The news of HG Uttama pr’s sudden departure has been very difficult to digest for all devotees including myself and my family. It is difficult for us to imagine Sri Jagannath Mandir without him. It will take some time for us to come to terms with this sudden turn of events. Truly, the ways of the Lord are mysterious. How to understand that such a visionary leader who leading the temple to newer and newer heights was abruptly snatched away from us? But the Lord must have some special plan. Perhaps in time he may reveal it to us.
For my own purification I would like to pen down a few thoughts that cross my heart today. As I remember His Grace Uttama pr, my heart is full of various feelings of gratitude, affection, respect, admiration and at the same time a feeling of sudden loss and emptiness.
My association with HG Uttama Chaitanya pr developed only after he was appointed as the temple president of Sri Jagannath Mandir in 2001. For me, he came across as a character straight out of Chaitanya Caritamrita; as one would imagine one of the Gaura bhakta vrindas to be. 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 were regal yet humble. His big eyes extended like lotus petals and his face was always adorned with a smile. His personal necessities were minimal.
I always saw him wearing simple worn out clothes. His eating was frugal and his delights were speaking Hari Katha and serving the Vaishnavas. He was a wonderful example of a strict devotee and a dedicated follower of Srila Prabhupada.
Uttama prabhu was very warm host to all those who visited Sri Jagannath Mandir. He always ensured that guests were received nicely and served with Jagannath’s prasadam. He would welcome everyone including regular devotees with a smile and folded hands and offer them prasadam. He always insisted that in Jagannath’s home no one ever leaves without prasadam and that there is always something for everyone.
Uttama pr was a visionary leader who wanted to serve Srila Prabhupada’s movement in the best way possible. Congregation Development was very dear to his heart. With that end in mind he was keen to implement schemes to train and take care of devotees. He was particularly keen to implement the Spiritual Counsellor system which has been so successful in Sri Sri Radha Gopinath temple. This was his pet project. He was very convinced that this system would be best available vehicle to transform the temple into the kind Srila Prabhupada wanted, a Vaikuntha atmosphere. He made much effort in that direction and much progress has been made under his guidance.
He was also keen on organizing the congregational development ministry systematically and with the help of his team made significant progress in 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. Regular regional congregation development meetings were organized which attracted participation from across Malaysia and neighbouring contries.
In fact it was during such a seminar last weekend that Prabhu breathed his last. The internationally famous Damodara program also spread under his leadership.
Also programs to train children (Gokul Garden) and teenagers(Pandava Sena) in KC also developed because of his insistence. He was through and through a Prabhupada man. He always emphasized on sticking to the basics – good sadhana and humble seva. He would repeatedly emphasize on good chanting and sadachar.
He strongly believed that mass distribution of Krishna consciousness should be done using Srila Prabhupada’s formula – Book Distribution, Prasadam distribution and Harinama Sankirtana. With this firm faith he really worked hard to develop these three areas.
Only a few days ago he was able to formally register a charity for Food for Life. Harinama Sankirtana department has sky rocketed to many hundreds of harinamas each year. Book distribution is also expanding.
In spite of opposition and criticism prabhu remained firm and kept moving on. Even in success prabhu remained humble and was always unassuming. His nature was soft, compassionate and mellow. He was always mild and gentle in his dealings. I have never seen him lose his temper. Always compassionate and trying to see how to help others even when they misunderstood him and tried to vilify him.
Also I must mention that he had very special attachment for Sri Vrindavan Dham and Sri Sri Radhe Shyam and was especially attached to worshipping the deities of the Lord. He loved to cook and serve the devotees. He was always detached from his bodily needs. Even on fasting days he will continue his ecstatic kirtans until very late forgetting the needs of the body. He would then serve prasadam to all the devotees and then only at last honour some prasadam. In that way he demonstrated much detachment.
He was also an eloquent speaker of Hari Katha and very learned in Gaudiya Vaishnava siddhanta. His life has been a wonderful inspiration for all of us. Especially for myself he provided me spiritual shelter. He was like my guardian and protector in KL, especially since I moved to Malaysia from Mumbai. I will ever remain grateful to him for that.
Thank you dear Uttama prabhuji for being such a wonderful example for all of us. I seek your blessings to be able to imbibe your wonderful vaishnava qualities!
HG Uttama Chaitanya pr ki Jai!!!
Gaura Chandra Das (RNS)