[April 13, 2020 is the appearance day of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kumuda Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja in Vṛndāvana, India. Below is the article from 'My Beloved Masters' by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja about the glories of Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja]
HIS EARLY DAYS AND JOINING THE MAṬHA
Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kumuda Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja appeared in the village of Narmā, West Bengal and was given the name Rādhā-ramaṇa dāsa after his family’s worshipful deity, Śrī Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa. His father, Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Rāya, was a jamindār (landowner) as well as a practicing astrologer and Ayurvedic doctor. Being highly impressed by his first encounter with Gauḍīya Maṭha preachers, he invited them to stay for some days in his home. After regularly extending such invitations to devotees, Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Rāya became closely acquainted with the Gauḍīya Maṭha.
The preachers of Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha were so pleased with Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Rāya’s service and hospitality that they would stay only at his house during their visits to his town. Because he was not particularly attached to the opulence enjoyed by landowners in that era, he would spend most of his time treating patients and calculating astrological charts. He rendered profuse, wholehearted assistance to the sannyāsīs and brahmacārīs collecting funds for the Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma parikramā held by Śrī Caitanya Maṭha. He had a potent ambition for seeking his spiritual welfare, and so despite his worldly opulence and landowner affluence, he never hesitated to personally collect donations. He firmly believed that the association of sādhus is the only means of attaining wellbeing in this human life.
Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Śrī Praṇavānanda Brahmacārī (later known as Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja) once visited Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Rāya’s home to collect provisions for the upcoming Navadvīpa-dhāma parikramā. Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Rāya offered them one hundred eight rupees worth of silver coins in praṇāmī, and Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa dāsa and his brother, Kṛṣṇa dāsa, received the good fortune to serve them.
During his five-day stay, Śrī Praṇavānanda Brahmacārī observed that Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa dāsa spent the majority of his time sitting peacefully in the temple room, either hearing hari-kathā or performing kīrtana.
One day, after Śrī Praṇavānanda Brahmacārī sang Jīva Jāgô Jīva Jāgô, he and the boy, Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa dāsa, discussed the meaning of the kīrtana. Śrī Praṇavānanda Brahmacārī was amazed to see an ardent love for kathā and kīrtana in such a young boy. He said to Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Rāya, “Your son’s behavior is rather atypical for a child. His natural attraction to spiritual matters amazes me. We would be greatly pleased to have him stay in our maṭha. There, he can gain both spiritual knowledge and a regular education. Will you allow him to come with us?”
Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Rāya replied, “If he agrees to your proposal, you may surely take him with you. I have no objections.”
Śrī Praṇavānanda Brahmacārī asked Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa dāsa, “Will you come with us to live with the sannyāsīs and brahmacārīs in our Kolkata maṭha, where you can receive both spiritual and material educations?”
“Yes!” Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa dāsa immediately answered.
“There, you will have to serve sādhus all of the time, just as you are doing here,” Śrī Praṇavānanda Brahmacārī told him.
“That will only increase my good fortune,” he replied with a youthful enthusiasm. In this way, Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa dāsa agreed and accompanied the two visiting Vaiṣṇavas back to the maṭha at 1 Ulṭadāṅgā Road, Kolkata, which at the time was a rented apartment.
Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa dāsa’s mother, Śrī Ratna-mayī devī, was a considerably devotional woman. He was her third and youngest son and had been raised amid wealth. Before he left for the maṭha, she appropriately instructed him about his future stay in the austere atmosphere of his guru’s residence. She hugged him, kissed his forehead and said with tears in her eyes, “Bābā! Your purpose is noble. Make accomplishing this purpose your life’s only goal.”
Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Rāya accompanied his son to Kolkata, where he had darśana of Śrīla Prabhupāda and talked to him about the boy.
Śrīla Prabhupāda asked Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa dāsa, “So, khokā ("kiddo"), will you be able to stay here?”
“Yes, yes,” the boy said. “I will definitely be able to stay.”
Upon joining the maṭha, the boy enrolled in a nearby school, the New Indian High School, and thus spent his time between his services in the maṭha and his studies. Sometimes Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī washed the clothes of the accomplished sannyāsīs and brahmacārīs, and sometimes he cleaned their rooms. Other times, he cleaned the temple room with great delight. The devotees of the maṭha were captivated by the boy’s enthusiasm and sincere inclination to serve. Also, Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa’s voice was very sweet. He would sit with the devotees and sing kīrtana with them, heightening their ecstasy.
One day after Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī had completed his studies at the New Indian High School, Śrīla Prabhupāda told the sannyāsī and brahmacārī disciples crowded around him, “When I see how sincerely and quickly this boy performs his services, it occurs to me that if he were to spend his life in the maṭha, I could delegate many services to him without worry. But since he is young and has just finished his schooling, it is up to his parents whether he continues to stay here.”
