Radhanath Swami narrates one of his experiences with Bhakti Tirtha Swami
“It was about 10 years ago. I was with one of my very dearest friends and god-brothers. His name was Bhakti Tirtha Swami….”- Radhanath Swami
He was an African-American who was born in the ghettos of Cleveland, at a time in the 1950s and 60s when if you were born in the ghettos it was ninety five percent chance that you would live and die in the poverty of the ghetto. The constitution spoke of civil rights. But the country did not offer civil rights to minorities. He was incredible, so positive; he never lost hope. He had such faith in God and such a will to do good for others, that without even asking he got a full scholarship to Princeton University. He graduated…. he was the leader of the civil rights movement in Princeton in 1960s; that was Martin Luther King’s movement. But he (Bhakti Tirtha Swami) had a spiritual calling, and eventually he became a swami with the same guru as me, His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada. He wrote many books; he would give spiritual guidance to people like Nelson Mandela, Mohammad Ali, and Alice Coltrane.
He called me to his bedside, because he was suffering from Melanoma Cancer. I would like to tell you one story, one that is etched so deep forever in my heart. His health was going through so many ups and downs, but his consciousness was always so humble, so transcendental, so full of compassion – and detachment. This is an irresistible combination – detachment and compassion. Sometimes to be detached, we are not compassionate: we don’t care – ‘it is not about me…nothing, no one’
“Sometimes detachment creates aloofness. But when there is deep detachment from one’s own ego, from one’s own selfishness, it is harmonized with profound compassion – real care for others, real willingness to make sacrifice for the welfare of others. That’s a combination that can transform people’s hearts.” – Radhanath Swami
So one day he was in so much pain that his whole body was trembling. They sat him on a chair, because he was paralysed from the waist down, and one of his legs was amputated. He was sitting in a chair, and I was speaking to him. We would spend hours and hours just talking about spiritual subjects. But as I was speaking, I could see he could not focus on what I was saying. So I began to chant this Mahamantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare; Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. As I was chanting, he held my hand, and suddenly the most blissful smile manifested on his face. His teeth practically went to his ears; that is how he was smiling. His eyes – I never saw him cry when he was in pain – his eyes were pouring tears of joy. Then he was shaking his head, and he told me, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Same pain was there; the body was still trembling. I said, “What do u mean?”
“It doesn’t get any better than this. I would not trade my position for anything or anyone else in this world, because I am tasting the sweetness of Krishna’s names.” Then he looked at me; his eyes were glistening with light. He said, “I am feeling Krishna’s love. I know where I am going, and I am ready to go. It doesn’t get any better than this.”