Category Archives: Timeline

An all-rounder

An all-rounder

HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaja is an all-rounder. He encourages thousands of devotees in distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books. When he organizes a festival, or namahatta again it is with the utmost dedication and happiness. There could hardly be any place in the world that he has not traveled and hardly any service that he has not tried his hand at. Accepting any service that is given to him, as the order of guru, Krishna and sadhus, His Holiness does them all with love as an offering to his eternal spiritual master His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.

Taking devotees to the holy place

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Srila Prabhupada wanted Mayapur to be a center where devotees from all over the world could conglomerate and be strengthened spiritually to continue their preaching. In March 1974, the first Gour Pournima festival was held. Four hundred devotees from America, England, Europe, South America, Australia, India, and other parts of the world joined in the festival.

So, for the first time in 1974, HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaja led groups of devotees on parikrama (pilgrimage) to local holy places. This visit to Mayapur would constitute the first half of the devotees’ Indian pilgrimage; after ten days they were scheduled to go to Vrndavana.

The Navadvipa Mandala Parikrama has been continuing ever since with the number of devotees participating increasing each year in the thousands. During these parikramas, HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaja takes care of not only the spiritual earnestness of all the devotees but as a perfect host, he also sees to it that they are comfortably situated.

Serving in Mayapur

Serving in Mayapur

There were 5 other devotees with HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaja in Mayapur. As funds were short, HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaja began engaging in agriculture. He studied several books, learnt different methods and got the best crop. Local farmers were surprised and wanted to learn from him. This helped build a lasting relationship with the local people. Maharaja taught them modern techniques of agriculture and the farmers taught him Bengali. He began to give classes in Bengali where his few listeners would correct him in his language and soon he began to perfect his knowledge of the language. Jayapataka Maharaja had wanted to learn even in 1968 when he was in the West but it did not seem necessary there. His desire was fulfilled automatically when he was sent down to Bengal by Srila Prabhupada.

At Calcutta, Jayapataka Maharaja began to learn Bengali by going out to buy fruits and vegetables. Along with the other devotees, he conducted house programs, organized pandal programs, and personally went out on nagar sankirtan and book distribution though there was so much violence in the city.

An expert traveller

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Jayapataka Maharaja’s flight to India gives already the hint of his expertise in traveling with the most mileage and least expense possible.

He flew for 48 hours in what was the “cheapest flight in history” flying Montreal – London – Brussels – Bombay – Calcutta.

Service to BBT

An all-rounder

Jayaptataka Maharaja, (then Jayapataka dasa) began to render a number of services for ISKCON and Srila Prabhupada. The first most important was the service as the president of ISKCON Montreal. Srila Prabhupada wrote him in a letter, “For the present I think you cannot leave Montreal… Your service is much too valuable there.”

While in Montreal, His Holiness was engaged in the service of printing books and dispatching them to other ISKCON Centres around the world. In a letter dated 6th October 1968, Srila Prabhupada wrote him, “I am interested in starting the press, so if you can manage it will be very nice.” His service to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust continued in India and continues until today as he is one of the trustees of the BBT.

Later, on the instruction of Srila Prabhupada, HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaja went to Toronto to open a center there. Later he wrote to Srila Prabhupada enquiring about his service and Srila Prabhupada told him to go to India on a long visa as “we have a great deal of work to do there”.

 

HH Jayapataka Swami said:
“My disciples expect some special instructions from me. Srila Prabhupada had instructed me to distribute 10,000 big books and 100,000 small books every month. So I need a lot of help. I don’t know how much that is now with interest because that was told in the 1970s, so with interest, maybe that is much more now. The Mayapur Sankirtan parties help me by distributing books but anyone here can help me pay my debts to Srila Prabhupada.”

Initiation

Initiation

In just two months after visiting ISKCON, HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaja decided to commit himself to the principles of ISKCON. Jayananda prabhu shaved his head and everyone was surprised to see that within two months of coming in contact with ISKCON, he had shaved up and joined in. In 1968, Gordan John took first initiation in Montreal, Canada and was given the name Jayapataka dasa brahmachari and he was very soon awarded 2nd initiation in New York.

Re-awakening

Jayapataka Swami

As he was preparing to leave for India, he met the devotees of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, founder acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, doing kirtan and distributing BTGs at the park. When one devotee approached him to take a copy of the BTG, he was stunned to see the tilak on his face and experiencing some strange feelings he began to run. After running a few minutes, he stopped to contemplate on what he had seen and how he had been so much affected. It was the experience of seeing something after a long time, a re-awakening of something that had been dormant and hidden from his memory. He walked back to the park but by then the devotees were gone!

Searching for a spiritual teacher

Jayapataka Swami

When Jayapataka Maharaja was eleven years old, at the suggestion of his grandfather he cured himself of a skin disease by calling on the name of God. At 14, he graduated almost effortlessly in the very top of his class from St.John’s academy, a college preparatory school. He was offered full scholarships including tuition, books, fooding, lodging plus incidental expenses by several major universities around America. He accepted admission into Brown University. There, as a fresh enrollee, he was so much moved by a guest lecture on the life of Buddha that he lost all interest in his studies and began searching for a spiritual teacher. After some time of searching and austerity he concluded he would have to go to India to find his spiritual teacher.

Gour Dhan Jan

Jayapataka Swami

Jayapataka Swami was born John Gordan Erdman on April 9, 1949 (the Ekadasi after Ramanavami) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA to John Hubert and Lorraine Erdman. He was born into opulent surroundings, his father’s father being the founder of a large paint factory, which was a multi-million dollar concern at the time of his birth. Later HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaja was glad to see that his name – Gordan John (Gour Dhan Jan) – already suggested what Srila Prabhuapda confirmed, that he and two other devotees were formerly associates of Lord Caitanya and that they had taken their birth in the west to facilitate spreading Krishna consciousness around the world.