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The Light (The Wonderful Life and Pastimes of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami in West Africa)

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This book contains direct, eye witness accounts of the devotional activities and achievements of an unforgettable and indefatigable spiritual warrior: His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami (Krishnapada) in West Africa, as seen or directly experienced by some of his admirers, well wishers and over thirty of his numerous disciples in West Africa. This book is capable of transforming lives positively, especially of those who will aspire to take a cue and adopt the lifestyle of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami (Krishanapada) or to follow his teachings

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Item Code: AZD115
Author: Utpala Dasa
Publisher: Golden Age Media
Language: English
Edition: 2020
ISBN: 9789389050486
Pages: 182
Cover: PAPERBACK
Other Details 9 x 6 inches
Weight 250 gm
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Book Description
About the Book


This book contains direct, eye witness accounts of the devotional activities and achievements of an unforgettable and indefatigable spiritual warrior: His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami (Krishnapada) in West Africa, as seen or directly experienced by some of his admirers, well wishers and over thirty of his numerous disciples in West Africa. This book is capable of transforming lives positively, especially of those who will aspire to take a cue and adopt the lifestyle of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami (Krishanapada) or to follow his teachings


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About the Author


Utpala Das was born Uche Agbafor in Eha Amufu, Enugu state to Mr & Mrs Agbafor Agwu of Amagu Anike, Enuagu Onicha, Onicha L.G.A. of Ebonyi State, Nigeria. He studied French language and civilization at the University of Paris, Sorbonne and also holds a diploma in Criminal Justice (International detective training School, Washington DC- distance learning, a diploma in Mass Communication and a Masters of Philosophy Ed degree from Montclair state University New Jersey, USA.


He became a celibate monk in the Hare Krishna movement in October 1988 and was trained in vaisnavism (the art, philosophy and science of devotion to God). In February 1989 he was baptized Utpala Das by His Holiness, Bhakti Tirtha Swami Krishnapada in Warri, Nigeria and on the 22nd of April 1991 he was ordained a twice born priest (brahmana) by His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Tirtha Swami Krishnapada in Benin City, Nigeria.


Utpala Das became Monastery President on the 2nd of January 1992 and has headed Hare Krishna monasteries in different parts of Nigeria, including Calabar, Uyo, Jos, Kaduna and Enugu. With his guru's permission he disengaged himself from active temple management in 2004. Since then, he has served many times as secretary to the organizing committees of the West African Ratha Yatra festival. He was one time Secretary, treasurer/ financial Secretary of Port Harcourt temple 2007- 2014; Secretary, National Council for ISKCON Nigeria 2007-20014; Ambassador, BBT Africa for Nigeria. Treasurer/financial Secretary, Public Relations Director, Director of festivals, head of fund raising Dept etc- Benin Temple, 2015 to date. He is the current Director of communication, ISKCON West African Regional Council.


Some time a resource person for the department of religious studies (Asian religions) and gave lectures on aspects of Hindu philosophy, arts and culture at the University of Jos, Nigeria. He has written four books, although only one has been published so far (by Snap press Enugu, Nigeria).


FRONT COVER IMAGE OF HH BHAKTI TIRTHA SWAMI


I decided to use this photo for the front cover for some important reasons: Number one is the controversy surrounding its origin. For instance, it once appeared on the page of Back to Godhead magazine and there it was said that the origin of the picture was unknown. Secondly, the photo is sensational and like DaVinci's Mona Lisa a permanent, eternal smile and permanent youthfulness of Gurudeva. Above all, he seems to have the backing of Srila Prabhupada (who once told him Your life is successful') in whatever he did. The picture, taken shortly after he became a guru and his first appearance in Africa after he became a guru, says volumes about the beginning of Gurudeva's mission in Africa. This sensational picture was taken in Lagos, Nigeria in 1986. The garland was hastily made by one Bhaktin from the remnant of flowers after Srila Prabhupada’s garland was made.


Foreword


The life of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami continues to inspire people all over the world. While, he was physically present on the planet, Maharaja found ways to transform peoples' lives, hearts, minds and souls by honoring his spiritual teacher, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedhanta Srila Prabhupada. The Light: The wonderful life and pastimes of His Holiness, Bhakti Tirtha Swami (Krishnapada) in West Africa the potency of the Gaudiya Vaishnava movement through personal memories, oral histories, and narratives based on written or audio recorded interviews. The descriptive accounts delve into Swami Krishnapada's rich pastimes as well as his vision and mood. When, Bhakti Tirtha Swami travelled around the planet, disciples and well-wishers eagerly waited to receive his newsletters either in the mail or later online. As a teenager, I remember witnessing the excitement in my household upon the receipt of newsletters about the journeys of Maharaja all over the world. I always wondered what went on behind the scenes of the official tour reports. Thankfully, Utpala Dasa has uniquely positioned himself as an insider to reveal the hidden treasures of Gurudeva’s extraordinary adventures in West Africa. This book, is the beginning of accessing unavailable segments of the newsletter – the type of accounts that only people who were with him on his visits and or through personal association were privy to. These nectarean pastimes are eloquently, excitedly, and at times humorously shared on each page of this work. The Bhakti yoga movement, represents a powerful global cultural interrogation of the West by the East. Readers can observe, how the founder Acarya, Srila Prabhupada, understood the historical legacy and repercussions of years of British colonial rule in India. He realized that many Indians would follow the Euro-centric indoctrination of the West, due to colonization, which parallels similar impulses of Africans on the continent and people in the Americas as well as in other countries around the world. Understanding that true liberation is of a higher nature – at the level of an emancipation of the soul – he knew that the only way to help transform the world was to help spiritually dislodge the material propaganda localized in the West by cultivating Western devotees, who would spread Vaishnavism. The nature of material knowledge systems is such that it misinforms. For example, the United States and Great Britain along with other former European empires create narratives about an idea of progress using terms such as, “modern,” civilized,” and “advanced to describe a Western lifestyle. In this kind of narrative non-Western and mostly non-European countries and lifestyles are perceived as “not modern” "uncivilized,” and “backwards.” Within such a framework, Europe and the United States is projected and regarded as superior and the formerly colonized have internalized Western versions of reality based on Western material attitudes and desire to replicate the West (Said, Membe, Fanon, etc). Historian Carter G. Woodson notes in his book, the Miseducation of the Negro, that it is ludicrous for African Americans to seek liberation by following the material educational system of the oppressor. In the same way, Srila Prabhupada believes that former colonized or oppressed subjects are miseducated about the true nature of the material and the spiritual worlds respectively. Thus, he understood the potency of cultivating Western devotees, who would reorient the material mindset Western subjects and later return to India and to other parts of the world to spread Krishna Consciousness.