Sometime later, Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Rāya visited the Kolkata maṭha and asked his son, “Do you want to continue your studies? If you want to acquire a higher education, then I am happy to talk to Śrīla Prabhupāda and make arrangements for you to do so.”
Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī said, “I have heard from Śrīla Prabhupāda ‘jaḓa-vidyā ĵatô māyāra vaibhava—material knowledge is simply the opulent manifestation of Bhagavān’s illusory potency.’ Also, Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda has stated in Śaraṇāgati, ‘vidyāra gaurave bhrami’ deśe deśe dhana upārjana kôri—in the pride of having acquired worldly knowledge, I simply wandered from one country to another accumulating material wealth.’ Furthermore, Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata (Ādi-khaṇḍa 12.49) mentions:
paḓe kene loka? kṛṣṇa-bhakti jānibāre
se ĵadi nahilô, tabe vidyāya ki kare?
Why do people study? In order to know kṛṣṇa-bhakti. But what is the use of acquiring knowledge if that devotion does not arise?
Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī continued, “Because I have heard and taken to heart the true purport of these statements and other similar declarations found in scripture, I am determined not to waste my invaluable time in this human life on acquiring higher education, material comforts or earning a livelihood. I want to obtain spiritual knowledge and thereby fulfill the true purpose of living in the maṭha.”
After Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī consulted with Śrī Praṇavānanda Brahmacārī regarding his future, he decided that according to his current interest and inclination, it would be best to study Sanskrit under Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciple Śrī ‘Kavya-vyākaraṇa-tīrtha’ Gaura dāsa Paṇḍita in order to comprehend the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava scriptural canon. Śrī Rādhā- ramaṇa Brahmacārī submitted this proposal to Śrīla Prabhupāda, who gave his permission. Thus Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī relocated from Kolkata to Śrī Caitanya Maṭha in Śrīdhāma Māyāpura.
Sometime later, when Śrīla Prabhupāda held a grand event to showcase the Sat-śikṣa Pradarśinī exhibition in Śrīdhāma Māyāpura in the year 1930, he ordered Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī, who was then absorbed in studying Sanskrit grammar, to dedicate himself to the services related to the exhibition. As per Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instruction, Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī would deliver scripturally sound explanations to the guests regarding the exhibition’s many displays. Unbeknownst to him, Śrīla Prabhupāda listened in on these explanations, and when Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī’s mother, father and two elder brothers came to see the exhibition, Śrīla Prabhupāda praised the boy profusely.
He told Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Rāya and Śrī Ratna-mayī devī, “Your youngest son has accrued substantial qualifications for someone his age. At present, he is studying Sanskrit grammar and sincerely serving the residents of the dhāma.”
At the exhibition, Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī spoke with his family members for some time about Śrīla Prabhupāda’s glories, the legacy of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s teachings, the specialty of the Gauḍīya Maṭha and the profound purpose of the exhibition’s themes. Then, he requested them to invite good fortune to their lives by taking shelter of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s lotus feet. Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Rāya and Śrī Ratna-mayī devī were rendered speechless by their amazement with their youngest son. They decided then and there that they and their three sons would all become Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciples.
Śrīla Prabhupāda showered his mercy on Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Rāya, his wife Śrī Ratnamayī devī, and their sons, Śrī Rādhā-śyāma Rāya, Śrī Rādhā-vinodā Rāya, and Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Rāya, by giving them all harināma. He asked Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī’s parents, “Do you object to Rādhā-ramaṇa continuing to stay in the maṭha?”
Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Rāya and Śrī Ratna-mayī devī replied, “Please consider this boy as having been offered for the service of your lotus feet.”
HIS ASTUTENESS IN SERVICE
After some time, Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī was transferred to Śrī Caitanya Maṭha in Māyāpura, where the daily newspaper Dainika Nadiyā Prakāśa was printed. One day it so happened that there was no paper stock for the following day’s issue, and the rainy weather was making it difficult to procure a new supply. Śrī Prāṇavānanda Brahmacārī was the paper’s editor at that time, and he informed Śrīla Prabhupāda about the situation and asked him what to do.
Śrīla Prabhupāda asked, “Is there anybody who can bring paper from our Bhāgavata Press in Kṛṣṇanagara?”
Śrī Prāṇavānanda Brachmacārī mentioned, “Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī is here, and he will go if you tell him.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda then ordered Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī to go, and the boy immediately left for Kṛṣṇanagara by bicycle. After riding a far distance in the rain, he finally reached his destination. When he collected the paper supply, the devotees at Bhāgavata Press bound it to the back of his bicycle. The knots they made, however, were quite loose, and the entire bundle of paper fell to the ground during his return journey. Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī immediately removed his dhotī, which measured approximately five meters, and replaced it with his uttarīya (upper cloth), which measured only two meters. Using the dhotī, he very nicely bound the paper, secured it to the bike and carefully brought it to Māyāpura. Upon Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahcmacārī’s return, Śrīla Prabhupāda was informed about the situation, and he praised the boy, acknowledging that although he was very young, he displayed great astuteness in a difficult situation.
