Atma Nivedana –Biography of a Surrendered Soul

By HG Shanti Rupa devi dasi

“He reasons ill who says that Vaishnavas die, When thou art living still in sound! The Vaishnavas die to live, and live to spread the holy name around.” Bhakti Vinod Thakur

His Grace Uttama Caitanya Dasa Brahmacari, a dear disciple of H.H. Srila Jayapataka Swami Maharaj, departed from this world suddenly but peacefully on Gaurabdha 523, Sridhara Masa, Krsna Paksa (Kamika Ekadasi, July 18th 2009) around 5 pm. On the day, he had observed a full fast, refraining from even water; and had been actively involved in the Congregational Development Ministry's two day seminar which was held at the Klang Valley in Malaysia. He served as the Temple President of Sri Jagannath Mandir, ISKCON-Kuala Lumpur (SJMKL), Malaysia since 2001 until his departure. During his tenure, the temple grew in leaps and bounds, and is now a leading temple in Malaysia. He was an eloquent speaker of Hari Katha and very learned in Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhanta. He was a Bhakti Shastri and Bhakti Vaibhava. An avid reader, he had a wonderful collection of literatures - this he treasured most.

Early Years in ISKCON
H.G. Uttama Caitanya Prabhu was born as Umakanthan to Ramasamy and Rajeswary Ammal on October 30th, 1966 in Batu Gajah, a small town in the state of Perak, Malaysia. Having completed his primary and secondary education in the neighbouring town of Tapah, he proceeded to Kuala Lumpur to pursue pre-university education in the famous TAR College. It is here he came in contact with ISKCON devotees and began to attend programs whenever possible. He often quoted how H.G. Tyaga Caitanya dasa greeted him nicely in 1986 when he first visited the ISKCON temple in Kuala Lumpur. He always spoke fondly of H.G. Siddhi Sadhana dasa, who was then managing ISKCON’s Govinda’s Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Siddhi Sadhana Prabhu carefully preached to him and taught him to chant japa. He then pursued a four year degree in Business Management at the Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang where he continued to attend more ISKCON programs.

After completing his university degree, Umakanthan enrolled himself in the renowned Singapore International Airways for a pilot training course. Here, his involvement in Krsna Consciousness became deeper. He would often travel the long distance to Kuala Lumpur to attend important festival celebrations and regular programs. Having passed the theoretical part of the training course, he refrained from pursuing the practical portion. We assume that the reason for this was his ardent desire to become more affiliated with Krsna Consciousness. From being a casual visitor at the Govinda’s restaurant, Umakanthan quickly rose to the extent of giving regular classes during the weekly sat-sangs held in the restaurant. Many were drawn to his preaching and seriously took up Krsna Consciousness after attending his classes.

His prolific writing skills earned him a coveted position as the sub-editor of the Business Times section in Malaysia’s leading daily newspaper - The New Straits Times Press. Here, he would often use his advantageous position to circulate announcements on Vaishnava festivals and releases of the latest Bhaktivedanta Book Trust publications. He also wrote and published several Krsna Conscious articles, one such article was the “Reforestation of Vrndavana”, which appeared in the Life & Times section of the same paper in 1995. It was also during the same year, while being stationed in Kuala Lumpur, that he became even more deeply involved in Krsna Consciousness and spent most of his time in the temple, reading and studying Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy.

Having delved deeply into Srila Prabhupada’s writings, he was fully convinced of the Krsna Conscious philosophy. When H.H. Jayapataka Swami Maharaj visited Kuala Lumpur in 1995, a young Umakanthan shaved his head and received harinam diksha, accepting the name Uttama Caitanya dasa. Just eleven days later on December 31st 1995, during the launch of Srila Prabhupada’s 100th anniversary, he pledged to become a full time devotee as an offering to our great founder. At the time he was 29 years old and in the midst of a very materially lucrative career. This move was truly a story of Atma Nivedana, and it demonstrated his deep attachment and profound feelings for Srila Prabhupada’s teachings.

Adorning saffron robes, Uttama Caitanya dasa joined Sri Jagannath Mandir, Kuala Lumpur as a full time devotee in 1996. Simheswar dasa, then Temple President, immediately made him Temple Commander and began grooming him to become President. Uttama Caitanya Prabhu was not interested in the position and politely declined, stating that there were more qualified senior devotees. However, when his dear Guru Maharaj personally ordered him to take on the position, he silently accepted. Uttama Caitanya Prabhu was never attached to the superiority of his position. Senior congregation members noted that within months of becoming the Temple President, he took an extremely bold step by renovating the current premises, starting with zero finances. He managed to put up a remarkable structure amidst criticism from his peers.

