Inspiring by advertisement is one thing; inspiring by own example is another. Being popular is one thing but being popular among civilized and learned people is another. This becomes even more difficult when the followers are spiritualists as such people are expected to be extra cautious while choosing a guru, or spiritual master.
A society which appreciates and strives to practice the highest values of human life is rare to be found in this age, and leaders who can selflessly and committedly guide such societies are even more rare. The values referred to here cannot be mundane or temporary, and the leaders teaching such values cannot be anything less than spotless and exemplary.
A most popular social or political leader today can be forgotten or condemned tomorrow once he loses his opulence and glamour. On the other hand, a true spiritual leader automatically commends lasting respect from his followers without asking for it. And because such honor is based on one’s spiritual merits, it remains intact even in his absence.
“When deceitfulness and hypocrisy have become the way of life for the majority of the population, when humility is considered weakness and simplicity is looked upon as illiteracy, when selfishness is hailed as smartness and compassion is laughed at as sentimentalism, meeting a person who is unquestionably honest, unpretentiously humble, spontaneously compassionate and spotlessly simple at heart, yet impressively sophisticated, fiercely dynamic, awfully uncompromising and extraordinarily skillful, is bound to be an absolute surprise.” (Jayapataka Swami – The “Gentle Giant” – Mayapur Voice)
Watching His Holiness Jayapataka Swami, the Guru of tens of thousands of varied ISKCON devotees worldwide, effortlessly gives us a distinct visual of the person described above. A discrete introduction to his astonishingly unique personality is found in the article titled Jayapataka Swami – The “Gentle Giant”, which is a highly recommended reading for everyone; especially those seeking perfection in human life. For the benefit of those who may not have read it, we will be incorporating some of its content here although we suggest you read the said article in full for a spiritually enriching experience.
Lovingly called as “Jay” by his affectionate parents and family members, Jayapataka Swami was born in an affluent American family in 1949. He renounced worldly comforts and dedicated his life to the Hare Krishna movement in 1968. An exceptionally handsome and strong built young man, then known as Gordon John Erdman, became Jayapataka das brahmachari after the first initiation. In 1970 he was awarded sannyas initiation and given the name Jayapataka Swami. His spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a perfect representative of Lord Krishna, ordered him to give up US citizenship and become an Indian national as he wanted him to preach in India and develop Sri Mayapur project while spreading the message of Lord Sri Chaitanya in other countries.
In order to fulfill the orders of Srila Prabhupada, and to realize the prophecy of Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who said that in every corner of the world and in every town and village on the Earth, His holy name will be spread, Jayapataka Swami took up the challenge of traveling extensively in all corners of the world, against all odds.
In an untiring preaching spree during last 50 year, Jayapataka Swami traversed around the globe back and forth for roughly 100+ times. In doing so, he flew more than a million nautical miles, crossed tens of thousands of miles by road, and walked and danced through hundreds of miles in major cities, towns and villages of the world. So intense was his itinerary that practically every new trip he had to change the traveling secretary, as no single person could cope with his ultra hectic travel schedule.
A staunch follower of his spiritual master, Srila Jayapataka Swami is an icon of unwavering determination. He is a proven upholder of Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhanta and a protector of ISKCON in many different ways. His contribution to the building and development of ISKCON is enormous. It would take few more pages to narrate all of it. He has written number of books on Vaishnava philosophy elucidating the teachings of the previous Vaishnava acharyas and narrating pastimes of Lord Chaitanya and His eternal associates.
His contribution to the world at large cannot be overstated either. Through Namahatta and Bhakti-vriksha programs he is steadily transforming the world. Through these programs, millions around the world have learnt a practical way of living happily in Krishna consciousness. Sri Navadvipa Mandal parikrama is another powerful and enlightening program that HH Jayapataka Maharaj has been coordinating since 1972 and engaging thousands of people in serving the holy dham every year. This is the very program Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur described as the activity which can save the whole world.
Srila Prabhupada took pleasure in calling his “Jaya pataka” his victory flag. This is very significant. A spiritual master of his towering caliber would not use such words without purpose. Jayapataka Swami has indeed lived up to Srila Prabhupada’s expectations and continues to be his victory flag even today. No surprise Srila Prabhupada entrusted to him ISKCON’s most ambitious, flagship project at Sri Mayapur when he said, “I have given you the kingdom of God. Now develop it”.
