Peter Burwash and his daughter Kimberly in Vrindavan in 2000 c/o Food for Life Vrindavan (FFLV)
Peter Burwash, a Canadian-born, world-renowned tennis champion, business entrepreneur, leadership consultant, and affectionate friend of ISKCON passed away on Thursday, July 7 at the age of 77, in California, his longtime home.
Peter was a man of remarkable skills and talents. He began as a professional hockey player (with the St. Louis Blues) switched his attention to tennis, and went on to become the winner of 19 International Singles and Doubles Titles. He later founded Peter Burwash International (PBI), which for fifty years has been the world’s largest tennis management company, operating in 30-plus countries.
Peter was also a teacher and leadership guru. He wrote over a dozen books, and Dr. Steven Covey endorsed his “Key to Great Leadership”. For 35 years he traveled an average of 264,000 miles annually while offering more than 100 speeches and seminars per year teaching management and leadership skills to Fortune 500 companies and other audiences. He was a staunch advocate of vegetarianism and his books, “Total Health” and “Vegetarian Primer” promoted the vegetarian diet. Peter influenced thousands to adopt vegetarianism and choose a healthier lifestyle.
“Peter was a great person on every level,” said Jaya Sri dasi (Jill Clayton) who was Peter’s Administrative Assistant from 2007 to 2019. “Peter was a very principled person. He told me he never once took any kind of intoxicant. He didn’t smoke. He didn’t drink. He didn’t even swear. And, he required the tennis pros in his organization to also forgo smoking, drinking, and other intoxicants 24/7.”
Peter was also an admirer of ISKCON Founder-Acarya, Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and he supported the teaching of bhakti, devotional yoga, in many ways. Peter would often remark to friends how he had spent more than two hours alone in conversation with Prabhupada when he was establishing his company. Prabhupada encouraged Peter to build his business while never compromising his principles. Guiding words that Peter took to heart.
Peter was a dedicated supporter and friend of the Sandipani Muni Schools in Vrindavana India, and the Food for Life Vrindavan organization, under the direction of Rupa Raghunatha das. “Peter visited us in Vrindavan the first time in July 2000, it was the first of what would become a yearly visit,” said Rupa Raghunatha das. In the years to follow Peter was instrumental in the growth of FFLV, donating regularly for their services, conducting teacher training sessions yearly on his visit, and most important guiding them in how to run a business, a charity, and a school. Most of his instruction emanated from the famous three hours private talks he had with Srila Prabhupada in the early seventies in Hawaii.
He will be missed dearly and we are confident that he is looking down on us while still guiding us with the many lessons given.
As a world-famous athlete, benefactor, and spiritual enthusiast, Peter visited the schools in Vrindavana, India, for a remarkable 18 years in a row. His regular pilgrimages there, often accompanied by one or both of his young daughters, were an inspiration for the children of the school.
“Peter supported his Hare Krishna friends in many ways,” said Anuttama Dasa, ISKCON Minister of Communications. “He was a keynote speaker at the annual North American Festival of Inspiration for more than a decade. He enthusiastically taught us principles of service, and he stressed simple, time-tested values that he had learned from his years of business experience and his time with Srila Prabhupada.”
Peter Burwash, a pro tennis player, explains the benefits of a vegetarian diet for athletes. Includes a vegetarian cooking class by Nancy Rossi. Source: Krishna Tube
Peter shared often how Prabhupada advised him to be an example of ethical business practices. Peter lived those principles by his lifelong example of determination, humility, patience, forgiveness, and service mood. He encouraged others to live a life of service, as well. At his Festival of Inspiration talks, Peter would often reveal his research on ISKCON temples’ interaction with visitors. He would congratulate communities that provided warmth and hospitality to newcomers, and gently, but firmly, prod others to do better.
ISKCON is grateful to Peter Burwash. He demonstrated that one can be tremendously successful in the world, while all the while being dedicated to spiritual values and ethical principles. “The world needs more people like Peter Burwash,” said Anuttama Dasa. “He was a dear friend and an inspiration to many. He will be sorely missed.”
Peter is survived by his wife Lynn, and his daughters Skyler and Kimberly. We pray that Lord Krishna will continue to watch over them in Peter’s absence.
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies