BT Maharaj in the mean while was mainly preaching in Africa and most all the devotees were Kirtanananda Maharaja’s disciples. As a couple of years went by Kirtanananda Maharaj started making many changes and speaking in ways that was confusing and BT Maharaj came to the conclusion that he is not representing Prabhupada. It took a couple of years to understand this but at the same time if he had sided with the leadership of ISKCON there would have been major violent revolution in the Temples in Africa because they were his disciples. The movement would have just become a war, a war zone and he might have been killed and others would have been killed. So because of this very very sensitive situation he had to distance himself from ISKCON. One thing you should know that in 78 or 79 he was made a GBC and was also given blessings to become an initiating Guru. One the 1st after the original group of devotees, performing this service. So, although he was a GBC, he did not go to any of the meetings because, if the African devotees found out that he was mixing with ISKCON, it could have been a serious major violent disaster. So, on top of every thing else that was happening, now he was dealing with this! So although, he was was’t officially expelled, because Africa was not Kirtanananda Maharaja’s project, – though he was not officially expelled – he had nothing to do with ISKCON, out of necessity for 8 years. And I was in the same situation here in Bombay. Gradually, although we had great love for Kirtananand Maharaj as a God Brother, we were seeing the changes he was making and the way he was speaking and certain things that he was doing was not representing Prabhupada but at the same time if we were to voice it and go to ISKCON, everything would be finished and if we would voice it publicly it would be massive confusion and pain and heart break and things would have probably broken into pieces. So, we both had very similar services. Yatras that were expanding and flourishing and were trying to somehow or other just protect it from all sides, from all different difficulties and we had to completely hold our feelings deep with in our hearts. So, during these 8 years there was only 1 person in the whole world that I could reveal my mind to that was BTS Maharaj and there was only 1 person in the world that he could reveal his mind to and that was his obedient servant.
Soul Searching talks with HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami
So, during that time he was preaching, besides Africa in Washington Dc and as a very creative genius he created the institute for supplied spiritual technology in the same spirit as the BhaktiVedanta Institute a very specialized way of preaching to specialized type of people. So, he had his institute right in the heart of Washington Dc, in a beautiful house just down the road from White House where the president lived, very prestigious location. And at that time I was just staying in Bombay about 11 months a year and just to keep the connection to New Vrindavan because if I didn’t keep the connection it could have been a very difficult political difficulty, I mean it could have been upheavals or even traces of it happening, very difficult. I was trying to keep politics away. So during my time in America when I would 1st come and before I would leave I would drive, I would drive a Van to Washington DC to spend several days with BT Maharaj. And those days were so intensely intimate and sweet. We would have conversations every day that would last 14 or 15 hours. We would go to the morning programme, after the morning programme, we would sit around the little table and take Prasad and start talking and then after Prasad we would sit and talk and then the conversation would carry on as and about 6 hours later we would sit around the table eat lunch Prasad and carry on talking, sometimes we would walk through the forest or something and the conversation would carry on until night and usually at about midnight we would still be talking and then he would put 2 sheets on the floor cause we both would sit on the floor we both would lay on the floor next to each other to go to sleep and we would usually end up talking until about 4 in the morning and then we didn’t t even sleep we would just lay there talking when we would get up for Mangal Aarti and the whole morning programme and then start talking again. Very intimate soul searching loving discussions. Pouring our hearts out to one and another. We really bonded in a very special and a unique way as friends at that time. Of course, later on we both understood that what ISKCON leadership had done was really the right thing that had to be done but some how or other we were in a circumstance where we both prayed to Prabhupada from the core of our hearts and heard his calling that we should continue the service that we were doing what we were doing and to protect the devotees so many wonderful wonderful devotees. Somehow to protect them and keep them in Krishna Consciousness beyond all this stuff that was happening. Should I continue? (Haribol!)
Hladini Mataji – Love of God, Personified!
– To please Balaram or Nityananda?
I remember when I was one of the people who for years was assisting me in my preaching to colleges was one of my God Sisters.
I’d like to tell you a little about her. You see what would happen as I would give classes in the colleges in Philosophy and the Gita and Sociology, History and just speak Bhakti to them from different points of view and we were doing Hari Nam and we were doing book tables and we were doing cooking classes, any creative way to some how get people to come to Sunday programmes and every night of the week we would have programmes in different colleges and gradually people came forward and became devotees and then from those people from those towns actually sponsored and started those temples. Very wonderful, but I was the main person cultivating people and almost half the people coming who were really taking serious interest were ladies and I began the project as a Bramachari but at this time I was a Sannyasi and I thought that women should be preaching to cultivate these women. So, I went to one of my God Sisters who was one of the most spontaneously enthusiastic lovers of Krishna, I have ever seen in my life. Her name was Hladini. Now, Hladini was the pujari for Jagannatha Baladev and Subhadra for many years. She was the head pujari for many many years in the Madhuban farm, but what happened is, she was getting dreams of Lord Nityananda Prabhu who told her to go out and preach and then she had dreams of Balaram saying how could you leave me, you have to stay and take care of me, you are my pujari so she didn’t know what to do? One night she had a dream and Nityananda Prabhu was saying that all this ringing of the bells is for neophytes, go out and preach and then Balaram who is Lord Nityananda would say, “Your ringing the bells in your Puja is giving me great pleasure.You cannot leave me. You must continue being pujari.” So, she would write me all these letters. I still have some of them. She would be trying to get guidance about what she should do? So finally, Nityananda Prabhu was victorious and she got Deities of Gaur Nitai and she went out. She wanted to know what to do? She came to me, “I need to preach and Nityananda Prabhu wants me to preach and I don’t know anything about preaching. I have been living on this farm covered with mud doing pujari work and cutting wood and cooking for the last 15 years, what should I do?” And I said, “I know exactly what you should do.” We’ll get you a van and you start a womens party, travel to all the college preaching centers and preach to all the women and cultivate them and make them devotees. So, she said, “Yes, I am very enthusiastic”, but she kept Balram’s shoes and for her whole life the shoe of Balaram was with her. It was a wooden shoe, too. She always kept her head on the shoe of Balaram ji, wooden sandal, to always be in Balaram’s service in the form of Lord Nityananda Prabhu and I remember one time, I think it was in Cincinnati or Columbus, we were doing Hari Nam and we had a book table and she had hers. Whatever we did, she would set up her Gaur Nitai Deities and the police came and arrested us, I was not there at that time because I would be traveling different places but the police came to arrest and Hladini, she said, “You cannot arrest us without arresting them”, she pointed to the Deities.” Se said, “No, they are not dolls, those are not dolls. It is on their orders that we are here chanting the holy names and distributing books and prasad. It is on their order. How could you arrest us without arresting them.” She spoke with such conviction they said, “What are you talking about arrest? They are not even people.” “No they are people, we are here under their order, you cannot arrest us without arresting them!” So the police arrested the Deities (laughter!) and they took the devotees and the Deities to jail for doing HariNam Kirtan without permit or something like that and when they went to see the magistrate she was saying the same thing, she was saying… she brought the deities with her. She said, “It was on their order, they have ordered us – Krishna is your mother, Krishna is your father, Krishna is your life and soul, Krishna is your treasure, chant Hare Krishna, worship Krishna, follow the teachings of Krishna, they have ordered us to do so and give this message all over the world. We are helpless. Whatever your laws are we cannot follow them because they have given us their instruction and she spoke with such conviction that the magistrate, the judge actually said, “All of you are following their instructions then how can I arrest you? Just go out and follow their instructions! (Jay Jay!) She didn’t need a lawyer. She had her Gaur Nitai as her advocate. This was her faith. When I was there she was doing unbelievable! I will tell you some thing about her love for Krishna. It was so contagious that any female or any student or townsperson that I would connect to her, that person could not give up her association. They had to become devotees they just wanted to help her in every way. They became blissful. She was love of God personified – amazing person.
Hladini Mataji enters African Yatra
When I was sent to India and had to stay there and later on in New Vrindavan they had made many changes. There was no kirtans, there was no devotee dress, so many things and she was so deeply immersed in chanting and Caitanya Caritamrita and the traditions of Gaudiya Vaishnavas that these changes would break her heart that when I came she was crying she was saying, “I can’t stay here. I can’t follow this but I don’t want to offend any one. Please help me.” So when Bhakti Tirth Maharaj came to New Vrindavan and Hladini and I went to New Vrindavan and he gave a class where he was talking about this incredible preaching he was doing in Africa. So about a week later she asked me, “Do I have your blessings to go to Africa? Because there I can worship Lord Nityananda without all these restrictions.” So I said, “Let us talk with Maharaj.” So she drove her van and I drove mine and we met at the Institute of Applied technology and the 3 of us met in Bhakti Tirth Maharaj’s room and had a very deep wonderful talk. She practically didn’t say a word. I had to do all the speaking. She was just sitting there with tears in her eyes and in the end Bhakti Tirth Maharaj just said, “This is the greatest benediction to have a devotee like you. Is this really what you want?” and she said, “Maharaj, please accept me as your servant.” and she went to Africa.
Another interesting Story!
Should I tell you another interesting story about Hladini? (Hari bol!) She was superbly excellent at preaching to people one on one but she had never given a class in her life. She always longed to go to Vrindavan. So one time I arranged for her to come to India. And we took her to Vrindavan, Govardhan Parikrama, Barsana and NandaGaon, so many places. She was intoxicated with spiritual love the whole time she was there. It was amazing to see her there and then we brought her back to Bombay and at that time Radhagopinath Temple was just a little Dungeon downstairs with rats and roaches and so called Bramachari! and we weren’t even allowed to come at that time. Brahmacharis didn’t like us so we were having our Bhagvatam classes at Srinathji Prabhu’s house. So one day I asked Hladini that you please give class today and she just froze just like a statue. She said, “No! I have never given a class. I cannot give a class. No I will not give a class.” I said, “Hladini Devi, please give Bhagvatam class. They would love to hear from you.” She said, “These are all civilized cultured people and I am like an animal. I am like a beast, how can I give class to them? I have no qualification I don’t know the philosophy. I don’t know. I cannot give class. I’ll leave this place if you make me give class. I can’t do it! I won’t do it!” I said, “Alright, I’ll give class.” So we are all sitting there, about 20-25 devotees gathered in Srinathji Prabhu’s living room in Seaface Park.
