Shri Prakash Gossai passed away on June 15th, 2009, in Miami, FLORIDA.
June 18, 2009, 3:58 pm
Hindu Priest From Guyana Is Mourned in Queens
By Sewell Chan
Prakash Gosain funeral Vijai T. Singh/The New York Times
Mourners attended a viewing on Tuesday for Prakash Gosain, a Hindu priest who founded temples in Brooklyn and Queens and was active in politics in his native Guyana. He died on Monday at age 56.
Hundreds of members of the Indo-Caribbean immigrant community based in Richmond Hill, Queens, have turned out to mourn Pandit Prakash Gosain, a Hindu priest who founded a popular temple in New York City in 1987 and was active in politics in his native Guyana. Mr. Gosain died on Monday morning after suffering a heart attack at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he had been flown in for treatment and tests, his family said. He was 56.
Mr. Gosain founded the Bhuvaneshwar Temple in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in 1987. The temple moved to Ozone Park, Queens, in 2004.
At funeral services this week at the temple and at the Grace Funeral Chapels in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, the air was filled with the hoarse voices of Mr. Gosain’s followers, who prayed for him, many of them in tears. Mr. Gosain’s body was cremated on Thursday.
“He is a servant of humanity,” said the priest’s brother Bankim Gosain. “His life belonged to the world, not to him.”
Khemnauth Sookram, a follower of Mr. Gosain, said the priest helped members of the Indo-Caribbean community — descendants of South Asian migrants who arrived in Guyana and Trinidad in the mid-19th century, many of them as indentured servants following the end of slavery — to preserve their culture. “It’s an amazing journey and he’s the captain of the ship,” Mr. Sookram said.
Natasha Kumar Warikoo, an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who studies immigrant assimilation, estimated that the Indo-Caribbean community in New York City totaled 50,000, including immigrants and their children, though precise estimates are hard to come by. Most came to the United States from Guyana and Trinidad, and some from Jamaica.
The migration started in the 1970s and gained steam in the 1980s, spurred in part by political turmoil in Guyana in the 1970s and, later, by the collapse of the oil industry in Trinidad in the 1980s.
Dr. Warikoo, who has studied the New York-born children of Indo-Caribbean parents, described the community’s religious worship as “incredibly syncretic,” combining different forms of belief or practice.
“Religion is an important part of their lives, but it’s very syncretic,” she said.
Philip Kasinitz, a sociologist at Hunter College who studies Caribbean migration to the United States, noted that the Indo-Caribbean population includes Muslims, Christians, Hindus and adherents of other faiths.
“For a long time in the Caribbean, actual religious practices among South Asians were fairly syncretic,” he said. “They were not the most traditional.”
But “improvised folk religion,” he said, has shifted in recent years toward “a revival of more recognizably traditional practice among Indo-Caribbeans, both in the United States and in the Caribbean. There has been more interest in traditional Hinduism, more contact with India, and also a rise of stricter interpretations of Islam. People have become more focused on religious traditions as the ethnic group has become more self-defined.”
Mr. Gosain, who was also known as Prakashji among his followers (and whose family name was occasionally spelled as Gossai), moved back to Guyana in 2007 to serve as an adviser to its president, Bharrat Jagdeo, but maintained close ties to his followers in the United States.
Shri Prakash Gossai is a renowned Hindu Spiritual leader. He is the founder of the Bhuvaneshwar mandirs in the United States of America and Guyana.
Prakashji has dedicated this life to selflessly serving humanity by spreading the word of the Shri Ramcharitamanas and feel strongly that Sanatan Dharma should be part of each and every Hindu home.
Prakashji’s teaching is very simple, he teaches one to practice to feel the highest truth that GOD is Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient.
He teaches one to practice and feel the presence of God in each moment, each activity and to see God in very person. But first, we must feel God in ourselves.
Passing of a Guru
June 17, 2009 | By knews | Filed Under Editorial
Shri Prakash Gossai, celebrated pandit, spiritual guide and guru to thousands of Hindus in Guyana, the Caribbean, USA and Canada passed away on Monday. He was a comparatively young man, just fifty-six years of age and only a month ago, he was chosen by this newspaper as a “Special Person”.
Even though Hinduism was introduced into Guyana over a hundred and fifty years ago, there remains some opacity about many of the traditions of that “religion”. The word is in scare quotes because, as individuals such as Shri Gossai (the “Sri” is an honorific title) insisted, Hinduism as “a way of life” was grounded on a totally different set of premises than on those of, for example, the paradigmatic Abrahaminic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Much of the departed pandit’s fame came from the innovations he introduced in transmitting the teachings and values of his ancient tradition within a radically different milieu.
The word “Guru” etymologically means “remover of darkness” and thus a guru in Hinduism is an individual who removes “darkness” or ignorance from the minds of practitioners.
Shri Prakash Gossai was a guru in the fullest meaning of the term. All the canonical texts of Hinduism – from the millennia-old Vedas to the comparatively “new” five-hundred-year-old Ramcharitmanas – are in poetical metres and are traditionally set to music.
Shri Gossai was born with an innate musical talent and very early on he applied it to the exposition of the sacred texts.
But if he had continued with just melodious singing he would have been just an entertainer. Shri Gossai’s unique innovation was to marry his melodious recitals to meticulously and creatively constructed lessons (or “kathas”) based on the texts.
The voice would bring the devotees into his presence but the lessons would send them away transformed. It was the quintessence of the oral tradition practised for thousands of years but the application of the ancient, unchangeable principles were applied to the local conditions and exigencies with such clarity and wit that it “removed the scales from the eyes” of the devotees. He was a guru.
Shri Gossai was facilitated in his quest to reintegrate modern Hindus with their ancient way of life because, unlike many of his pandit peers, he received a very solid grounding in the sciences at the University level and subsequently, in teaching methodology in New York.
He was in a position to answer questions - especially from the young - in an idiom to which they could relate.
Simultaneously however, coming from the rural community of Mahaicony, he was never far away from the cadences of the bulk of the Hindu community that shared his pastoral origins.
One of Shri Gossai’s innovations was in adapting the singing of religious songs (“bhajans”) and chanting of the verses of the sacred texts – especially the Ramcharitmanas, the mainstay of the local Hindu community that originated in North India – away from the old melodies that was considered passé and into modern popular tunes that resonated with his western audiences.
Closely aligned with this innovation was his transliteration and translation of much of his bhajans and textual selections that made the words of the original comprehensible.
But his singular achievement were his answers to the modern questions that challenged the Hindu in the west that was illuminated by his willingness to delve deeply into the original texts but yet not couch the answers in esoterica.
His pithy acronyms and allusions on obscure matters made them simple. Sri Tulsidas, who composed the Ramcharitmanas by using the same technique to the millennia-old Ramayan in sixteenth-century India, would have been proud of him.
We extend our sympathies and condolences to the family and relatives of Shri Prakash Gossai. As he has wished for so many others, “May his atma (soul) find Moksha (union) with the Paramatma (Supreme soul).
Sri Prakash Gossai
June 21, 2009 | By knews | Filed Under Features / Columnists, Ravi Dev
As I am sure with most who knew him, the news that Prakash Gossai had passed away was quite shocking. While at the back of one’s mind was the knowledge that he had experienced a heart problem in the past, his frenetic round on international and local engagements certainly did not suggest that it had any lasting impact in the present. But then, it is our tendency to only judge by surface impressions.