When Śrīla Prabhupāda saw for himself how skillful Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa was during the Sat-śikṣa Pradarśinī exhibition in Śrīdhāma Māyāpura, he included his name in the list of devotees he would send to Ḍhākā to hold an exhibition there. When Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī found out about this, he appealed to Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Viveka Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, “My grammar studies have already been paused during the exhibition in Śrīdhāma Māyāpura. If I go to Ḍhākā, they will practically cease altogether.”
When Śrīla Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja put the matter before Śrīla Prabhupāda, Śrīla Prabhupāḍa called for Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī and told him, “To think we must first obtain some qualification before attempting to serve Śrī Hari simply invites obstacles in our lives. Who knows what may happen in the time spent pursuing perfection. Our time in this human form of life is momentary. We cannot trust our breath will last.
“The rice paddy in the field must be dried while the sun is still shining. It is best to seize whatever opportunities for hari-sevā may arise. Your qualification will increase more by serving the Lord than by independently pursuing grammatical knowledge. Only a life led under guidance brings auspiciousness for a spiritual seeker residing in an āśrama.” Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī took Śrīla Prabhupāda’s merciful instruction to heart and fixed it as the main instruction guiding him to the path of spiritual welfare.
Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī was thus always faithfully preoccupied with various services, and in 1934, at Bāgbāzār Gauḍīya Maṭha in Kolkata, Śrīla Prabhupāda granted Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī mantra-dīkṣā.
THE PRAISE AND CRITICISM OF ORDINARY PEOPLE IS MEANT FOR THEIR OWN SENSE ENJOYMENT
The devotees of Śrī Madhva Gauḍīya Maṭha in Ḍhākā once wrote to Śrīla Prabhupāda and requested him to send one kīrtanīyā for the maṭha. Knowing Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī to be an exceptional kīrtanīyā, Śrīla Prabhupāda asked him if he could make the journey on his own. Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī confidently affirmed that he could, and accepting the order of his gurudeva, he departed on his journey for Ḍhākā, which required him to travel first by steamship and then by road.
Being the first passenger to arrive at the steamship, Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī took a seat next to one of the ship’s windows. After some time, the ship slowly began to fill with passengers. The passengers who arrived after him told him, “Move over. Why are you sitting near the window, anyway? You are a small child and can sit anywhere. Fresh air is required for old people. Why have you taken this seat? Get up from here and go sit elsewhere.”
Another person commented, “Nowadays, people give birth to a child and, without taking responsibility for looking after him, leave him in the maṭha. These children then become ‘sādhus’ due to laziness and their aversion to work.” After hearing these comments, Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī quietly got up from his seat and stood near the ship’s entrance, so that no one would be bothered further. Seeing this, everybody became satisfied and remained peaceful.
Approximately ten minutes after he had moved from the window seat, an announcement came over the loudspeaker: “Everyone please be attentive. The ocean is very rough today, and we have no control over the ship. We are in perilous danger. Anything can happen, so everyone please remember God and pray to Him for our safety.”
Hearing this, one of the passengers, an old man who had previously complained about Śrī Rādhā- ramaṇa Brahmacārī, began crying and lamented, “My daughter is to be married, and I am carrying her dowry and wedding ornaments. If something happens to our ship, what will happen to my daughter’s marriage? Everything will be ruined.”
Another passenger responded, “Didn’t you hear the announcement? They are saying to remember God, so this is not the appropriate time to speak such things.”
The old man replied, “God will not listen to us, because we never did His bhajana. But surely He will listen to this young sādhu. Although he is very young, he has understood the true value of life.”
After this, all the passengers who had previously complained about Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī forcibly sat him down among them and requested him to pray for their safety. He replied, “I have heard from my Guru Mahārāja that the Lord only hears the prayers of His surrendered devotees. As I am not yet surrendered to Him, He will not even hear me, what to speak of fulfill any request I may submit. However, my Guru Mahārāja has also mentioned that we should always perform nāma-saṅkīrtana. Therefore, I can chant the hare kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, and all of you can repeat it in kīrtana. But I cannot guarantee that God will hear or save us.” The passengers accepted his proposal, and they all began to perform kīrtana. After some time, the ship safely arrived at its destination.
Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja often mentioned this pastime, and in doing so taught us that both the criticism and praise of ordinary people have absolutely no value, and we should therefore never become affected by whatever they may speak. Such people praise and criticize only for their own sense enjoyment.
THE DEEP VISION OF GREAT PERSONALITIES
Once, Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja and my paramārādhyatama Guru Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, were staying in the Madras Gauḍīya Maṭha as brahmacārīs. My Guru Mahārāja was then known as Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī. Although they were brahmacārīs and not sannyāsīs, they were accepted as experienced seniors because they sincerely followed Śrīla Prabhupāda.
