Today I had the privilege to interview Derrick Kofi Mbir who is a brahman and an initiated disciple of HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami. Derrick’s initiated name is Vamsi Priya Das. He has studied at ISKCON Radhadesh and Bhaktivedanta College. Derrick has also been a spokesperson for Happy Krishna Consciousness World project, a television series created in collaboration with ‘IT Media Concepts’ and ‘Gauranga Travels Youth Tour’ that was broadcast on the national television of Republic of Ghana in West Africa. Derrick currently lives in Agona Swedru, a town in Ghana, and is the CEO of Univams Global Ltd.
How did you become a devotee?
Through my Dad.
You mentioned that your whole family are devotees. How did they become devotees? Was it from preaching efforts by Bhakti Tirtha Swami?
Yes, that’s my spiritual master. I love him so much
What do you love about Bhakti Tirtha Swami?
His preaching style and the way he accepted all sorts of people. His preaching always attracted the attention of the elite in the society in a way they could accept Krishna conscious wisdom. He always had a solution to every problem in the society.
What do you think was Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s secret for making Krishna consciousness accessible to everyone?
His humble and meek approach. He was pure with love. Prema.
What does Vrindavan mean to you?
Vrindavan is Krishna and Krishna is Vrindavan.
What would you say to people who think that Vrindavan can only be found in India?
A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the spiritual master of my guru, said this about the location of Vrindavan:
We should always know that Vrindavan is not localized in a particular area, but that wherever Krishna is there, Vrindavan is automatically there. And wherever the Holy Name of Krishna is chanted, Krishna is present there because there is no difference between Krishna and His Holy Name.
(A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada in a letter to Kirtanananda, Allston, May 23, 1968)
One of the things I really appreciate about Bhakti Tirtha Swami is how he presented himself. When he preached in Africa he appeared to wear traditional African dress. Do you think wearing Indian dress is required to worship Krishna?
Not at all. People must feel that the preacher has accepted their tradition. Embracing local culture helps. That’s one of the reasons why Bhakti Tirtha Swami was so successful.
Do you think that Bhakti Tirtha made a concession in order to help the preaching effort, and that the higher, more “bona-fide” standard is Indian dress and culture?
For preaching purpose, there is no need for Indian dress as a bona-fide standard of dress. When I was in Europe it was a lot easier to do sankirtan with jeans and T-shirt than in dhoti. Dhoti and saris are more useful during temple service.
What would you tell a devotee who is unable to travel to Vrindavan, India but still wants to take association of the Holy Dham?
A devotee is always in Vrindavan. It only takes serious chanting of the holy name to see Krishna in the name.