Black Lotus: The Spiritual Journey of an Urban Mystic explores the life and mission of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami, an African-American seeker who became one of the most influential spiritual leaders of the twentieth century. His story begins in a Cleveland ghetto and culminates in the spiritual world. Along the way, readers meet John Favors, known by family and friends as “Johnny Boy.” A particularly gifted youth, he overcame numerous obstacles, including a speech impediment and impoverished conditions, to reveal his exceptional character, wisdom, and spirituality.
In his teenage years, he worked with Dr. Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and became a young but prominent participant in the Civil Rights movement. As months turned to years, he excelled in school and went on to Princeton University, uncommon for an African-American in the late-1960s. While there, he majored in psychology and learned the science of yoga.
His abiding interest in black consciousness, the powers of the mind, and Eastern philosophy, however, was overshadowed by his spiritual inclinations, which led him to the Hare Krishna movement, known in India by its traditional name, Vaishnavism. This is the ancient science of the soul, long forgotten in the West and known in its purest form only to a select few even in the mystic East.
Through his intense practice, “Johnny Boy” quickly transformed into “Bhakti Tirtha Swami,” an adept who became renowned for his severe asceticism; his heartfelt praying; his material and spiritual welfare work around the world; his initiation of hundreds of students into the practice of bhakti (devotional yoga); and his coronation as a High Chief in the prestigious Warri kingdom of Nigeria. But his greatest accomplishments involved pragmatic application of high ideals — simple living and high thinking. To this end, he established farm communities, schools for children, published books, and founded the nonsectarian Institute for Applied Spiritual Technology (IFAST), which sponsors seminars and provides workshops for professionals and spiritual seekers of various persuasions.
In the process, he demonstrated that effective spiritual life includes the best aspects of psychology and principle-centered leadership. More, he taught how to balance head and heart in pursuit of the spirit.
His inspiring story is enriched by personal interviews with family, friends, college professors, mentors, disciples, and other fellow travelers on the spiritual path. These interviews make their appearance in the book as inset quotes, allowing his associates to speak for themselves. As a result, Black Lotus offers an intimate look at the Swami’s life and times, which blossom on these pages for the first time in written form. As the beauty and sublime perfection of a lotus rises in supreme majesty above its stem, which is buried deeply in clouded waters, so Black Lotus is a tribute to one who rose above all boundaries and limitations, and inspired others to do the same.
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