HG Rupa Sanantana das, disciple of HH Romapada Swami, left his body @ 7:40pm India time on Feb 28 2013, in the midst of 25 devotees chanting kirtan in the Back to Godhead Room within the Hospice, Vrindavan, India. His passing was glorious! His cremation took place @ 4pm on March 1. Our service at this time is prayer.
HG Rupa Sanantana das was a former temple president from ISKCON St. Louis. Presently 62 years of age, he had been admitted to Bhaktivedanta Hospice in Vrindavan with terminal cancer.
Rupa Sanatana Prabhu was born on August 4, 1950 as Stephen Ritz. He was the 2nd of 5 children. He was married twice and from the 1st wife, he had a daughter, Ananda, whom he carefully nurtured throughout his life. “Rupa”, as he is affectionately called, requested for the shelter of HH Romapada Swami in 2002. He was 1st and 2nd initiated in Vrndavana (2004) and St. Louis (2007) respectively.
While raising his daughter, he returned to college to receive a degree in architecture, after which he worked for an architectural company, designing churches within Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. He was well respected in that field during this professional career as well as when serving the movement full-time. The Washington DC temple management extensively sought his guidance in building a new temple. Using his skills, he also did major temple renovation work in St. Louis by rebuilding the Brahmacari Ashrama and making an attractive front face for the building.
Rupa Sanatana Prabhu certainly enjoyed simple living and high thinking. For many years he voluntary lived in a self–built cabin on a farm in Kansas that had no electricity or running water. He enjoyed gardening both in Kansas as well as in St. Louis.
Upon quitting his day job as an architect, Rupa Sanatana Prabhu took up vanaprastha status and began his Bhakti Sastri studies at Radhadesh, as directed by his spiritual master. Before completion, however, he was asked to return to the U.S. to become Temple President at St. Louis towards the end of 2005. He remained in that position through the beginning of 2012 with the exception of a short period of less than a year in between.
He was diagnosed with life-changing bladder cancer at the end of 2010.
What follows is a summary of his service as the Temple President in St. Louis:
Rupa Sanatana das has been a tremendous asset to St. Louis in the capacity of Temple President due to his tireless service over the past several years, demonstrating unflinching dedication to the mission of Srila Prabhupada, even while his body has been battling with cancer.
Rupa Sanatana achieved many things while serving as Temple President -- organizing very successful public festivals, Rathayatra, major temple renovation, volumes of prasadam distribution, strong temple program participation, etc.
During his time as Temple President, he held the first ever Ratha Yatra in St. Louis, with another the following year. He successfully Govinda’s Restaurant as well as a lunchtime delivery clientele. Preaching was his life! He planned and executed the weekly Krsna Fest programs. In addition, he spear-headed organization of public festivals such as Guara Purnima, Janmastami, Radhastami, Ratha Yatra, appearance and disappearance days of the previous acaryas etc. He would consistently take a group out for Harinama each Friday evening, offer weekly Bhagavad Gita classes and organize monthly programs in Indianapolis. He was often invited to present Krsna consciousness at St. Louis University, Christian Brothers College High School, and other schools and colleges in the St. Louis area. He was respected and loved among the inter-faith community in St. Louis. In addition to his administrative duties, Rupa Sanatana Prabhu would serve as pujari regularly performing various arati offerings and even cooking for the Deities when required. His tremendous energy and enthusiasm was contagious.
Upon being diagnosed with cancer, he embarked on a series of surgeries and treatments over a period of more than 2 years. Each surgery was successful in removing tumors, but upon follow-up tests, tumors continued to be found. Just as the decision had been made to remove the bladder in October of 2012, additional tests revealed that cancer developed in his liver and was determined to be inoperable. He was then given a prognosis of 6 months or less.
What follows is a conclusion by a dear friend and mentee of his: “Rupa Sanatana Prabhu was a true example of faith, dedication, determination, enthusiasm, love and strength. I am forever grateful to the mercy of Sri Krsna for allowing association with a real Mahatma, great soul. He enriched the lives of all who came in contact with him, leaving the impression of his ever-present smile and generous laugh upon one’s heart. I pray that, and am sure that, the desires of his soul with be fulfilled. Evidence of this was when I was chanting beside his bed when medication no longer allowed for him to chant on his beads. I witnessed the movement of his lips as he lay there, forming the words of the mahamantra even though he made no sound. When I told him this, a smile came to his face, something that he did little of as his pain increased. It seemed a comfort to him learning that he indeed WAS chanting. This kind of dedication is an inspiration like no other.”
Over the 7 years he was President he did some amazing service and even though managing the temple was a difficult task with only a few devotees at hand, still he remained always positive and enlivened. Certainly, Sri Sri Krishna Balarama and Nitai Gaura Nataraja have recognized his service.
Kindly offer your prayers for the departarted soul.
Remembering Rupa Sanatana Prabhu by Anuttama das
I am very saddened by the loss of Sriman Rupa Sanatana prabhu. He was a friend and a Vaishnava gentleman. He was one of the most naturally kind and respectful people I ever met. For me he was one of those few people you just have to like, he had such endearing qualities.
Even when he was sick, in the midst of some early cancer treatments a few years ago, he dropped everything and flew to Washington DC to help
us start planning for a new Temple. His expertise, his insights, and his quiet unassuming manner was wonderful to watch, and today we are
still benefiting from the concepts he left us with.
Rupa Sanatana came forward in the later stages of his life and gave up everything to humbly serve Srila Prabhupada's movement in whatever
ways he was asked. He certainly will be fully blessed by the Lord.
I spoke with him last just before he came to the Vrindavana hospice. I was talking with him about how he was feeling, and his plans, and what
time he had left, etc, and he responded, "Let's see what my beloved has planned."
Rupa came to ISKCON and gave up everything in his search for Krishna. He went to Vrindavana leaving everything in the Lord hand's, and now
Krishna has certainly called him into His continued seva.
Rupa Sanatana prabhu will be sadly missed and lovingly remembered.