During their stay, Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī noticed that a particular brahmacārī refused to mix with the other residents of the maṭha and hardly spoke with anybody. He instead sought solitude wherever he could find it, in order to focus on his reading and chanting. Sensing something suspicious about these activities, Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī approached Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī and told him of his concerns. He said, “Prabhu, although this brahmacārī is chanting and reading a great deal and avoiding gossip, I feel that something is wrong. Can you please investigate?”
Śrī Hayagrīva Brahamacārī understood the legitimate reason for Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī’s concern, and afterwards called for the brahmacārī and asked him, “I have heard that you do not associate with any other residents of the maṭha, what to speak of joking with them or sitting with them to take prasāda. Why is this?”
The brahmacārī replied, “I do not wish to become involved in gossip, and that is why I prefer to keep to myself.”
Śrī Hayagrīva Brahamacārī said, “I think it would be better for you to sit with them and develop relationships. Try to lead your life in a natural way, as the other residents of the maṭha do. Sometimes, even if you have to joke and engage in gossip with them, still it is not a problem. Why? Because there is something to learn in each and every activity of the devotees.”
Feeling utterly confused, the brahmacārī replied, “Prabhu, although you are very senior to me, you are instructing me to do the opposite of what I have heard from other senior Vaiṣṇavas. I do not want you to feel as if I am challenging you, but Śrīman Mahāprabhu has said not to listen to or speak gossip. But you are asking me to indulge in material talks with brahmacārīs if required. This is greatly puzzling.”
Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī then explained himself: “Listen properly. Presently, you are residing in this maṭha only with your body, and not with your mind. If you will not heed my words, then after some time your body will also go from here; you will surely return to your home. But if you follow what I have suggested, at least you will continue to stay here by body, and then gradually your mind will come to stay in the maṭha as well. Therefore, be peaceful and please try to follow what I have told.”
This instance shows that although Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī was considerably young, he was dūra-darśī, capable of seeing what will come in the future beyond the present circumstances. While ordinary persons hold an external conception of proper and improper conduct, the perception of those who are dūra-darśī extends beyond outer appearances. Such persons can see clearly what is deep inside the hearts of others, as well as what will become of them in the future. Both my Guru Mahārāja and Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī could ascertain that because this brahmacārī’s mind was not fixed in being a servant of Śrī Hari, guru and the Vaiṣṇavas, he would quickly tire of his rigorous sādhana and leave the maṭha.
Sometime later, that brahmacārī received a letter. But instead of having it sent to the maṭha, he had the sender address it to a nearby gṛhastha family. Seeing that a letter had come for a resident of the maṭha, that family explained the situation to Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī and handed him the letter. Upon reading it, Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī learned that the brahmacārī had previously sent a letter to his mother, informing her that he would soon return home, and that she should therefore arrange both a job and a wife for him. The letter Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī had received was the mother’s reply, in which she accepted the responsibility and told him to return quickly. Shortly after the letter’s arrival, the brahmacārī left the maṭha.
Although absolutely no indications of his mental unrest were visible when he was staying in the maṭha, both Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī and my Guru Mahārāja understood the situation very clearly. Due to saṁskāras he had received as a result of staying in the maṭha, this brahmacārī later accepted the real truth, returned to the maṭha around the age of sixty-five, and, remembering the dūra-darśitā of Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, eventually accepted sannyāsa from him.
ON ADDRESSING GODBROTHERS AND OTHER VAIṢṆAVAS AS 'PRABHU'
Once, Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī asked Śrīla Prabhupāda why godbrothers refer to each other as ‘Prabhu,’ and Śrīla Prabhupāda gave the following response:
“It is said ‘gurura sevaka haya mānya āpanāra—the servant of one’s guru is to be revered.’ According to this notion, we address all of our godbrothers, both senior and junior, as ‘Prabhu’ so that we may cultivate a sense of being humbler than a blade of grass. If a person considers himself to be a Vaiṣṇava and others to be junior or less advanced than him, he nurtures only mundane egotism. In the realm of spirituality, if we see each other as the servants of our guru, the notion that another is inferior to or less qualified than us will never enter our hearts. Then, we will not have a chance to feel malice or disregard for others.
“This is the secret of addressing each other as ‘Prabhu.’ If one wishes to relinquish gross egotism and become a servant of śrī gurudeva, one must not regard śrī gurudeva’s servants in terms of senior and junior. As the scriptures state, ‘tad bhṛtya bhṛtya bhṛtasya bhṛtyam iti māṁ smara lokanātha—O Lord of the universe, I wish to forever remember that I am but the servant of the servant of the servant of Your servant.” We must deeply internalize this conception. In this way, scripture ordains that the servants of śrī guru and indeed all Vaiṣṇavas are to be addressed as ‘Prabhu.’ ”
HIS COURAGE TO ACCEPT THE TRUTH
Śrīla Prabhupāda left this world shortly after the end of Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī’s childhood. At that time, Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī’s heart was broken upon seeing the regretful state of the Gauḍīya Maṭha organization in the wake of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s departure. Since he was still quite young, he felt it would be better if he were to return to his family instead of enduring the regrettable situation in which he found himself. Thinking in this way, Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī expressed his desire to his father, Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Prabhu, who accepted his proposal and welcomed him home.
