- By Kul Bhushan

When overseas Indians attend a religious discourse of Swami Tirtha Maharaj in Britain, the United Sates or Europe, they cannot imagine that this saffron clad Swami was earlier a smartly dressed Corporate Executive in gray trousers, a blue shirt, a red tie and a tweed jacket. The high flying Padmanabhan or ‘Paddy’ as he was then known, became a Swami dressed in saffron coloured cotton. The turning point came in 1986 when he was about to start a new job with higher salary in the Gulf Region. 

If he had continued as a Corporate Executive, he would probably become the Managing Director of a corporation in the ensuing 20+ years. Today, billionaire real estate developers, senior police officers, top level bureaucrats, judges and political leaders. On his travels to Britain, he has met Prime Ministers, ministers, members of the House of Lords, and other celebrities seek his blessings; and has delivered discourses at Oxford and Cambridge universities. During his regular visits to the United States, he has been received by Senators, met mayors and delivered discourses in top American universities. 

BIRTHDAY GIFT FOR LORD KRISHNA: Swami B S Tirtha Maharaj offered the first copy of his first book ACTUALLY THERE’S NO PROBLEM to Lord Krishna on Janamasthmi, the Lord’s birthday, during a major Kahna Megh Utsav Festival at Bhagvat Dham in Navi Mumbai attended by tens of thousands of devotees. The book became an instant bestseller during this festival

Swamiji travels the world most of the year on his spiritual mission to spiritually guide diverse communities of overseas Indians or NRIs (Non Resident Indians) in Britain, the United States and Europe. When he advises top NRIs business executives and owners to face their corporate problems, little do they know that Swamiji himself has encountered and successfully overcome the same challenges and turned them into opportunities. When he consuls top professionals about their career choices, they have no idea that he has also faced similar crises in his professional career for two decades. When he gives his discourses in English, Hindi, Tamil or Bengali, the listeners know little of his diverse experiences, deep knowledge of the scriptures with a thorough understanding of Sanskrit. When he talks to the youth of all races and nationalities, they have no inkling of his extensive exploits for building his knowledge and career. And now he has put his core message in his first book, ‘Actually There’s No Problem’ to enable the youth to tackle their problems. It was launched on Lord Krishna’s birthday celebrations attended by thousands of devotees to become an instant success.

A life long celibate, he was born in a Vadagil Iyengar Brahmin family in 1942. At a very early age, he learnt Sanskrit from his grandfather as he could recite up to 100 verses from a Sanskrit scripture. He passed high school and in 1960 was employed for about six years as a machine operator in Indian Telephone Industries Ltd, Bangalore. He wanted to become an engineer.
Not Happy

But, he was not happy. So, instead of becoming an engineer, he learned stenography and went to Bombay (now Mumbai) and got a job as a typist with Blowplast (P) Ltd in 1967 and soon became the Personal Assistant (PA) to the Chairman of the company. Sitting next to the Chairman, he easily learnt all management techniques because he was a participant in all activities. He could clearly see the so-called highly educated, qualified executives trembling while talking to the Chairman. He was amazed to see their deficiencies in spite of their high academic qualifications. He was promoted on his merit, although he had studied up to Matric or high school. He gradually rose in the organization, from a Depot Manager to a Branch Manager, to a Zonal Manager, then All India Sales Manager handling sales all over the country and managing many branches from 1967 to 1979. 

AT THE WHITE HOUSE: Swami B S Tirtha Maharaj attended the special State Arrival Ceremony for the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosted by US President Barack Obama. He is seen here with Ratan Tata (second from left) and Sam Pitroda (right)

Finally, as an Export Manager, he moved to Dubai to cover the West Asia Region between 1979 and 1983. Every month, within a period of 18 days, he had to visit six countries. In 1983, during a recession in Middle East; he wound up his operation., according to the management directive from India. Mr Manu Chabria, the owner of the well-known Jumbo Electronics in Dubai, offered him a job from 1984 to 1986.

