BiographyLife in ISKCON  

Bhagavān das was born on July 5th 1947, in Washington D.C., USA. In 1969, he graduated from the University of Buffalo with a degree in psychology. Already a leader amongst his friends, he would always try to make them conscious of the existence of a superior reality. After reading Bhagavad-gītā and chanting "Hare Krishna" he immediately realized the great importance of Krishna consciousness. On his first visit to a Krishna temple, he saw His Divine Grace Śrīla Prabhupāda for the first time. In the days that followed, he participated in two university programs with the devotees, during which Śrīla Prabhupāda lectured and held kīrtana, playing mṛdaṅga. These first moments with Śrīla Prabhupāda were decisive ones in his life. Later on in the year, having graduated from the University of Buffalo he wrote to Śrīla Prabhupāda,
requesting initiation Prabhupāda wrote back, saying; "Yes, you come to New Vrindavan, and we will discuss it further."

So he went to New Vrindavan, and there received initiation in July, 1969. Śrīla Prabhupāda gave him the name "Bhagavān das" which means "the servant of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of
Godhead, who is full in all opulence’s." During this period, he was accepted by Wayne State University Medical School in Detroit. He asked Śrīla Prabhupāda his advice about entering medical school.
Prabhupāda replied; "Yes, you can go. We need people in all fields of life to help Krishna consciousness. You can let all of these people know about Krishna consciousness." Bhagavān das moved to Detroit in August 1969, not only to go to medical school, but also to start a temple in a city that had not yet heard of Krishna. He rented the upstairs flat of a small house and, with the help of his wife Krishna Bhamini dasi, turned it into a temple. They put up big posters all over the city advertising classes on bhakti-yoga, with free vegetarian feasts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, as well as on Sunday afternoons.

In a very short time Bhagavān das developed such a strong desire to expand and develop the movement that he decided to abandon his medical studies and devote himself to full-time preaching. He had wanted to become a doctor in order to specialize in psychiatry and help people more than just on the physical platform. But in the light of Krishna consciousness, he now fully understood that the real medicine is to help the soul, not just the temporary body or mind. So, although he had devoted four years to his university studies in order to be accepted into medical school, he came back to the temple one night and said, "I'm not going to continue this. Better we get somebody who's already a doctor, and dedicate ourselves completely to propagating Krishna consciousness." He then printed invitation cards, saying: "Chant Hare Krishna", and started distributing them extensively. He began street saṅkīrtana with distribution of Back to Godhead magazines.

Bhagavān das was always confident, never hesitating to preach Krishna consciousness. People joined and he trained them to be good devotees. Soon he had to rent the bottom half of the building to accommodate all the newcomers. Every week, from the very beginning, he would conscientiously send a full report of the accomplishments to Śrīla Prabhupāda in order to keep His Divine Grace informed of the progress, and to confirm with him all important decisions. Śrīla Prabhupāda personally phoned him in Detroit, just before the San Francisco Rathayatra, to invite him to come to San Francisco to discuss the creation of the formation of a Governing Body Commission for ISKCON, to manage the growing ISKCON movement. He became one of the twelve original members of the Governing Body Commission (GBC), appointed by Śrīla Prabhupāda as zonal secretaries to manage ISKCON and see to the proper training of all the devotees.

The Detroit temple soon moved to a larger and nicer building. In the months that followed, the number of devotees greatly increased. Bhagavān prabhu then sent men to open two new centers under his supervision, one in Cleveland and one in Chicago.

When Śrīla Prabhupāda visited Detroit in 1971, he was very pleased to see the progress and the number of new devotees that had been made. “Just see how their characters are being formed, how they are becoming purified, how their faces are becoming brighter. It is practical. So our request is, take full advantage of the center - you come here. It is being guided by one of my best disciples, Bhagavān das. So he and others will help you.” “I have come here for the first time,” Prabhupāda continued, “but before me, Bhagavān das, he has organized. And what is his credit? He has presented things as I told him. That’s all. This is wonderful. ...  This is called the paramparā system. Don’t concoct.” In this way Bhagavān dāsa was also able to please his spiritual master because he followed instructions cent percent, and preached the same. He never concocted anything himself or acted whimsically, but simply followed the pure example of Śrīla Prabhupāda.