Hearing the news of Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī’s departure from the maṭha, my Guru Mahārāja arrived at his home and asked Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha Prabhu, “You are the disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Even if your son is asking to return home, how can you allow it?”
Śrī Vaikuṇṭhanātha prabhu replied, “Actually, I do not wish for him to leave the maṭha, but at the same time I don’t want him to be discouraged and think there is no one to support him due to his having chosen another path; I don’t want him to feel abandoned or unentitled to his inheritance. For this reason, I have allowed him to return home. If you prefer him to remain a brahmacārī and return to the maṭha, then he can go with you if he agrees to it. I have no objection, and I would in fact be pleased by this.”
Guru Mahārāja then discussed the matter with Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī, and they left together for the maṭha shortly afterward. Although my Guru Mahārāja was not a sannyāsī at that time, he requested Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja to give sannyāsa to Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa Brahmacārī. Śrīla Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja accepted the proposal and gave him sannyāsa in the Kṣīra-corā Gopīnātha temple in Remuṇā. Since that time, he has been known as Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kumuda Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja.
We had never heard about this incident from anyone, including our Guru Mahārāja, until Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja himself spoke about it during Vraja-maṇḍala parikramā in Vṛndāvana, as well as in our Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha in Chandigarh. Śrīla Mahārāja would often declare, “I have been tremendously benefited by the affectionate guidance of pūjyapāda Mādhava Mahārāja. He saved my life. What would have happened to me had I stayed at home? He saved me from great danger.”
Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja and my Guru Mahārāja were among the many disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda who stayed in Śyāmānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha in Medinīpura, Bengal. Although Guru Mahārāja collected many donations and purchased the property for constructing that maṭha, he did everything in the name of Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and not his own. Such was the affection he had for him. Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja used to say, “I am not the master of anything or anyone. I am only a servant. As long as my godbrothers accept my service, I will give it. Should they no longer be interested in receiving it, I will see who will give me shelter and stay over there.”
HIS MAGNETIC HARI-KATHĀ AND KĪRTANA
Many people would come to the maṭha just to hear Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s beautiful hari-kathā and kīrtanas. Once, he accompanied Guru Mahārāja to Jammu with a preaching party. Although he sang kīrtanas in Bengali, a language the people of Jammu do not understand, many people were nonetheless attracted.
Everyone in attendance appreciated his kīrtanas so much that they would repeatedly request him to sing, and so he sang a kīrtana about Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu: “varṇa-cora, kothā mātāī calve re—O You who have stolen the complexion [of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī]! You have intoxicated us. Where, now, do You wish to take us?”
After returning from the daily nagara-saṅkīrtanas held during the program, he would sing the following song, which dripped with rasa as it emanated from his lotus lips:
nagara bhramiyā āmāra gaura elô ghare
gaura elô ghare āmāra nitāi elô ghare
After roaming throughout the towns and villages, my Gaura has come back home. Gaura has come back home and my Nitāi has come back home.
dhūla jhari’śacī-mātā gaura kole kare
dhūla jhari’ padmāvatī nitāi kole kare
Brushing off the dust [from His body], Mother Śacī takes Gaura upon her lap. Brushing off the dust [from His body], Mother Padmāvatī takes Nitāi upon her lap.”
As the preaching party for that trip was quite large, two programs were held each day. Although Śrīla Mahārāja was not proficient in speaking Hindi, his hari-kathā was simple and easily understandable for all, and it therefore attracted many people. Honoring the requests of the residents of Jammu, he performed kīrtana and spoke hari-kathā twice daily.
HIS STRICTNESS AND GRAVITY
Whether he was attending a meeting, arranging a festival or sitting as chairperson to an assembly, Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja was always extremely punctual. We have seen that if he was presiding over a function and someone spoke hari-kathā beyond the allotted time, Śrīla Mahārāja would immediately interrupt him and terminate his address. If the speaker was junior to Śrīla Mahārāja, he would grab him by the ears and order him to sit down, and to seniors he would politely but firmly request them to stop speaking.
He did not tolerate inattentiveness. If he observed anyone—whether a bramacārī, sannyāsī, lady, child or whosoever—doing anything besides sincerely hearing during the time of hari-kathā, he would reprimand that person without giving them a chance to speak, saying, “Please leave. You do not know the etiquette of sitting in an assembly of Vaiṣṇavas.”
