In 1968, Gordon John Erdman was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in Montreal, Canada, and given the name Jayapataka dasa. The name Jayapataka is translated as “victory flag,” and has proved to be truly befitting of His Holiness Jayapataka Swami Maharaja, who has ceaselessly championed the cause of Srila Prabhupada and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu undeterred by any kind of challenges.
On Kamada Ekadasi, which falls on the 27th of March 2018, His Holiness Jayapataka Swami Maharaja’s 69th Vyasa Puja will be celebrated. Jayapataka Swami Maharaja is the longest-standing Sarasvata Gaudiya Vaishnava sannyasi currently serving on this planet, for Srila Prabhupada gave him sannyasa in 1970 when he was only 21 years old.
Jayapataka Swami had his first encounter with the devotees while he was attending university, after he had begun planning to go to India to search for a spiritual teacher. After meeting the devotees briefly, he then spent some time trying to again find the devotees, but did not succeed until he was in San Francisco. There, Jayananda Prabhu engaged him in making the cart for Lord Jagannatha’s Rathayatra and on Rathayatra day Jayapataka Swami, then Gordon John Erdman, joined ISKCON. He then traveled to Montreal to meet Srila Prabhupada, and took initiation from him there and immediately took on the post of temple president of the Montreal center.
Jayapataka Swami helped open temples in Toronto and Chicago before Srila Prabhupada sent him to India in 1970, where he served as the temple president of ISKCON Kolkata for a year and a half before Srila Prabhupada sent him to Mayapur and gave him sannyasa. Srila Prabhupada gave him and a few others the task of developing the Mayapur project, saying, “I have given you the kingdom of God. Now develop it and enjoy it.”
ISKCON Mayapur’s development and success stand testament to the dedication of Jayapataka Swami in serving Srila Prabhupada by making his vision for Sridhama Mayapur a reality. Srila Prabhupada once remarked in a letter to Jayapataka Swami: “You are the best man for this task of being responsible for our world headquarters at Mayapur, thank you very much for helping me in this way.” (Letter to Jayapataka – 22 October 1972, Vrindavan).
Jayapataka Swami has served Srila Prabhupada in innumerable ways, including book distribution; temple construction; agricultural development; establishing bhakti-vriksha and namahatta; large-scale pandal programs; establishing Food for Life programs; serving as chairman of the Bhaktivedanta Swami Charity Trust which Srila Prabhupada established to renovate Gaudiya Vaishnava temples and holy places; translating books; and serving as a GBC, Zonal Secretary, and ISKCON India Bureau member, among many other things. Jayapataka Swami travels continuously, always preaching the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, despite the serious health difficulties which would have put a stop to any ordinary person.
Despite his many other responsibilities and services, Jayapataka Swami remains a foundational support for the Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir and the ISKCON Mayapur community. His ongoing guidance, support, encouragement, and inspiration affect almost every aspect of ISKCON Mayapur, and despite his hectic travel schedule and serious health issues, he visits Mayapur often.
The life and service of Jayapataka Swami serve as an inspiration for any aspiring devotee of the Lord, for he shows through his example what it means to have true dedication to devotional service, to have unshakable determination to spread the sankirtana movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, to have genuine compassion for every living being, to have completely transcended the bodily consciousness, and to be firmly attached to the lotus of feet of Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to His Holiness Jayapataka Swami Maharaja!