I first met Prakashji sometime in the early eighties right after he had migrated to the US. In those days, while there were already some mandirs built to accommodate Guyanese and Trinidadian Hindu worshippers, most “satsangs” or gatherings were held in rented quarters that were adapted to the occasion: essentially the walls were gutted and a makeshift stage on which the murtis were arranged and puja conducted was constructed in the front. A pioneer in the real-estate business, Ramesh Kallicharan, from Essequibo, had sponsored one such satsang in the Jamaica section of Queens, to which I would make my weekly attendance from my home in New Jersey.
And it was here that I would first be exposed to the inimitable style of exposition of Hinduism by Prakash Gossai. There are some who said (and still say) that he was “just” a good singer who had won a “Mukesh” singing competition but they missed (and still miss) the point of his immense appeal. Hinduism insists that there is not “one way” to the Supreme Divinity – and certainly not “believe and you will be saved” – but several paths which can be traversed by the devotee depending on his/her innate disposition.
There are four “yogs” or methodologies to liberation – Gyaan (knowledge), Karma Yog (the path of good works), Raj Yog (bodily and mental control) and Bhakti (worship) – which are yet intertwined. Prakash Gossai’s God-given gift of singing enabled him to utilise the path of Bhakti to draw the devotees into a God-conscious state – so that they would be more receptive to the “gyaan” that could lead them to live lives filled with better karma.
It has been said by many sages in the tradition that in this age, for better or worse, Bhakti – devotion to the Godhead – will be the preferred mode of gaining Moksha (liberation) and Prakashji was following a long, well-trod and venerable path. He was to go on and found the Bhubaneshwar mandir – along with a host of other pandits that ensured that the present Guyanese Hindu community in the tri-state were well served. I would run into him in the years after in far-flung locales – Toronto, Florida and Guyana - and was always struck by his insistent willingness to make himself a better vehicle to transmit the message of Hinduism.
An ancient text asks, “Who is the Acharya (or teacher of the Hindu path)?” and the answer comes back immediately: one who lives what is “preached”. More than most, I believe that Prakashji tried to live up to that standard. There are some who make snide remarks about “pandits” and picture them as opportunists. There may be some of those – Hinduism, after all, points out we are all human and are born with an admixture of the three temperaments (“gunas”) – but by and large pandits have to lift themselves by their own bootstraps and have kept the tradition alive against great odds. I learnt that Prakashji took a year sabbatical from his teaching to delve deeper into the Ramcharitmanas in India.
Now the Ramcharitmanas is the very lifeblood of the eighty percent or so of the Hindus that came to Guyana from the Bhojpuri cultural area of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The story of the exploits of the great hero Sri Rama, retold by the sixteenth century sage Tulsidas, was the text from most of the indentured Hindus would have been able to recite their favourite parts extemporaneously and all would have been prone to quote a line or two as pithy “proverbs”. While Prakashji would have been quite exposed to its exposition in his younger days in Guyana – he intuitively grasped that there were nuances to the text that might have been elided after indentureship.
He fused his deeper understanding of the Ramcharitmanas with his background as an educator to deploy a unique presentation of the Hindu perspective on the host of questions that confront the modern Hindu. And it was this approach that made him stand out even as he operated within the traditional yagnas and pujas that was standard in the Guyanese Hindu community. Prakashji’s meticulously translated the various bhajans that were popular with devotees and his application of such translations fused with the utilisation of popular tunes to older bhajans and readings of the Ramcharitmanas – while retaining the mood of the traditional ragas – brought an immediacy that could not but draw and keep some who might have strayed from the eternal path.
The efficacy of Bhakti arises from the simple idea that to the extent that one keeps God in one’s mind it becomes more difficult to “stray”. Prakashji’s unique renditions of Bhajans and presentations are played in thousands of Hindu homes, who might not have had an opportunity to hear his expositions in person, every morning and remain in the devotees’ minds long into the day. In this way he has succeeded, wildly beyond his humble expectations, of serving the cause to which he devoted his life: helping others live better lives.
As Hindus we believe in the law of karma – and I hope that the meritorious karma of Sri Prakash Gossai has been enough to lead him to Moksha: that he is with the Supreme Soul, never to be reborn into this world.
Shri Prakash Gossai eulogised at IAC commemorative function
By Priya Nauth
THE messages of the late Shri Prakash Gossai will always be engraved in the hearts and memories of the numerous lives he touched.
A section of the gathering at Wednesday’s memorial service for Shri Prakash Gossai at the Indian Cultural Centre.
That was the consensus of the heart rending sentiments conveyed Wednesday evening when the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC), in collaboration with the Indian Cultural Centre (ICC), hosted ‘Ayee Bhi Akela; Jayee Bhi Akela’ (You come into this world alone, you will leave alone), in tribute to the deceased at the ICC, New Haven, Bel Air, Georgetown.
The programme, to commemorate the great emissary of Hinduism, included prayers and the singing of bhajans (devotional songs) by members of the ICC, IAC, friends and devotees of the late ‘Prakashji.’
One of the speakers, Indian High Commissioner to Guyana Mr. Subit Kumar Mandal observed that Gossai started as a man of science but changed course mid-life to become religious.
Describing him as “a devout person deeply embedded in the society”, the diplomat noted that Gossai wanted to tackle social problems, such as suicide, in his own way through his satsangh (religious service) and bhajans which were delivered “engagingly and melodiously.”
‘PAYING HOMAGE’: From left, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank Anthony; Pro-Chancellor, University of Guyana, Dr. Prem Misir; Dr. Yesu Persaud; Indian High Commissioner to Guyana Mr. Subit Kumar Mandal and other officials.
“He strongly believed in his own faith but was aware that there are other ways, as well, to attain the same and he could work with them in harmony to pursue the common goal of bringing happiness, peace and prosperity to all Guyanese,” Mandal said.
He added: “I know, for sure, that this city now will be a little emptier for me. He is no longer with us but his memory remains engraved in our hearts and we will continue to cherish it.”
Head of the Press and Publicity Unit at Office of the President (OP) and University of Guyana (UG) Pro-Chancellor, Dr. Prem Misir, a friend of Gossai’s for many years, recalled that one of the things he came across during their interactions is what he termed his “compromising syndrome.”
“But it is not a symbol of weakness. It was his way of compromising to ensure that he continues to engage you in an interaction and to sustain that interaction over a long period of time,” he explained.
Agreeing that the dead man meant a lot to the Guyanese society and the diaspora, Misir declared that Guyana and the world has, indeed, lost a tremendous spiritual leader whose work, character and integrity embodied his concern for the advancement of Hinduism and the Dharmic way of life.
He said Gossai was from an active Hindu family and it was due to his concern for advancing Hinduism that he dedicated his whole lifetime to the love and service of God.
“He exhibited a passion and zeal to uphold Sanatan Dharma, symbolising the importance of service to humanity and the Dharmic way of life,” Misir noted.
He said that passion penetrated even further into inter-religious organisations.
“I was touched and impressed by his strong commitment and devotion to his faith, culture and the Indian heritage. He was a man that symbolised, in my mind, a humble demeanour,” Misir intoned.
He said Gossai’s passing will certainly create a void, especially among Hindus and others whose lives he touched.
“Shri Prakash Gossai has gone but he will certainly not be forgotten. His imprints will remain forever in the hearts and lives of our Hindu brothers and sisters, as well as, penetratingly, the other sects that we have in society,” Misir said.
He urged: “Let us remember Shri Prakash Gossai as a man who lived a life of spiritual dedication and humility.”
Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank Anthony, observing that the death was a shock to him, said: “Prakashji connotates spirituality and passion for goodness.
“A spiritual guru whose very life celebrated his devotion to his religion and to his calling. He was a man of this world but he was a man of saintly proportions who hardly raised his voice in anger at any time,” he remarked.
