Today was nice. I didn’t realise that the Vyasa puja celebration (appearance day/birthday) of His Holiness Bhakti Vikas swami was being celebrated at the Sydney temple at noon. My plan was to finish my morning service, attend the bhagavatam class, have a full breakfast 🙂 , finish my rounds and head home. As i had started my day at 2:30 AM, by the time i reach home at 2:30 PM, i would have covered 12 hrs already. But as i read the morning verse on the whiteboard, i noticed on the corner a message that there would be the observing of the Vyasa puja today at 1PM. Obviously, my plan changed – i would stay.
i love Vyasa pujas. Sitting with other devotees and hearing the glories of their chosen spiritual master, their personal realisations and engagement with him, often gets my throat choked. Many times, i have seen devotees cry and unable to speak. Having a spiritual master is the most wonderful thing that can happen in one’s life – infact it is a part of life’s perfection. A spiritual master is a representation of the Supreme Lord, who holds your hand and takes you closer to Lord Krishna, step by step, service by service, advice by advice. The relationship is completely spiritual and one that is eternal. When the student is sincere in his search for his relationship with the Lord, providence arranges for him to meet his spiritual master. As they say, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.
His Holiness Bhakti Vikas Swami is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) or the Hare Krishna movement. Originally from England, he became an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada in 1975. You can read more about him on his website here – http://www.bvks.com/about/his_holiness/biography/
His Holiness Bhakti Vikas Swami (image from http://www.bvks.com)
I remember seeing him for the first time in Mayapur (West Bengal, India), on 11 April 2010, when he was giving initiations along with His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami, HH Jayapataka Swami and HH Bhakti Vaibhava Swami. I had written an article about that visit to Mayapur then – here it is: article # 196. What stood out for me then was his fluency over the Bengali language. It had the local crowd enthralled! HH Bhakti Swami who was translating for him jokingly said to the crowd, “Swami has got an English body and a Bengali heart!” and that he himself was a Bengali speaking in English 🙂 The next day when i was exiting my pilgrimage trip to Yogapith (birthplace of lord Chaitanya), he was entering the same compound. Someone told me that he was out on a parikrama. He looked very serious and determined on that walk, i remember.
Anyway, at the temple today, few young devotees and few visitors had gathered in front of his photo. We had kirtan, offered bhoga, chanted the prayers and did pushpanjali (offering of flowers) also.
His only disciple here i think, His Grace Prem Sagar prabhu managed to put this all together. He had only just come to Australia in Feb 2017 but his humble nature, ready smile, hard work at the kitchen has earned him a lot of friendships. The feast that he put for all of us was one of the best i have ever had!! There must have been atleast 20 preparations!
Prem Sagar Prabhu – a disciple and a cook!
He was telling me with great enthusiasm how he came under the care of his spiritual master, HH Bhakti Vikas Swami, some 10-11 years ago:
“I was working in Mumbai and staying with other friends. I have a nature where I cannot sleep more than 4-5 hours at a stretch and then I need to take a break from my sleep! One such night, i had woken up and decided to watch T.V. Casually, I tuned into ATMA TV where there was a program from ISKCON. It was a lecture given my a caucasian but speaking in fluent Hindi!! I was surprised because I had never met an English speaking citizen speak an Indian language like that. It was Bhakti Vikas Swami delivering the talk on TV. I listened with great delight and at the end, they had mentioned in the credits that he was at ISKCON Juhu (Mumbai). So, I tried to visit him a few times but always missed him. Later I went to the Dubai and decided to go the ISKCON program there and to my surprise, he was there! After a long wait, I managed to have a darshan (personal audience) with him and we connected right away! He asked where I was from originally in India and I said Bengal and I was surprised once again when he now spoke in Bengali!!! Then later on I had the opportunity to serve him via cooking as I am a Chef by profession. Then in 2006, he initiated me. When I came to Australia, I was thinking how I can honour the Vyasa puja of my spiritual master especially when I have no other God family. But Ghanashyam Brahmacari (a temple resident) helped me much in getting it all together and with all your mercy, I feel it was a success!”
We think so – below is what he had made for his spiritual master and for us, the hungry lot!
Pasta salad, Pasta in tomato sauce, biriyani, Bengali Jackfruit curry, roasted plantain dishes, raita, bean dishes, daal, sweet rice, cabbage curry, potato and cauliflower subji and so many others which i don’t know!
What always comes out in a Vyasa Puja is the love of the disciples towards their spiritual master. It was no different today. As we heard him speak and the effort he put into the feast preparation, we could easily gather that his soul was satisfied. Thank you dear Prem Sagar prabhu!
Below is a short video of the offering of the flowers to the photo of HH Bhakti Vikas Swami.
Prem Sagar prabhu ki jaya! His holiness Bhakti Vikas Swami ki jaya! His Divine Grace Bhaktivedanta Swami ki kaya! ISKCON ki Jaya!