Bhakti Dhira Damodara Swami

Bhakti Dhira Damodara Goswami Maharaja

His Holiness Bhakti Dhira Damodar Swami is from West Africa. He is the first Sannyas disciple of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami. He is known for his years of dedicated services to ISKCON. He is very dear to devotees from Africa. He has been teaching them the priciples of devotional service the way he recieved from His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami & Srila Prabhupada.

His Holiness Bhakti Dhira Damodara Swami was born Oko Odama on the 8th of June 1957 to his parents Mr. and Mrs. Odama, who hailed from Ogoja, Cross River, Nigeria. His parents practiced African Traditional Religion (ATR); but he grew up as a Roman Catholic. He studied Electrical Engineering and worked with Costain (West Africa) Plc., Lagos in 1979. Although he earned his livelihood as an electrical engineer, he wanted to be a musician and was an up-and-coming reggae artiste when he moved into the temple in 1982. While a resident devotee, he continued to work on his musical album which he later abandoned in order to dedicated himself fully to the practice of bhakti yoga. Maharaj from a very young age has been very spiritually minded and he studied the Bible intensely with the sole aim of understanding God and His entire creations.

The concepts of reincarnation and karma were very central issues in his enquires. And as a youth, he once asked his Bible teacher to explain the concepts of reincarnation and karma and the teacher in anger told him that his questions were unbiblical. Not being satisfied with this response, he started searching for other faiths that could answer those questions. In his search for answers to the concepts of karma and the transmigration of souls, he associated with spiritual groups such as the Rosicrucian Order and Aetherius Society and read all of Lobsang Rampa’s books and practiced hatha yoga with Peter Obey a representative of Roy Eugene Davis, an American. He also corresponded with the spiritual organization founded by Al G. Maning, an American psychic. Then in 1980 he saw an advert in the Daily Times Newspaper by the Hare Krishna Movement on self realization, karma, yoga and reincarnation. He wrote to them and they sent him a copy of the Back to Godhead magazine. After receiving the magazine, he didn’t have the interest to read it thinking it was just an Indian magazine on vegetarianism because of the vegetarian advert on the back cover.

The following year, the same advert came up and he wrote to them and another Back to Godhead magazine was sent to him which reminded him of the copy he received from them the previous year. He searched out the magazine from a box and read it cover to cover and after reading the second magazine, he went to the Hare Krishna Temple at the address they sent along with the magazine. He recollected how nicely he enjoyed the prasadam (food), music and dance. He asked the devotees he met several questions on reincarnation and karma and was very satisfied with their responses. They encouraged him to visit the temple more in order to understanding the Vedic philosophy more deeply. But before leaving the temple that day he bought an audio cassette titled: Hari Om Sharan and a Bhagavad Gita. While at home he listened more to the cassette, and his elder brother was more absorbed reading the Bhagavad Gita.

Maharaj got his first initiation in 1985 and his second initiation in 1986. And after twenty years of practicing and serving the movement in different capacities, he was initiated a sannyasi (cardinal) on the 25th of March 2005 at Mayapur, India by His Holiness Jayapataka Swami on behalf of his Gurudeva, His Divine Grace Bhakti Tirtha Swami Maharaj who left this world three month earlier. On the 6th of February 2011, he took the guru oath before His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada at the Hare Krishna Temple, Ilupeju, Lagos. His Holiness Bhakti Dhira Damadora Swami is the first African sannyasi (cardinal) and guru (spiritual master) of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). He currently assists the West Africa GBC.