Mayapur, India -- Disciples and well-wishers of the late and much-loved ISKCON guru Bhakti Tirtha Swami arranged a full-day “Vyasa Puja” celebration in honor of his birthday this March 4.
Kavicandra Swami, now ISKCON’s sole Governing Body Comissioner in West Africa with Bhakti-Tirtha Swami gone, began the day with a lecture honoring the late guru. He spoke about how B.T. Swami had made great efforts to establish rural self-sufficient communities, and about his unique ability to reach out to people from all walks of life – from kings and congressmen to the general public.
Disciples, friends and senior devotees followed with further glorification of B.T. Swami’s qualities and accomplishments, all agreeing that his personality could be summarized with one word: “compassion.” Many devotees recalled how concerned he was about interpersonal relationships, and how he wanted everyone to be respected and cared for. He was also a strong pillar for ISKCON and the GBC, devotees noted, where his absence is felt by many.
Chandramauli Swami, an old friend of B.T. Swami’s, also spoke, explaining the great risk Bhakti Tirtha had taken to preach in problematic locations such as Africa and Russia. The devotees gasped with disbelief as he related how when a plane was overbooked in Africa, instead of compensating everyone with a free ticket on another aircraft, the airline team would line up the prospective passengers, and make them run to get their seat.
On another occasion, Chandramauli recalled, when the small plane Bhakti Tirtha was flying with wouldn’t start, he had to get out and help push it along with the other passengers.
Senior B.T. Swami disciple Madhvacharya Dasa then related how his guru managed to inspire many professionals to give up their jobs and move to the Gita-Nagari farm community; and how he would visit them and take part in community activities just to inspire and reciprocate with the great sacrifice they had made.
Other devotees told endearing stories of how he had helped them in their personal lives. Many related how they would always feel safe, happy and Krishna conscious in his presence.
Then came one of Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s favorite activities – an uproarious kirtan, led by Mahavishnu Swami. The event came to a close with a large vegetarian feast.