Well Dressed Smart Executive
As ‘Paddy’—the well dressed, smart executive—he enjoyed ‘the good life’ as any other sales executive. Taking his clients to five-star hotels, entertaining them, organizing dealers’ conferences, regional sales conferences, all India sales conferences, assigning sales and collection targets to the branch managers and the field sales offices, and all those other activities that go with a typical sales executive. In 1986, he went to India on a visit and got a job offer from a company in Oman at a much higher salary and benefits. So he applied for a visa to go to Muscat.

Swami Tirtha Maharaj describes the fateful day in his own words: “One afternoon, after a hearty lunch in the Flora Fountain area in Mumbai, I was walking down to take a suburban train back home. At that time I saw ISKCON devotees selling Bhagavad Gita, so I picked up one copy, came home and finished the entire book of 700 verses of Gita in less than four hours. It made me sit up. “When I read the Gita, especially the second chapter, Krishna was stressing the point that you are not the body. I felt as if somebody hammered me a few times that you are not the body, then why am I running around? Then I understood that if I am not the body, then I should stop the bodily activities like my work on the material platform,” he remembers.

AT WESTIMINISTER, LONDON: Swami B S Tirtha Maharaj celebrated Diwali at the House of Commons in 2007 when the former Prime Minister Gordon brown attended this event with a number of ministers and VIPs

I Was a Spirit Soul
“But as I also knew that I was a spirit soul, I was wondering what constitutes a spiritual function within this mundane world. This is explained in the end of Gita in Chapter 18. Its two verses very clearly explain the spiritual function:

  • For one who explains this supreme secret to the devotees, pure devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me. (18.68)

  • There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear. (18.69)

Swami Tirtha recalls, “After reading these two verses, I was convinced that this is the function of a spirit soul in the human form of life. So, when I understood this, I had formed a definite conviction and decided that this is the job I must take up from now on. From then onwards, I really thought I was wasting my time and I had wasted my time all my life up to that moment. I could imagine myself travelling six countries a month was just like a dog jumping from one place to another. So, I stopped this jumping business and took to spreading Krishna Consciousness. 

India’s Topmost Artistes
From 1986 to 1996, he studied the scriptures in depth and contemplated on their deeper meanings and relevance to current situations and lifestyles. In 1997, he founded the Gaudiya Vaishnava Association (GVA) in Kolkata and a year later shifted its headquarters to Mumbai. In 1999, he was invited to Johannesburg, South Africa, to address the Parliament of World Religions. He launched GVA publications at the beginning of the new century and his regular tours to the West also started. In 2005, he moved the GVA headquarters to Parsik Hill, Navi Mumbai and soon after envisioned Bhagavat Dham Temple Complex atop this hill. 

Under his direction, GVA created history in Navi Mumbai by organising the first Kahna Megh Utsav lasting 40 days with India’s topmost artistes in devotion to Lord Krishna. In 2007, he laid the foundation for Bhagavat Dham complex and within a year, the temple took shape so that in 2009, GVA moved to this location on completion of its first phase to become a major landmark for Navi Mumbai. 

With No Regrets
Does he ever regret taking this major step moving from an executive to a swami? Swami Tirtha is very clear, “Since I was convinced thoroughly and I had a definite conviction that Krishna is God, He is the Supreme Person, there is a Spiritual world and we are basically spiritual entities not these physical bodies. It was also clear to me that in a human form, life offers an opportunity to get back to God to serve Him with love in His abode. Due to this conviction, I never, never, ever regretted. I had even stopped recollecting the fact that I was once a Corporate Executive. Those memories got completely obliterated without leaving a trace. I am now forced to revive my memory because of your question.” 

“I can confidently say that this path can be tried by any mundane worker today. One should not waste one’s time, but start on the spiritual task of spreading Krishna Consciousness all over the world and wake up the sleeping souls,” concludes Swami Tirtha, “This will also enable one to gain eternal abode in the transcendental realm of Gokula Vrindavan for rendering loving service to the Supreme Divine Couple, Radha-Krishna. Hare Krishna!”

—The author specialises in writing on NRI (Non Resident Indians) affairs. His website is www.kulbhushan.net

November 2010

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