The Honor of HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami
BY: HARI DASA
Oct 5, USA (SUN) Recently, there has been many negative things being said about my Nama Guru and dearmost wellwisher- His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami. Maharaja, as most of you know, left his body rather recently after an intense and extremely painful fight with melanoma skin cancer.
The level of pain cannot be conceived by those who have not experienced cancer. Not only that, but the sheer inconvenience of not being able to move and to be cared for so intimately ( including being assisted to perfom bodily functions such as going to the bathroom and being bathed), for a travelling and dynamic preacher cannot be understood by those of us still able to walk around without the aid of any assistance. Under the circumstances, it is highly insensitive and offensive to make judgements in regards to someone who gave so much of himself to so many. I kindly beg the reader to read the evidences below and to use plain and simple logic to conclude that Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja was a selfless soul who harmed no one and always stayed loyal to Srila Prabhupada despite being abused and minimised himself.
Some are doubting Maharaja’s authenticity due to some supposed historical background involving events surrounding Kirtanananda Swami over 20 years ago. Some are being sceptical as to why Maharaja would sometimes wear non sanyassi clothing to certain preaching engagements. Some are saying that Maharaja had no business writing books on leadership and psychic phenomena.
I fail to realise why some wish to discredit Maharaja in such a way in light of his considerable achievements. Those that knew Maharaja well enough knew that he didn’t think small, but wanted to reach as many people as possible. Some sanyassi’s criticised Maharaja’s first publication “Spiritual Warrior 1- uncovering spiritual truths in psychic phenomena”.
Maharaja used this publication as a bridge preaching tool and it worked- 50+ of persons who read this book became his disciples and fully fledged members of Iskcon.
Maharaja also preached to heads of state, v.i.p’s, celebrities , sports stars etc… and to facilitate this he wore clothing that enhanced his appearance as a Guru/ consultant etc….under these circumstances, the traditional sanyassi cloth may have looked slightly understated due to the impression he had to make.
I should not have to explain why my Guru did the things he did or why he was the way he was- that was the way it was with him and he was successful.
The best possible explanation to give would be to provide evidence of just how successful Maharaja was and how appreciated he was in Iskcon. It would appear that some may hold the opinion that the only empowered leader in Iskcon is Srila Prabhupada. Of course he is the most empowered, but a true leader does not keep such empowerment for himself-he also empowers OTHERS. To minimise those that preach sincerely on behalf of Srila Prabhupada is to minimise our founder/Acarya himself. This is the parampara system- to follow and preach.
In my times of personal service to Maharaja, I saw that he was always giving himself to others, he made himself available to one and all from after the morning class until late at night. One disciple stated that Maharaja came back from Africa to America and after a long flight, he stayed up all night answering correspondence. The disciple said to Maharaja- “you have had a long flight and it is late-why not rest?” Maharaja replied “These people have spent so much time writing these letters and have faith that I can help them, some may be distressed-it is the least I can do that I respond as quickly as possible”
In the hope that the sincere recognise the harm in criticising advanced and empowered vaisnavas, I present a report from one of Maharajas tours, this report will show just how an active preacher Maharaja really was.
Also included are two sample appreciations from the BBT and the GBC, Iskcon’s guiding authorities. The samples and reports are quite long but worth reading.
European Tour: August – October 2003
Below are highlights of H.H. Bhakti-Tirtha Swami’s tour of Europe. He addressed the media almost daily on ways to minimize social degradation, increase authentic spirituality, business ethics, principle centered leadership and strategies for world peace. He had about one hundred interviews on radio, TV, newspapers and magazines. Many times he appeared on the most popular national TV stations and main newspapers. Several times full page interviews in the papers and even front-page coverage. Some of the TV programs aired all over CIS, i.e. population of 300 million people. He met in most cities he visited with leaders in business, education, religion, politics and social services. Maharaj was received as an African king, a scholar of international relationships, a vaishnava guru and an author of 15 books now being translated into 13 different languages. While doing all of these engagements, often five programs a day, he gave classes at the local temples, met with groups of his disciples, and gave private darshans to as many devotees in each area as he could. He gave almost 20 seminars and workshops to the devotee community and constantly led awesome kirtans. As usual he will use some of the media coverage for his own TV show in USA and some of the seminar material for his next book. In a few days he starts his next tour in Africa and later in Australia.
1) One week festival for Pandava Senas, he gave seminars for 200 students on:
a) “Choosing Love over Fear”
b) “Reflecting on the Agenda of the Demons”
1) TV interviews – a) BBC Interview on arrival
a) BBC coverage of Initiation ceremony
2) He taught a three-day workshop on the Island at Inis Rath for 60 students on “Transforming anger”
3) Meeting with gurukulis from all over Ireland.
1) Three day seminar at Soho temple for 150 students – “Transforming fear to love”
2) Course at Bhaktivedanta Manor – “Servant leadership”
3) Class in East London for young professionals – “The paranormal in connection with spirituality”
4) Workshop at six day Krsna camp retreat – “Creating and identifying miracles in our lives”
1) Class on “Mission and vision for the devotee community”
2) Public lecture on “Dreams” in connection with a drama on the same topic, 300 guests
3) Public book signing program featuring the Croatian editions of his books “Reflections on Sacred Teachings series”.
1) Krsna Janmastami public program, Srila Prabhupada’s appearance day celebration
2) Workshop at yearly one week summer camp and festival – “Conquering over anger” 350 students
3) 20th anniversary celebration for ISKCON in ex-Yugoslavia – class on his earlier visit to the former communist Yugoslavia 26 years ago
4) Interfaith conference in Lika – Croatia
5) Visit to future rural community in Lubena - Lecture on “Rural development”
6) Meeting with politicians
7) Met with Croatian former ambassador to India, UK and Italy Dr Drago Stambuk – Maharaj encouraged him to enter again into politics but as servant leader. Gave him Leadership book.
8) Assistant to the president was given Leadership book
9) Met with Head of the Seven Day of Adventist for the country and Head of Buddhism for the country
10) Met with president representative to religion
11) Met with delegation from Indian embassy
12) Interview for Woman magazine “Gloria”
13) TV interview for national TV
14) 14. Gave initiations
1) Yearly festival. Five days workshop on “Resolving conflicts in our lives”, 700 students in course.
1) 3 days Ratha-Yatra festival, gave several lectures
2) TV appearances:
a) Channel 5 – “Good Morning Zaporozye”
b) Channel II – “A New Day”
3) Lectures at National University of Zaporozye introduced by the president of the University; National Mining University
4) Interview for local paper “Evening Dnepropetrovsk”
5) Met with two vice Mayors of the city
6) Met with head of Trade Union for the country Ilya S. Briskin, accepted an offer to be a partner with him in his role as leader of the international Handicap Organization
7) Met with Igor G. Hinen, famous Soviet scientist who created the missile, which established military balance of power between USA and the Soviet Republic. Maharaj gave him copies of his Leadership books and they agreed to work together in creating a national conference for educators and scientist to focus on world peace and character development in leadership.
8) Met with businessman and sports head Kachurovsky Dmitrij. He was already reading Bhakti-Tirtha Swami’s books and Maharaj made himself available for answering his questions and consultation.
1) TV interviews
a) 1+1 channel – “Breakfast show” (biggest station in Ukraine)
b) New channel- “Wake up”
c) New channel – Zone of Night” (one hour program)
2) Newspaper and Magazine interviews:
a) “Keshatie” – The government newspaper
b) “Facts” – very popular paper
c) “Today” – biggest paper in Ukraine
d) “Partner” – business magazine
e) “Contracts” –business magazine
3) Press conference at Press center – Main TV stations and representatives from over 15 media houses came.
4) Lecture to the managers of “Aska Insurance company”
5) Visited Lavra Monastery – world famous where monks took life vows to live separately in small dark caves with no association but prayer
6) Gave seminar at temple on “Divya Mada”, i.e. divine madness
1) TV & Radio Interviws
a) Free lance TV – to send to various net works
b) “Asket” – short interview for news
c) “Public radio”
2) Lecture at Donbass University of Mining and Metallurgy – “The Leader of the future” (mining is the main profession in this state). he was introduced by the vice mayor of the city, professor Anatoly Novak who had been reading Leadership Vol.1, he spoke very highly of it and was delighted to met the author and Maharaj gave him Vol.2.
