Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Walking the Memory Lane of Bali Maharaja Dasa
By Vishnu Dasa   |  Dec 09, 2021
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                                                                                           Bali Maharaja Dasa, (1965-2021)

I don’t know how long it will take for one of us to be selected to champion the course of preaching in the grand style that Bali Prabhu did. It’s not just about having the financial resources but more about being empowered to do it on such a scale. Please kindly stay with me as I walk you through my memory lane of this great soul, philanthropist, musician, businessman, and the greatest Preacher in Africa who majored in Harinam Sankirtan and Book distribution like no one else.
Bali Prabhu was a champion of one-on-one book distribution especially in his days in the temple. Then he advanced it into ordering books for different yatras across West Africa and South America. He supplied Sankirtan paraphernalia worth millions to each temple on credit so they can have a functioning BBT shop. His food for life package was very robust and lots of people waited on it for sustenance.

I don’t know how long it will take for one of us to be selected to champion the course of preaching in the grand style that Bali Prabhu did.  On two different occasions, Bali Prabhu bought and distributed Harinam buses for the West African Yatras in his attempt to help spread the holy names in every town and village. First, he bought eight Buses, and later in 2013/14, he organized a Harinam Sankirtan scheme that came with getting busses for harinam teams. He would also get involved physically with his Apapa Harinam team.  When he called me to lead the harinam in Iskcon Benin he said “Prabhu I am not asking you to do what I won’t be part of physically. I will come to Benin to launch this harinam project with you and I will see to it that whatever is needed is available”.  Those were words of courage from a devotee who was prepared to lead from the front. When we later launched the harinam he came with a new 120 Bass accordion which was a big boost to the Harinam.

I don’t know how long it will take for one of us to be selected to champion the course of preaching in the grand style that Bali Prabhu did. On several occasions, Bali Prabhu would buy and distribute mrdanga karatals, bhoga, footwear, T-shirts, etc to encourage the harinam devotees to spread the Sankirtan Movement through the holy name and book distribution.

I don’t know how long it will take for one of us to be selected to champion the course of preaching in the grand style that Bali Prabhu did. It will be an atrocity for us to discuss devotee care and fail to mention Bali Prabhu’s name. Bali Prabhu paid for doctors and nurses to treat devotees who were ill, old, and invalid. He paid for medical tests, hospital bills, emergency ambulance requirements, etc for devotees when there was no one else they could turn to. There were devotees who fell out with their temple management and were forced to vacate the temple premises. These devotees having spent a huge part of their existence in the ashram could not suddenly leave outside nor were they equipped to grapple with the demands of the environment outside the ashram. Some of them were not welcome in other temples due to sanctions or stigma or they felt embarrassed to beg for a living in an institution they have served in different capacities.  It was Bali Prabhu who accepted these devotees in his temple, fixed them up in active devotional service, reinstated their material, physical and spiritual sanity.

I don’t know how long it will take for one of us to be selected to champion the course of preaching in the grand style that Bali Prabhu did. He sponsored devotees to India (Dham) to study Bhakti Sastri, Bhakti Vaibhav, deity worship, etc and these devotees later came back to Africa and preached extensively contributing to the spread of the Sankirtan movement in West Africa.

I don’t know how long it will take for one of us to be selected to champion the course of preaching in the grand style that Bali Prabhu did. Bali Prabhu later launched his Vedic welfare complex, turning his home into a temple of their beautiful Lordships Sri Sri Gaura and Nitai. A good number of pioneer devotees and young devotees across the world teamed up with him to grow this temple to a high standard with proper deity worship and daily devotional activities running.

Now let us talk about the distribution of the holy names in every town and village.

Sripad Aindra baba of Iskcon Krsna Balaram mandir was very dissatisfied with how far fewer harinam Sankirtan devotees were treated in Iskcon when compared to devotees having political or administrative positions. The Sastras and our Acharyas have unambiguously concluded that Harinam Sankirtan is the only effective way to permanently mitigate the sufferings of people in Kaliyuga and there is no other way.

I don’t know how long it will take for one of us to be selected to champion the course of preaching in the grand style that Bali Prabhu did. Bali Prabhu did not make such a mistake of treating harinam Sankirtan devotees who gave out the Holy names on the streets less than the life member cultivator who brings in the cash or the Regional Secretary/West African Council Chairman who commands reverence by dint of his position.

Bali Prabhu placed the spreading of the holy names in a high position where it should be. He didn’t just talk about it in classes but demonstrated it for all to see. Wait, let me unpack the gist.

He organized a conference where he invited all harinam leaders to discuss issues on the way forward on how to expand preaching via Harinam Sankirtan and book distribution. He paid for their flight tickets and checked them into a 4-star hotel, well furnished. He accorded simple street harinam devotees with class in a way that a street preacher has never experienced in the history of Iskcon West Africa. Yes, It never happened before.

I don’t know how long it will take for one of us to be selected to champion the course of preaching in the grand style that Bali Prabhu did. Bali Prabhu single-handedly sponsored committed harinam devotees from across West Africa and South America on pilgrimage to India where they shook the Dham with breathless Kirtans in places like Mayapur, Ujjain, Indore, Jaganath Puri, Juhu, etc  Yes, these devotees were not sponsored to go for big meetings or conferences. They were sent to the Dham as a reward for their consistency in performing Nagara Sankirtan daily. They were sent to the Dham to show to the larger Iskcon that devotees in Africa are also taking up the great mandate to distribute the holy names which is the great commission. Until today these memories remain in the hearts of the Indians and other nationals who witnessed the presence of these devotees in the Dham.

A good number of these glorious activities of Bali Prabhu were replicated in different countries in South America. A South American friend of mine told me that in his country Bali Prabhu’s harinam project was so well packaged that a temple Pujari dropped his bell and arati tray to go out for harinam Sankirtan daily.

I don’t know how long it will take for one of us to be selected to champion the course of preaching in the grand style that Bali Prabhu did. When Bali became the president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria PIMAN, he quickly took advantage of that and promoted ISKCON. He brought the cream of the Nigerian musicians to his temple, hosted live concerts in his home/temple that saw renowned musicians in the country coming to perform, sometimes in collaboration with some devotees. Prasadam was distributed to these celebrities and that was their contact with Krsna in their lifetime.

I don’t know how long it will take for one of us to be selected to champion the course of preaching in the grand style that Bali Prabhu did. When Bali Prabhu floated his Gaurapad firm he employed many young devotees, (men, boys, women, and girls) to work with him. He created employment for these devotees to meet their needs for a source of income at that time. Young men and women discovered their hidden potentials as managers in various fields. Some of these young men later became CEOs of their own firm and they would always say that Bali Prabhu contributed largely to their growth and experience in managing their lives.

To the non-devotees Bali was a Philanthropist but to Vaishnavas Bali Prabhu was selected by the supreme personality of Godhead to champion the course of preaching in West Africa. It will almost be impossible to name an individual who did not directly or indirectly benefit from the magnanimity of Bali Prabhu. If you didn’t benefit directly your temple did.

This is why I say that I don’t know how long it will take for one of us to be selected to champion the course of preaching in the grand style that Bali Prabhu did.

More from Kavicandra Swami

This Morning, ISKCON News had the opportunity to speak to Kavicandra Swami on the passing of Bali Maharaja Dasa. Kavicandra Swami stated that Bali Maharaja Dasa took Harinam to heart, this was essential in his being.  “He took 50 devotees for three months to the holy Dhams and Kumbha Mela. He paid for everything.”

The loss of this great Vaishnava example will be felt not only in West Africa but all over the globe.

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