In the summer of 1972, after preaching in Detroit for three years, Bhagavān was asked by Śrīla Prabhupāda to go to France to help organize the spreading of Krishna consciousness in Europe and to take responsibility for printing books in the European languages. In America he had done saṅkīrtana - chanting and distributing books - eight hours a day, regularly, in spite of all difficulties.

When he moved to France, he started by going out on traveling saṅkīrtana. He printed 20,000 copies of the pamphlet entitled “On Chanting Hare Krishna”, translated into French. At the same time, in order to begin Deity worship in France, he asked one devotee to carve a set of Jagannath Deities, which he installed. Then, in the summer of 1973, he secured a new temple in the best part of Paris. There the saṅkīrtana went on in full swing; up to 150 guests were coming to the Sunday feasts, and the number of devotees quickly increased to over one hundred. In the same year, Śrīla Prabhupāda came to Paris and installed beautiful Deities of Rādhā and Krishna, Śrī Śrī Radha-Parisishvara.

There followed an intensive period of book publishing, with Bhagavān prabhu forming a team of translators to work full time translating Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books into French. First came Easy Journey to Other Planets, then Entretien a Moscou; Conscience et Revolution, and finally, in 1975, what Śrīla Prabhupāda called “the most beautiful edition” of Bhagavad-gītā. They went on to translate Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Krishna Book, The Nectar of Instruction, Caitanya-Caritāmrta, and The Nectar Devotion.

During all this time, regular issues of Back to Godhead magazine in French appeared. Always desiring, as Śrīla Prabhupāda did, to see these books published in a first class way, Bhagavān Prabhu closely supervised the quality of the presentation as well as the translation. He thus became one of the six trustees of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, formed by Śrīla Prabhupāda to oversee the publication of his works throughout the world. Clinging closely to his spiritual master’s most cherished desires, he always regarded book publishing as his most important responsibility.

By the beginning of 1974 three parties in France were distributing daily one thousand books. In 1974, he sent men to open a temple in Rome. There he pushed forward the movement very strongly with saṅkīrtana and distribution of magazines. Quick progress was made and another temple was soon opened in Milano. Publication of Krishna conscious literature in Italian was also started at that time.

In 1975, desiring to fulfill Śrīla Pabhupada’s second most dear desire, to establish rural communities that would be living proof of the practical application of the Krishna conscious philosophy, Bhagavān Prabhu began the first ISKCON farm project in Europe, with the now celebrated Krishna and Balarāma Deities, installed by Śrīla Prabhupāda himself. Situated in central France the 210 acres of land with existing buildings offered ample opportunity for developing New Māyāpur, an ideal Krishna conscious village, based on the Vedic culture, and teachings of such great literatures as Bhagavad-gītā, and Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. In that same year, he became responsible for Holland, where, similarly, he developed both book production and distribution. In 1976 he opened a center in Barcelona, Spain, and in 1977, a center in Israel, where Hebrew translation and distribution of Krishna conscious literature has been going on strongly.

Just before his return to the spiritual world in November 1977, His Divine Grace Śrīla Prabhupāda, desiring to prepare his disciples for his departure, selected Bhagavān das and several other of his most capable disciples to continue his movement.

In August 1978, Bhagavān Prabhu took sannyāsa (renounced order of life) from Tamal Krishna Goswami on the Vyāsa-pūjā day of his beloved spiritual master, Śrīla Prabhupāda, in Vrindavana. He became known as Bhagavān Goswami Mahārāja. At that time his family went to reside to Dallas temple and resided under the care of Tamal Krishna Goswami. Also that year, new centers were established in Antwerp, Belgium and the following year in Athens, Greece, Madrid and Spain.

In 1980 Bhagavān Prabhu acquired an historical villa just outside of Florence, Italy, one of the biggest cultural centers of the Renaissance period. The villa, now called “Villa Vrindavana,” formerly belonged to Machiavelli, a famous political and social reformer.