Once, a mātā-jī came to hear hari-kathā with her grandson, who was approximately one or one-and-a-half years old. When the boy started crying loudly during the kathā, she tried to pacify him. Seeing this, Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja told her, “Do not stay in this assembly any longer. Only attentive people who give first priority to hari-kathā are welcome here, and not anybody else. You think the care of your grandson to be of the utmost importance and hari-kathā to be secondary. Do you think this is a place where people can sit and do whatever they want? Our time is very precious, and we have no interest in wasting it. Please leave immediately.”
If Śrīla Mahārāja ever saw that a person who had dedicated his life to brahmacārya was not following the required rules and regulations, such as shaving on pūrnimā, he would chastise him and say, “Why have you accepted the clothes of a brahmacārī? You are only cheating yourself. Stop trying to ruin your life. Simply follow the teachings of our guru-vargas. Even if you do not understand the purpose of each and every principle, you will be benefitted by following them.”
ESTABLISHING SIDDHĀNTA IN FEW WORDS
Once, Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja hosted a function at his Bihālā maṭha in Kolkata and invited many different guests to speak. Among the guests were a number of disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda, including Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Bhūdeva Śrautī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s grand-disciples from various maṭhas, such as pūjyapāda Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja and myself. Also invited was an old brāhmaṇa university professor from a local college. His face displayed a lack of interest during the assembly, and when it came time for him to deliver his lecture, he spoke māyāvāda philosophy. He declared, “Aham brahmāsmi—I am brahma,” along with other different māyāvāda slogans. After the professor finished his speech, he rejoined the other speakers on the stage and continued to look visibly disinterested during any subsequent speeches.
When the time came for Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja to give his speech, Śrīla Mahārāja asked, “Are you brahma?”
The professor answered, “Yes, I am.”
Śrīla Mahārāja asked, “Then is it true you do not undergo vikāra (change, or transformation)?”
“Correct. I do not.”
Then, with one hand gripping his sannyāsa-daṇḍa and the other clenched in a fist, Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja rose from his chair and charged at the māyāvadī professor, mimicking as if he were going to beat him. Viscerally startled, the old man flinched in sheer terror. Śrīla Mahārāja repeated this two more times, and the man recoiled in fear in both instances.
Śrīla Mahārāja declared, “You are not brahma! Brahma is nirvikāra; it never undergoes change and never reacts to anything. No one can harm brahma, and therefore brahma will never react in any situation. By becoming fearful just now, you revealed to the entire assembly that you are not brahma.”
In so few words, Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja exposed the old brāhmaṇa’s philosophy as false. With the entire assembly, including the children, very loudly laughing at him, the old professor felt mortified and begged Śrīla Mahārāja for forgiveness.
A SPECIAL MEANING OF 'KṚṢṆERA NITYA-DĀSA'
I have heard Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja speak on his opinion about Śrī Caitanyadeva’s teaching to Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmīpāda:
jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya—kṛṣṇera ‘nitya-dāsa’
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 20.108)
“Therefore, it is not incorrect to say jīvera ‘svarūpa’ haya—gurura ‘nitya-dāsa.’
“Why have I accepted this point-of-view? Because since time immemorial I have been wandering about the universe in different forms, accepting bodies of the different 8,400,000 species, and only in this lifetime has Kṛṣṇa manifested Himself in front of me as śrī guru to bless me with everything. Thus, I consider that form, His form as śrī guru, to be eternally worshipful.”
“When I was preaching in Rangoon, I wrote an article titled Bhṛtyera Paricaya: The Identity of a Servant, in which I included a poem of mine that expressed the following:
The glory of service to śrī gurupāda-padma exceeds that of service to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Why? While it is true that the jīva is constitutionally an eternal servant of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the conditioned soul has forgotten this relationship due to his aversion to Him since time immemorial. Śrī śrī gurudeva is the giver of sambandha-jñāna, knowledge of one’s eternal relationship with Bhagavān. As one engages everything—body, mind and words—in serving him, he becomes gurudevatātma, one in spirit with śrī gurudeva. Then, by śrī gurudeva’s mercy, the practitioner gradually realizes the purport of the teaching from Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 1.45), “guru-rūpe kṛṣṇa kṛpā karena bhakta-gaṇe—in the form of śrī guru, Kṛṣṇa bestows His mercy on the devotees.”
Not to speak of the stage of sādhana-bhakti, even in the liberated state, when the soul is situated in his eternal nature (svarūpa-siddhi), none of his efforts bear fruit without the guidance of śrī śrī gurudeva. Even in the stage of vastu-siddhi, the jīva’s attainment of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Yugala’s service is dependent on the guidance of śrī guru. Therefore, śrī gurudeva is the embodiment of Bhagavān’s mercy, and his mercy is not limited to this world alone.
