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

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Hare Krsna!
All glories to Sri Sri guru and Gauranga!
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Like everyone else, I was shocked and deeply saddended to hear about His Grace Uttama Caitanya Dasa Bramachari’s sudden passing. But I know that it is Krsna’s divine arrangement. Although I have known UCD for only three and a half years, my association with him albeit briefly has inspired me in my spiritual journey, my love for God strengthened. His words have indeed left an indellible mark in my life.
I have had the wonderful honour of listening to UCD’s scholarly lectures. I would like to pay tribute to UCD by sharing with you the gist of UCD’s lectures delivered in Sri Sri Gaura Nitai Radha Govinda Mandhir, ISKCON Klang when he participated in three Vedic festivals.

23 December 2007 His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada’s murthi installation ceremony:
I particularly remember with great fondness a lecture he gave us during Srila Prabhupada’s murthi intallation in our temple. It was entitled “How can we realise HDG Srila Prabhupada in this world?” He sang the glories of Srila Prabhupada and said that Srila Prabhupada is present whenever his devotees follow his scriptural instructions with unity, and lovingly co-operate with each other. He stressed that the most favoured activity of a preaching movement like ours is the book distribution. He echoed Srila Prabhupada’s words: “Books are the basis, preaching is the essence.” He also cautioned us that should any harm befall ISKCON, it will be like harming Srila Prabhupada. He also reminded us to wake up from the slumber on Maya’s lap. He took pains to make us understand and empathise with the extreme hardships Srila Prabhupada underwent to start the Back to Godhead magazine and to build the spiritual organisation of ISKCON.

He told us that although each avatar had special qualities, eg. Ram to protect dharma, Krsna has extra special qualities that surpass those of Vishnu’s: sweetness of flute (veenur mathura), sweetness of form (rupam mathuram), sweetness of love, (priti mathuram) and sweetness of pasttimes (leela mathuram).
He also reminded us that we can’t get Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy directly; it has to be through Srila Prabhupada. He also told us how Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur in the 1800s compiled all the books of the acharyas, found the place where Mahaprabhu was born, established a small printing press and gave his son, Vimal Prasad who was to become Srila Bhaktisidantha Saraswati Goswami Maharaj ( Srila Prabhupada’s Spiritual Master in the disciplic chain of great saints and sages).
He also told us what Srila Prabhupada used to say: “I only have one qualification. I have full faith in the words of my Spiritual Master.” His parting words at that lecture were “We are eternally indebted to Srila Prabhupada. We must first pay obeisances to Srila Prabhupada and remove obstacles in our spritual practices.”

23 March 2008 Gaura Purnima Celebrations:
In this lecture UCD started off by saying that Srila Prabhupada attained victory by always serving his Spiritual Master. He asked us to reflect on what the difference was between Hare Krsna and religion. He urged that religion can change but spirituality was for all. He also reminded us that no matter how many births we take, our relationship with Krsna can never change, Astivaram. He vividly described Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as being a very attractive personality with a small waist, broad shoulders and hands reaching up to the knees like a lion – Simhacaitanya. UCD also urged us to serve Krsna as those who surrender will get Krsna prem.

15 March 2009 Gaura Purnima celebrations:
UCD began the lecture by informing us that it was a smaran (rememberance) festival. 523 years had passed so it was Gaurabda 523. He told us that Krsna appeared once and Mahaprabhu also appeared once. Mahaprabhu’s expansion appears in every Kali Yuga. The complete potency of Mahaprabhu, Purna Avatar of Mahaprabhu, appeared in this Kali Yuga. Mahaprabhu will bestow Krsna prem in the mood of Vrindavan, Maha bhava, the highest level of love one can obtain for Krsna or the supreme object of our love. He told us that in Kali Yuga, Krsna appeared in a non blackish form and will spread his holy name. He explained that the first expansion of Krsna is Balaram who descended as Nityananda to serve Mahaprabhu. He illustrated the other expansions: the personality who serves Mahaprabhu is Advaita, an expansion of Sada Shiva, Srivas Thakur is an expansionn of Narada Muni and Gadadara is an expansion of the sakthi of Srimati Radharani.

The point he wanted to make was the reasoning behind the worship of Mahaprabhu and what the difference was in being a Vaishnava without worshipping Mahaprabhu. The mood of love for Radha and Krsna is best exemplified by the Gopis of Vrindavan. Therefore, only followers of Mahaprabhu obtain love for Krsna and Radha in the mood of Vrindavan. This knowledge is absent in other sampradayas. Sadhu gurus are representatives who can awards us Krsna Prem in the mood of Vrindavan. Vrindavan Krsna has special traits – flute, peacock feather, buffalo horn, bugle – not found in Krsna of Dwaraka. He told us of the plea and cry of Bhaktivinoda Thakur that only one who has got pure love for Krsna can give Krsna Prem. UCD also asked very philosophically: Is Mahaprabu a God, or a devotee or a combination of both? How shall we perceive him and worship him?” The answer is that Mahaprabhu must be worshiped as God equal to Krsna. He said that Mahaprabhu was God himself who came in the form of a devotee; it was ‘Krsna looking for a Krsna in the mood of Radharani’. He told us not to disturb the mood of Mahaprabhu. Only the mission of Mahaprabhu can save humanity. He ended the lecture by urging us to chant the holy name of Krsna and worship Gaura Nitai deities with kirtan and that arati alone was not enough. He also told us to sing the song Parama Koruna and know its significance.

He enlightened us with all these gems. I will surely miss UCD very deeply. The Vedic knowledge he presented in such a graceful and lucid style captured the audience comprising devotees and those new to Krsna Consciousness. This kind of truth revealed by a sadhu practitioner of Krsna Consciousness is essential so newcomers can understand and be convinced what the Pancatatva worship is all about, especially for those who’ve been exposed to Laxmi-Narayan worship devoid of Pancatatva. Surely the transition to Krsna Consciousness is smoother.
On a personal note he inspired me to chant nice rounds and complete the sixteen rounds everyday. He strongly said that I must always hear when I chant as I am the audience of my own chanting. This would also prevent the mind from wandering. He emphasised that the chanting was for none other than for the self to hear and be purfied. These words of encouragement I will never forget. Like many others whose lives he touched, I would like to thank him from the bottom of my heart for contributing to my spiritual advancement. I will always honour UCD. He will always have a special place in my heart.

May Lord Sri Krsna, Srimati Radha Rani and their Lordships and HDG Srila Prabhupada always shelter His Grace Uttama Caitanya Dasa Bramachari and keep him in their nectarian passtimes in the beautiful fragrant eternal abode of Goloka Vrindavan. I am very sure one as pure as he is in the soft embrace and blessings of Krsna. I also thank His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada for sending his dear devotee to teach us about everlasting spiritual happiness. May we also seek the shelter of the lotus feet of UCD for spiritual blessings. Hari Bol!
Dr. Sridevi Sriniwass,
University of Malaya

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