3) Three day seminar at the temple on “Strengthening the vaisnava communities”
4) Had special sauna bath at a business company where he later consulted several devotee businessmen and their associates.
1) Met with devotees in the city before leaving Ukraine.
1) “Perm underground”, TV interview on main channel
2) “Fourth Eye” – he was asked to give a one hour TV interview on advice for the leaders of the country before the elections
3) Radio interview
4) Press conference and meetings with officials of the city government. They all gave him gifts and he as usual gave them books and prasadam
5) Visited major orphanage to learn and discuss possibilities for International help
6) Meeting with a group of professors, accepting questions on vaishnavism and the role of religion in peace making
7) Lectures at University of Perm – Met with Rector and lectured to students studying politics, sociology and psychology on “Globalization: its problems and benefits”. Lecture on business ethics to over 200 guests
1) TV and local newspapers interview. Public lectures on “The need for authentic religion”.
1) Five days festival and seminar on “Increasing trust in devotees and in Krsna”
1) TV programs:
a) “Alone with all”
b) “News in Tatrastan”
c) “Kazan Times”
2) Newspaper and magazine interviews:
a) Internet Newspaper
b) “New Evening”
c) “Youth of Tatarstan”
d) “Truth of Lenins followers”
e) “Followers of Lenin in Tatarstan”
f) “Alphisha magazine
1) TV interview – Local news interview at arrival and at temple next morning after Srimad-Bhagavatam class.
1) TV Interviews:
a) Channel Pulse “News”
b) Channel 38 “We have a guest” – (one hour) host gave Maharaj gifts on the show.
2) Newspaper – “Seventh main city” – article and picture on front page of paper
3) Met with professor Buzknev – he over sees interfaith concerns for the government.
1) TV interviews and radio
a) 1st channel “Big wash” – very popular talk show airs all over CIS, i.e. 300 million people and interview with 8 other famous TV personalities recording for yearly TV award ceremony.
b) “Good morning on NTV” – an interview on what message he is sharing with leaders he is meeting in the country
c) “Teleinform” – 30 minutes TV interview on his achievements in Africa as a traditional ruler, author and guru
d) “Moscow Fm 91.2” – main radio and TV interview on politics
e) “Moscow speaks” – radio program, 30 minutes
2) “The world of news” – newspaper interview on nation building, full page.
3) Meeting with businessmen at “Russian club”.
1) TV interview – channel 33 “Novorosiysk“; two interviews, one at hotel and the other in studio.
2) Met with Director of the Hotel retreat facility, her board and local officials
3) Met with daughter of Mayor twice
4) Met with Mayor assistant
5) Initiated devotees
6) Five days seminar on “Gaining our Freedom from the False Ego”, 2000 students in his classes.
Dear disciples and servants of Srila Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaja, On the departure of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaja, we write to you with mixed sadness and joy--sadness because we miss him and because his presence cannot be replaced, joy because he was glorious both in his life and in his departure. He showed the qualities of a first-class devotee, always thinking of the welfare of others, thinking of how to bring them to the lotus feet of Krsna and nourish and support them in Krsna consciousness. With dedication, boldness, and expertise, he served as a pioneer in securing orders for full sets of Srila Prabhupada's books from libraries throughout America. And later, at great risk, he traveled throughout Eastern Europe during the Communist regime and placed Srila Prabhupada's books--books teaching the science of Krsna--in the libraries of officially godless states. He was dear to the heart of Srila Prabhupada, who expressed so much pleasure at regularly hearing the news of his accomplishments. We think of him with pride as a true son of Srila Prabhupada, a hero for the BBT, and an example of pure devotional service for people throughout the world, now and yet to come. He personally lived the teachings given in the books and taught others how to live them. Chanting and dancing with ecstatic abandon, strictly following the rules of devotional life, materially detached, attached to Krsna, worshiping the Lord with great devotion, he deepened and strengthened among devotees wherever he went the spirit of love for Krsna, and for one another. He was unafraid to innovate, to try new ways to bring others to Krsna consciousness, yet he always carefully preserved and delivered the essence of the message. He dedicated his whole life to Krsna, the Absolute Truth, and finally he defeated death by dying before death came. May you continue to be ever enlivened by his teachings, ever inspired by his example, and ever dedicated to his service. And may we humbly continue to serve together, following his glorious example.
