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Sriman Sundararupa prabhu

Monday, 22 September 2008 / Published in Hari-sauri dasa, In Memoriam / 6,225 views

Sundararupa Prabhu with HH Tamal Krishna Goswami and HH Keshava Bharati Maharaja

By Hari-sauri dasa

It is with great regret that we have to acknowledge the passing of another senior member of ISKCON, Sriman Sundararupa prabhu. Husband of Sudharma dasi he had lived in Alachua FL for many years. He had a history of heart problems and about ten years ago had a heart valve replacement. Then again this year he had to undergo a repeat of the same operation. Unfortunately his health problems continued and he was hospitalized a few days ago and put on life support. At around 8.00 PM on Saturday September 20 he departed.

I am glad I had one last opportunity to see him. On June 7 2008 I was visiting Alachua and I sent the following email to my wife Sitala:

 ”Yaduabara and I drove up from Alachua yesterday to Atlanta. It was pretty smooth going and took five hours. Before we left we went to see Sundararupa, who had just gotten out of hospital after an open-heart surgery to replace a major heart valve. He was happy to see us even though we couldn’t spend more than 15 mins. because we were running late. He showed us his scar which ran from his throat down to his gut. The doctors literally take a power saw and cut right through the rib cage, pull it apart and pin it back and then do the replacement. Its pretty traumatic for the body but as Sundararupa told us, its like going to sleep and waking up with a new body. You go in with intense chest pains, breathlessness and thinking you could die at any moment, and you wake up with normal functions, albeit with some operational trauma to get over, but the heart works normally and you feel like you have been given a new body. ”

Sundararupa told us at that meeting that his previous heart valve was artificial and only had a limited life span. This new one was real and would “last the rest of this life.” An ironic observation to say the least.

Sitala had replied my email:

“Glad to hear you took the time to visit Sundararupa. What a heavy operation to go through. I  remember years ago, he was told by an astrologer that he would die fairly young (can’t remember the prediction) due to heart failure. Maybe his karma was minimized by Krsna.”

Through a competent astrologer it is possible to know how long we can expect our lifespan will be, but our actual life span is in the hands of Krsna:

Bg 18.61

 ”The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.”

In the general scheme of things according to the Lord’s sweet will and in response to our own desires and activities, we move from one situation to the next. But for a devotee, there is nothing inauspicious nor is the movement of a devotee dictated by karma. It is directly arranged by Krsna Himself.

There is no doubt therefore that Sundararupa prabhu has moved to a most auspicious destination. When he left his body he was surrounded by devotees chanting the holy names. Krsna was therefore personally present and there is no doubt that He has rewarded his servant for his many years of dedicated service. 

As proof that devotees are always in the direct care of the Lord, I recall an interesting story Sundararupa told me many years ago. In the early 80s, Sundararupa was in charge of our operations in Italy. He would also go to Israel to preach. On December 27 1985 he and several other devotees (maybe as many as seven) were standing in line at the Israeli airline EL AL ticket counter waiting to check in. The line was moving slowly and somehow or other, for different reasons, every single one of the devotees wandered off, leaving their luggage in the line. While they were away, disaster struck:

(from BBC ’On this day’ news service) 

1985: Gunmen kill 16 at two European airports

At least 16 people have been killed and more than 100 injured during simultaneous twin terrorist attacks at Rome and Vienna airports.Gunmen opened fire on passengers queuing to check-in luggage at departure desks for Israel’s national airline, El Al.

The attacks were indiscriminate and started within minutes of each other at about 0815 GMT today.

No group has yet admitted carrying out the attacks.

At least 13 people were killed, three of them gunmen, after six men, described by witnesses as being of Arab origin, fired bullets at travellers waiting in the main departure hall at Rome’s international airport.

Chaos broke out during what is reported to have been a five minute attack as passengers fell to the floor for cover.

Italian police returned fire as bullets rang out across the concourse leaving a trail of blood and broken glass.

Some unconfirmed witness reports describe having heard two “bombs” explode before the gun fire.


Two gunmen, in their twenties and of Arab origin, were captured alive.

One of them was taken to a military hospital for surgery and a third attacker is said to have escaped.

In similar scenes in neighbouring Austria, three gun men threw four hand grenades into crowds of passengers queuing to check-in for a flight to Tel Aviv.

It is understood they then pulled out Kalashnikov submachine guns as Austrian police returned fire.

They escaped by car but were pursued by police who opened fire.

One of the men is reported dead, the other two were severely wounded and eventually surrendered to police.

It comes amid reports airport authorities received warnings Arab militant groups were planning a pre-Christmas terrorist campaign at terminals across the world.

El Al counter after the attack

 In all, the attacks, which were carried out by notorious terrorist group Abu Nidal, killed 18, including a child, and wounded around 140. Yet none of our devotees were harmed. I remember Sundararupa telling me that he had to dive for cover as bullets flew around and explosions rocked the air.

