Once when I was visiting HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj, due to polio-related muscle weakness and heart trouble I was mostly bedridden and could not climb stairs to go to the bathroom. So Swamiji said for me to stay on the couch in the basement, where there was a toilet by the laundry. After midnight the first night, someone came quietly down the stairs and tip-toed to the laundry room with an armload of clothes. I was amazed to see that it was Bhakti Tirtha Swami!
I said, Maharaja, what are you doing? Why are you doing laundry at this hour? He replied “The laundry needs to be done, but the Devotees are tired. I wanted to let them sleep. I have rounds to chant anyway”. He stayed and talked with me a while and then went to chant some rounds. During the time that I was living in the basement, Swami would send Maha Prasadam down to me, and come to visit me late at night, while doing laundry and/or chanting his rounds. Eventually he had the Devotees make popcorn and he and about 20 Devotees would come to the basement in the evening to visit with me and listen to Swami and I discuss Vaishnavism in the Bible and ancient Africa.
As a Child Evangelist, Swami was VERY knowledgeable about the Bible, and he actually still loved Jesus very much, and meditated on Jesus taking the sins of His Devotees, and the whole World. We used to discuss Vasudeva Datta, the Catholic Saints who were Intercessors or ‘Victim Souls’ (Stigmatists) and the Pure Land Buddhist Bodhisattvas. He was very much in that mood of taking the vi-karma or sins of others to guarantee their salvation.
As I was (and am) a practicing Catholic, as well as an expert on Afro-Egyptian Monotheism, Hermeticism and the history of the Western Esoteric Tradition, we had a lot to discuss, because he was also extremely well studied as a Charismatic Protestant Evangelical, in Afrocentric Studies, and in the Occult. He gave me his books to read and critique. I was amazed that he was actually open to changing his opinion on various things, and after I gave him some references to read, to help him clear-up some of his misconceptions, he readily received the new information and immediately began sharing it with his disciples. This deeply impressed me, because it was clear that he did not require his disciples to worship him as an all-knowing omniscient jnani, an infallible being who was incapable of learning anything new. His mystical power was not in the mastery of some elite secret science or occult lore. It was in his LOVE, in his willingness to ‘take the sins’ of his disciples!
Some of our nightly discussions could be rather heated. One night with the room packed full of Devotees, Swamiji all of a sudden started hurling astras of Ahmadiyya Muslim blasphemy at me, regarding the so-called ‘Tomb of Jesus’ in Kashmir. He also repeated claims from the New Age stories about Jesus in India and Tibet, and about Jesus being married to Mary of Magdala. Like a prosecution lawyer he fired these astras at me fast and hard, not letting me answer/repel even one of them, before the next one was piercing my heart. Then, with tears running down my face, I apologized for my evident weakness, in that I was not able to at once leave my body in protest! At that Swamiji changed his demeanor, and became as sweet and comforting as a mother! He said that he was just testing me and he apologized, and never challenged me like that again!
Sometimes our evening basement gatherings would last for several hours, with the Devotees also asking us both questions. Because I had my cases full of research references, and copies of Sacred Art evidence with me, sometimes we would pass these Murtis around, and Swamiji especially liked my pictures of Lord Nara Hari at ancient African sites, and on the protective amulets of Jewish soldiers. Eventually Bhakti Tirtha Swami told me that he understood that Yahu Tzabaoth (the Supreme Lord of Time), the Deliverer-God of the Biblical Exodus, was Sri Krishna-Vishnu in His wrathful Bhagavad-gita Theophany as Nara-Hari Kalah-Bairav. Swami then had the Devotees print-up copies of some of my research papers, to distribute among themselves. He also showed his great mercy to me by recommending me to HH Radhanath Swami for sannyas. I expressed to him that I wanted to ‘take’ sannyas from HH Radhanath Swami, and somehow he made the recommendation for me.
Another time when I was visiting, Swamiji kindly arranged for me to stay with his disciple Ekendra Prabhu. I always found HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s disciples to be as sweet, humble and playful as he was!
He was very playful, like a cowherd boy. One time a popular movie was showing, that was set in an Amish or Orthodox Jewish Community. I can’t remember which, because I was without oxygen and very ill there. The movie was not memorable for me, but being there with Swamiji and the Devotees was! Sometimes Swami liked to wear stylish African or Indian clothes. At the theater he had a beautiful fancy cane and looked very regal. The Devotees were brightly dressed, mostly in brilliant saris and brahmachari saffron. We were a sight to behold! The look on the Theater’s ticket agent’s face was priceless! I remember learning (later) that before we went, Swamiji had the Devotees make Prasadam Popcorn, and then we ALL went, as Swamiji’s guests, taking-up several rows in the theater. Some of the Devotees hid the Prasadam Popcorn under their wraps, and since I didn’t know it, I was really surprized when the Popcorn came out in the darkened theater!
I was even more surprised when Swamiji turned-around with a big smile on his face and started a brief storm of flying Popcorn by throwing some Prasadam Popcorn to the devotees behind him! We scrambled to catch it and eat it. What a Rascal! I don’t know if anyone watched the movie at all, we were all just having so much fun with HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami! He was much more entertaining than the movie
Of course Kirtan with Swamiji was transcendental. One time I could not resist dancing too, and at one point, due to my post-polio syndrome muscle problems and heart trouble, I was having angina and started to collapse, and since I was dancing right next to Swamiji, he actually reached-out and took ahold of me, and with him actually holding me up, we danced together, for I cannot say how long. All of my heart pain went away at his touch. He felt so strong that we were both leaping high together, whereas just previously I had no strength of my own to even stand up anymore. Held-up by him, my body felt as light as a feather as we jumped higher and higher together. After kirtan stopped everyone sat down for Nrsingha Prayers and I sat leaning on something, tired but with no muscle, joint or heart pain at all!
Since Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s passing, as a Catholic, I venerate him as a Saint, and when I am suffering a lot of bodily exhaustion and pain, I pray to him for his merciful help again.
Dear Bhakti Tirtha Swami, You so mercifully gave me shelter among your devotees, encouraged me in my devotional service, recommended me for sannyasi, and lifted me up when I was not able to go on any more. Please bless us all today, and every day, as we remember your astonishing life of self-sacrifice and service to the servants of the servants of Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga! AMUN! AMEN! AUM! HARE KRISHNA!
HH SAINT Bhakti Tirtha Swami ki jaya!