Kandarpa Koti Krishna Das is not a Ph.D. holder in Vaishnava studies, neither is he a famous millionaire businessman, nor will you find a famous youtube or Facebook channel in his name, nor is he the GBC or the temple president of his local ISKCON temple.
Yet, if you have the good fortune of attending any program at the Gauranga center in Singapore you will find that all the senior and junior devotees will go to this endlessly kind man and they will touch his feet to take his blessings. This is not just because of his wonderfully advanced age of 93 years; it is also a reflection of the stature at which he is held in the heart of the devotees as a Vaishnava.
In a recent celebration of the disappearance day of Madhavendra Puri (an amazing Vaishnava Acharya from the 14th century AD who performed physically difficult services when he was greater than 90 years old), the local GBC representative Devakinandan Das extolled that Kandarpa Koti Das is Singapore’s own Madhavendra Puri. “Kandarpa Koti is showing us that age is only a number and that unmotivated and incessant devotional service can be rendered unto Krishna at any age. Everyone in our congregation is very inspired by him”, added Devakinandan Das.
Always serving the devotees and never seeking recognition for it
You will also find that this unassuming man who worked for 45 years in the public works department of Singapore is always serving the devotees. He regularly advises people that “serving others is the way to true happiness in life”. For example, if you are visiting the local center for the first time you are likely to receive charanamrita from Kandarpa Koti himself. He is also likely to offer you a seat and say a kind word to welcome you. Your correspondent has almost never left the center of everything without receiving some kindness from Kandarpa Koti. This is the experience of all the devotees in the Singapore congregation.
Even though he is more than qualified to, Kandarpa Koti has never given a Bhagavatam class on a festival day or sung the Kirtan at Janmashtami. Temple authorities say that Kandarpa Koti Das has never sought any recognition or fame for his many services at the center.
Regulated habits are the key to a long life
When questioned about his secret to a long and successful life, Kandarpa Koti says “regulated, clean habits and including bhakti in every aspect of life is the key.” For instance, every week 3-4 times, for four hours starting with Mangala Arti at 5 am, Kandarpa Koti performs deity services at the Gauranga center. After these services, you can see him sit down at the temple hall and in his beautiful cursive handwriting, he writes what he reads in Srila Prabhupada’s books. Often, one can find these writings neatly hidden behind Srila Prabhupada’s murti at the Gauranga center.
An early start to spiritual life
Kandarpa Koti Krishna Das was born in the Chola dynasty’s town of Nagapattinam (in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu) in 1928 to a father who was a scholar of the Kambha Ramanyana, Mahabharata, and other vedic texts. At a young age he was taught these scriptures in the Tamil language by his father. Even today, if you approach him and request, he will sing beautifully and spontaneously from these teachings.
Endurance in the face of adversity
After having migrated from India to Singapore in 1952, Kandarpa Koti faced many adversities including losing a child at a young age. He faced financial hardships early in his life in Singapore and more recently his wife passed away after 62 years of marriage. Yet there seems to be not a trace of resentment or regret in this man. When questioned about how this is possible, Kandarpa Koti says that “when one is in devotee association constantly and living a Krishna Conscious life one understands that adversity and fortune are two sides of the same coin. They are both mercy of the Lord”.
Gratitude drives his service
When Kandarpa Koti speaks on Srila Prabhupada and his spiritual master (Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaja), a tear comes to his eye out of gratitude. Even despite so many years of service to Krishna, he has not forgotten that only by the mercy of a pure devotee can one get access into devotional service of the Lord.
When asked what his advice to ISKCON youth is, Kandarpa Koti says, “please hold dear the gift given to us by Srila Prabhupada and further his mission. Use this human life for devotional service as it is rare. It is not to be wasted.”
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies