20th April 1951 – January 21st 2017
Bhajahari das met Kula Shekar and Sukarma in Cardiff in 1971, then came to London with them where he met Srila Prabhupada for the first time and dedicated his life to him. He was the first president of Bhaktivedanta Manor, and was passionate about prasadam distribution and Harinam. He opened Gokula Vegetarian Cafe in Watford in 2010.
BHAJAHARI WAS BORN Christopher Samuel Murphy on 20th April 1951, in Cardiff, South Wales. Right from the very beginning it seems he was a force to be reckoned with, as he weighed in at eleven and a half pounds at birth which can’t have been easy for his five foot one mother. He was the third of four boys, later to be joined by a little sister. Life was not easy for the family as there was not much money around and the boys were always fighting.
He attended primary school in Ely, then went to St Illtyd’s school at secondary level, which was run by Christian brothers (monks). They could be heavy with the cane, and so Chris came in for quite a rough time of it with beatings from the school and his dad, plus fighting with his brothers. However his father also insisted he attended Catholic church on Sundays where he quickly revived his attraction to spiritual life and soon became an altar boy. He always credited his father for this introduction to spiritual life and forgave him the beatings he had received.
He left school at 16 years and not knowing what else to do joined the Merchant Navy and spent the years from 16 to 18 travelling around the world three times. During this time he was employed in the galley helping to prepare food for the crew. After he left the merchant navy he worked for a time in a busy snack bar preparing food and serving customers. These experiences laid the foundations of a lifetime interest in feeding people, later to be prasadam distribution.
After the age of 18 he spent a couple of years being a hippy and looking into Eastern religions. He read a version of the Bhagavad Gita and studied the books of Lobsang Rampa, popular at the time. He set up an altar in his little studio Hat with pictures of Jesus, Visnu, etc. Then came the time that Changed his whole life, the devotees arrived in Cardiff. Kula Shekar was there, along with Sukarma. He was immediately attracted and when the devotees were thrown out of their rented accommodation he had them to stay in his tiny studio flat. Not long after this, his landlord threw him out so he stayed with the devotees.
He often described how he would go on Harinam on the streets of his home town, Cardiff, shaved up, and see his mother standing crying on the street corner. His girlfriend of the time was also extremely upset about the turn of events.
He came to London with the devotees in 1971, when he met Srila Prabhupada for the first time and dedicated his life to him, receiving the name Bhajahari das. Sometime around this time he went up to Nottingham to open a centre there. After Bhaktivedanta Manor was donated to the movement by George Harrison he became the first temple president under the direction of Mukunda, now Maharaja. Seeing that the kitchen was not being properly run and devotee prasadam was not very good, he resigned as president and took over running the kitchens. He married Ramya devi dasi in 1973 and had a daughter, Radhakunda, in 1974. This was followed by another daughter, Nikuhjabihari, in 1977. In 1979 his first son, Panca Tattva, arrived and in 1988 a second son, Mukunda Datta.
During the 1980’s he was in charge of the ladies’ sankirtan party, which singlehandedly raised the money to buy and refurbish the Soho Street Temple. Then he was again involved in prasadam distribution, being in charge of the Soho Street restaurant – then known as Healthy, Wealthy and Wise – which he managed to make successful by doubling the takings within a few weeks by means of leaflet distribution on the streets.
There followed a period where he had some difficulties with spiritual life, and because of his total and utter dedication to Srila Prabhupada, began to question his role within ISKCON and the direction in which it was headed after Prubhupada‘s departure. He had worked closely with both Jayatirtha and Bhagavan, and became disillusioned when they fell down and left.
Bhaja always had a dream of having a prasadam distribution outlet, either a cafe or restaurant, and after spending some years running a successful print and painting sales business, was able to open GoKula Cafe with a small family inheritance.
After a year he suffered a heart attack and this prompted a renewed vow to become serious about Krsna Consciousness. Since this time he was never without earphones in his ears listening to Srila Prabhupada’s lectures, bhajans and japa. He never missed Saturday night Harinam, and it became the focus of his life, along with distribution of the On Chanting Hare Krsna booklets. These activities – along with cooking for devotees and friends met through GoKula Cafe – became his great joys in life.
He often said he was ready to die whenever Krsna and Srila Prabhupada should require him to, as he felt fixed in his Krsna Consciousness and genuinely had no interest left in this material world. Krsna did call him on January 21st 2017 and he left after a cardiac arrest with Srila Prabhupada chanting in his ears, as always, with tilak on and Radhakunda water on his head and in his mouth and Srimati Radharani’s garland round his head.