It is said, “śrī guru caraṇa satya, tāhāra sevaka nitya—the lotus feet of śrī guru are truth, and I am eternally his servant.” The relationship of servitude that the disciple establishes with śrī gurupāda-padma at the time of dīkṣā is eternal. Even in the perfected stage, in Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s eternal pastimes, this relationship exists in a special form. Thus, in order for the jīva to realize his position as the eternal servant of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, it is absolutely necessary for him to serve śrī gurupāda-padma. For this very reason, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has stated in Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, “viśrambhena guroḥ sevā sādhu-vartmānu-varttanam—one ought to render intimate service to guru and follow the path of the sādhus.”
Śrī gurudeva is the personification of Śrī Bhagavān’s mercy. In terms of potency of mercy, śrī guru and Śrī Bhagavan are one. Bhagavān possesses all potencies. Among all His potencies, His mercy potency reigns supreme; all other potencies of His are subordinate to this potency. Although śrī gurudeva is not omnipotent, the omnipotent Bhagavān is under his sway due to the power of his prema. Therefore, the mercy of guru is all-in-all.
“After I completed this essay, I gave it to my senior godbrother, Śrī Bhakti Sudhīra Yācaka Mahārāja, who then sent it with great delight to Śrīdhāma Māyāpura, where it eventually reached the lotus hands of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Once Śrīla Prabhupāda read it, he gave it to Śrī Praṇavānanda Brahmacārī to read and said, ‘What Rādhā-ramaṇa has written is correct. It is a matter of great delight that he has gained such spiritual insight at his young age. His conclusions in this essay are perfect and factual, and it should be published in our magazine, Dainika Nadīyā Prakāśa, for all to read.’ Later, Śrīla Prabhupāda personally sent me a letter conveying his blessings to me.”
Vaiṣṇavas like Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kumuda Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja and many other disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhakisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura are mahān-vibhūtīs, great personalities. Their lives, their conduct, their thoughts, their vision and everything else about them is such that we become increasingly astonished the more we hear and speak about them.
AN AFFECTIONATE REFUSAL
Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, being very merciful to me, gave me the opportunity to serve him in various ways. Once, my Guru Mahārāja sent me to Purī along with our pūjyapāda Yasoda-jīvana Brahmacārī, pūjyapāda Ācārya Mahārāja (whose name was Gauraṅga-prasāda Brahmacārī at the time), and others for the important work of acquiring the property of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s birth site in Jagannātha Purī. While we were there, we stayed with Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja in a small house he had purchased for the purpose of converting it into a maṭha. When the time of the Ratha-yātrā festival came, I sent Gauraṅga-prasāda Prabhu to humbly request Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja to allow us to stay in a nearby dharmaśālā during the upcoming festival, since many of his disciples would be coming to stay with him in the small house. We could return after the festival, but we did not want to impose on Śrīla Mahārāja or his followers.
Upon hearing our request, Śrīla Mahārāja affectionately, yet firmly, replied in great surprise, “How is it possible that I can accept this? The words, ‘Yes, you can stay somewhere else,’ can never come from my mouth. Why? Because the work you came here to do—purchasing the property of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s birth site—was actually our duty, since we are his disciples. But we have not made the slightest endeavor for that, and we see that you are very enthusiastically accomplishing this work. Therefore, it is impossible for me to accept your proposal, and I request that although we are unable to provide you with so many facilities, please make any necessary adjustments with the facilities we are capable of providing, so that you can peacefully stay with us.”
A Vaiṣṇava never considers, “This place is ours and we can manage everything. Everything should be done according to our desire.” Instead, they think, “No, this is not our place. This place belongs to the Vaiṣṇavas, and we are its members, not its owners. We will cooperate with whoever comes, accommodating them according to the available facilities.”
Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja later gave me the opportunity to construct a proper maṭha at the site of that house. He asked me, “This is such a small place, but my disciples are telling me that you can create a decent plan and layout for the construction of a maṭha.”
I mentioned, “Yes, but because it is small, it cannot be constructed in a rectangular manner. It should be done in a parallel way. The āśrama can be on one side, and the temple can be on the other side.”
He replied, “I don’t understand ‘parallel construction,’ ‘rectangular construction’ or any of these things. Please just do it in such a way that everything will be properly done.” After that, I made the plan, inspected everything and oversaw the entire construction process.
EXTENDING AN INVITATION TO A KING ON HIS BEHALF
Another time, he wanted to organize a large festival for the inauguration of a maṭha he had built in Keśīyāḍī, in the district of Vardhamāna, in Bengal. They had invited the king of Purī to be a guest of honor at the festival, but he declined. Knowing that I had a friendly relationship with the king, Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja wrote to me, ordering me to convince the king to attend the function.
On Śrīla Mahārāja’s order, I visited the king, who said, “I have already told them that it is not possible for me to attend.”
