HH Bhakti Caitanya Swami
HH Bhakti Caitanya Swami (formely Richard Stuart Naismith) recalled his familiarity with the mantra as he heard ISKCON’s Founder Acarya, His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada chanting on the Auckland University Campus Grounds in the summer of ’69. This was Richard’s first profound encounter with his future spiritual master.
From youth, Richard’s interests formed around his keen study of English, resulting in a career path in journalism, but owing to his search for truth, he also explored the realm of philosophy. This search sparked a strong impetus to travel within him, motivating a venture around London town in 1972. His first philosophical interaction with Hare Krishna devotees occurred shortly afterwards. He visited the Temple, where he conversed with several devotees, including the then Temple President, Dhananjaya dasa. Richard subsequently moved into the Radha Krishna Temple in Bury Place on Sunday, 7th January 1973, receiving initiation from His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada in July of the same year. Richard had now become Raghubir dasa, serving as the temple commander of the Bury Place Temple. In 1974 he moved to London’s Bhaktivedanta Manor to, among many other engagements, serve as treasurer, book distributer, and BBT (Bhaktivedanta Book Trust) assistant.
In 1980 Raghubir dasa traveled to Southern Africa to assist in the mission of establishing a society of devotees there. In 1985 after years of great endeavor a grand opening of the Shri Shri Radha-Radhanatha Temple of Understanding in Durban, South Africa made local and international headlines. He has since been based in Durban, South Africa for more than thirty years, serving the community in various ways. He is the GBC (Governing Body Commisioner) of South Africa and serves in the Bhaktivedanta College of Education and Culture as the chairman on the board of examiners. He has been closely associated with the educational programs of ISKCON and has taught courses at the Vaishnava Institute for Higher Education in Vrindavana for ten years.
In 1994, during the Gaura-Purnima Festival, Raghubir dasa was awarded the renounced order receiving the name His Holiness Bhakti Caitanya (pronounced Chaitanya) Swami. Bhakti Caitanya Swami travels globally, preaching Krishna Conscious philosophy while remaining a stalwart spiritual leader for ISKCON South Africa.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami joined the Governing Body Commission in 1998, and his assignments have included overseeing the spiritual well-being of Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Estonia. Furthermore, he acts as co-GBC for Mauritius, Northwest Russia, Eastern Siberia, Western Siberia, Latvia, South Africa, and Lithuania. Maharaja has also served as chairman of the GBC from 2003 to early 2004 and as vice-chairman from 2001 to early 2003, and then again from 2010 to early 2012. He was elected GBC chairman once more in 2012.