And I chanted Jaya Radha Madhava….. Om Namo Bhagvate Vasudevaya……. read the Sanskrit, the verse, the purport and then I said, “Now Hladini Mataji will give class and I got up and I walked right out and she said, “No! No! No!” and I just kept walking and I closed the door and I locked the door and I kept walking down the stairs and she couldn’t find me and in the mean while she was sitting there and the devotees put the book in front of her, put the microphone in front of her. Now what could she do? She started speaking. A few minutes later I came back up the stairs and I looked through a little crack so that she wouldn’t see me and began to listen. She was preaching, magnificent class, she was preaching with such enthusiasm! At the beginning for the 1st 10 minutes she would just apologize for not being qualified and then she gave about a 2 hour class! The devotees were enthralled, they were spell bound and after that day she never stopped giving Srimad Bhagvatam Class.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami “Our spiritual relation goes back to previous births”
So when she went to Africa, soon she was leading Hari Nam Sankirtan Parties and getting 100s of African kids to dance and chant, just what she loved to do. She was cooking Prasad and distributing it to them. She was really a mother. She was giving fantastic class to the devotees and soon she was on Television, Radio Magazines, Newspaper Interviews practically every day. She was a media sensation. Heads of state, government officials were coming to take shelter of her. She was doing unbelievable preaching. She was totally fearless and it was Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj’s inspiration. They had such a deep connection. Any ways.. it is a long story… after some years there was a political take over in Liberia and she happened to be preaching there and her and about 8 other devotees were killed, they were shot dead. What happened is that this gangster mob that took over the government raided the Temple in the middle of the night and lined up all the men to kill them and told Hladini, “Since you are a woman we are not going to harm you can go.” But they shot one of the devotee men and she couldn’t tolerate. A few weeks before this incident she wrote me a letter and she said the only thing in life I fear is offending a Vaishnava. There is no other fear I have in life and she was telling me about the life and death situation in Liberia. Then they started shooting devotees. She started shouting, “You cannot do this, you cannot kill devotees!” There were military people with Guns all around and the leader was shooting with a Pistol. she ran up to the leader and grabbed his arms so he couldn’t kill the devotees she said you cannot do this you cannot do this. She knew that she would be killed. She literally grabbed the hand of the President of the country so that he wouldn’t shoot the devotees and they just aimed her guns at her and killed her. She would rather die than stand idly as devotees were being killed. That was her integrity. Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj had such deep gratitude of appreciation for Hladini. Their relationship on a totally spiritual level was something extra ordinary. After she passed away Maharaj told me that in her previous life she had male body and they were both devotees and they were most intimate loving friends – like brothers. He said, “Our relationship is so deep on a spiritual platform that goes back to previous births.”
The Hare Krishna explosion in Africa
Anyways, things were growing in Africa but nobody goes to west Africa except the devotees who live there. So some leaders of ISKCON were very suspicious because he wasn’t coming to ISKCON temples, he wasn’t coming to GBC meetings, but all the Temples in Africa were ISKCON temples! So some leaders in the world were thinking, “What is he doing in Africa?” and they were hearing all kind of rumors that gave them suspicion. So they organized a serious investigation with some top sannyasis to go to Africa to investigate Bhakti Tirtha Swami – what is he doing? and just recently I was with one of the Sannyasis who headed that investigation and spent about a month in Africa and he said that he and his team went back to the Leadership of ISKCON and said, “You want to know what we saw? We saw dozens and dozens of temples opening every where, filled with devotees, people following the regulative principles, chanting 16 rounds, taking initiation, distributing books, distributing Prasad, we have seen excellent preaching. We have seen opening of Orphanages, openings of schools, opening of farm communities, self sufficient farm communities. We have seen devotees on Television, on Radio News, Media Magazines. We have seen devotees just walking right into the offices of the heads of state and being honored and respected. In our whole life of Krishna Consciousness we have not seen Krishna Consciousness flourishing the way it is under Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj’s leadership in West Africa, and they were speaking from their hearts! Practically single handedly he developed an incredible Hare Krishna explosion in these countries… in spite all dangers, diseases and other difficulties. Should I continue? (Haribol!) It’s getting late… If you want to take Prasad please go. If you want to hear about Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj, you will be much more benefited. Prasad will be there till … anytime…
Bhakti Tirtha Swami – A creative devotional genius
While he was doing these heroic devotional deeds in Prabhupada’s service in Africa. At the same time he was developing one of the most successful projects in the world in the capital of America, Washington DC. Through the Institute of Applied Spiritual technology he was reaching to so many people. Maharaj was having classes at, I Believe it was Harvard University. A very highly esteemed institute in Washington DC. Maharaj was such a compassionate person. To be a preacher, it’s not just the matter of speaking philosophy. It’s a matter of transforming people’s hearts, awakening love of God in people’s hearts and getting people to be deeply attached to the devotees and the holy names of Krishna. Now Srila Prabhupada, when he came to America, he saw so many millions of innocent souls, part and parcel of Krishna, who were being cheated and exploited by Maya. To save them Prabhupada made many adjustments in the presentations of Krishna consciousness, to reach the people according to Time, Place and Circumstance, without ever changing the message. So Maharaj saw in the 1980s it wasn’t like in the 60s and the 70s, there wasn’t many people joining the movement. We had to somehow reach to them according to how it was relevant to their interest. So he explored grounds that were very interesting. He targeted which kind of people are going to be most inclined to accept Krishna Consciousness. So he was giving seminars and lectures appealing to the new age people. He was giving lectures form a Krishna Conscious point of view on psychology, psychiatry, conflict resolution, and politics. He was giving lectures on UFO’S unidentified flying objects. All these various occult subjects! He was reaching peoples hearts. And it was considered controversial subjects. People said, “We don’t accept these things.” But what was the result? The result is he would gain people’s confidence, he would gain people’s love and then he would gradually train them in Krishna Consciousness. He was getting PhD’s, doctors, psychologists, professors They were chanting 16 rounds, they were following the 4 regulative principles, they were scrutinizing studying Prabhupada’s books, they were sold out to the mission of ISKCON, they took initiation. The most qualified devotees in all of America, most all of them becoming Krishna Consciousness by the incredible efforts of Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj. Now some of the things he has done has been criticized and controversial but I can tell you from my deep conviction that whoever criticizes simply does not understand the compassion and broad mindedness of this personality. When I was in Gita Nagari I was seeing qualified intelligent people that came from those innovative creative indirect preaching programmes, they would have never ever ever associated with devotees any other way and now they are full fledged perfectly cultured Gaudiya Vaishnavas. You can judge a thing by its result. You can judge a tree by its fruit. It was his deep compassion to reach people’s hearts. He approached people in such incredibly genius ways in the western world and brought them to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada and Gaur Nitai, where they surrendered. Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj ki…. Jay!
The Malaria pastime
Meanwhile we are still meeting, every year, several times. Then we would sit on the table and talk and eat and talk, we would lay on the floor and we talk and we would walk and we talk and we would sit and we would talk but we’d talk! Because what ever was building up in my heart I had to say it for Bhakti Tirth Maharaj and same for him. It was a beautiful relationship. One of the things, every time we met, one of the things we always discussed for at least half and hour was the amazing grace we both had, that we both had that we never got Malaria. Because in India so many people get Malaria and in Africa so many people would get Malaria and he would say I’ve been In Africa for so many years. Every devotee gets Malaria but I never get Malaria and I said I’ve been in India so many years, so many devotees get Malaria, I never get Malaria. So that we always discussed. So for about 8 years we discussed and I can tell you, both of us were developing some pride. There was a certain pride of never getting Malaria. What else can some one like me get proud of?! Any ways one year – I got Malaria. Dwarkadish Prabhu, Dr Alva can tell you all about it. It was so severe. I had fever and I was sweating and they gave me medicine and every time they gave me medicine and I would vomit it out. They brought me to the hospital, before Bhaktivedanta, some other hospital. They had to give me intravenous injection so that some how or the other I could fight the malaria and the whole time I was there I was thinking, “How am I going to explain this to Bhakti Tirth Maharaj? I am a traitor.” To my surprise, the next time we met he told me, “Maharaj, I have a confession to make.” I said, “What?” “I got Malaria!” We exchanged notes and it turned out we both came down with the fever on the same day at the same time and we were both admitted to the hospital on the same time the same day and the same year he was in Africa and I was In India and we were probably bitten by mosquitoes at the same time too! But we were both rejoicing! Just see our connection!
Home coming to ISKCON- Together!
Any ways certain things happened in New Vrindavan. It is a long and difficult story to tell, but we, in all love and respect for Kirtananand Maharaj, all that he has done, I distanced myself from him and at that time some of our Chowpatty devotees were there and saw the reality of what happened and they came back here and the devotees decided that we would worship Prabhupada without him (Kirtananand Maharaj) as our leader and I decided to come back. At that time for the 1st time in 8 years ISKCON devotees came to visit Radha Gopinath Temple. The 1st devotee to come for the Sunday feast was Bhakti Caru Maharaj. We embraced in the middle of the temple and he spoke to all the devotees and after wards he said, “Why don’t you come back to ISKCON? You have never done any thing wrong. The only reason you had been expelled is because of your connection with Kirtananand Maharaj. Now you are not connected, you can come back. So I said, “Whatever the devotees here want and whatever ISKCON would like I am open.” Then Trivikram Maharaj came and then Bhakti Tirth Maharaj came. This was the 1st time he came to Radhagopinath Temple. I believe it was in 1994 and the devotees were mesmerized by his dancing and his incredible enthusiasm of spreading and preaching Krishna Consciousness and he was so appreciative of all of you. Then Niranjana Swami Maharaj came and then everybody was discussing. So what happened then is Niranjan Maharaj in the1994 GBC meetings was asking and inviting that the GBC is asking you to come to discuss re-entry into ISKCON. An amazing thing happened. I went to Mayapur and the same day I arrived…. and we had no communication…. the same day I arrived was the 1st day Bhakti Tirth Maharaj came back to Mayapur for the GBC meeting after 8 years and he was reinstated as GBC actively and we were given blessings to come back to ISKCON. I presented it to the devotees here and there was a unanimous agreement that we should accept what Prabhupada certainly wants us to do.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami – Addicted to devotional service!
Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj traveled all over the world. His enthusiasm, his determination and his compassion was unlimited. Wherever he went he just mesmerized devotees’ hearts. He would just melt their hearts. He was so personal in his concern for every one. Because he came from a minority family and he was prosecuted his whole youth, he had a very soft heart and sympathy for any devotee who was being mistreated. He had this nature where he never judged anyone. He was everyone’s well-wisher and friend, whatever their condition. And with this spirit he traveled around the world preaching the pure message of Lord Caitanya and Srila Prabhupada. His kirtans were famous throughout the 14 worlds. There was no one who danced like him. He could dance for hours… and hours after hour after hour after hour! he was in his late 40s and then in his 50s and still he would never stop. He had such a spontaneous taste for the Holy Name! I remember when he was a brahmachari, devotees used to come and tell me in New Vrindavan that there is this brahmachari named Ghanashyam. We have never seen anyone chant Japa like him. He’ll just sit right in front of Srila Prabhupada intensely chanting the holy name. With such intensity! He was really addicted to the holy name. He never missed his rounds his whole life after taking initiation. If he had to stay up all night if he had to do any thing but never would he give up his vow of chanting and for him a minimum 20 rounds a day but usually 42. His sadhana was so deep and so powerful and so exemplary. His Kirtans were with so much enthusiasm. I remember one year he came to Radha Gopinath Mandir and he led Mangal Aarti and before they even light the incense every one was dancing in ecstasy (laughter!) Do you remember that? and they didn’t stop dancing and after conchshell blew, they were still dancing, running all over the temple, running back and forth and all over in circles for Mangal Aarti, he was simply spontaneously intoxicated with the holy name and he would play that drum with that stick! Sometimes his disciples talked to me I said, “Prabhu, you have to talk louder because I have been in so many kirtans with drums with your Guru….! Yes! In Mayapur Dham, during the GBC meeting he was one of the highlights! Of the whole world’s hearts is to participate in Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj’s kirtans and his lectures so brilliant, so to the point, always relevant to devotees’ lives. He just didn’t speak theory, he spoke the pure siddhantas of Gaudiya Vaisnavism in a way that really is what devotees’ needed to hear, according to their problems, according to the struggles, according to their consciousness, according to their inspiration. He was such an inspirational speaker. I believe the most powerful speaker of ISKCON. He would just get so absorbed in what he was saying. I’ll give you one eg. during the International festival in Mayapur he was giving a lecture the last day of the GBC meetings – over 1000 devotees all over the world assembled Panca Tatva Temple and he was talking about dedication to Srila Prabhupada, loyalty to ISKCON, surrender to Krishna and he was speaking with such power his voice was just echoing tumultuously in all directions, his body was just expressing his hearts’ compassion and devotion and it came to such a summit that at a certain point of his lecture, the devotees were at the edge of their seats and all of a sudden his watch flew off his wrist, his coat flew of his body and his coat just flew off in the air and the sannyasi sitting next to me said, “Wow! I have never seen any thing like this!”Srila Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj ki jay! He was enthusiastic, determined and convinced.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami – The Author
His lectures transformed peoples’ hearts. He wrote over 20 books that were published and he wrote these books in such a way, many of them were not for the devotee audience but for the general population targeting at people who could potentially be very receptive to Krishna Consciousness. He wrote books on the problem of sex passions, the problem of terrorism, the problem of war, the problem of suicide, the problem of poverty, the problem of mental disease and depression, things that are relevant to people all over the world. He was addressing them from a spiritual perspective and giving people Krishna Consciousness. His books have been translated in how many languages? probably about 20-30 languages in the world. I don’t know about 20 languages and people who would otherwise never come near to an instititution of religion, what to speak about the Hare Krishna Movement in the west. People were reading his books, their hearts were transforming and many people were becoming devotees either directly or indirectly. Amazing! and he was practically doing things……… besides Jamuna mataji I don’t know anybody who did it. Jamuna’s cook book, it was the no. 1 cook book in the world and she was going on tours of the world signing and giving cook books in Cook Stores. Besides Jamuna prabhu only Bhakti Tirth Maharaj had this incredible empowered opportunity with many of the books he wrote he was going on tours through out America, in major established book stores giving seminars and signing his books and he was being promoted by the book publishing communities and while he was doing that, according to his writings, according to his connections with high people in the world wherever he went in the world whether it was Russia or America or Africa or South America or Australia or Europe, he was on TV, on Radio, on Media, he was just a fascinating incredible person.
The transformations caused by his seminars
He was giving seminars to devotees all over the world. They were the most popular seminars. He would give seminars on subjects that he really felt that devotees needed to hear to be happy and stable in Krishna Consciousness. I just remember a couple of days ago in Dignamvor, Russia, the festival there, were 4 – 5 Seminars going on simultaneously and most of all the leaders form ISKCON were giving seminars but by far his was the most popular. In his seminar he had at least 3000 Russian devotees sitting in rapt attention for 2 hours at a time every day. He was on the morning Television show in Russia, in Ukraine, in so many other countries meeting with big big powerful people. He was doing a type of preaching that no one else in the world within the Krishna Consciousness movement could do. Why? What was the source of his empowerment? Every day he was writing his diary praying to Prabhupada. This was his spirit – I do not want money, I do not want sex, I do not want wealth, I do not want fame, I do not want liberation, I only want to serve you, I only want to serve Srila Prabhupada by expanding his glorious mission of Compassion because he begged for service he was given such extra ordinary service.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami – His extra-ordinary compassion
A few years ago I was in Gita Nagari with HH Bhakti Tirth Maharaj. At that time we got the news that one devotee in the Washington Temple in Washington DC had committed suicide. Forgive me if I am speaking something improper but it does show the nature of his compassion. The devotees there in Potomac couldn’t understand, “Why this initiated devotee would do such a thing?” It was a mystery. What happened is the sister of this devotee understood the open hearted compassionate nature of HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj, she opened up to him. Although she was living all the way in Croatia Eastern Europe. She sent a message to HH Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj that my brother just a few days before he took his life wrote to me and told me that he is homosexual but he was a devotee. The Krishna Conscious philosophy does not accept illicit sex and homosexual sex can only be illicit. So he didn’t see how he could fit in the society but at the same time he couldn’t see how he could leave the society as he firmly believed in Krishna, so he decided to take his life. Nobody even knew what was in his mind. He kept it all secret. HH Bhakti Tirth Maharaj and I had a very long discussion when we received this message. He was so deeply concerned, he said, “We don’t accept Homosexuality. It’s not acceptable in our culture or our philosophy but Prabhupada says you hate the disease and not the diseased. The problem is if these people are not respected, they’re condemned, then they are either going to leave Krishna Consciousness and not get purified or they are going to do what this person has done which is the absolute worst thing. Whatever a person sins may be, whatever the persons nature may be, we may not respect that but they should be encouraged and given a chance to be Krishna Consciousness” And he was just struggling his mind how to do this and how to make this balance? and there were some other leaders in ISKCON who very much criticized him, not high leaders, who criticized him – you are sympathetic towards this kind of irreligious activity! but they didn’t understand at all his spirit. His heart, he was simply compassionate to the spirit souls. Whatever a persons habit, whatever a persons nature, whatever a persons problems, if we want to elevate them then we have to encourage them to be Krishna Conscious. This was the nature of his compassion and he actually really tried to help them. In many cases people with different kinds of problems – drug addicts, alcoholics, homosexuals, people with all kinds of different habits and different natures, with different problems were coming to HH Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj. He didn’t encourage them to do what they were doing but he showed them love and respect and he wanted to help them to over come their problems and over come their nature and become Krishna Conscious and he became a shelter for so many people like that – that was just his nature, to be loving and compassionate and respectful to every living being. Maharaj gave shelter to so many people. The African people, especially in some places are still considered minorities and not treated with proper respect. Thousands of African people in Africa and all over the world, Prabhupada disciples and disciples of other Gurus and 100s of his own disciples, they found shelter in him, they found a hero in him, they felt Krishna’s love in him. Alienated devotees, many devotees who are Prabhupada’s disciples who have been alienated from our mission and other 2nd generation devotees, I believe in more than anyone else their trust and their faith in HH Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj brought them closer and gave them shelter. Many Gurukulis, the Gurukulis are the young generation who are born in our movement and went to the Gurukula, he gave so much of his time so much of his energy, so much of his hearts love to help them, to inspire them, to respect them and encourage them and to nourish them with pure Bhakti. In fact, recently I was at the assembly of the people of the Gurukula and they all together made a very beautiful statement – We are from the Gurukula and we know that HH Bhakti Tirth Maharaj is a Cool Guru!! We are from Gurukul and we know Maharaj is a cool Guru! They loved him. Perhaps the most popular leader of ISKCON to the Gurukulis.