­Guru Seva
Until he left his body, Uttama Caitanya Prabhu’s life was an offering of love to his dear Guru Maharaj. He did everything possible to please H.H. Jayapataka Swami Maharaj, and this led to his tremendous success in leading the Kuala Lumpur yatra to great heights. He always picked the best of what the ISKCON world had to offer and implemented them in Sri Jagannath Mandir Kuala Lumpur, almost always very successfully.

Even during a severe testing period in his life when he was on the verge of giving up the brahmacari ashram, he fled from the thought as advised by his beloved spiritual master and emerged an even stronger brahmacari to carry on his services. This and many other incidents exhibited his stong guru nista. He also successfully organised an unforgettable and most impressive sisya samuh for the disciples of H.H. Jayapataka Swami Maharaj, increasing tremendously the guru nista of each and every devotee who attended this festival.

He was a visionary leader who wanted to serve Srila Prabhupada’s movement in the best ways possible. Congregation Development, which is the heart and soul of his spiritual master, was very dear to his heart. He was keen on building up the Congregation Development Ministry, and with the help of his team made significant progress in systematically organizing this department in the Klang Valley.

He also made considerable effort to extend help to other centers across Malaysia and nearby countries to come together to develop this area in their respective yatras. He organised regular regional congregation development meetings which attracted participants from across Malaysia and neighbouring countries. In fact it was during such a seminar on July 18, 2009 that Prabhu breathed his last.

Uttama Caitanya Prabhu also encouraged the implementation of the Spiritual Counsellor system in SJMKL. He was confident that this system, which has been incredibly successful in Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir, Chowpatty, India, would accelerate the spiritual growth of every yatra member. As he predicted, the congregation of SJMKL has made much spiritual progress since the system was introduced.

The internationally famous Damodara project was born and nourished under the leadership of Uttama Caitanya Prabhu. During one of the annual launches of the Damodara program, H.H. Jayapataka Swami Maharaj was so pleased, that at the end of the program, Maharaj tightly embraced him, bringing tears to Uttama Caitanya Prabhu’s eyes as well as the eyes of many who witnessed this loving exchange. Understanding the desire of his beloved spiritual master, he attempted to educate the worldwide ISKCON community on how to conduct the Damodar home and public programs. He sent his team members far and wide - to Delhi, Tirupati, Vadohara in India, and personally visited Mauritius, South Africa, and Indonesia among other places.

“Prabhupada Man”
Uttama Caitanya Prabhu was through and through a Prabhupada man. He constantly emphasized on sticking to the basics – good sadhana, humble seva, unoffensive japa, and sad-achar. He strongly believed that mass distribution of Krsna Consciousness should be carried on using Srila Prabhupada’s formula – book distribution, prasadam distribution, and harinama sankirtana.

With this firm faith he worked very hard to develop these three areas. Just a few days before his departure, he formally registered ISKCON Kuala Lumpur’s Food For Life program with the registrar of societies - a remarkable milestone in the history of SJMKL. The harinama sankirtana division has sky rocketed to organizing over 100 harinamas each year. Book distribution has also escalated to the point that SJMKL is now the top book distributor in ISKCON Malaysia.

Other Services
Uttama Caitanya Prabhu had a special attachment for deity worship, Sri Vrindavan Dham and Sri Sri Radhe Shyam. He loved to cook for the deities and serve the devotees. During his tenure as Temple President he brought about tremendous changes in the deity worship department and effortlessly organised grand festivals for the pleasure of Their Lordships. He was also an excellent actor and always emphasised on dramas as a good medium to preach. In 2001, his Jagannatha Priya Nataka won raving reviews in many leading local newspapers.

He was a warm host to all those who visited Sri Jagannath Mandir. He always ensured that guests were nicely received and served Lord Jagannath’s prasadam. He extended these warm welcomes even to regular devotees, constantly greeting us with a smile and folded hands, also ensuring that we honoured sufficient prasadam. He always insisted that in Jagannath’s home, no one should ever leave without prasadam.