Extending heartfelt sympathy to Gossai’s loved ones, Anthony said: “They must understand that they have a larger Guyanese family that is there in his hour of need.”
He acknowledged that Prakashji did many great things, not only in Guyana but in the diaspora, propagating joy and embracing the virtues of Hinduism.
Gossai had a “spirit of humanity” and characteristics of friendliness, generosity, gentleness, caring and compassion, Anthony said.
He continued: “Some might say, as mere mortals, that he was plucked away from us too early. However, we should console ourselves that his life was packed with many good deeds and his dedication to the moral and spiritual uplifting of his fellow human beings.”
Anthony said Gossai strongly believed that the mandirs (Hindu places of worship) and pandits (priests) have a greater role to play.
“A role in social change. A role in helping our society to be a better place.”
The Minister alluded to Gossai’s concern with issues affecting youths, such as suicide and alcoholism.
“He honestly felt that he can make a difference and that he needed to enroll other people in trying to bring change to how people view suicide and how we can prevent it.
“So, he honestly believed that he could make that change,” Anthony maintained.
“He did not just go to mandirs and sing and we are very thankful for his melodious voice but the messages that he had were deeper and those messages were intended to bring changes in our society and betterment to the lives of people,” Anthony said.
He wished Prakashji would be remembered for this and appealed: “If we really want to pay true homage and tribute to Pandit Gossai, I think the best way of doing so is to continue the good work that he has been doing and getting those messages out.
“Trying to make people better, bringing out that dedication and humanness in people. That is what we should aspire to do. That is the best way that we can pay homage to him,” Anthony recommended.
“Our society would be poorer because of this loss, but if his wisdom is instilled and changes embodied then it is the greatest tribute that can be given to Pandit Gossai.
“Let his work inspire us…let the bhajans that he has sung… let the music that we know him for…let that feed the soul and let us remember him for all the great and good things that he has done.”
Anthony went on: “Let that inspire us and let that make our lives richer and let us make that pledge of doing good things for our fellow human beings.”
Paying tributes, too, were Member of the Inter-Religious Organisation of Guyana (IRO), Pastor Ronald McGarrell; ICC Director, Ms. Malti Sahai; President of the Indian Commemoration Trust, Dr. Yesu Persaud; Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy; Minister within the Ministry of Health, Dr. Bheri Ramsarran and a representative of the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG).
Shri Prakash Gossai, 56, fell ill last Thursday evening after leaving work and was admitted to Balwant Singh Hospital, from where he was transferred to the Caribbean Heart Institute (CHI).
He was diagnosed with a heart condition and, subsequently, flown to the United States (U.S.) where he died on Monday.
Gossai was born at Handsome Creek, Mahaica, East Coast Demerara and, apart from being a renowned spiritual Hindu leader, was a Special Adviser to President Bharrat Jagdeo.
He was the founder of the Bhuneshwar Mandirs in the U.S. and Guyana and, in 2002, was awarded the Medal of Service, on the anniversary of this country’s Independence.
Gossai was cremated in New York yesterday and among those present were Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Charles Ramson; former Minister of Finance, Mr. Saisnarine Kowlessar and Advisor to the President, Mr. Navin Chandarpal.
My vision is blurred; my senses have become numb; my mind is as turbulent as the wind; my intellect is shattered; and my vision is dazed. The sudden death of our beloved Guruji, Shri Prakash Gossai, apparently by a heart attack (not yet confirmed) at a Miami Hospital, defies logic and reason. It questions the very basis of human existence. Why in the prime of his life, when his contribution to humanity has been exponential, that the good Lord snatched him away from us? If Guruji’s death does not rattle our faith, I don’t know what else would!
As you know, Guruji felt his chest tightening on Tuesday night in Guyana. Sanjay (Anjee’s husband) took him to the hospital where they tried to stabilize him. In the meantime his family chartered a flight out of Miami with a doctor and a nurse to b ring him out of Guyana to Florida for treatment, including any surgical procedure. Guruji landed at Miami around 7:00am on Saturday morning (June 13, 2009) and went direct to a Miami Hospital. There he remained and was stable. For some unexplained reason, they kept him and did not do any procedure, and put that off until Monday afternoon. I spoke with him on Sunday afternoon (June 14, 2009) just before going to a New Jersey program. He said that everything is OK. And that I must pass his goodwill to everyone. He thanked Pt T Seerattan for sending him a very touching email. He also informed me that they will do an angiogram on Monday afternoon and then decide on whether they will do a “stent” or some other procedure. His voice was OK, but he was in distress. Last night at 10:00pm Lake Persaud spoke to him.
Guruji’s condition was serious enough that they had to airlift him out of Guyana, yet the Miami hospital authorities didn’t see it fit to treat his case as an emergency while he was in the hospital. Did his family hold back on emergency procedure? But this is a discussion for another time. It’s somewhat ironic that now that he has died, the authorities will conduct a series of tests. Why now?
The family members will not receive the body today.
As to the future of the Bhuvaneshwar Mandir, I want to allay fears that everything will run as normal. Guruji would have wanted that to happen, and it will happen according to his will.
For now, nothing seems to make sense. I am not only overwhelmed with immeasurable grief, but feel so incapacitated in my thoughts that my reason seems to have abandoned me. The mysteries of life have not only confounded, but also, overpowered my intellect so much so that my mind keeps reeling in anguish. Yes, the soul is never dead, but we have to mourn our colossal social loss, out formidable ties and bonds.
Oh Guruji! Oh Guruji! Oh Guruji! If there is one person that will unite with God that is you, Guruji. We will ensure that your death is not in vain. You will have to continue living through our good thoughts and deeds.
I have asked Guyana’s Counsel General, who called me this morning, to open a book of condolence at the Guyana Consulate. He will do so. We will see what other things we can do at tonight’s meeting.
NEW YORKER PRAKASH GOSSAI APPOINTED ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT JAGDEO
GOPIO New York Chapter will recognize the achievements of Shri Prakash Gossai, originally of Guyana , on Sunday, December 17, 2006 at a holiday party and dinner talk by Congressman Peter King and also attended by India s Deputy Consul General A. R. Ghanashyam. Shri Prakash Gossai will be awarded a special plaque of recognition by GOPIO New York Chapter, as well as a US Congressional proclamation initiated by GOPIO New Yorks efforts with the US Congress. The recognition accorded to Shri Gossai acknowledges his extra-ordinary contribution to preservation and promotion of Indian culture, Hinduism, humanitarianism, and inter-ethnic relations in the North America and the Caribbean .
Shri Prakash Gossai has been appointed to serve as a special advisor to Guyana s President Bharrat Jagdeo, which validates his high level of talent, wisdom and insights that can be useful to President Jagdeo and the people of Guyana . Shri Prakash Gossai is well renowned scholar, an acclaimed academic and active community leader among the large PIO population in the New York region. He is the leader of the Bhuvaneshwar Group of Mandirs, has accompanied groups of PIOs on Yatra visits to India , and contributes to Indian cultural preservation in Jamaica in the Caribbean .
The passing of a religious, cultural legend
SHRI PRAKASH GOSSAI
SHRI Prakash Gossai is no stranger to most of us. Apart from being a renowned Hindu spiritual leader and devoting himself to promoting his religion and culture, many would remember his melodious voice.
Shri Prakashji had dedicated his life to selflessly serving humanity by spreading the words of the Shri Ramcharitamanas (Hindu holy text), and feeling strongly that Sanatan Dharma should be part of each and every Hindu home.
This ‘son of the soil’ and revered Guru, had also served as Personal Assistant to President Bharrat Jagdeo and will always be remembered for his immeasurable love for his religion and humanity as a whole.