Fulfillment of another prophecy. Srila Prabhupada, “Your Life is a Success”
Yes, we find in HH Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj the most transcendental story from Rags to Riches – starting with nothing or not even a hope or a chance and becoming a world leader this little black African boy from the Ghettos of Cleveland, a broken home and he didn’t even have a father. Hardly any clothes or food to eat, violent crimes all around him, stammering, couldn’t even talk properly, people laughing at him and ridiculing him. What chance did that little boy in the ghettos of Cleveland have to succeed in life and some years later – author of 20 books. Book stores, Darshans, Television, International leaders, UN Consultant…. When I was in Gita Nagari, I saw devotees from South America from North America, I saw devotees from Australia from India from every country, from Italy, France, England, from Russia, from Africa, from every continent in the world, there were devotees who were taking shelter of him, who were surrendering to him as the topmost inspiration of their lives. What an incredible story of success! and it all came about with his sincere prayers for devotional service.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami – His Final vyas puja prayer, begging for service
In 2004, he was at the peak of his career spreading Krishna Consciousness all over the world, he was at the summit of his career affecting peoples’ lives in such a deep way. He wrote at the Vyas Puja ceremony of Srila Prabhupada. In that Vyas pooja offering he prayed to Srila Prabhupada that I wish I could say that everything is just wonderful but the fact is as I travel around the world I see there are many devotees who are struggling with their bad habits of the past, many obstacles and anarthas in their hearts, many bad habits, many devotees in this world are not able to maintain spiritual standards and are feeling very sorry. There is depression. He could not tolerate seeing a devotee suffer. He was giving seminars, he was preaching, he was doing kirtans, he was personally counseling anybody that would come to him. That year he traveled to 32 countries! It was a victorious tour. But he said still devotees need help therefore he prayed to Srila Prabhupada, “let me take the spirit of Vasudev Dutta and let me suffer. If you so desire Prabhupada, if you so desire Krishna, let me suffer and let my suffering remove the obstacles, so the devotees can have a happy life in Krishna Consciousness and go back home back to Godhead. He offered this prayer form his heart. Soon after he was diagnosed with Melanoma Cancer. A Cancer that by clinical analysis is not possible to cure. According to the 10th Canto of Srimad Bhagvatam, Vasudev explains and Prabhupada confirms that it is the duty of a person to try to protect his life because God has given us this body. It is a need to maintain and sustain this body especially when it is being utilized in such valuable service to Krishna. So he tried many cures. He went to Mexico, he went to Arizona, went to Hawai, he tried various natural methods, Allopathic methods but ultimately it was understood that it cannot be cured. During the process the doctors thought that if he could amputate one of his legs that would remove his cancer, so he had a major surgery and he amputated his leg. Can you imagine what a sacrifice that was! That most graceful divine dancing leg, being cut by a surgeons saw! But even after that, it had totally spread through out his body. Please listen carefully, he was in such a spirit of service and the devotee sees everything as an opportunity to serve. He decided that to take this whole dying experience and share it with the world in a totally positive Krishna Conscious spirit and he wrote his last book “Die before Dying” an amazing book. An Amazing book…… where he shares his realizations and experiences of going through the transformations of death and dying in a perfectly Krishna Conscious way and Krishna Conscious perspective.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s deep faith and conviction in Srila Prabhupada
When he saw that he didn’t have much time to go, many devotees were making arrangements for him to go to Vrindavan to leave his body. Other devotees were calling him to Mayapur to leave his body because to leave your body in the holy Dham is considered supremely auspicious; but please hear my brothers and sisters, HH Bhakti Tirth Maharaj’s faith in Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada said that all of his centers were Goloka Vrindavan because the selfless unconditional service of Radha and Krishna is taking place there. HH Bhakti Tirth Maharaj wanted to preach, wanted to spread the glories of Srila Prabhupada’s message even in his dying. He decided that he would leave his body in Gita Nagari. Why? because he wanted to make a very strong statement to the world – that wherever Prabhupada’s centers are, because of Prabhupada’s mercy, that is a Holy Dham and that is a holy place fit to die and go back home, Back to Godhead. In going to Gita Nagari, he was showing his faith, his love, and his intense desire to glorify the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and compassion. Srila Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj ki jay!! He said, “Srila Prabhupada came to Gita Nagari and he made it a holy place. His lotus feet stood here, therefore for me it is Vrindavan.” Such a wonderful realization.
Personal experiences with HH Radhanath Swami
This year I returned to New Vrindavan in the month of May. From this part of the story, I am going to share with you my own personal experiences in relationship to HH Bhakti Tirth Maharaj. Many of these stories are very deep and personal to me. Some are too personal for me to speak.
Without details, New Vrindavan was going through a very difficult transition in management and it was very much affecting the community. There was certain blockages in communication and for months devotees were waiting for me to come back to help resolve it. It was a very critical issue and I took it very seriously as they did. So I returned to New Vrindavan after the North American temple Presidents GBC meeting where all the leaders of America come together to discuss. That was for 2 days and after that there was a festival of inspiration where devotees form all over come and there are so many seminars and Kirtans and Lectures and Dramas and it is the biggest festival of the year of this sort in America and the whole time all these festivals and meetings are going on I was just thinking the under current of the tension in this community is so heavy, I just have to start these meetings trying to resolve it and the devotees were very much putting pressure we have to start these meetings. I said the day after the festivals are done we will have our meetings. It was very intense, it was very a crucial festival was going to finish Sunday night. I was scheduled Sunday afternoon to give the plenary session lecture to the whole festival group where every one was participating. I spoke with HH Bhakti Tirth Maharaj on the phone before coming to New Vrindavan. I visited him for 3 days, then I went to Chicago and then I went to New Vrindavan. I spoke to him on the phone and he told me that his health was really going down and he believed that he would depart from this world with in 2 or 3 days and he told me tomorrow I am giving the Sunday feat lecture and this will probably be the last talk I will ever give in this life, so I decided I must be there for that lecture. So I approached Anuttama Prabhu, the coordinator of the festival, very wonderful loving God brother. I said, “Can you excuse me from giving my lecture so I can go to Gita Nagari.” He said, “Give the morning session. I will change the morning session to the plenary session. In fact, I am also going.” So I gave the morning session and spoke about my appreciation and love for HH Bhakti Tirth Maharaj and I expressed that he might not live for very long, so now I am going to Gita Nagari and you will be pleased to know that 200 devotees left the festival and drove to Gita Nagari right in the middle of the festival! It is a 5-6 hour drive. When we got there he was giving a lecture in the lawn. An incredible lecture I have never seen any thing like this. What a master of Compassion he was speaking such profound philosophy so deep, just cutting right thorough to the core of the heart. He had some of them weeping and even he would be weeping and then he would start telling incredible humorous jokes and then every one would be roaring and laughing in laughter weeping and laughing simultaneously. We were all going mad but it was very deep subject matter, really touching peoples’ hearts and after he gave this brilliant speech his caretakers lifted him up and because he could not walk because he was very thin and they could not put him on his wheel chair.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami requests Radhanath Swami to stay
My plan right after this I was going to New Vrindavan, get there real late at night and next morning the meetings that we were waiting for months. He sat on his wheel chair and I came up to offer my obeisances. He said, “With a very soft loving voice he said Maharaj are you staying for a few days?” I said, “Maharaj whatever pleases you. I will do” He said, “I would be very grateful if you stay for 2 or 3 days.” I said, “I will stay.” The next day I came to meet him. Then Maharaj said to me “When I pass away I will be very grateful if you could come back to Gita Nagari and help with the last rites and give association to these devotees because they will need shelter. I said, “Maharaj, I will come back.” Meanwhile the meeting at New Vrindavan was scheduled 3 days later. The 3rd day I was going to ask leave of him. We had Krishna katha. We were talking about Krishna for 2-3 hours and just before I was going to say I am going to New Vrindavan, now he looked at me. He had tears in his eyes tears of such pure affection, with folded palms he spoke so sweetly. “Maharaj I want to die in your arms please stay with me.” I said, “Maharaj, I am here as long as you are living in this body. I am here with you. There is nothing else Prabhupada would want me to do.” So I stayed with Maharaj from that day on. Devotees from New Vrindavan were coming to Gita Nagari to have meetings with me and I was on the phone with them for hours and hours with them. Sometimes it was quite intense but with Maharaj’s love and kindness, he allowed me to remain.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami – “I am now Srila Prabhupada’s Puppet”
I’d like to tell you some other things that I saw at that festival of inspiration. 50 to 60 of Prabhupada’s disciples came from New Vrindavan to be with HH Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj. They all gathered in his room. I never saw any thing like this. He was empowered to reach their hearts. Literally everyone was taking shelter of his lotus feet. People were just crying with love, with gratitude, with such reverence and he was speaking with such affection, with such intelligence, such wonderful philosophy, just transforming his God brothers and God sisters hearts. He gave us all such deep encouragement, nobody could leave the caretakers said, “It is time to go but nobody could leave even he! You know his body was dying but still he was giving himself so much, now he couldn’t bear for them to leave and they couldn’t bear to leave. It was such a beautiful exchange of love and another day some people I know very well, they came. Some were Prabhupada’s disciples and some were Gurukulis. Many of them, totally broken hearted and alienated. People who had not come to hear lecture in ISKCON for years. People who wouldn’t even go to a Temple in ISKCON. I knew them. They were my friends, they still are my friends. I understand the problems they were having. They had to come to see HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj. The whole room was filled with these types of people. It was magnificent. His heart just entered right into the cores of their hearts. The Super soul empowered him with the exact perfect words that they needed to hear. I could not believe what I was seeing. People who were cynical, who were abrasive, their hearts were melting right before my eyes. He spoke to them for over 2 hours and entire time, tears were pouring from every single persons eyes. He gave their hearts to him, he captured their minds, he transformed them. And as they came out of their room they were all just weeping and crying, saying, “I am transformed. I will never be the same after that experience.” And one of these boys he gone through a lots of hard ship, he looked at me and said, “In my whole life I have never seen any one so close to God as Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj.” Maharaj arranged a whole feast of wonderful prasad for all his guests when they would come, in the living room outside of his room. It was impossible for people even to eat, they were such emotional state. I went back in a room. I said, “Maharaj how did you do that? I been devotee for about 35 years. I have seen a lot of things, but I have never seen anything like that. Maharaj, I known you for about 33 years and I have seen you give dynamic lectures, I have seen you mesmerize people’s minds, I have seen you change people’s heart, I have seen you convince people but I have never seen you do anything like this. You have taken people who have been alienated and cynical and melted their hearts, you transformed them right in front of my eyes. Maharaj this cannot be you speaking. You have become Prabhupada’s puppet.” And Maharaj looked at me very sincerely and said, “Yes, I have never been able to affect people’s life like this before, never with all my prayers with all my efforts I have never been able to do this. To reach right into the core of people’s heart and transform them.” He said, “It is not me, by Prabhupada’s mercy he made me his puppet. And he is making me dance as he wishes for me to dance. This is what I have always prayed for – to be an instrument of Prabhupada’s mercy and transform people’s heart. My whole life of a devotee, I prayed for this and Krishna has fulfilled my prayers.” He said, “This disease is the greatest benediction, because since I have gotten this disease people are coming to me with such and open and sympathetic heart and I am speaking things that I even don’t know. When I speak with these people, I don’t even think about it, I don’t even know what I am saying. A voice is speaking through me, things that I don’t even know.” Maharaj then said something to me that changed my life. After he spoke these words everything that seems so inconceivable to me made sense. BTS Maharaj said, “Since I had this cancer in the last few months, I have affected people’s life in such a way that I could have never able to do if I lived another 30 years. Therefore, this disease is a blessing and benediction of Prabhupada because I am not living to live, I am living to serve. And in this condition, I am doing the greatest service quantitatively and qualitatively, that I could have ever done, if I live a long life. Therefore this disease is the answer to my prayer. And I will not change my position for anyone else in the world because of the service I am allowed to render. People wonder why such a great devotee could have possibly be put in such a painful condition of dying of such a disease. But this was the positive attitude that BTS Maharaj understood it. And he had complete faith and what ever he said was perfectly true and I could testify from what I say before my eyes.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami uses the disease as a vehicle to transform people’s lives
Then Maharaj started explaining to me some of the ways which he is helping people. He showed me letters and told me about one God sisters who was downtrodden. Her life was ruined. She became alcoholic, she stopped sadhana and all association of devotees but when she heard about BTS dying from cancer and read some of the things that he was saying. She wrote to him and said, “It’s changed my life.” She asked him questions and asked him for shelter. He gave her guidance by email and by telephone. She gave up alcohol, she moved right next to a temple, started chanting her rounds, following her vows and practicing Krsna consciousness, assisting SP’s mission. People who have been away from years were coming to BTS to take shelter. People with all kinds of difficulties and problems.. it was unbelievable. Yes, during those weeks Maharaj was a puppet of Prabhupada and instrument of Radharani’s love, there is no doubt. He extended himself to every one. His body was in such a painful condition, it was heart breaking to see that. One time he just tried to lift up the brief case and because cancer had eaten his bones his collar bone just cracked. He had a broken collar bone, an amputated leg, tumours all over his body, some of them so big, you could see them, tumours in his knee of his good leg. Tumours in his chest, tumours in his groins. He was becoming emaciated. It was so painful to see him in this situation. He was such an independent person who hated to have anyone to serve him. And he as in a condition that he couldn’t walk, he couldn’t stand, he couldn’t sit up without people helping lifting him. To go to the bathroom he had to be lifted and yet even despite such difficulties every Sunday he gave the Sunday feast lecture. And devotees from Gita nagari, from Washington d.c., from New York, from Detroit, from New Vrindavan, from Maryland, from New jersey. People would come from all over just to hear BTS Maharaj’s Sunday feast lectures and he would lead enthusiastic kirtans with Gopal Prabhu playing midrange and he would give dynamic lectures, empowered lectures, full of love, compassion. He was literally extending himself from everybody and anybody he was giving to his life to the vaishnavas expecting nothing in return. BT Maharaj out of him affection on me requested that I come everyday to help to always remember Vrindavan, Radha and Krsna and their beautiful pastimes. So everyday I came and he considered this sangam so sacred he would not allow anyone to be in this room with us. Even his personal care takers would have to leave. We would speak for 1-3 hours everyday.