Uttama Caitanya Prabhu was zealous in implementing programs to train and care for devotees. He also strongly encouraged the development of vaishnava training programs such as the the Gokul Garden for children, Pandava Sena for teenagers, and many seasonal courses on philosophical topics. He lent undivided support to the university preaching program (VOICE), which has been expanding very rapidly.

Inspiration for All
For most of us, he came across as a character straight out of the Caitanya Caritamrita; following as closely as possible in the footsteps of the Gaura bhakta vrindas. His aura was that of a learned saintly person, always detached, calm and composed. His tall and lean form was full of grace; his movements regal yet humble. His big eyes extended like lotus petals; and his face was always adorned with a smile. His nature was soft, compassionate and mellow. He was always mild and gentle in his dealings.

Uttama Prabhu drew inspiration from many of the previous acharyas. He would often shed tears of love while speaking of them in lectures. Apart from his spiritual master, his most recent sources of inspiration were H.H. Gour Govind Maharaj and H.G. Jayananda Prabhu. Devotees have noted the similarities between Uttama Caitanya Prabhu and H.G. Jayananda Prabhu in terms of touching the lives of many devotees and non-devotees alike. Uttama Caitanya Prabhu constantly tried to follow in the footsteps and instil the mood of H.G. Jayananda Prabhu in the hearts of all SJMKL members.

His personal necessities were minimal - he wore simple, worn out dhotis. His eating habits were frugal; and his main delights were speaking Hari Katha and serving the Vaishnavas. He was always detached from bodily needs. On fasting days he would lead ecstatic kirtans until very late, forgetting the needs of the body. He would then serve prasadam to all the devotees and only honour some himself when all had left.

He was a wonderful example of a strict devotee and dedicated follower of Srila Prabhupada. Despite opposition and criticism from many outsiders Uttama Caitanya Prabhu remained steadfast in Krsna Consciousness. He remained humble and unassuming even in immense success.

His life has been a wonderful source of inspiration for all of us - the Congregation of Sri Jagannath Mandir Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The End

To view the success of the Damodar Project, please visit

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"His legacy and his instructions will live on"

Sri Sri Radha Syamasunder ki, Jaya
Sri Sri Jaganath Baladeva Subhaadra Maiya ki, Jaya
Sri Sri Gaura Nitai ki, Jaya
Sri Sri Nrsinghadev ki, Jaya
Srila Prabhupada ki, Jaya

It was a cool overcast morning with the promise of rain unfulfilled on the Sunday morning of 26 July 2009, that greeted family, friends, admirers and well wishers from all over Malaysia and a few parts of the world who were all gathered at Sri Jaganath Mandir Kuala Lumpur to attend the glorious Smrthi Sabha ceremony of its late beloved president and visionary leader, His Grace Uttama Caitanya Das Brahmacari. This was a celebration of his outstanding life and work, and in a way, the marking of a close of an era in the chapter of ISKCON Kuala Lumpur and of ISKCON Malaysia as a whole.

The service began as in a typical Sunday morning with Darshan Arati. The Deities were very sweet and resplendent in the very colors and dresses that were the personal favorites of His Grace Uttama prabhu during the times he used to do the dressing service. This was followed by Guru Puja and Kirtan. Shortly after recitation of Sri Sikshastakam prayers and group Japa, the memorial ceremony began proper with a discourse given by HG Ajamila prabhu, a very senior Prabhupada disciple, who spoke on the deep philosophy concerning the disappearances of Vaishnavas. He spoke very poignantly of how devotees are always protected by the Lord in all circumstances and how the effect of the process of chanting the Hare Krsna Maha Mantra throughout ones life can be practically seen working at the time of death especially in the manner of one’s passing.

After a short breakfast, at about 9.30am, HG Mulakarnam prabhu presented a PowerPoint slide show showcasing a collection of photographs about the life and activities of HG Uttama Caitanya prabhu, right from his early childhood (then known as Umakanthan), through his college days and social work years, all the way through his ISKCON life till his passing and cremation. The collection of memories immortalized in those photographs left quite a number of people in the audience blurry eyed and overcome with grief.