This remarkable soul had certainly touched the lives of many. Guyana Chronicle’s Reporter Ms. Priya Nauth sought comments from several persons in society who had come into contact with the late Prakashji.
MR. DONALD RAMOTAR - (PPP General Secretary):
“I am very shocked to have heard about the passing of Shri Prakash Gossai.
I met him sometime earlier in the month and he seemed to be very, very far away from death and that is why I am so surprised.
I think he would be greatly missed in our country, particularly in the Hindu community in which he was one of the very popular pandits.
Also he would be remembered for his beautiful voice. His lovely singing voice that he had that entertained so many people, Hindus and non-Hindus alike, who enjoyed good singing and a good voice and he had that talent. He was a very talented man.
And more over, I think he was one of the pandits who had a real good grasp of the religion and his interpretation of the various holy books, particularly the Hindu religion, was very enlightening, to hear him developing the different aspects of the Gita, Ramayana and so.
I must say that I will miss him and I think generally he would be missed in our country; and I want to take the opportunity to extend to his family, relatives and friends, my own and my family’s deepest sympathy, and also the sympathy of the PPP on this untimely passing.”
MR. NEAZ SUBHAN – (Executive Member of the Indian Arrival Committee and Director of the Government Information Agency)
“His death came as a real shock. Personally, I was not aware that he was ill in any way. Patron of the IAC and Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Robert Persaud, called me this morning and I was in a state of disbelieve.
Prakash and I became very good friends over the last few years as a result of the efforts of the IAC in helping to promote Indian culture.
There were a number of commonalities between us, because he was a man passionate about the promotion of his culture which is similar to what we are doing in the IAC.
He became not only a friend personally but a friend of the IAC. He was always there to provide support, to provide guidance; and at a moment’s notice you could have called upon him and be assured whatever it is we are seeking from him in terms of advice or clarification, would have been given immediately.
Being a renowned Hindu priest, he was very strong about his promotion of Indian culture in general, and not only based on religion.
He always complimented and urged the IAC to continue to promote Indian culture beyond the boundaries of religion.
It is for those qualities that he should be remembered, in addition to his being a very humble and approachable human being. Guyana, the IAC, and the Hindu community have lost a friend and a dear son.”
MR. KOMAL CHAND – (President of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union)
“I was very much shocked to hear of his passing because I was one of the persons who saw him off last Friday at the hospital just before he was taken to the airport to receive treatment in Florida. We spoke, he was in a good mood and he looked well; and so I am surprised.
Over the years, his contribution to our culture has been immense. He had a melodious voice and many people liked to listen to his songs and no doubt he has influenced many people in upholding their beliefs.
It is sad; he had much more to contribute to Guyana and its culture and his religion. His passing has robbed us and the many, many Guyanese in the Diaspora.”
BISHOP JUAN EDGHILL – (Chairman of the Ethnic Relations Commission)
“I have lost a brother, Guyana has lost a son, and the world has lost a decent human being.
His passing was sudden and shocking. I believe he still had a lot more to offer his generation. He was a light that shone in the midst of the darkness of our country.
A man who showed respect for people, even when there were differences.”
DR TARA SINGH - (in the United States)
“My vision is blurred; my senses have become numb; my mind is as turbulent as the wind; my intellect is shattered; and my vision is dazed. The sudden death of our beloved Guruji, Shri Prakash Gossai, at a Miami Hospital, defies logic and reason. It questions the very basis of human existence. Why in the prime of his life, when his contribution to humanity has been exponential, that the good Lord snatched him away from us? If Guruji’s death does not rattle our faith, I don’t know what else would!
Shri Prakash Gossai passed away this morning at around 03:00 hrs at a Miami Hospital pending the conduct of an angiogram and needed surgical procedure. The body of the late legend will be flown to New York from Miami for funeral arrangements. Wake will be held at the Bhuvaneshwar Mandir, 86-06 101 Avenue, Ozone Park, NY 11416.
Messages of condolences and shock have been coming into our secretariat non-stop, and from all quarters. Details of Guruji’s funeral will be announced. The Guyanese communities in the USA and Canada, as well as, in ‘Trinbago’ and Jamaica, are in a state of shock and disbelief. He has gone to a higher calling.”
DR PREM MISIR – (Pro Chancellor, University of Guyana)
Today, Guyana mourns the sudden death of Shri Prakash Gossai.
Undeniably, Guyana and the world have lost a tremendous spiritual leader whose work, character and integrity embodied his concern for the advancement of Hinduism.
Shri Prakash Gossai hailed from Handsome Tree, Mahaica Creek, coming from an active Hindu family, and with parents Pandit Bissoondial and Shrimati Rewti Gossai who laid the foundation for his commitment to Hinduism. It was due to his concern for advancing Hinduism that Shri Prakash Gossai dedicated his whole life to the love and service of God. He exhibited a passion and zeal to uphold Sanatan Dharma, symbolising the importance of service to humanity and the Dharmic way of life.
People will remember Shri Praskash Gossai as a spiritual leader, and the inspiration he bestowed upon the many who crossed his path in Guyana, New York, and elsewhere. His passing, indeed, will create a void, especially, among Hindu folks and others whose lives he touched.
In this time of sadness, I extend condolences to the family and close friends of Shri Prakash Gossai.”
PANDIT REEPU DAMAN PERSAUD – (President, Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha)
The President and Executive members of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha express deep condolences to the family and relatives of the late Shri Prakash Gossai. We are shocked and aggrieved at the sudden demise of Shri Prakash who shared a close association with the President and other members of the Sabha.
Shri Prakash was a very good singer being blessed with a melodious voice and through his bhajans became a household name among Guyanese.
His passion for singing and chanting led him to choose the Ramayan as the Hindu text of choice through which he could promote the teachings of Hinduism. He enjoyed much success in this direction and will always be remembered for his mellifluous chanting of the Ramayan.
Coupled with his talent Prakash’s humility and affable disposition has endeared him to many here and in the Diaspora and he will surely be missed for his contribution to the Hindu community. We pray that his Atma finds eternal peace and bliss.
From: "DEO GOSINE"
Cc: "DEO GOSINE"
Dear Mr Singh:
We learnt of the passing of our dear friend, pillar of the Carribbean Hindu Community and one of the Greatest Exponents of the most popular Hindu Scriptual texts in the West Indies - the Ramayan. His passing has left a large void in the Carribbean Hindu Community with no rising star to fill that void. Prakash Ji was a philantrophis and gave generiusly of himself. He was endowd with the ability to communicate and teach our scriptures in a very suttle way, through his lectures and songs.I will miss him dearly.
Roy, for the past three years I have been talking to Prakash to let us find a forum to institutionalize his contribution by creating a foundation which will be a repository for his work ,celebrate his contributions, and promote the style and teaching of one of The Carribbean Best Teachers of Hindu Scriptures. He liked the idea and offered his help in every respect to bring his International following to support the project and donate the rights to all his work. Unfortunately he would not be around to lend his unique style and touch.
I most respectfully suggest that after the period of mourning we convene a meeting of Community minded persons, scholars, academicians and well-wishers to explore how best we,as a Community of West Indians, can come together to celebrate "The Life and Work of Shri Prakash Gossai", not only from a religious point of view but the all encompassing contribution he has made in Hindu/West Indiad Pride and the Social Impact he has had on Our Society through his teaching.
Roy, I sincerely hope that we can use your mailing list and that of others to plant the seed and celebrate one of our own and who has given so much to us. Personally I go to sleep with Prakash Ji and when I despair I listen to his soothing songs and I am sure that I am not unique.
May the soul of Shri Prakash Ji find oneness with his creator !