Would all of you like to stand up to stretch for a minute? Because you have been sitting for many hours because of me. May be stand up for about 30 sec. and we will continue.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami – Absorption in Vrindavan Katha
Because this is the very special part of the story shall I continue?
Each day we will meet for approximately 1-3 hours in the solitude of one another’s association. I asked him what would you like to speak on? Or what would you like to discuss? He said what ever thing you would think is the most appropriate. But he specially wanted focus his mind to Vrindavan. So we began our discussion with the narration of Srila Madhavendra puri, his surrender to krsna and the wonderful way in which he departed from the world. In Caitanya Caritramrita it describes how the Madhavendra puri greatest of all the vaishnavas, the param Guru of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as he was leaving the world, again and again he recited the particular verse. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu explained that this is the crest jewel of all the verses as sandal wood or chandan increases its fragrance as we rubbed it, similarly realization of devotional mellows increase as we contemplate this verse as Kaustubhamani is the most precious of all jewels this verse is the crest jewel of mellow of prayers. It is explained by Kaviraj Goswami that there are only 3 people who could understand the inner meaning of this prayer in full, one is Srimati Radharani. the other is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Krsna with the Mahabhava of Srimati Radharani, third is Madhavendra Puri. That is Madhavendra puri’s exalted position. By his example he taught all of us the perfect perfection of leaving own body in the spirit of love in separation. SP explained in the purport this prayer that for the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya there is no higher experience, no greater goal then love in separation. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was in separation of Krsna, he was in the mood of Srimati Radharani. After Krsna left from Mathura at the time when Uddhava came back to give message, this was the spirit of Caitanya Mahaprabhu in ecstatic love. And the origin, the seed of that love in this material world is Madhavendra Puri. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu when he was explaining the glories of Madhavendra Puri, he was doing as if he had many many mouths and when he began to chant this particular prayer the last prayer of Madhavendra puri, he was so choked up in emotional he could only get couple syllables out and he was dancing and crying and hair standing at trembling and running. Dancing, singing, so much inspired by the power of this prayer. So after discussion a great length for several hours the nature of Madhavendra puri’s love.. Together we will reside this prayer and from that day on every meeting we had for almost 8 more weeks we begin on meeting and end on meetings by reciting this prayer over and over again. Would you like to reside this prayer?.. this is the mood of Srimati Radharani’s prayer in the mood of separation from krsna which is the ultimate experience and it was Madhavendra puri’s feelings of separation, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu feelings of separation, it was Prabhupada’s feelings of separation on Jaladuta and it is the perfect prayer to meditate upon when leaving this world. Usually Maharaj was lying in his bed and I was sitting by his side holding his hands throughout our discussion. We would recite the prayer and BT Maharaj although he was such a powerful super intelligent general, when we would have our talks together he was like an innocent child, like a beautiful sweet little cowherd boy. It was the most beautiful sweet experience to be with him, so humble so simple he was just with his open his eyes and very submissively repeat the prayer of Madhavendra puri. I would say one phrase and he would repeat and I would say one phrase and he would repeat so you may repeat
“Fold the palms please”
“Oh, my Lord. Oh, most merciful master. Oh, master of Mathura! When shall I see you again? Because of my not seeing you my agitated heart becomes unsteady. Oh, most beloved one. What shall I do now? Oh my Lord.”
The spiritual transformations of Bhakti Tirtha Swami
As he said, “Oh! my Lord”, his eyes would become just like an innocent child, trying to perfectly pronounce from the core of his heart. “Oh most merciful master”, when he would say that – he started getting choked up. “Oh master of Mathura”, – as he said this phrase Maharaj would start trembling, “When shall I see you again?” As he said this, tears profusely poured from his eyes and with the choked up voice he had the struggle to say that – his whole body trembling. “When shall I see you again?, Because of my not seeing you”, In this way his absorption to this verse just increased, “My agitated heart has become unsteady”. I was reciting it but he was living it. As I was saying I could see by symptoms of his voice, his eyes and his body that he had realized this verse, “Oh most beloved one what shall I do now?” The genuine emotions, feelings and realization he would chant this verse – was just innocent with such simplicity, such deep feeling that I felt so fortunate. It was as if I was sitting with Madhvendra Puri when he was speaking that verse. I certainly was sitting with his dear representative. He loved that sloka so much that Maharaj called it our theme song and everyday for the next 8 weeks whenever we come to end to our Vrindavan, Radha Krsna Govardhan, stories of Prabhupada, so many beautiful stories, mostly about Vrindavan, and was it so deep, how we discussed. Things were coming from both of our mouths which is beyond our own realization but when it time to end he would say, “Maharaj, lets us sing our theme song and he would go through all those emotional, spiritual transformations.” Every day at the beginning and ending of our talk, Maharaj with tears in his eyes would fold his palms and say, “I am your obedient” and I would reply, “I am your obedient and we both laughed, remembering Ghanashyam baba and Prabhupada’s mercy. And we departed till the next day.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami – An ocean of Gratitude and Mercy
Maharaj was such an ocean of gratitude. I could see every body and any body come that he would show such appreciation from him. He was so encouraging and how much he encouraged me and what ever he spoke was really from his heart. Almost everyday he would thank me for being with him. So many exchanges like this, that literally conquered my heart for ever. Exchanges such that I am about to share with you :- Maharaj would be so tender and kind and he would say, “Maharaj I am so grateful to you for being here with me. I know you are one of the most busiest persons in ISKCON. You are on demand all over the world. There are so many problems in New Vrindavan and other places and you have completely negated you entire schedule just to be with me.” He said, “It’s amazing! It’s amazing! that you are giving such kindness.”, and then he would start to cry and his voice would choked up. He said, “Maharaj, I really believe that SP had send you out of his causeless mercy to be with me at this time. In fact, I feel Prabhupada’s presence sitting right next to me in your association.” I didn’t deserve any of these words. I told him, “Maharaj, it’s not like that. It’s the greatest honor of my life to be with you. I am eternally indebted to you…of all the people in the world you selected this insignificant fallen God brother to be with you and have these beautiful exchanges with you. Maharaj, it is an honor and I can tell you that I know without the trace of doubt there nothing in the fourteen worlds to please SP any more than being here in your service.” When I say that Maharaj broke out crying and he smiled and said, “Amazing, amazing!” I asked, “What’s so amazing?” He said, “What you said, I know you really mean it.”
Bhakti Tirtha Swami enters into the Lord’s Pastimes
One day we were discussing the beautiful pastimes of Radha and Krsna and all of the sudden Maharaj went into ecstasy. He just cried out, “We are there, we are there, Maharaj, we are there!” and I said, “Maharaj, where are we?” He said, “We are there!” Now, please understand he has one leg, he is under all kinds of pain management because Melanoma cancer is sever pain. The hospice, doctors and the nurses are telling that this man is in such excruciating pain, you can’t even believe it. And he did not want many painkillers because he wanted to be on focused consciousness on Krishna. He was in a lot of pain. Anytime he wanted to move a little, two people had to move him. So difficult! And yet he became so ecstatic! He said, “We are there, we are there, Maharaj, we are there!” and I said, “Maharaj, where are we?” He said, “We are there! We are living Caitanya Caritamrta! We are not just talking Caitanya Caritamrta, by SP’s causeless mercy” – and he was speaking with great enthusiasm…. His body was weak but his voice now was strong and he said, “By Srila Prabhupada’s causeless mercy we have literally entered the pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.” What is Caitanya Caritamrta? CC is the pastimes of the Lord and the devotees discussing about the Lord with one another. CC is all about devotees developing the sweetest, most intimate loving relationships with one another, discussing Krishna together. By Srila Prabhupada’s mercy we are there, we have entered into the eternal pastimes of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. And then he just shook… nodded his head back and forth and tears started coming out of his eyes. And he smiled a gigantic effulgent smile. And again and again he said, “Amazing! Amazing! Wonderful! Wonderful!” and then he just looked at me just like a little cowherd boy, such innocent glance, absolutely no duplicity, just affection and love glazing from his eyes. He said, “Maharaj, I would not trade the position I am in today for anything else or anyone else in the entire world. This it the greatest benediction.” Then he said, “I am so grateful.” That was his transcendental state of Krishna Consciousness.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s special love for Lord Nrsimhadev
Lord Nrsimhadev’s appearance day was approaching. And Maharaj really wanted to leave his body that day. He thought he would be really inspired because he worshipped Lord Nrsimhadev. For years he had a cane with Lord Nrsimhadev carved in. His personal deities…he had beautiful deities of Radha Shyamsundar and Lord Nrsimhadev delivering Hiranyakashipu…. because he was a fearless sannyasi, so he told me on several occasions that, “Wouldn’t it be auspicious if I leave my body on Lord Nrsimhadev’s appearance day? Especially in front of the Deities? I said, “Maharaj, Krishna’s going to take you whenever Srila Prabhupada calls for you.” There was a festival at the temple. Many many devotees from all around came. He was getting in his car to give the lecture. And as they were carrying him, he was just smiling…(laughs). And they brought him in the temple and He was so gracious he always had any sannyasi guests to get sitting on chairs next to him. And he leaned over to me right in from of the deities of Radha Damodar and all the assembled devotees and Prabhupada’s vyasasana. And he smiled and said, “Wouldn’t it be glorious if I give up my life and Krishna takes me right now in front of the deities while we are in kirtan?” Then he started a kirtan. Nobody could believe that kirtan, he was so weak, he was so thin, and he looked like he could possibly pass out his body at any second. He just led this intense kirtan, so loud, so enthusiastic. And it just kept going on and on and on and on and on. And I was just sitting next to him and watching and all along I was thinking, “Maharaj is just determined to give his body in this kirtan.” He was just giving every ounce of energy and his life to chant the Hare Krishna mantra. And he was chanting, “Jay Jay Radhe, Jay Jay Shyam, Jay Jay Sri Vrindavan Dham” (Everybody repeats the kirtan while clapping) “Jay Jay Radhe, Jay Jay Shyam, Jay Jay Sri Vrindavan Dham”. And he chanted and chanted and chanted and chanted. And one could sees that he was a little disappointed. Then he ended the kirtan after a long time. It was impossible for some one in that condition to lead a kirtan like that. And then he gave a fantastic lecture on Lord Nrsimhadev. Very special. So many people were coming to see him.