The moral: Rakhe krsna mare ke mare krsna rakhe ke. If Krsna desires to kill somebody, nobody can save him. If Krsna wants to save somebody, nobody can kill him.

Sundararupa prabhu has now been taken by Krsna to a new destination. We sincerly wish this dedicated servant of Srila Prabhupada an all-auspicious life in the service of the lotus feet of the Lord and His pure devotees and offer our heartfelt condolences to his wife and children.

Sundararupa Prabhu in a recent photo with Matsyavatara and Narada Muni Prabhus in Italy

5 Responses to “Sriman Sundararupa prabhu”

  1. KCSWAMI says :

    Sundarapupa Prabhu pushed “CONTACT SANKIRTAN”. I think that if more temples would take up that style of book distribution it would be a very fitting way to honor his service to Srila Prabhupada. It would also mean a nice increase in our preaching.

    I am certain that the vaisnava community in Alachua is offering and will continue to offer all help to Sudharma Mataji, the good wife of Sundararupa Prabhu, and their young daughter. While he has gone to a better place, they are left without a father and a husband. Sudharma Mataji has done great service to Srila Prabhupada’s mission, serving selflessly and brilliantly in many capacities.

  2. JivaGoswami says :

    Along with the trauma of losing her husband and friend, Sudharma prabhu also is looking at the stark economic reality of the loss of the family income for her and her 13 yo daughter.

    Please help with a PayPal gift to, or a check to Susan Wieland, PO Box 2038, Alachua, FL 32616. Many small gifts, and maybe a few larger gifts will make a very meaningful difference to the family as they struggle to regain their footing.

    Your servant,

    Jiva Goswami

  3. radhacaran says :

    I am sad to hear of Sundararupa prabhu’s departure. Not that I was a close friend but more of a remote admirer. I was in France in the late 70s when he came to work with Bhagavan in Italy. Sundararupa prabhu was the brain, the eyes and the vision of the Italian yatra. He had such an amazing foresight for the preaching and achieved results beyond expectations, both as a householder and as a sannyasi. I still remember his kirtans and I have always loved his deep strong and warm voice. Nothing could stop Sundararupa prabhu from pushing the preaching. He pushed and pushed and pushed until he would drop out of exhaustion. He only had concern for the welfare of the devotees and the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada. If someone, to my eyes, was empowered by Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya, to spread Krsna consciousness in a very intelligent manner, Sundararupa prabhu is the name that comes to my mind. What a powerful and humble vaisnava.
    Your servant

  4. Interesting that you mentioned the terrorist attack in Rome. Back in 1981 I did the horoscope of Sundaraupa Prabhu with 10 years future prognostications. I had completely forgotten what I had told him. But when I met him some time in the early 1990’s he told me that I had predicted to him danger from terrorists (I knew he was preaching in Israel) during the period of the Abu Nidal attack on the Rome airport. Specifically Sundararupa Prabhu told me that while the machine gun bullets were flying over his head he was thinking of my prediction and how it was coming true and hoped that my other predictions would also come true—meaning of course that he would survive the attack (-;

    One of legacies of Sundarupa Prabhu preaching is that to this day in Italy devotees always go out to do sankirtan and book distribution in devotional dress and NOT in Karmi clothes. This has had a very favorable impact on the general Italian population.

    Shyamasundara Dasa

  5. Administrator says :

    Matsya Avatara Prabhu:

    “I met Sundararupa Prabhu in May-June 1977. His first residence in Italy was my home. Later, in September of the same year, upon my return from a trip to India, we have begun to cooperate very closely. When I knew him, I discovered a well organized, serious, dedicated and responsible devotee. I was 32 and he was 27.

    From the beginning we have worked closely in performing our devotional service and we had a very good relationship. My role was to assist him in his President duty by helping him with his work in certain environments and services. Particularly, we had the chance to work together on the strategy for the development of the Movement in Italy and I assisted him mainly with the administrative and legal aspects and with the relationship with the Italian Nation, the institutions and the public organizations. I introduced him to the Italian reality in its cultural, historical and social-political prospective. Sundararupa Prabhu, gradually, has given me many institutional responsibilities and in 1978 he gave me the Presidency of the Italian ISKCON.

    Together we looked for a place that could be called the house for the devotees, the main office for the Italian ISKCON and finally on December 4, 1979 we found and purchased a property in San Casciano Val di Pesa, near Florence that was later named Villa Vrindavana. We have developed this Project with the help of many devotees. Among these devotees was my father Caitanya-Nitai, who has given a great contribution to the realization of Villa Vrindavana in a cooperation relationship with Sundararupa Prabhu that was friendly and filled with esteem. He was the director and had the responsibility for the Italian ISKCON, I was his assistant and I was later elected president by him and Bhagavan das. We have served under Bhagavan’s guide happily for years.

    This cooperation lasted steadily and constructively without interruptions from September 1977 when we met, until October 1986, for nine intensive years. In 1986 Sundararupa left for Israel and then returned to the United States and remained there until his departure on 20 September 2008.