Tel: 718-392-7575 / Fax: 718-361-0131
MUSIC IS THE INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE OF THE SOUL
Prakashji’s Music is the International Language of Love
By Parvati Persaud-Edwards
“My gift of music is a blessing from God unearned by me. I give and take pleasure in the divine experiences of satsangs with a total involvement, because I flow myself in the ocean of song to my Lord and the feeling is so sublime that I feel charged all the time. Each performance is a new experience; each song resonates in my soul and uplifts my spirit. That is why I do not choose songs but just flow in the ocean of emotions, because my music is inspired by my love for, and devotion, to the Lord.” – Shri Prakash Gossai.
I was first introduced to Prakashji by Butch Parmanand at a satsang organised at the Countrypride Building to celebrate Butch’s 50th birthday. He riveted me then, and he continues to do so until today, and he will do so until I die, because he gifted me with many CD’s of satsangs, poojas and yajnas that he conducted. I told him recently that if I had a choice I would follow him everywhere he sang, just as Meera followed Krishna’s flute everywhere, because his music is so enthralling and so uplifting to the spirit.
Prakashji’s philosophies embraced mankind. He said that communion with the Supreme Lord is a privilege of every man, whatever wrongs he may have committed, and can be done anywhere – not necessarily in a house of worship. While he adjured his audiences to strive to adhere to the laws of the land, he also said that the ultimate judge of man’s actions is the Lord, and no one can escape the laws of Karma, because the Karmic dispensation prevails over every justice system devised by man.
Explaining that the life-force present in man is the same that exists within every life form on earth, but that what differentiates man from other forms of life is the atma – the soul, which has existed in the spiritual plane before manifesting in our human bodies, Pandit Gossai said that the latter is merely the vehicle that takes the soul in the quest for ultimate union with God on the journey through and beyond the material world.
According to Prakashji, every person is given three gifts from God to help them along this journey. One is the human body, which serves as the boat to take us across the ocean of our existence on the human plane.
Another is the engine – the propelling force, which is the ability to think and to feel, and the last and most important is the guru – the guide, who is Lord Ram, to show us the practical way to attain this goal through the philosophies as expounded in the sacred teachings of the Ramayan.
Prakashji, quoting the Gita: “I am the same to all – equally accessible”, said that everyone should learn the art of divine introspection and that they should pause and reflect on their actions. If they are troubled then they should direct their thoughts to the Lord, which would assist their mind-management. This will go a far way to minimising incidents of depression, suicide, and other destructive and anti-social tendencies.
According to the learned pandit, the Karmic phenomenon is applicable to all religions, and divine retribution and divine justice are inescapable within the framework of mankind’s existence. He said that all of us are given the gift of God’s power invested in our beings, which provides us equal opportunities to do well in, and with our lives.
And Prakashji has demonstrated this by optimising his God-given potentials in order to serve mankind, and in so doing has been rewarded by an overflowing ocean of love throughout the world, made sacrosanct because the conduit of that love is the sublime messages of the Lord enshrined in his scriptures, which Prakashji has encapsulated within global parameters, then flung in scintillating melodies to embrace and bedazzle galaxies and constellations of stars that irradiates the soul of the earth (Dharti Ma) with melodious recitations of divine beauty.
How can our Guyana not be blessed when she produces such sons?
Prakashji has always held sacrosanct the Guru’s place in the life of his students, while upholding Lord Ram as the ultimate Guru, and every morning, before they commence work, the young people in the Office of the President, from every religion, who have grown to revere the man who puts Lord Ram’s admonitions and teachings into definitive contexts relating to life situations, make pilgrimage to his office to take his blessings, especially Aveena – a young Moslem lawyer, whom I am absolutely certain is devastated today; so am I Aveena, and so are millions around the world who loved him.
The man who loved to use Lord Ram’s texts to contextualise mankind’s roles in human situations defined good governance as that practised by Supreme Lord, who said to his subjects: “Don’t invest lordliness in me to listen to me – not out of fear. What you think right, that is what you should practice.” Is no more on this earth, but has joined his Lord in his eternal abode of peace, because he has always practised what he thought right, and has taught others to also walk that path that was prescribed by the Supreme Lord.
Growing up in Mahaica Creek Prakash Gossai never wore shoes. His parents were very poor, but he loved attending mandir, and he loved to sing bhajans in praise of the Lord, finding great pleasure in interpreting the scriptures through song and music.
His first job was a teaching position at Vryheid’s Lust Government School, then he studied Medical Technology at UG, after which he obtained a job at the Laboratory of the Public Hospital Georgetown.
He then pursued his BSc., after which he lectured at UG for two years.
In 1981 he won the annual Mukesh Singing Competition, the prize of which was a trip to Canada. He subsequently went to the USA where, because of an acute shortage of science teachers, he quickly obtained a teaching position in the Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn.
During the first year while he was settling in, he observed that the Hindus in the locality were isolated from Hindu practice because of busy lifestyles and the struggle to survive in an alien environment. Inspired to establish an integrated movement by joining the small groups scattered at different locations Prakashji, together with a few like-minded persons, such as Mr. Sasenarine, started the Bhuvaneshwar Mandir in 1984 in a basement at 307 Stanhope Street in Brooklyn, where they invited others to speak on Hindu theologies and philosophies.
He said that the thirst for grounding in the texts of their religion was so great that the congregation soon outgrew the space, but many times when the persons scheduled to speak did not show up, he was obligated to fill the void, using his gift of music to present simple kathas in a pleasant way, which everybody enjoyed immensely, as he incorporated his singing skills into this unique challenge to present the scriptural kathas.
The rest is history.
Every night since he departed this earthly plane, all across the country – all across the world, the mandirs have been resounding with voices lifted in the songs that he loved to sing to celebrate the purposeful and fulfilling life of a simple man made immortal by his superbly melodious voice, always resonating to the Heavens in praise of his ultimate guru – the Supreme Lord of Prakashji’s treasured Ramayan.
At a wake held by the Office of the President at Castellani House, President Jagdeo spoke of all the quintessential and innate goodness that hallmarked the essence of Prakash Gossai, and of his life of service to humanity.
He recalled inviting Prakashji to come to serve his homeland, during the midst of the crime wave; and yet, despite the then prevailing fear submerging the psyche of the Guyanese Diaspora because of the then wanton killings of innocent persons by merciless gunmen, Prakashji consented.
The President said that Prakashji, by the very nature of his characteristic broadmindedness, which did not limit his horizons to his own religion, but encapsulated the spectrum of our Guyanese identity, and of humanity in general, managed to do what Governments alone cannot do, which is to meld the diverse elements of the social components into cohesive units working together for the common good of our country, because his strength was in his gracious simplicity and humility even in the face of adversity, which touched and held fast the hearts of everyone with whom he came into contact.
And he did it all without expectation nor desire for reward. Above all, he shunned publicity and kept a low profile, even while he worked indefatigably to bridge the divides and to help the poor and vulnerable in our society.
Describing Prakashji as “irreplaceable”, the President said that he has to live with the regret that, when he called New York to enquire about the health of his special advisor, he was informed that he was moving around without discomfort, so he moved on to his busy schedule, realising in hindsight that he should have spent some more time with Prakashji; but he had no inkling that our nation would be facing such a sad loss of a relatively young, but very giving person, who lived his religion in his service to mankind, which is an integral and essential component of Hindu scriptures; until Dr. Gopaul called him on Monday a.m.
The President was regretful of the loss of his advisor and friend and spoke about the need to relate and interact well and graciously with the people you care about, because you never know what is pre-ordained for the next day. He advised that one cannot go wrong in emulating the life that Prakashji lived, which was serving others above self.