Besides many other achievements, today’s thriving Vaishnava community in and around ISKCON Sri Mayapur along with the most magnificent, emerging Temple of Vedic Planetarium offer the world a definite hint at what and who Jayapataka Swami is.
Exhibiting a distinct quality of maha bhagavata vaishnavas, His Holiness Jayapataka maharaj has shown that his life is meant for others’ benefit. He served when he was at the peak of his health and he serves when he has lost his health. By the example of Jayapataka maharaj, Lord Krishna has once again shown the world how His pure devotees can face extreme physical difficulties but still not give up serving the Lord and His mission. Real service to mankind is to help them get rid of samsara davanala, the blazing fire of material existence.
Lord Chaitanya emphasizes on the indispensability of a pure devotee’s role in attaining devotional service, In Chaitanya Charitamrta the Lord says: “Unless one is favored by a pure devotee, one cannot attain the platform of devotional service. (Cc Madhya 22.51). In the same chapter, bestowing one of the best blessings a conditioned soul can ever have, the Lord declares: ‘sādhu-saṅga’, ‘sādhu-saṅga’ — sarva-śāstre kaya lava-mātra sādhu-saṅge sarva-siddhi haya. Meaning, “the verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment’s association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success.” (Madhya 22.54) A lava is one eleventh of a second.
Since bhakti, or devotional service cannot be attained without the mercy of a pure devotee of Lord Krishna, and if by associating with such a devotee even for a moment one can attain all success, we can only imagine our great fortune and the rare opportunities available to us while being on the planet with a pure devotee like His Holiness Jayapataka Swami. Not to speak of moments, he is physically present among us for decades, and, despite severe health challenges, continues to make his association available through different mediums. This is by no means an ordinary opportunity for the people of this world.
Keeping this in mind, associating with an outstanding spiritual leader like Srila Jayapataka Swami, for whom fulfilling the orders of his spiritual master and serving Lord Krishna is life and soul, is something that we all aspire for. After all, the most wanted thing in life is happiness. But Bhagavad Gita (8.15) describers this wold as duḥkhālayam aśāśvatam– full of distress and temporariness. So real happiness does not belong to this world. What we experience here as happiness is in fact momentary absence of distress. This is why worldly people are forced to work hard in search of perpetual happiness. Associating with pure devotees of Lord Krishna gives us a taste of real happiness, which is spiritual in nature.
Last year Srila Jayaptaka Swami underwent simultaneous liver and kidney transplant surgery. The doctor who did the surgery expressed utter surprise on seeing Swamiji after the operation and exclaimed that his recovery was exceptional and beyond his expectation. This was purely Lord Krishna’s favour, not only to His pure devotee, Srila Jayapataka Swami, but also to his tens of thousands of disciples and well wishers who had been fervently praying to the all merciful Lord for their dear spiritual leader’s successful recovery. We continue to pray for his full recovery.
It is stated in Chaitanya Charitramrta (Antrya 7.11)-kṛṣṇa-śakti vinā nahe tāra pravartana- that unless empowered by Lord Krishna, one cannot propagate the sankirtana movement. This is a proof that Srila Jayapataka Swami is directly empowered by Lord Krishna to preach Krishna consciousness and inspire people from all walks of life. From cheery children to ailing elderly, from struggling students to accomplished intellectuals; be it ambitious entrepreneurs or flourishing fortune-makers, and be it selfless social workers or top-notch trendsetters; not to speak of devotees and other seekers of the absolute truth, even those lost cases, who think they have nothing left in life, he inspires them all.
But despite this phenomenal success story, Jayapataka Swami remains a humble servant of his spiritual master, the spiritual identity that he is most pleased and satisfied with. The quality of genuine humility found in his persona is truly astonishing and adds one more area wherein he effortlessly inspires.
An unceasing compassion for the countless conditioned souls and a burning desire to do more for them unequivocally define Srila Jayaptaka Swami’s outstanding Vaishnava character. A storehouse of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s unfathomable mercy and a rare jewel among vaishnava acharyas today, Srila Jayapataka Swami remains a powerful source of endless inspiration not only for us but for generations to come. Hare Krishna.