For me as an African American Africana studies scholar, Bhakti Tirtha Swami's life is a fascinating case study in Pan-Africanism and Globalism at its best. Maharaja took advantage of being in a Black body as a descendent of Africa born in the United States to take Krishna Consciousness to the continent, and other areas of the planet. He understood the importance of using every means to connect people to Mother and Father God. Wherever he ventured, he inspired thousands to appreciate God and develop a genuine connection at times taking people from a superficial bodily connection to a deep profound spiritual union with God. Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s training at the prestigious Princeton University as a psychologist, along with his knowledge of different Abrahamic religions, as well as deep knowledge of esoteric yoga paradigms placed him at a vantage point to capture hearts and sway souls towards spiritual, as distinct from religious, self-elevation and a higher consciousness. The book will have those who remember Bhakti Tirtha Swami taking a trip down memory lane with him – by remembering his mannerisms, sense of humor, cleverness, brilliance, and captivating way to allow Krishna to take over the audience, and or at times permit loving chastisement. He indeed was/is a vehicle of love to share with the masses and help people build a closer relationship to God.


Introduction


I decided to write this book because of the necessity, even though I lack the qualification and didn't have more intimate association of our Gurudeva than others. Although I am a fool, my only qualification, I think, is my desire to compile this book. I know that without the blessings of the Vaisnavas nothing can be achieved in devotional life, hence I sincerely beg for their blessings.


Many of my God-brothers and God-sisters desire that our guru's memory be kept alive for us, in us and around us, hence the urge to write this book on one of the greatest spiritual personalities/leaders ever to tread the African soil for posterity. I strongly believe that the reminiscences of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami's wonderful life, teachings, qualities and principles, will inspire and encourage his disciples as well as other devotees to appreciate him and each other the more; to relate better with one another; to treat each other nicely with love and respect as His Holiness had not only taught but exemplified. It is hoped that this book will inspire everyone to work more cooperatively for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada and Sri Krishna.


Although I am not qualified to write about an exalted figure like His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami, when I reflected on his divine qualities and activities, his achievements and the degree to which he affected and influenced so many people's lives positively in Africa, and the possibility of losing his life story if not documented, I shuddered at the thought of losing a compendium archive of spiritually elevating information, I was left with no option but to embark on this project.


Unfortunately, much of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami's activities were not recorded and a sizable percentage of the documented ones have been lost due to our lackadaisical attitude towards record keeping, with me to share the major blame for failing to keep account of his activities here while he was with us, erroneously thinking that he would physically be with us forever, none of us ever thought that we would one day be without him, therefore there was no need to think of such a thing as keeping minute record of his activities for future use, unfortunately! I was personally carried away by his charisma.


Some of the very early experiences are not included due to the inability to contact a good number of the pioneer devotees.


Nevertheless, what is included in this book gives a good account of the life and devotional activities of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami in West Africa and will surely be a source of inspiration and succor for many people. Aside from the Hare Krishna devotees, everyone stands to gain from this book. Those who are presently being guided by His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s books, will be inspired to read more of his books and to follow his teachings more seriously. Everyone who reads this book will be inspired to live a holy life. Even the atheists and the agnostics will have a rethink after reading this book.


A good percentage of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami's work as a spiritual master was done in Africa. As a result, Africans benefited tremendously from him. As one of the beneficiaries of his mercy and teachings, I write this also as a token of appreciation, an expression of gratitude.


In my humble opinion, His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami made remarkable achievements as a spiritual leader here in Africa than elsewhere, having spent the larger part of his life as a spiritual master here.


He traveled widely and extensively from the coasts to the hinterlands. From the largest cities to the most remote villages in the Gambia, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, etc. via either smooth broad highways, bumpy and potholed roads or narrow twisting and bushy village paths, mixing and identifying with the simplest of village dwellers as well as the most famous, the most sophisticated and the most powerful people on the continent, including former President of South Africa, Dr. Nelson Mandela, as well as personalities like President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, former president Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, former president Mohmoh of Liberia, High Court Judges, such as Justice Sivanandan (his disciple) who wore tilak on his forehead to Court. The judge later resigned his post in Zambia to serve in ISKCON temple.


Chief Justice Atse Sambo of Nigeria was one his followers as will be seen later. High chiefs and kings, etc. to most of whom he was either a spiritual master, guide, consultant or a friend.


**Contents and Sample Pages**










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