In 1981 major temples and rural communities were established in Belgium and Spain, and numerous preaching centers and saṅkīrtana bases were opened in France and Italy, as well as the first temple in Portugal. Also Bhagavān Prabhu acquired the impressive Chateau d’Ermenonville, a famous historical castle near Paris. The thousands of tourists who regularly visit the chateau, which was once the home of the famous French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, are now able to take prasādam, see the beautiful Deities Rādhā Parisishvara and hear about Krishna. That year also saw the first Rathayātrā Festival in the zone, which took place in Viareggio, Italy, and was a great success. Thousands of people chanted, danced and took prasādam.  1982 saw Bhagavān Prabhu shouldering the biggest additional responsibility ever given to any ISKCON guru.  The GBC asked him to take complete charge of England, South Africa, Mauritius, Nairobi and Mombassa, as the initiating guru and GBC. In his true vaishnava style, Bhagavān Prabhu immediately and without hesitation began tackling the various problems that had come up. Following in the footsteps of Śrīla Pabhupada, he extensively traveled from temple to temple, working tirelessly day and night, giving many hours of personal association and wonderful lectures of profound realization to all the devotees. Thus he established a high standard of Krishna consciousness and solidly won the hearts of everyone. In France an elegant cultural center and restaurant was opened in a fashionable section of Paris, where Bhagavān Prabhu lectured many times to hundreds of people and where the Sunday feast was being held. Also, after many years of waiting, permission was finally granted to hold the first Ratha-yātrā festival in France. Thousands of Parisians happily danced and chanted, catching little bags of prasādam thrown from the Ratha cart by the devotees. Another significant event in 1982 was the installation of the first Rādhā Krishna Deities in Spain. Their Lordships Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda Candra now grace the alter at the New Vrajamandala farm.

In 1983, during Bhagavān dāsa’s birthday he installed Śrī Śrī Radha-Brajasundara at Villa Vrindavana Italy. In the same year, more new preaching centers were opened throughout Europe and several more books were translated into European languages, including French, Italian, Spanish and Dutch. In this way, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s preaching mission was greatly expanded by the grace of Radha and Krishna. In the 73 additions to his zone, he worked tirelessly within one year until it became very apparent that things were progressing in leaps and bounds. In England, new preaching centers opened, exciting new preaching programs were introduced, and all the devotees working under Bhagavān Prabhu there became very much inspired by his example to increase their devotional service.

In South Africa, the Rādhā Rādhānatha temple construction project progressed very steadily under his inspiration, and all the devotees became very much determined and more and more intense in their desires to co-operate together nicely under his expert guidance. In 1985 the opening of the temple attracted many prominent politicians. Bhagavān Prabhu foreseeing the future transition of South Africa aptly asked Bhakti Tirtha Swami, an African American devotee to come to South Africa to give a very powerful and well received lecture setting Krishna consciousness as the solution to eradicate racial discrimination in that country. The opening of the temple was a great success and established Krishna Consciousness in South Africa as a very powerful and attractive non-racial cultural movement.

Bhagavān das took his spiritual master’s instructions from the very beginning and kept them in the core of his heart, and from that time on he always endeavored to please Śrīla Prabhupāda by his activities of preaching, book distribution and continual expansion of ISKCON’s sphere of influence.  Bhagavān Prabhu always tried to remember the instructions of Śrīla Prabhupāda and transcendentally planning day and night how to fulfill them more and more extensively. As far as Bhagavān Prabhu was concerned he felt that Śrīla Prabhupāda had never left, but is always by his side, guiding him constantly in his thoughts, words and actions.

When Śrīla Prabhupāda was paying his last visit to the West in 1977, just a few months before he passed away, Bhagavān Prabhu came to see his spiritual master who was staying in Bhaktivedanta Manor, England. He presented Śrīla Prabhupāda with some newly printed books, an Italian Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, another volume of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam in French, and other books in Dutch. Bhagavān Prabhu reported to Śrīla Prabhupāda that the total book distribution in Europe had surpassed that of America. Prabhupāda said: “This is my life”. He began rubbing Bhagavān’s head tears fell from his eyes. “You have no problems” he said to Bhagavān. For Bhagavān there was no need for Srila Prabhupāda to say more; Prabhupāda’s order was already in his heart and soul. But now that order and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s love entered deeper into his heart. Because Bhagavān was successful in pleasing his spiritual master, he received that blessing - “you have no problems”.
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