The funeral proceedings of Prakashji will be broadcast live at Castellani House from 10 a.m. on Thursday, and via NCN. The public is invited.
Passing of a very intelligent Hindu priest
IT is with disbelief hearing about the passing of Shri Prakash Gossai.
Shri Prakash was a very intelligent Hindu Priest and is highly respected in the Hindu community world-wide and especially in Miami. Shri Prakash will be missed by all. My thoughts and prayers are with his family on this sad occasion.
Presidential adviser dies of heart attack
June 16, 2009 | By knews | Filed Under News
Renowned Hindu Spiritual leader, Shri Prakash Gossai, died yesterday in Miami, Florida, USA, of a heart attack. He was 56.
Shri Prakash Gossai receiving his Medal of Service from President Bharrat Jagdeo in 2002.
Pandit Gossai had been medivacced over the weekend for emergency treatment for a heart condition. He became ill last Thursday evening after leaving work, and was admitted to the Balwant Singh Hospital and subsequently transferred to the Caribbean Heart Institute (CHI).
Gossai was the founder of the Bhuvaneshwar mandirs in the United States of America and Guyana.
Shri Prakash, his followers said, dedicated his life to selflessly serving humanity by spreading the word of the Shri Ramcharitamanas. He felt strongly that Sanatan Dharma should be part of each and every Hindu home, they added.
Born in Handsome Tree, Mahaica Creek, East Coast Demerara, on April 25, 1953, Pandit Gossai, as he was commonly referred to, is the sixth of eight children.
Pandit Gossai attended Cummings Lodge Government School, where he spent four years and topped his class every term. At the GCE exams, he attained nine subjects, with several distinctions. He then proceeded to the University of Guyana (UG), where he pursued medical technology for two years, after which he embarked on a Bachelor of Science degree, and then graduated as best graduating student in the faculty of natural sciences.
Gossai migrated to the USA in 1983, where he founded the Bhuvaneshwar mandir. It is there he performed most of his religious practices and got youths involved in their culture and religion.
Gossai spent one year in India educating himself extensively on Hinduism.
He later returned from India and started to work in New York as a ‘Hindu Missionary.’
From 1992 to 2007, Pandit Gossai was exclusively involved in religious work in New York, and then President Bharrat Jagdeo asked him to return to Guyana to render his services in his homeland.
In 2002, Pandit Gossai was awarded the Medal of Service on the anniversary of Guyana’s Independence, for his positive contribution and commitment
A press release from the Office of the President said that it was saddened by the death of Pandit Shri Prakash Gossai, who was a Special Assistant to President Bharrat Jagdeo.
President Jagdeo reacting to the news of the death, said, “Pandit Gossai was a true patriot, an outstanding religious leader with long and dedicated service to the moral, spiritual and social development of Guyanese and Hindus throughout the world.
“He was a humanitarian who did extensive work in communities across Guyana.
Throughout his long and distinguished career, Pandit Gossai led by example and inspired everyone with whom he made contact.
“Indeed Guyana has lost a true son with his passing, but the leadership and courage he demonstrated will always remain an inspiration for the Hindu community in Guyana and elsewhere.”
Office of the president added that Pandit Gossai will be remembered for his contributions to Indian culture and excellent mobilization skills in the Hindu community.
“He spread happiness and made hearts blossom with his charisma, melodious voice and expertise in musical instruments.”
The Office of the President will be holding a wake for the late Pandit Gossai at Castellani House, Vlissengen Road, Georgetown, tonight.
Shri Prakash Gossai "Spiritual Leader"
by Savitri K. Gossai
It is the divine command of the Lord, which led Shri Prakashji into society on a mission to uphold Sanatan Dharma. The focus of his endeavor is to awaken and illuminate Hindus to the essence and luster of their eternal tradition. Prakashji’s respect and love for the Sri Ramacharitamanas, Bhagawad Gita and the Vedas, continue to exceed human understanding. He teaches the path of Bhakti (devotion) through discourses and Naama Kirtanam-singing the names and glories of the Lord in equal esteem. In fact, he encourages Naama Kirtanam as one of the most relevant path in today’s context, as one of the easiest ways to reach God.
Shri Prakash Gossai was born in Handsome Tree, Mahaica Creek, Guyana, into a devout Hindu family. His parents are Pandit Bissondial and Shrimati Rewti Gossai. He has two children, Pratiksha and Arun Gossai. From an early age it was evident to those around him that the depth of his awareness and interest in Sanatan Dharma was beyond ordinary. In his teenage years he joined the Mahatma Gandhi Organization in Georgetown, Guyana where he pursued his interest in religion, music and Hindi songs. During his youth, he sought out many spiritual leaders hoping to find an illuminated teacher to guide him in his spiritual quest. He found as mentors Doctor Budhendra Doobay, and Professor Anantanand Rambachan. His personal desire was to learn and follow in the footsteps of these great souls.
In 1983 he immigrated to Queens, New York in the United States of America where he began teaching Marine Biology with the New York Board of Education. This was a great opportunity for Prakashji to interact with many Hindu youths. He saw our children drifting from what we consider a very rich culture and a lack of spiritual upliftment. He quickly realized that it’s the information age and children when asked to perform Pooja want to know the reason behind the rituals. They want to know why the Murtis has several hands, why we make offerings to the fire and so on.
Prakashji consulted with family and friends and in 1984 he founded the Bhuvaneshwar Mandir in Brooklyn, New York. He saw a need for more spiritual and academic activities in the Temples to attract the youths from off the streets and to promote Sanatan Dharma in its entirety with particular emphasis on involving our children in more spiritual activities. In 1992, his passion for the Ramcharitamanas became so intoxicating that he gave up his Science career to follow his aspirations and spiritual life.
In 1993, Shri Prakashji went to India to study with his Guru, Brahmrishi Vishvatma Bawraji Maharaj of Pinjore, Haryana. India. In the hermitage of this great master he spent the better part of the next year receiving Swamiji’s strict but loving spiritual discipline. During this period, he met many of India’s sages and saints and his love of Goswami Tulsidas’ Shri Ramcharitamanas intensified.
His ardent desire to consecrate his life to the love and service of God thus found fulfillment. Prakashji has traveled and lectured widely, speaking to capacity audiences in many of the largest Temples and other venues in the United States, Canada, England, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica, Venezuela, the British Virgin Island and returns several times a year to his homeland of Guyana. He emphasizes the underlying unity of the world’s great religions, teaching applicable methods for attaining consciousness of God.
His emergence as a spiritual leader and messenger of the Lord is remarkable in the history of the modern world. Prakashji is well versed in several areas of Hindu philosophy. His expertise in the interpretation of Goswami Tulsidas’ Sri Ramacharitamanas has surprised even highly erudite scholars. His lectures and songs are typically characterized by the absence of any criticism on other paths and religions. He inculcates a spirit of universal acceptance, coupled with intense faith and steadfast devotion. Shri Prakashji’s vision is to develop a team of inspired youths who will serve society by disseminating the profound truth revealed to us by our great saints and sages and shows the path to God realization. He is the spiritual Guru for more than a thousand Chelas (disciples) around the world.
On April 19, 2002 Shri Prakashji was recognized at Devi Mandir in Pickering, Ontario, Canada for his contribution to the Canadian Hindu community. He was presented with an award from the Premier of Ontario and the honorable John Hastings, Member of Provincial Parliament for his contribution to the Hindu community in the Province of Ontario, Canada. The Federation of Hindu Temples also presented him with an award for his dedication, commitment and support to the Hindu Temples of Canada. The final award of Lifetime Membership was given by Devi Mandir recognizing his fund raising contribution to the Mandir in excess of $200K over the last four years. In the presence of over a thousand devotees, he was given a standing ovation while he accepted his awards with great humility.
