A Brief View of the Life of
Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami

by Lal Krishna dasa

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His Holiness Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami Maharaja, a disciple of ISKCON’s founder, Srila Prabhupada, has passed away at 12:15am, 2 October 2006, in Kolkata, India.

He had been receiving treatment for an injury he sustained in a grenade attack at Janmastami in ISKCON’s Manipur temple. Just before midnight on 1 October, Maharaja called for assistance complaining of severe pain in his shoulder. Over the next few minutes he became breathless, and before a doctor could be called, he suffered a fatal cardiac arrest.

Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami (Dr. T. D. Singh) was born into a Vaisnava family in Manipur, India, in 1937. His main services were developing ISKCON in Manipur and developing dialogue between scientists and religionists.

He received his B.S. with honors from Gauhati University in 1961, his Master of Technology degree with honors from Calcutta University in 1964, his M.S. in chemistry from Canisius College in Buffalo in 1969, and in 1974 completed his Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry at the University of California at Irvine.

His research interests include molecular biology, chemical evolution and the origins of life, the nature of consciousness, biomedical ethics, and the philosophy of science. He was a member of the American Chemical Society, the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a director of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, which promotes the study of the relationship between science and Vedanta.

He organised the first World Conference for Synthesis of Science and Religion in 1986, a gathering of religious leaders and scientists including George Wald (Nobel Laureate, Medicine, 1967), The Dalai Lama, and Harvey Cox (School of Divinity, Harvard University).

Although born into a Vaisnava family in a predominantly Vaisnava region, it was during his studies in the USA that he met his spiritual guide, Srila Prabhupada.

He relates: “One evening in June, 1970, Dr. Rao and I went to Laguna Beach and saw four or five disciples of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada doing sankirtana [chanting] along the street. I was extremely surprised to see this in the United States. A few days later, under Dr. Rao’s strong influence, I went with him to see Srila Prabhupada in Los Angeles. This was toward the end of June 1970, when Dr. Rao was initiated [as Ramananda Dasa].”

“When I saw the devotees in the Los Angeles Temple, I suddenly felt that I should be living like them. I vividly remember the beautiful loving exchange of flowers between His Divine Grace and the disciples early in the morning in front of the temple. I was quite amazed to see the beautiful Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Los Angeles for the first time. Later on after his initiation ceremony, Ramananda Prabhu took me upstairs to see Srila Prabhupada. When we went upstairs, I received the most affectionate and compassionate glance from Srila Prabhupada, and immediately I felt: ‘Here is my spiritual father.’ Srila Prabhupada asked me some questions, and I replied with my broken Bengali sentences. I was extremely glad that I had come to see Srila Prabhupada. I was formally initiated in the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, Los Angeles, on 30 June 1971.” He took sannyasa (the renounced order of life) shortly after.

His 1975 talks with Srila Prabhupada on topics of science and religion were recorded and released as a book: Life Comes from Life.

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