    Our relationship was so personal, strong, special, founded on such intense sentiments of affection and esteem that even after Sundararupa Prabhu left Italy, I went often to the US to see him, every time I had the chance. We met in many occasions, one time in Dallas, Texas, another time in New York, again in Washington DC where we visited George Town University that he was attending to complete his Degree and when he had the opportunity to visit Italy he came to see me. Our relationship has always remained strong. We both throughout the years have over and over expressed and demonstrated affection for one another, esteem and deep appreciation for each other.

    The main tie that kept us together was no doubt the affection that we shared for our Guru, His Holy Grace Bhaktivedanta Svami Shrila Prabhupada, and all of our subjects, cooperation and projects were to satisfy His desires, to carry on His wonderful Mission. Our relationship based on devotional service has enriched us enormously. One was complementing the other. We greatly enjoyed each other’s company. Throughout the years I appreciated his genuine dedication and devotion to our Guru, his great engagement in developing the Italian ISKCON, his caution, foresight and operative and managerial capability and I have personally witnessed how his work was functional to the expansion and differentiation of the Italian ISKCON. I saw how he dedicated himself with enthusiasm, shrewdness, diligence and proactive, programmatic, strategic and tactical intelligence for the diffusion of the teaching of the Bhakti by organizing groups of preachers, books printing and festivals for thousands of people.

    My role was to assist him, as his counselor for the resolution of strategic and tactical problems of various natures and under his guidance, the ISKCON Italia project has considerably expanded and the number of devotees has multiplied along with the creation of new Temples and centers for the diffusion of the Bhakti. Sundararupa Prabhu was a leader very loved and followed. He was a charismatic leader, dedicated, affectionate and capable of sacrifice spirit. In 1986 he departed from Italy and returned to the United Stated and thereafter there was a period of twenty years of great trials.

    In 2005, Sundararupa Prabhu during one of our exchanges, that, to tell the truth was never interrupted even after his return to the USA, while I was telling him about my project with the CSB, he expressed the desire to enroll for the Academic Study Course of Philosophy. With joy, appreciation spirit and affection I encouraged him to deepen his knowledge of that institution that I had founded and gave him the chance, when I saw and listened to his interest and appreciation for what we were doing, to cooperate in close contact like we used to do. I offered him a role in the CSB, the role to develop this project in the United States. In 2006 Sundararupa has began to seriously thinking of this chance and offering his availability to this service with enthusiasm even though he had a very objective and realistic vision of his multiple engagements and responsibilities as a father of a 13 year old girl, a marriage and a family to take care of. We have weighted for about a year what would have been his real capability to cooperate and undertake responsibilities in the CSB. In 2007, upon my invite, he came to see me in Italy. It was a wonderful experience. He spent 15 days with me, my disciples and cooperators and he took the opportunity for visiting Villa Vrindavana and Medolago.

    During this visit he participated in a week long festival that I held in a Villa in Colle Val D’Elsa. He wanted to live this experience to understand his role in CSB with its activities and its participants. Before the seminar he spent 4-5 days with us at our main Office where he came in contact with all the instruments available to the CSB. By learning it closely, he fell in love with this Project and together we developed his role in it. Sundararupa Prabhu in that occasion took the responsibility of having the US Government and in particular the State of Florida recognize CSB as a no-profit organization.

    After reaching this recognition, unanimously he was elected President of the CSB in America and a very close relationship began between him and other devotees of CSB that I have tasked to help him such as Naradamuni, Anantadeva, Madhavipriya, Radharani, Paramatma, Gopalprasada and others that have helped him reaching the second step that we were taking. This was the academic recognition of our School by the State of Florida by instituting the Bhakti Yoga College in January 2007. The third step would have been the recognition of the Bhakti Yoga College by the US Government as accredited University. Between the second and the third step Sundararupa Prabhu has unfortunately left us. He certainly departed toward a superior reality and he left all of us with a great sentiment of esteem, affection and appreciation toward him and also an unpleasant emptiness because we will certainly miss his cooperation and experience and his capability to administer and manage what we had given him with great trust. However, we will have in our hearts, his affection, his joy, his enthusiasm and his happiness in serving this Project. During the past two years he gained a new life of hope, knowledge of his capabilities and potentialities to return to diffuse Krishna Consciousness in contemporary society through the CSB Project. This Project utilizes an indirect mean through the modality of culture. This modality was discussed among us 20-30 years ago when Sundararupa Prabhu appreciated its importance to favor people in pursuing consciousness and awareness of the existence of a Superior Reality.

    Sundararupa Prabhu was a devotee very dear to me who lived and will always live in my heart and in my mother’s, my wife’s and my children’s’ hearts. During the past two years when our cooperation was intensively reactivated I could experience once again, as it had happened in the past for numerous days, the pleasure, the joy and the great satisfaction of sharing the practice of Bhakti with a devotee so sincere and dedicated to the spiritual realization of Krishna Conscience.”

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