The first vision of Tamal Krishna Goswami
One day Maharaj told me a story. He said that Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaj appeared to him in a dream. He said it wasn’t a dream it was a vision. In this vision Tamal Krishna Goswami told Bhakti Tirtha Swami that Prabhupada is calling for you. You must give up all your services in this world you are living in and you must come. Prabhupada is calling for you. He has another service for you in another place. And this was very special. Because during Prabhupada’s life, Tamal Krishna Maharaj was so much the person that was between Srila Prabhupada and Bhakti Tirtha Swami, especially in regard to those reports that he was sending. Tamal Krishna Maharaj told him, “Prabhupada is calling for you, you must come…now.” And then Tamal Krishna Maharaj in this dream began to cry. And Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj asked, “Why are you crying?” and with a choked voice Tamal Krishna Maharaj replied, “Because I know, when Prabhupada called for me in the exact some way, and I left to join him, I know how much pain it caused to my disciples, my friends and well wishers. And I know that when you respond to Prabhupada’s call, your friends, your disciples and your followers are going to suffer the same pain that mine went through and I am crying for your disciples. But you must come.” Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj told me that he felt that Tamal Krishna Maharaj was going to come again and he couldn’t leave until he came.
Entering into Nirjana Bhajan – Deeper Relish Of Radha Krishna Pastimes And Association With Intimate Loving Friends
Meanwhile, many people were coming to see Maharaj and he was giving everybody the chance to meet with him and in his empowered way he was just transforming, inspiring and melting the people’s hearts. And sometimes when senior Godbrothers would come, the only time they had to meet them was during our sessions of Krishna Katha. So many came. Trivikram M, Bhakti Marg Maharaj, Romapada Maharaj, Bhaktivijnan Goswami Maharaj, Bhakti Vaibhav Maharaj, Kirtananand Maharaj, Satsvarupa Goswami Maharaj, Mahamuni P, Bhagavan P – who had been away for so many years. So many people. That is just the sample. And whenever they would come, he would just extend and give himself completely to encourage then and inspire them and enlighten them. And one day he said to me, “Whenever there are other people in our kathas together, it’s a different mood. I said, while when it’s just the two of us, we are simple talking about Vrindavan and Radha and Krishna. But whenever your Godbrothers or God sisters come, you go into a preaching mode out of your compassion for them.” And he said, “I am at the very end of my life. How much can I extend myself? Don’t you think at the very end of my life I should totally absorb myself internally in Prabhupada and Radha and Krishna’s lilas? I said Maharaj, “What you could do is to meet these people at another time. And then you don’t have to enlighten them the way you do. They would be happy just having your pranams.” He said, “Let me think about it.” He said, “I want to absorb myself internally. Krishna’s calling me. Prabhupada is calling me for this.” The next Sunday lecture I was quite astounded by what he spoke. Hew announced to all the devotees all over the world … for whatever he was speaking was going all round the world thru internet… He spoke this was going to be his last lecture. He was entering – nirjana bhajan – which means secluded internal life of bhajan. He said I would not meet anyone anymore. No one would see me except my direct care takers. I will no longer take any phone calls; I will not look at or answer any more emails. He said, please know I have given my heart my life my soul to you but this is the calling that I have. And he did that. From that day on our Hari kathas together became deeper and deeper and deeper … more sweet. And our relationship became so much more intimate. I learned so many beautiful lessons – that yes, real love, the only real love in this world is when devotees with unconditional service attitude share Krishna with each other. There is nothing sweeter, nothing deeper, and nothing more satisfying to the heart than that.
kathayantaç ca mäà nityaà
tuñyanti ca ramanti ca
The thoughts of my devotees always dwell in me. They are surrendered to me. My devotees derive great satisfaction and bliss in enlightening and conversing about me. That’s what CC is all about. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his associates would discuss about Krishna for 5-7 days at a time. Prabhupada gave us a mission with so much wonderful service. He has given us sadhana, deity worship and all these other things. But we cannot neglect to develop deep relationships with one another… conversing about Krishna, speaking about Krishna. Our talks together were pure Vrindavan katha. But sometimes intertwined with all of it were remembrances of Srila Prabhupada. And sometime Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj would very intimately tell me different realization he’s had in his past throughout his life. It was very sweet. I can honestly tell you all that the most intimate, most loving, most pure relationship I ever had with any human being besides my relationship with Srila Prabhupada, was during those last 7 ½ weeks with Bhakti Tirtha Swami. The love, the affection, the respect, the gratitude, that grew between us… words cannot explain. But that’s what Prabhupada is giving us. When Srila Prabhupada tells us that he is giving us the association of devotees, this is what it really means. The gift that Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj bestowed upon me, I am eternally grateful to him for that. His causeless mercy upon this very fallen soul. So He entered his nirjana bhajan and totally cut himself off from the world. Day and night, discussing Krishna, hearing readings of Krishna or hearing tapes. One of his favorite tapes that he played for a couple of months were the CDs of the Vrindavan yatra. He really much appreciated that. He cut himself off except for his immediate caretakers except from one person. One of his oldest most intimate, dearest friends and godbrothers – Satsvarupa Das Goswami Maharaj. Because Satsvarupa Goswami Maharaj was the first devotee that Bhakti Tirtha Swami worked under as his secretary. And he never forgot that. And another thing is this that Satsvarupa Goswami Maharaj is also in a quite a physically ill condition from many years. So he and Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj, through visits and though telephones really bonded in sharing their realizations, their experiences, encouraging and inspiring each other and most of all to sharing their love for Srila Prabhupada and Krishna together. Yes, this is one of the most sacred and beautiful relationships I had seen. And Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj would often tell me in confidence, about his beautiful loving discussion with SDGM. They would speak on the phone, very often.
New york Rath Yatra & Lord Jagannath Visits HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami – Travelling for 5 Hours!
In New York City was ratha yatra. Devotees from all over America and all over the world were to come for the ratha yatra. And every year, one of the most sensational expiries of Jagannatha ratha yatra is Bhakti Tirtha Swami kirtan. Every year in front of Jagannath’s chariot he would have his drum and microphone and he would lead and lead dancing and hundreds of devotees would just be wild with happiness as Jagannatha would smile. This was the first year in so long than Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj could not come to Ratha Yatra. In fact I was supposed to go and come back. But just the day before the Ratha Yatra he had health crisis and doctors felt that he would probably leave his body within one to two days. So I stayed back. Maharaj could not go to Ratha Yatra and he didn’t leave his body either. How Krishna just kept him going with something extraordinary. I would tell you something more extraordinary. Are you still awake out there? (Devotees shout out loudly – Hari Bol !!!) This is the longest Sunday feast lecture in the history of Radha Gopinath Temple. (Everybody laughs) But it’s the largest crowd also. After Jagannath Ratha Yatra in New York city, the deities of Jagannath, Baladev & Subhadra appeared, I believe it was a dream to Their head pujari, and said, “We want to go to Gita Nagari to see Bhakti Tirtha Swami M.” So what could the pujari do? He put large large deities of Jagannath Baladev & Subhadra in the back of a little van and drove about 5 hours to Gita Nagari. We got a phone call that Baladev Subhadra & Jagannath want to see Bhakti Tirtha Swami. Because he did not come to them, they are coming to him. We will be there later today. And they arrived right on time. Right to the house where Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj was staying. They pulled up in the drive way and they opened the doors of the van to face out at the front door of the house. And all devotees from Gita Nagari came from all directions in their parking lot driveway, and Bhakti Tirtha Swami was lifted up from his bed, put on his wheel chair and carried outside the steps and brought right before Jagannath Baladev and Subhadra mayi. It was a beautiful scene; even though he was really at very advanced stages, he led in an incredibly beautiful kirtan and gave a talk. He remembered that time when he see Jagannath in Puri and Jagannath allowed him in. He was experiencing such affection for the mercy of Lord Jagannath in his life. It thrilled the hearts of all the vaishnavas. It reminded me of Lord Chaitanya and Haridas Thakur. HT could not go in to see Jagannath, so Jagannath would come everyday to see Haridas Thakur. But in those days Lord Chaitanya would just walked about 5-10 minutes to Siddha Bakula. But in this case Lord Jagannath drove about 5 hours in a van to see his devotee. Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj ki Jay !!!
Barsana (Devotees) visits HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami
One day I got a phone call from a very wonderful devotee whose name is Jyoti who called from New Jersey. She said, “Your brijbasi friends from Barsana are coming to America. Pandit Ji, Narsimha Baba, Madan Mohan, Giridharlal. They contacted me; they really want to meet you. I said, “Well I would really love to meet them but I have to stay with Bhakti Tirtha Swami. I don’t know what I can do? I cannot leave him now because he appears to be very close to his departure. I cannot leave him. About 3 days later I get a phone call from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which is about 45 minutes from Gita Nagari, the closed town to Gita Nagari. It was Pandit Ji from Barsana, the prominent disciples of Ramesh Baba from Man Mandir. Every year they go to America for about 3 months to do Bhagavat Kathas and kirtans to raise funds for restoring the holy places in Brajbhumi. This was according to the schedule. At that particular time they were doing Bhagavata katha in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which was right…of all places in America. So, they asked if I could come to meet with them? I said I’ll come. And then I asked Maharaj, because at that time he was in nirjana bhajan, he wasn’t meeting anyone except his immediate caretakers. I said, “Maharaj would you like to meet these brijbasis? They do beautiful brijbasi kirtans, I really think you’ll be really happy.” And he just became ecstatic; he said, “Yes will they come? Beg them please, Will they come? Will they come? I said I will ask them. He was so excited. So I called them and said, “One of my dearest friends is on the verge of dying. He would be so much happy if you came to do kirtan for him. They said, “Well, if it is your wish, we will come.” I said, “Please.” “But, you have to come to us first.” I said, “Yes.” So, I drove to Harrisburg and there was a kirtan and there was a katha and then there was prasad at somebody else’s house. And I said, let us go. So we went in my van and we drove together and discussed Krishna all the way. And then when we arrived and went into the room of Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj. According to the doctors, they felt that he would leave either that day or the next. And they were in the room and Maharaj was so thrilled and then he asked if they would chant. And Madan Mohan, brijbasi, began singing so sweetly, the glories of Srimati Radharani. And as soon as he started to chant, Maharaj went into hysterical ecstatic weeping. Gopal, you were there? have you ever seen him in that condition? He was wailing, tears were pouring from his eyes and he was literally Aahhhhhh…aahhhhhh. He was uncontrollably just wailing. Crying intensely, continuously for about half hour. As long as Madan Mohan was singing, he just was in ecstasy. It was so beautiful. Then Narsimha Baba sang. When Madan Mohan was singing, Narsimha Baba was playing flute and Giridharlal was playing dholak. Yes? It was so beautiful. Maharaj was just beside himself, tasting the sweetness of brajraas. (Yes, you were playing kartals (to Gopal). That was a beautiful moment. And Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj, they sang for about and hour? They sang for an hour and Maharaj was profusely thanking them, he was so grateful. And his realization was that by Srila Prabhupada’s mercy, although he decided to leave his body in Gita Nagari, Vrindavan had come, Barsana Dham had come to Gita Nagari, to shower him with Radharani’s mercy through the most pure hearted wonderful; brijbasis.
Following in footsteps of Vasudev Dutta
One day. He was very sick. It appeared he could leave that day very easily. It was a holy day. According to the Vaishnava calendar, it was the snana yatra and also the disappearance day of Mukunda Datta. I was alone in the room with Maharaj. I came to see him in the morning. I told him that Maharaj today is a very very auspicious day. He said, “Please tell me.” I said, “Today is the disappearance day of Mukunda Datta i.e. the younger brother of Vasudev Datta.” As soon as I said the name Vasudev Datta, Maharaj was uncontrollably was weeping, uncontrollably weeping. I was holding his hand. With his hand he took my head and pressed my head against his heart and kept it there pressing very hard against his heart. And he was in so much spiritual emotion, he only words he could say was Vasudev Datta, Vasudev Datta. He said, “Thank you, you reminded me of Vasudev Datta. From the first time I ever heard the story of Vasudev Datta, he became my hero, and he became my role model. I tried to model my life around his compassion.” It was Vasudev Datta, that approached Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and offered a pray. He said, “I have one exclusive desire that’s in, my heart for a very long time. I beg you to fulfill this desire. When I see the fallen souls in this universe suffering due to forgetfulness of you, my heart breaks, Please grant me this benediction – let all the karma, let all the sins of all living entities throughout the universe on my head , and let me suffer hellish conditions perpetually and give every one liberation. That is my appeal to you.” When Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu heard Vasudev Dutta’s prayer, he began to cry profusely, his limbs trembled. He could not even speak; Finally after great difficulty, he spoke to Vasudev dutta. He said, “This is not astonishing that you are saying these words because you are the incarnation of Prahlad Maharaj!” Because of Vasudev Data’s compassion and willingness to sacrifice his life for the living beings, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, “I am only Vasudev Dutta’s man. I am his property, I have sold my life to Vasudev Dutta, and anyone he wants to sell me to, I am sold because I am only his man.” When Sri CM glorified Vasudev Dutta, it was as if he had one thousand mouths. Because that is the Lord’s mission for coming to the world, that is to show compassion to all of his fallen children. Bhakti Tirtha Swami, his whole life he had such compassion and feeling for others. When he came in contact with Srila Prabhupada, he understood now I have the greatest thing, the greatest gift, the greatest benediction to dedicate my life to giving others. When he heard the story of Vasudev Dutta who was the pinnacle of compassion, he was like the role model fro Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj, That day, when I just mentioned the name of Vasudev Dutta, he began to cry. He pushed my head against his heart, repeatedly saying, “Vasudev Dutta! Vasudev Dutta! Vasudev Dutta! Thank you Maharaj, you have reminded me of Vasudev Dutta. Thank you.” After that experience, he called his devotees and told them to do kirtan because he felt he was going to leave his body that day. For about an hour or so devotees did kirtan. Beautiful, wonderful kirtans. And then he looked at the devotees and stopped the kirtan. And very humble, he said, “Today is an auspicious day, most auspicious day because it is connected to Vasudev Dutta. I really thought I would leave my body today, but Krishna has kept me here, so you could all go back to your services now!
The Mystical 2nd vision of HH Tamla Krishna Goswami
Something wonderful happened, just at about that time, some devotees came from Dallas. Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaj one time years ago, he was walking down Juhu beach and in the sand he found a very small golden deity of Krishna. And he had a murtiwalla polish him, and the murtiwalla told him He was solid gold. And then, they also said, I am sorry, he wasn’t pure gold. The murtiwalla said that this deity is at least 500 years old. And the Queen of Jaipur heard about him finding this and she made a Radharani deity of pure gold for Krishna. And this became like an istadeva for Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaj. He traveled all over the world carrying these little deities. And when Prabhupada called him back home, back to godhead, he kept the deities in the care of some of his devotees and those deities were in Dallas. Another mystical thing happened. The head pujari of Dallas temple and the caretaker of those deities, Padadhuli Devi, was one of Tamal Krishna Goswami’s loving disciples. She had a dream, where Tamal Krishna Goswami appeared to her and said, give the darshan of these deities to Bhakti Tirtha Swami. Now Dallas is about over 2000 miles away. They came all the way from Dallas to Gita Nagari to give Maharaj the darshan of the deities. And next to the deities was a beautiful picture of Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaj. Maharaj said he came into the room, all the devotees assembles in his little room and there was a darshan for the deities, And afterwards Maharaj said to me, he said, “I had said that I cannot leave till Tamal Krishna Maharaj comes to give me darshan. He has come today, so now I can go.”
Govardhan parikrama in Pennsylvania, USA
One day, Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj just very close to his departure, he wanted to take a walk and he told his caretakers, “Pick me up I want to walk.” He was sitting on a chair then. They said, “Guru Maharaj, you cannot walk.” He said but I want to try. They said, “Guru Maharaj you have only one leg and the other leg has tumors in the knees you can’t put pressure on it, you can’t walk.” Maharaj said, “But I want to walk, let me walk.” And they didn’t know what to do. And I happened to be at the room at that time. Now he had one particular wheelchair that didn’t have a back, that had high little seat and his legs hung down. And I said may be we can put him on that because that’s the closest thing to walking we can do. So they put him on that and Maharaj said, “I want to walk.” And I said Maharaj, “Would you like to do Govardhan parikrama?”, he said, “Yes1” So we will do Govardhan parikrama. Because one of his most faithful, beloved, dedicated disciples is Brajlila mataji and her incredible husband Ekavira. They were the main caretakers for him for nine continuous months. Now Ekavira Prabhu and Brajlila Prabhu, they have a beautiful Govardhan shila that they worship. And they kept that Govardhan shila in Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja’s room. I said, “We can bring the shila into the living room, set him on a table, make a nice decorated altar for him and then we will do parikrama around him, because on shila is equal to Govardhan hill. That’s what Krishna told Santana Goswami when he was very ill and he could not do full parikrama. Do for one shila and its full benefit of parikrama for Govardhan. So Maharaj was so happy, I said, “So should we do Maharaj, Govardhan parikrama?” and he was very internal that day, he was not speaking anything to anyone hardly. But he just looked at me very serious and very grave and he said yes. So we had Govardhan set up and Tulasi devi next to him. And then we brought him out on his little wheeler and soon everybody found out about it and soon there were about a dozen devotees assembled and we were just having beautiful kirtan, its all on video tape too, I think and we had beautiful kirtan again and again around and around and around … Sri Giriraj Maharaj ki jai !!! Maharaj was so happy; it was an exciting event having Govardhan parikrama in Pennsylvania USA.
Suffering as a benediction!
Some days after this, I got a phone call in the morning, it said Maharaj is giving darshan; he wants to meet all the devotees and give a talk. Now this was the first time in a couple weeks that he had any type of public assembly, because he was in his nirjana bhajan. Devotees gathered, his voice at that time was so faint, so weak, they had to put a microphone right to his mouth and even then it was very difficult to hear him. But he was explaining about the intense pain he was undergoing. He was explaining that because of that intense pain, it was not possible for him to even sleep at night. He went into much detail. Then he described what a great benediction it was. He said, “Because in my suffering, I could feel so much, what other people go through when they suffer. And the more I feel and understand other people suffering, the more I can help them and serve them and pray for them.” So again, even the most difficult suffering, he was seeing as a benediction from Krishna because it was a facility to deepen and increase his service to others.
“I am not leaving without my maha friend”
After that lecture in the morning, he was brought back into his room. His immediate caretakers were there, I was also there, and Maharaj looked at me, very grave. He said Maharaj you are coming with me. I am not leaving without you. At the end of his lecture to all the devotees, he concluded by saying the chariot is coming for me and will soon take me away. And he looked at me when he came back to the room where he was staying and said, “Maharaj you are coming with me, I am not leaving without you. There are two seats on that chariot, one for me and one for you. He said I am not leaving this world unless I can take my Maha friend with me. Said you are coming.” Then he turned to his caretakers and said, “We should immediately start calling his disciples and followers all around the world and tell them prepare, prepare, Radhanath Swami is leaving with Bhakti Tirtha Swami. You have to accept it and you have to adjust to it. Tell them all that Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj is not going to leave without his Maha friend.” And I said to Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj, “Maharaj, you can take me in your heart with you (laughs).” And he didn’t say anything after that. So the rest, time will reveal. But that was a special, very deeply special gesture of affection that he bestowed upon me.
