First African-American Vaishnava Hindu Guru Passes Away

His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami, a guru and Governing Body Commissioner of the worldwide Hare Krishna movement, passed away of complications from melanoma cancer on June 27, 2005, at Gita Nagari, the Krishna community in Pennsylvania. He was 55 years old.

Bhakti Tirtha Swami was the world’s first African-American Vaishnava Hindu guru. Born as John E. Favors to an evangelical Baptist family in Cleveland, Ohio, on February 25, 1950, Swami took part in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights movement during his youth. After earning his psychology degree from Princeton University in 1972, he began studying the 5,000-year-old Bhagavad Gita and other ancient Hindu scriptures. He soon became a disciple of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and brought the ancient Vaishnava tradition to the West in 1965.