In 2002, the Government of Guyana presented Prakashji with the Medal of Service award on the anniversary of Guyana’s Independence, for his positive contribution and commitment to his native land. In his acceptance speech, he said: “I am deeply touched and honoured to be offered the Medal of Service Award on the anniversary of our Independence. I feel tremendous gratitude in being recognized as having made a positive contribution to my homeland. Upon reflection, I am convinced that the enriching experience of my childhood in Mahaica Creek, being exposed to religion from an early age, as well as, the relentless encouragement and nurturing of my educational goals and aspirations by my parents, teachers and peers, have all contributed for such an award. Like most Guyanese, who now live abroad, our hearts continually dwell on the memories of our past days, living in our country of birth. Having the good fortune of returning to Guyana and encourage my fellow brothers and sisters in their spiritual journey, will forever remain one of the most precious achievements of my lifetime. One of the many aspects of the Ramayan, which I enjoy emphasizing in my sermons, is the meeting of Lord Rama and his loyal devotee Hanuman. The essence of this meeting, of servitude and loyalty to duty and God, I see as the most important of all lessons we need to learn, in order to benefit humanity and ourselves in general. I accept this award on behalf of all Guyanese who live abroad and continue to contribute selflessly to our homeland. I wish to thank the people and the Government of Guyana for bestowing me with such an honour”.
Prakashji is an excellent orator and his powerful discourses are attended by thousands of devotees from various walks of life. He has magnificently brought to light the relevance of the Dharmic way of life, the noble concept of family, brotherhood, social order and the just polity inherent in the Ramayan to the modern world. His emphasis is on the philosophical interpretation of Hinduism and to highlight the essence of the true scientific spirit behind this great tradition.
In May 2004, Bhuvaneshwar Mandir relocated from Brooklyn, New York to a new venue at 86-06 101 Avenue, Ozone Park. Queens. New York to better serve the Hindu community and the devotees of Bhuvaneshwar Mandir. The first anniversary of Bhuvaneshwar Mandir in Queens, New York was celebrated with a one-month Yagna, which commenced on May 30th and concluded on June 26th 2005. This was also the 21st year for Bhuvaneshwar Mandir in New York. During these celebrations many devotees and members of the Mandir were recognized with certificates and awards for their contribution, dedication and tireless work. Students of the Mandir showcase their talent throughout this event.
On June 9, 2005 New York City Council and the Tri-state Alliance recognized Shri Prakashji for his humanitarian services, as well as his contribution and commitment to the community in the field of culture and religion. The Honorable Leroy Comrie and Yvette Clark, Council Members presented him with an award from the City of New York. Several dignitaries were present for this event, including the Honorable Brentnol Evans-Consulate General of Guyana and Mr. Robert Persaud from the office of the President of Guyana. Shri Prakashji expressed his gratitude for being recognized, in his acceptance speech, he said “there are many who are qualified to receive this award and I humbly receive it on all their behalf. This supply a catalyst for us to work more assiduously to make a better New York City and make our President and the people of Guyana proud of the work of Guyanese living in New York”.
Shri Prakashji has emerged as a powerful spiritual messenger in a long line of spiritual giants that Guyana has produced.
OM SAHA NAA VAVATU SAHA NAU BHUNAKTU
SAHA VEERYAM KARAVAA VAHAI
TEJAS VINAA VADHEETA MASTU MAA VID VISHAA VAHAI
OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI
Let us be saved together; let us be reared together; let us be united and strengthened together too. Let us not be jealous of each other.
Peace, peace, peace.
Jai Shree Ram
Shri Prakash Gossai receives MS at special investiture ceremony - July 10, 2004.
A special Investiture Ceremony at State House was held to present Shri Prakash Gossai with a National Award, the Medal of Service (MS). Shri Prakash was one of the National Awardees for the 2002 investiture but could not attend the ceremony. The special ceremony was held today a the request of President Bharrat Jagdeo who presented the award.
Speaking after the presentation, President Jagdeo said he has known the recipient for some time now and is impressed with his knowledge of the Scriptures. According to the President, during his recent visit to New York, he visited the Hindu Temple where Shri Prakash Gossai is doing a “wonderful job teaching young people to uphold the Hindu Scriptures.”
The National Award was presented to Shri Prakash Gossai for long and dedicated service in religious work.
An intense dedication to religion and promoting youths’ involvement
May 3, 2009 | By knews | Filed Under News
Shri Prakash Gossai is a ‘Special Person’
“Gone are the days when these religious institutions are only places of singing, chanting and poojas. They must now be higher institutions for higher learning. This is where we must instill human values in our people. The child must understand that God is an important factor in his life. And as long as we have that belief, our life would be straight.”
Shri Prakash Gossai is a ‘Special Person’
For almost all his life, Shri Prakash Gossai has devoted himself to promoting the Hindu religion. He has, notably, encouraged many youths to follow in the path of their ancestors when it comes to their religion.
Shri Prakash Gossai
Shri Prakash Gossai
From the tender of age of five, Shri Prakash Gossai started to play the harmonium and sang bhajans (Hindu devotional songs). This he said was mainly due to his father, who is still a magnificent singer, and one devoted to God.
Born in Handsome Tree in Mahaica on the East Coast of Demerara, on April 25th, 1953, Pandit Gossai, as he is commonly referred to, is the sixth of eight children.
He told Kaieteur News that the little village at that time was very remote and undeveloped, as there were no proper roads and electricity. Like many other Guyanese, Pandit Gossai also walked to school via muddy dams, but according to him, the word education meant a lot for the inhabitants.
“Our parents made sure that we went to school, in addition to doing field work. So we reared cattle and we used to help them in the ricefields, but it was mandatory that we went to school.”
Pandit Gossai attended Cummings Lodge Government School, where he spent four years and stood first place in his class for every term. At the GCE exams, he attained nine subjects, with several distinctions. He then proceeded to the University of Guyana (UG), where he pursued medical technology for two years, after which he embarked on a Bachelor of Science degree, and then graduated as best graduating student in the faculty of natural sciences.
According to Pandit Gossai, growing up he had an affinity for religion and related practices, as his father always encouraged him to pray and instilled the notion in him that there is a God, and whatever you want, if you pray sincerely for it, you will receive it.
This concept, Pandit Gossai said, has stuck with him until this day, and he is a strong believer.
During his years at high school and later at UG, Pandit Gossai said that he never isolated himself from his religion, culture and beliefs, as he was the President of the Hindu Society during the four years that he spent at university. Somehow or other he was inspired to do more work for religion, Pandit Gossai said.
He left Guyana in 1983 for the United States, specifically New York, where he founded a Mandir. It is there he performed most of his religious practices and got youths involved in their culture and religion.
“Because of a lack of mandirs during 1983, I found it as a call that I must get involved in the promotion of Hinduism. So in addition to my teaching at Thomas Jefferson High School, I was very active in Mandir work. I encouraged the youngsters to come out every Sunday and we sang Bhajans and we did outreach programs. We used to visit poor communities, and exchange books, and engaged in games with the residents in those communities,” Pandit Gossai said.
It was interesting to learn that Pandit Gossai was not one who was looking at gaining fame or becoming a popular figure in society, but this was not something that he could easily escape.
“I got involved to an extent that people were looking at me as some ‘authority’, this time I never had anybody teaching me, I never had the Guru, so all of this is self-taught all the time. And due to the expectations of people, I thought that you know what, I’d better go to India.”
He returned to Guyana before leaving for India at the age of 40, where he spent one year educating himself extensively on Hinduism.
