on Feb. 3, 2012
The ISKCON community is shaken and saddened after three young devotees—Nitai Dasa of New Vrindaban, West Virigina, Yadupati Dasa of Alachua, Florida, and Tim Carter of Gainesville—passed away in a tragic car accident.
The three friends were returning home to the Alachua and Gainesville ISKCON communities from Jacksonville, Florida on the night of Tuesday, January 31st, when their Toyota Carolla was struck by a semi at Florida 228 and U.S. 301 in Maxville. According to Lt. Bill Leeper and the Florida Highway Patrol report, Nitai Dasa, the driver of the Corolla, was stopped at 301 at about 10 p.m. before pulling out in front of the truck.
The semi hit the driver’s side of the vehicle and dragged it about seventy-five yards before it came to rest, with the car nearly completely underneath it. Nitai, 31, was killed along with passengers Tim Carter, 30, and Yadupati, 47. The Highway Patrol reported the driver of the semi as Johnny Williams, 53, of Hemingway, South Carolina.
All three devotees were beloved by their communities, who have been hit hard by the shocking incident.
Nitai Dasa was well-known around ISKCON for his efforts in spreading Krishna consciousness, and especially distributing prasadam, throughout the US with his traveling Krishna Kitchen. A disciple of Radhanath Swami, he joined ISKCON in New Vrindaban in 1998, and has since established a major professional catering presence by devotees at major US festivals such as Burning Man and Wanderlust. Last year, he and his crew distributed over 100,000 pieces of prasadam, and were specially called upon to cater to the staff of these festivals. Nitai’s contribution to making prasadam and Krishna consciousness a household name is unique.
“Nitai was an avant garde, out-of-the-box thinker,” says Rukmini Dasi, a friend of his from Washington D.C. “He was ahead of his time, a visionary, and misunderstood by most people. He brought Gauranga’s kirtan, and Jagannath prasad to many masses of people who would have otherwise never had access to that kind of blessing. May Lord Jagannath bring Nitai Das to His lotus feet!”
“Nitai was an integral part of my life,” adds Rasikananda Dasa, Nitai’s best friend and Krishna Kitchen cohort. “He was my buddy, my partner in crime, my hero. We had an instant respect for one another and worked on countless projects in service to our Guru Radhanath Swami, who he introduced me to. I can blame all my good fortune on Nitai. And I will sadly miss him. But like a brother in arms, we will continue in his enthusiasm and band together to carry the banner forward.”
Yadupati Dasa, meanwhile, grew up in the Hare Krishna movement and was one of the early students at the Bhaktivedanta Swami International School in Vrindavana, India.
“I first met Yadupati when he came to Vrindavana gurukula, around 1979,” says his old gurukula friend Ananta Vrindavana Dasa. “As he was one of the older boys, and was big and strong and knew martial arts, I always looked up to him. In the late nineties, when we both moved to Alachua, I hadn’t seen him all those years but we immediately reconnected through our shared past, reminiscing about what it was like going to the Yamuna river, or visiting Loi Bazaar.”
Yadupati playing his beloved mridanga
Despite the difficult times that Yadupati endured while in gurukula and later in life, as did many of the early gurukulis, he was always dedicated to personal growth, sought shelter in kirtan, and cared deeply about others. He is remembered in Alachua for being present at every kirtan, enthusiastically playing his beloved mridanga drum, and for his ready smile.
“He took every opportunity to be in kirtan,” Ananta Vrindavana says. “He would always ask me when I was going to sing, and I would always be glad to see him at the temple, like a brother-in-arms. He played mridanga with a lot of enthusiasm. After the kirtan, I would always get a big sweaty hug from him and make a ritual of looking at the mridanga calluses on his hands.”
“Yadupati was one of those rare people who made everyone feel like they mattered,” adds one Alachua resident. “I didn’t know him very well, but he always acknowledged me, had kind words for me and made me feel like we were old friends.”
Tim Carter, the youngest of the three devotees who passed away in the accident, had been involved in Krishna consciousness for about five years, and served as a congregational member of the Krishna House in Gainesville, near Alachua, for four of those.
An accomplished pianist, he was a graduate of the University of Florida in Fine Arts and Music. Devotees from the Krishna House recall that when they attended his graduation recital, Tim—known affectionately by his devotee friends as Gopinath—played a piece by Rachmaninoff, the Russian composer, entirely from memory without the assistance of sheet music.
Tim "Gopinath" Carter singing kirtan on the UF Campus
Tim, described as “one of the most sincere and genuine people I’d ever met,” by a friend, was best known, just like Yadupati Dasa, as a lover of kirtan.
“He was amazing,” says Kalakantha Dasa, president of the Krishna House. “If there was a kirtan any hour of the day, anywhere around the Alachua/Gainesville area, he would be there. He loved the Holy Name. And his thoughtfulness and generosity came through in kirtan, too. He himself was very proficient in all kinds of melodies. But he would always make sure people were included, and would play whatever instrument was necessary to complement the group of people there.”
Kalakantha adds, “All the devotees here at the Krishna House are very devastated at his loss. He was really a brother to many of them, and an inspiration.”
In these three beautiful souls’ honor, the Alachua community’s weekly youth bhajans were held at the temple on Wednesday February 1st. Around two hundred people gathered in an emotional celebration of their lives and greatest love, kirtan. There was a great sense of community as their spiritual extended family came together to support the immediate families and loved ones of Nitai, Yadupati and Tim. Our hearts are with them in this difficult time.
Yet while there is sadness, there is joy too in a devotee’s passing.
“Nitai isn’t gone,” says his friend Rasikananda. “He’s just been promoted to serve Srila Prabhupada’s new frontier with Yamuna Devi, and Aindra Prabhu; and so they took Nitai the festival organizer, Tim the Kirtaniya and Yadupati the sweet mridanga player. May we graduate and join them in the eternal realm of service.”
Nitai Dasa with his guru, Radhanath Swami
Memorials and funeral services are as follows:
Nitai Prabhu, 11:00 am, Sunday, Feb 5, at Milan Funeral Home, Gainesville. A full service with guests able to speak about him. After services, memories can continue back at the temple.
Bhakta Tim (Gopinatha) Prabhu, 4:30pm, Monday, Feb 6, at Milan Funeral Home, followed by a gathering for kirtan and appreciations at Westside Park. A potluck dish is encouraged.
Yadupati Prabhu, 7:00 p.m., Tuesday Feb 7, at the Alachua temple. Please come and share your memories.