Glorification of HH Jayapataka Swami by HH Radhanatha Swami
Jayapataka Swami is a senior disciple of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
His Holiness Jayapataka Swami Maharaja
Vyasa Puja Mahamahatsava ki Jaya
By Radhanath Swami
His Holiness Jayapataka Swami
Jayapataka Swami is a senior disciple of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
He was born John Gordan Erdman on April 9, 1949 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA to John Hubert and Lorraine Erdman. He was born into opulent surroundings, his grand-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.
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. On the day of the most auspicious Radhashtami in 1970, in Calcutta, Srila Prabhupada personally performed the fire sacrifice and Jayapataka dasa got his sannyas initiation.
Jayapataka Swami started as GBC secretary in 1976 in East India which includes Bihar, Odisha and Bengal. From 1980 to 1999 he was the GBC for South-East USA, as well as South America. He is also the GBC for Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, the Far East and Assam.
He is also the Minister of Congregational Preaching and Minister of Congregational Development, and the Vice-chairman of the World Hindu Federation.
Presently he is one of the senior initiating spiritual masters of ISKCON, a member of the Governing Body Commission (GBC), and is a divisional trustee for the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT).
Taking devotees to the holy place
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
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
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
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.”
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.
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
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 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.
Greetings from Radhanath Swami
Dear HH Jayapataka Swami Maharaja,
Please accept my respectful obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I on this special and sacred day of your Vyasa Puja I wish to extend my sincerest gratitude to you. Your lifetime of devotional service, at times in most difficult situations is a tribute to your surrender and your love for Srila Prabhupada, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the vaisnava community. It is a joy to see how your wisdom and compassion are uplifting people to Krishna all over the world.
I feel your encouragement upon me is Srila Prabhupada’s priceless blessing.
Your are a great inspiration in my life.
With my sincerest gratitude and prayers for your good health,