At that time, Pandit Gossai left a very active teaching profession not only in Guyana, but also in New York, where he taught Marine Biology and medical technology.
He then returned from India and started to work in New York as a ‘Hindu Missionary.’
But it is amazing to have found out that Pandit Gossai, because of his humility, is not entirely comfortable with being referred to as Pandit.
Pandit Gossai performing at one of his many functions
Pandit Gossai performing at one of his many functions
“I do not like to call myself a Pandit, because to me, a Pandit is an extremely knowledgeable person in any field and I don’t think that I am that knowledgeable to be classified a Pandit.”
From 1992 to 2007, Pandit Gossai was exclusively involved in religious work in New York, and then President Bharrat Jagdeo asked him to return to Guyana so as to render his services in his homeland.
“And I must say that I am getting enough opportunity to serve the Guyanese people in general and the Hindus in particular. Almost every night, I am involved in Satsangs (prayer meeting) and encouraging youngsters to follow their culture and to get involved in their religion.”
During his teenage years, Pandit Gossai had an active Hindu society and due to this, a Muslim Society along with a Christian Society was formed.
Being one to lead major prayer meetings across Guyana, his favourite Bhajan is one he composed about ten years ago.
It goes “Aaye Bhi Akela Jaye Bhi Akela” This simply means, “We have come to this world alone, and we have to leave alone. Whatever we have to do then, let’s do it to the best of our ability.”
Pandit Gossai loves to discuss the scriptures and he is of the opinion that he became a popular figure in the religious world due to his approach in dealing with beliefs.
“When I started; the language was a problem. Many people did not understand Hindi and there was a rejection because people did not understand. What I did was to begin to explain these things, most of all the verses that we chanted for years, it was then that people started to understand the meaning… so I believe that is what made me very popular.”
Now, despite being an accomplished religious leader, Pandit Gossai is a personal adviser to the President and is stationed at Office of the President. He has two children who are following in his path.
On the occasion of Indian Arrival Day, which will be celebrated on Tuesday, Pandit Gossai had this to say to religious organizations.
“Gone are the days when these religious institutions are only places of singing, chanting and poojas. They must now be higher institutions for higher learning. This is where we must instill human values in our people. The child must understand that God is an important factor in his life. And as long as we have that belief, our lives would be straight.”
Taking into consideration the modern way of thinking by children and youths in particular in today’s society, he urged them to stick to their religion.
“Simply find out the lifestyles of our ancestors, their aja, ajie, their nana and nanis. Find out what was their focus and you will be surprised that they (children and youths) are not walking the same path. Education, culture, discipline and high morals…these were the important words in their life.”
Pandit Gossai strongly believes that he has contributed positively to society and will continue to do so as he wants people to know that God must be in front of whatever they do in life.
Guyanese Pandit honoured by U.S. Congress, coming to serve as advisor to President of Guyana
Written by Vishnu Bisram
January, 07 2007
Pandit Prakash Gossai, formerly of Mahaica and founder of the Bhuvaneshwar mandir of Queens, was recently honoured in New York by two Members of the U.S Congress as well as by several Guyanese organizations. Gossai, who has lived in New York for over twenty years, will be re-migrating to Guyana to accept a position to serve as religious and ethnic advisor to President Jagdeo beginning this new year. Since he is leaving New York, Guyanese community leaders decided to honour him for his spiritual, cultural, humanitarian, and social work. They showered accolades and honoured the popular Pandit at several events for his commitment and dedication in service to Guyanese and other nationals in America.
Gossai is an accomplished spiritual and community leader in New York. He is also an outstanding singer and exponent of the Hindu scriptures and a respected academic. Gossai is a graduate of U.G in Biology and worked at GPC as well as at the labs at Georgetown Hospital before migrating to New York. He worked as a teacher for several years before committing his life full time to panditai. In addition to serving Guyanese in America, Gossai has frequently traveled to Jamaica, Canada, Guyana and Trinidad conducting discourses on the Hindu scriptures.
He studied Hinduism in India which he recently re-visited and was honoured by various organizations. Gossai received an award from the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin at the posh Jewels of India restaurant in Long Island. Republican Congressman Peter King of Long Island presented him with a Congressional Honor congratulating "Shri Prakash Gossai for his remarkable achievements so far, and look forward to receiving more exciting news on the many productive years ahead." And last Sunday at the mandir in Queens, Gossai received an honour from Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman applauding "Shri Prakash Gossai for serving the members of his New York community with great distinction and deserving our sincerest appreciation and thanks". Gary Ackerman declared January Dec 31, to be Shri Prakash Gossai Day in the Fifth Congressional District of New York". Gossai also received honours from groups in Toronto and New York. In accepting the various honours conferred upon him, Gossai said "I accept them on behalf of my followers and supporters who help to make me what I am".
At one point, Gossai was overwhelmed with emotion and pledged to perform in his new job with excellence. He said he would try his utmost best to live up to people's expectations. Gossai thanked Dr. Tara Singh, community leader Ramesh Kalicharran, and others who planned the events honouring him. He expressed his greatest appreciation to those who showered praises on him.
Canadian community honours Shri Prakash Gossai
IF YOU have ever listened to the Ramayana interpreted with superb style and class, only then will you understand what the devotees of the Devi Mandir in Ontario, Canada have enjoyed this past week.
In society today, it has become a common fact that fewer and fewer are attending church. But when you know Shri Prakash Gossai of New York is reading a yajna or conducting a sermon in Canada, you can be sure of one thing - there will hardly be place in the Mandir to accommodate the devotees.
Shri Prakash Gossai was born in Guyana and migrated to the United States of America in 1983. As of 1988, his interest in the Ramayana (one of Hinduism�s most sacred texts) had sparked his passion, so much so, that he gave up a science career to follow his aspirations. Today, he lives his dream by spreading the words of Shree Sanatan Dharma internationally. Shri Prakash Gossai is popular not only in Canada, but throughout the United States, the West Indies, South America and Europe.
What makes his approach stand out above the rest you might ask? Prakashji has guardedly removed Hindus from an entrenched view of the scriptures, to a modern more pragmatic approach. He uses the concepts of the scriptures to relate to the higher truth and its connection to everyday life. Based on his methodology, incorporated with his inspirational bhajans (songs) he captures the interest of the younger and older generations alike. But his talent does not end with his masterly interpretation of the Ramayana, his melodic voice lends panache and charm to his sermons. He has produced many CD�s, cassettes, and books in an effort to educate, as well as, arouse interest in Hindu culture and traditions.
At the Devi Mandir on April 19, Shri Prakash Gossai was recognised for his contributions to Satnatan Dharma and the Canadian Hindu Community by being presented with three awards. The first award was on behalf of the Premier of Ontario and Mr John Hastings, Member of Provincial Parliament, for his contributions to the Hindu community throughout the Province of Ontario, Canada. The Hindu Federation gave the second award, for his dedication, commitment and support to the Hindu Temples of Canada. The final award of Life Time Membership was given by the Devi Mandir, recognising his fund-raising contributions to their temple in the excess of $200,000 over the past four years.
In the presence of no less than 1,000 devotees, who gave him a standing ovation, Prakashji accepted his awards with great humility and gratitude. He commented to the congregation in his acceptance speech, �There are many priests and spiritual leaders who contribute selflessly to Hinduism and deserve these awards more than I do. On their behalf I accept these honours you have given me.�
Once you have experienced an evening of Shri Prakash Gossai�s talent, be assured, it will leave you searching his website (www.prakashgossai.com) for more information about his programmes, sermons and music. But, be warned, Shri Prakash Gossai�s ability to trigger your inner cry for spiritual enlightenment is addictive and will keep you forever yearning for his teachings!