Your servants, The BBT directors and trustees Bhima Dasa, Brahma Muhurta Dasa, Gopal Krishna Goswami, Jayadvaita Swami, Madhusevita Dasa, Satyanarayana Das,a Svavasa Dasa.
Also assembled for the annual meeting of the BBT Gopala Bhatta Dasa, Govinda Das,a Govinda Madhava Dasa, Hanuman Dasa, Janananda Dasa, Naresvara Dasa, Nimai Pandit Das,a Pranada Devi Dasi, Ranjit Dasa, Rupa-Sanatana Dasa, Sura Dasa, Tamraparni Dasa, Tattvavit Dasa.
GBC STATEMENT ON THE PASSING OF HH BHAKTI TIRTHA SWAMI
Today we reflect on Bhakti-tirtha Swami's many extraordinary accomplishments in the service of Srila Prabhupada [ISKCON's founder] and recall with deep gratitude the immeasurable ways, both great and small, that he inspired our Krishna consciousness, strengthened our communities, and touched our hearts.
During his 33 years of service to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, His Holiness Bhakti-tirtha Swami:
* Was the founder of the Institute for Applied Spiritual Technology which, molded by his hands, became a powerful instrument in spreading Krishna consciousness,
* Systematically developed bold and unconventional methods to spread Krishna consciousness throughout the world and thus reach those unapproachable by traditional means,
* As a dynamic member of the original BBT Library Party, introduced Srila Prabhupada's books to universities and libraries in the United States, Europe, and behind the "iron curtain" with deep conviction and enthusiasm, and often at great personal risk,
* Wrote two dozen books that explore the techniques and substance of Krishna consciousness, winning the acclaim of international experts for bringing his profound spiritual perspective into the fields of leadership and personal growth,
* Was a spiritual counselor to heads of state, and developed the art of winning their support to facilitate the spread of Krishna consciousness,
* Was honored with the position of High Chief of an African tribe, and thus demonstrated his expertise in connecting foreign cultures to Vaishnavism and making them fertile grounds for offering Krishna consciousness,
* Set a profound example of being strict with himself while lenient with others, through his unparalleled habits of personal austerity and service and compassion for others,
* Was chaste yet broadminded; chaste to Srila Prabhupada's ISKCON, while touching the hearts of those outside of ISKCON and spiritualists throughout the world,
* Had compassion for suffering souls, and tried to help them by offering seminars to honestly confront issues that plague us in the modern world such as domestic abuse, depression, and suicide,
* Provided regular guidance to hundreds of disciples in their spiritual life, and was a voice of insight, consultation and inspiration for many god-brothers and god-sisters,
* Was a voice for those that had no voice, and was a powerful example to all he met that no obstacle is this world is insurmountable if met with determination, enthusiasm, and full faith in the mercy of the Supreme Lord and His pure devotees,
* Had a powerful and positive influence on ISKCON's Governing Body Commission, because he knew the art of dealing with understanding and affection, thus proving that loving dealings are the basis of our society,
* Showed by his example how to develop intimate and caring relationships among devotees, and the importance of providing first and foremost for their necessities in devotional life,
* In the last stage of his life he was absorbed in hearing Krishna-katha, and he left this world surrounded by loving devotees and the transcendental sound vibration of the Holy Name.
We, the Governing Body Commissioners of ISKCON, express our profound bereavement at his passing. We miss him deeply as we remember and glorify his exemplary life of service to Srila Prabhupada. May his presence, wisdom and love be felt by all of us for many years to come.