Soon after, the eulogies began. This was the day all of us came together and were united not only in our desire to pay our respects to His Grace Uttama Caitanya prabhu, but rather in our need to do so, for the outpouring of offerings were numerous and almost all were heart rending and yet inconceivably sweet, which left us washed and purified in its wake, leaving only a sense of deep loss.
HG Simheswara prabhu as ISKCON Malaysia Secretary General was given the honor of first offering to HG Uttama Caitanya pr, followed by HG Vrndavan Candra prabhu who was visibly emotional. HG Markandeya pr who was his close friend made a beautiful offering in Tamil about how the Lord brings his dear devotee back. HG Uttama pr’s sister gave a heart rending homage describing his early qualities and activities and left most of us in tears with a heart wrenching thank you to the SJMKL congregation for giving our love to him. This was followed by HG Tyaga Caitanya pr who was the first one to welcome him to SJMKL back in 1986. He spoke on how they used to stay in Vrndavan together and have many intimate conversations sharing their realizations of the Dham. HG Dvija Gauranga pr from Bukit Mertajam, also spoke about their close friendship. HG Uttama pr’s sister in law then spoke of his determination in taking up Brahmachari vows many years back when he was staying at her home in Singapore. She spoke on many memories on how simple and austere he was and encapsulated the essence in a sweet Tamil poem which she read. In honor of His Grace’s eloquence in giving spiritual discourses in Tamil, Her Grace Shanti Rupa mataji offered a beautiful poem in Tamil glorifying him in how he lived up to the purport oh his name “Uttama” which means topmost, in all that he did. Many others submitted their offerings as well, we had HG Devaki Nandana pr the temple president from Singapore, HG Ravilocan pr, HG Tatvavit pr and others. Notably, Tan Seri Datuk Seri Dr. Mahadevan who was present also gave his short address in glorifying the departed. Amongst others present was Datin Paduka Mother Manggalam of the Pure Life Divine Society who knew him personally. HG Krishna Candra pr, who was the facilitator, shared with us many light memories of HG Uttama pr.

A small skit was planned and performed at about 11.30am by Vraja Arts Theatre in tribute of His Grace Uttama Caitanya pr who was also the founder. It was about the passing of Haridas Thakur, a very apt theme for the occasion, masterfully performed, and sending forth a powerful and soothing message that the passing of a Vaishnava is always glorious.

The culmination of the ceremony was at noon with the offering of Arati and ghee lamps by HG Tatvavit pr and HG Tyaga Caitanya pr to the photo of HG Uttama Caitanya Pr amidst the singing of “Ohe Vaishnava Thakura” by the congregation. This was followed by Puspanjali amidst ecstatic Kirtan in the very temple hall where in life, memories of HG Uttama pr himself leading the kirtan was in our thoughts.
HG Uttama prabhu would always ensure that guests of the temple were always fed prasadam sumptuously. In his honor, an enormous feast was served at the end of the ceremony.

We especially would like to thank HG Simheswara pr, National Council leaders, leaders from Singapore and other parts of Malaysia, Tan Seri Datuk Seri Dr. Mahadevan, Datin Paduka Mother Mangallam, and devotees from Thailand, Bali and India who were there to grace the occasion.

Much appreciation is lauded to HG Mathura Lilesvari mtj for her thoughtfulness in starting a tribute Blog that sees more than 50 offerings from world ISKCON community and Maharajas, HG Mulakarnam pr for preparing the PowerPoint show, to HG Krsna Chandra pr for coordinating the homage’s, to Kamalanthan pr and Bhakta Nadesh and team for the skit performance, to Sriman Mayur and team for wonderful service of taking care of the guests and HG Uttama Caitanya Pr’s family members, to HG Shanti Rupa mtj and team for the excellent feast, to HG Sarva Tirta pr and Team for the prasad serving coordination, To HG Vishnu Caitanya pr and HG Ravi Locana pr for the overall planning and coordination of the Smrti Sabha ceremony and also to HG Ramananda Gaura pr and team for the seating arrangements.

On behalf of SJMKL management we would also like to thank all the various sponsors and devotees who assisted in making this Smrthi Sabha ceremony of our beloved and much missed president an unforgettable event etched forever in our hearts, for such was his presence in life as was befitting his glorious passing. He was like the cool breeze that blew in and touched everyone and alike, and which suddenly left us at a thought leaving a vacuum in our hearts. However, his legacy and his instructions will live on, and armed with the presence and support of each other, we will traverse the uncharted waters of a new era in ISKCON KL and Malaysia as would have been his ardent desire, as is our responsibility to him, Guru and Gauranga.

Hare Krsna

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