Bhakti Charu Swami (Bhakti Cāru Svāmī, 17 September 1945 – 4 July 2020) was a spiritual leader of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and a disciple of ISKCON’s founder A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami is a Gaudiya Vaishnava sannyasi and a leader of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. He was born in Bengal in 1945 and spent most of his early life in the city of Calcutta. In 1970, he left India to study chemistry in Germany. Coming across Vedic literatures while in Germany, he discovered the richness of India’s spiritual heritage. In 1975 he returned to India to wholeheartedly pursue spiritual life.
After thoroughly studying the Vedic scriptures, Maharaj became aware of the need to find a spiritual master who could lead him on a sound spiritual course. After travelling to the Himalayas and searching for one year without coming across a spiritual master to whom he could fully surrender, he felt despondent and disappointed. When he almost gave up hope, he came across a book called The Nectar of Devotion by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Srila Prabhupada).
Becoming engrossed in the depths of that book, he realised that he had found his spiritual master and the path for which he was searching. As he continued to read Srila Prabhupada’s works, his conviction grew stronger, as did his desire to meet Srila Prabhupada. At that time, Srila Prabhupada was in America.
In 1976, Maharaj joined the International Society for Krishna Consciousness temple in Mayapur and became more involved in devotional service to the Lord, all the while awaiting Srila Prabhupada’s return to India.
When Srila Prabhupada returned to India at the end of 1976, the first meeting between guru and aspiring disciple finally took place. From their very first meeting, Srila Prabhupada gave Maharaj the assignment of translating his books into Bengali and then made him his Secretary for Indian Affairs. Srila Prabhupada gave Maharaj first and second initiation simultaneously, thus bringing him into the disciplic succession. Three months later, Srila Prabhupada awarded him the renounced order of Sannyasa.
Maharaj travelled with and personally served Srila Prabhupada for the final year of Prabhupada’s life. After Srila Prabhupada’s departure from this world in 1977, Maharaj served in Mayapur for several years whilst the society was going through a critical phase.
In 1987, Maharaj became an initiating guru in ISKCON and joined its Governing Body Commission, serving as its chairman in 1989.
By 1995, Maharaj had translated into Bengali all of Srila Prabhupada’s works on major Vedic literatures, consisting of more than fifty volumes of books including Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Chaitanya Charitamrita and Nectar of Devotion – just as Srila Prabhupada had instructed him in their very first meeting.
In 1996, Maharaj took on the mammoth task of making a biographical video epic on the life of his spiritual master, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada. Entitled Abhay Charan, this video series was broadcast on national television in India, and is distributed globally on DVD.
In 2004, at the invitation of the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Maharaj built a magnificent new ISKCON temple in just 10 months in Ujjain – the ancient and holy city also known as Avantika, and the place where Krishna and Balarama went to school. The temple has three huge alters for the worship of Sri Sri Radha Madanmohan, Sri Sri Krishna Balarama and Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, a goshala for cow protection, a midday meals facility for schoolchildren, a rural programme to spread Vedic culture to village people, and several outreach centres in Bhopal and Indore.
Maharaj served as the ISKCON governor for France and South Africa at a time when each of these zone was facing immense difficulties, and through perseverance was able to turn around the situations there.
In 2007, Maharaj began an altar production facility in Ujjain. The facility manufactures beautiful deity altars of all shapes and sizes for temples and devotees globally.
In 2013, Maharaj began development of a new ISKCON temple in Panihati – a very holy place in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, being the home of Raghav Pandit and the place of Lord Nityananda’s Chipped Rice (Chida Dadhi) Festival.
In 2014, Maharaj established Arogya Niketan, a traditional and authentic Ayurvedic clinic in Ujjain.
In 2014, Maharaj joined Artha Forum and begin delivering keynote speeches globally on spirituality to large audiences of business leaders.
Maharaj was the Chairman of Annamrita Foundation, ISKCON’s midday meals programme, which feeds 1.2 million children across India everyday.
Maharaj was the Chairman of the GBC Executive Committee, and the GBC Zonal Secretary for ISKCON in Mayapur, Kolkata, Ujjain, Bhubaneswar, Bangladesh and Seattle. He travels constantly across India, US, UK, South Africa, the Middle East and Australia, holding spiritual retreats and seminars, and fulfilling Srila Prabhupada’s instruction to him to spread the teachings of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami departed this material world at approximately 8.30am EST on 4th July 2020 at Deland, FL, USA.