Amazing! Wonderful transformations while chanting Hare Krishna Maha Mantra
One day, just a few days before his departure from this world, Maharaj was hardly able to speak. By that time the doctors said, “ the cancer had reached the core of his bones where pain killers can’t even reach it hardly.” He was in so much pain, his limbs were trembling, but he never cried due to pain. So we were having our Krishna katha session. On this day he was sitting on his chairs and I was sitting next to him holding his hand, and I was telling him about Vrindavan. We were discussing beautiful stories from Prabhupada’s books, sharing realizations, But he could hardly speak. But I could see he was so intent to hear every word, to absorb himself totally to whatever we spoke together. But on this day because of the pain, and because of so many other physical conditions, I could see he was really struggling, he was struggling to hear about Krishna. That was his determination. So I just started to chant the Mahamantra. I said Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. He just looked at me with the most innocent loving eyes, just eyes of love fore Krishna. There was such child-like devotion, We were chanting the mantra together – Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. I was just chanting trying to serve him, but he was tasting the nectar of the holy name. I could see he was savoring the sweet sound of the names. He was absolutely absorbed in the holy name. As we chanted for about a minute, tears pouring from his eyes, pouring from his eyes making his clothes wet as he was chanting – Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Then he picked up my hand with his hand and lifted it and kissed the back of my hand. First time anyone has ever done that to me in my life. After kissing the back of my hand he looked at me with such love of God in his eyes, and said, “Amazing ! Amazing!” Then he just took his head back and smiled, meanwhile his limbs were trembling in pain. There was this effulgent spiritual smile, just illuminating his face as he shook his head back and said, “Wonderful! This is wonderful! How wonderful!” And then he looked at me again with all sincerity and said, “Maharaj, it doesn’t get any better than this. Then he paused and continued, “But still it’s getting better everyday.” Who in the world could speak from their heart with such joy in that condition, only one who is truly tasting the nectar of the holy names – Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
Kind appreciation for Radha Gopinath Temple, Devotees and projects like Bhaktivedanta Hospital
Many times during our talks, he expressed to me his very deep loved and appreciation for all of you, the devotees of Sri Radha Gopinath temple. He has such deep respect and appreciation for the different projects, for the spirit of the devotees, and for the example that you are unitedly trying to share with the world. He told me many times, he was so proud of Radha Gopinath Temple and he was especially very proud, very grateful to the devotees at the Bhaktivedanta Hospital. He expressed that he considered it as the most important significant projects in all of ISKCON, and wanted me to encourage all or you, please carry on and take this service with all sincerity. He was showering his innermost hearts blessings on all of you.
A Gift for someone you love
Just two days before he departed from this world, he called one of his caretakers and asked them to bring one of his latest book – Beggar IV – Die before Dying,. They brought it and he said Maharaj I want to write a message in this book for you. I am not sure, but they may have been one of the last things that he had written. Can I read to you what he wrote? Hari Bol !!! I am ashamed to read it but only at Radha Gopinath Temple could I do such a thing.
“My dear brother – His Holiness Radhanath Swami,
You have been such a constant source of divine inspiration for me. I remain eternally indebted to you. May we constantly remain locked up in each others’ arms. I love you so much, and I am eager to see this love increase each year as we continue serving Srila Prabhupada’s mission.
Bhakti Tirtha Swami.”
His beautiful message shows the kindness that he manifested upon this most fallen soul.
The Final Lesson – Victory over Death
Soon after this, his vital signs were failing. It was inevitable that it was just a manner of hours that he would pass in the loving embrace of Srila Prabhupada. That night, according to his wish, I read to him the Gopi Geet from the 10th Canto of Srimad Bhagvatam. Between verses we would chant Maha mantra for some time. And then about 1’o clock in the morning I slept in a van just outside of his house for a couple of hours. I was also very very ill at that time. And early morning his caretakers came and said that he could leave at any moment. So I sat at his bedside and they contacted devotees from all over the area and within a couple hours, there were hundreds of devotees, from New York, from New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Detroit, Michigan, from all over Pennsylvania, from New Vrindavan, the whole area of United States. Krishna kept him living in that body for 8 hours after they made the announcement so anybody that wanted to come was present. It was the most glorious passing. Hundreds of devotees who all loved him more than they loved their own lives. From the core of their hearts they were chanting the holy names, to serve him and to express their affection. They kept a beautiful Govardhan shila on his head; they were holding it on the top of his head. Another Govardhan shila was in his hands. They had beautiful garland of Tulasi from the Pancha Tattva in Mayapur around his neck. There was another Tulasi manjari garland from Mayapur- Lord Nrsimhadev, around his neck. They sprinkled dust from braj upon his body, the mahaprasad of Radha Damodar, the worshipable deities if Gita Nagari were there. His own worshipable deities, Radha Shyamsundar that he traveled with were just at his bed side. They sprinkled in his mouth and sprayed on his body, water from the Ganga, water from Radha Kunda, water from Shyam Kunda, from river Jamuna, from thousand holy places. They had a beautiful photo of Srila Prabhupada just before him. In his hands were his scared japa beads. As the devotees chanted, in that most most wonderful beautiful heartfelt devotional atmosphere, after about 8 hours of such kirtan, HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj, Ghanashyam Prabhu, that loving servant of Srila Prabhupada passed into Srila Prabhupada’s eternal embrace. Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj achieved the eternal loving service of the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar. His passing was so graceful, so sweet, just he was gone.
Seperation from the one who was – “A Friend of everyone”
Sangeeta Prabhu, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, who is a trained nurse, when his heart stopped beating, she announced to the devotees that he has gone back to godhead. At that time hundreds of devotees could be heard wailing and screaming and crying in separation from him. One little child, just a small child was screaming, screaming uncontrollably and rolling on the ground. His father and other devotees were so much worried about him. Son, what’s wrong? And he was just besides him in grief. He said, “Maharaj was my best friend. Who would play with me now?” No one played with me like Maharaj did. Now I have no one to play with. This was Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj. He was the friend of everyone. To the children he was their favorite play mate, to the Godbrothers best friend, to his disciples the most loving guide. He can adopt to whatever situation to conquer people’s hearts and fill them with Krishna. After he passed, devotees were simply amazed. His body was radiating with peace, with love, with an unearthly tranquility. He just looked so absolutely satisfied. And no one had to do any thing to his body to make it like that. It just was. His intimate caretakers preformed Abhisheka, the Sannyasa mantras and samadhi mantras were painted upon his body. He was put on a palanquin where all the hundreds of devotees were waiting. There was an arti performed for him at the steps of his home. Then there was a torchlight procession through the forests of Gita Nagari to the Radha Damodar temple, where he was given arti. There was an arti for Prabhupada, then him and then Prabhupada’s garlands given to him, Arti to Radha Damodar and him and Radha Damodar’s prasad offered to his body. The prayers to the departed vaishnavas were sung. Hundreds of devotees prayerfully circumambulated him and offered their loving respects. It was one of the most beautiful spiritual experience. To see so many devotees, literally from all over the world, who loved him so dearly, so grateful, offering their respects to that spiritual warrior, HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj. His samadhi would be made in Mayapur besides Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaj, Sridhar Swami Maharaj and Gour Govinda Swami Maharaj. His Pushpa Samadhi would be at Gita Nagari. It is a great loss to the world.
The final instructions of that great spiritual warrior
Maharaj taught so much by his example. The yuga dharma is chanting of the holy names. One time during our katha, Maharaj said to me that I am afraid we have to end early because I haven’t finished my rounds. It was around 6’o clock at night. His caretakers told me sometimes due to the medication and the pain and the condition he was in, sometimes it would take him hours and hours, sometimes 5 – 6 hours to finish his rounds, sometimes more, because he had to chant his rounds so attentively. I said to Maharaj in your condition, you don’t have to be in anxiety about finishing you rounds. Prabhupada would understand. And Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj said something that shook my heart. He said, “Since I took my vow to Srila Prabhupada, I have never one day missed chanting minimum 20 rounds. And I would keep this up until the end of my life. As long as I have any capacity, I must finish my rounds.” He said, “I gave my word to Srila Prabhupada. It is my love for Srila Prabhupada to keep my word. He has given me so much, he has showered me with infinite mercy, the only way I can reciprocate is by pleasing him, and I could I please him if I do not keep my vow?” He said, “I have never missed a single round in my life and I must finish my rounds today.” That was his conviction. I was thinking of Raghunath Das Goswami, whose regulative principles were like the lines on the stone. Our sincerity is tested when we are in difficult situations, when things become very hard to do. And Krishna uses his most dear devotees to put them in those conditions to teach us. What is the path of perfection? To follow in the footsteps of the great souls. Bhakti Tirtha Maharaj, so much of the mission of his life was to make devotees happy. So that they could take shelter of the holy names, so that they could feel shelter in the association of devotees. And for this reason he so much emphasized and stressed the development of spiritual communities – exemplary spiritual communities with support systems that would aid and give shelter people in spite all difficulties and all situations. Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj told us that he was always the servant of vaishnavas in ISKCON. He very much stressed his disciples during those last days that in his absence they be loyal and faithful to ISKCON. He explained that even though he may went through so many difficulties and sometimes persecutions, he always remained loyal and faithful to ISKCON because he saw it was Prabhupada’s mission, it was Prabhupada’s offering to our Guru Parampara. Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj would tell us that I am always the servant of all the devotees and don’t think you can get rid of me so easy, you think that I am soon going to die that I am not going to serve you any more. He said, “It’s not like that.” He said, “When I go back to Godhead; my mission will be to make all arrangements to welcome all of you when you come. He said, “You can know wherever Prabhupada may take you I would always be praying for you and always be in your loving service. “Srila Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj ki… Jay! Srila Prabhupada ki… Jay! Gour Premanandi…. hari bol! I am sorry if I went slightly overtime. (laugh) Would you like to escape and take prasad or should we have kirtan? Actually, arti is going on so we can have … you all know how Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj loved enthusiastic chanting and dancing. In his honor let us have a very very enthusiastic devotional kirtan of the holy names. (Lecture ends and Kirtan begins)