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In Conversation With Shrila Bhakti Swarup Tirtha Maharaj

Ranjani Saigal

 Shrila Bhakti Swarup Tirtha Maharaj is an Acharya who hails from TAMIL NADU. He was raised in the ambience of religious orthodoxy, doctrinal purity and blemishless Vaishnava etiquette. From the early childhood, he was introduced to fundamental spiritual concepts and received a trained exposure to various theological expositions of contemporary schools of thoughts as he gradually grew up.

He is conversant with the philosophical nuances of great Vaishnava Acharyas like Shri Ramanuja, Shri Nimbarka, Shri Vishnuswami and Shri Madhva. He also became familiar with the concepts of monist philosophers like Shripad Shankaracharya, Ramkrishna, Vivekananda, Chinmayananda, Dr. Radhakrishnan and J. Krishnamurthy. On the material platform, Shrila Maharaja started his career in Bangalore and because of his enterprising personality later acquired executive positions in internationally reputed Organizations in export marketing. This entailed him to travel worldwide.
His expositions on the true purport of Bhagavat Gita and ability to present the Science of Self-Realization have always been received with admirable appreciation by audience wherever they were addressed throughout the globe.  In the year 1987, Shrila Maharaja happened to chance across the book ‘Bhagavat Gita As it is’ published by the world renowned Gaudiya Vaishnava Acharya Shrila A.C. Bhakthivedanta Swami Prabhupada, which brought in him a radical and instant transformation. His life changed forever. In the year 1990, Shrila Maharaja, a Naishthik Brahmachari, was granted the renounced order of life (Sannyasa) by his Spiritual Master, Shri B.S. Bhagavat Goswami Maharaja.

 Shrila Maharaja became so absorbed with the Gaudiya Vaishnava Philosophy that he spent eight months of continuous and rigorous self-imposed exile to thoroughly understand, deliberate and assimilate the Gaudiya Vaishnava teachings. Shrila Maharaja was invited to grace The World Parliament of Religions held in Cape Town, South Africa in 1999 with his presence.

Shrila Maharaj regularly preaches in Universities like Maryland University, George Washington University and University of Massachusetts in U.S.A as well as Cambridge University in U.K. He is periodically interviewed on MATV and Zee TV in UK as well as BBC, Asian Network in U.K.

Can you describe your journey to becoming a Sanyasi who has dedicated his life to preaching the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy?

 I was brought up in a spiritual Iyengar home and thus Vaishnavism has been a part of my life for a long time.  I had a career in marketing and worked in a multinational company for many years.  This gave me the opportunity to travel the world and learn many languages.  In the year 1987, I happened to chance across the book ‘Bhagavat Gita As it is’ published by the world renowned Gaudiya Vaishnava Acharya Shrila A.C. Bhakthivedanta Swami Prabhupada and that changed my life forever. I spent eight months immersed in the study of Vaishnavism. In 1990 I was granted the renounced order of life (Sannyasa) by my Spiritual Master, Shri B.S. Bhagavat Goswami Maharaja.

Could you describe the basic tenets of the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy?

The focus of Gaudiya Vaishnavism is the devotional worship (bhakti) of Radha and Krishna, as the supreme forms of God, the Absolute Truth. A core belief is that the chanting of the “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare will bring about salvation from the bondage and enable to attain transcendental loving service in Goloka Vrindavan, the Supreme spiritual abode. Eating Satvic food is considered very important.  We also feel it is essential to share these ideas with others so that they can also see the way to salvation.

How does this belief system differ from other Hindu traditions or other religious traditions?

Fundamental to our belief is the concept that God is NOT formless but rather has a human like form. The Vedic teachings interpreted by Shankaracharya propound the concept that God is formless. As religious traditions go we are probably closest to Christianity in our belief for Christians also believe that God created humans in His own image and likeness.

If Christianity is so similar to Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy why did  A.C  Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada believe in converting Christians?

Swami Prabhupada was very clear that if someone is a good Christian following all the commandments there is no need to convert. A true Christian will ultimately embrace Krishna Consciousness. Unfortunately commandments like “Thou Shalt Not Kill” are not followed by many Christians. Shrila Prabhupada offered the additional information to the Christian society that the Supreme Father that Jesus referred to often is Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Christians who accepted conversion was due to the philosophical conviction and not due to any other reasons.

How do you attest to the validity of your thought that God has a form?

According to Gita (Chapter 4 verse 34) the way to know the truth is to learn directly from an enlightened Guru. A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupadha’s tradition can be directly traced to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who is non-different from Krishna whereby there has been an unbroken succession in the line of Guru-Shishya parampara.

What is the mission of your and of others in your religious tradition?

Our goal is to awaken everyone and make them feel the joy that comes when one is awakened. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita clearly states that in the Kaliyuga Bhakti is the only means of salvation and to develop love of God. Chanting the name of the Lord through the Hare Krishna Mantra is a very simple way to attain this goal and we would like to spread this message.  Eating Satvic food or food in the mode of goodness is also very important.

You do not seem to value charity work and yet the Hare Krishna movement is famous for providing free food and feeding more hungry people than almost any other tradition. Could you tell us the reason for that?

We believe that sharing food is not charity but rather sharing of Prasad (food offered to God that becomes spiritualized) which is blessed by Lord Krishna. By giving this Prasad we are bringing Krishna to people through the food and they advance spiritually also.  Thus we consider giving such Prasad as an important part of our mission.

His Divine Grace Shrila Bakthi Swarup Tittha Maharaj is scheduled to visit Boston on the 2nd of May and stay up to the 9th of May. He will give discourses on Srimad Bhagavatham from 7.00 to 8.30 PM daily except on Saturday, May 3rd when it is from 10.00 – 11.30 AM. He also addresses the youth in a special session at the temple on May 3rd 1.00 – 2.30 PM.

Shrila Maharaj is the Founder Acharya of Gaudiya Vaishnava Association. The contact information is as follows:
Website: www.gva.in
Phone: 1-888-9GVA-USA (1-888-9482-872)

Thanks so much for your time.
Thank you.

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