Heartfelt Condolences from GALVA
Posted June 29, 2005
The members of GALVA (the Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association) would like to express their sincere and heartfelt condolences to all the disciples and friends of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami on the occasion of his passing away from this world. Maharaja was a spiritual mentor to all of our members, and his unique presence will be greatly missed. Below is my last letter to Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja. I am sharing it with devotees because I believe it expresses our deep appreciation for this wonderful Vaishnava with a heart of gold. His special preaching efforts to reach the gay and lesbian community and make everyone feel welcome in Krsna consciousness will be remembered for a long time to come.
February 2, 2005
Dear respected Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and all Vaishnavas!
I have been following your health situation over the past few months with much concern and empathy. Your situation is no doubt one we will all pass through. However, I must say, after reading all of your beautiful letters full of realization and detachment, I'm confident that your life and soul are directly in the hands of Srila Prabhupada and Krsna.
I was disappointed that I did not get to see you while you were in Hawaii. Your disciples told me that you were undergoing treatment and were not well enough to see visitors. My hope is that you may return to the Islands; however, if you are unable, I thought it important that I write you this letter.
Maharaja, you have been an inspiration to so many people and devotees all over the world! I will present my own story here. I first met you in the late 70s and early 80s when you had a small preaching center in D.C. At that time I was a head pujari at the Potomac temple, and I always remember how especially ecstatic the Sunday feast kirtans were when you and your disciples would arrive. The dancing and chanting of Hare Krsna were simply out of this world!
The next time I met you was many years later on the Big Island, where you gave a lecture at the University of Hawaii (Hilo). In that lecture you made an enormous impact on my life and planted an important seed within my heart. You challenged the audience to preach Krsna consciousness in innovative and effective ways to all members of society. You specifically requested that we should preach to the gay and lesbian community, try to understand them, and find out how to inspire their Krsna consciousness in the most effective way possible. That request had a big impact on me and I thought about it for a long time, years actually. In reality, it was the beginning of GALVA (The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association). I was very impressed you had the compassion and magnanimity to include this up-until-then ignored social class within your call.
Later that night (or was it the second time you came to the Big Island, when we went down into Waipio Valley?), you happily joined in dancing with the devotees. It was an ecstatic kirtana and we danced together for quite a while in the celebration of Krsna consciousness and the Holy Names. How wonderful that time was! I felt a deep, spiritual connection with you.
After contemplating your instruction, I eventually began jotting down ideas on how to present the third gender to the devotees and remind them of Srila Prabhupada's example of all-inclusiveness. That inspiration went from a few notes, to an article, to a website, to an e-group, to the incorporation of GALVA, to even a book, and so on. I have personally witnessed many devotees made, revived, renewed, resuscitated, etc., from that first simple instruction you planted within my heart so many years ago. I thank you for that inspiration and will always be eternally grateful and indebted.
Your unique and insightful style of preaching has always been much needed within our movement. When I first heard of your illness, I must admit I was quite despondent after contemplating the special void your departure would leave in its wake. Nevertheless, I am certain that your contribution to ISKCON has had such an impact that your presence will be felt far into the future. I'm also certain that your disciples will continue to spread Krsna consciousness with the same love, compassion, care, innovation and enthusiasm you have always demonstrated.
Therefore, with the deepest, heartfelt gratitude, all of the members of GALVA send our love and thanks to you. We have truly been blessed to have your association here on earth. You have been a wonderful Godbrother, guru, teacher, friend, and servant to the world.
With much love and affection,
Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association