I jokingly replied, “From that sentence, just remove the word ‘not,’ and then it will be possible.” The king then told me that although he wanted to attend, he had an engagement elsewhere at the same time as the festival. After inquiring further, I came to know that the maṭha was on the way to his other engagement. I told him not to worry, and that I would arrange for his travel and everything if he would agree to visit the maṭha for a short time on the way. Hearing this, the king accepted my proposal. I then personally brought the king to Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s maṭha for the inauguration festival.
Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja ordered me to speak hari-kathā on that same day. I chose to explain about the need for a Gauḍīya Maṭha in Keśīyāḍī, a place known for its abundance of temples. In such a place, it would seem as if there would be no need for such a small maṭha, due to its proximity to many different temples. I explained that despite this, there was in fact a dire need for a Gauḍīya Maṭha, because even if people had the opportunity to go to the many temples there, they would never have their hearts changed. But the maṭha is a place where people can make their lives successful by smearing all over their bodies the foot dust of pure devotees. Here, a spiritual teacher will be present, and those who want to become real, sincere spiritual students will be welcome to come, learn and practice. The maṭha exists for the wellbeing of such persons, and provides a great opportunity to its visitors to become fortunate by taking the mercy of the devotees residing there. In the association of such sādhus, learning the true, deep meanings of the śāstras is inevitable.
It is our duty to remember Vaiṣṇavas on their appearance and disappearance days. To neglect this rule is certainly an aparādha. We should definitely pray to him to continue to bestow his mercy upon us.
HUMBLY RECOGNIZING HIS POSITION AS A SERVANT OF THE SERVANT OF OUR GURUVARGA
During our time together in Keśīyāḍī, Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja and I received the opportunity to visit the appearance place of Śrī Rasikānanda-deva, a disciple of Śrī Śyāmānanda Prabhu. The devotees there wanted to offer praṇāmī to Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, but he flatly refused, saying, “This is the place of our guru varga. How can I accept praṇāmī here?” Instead of accepting the devotees’ praṇāmī, he offered praṇāmī to them.
FOLLOWING HIS INSTRUCTION, DESPITE MY EMBARRASSMENT
By the mercy of Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, I was able to render various services to him. As a result of these services, he became pleased with me, our relationship deepened, and his affection for me became so strong that whenever we stayed in the same place, he never allowed me to take prasāda without him or to stay anywhere other than his room.
During festivals or any other functions where my Guru Mahārāja or his godbrothers were present, I always sat on the ground while they sat on the dais. But once, Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja ordered me to join them on the stage. Being embarrassed to sit on the same level as my guru-varga, I declined. But my Guru Mahārāja told me, “Because pūjyapāda Santa Mahārāja has given the order, you must sit with us. Do not say no.”
He was the first disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda to ask me to sit on the dais. From then on, I began to sit on the stage; I never did so before that.
APPRECIATING A BELOVED GODBROTHER
Śrīla Bhakti Kumuda Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja once spoke the following on the appearance day of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja:
“Two of our most worshipful Vaiṣṇavas, Śrīla Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Śrīla Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, mercifully brought this unworthy soul to the proximity of His Divine Grace Śrīla Prabhupāda, whereby I attained the shelter of his lotus feet. It is impossible for me to repay the infinite compassion they showed me. All I can do is express to them my most sincere gratitude. That I have been able to adhere to this path of bhakti even at the age of eighty-four is possible only because of Śrīpāda Purī Mahārāja’s continuous guidance, and I am deeply indebted to him for this.
“Śrīla Purī Mahārāja is extremely well-educated and well-versed in scripture. Learned men are plentiful, but a truly knowledgeable man is rare. The knowledge he imparts is not merely bookish, nor should it be considered speculative reasoning. Rather, it is most relishable and enlightening, simply because it is transcendentally beautiful and divine in nature. By the grace of his gurudeva, the divine qualities of a bona fide ācārya were already evident in his activities from the outset of his spiritual pursuits. Although he was always grave in his dealings, he never disregarded anybody. He never cheated anyone, nor was he ever dishonest. His exemplary life and conduct can be aptly described through the following verse of the Muṇḍaka Upaṇiṣad:
tad-vijñānārtham sa gurum evābigacched
samit pāṇi śrotriyam brahma-niṣṭham
“This means that in order to obtain bhagavad-bhakti, one should humbly approach a spiritual master who is well-versed in that science and offer to him his body, mind and speech. In other words, he should completely surrender to śrī guru.
“I consider myself Śrī Purī Mahārāja’s younger godbrother, and he is also my śikṣā-guru from whom I have learnt the subtleties of the Vedic scriptures.”
A FEW OF HIS TEACHINGS
The following are a few of Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s teachings that left an indelible impression on my heart:
In order to taste bhakti-rasa, two components are indispensable: a realized speaker and a sincerely inquisitive listener. Our inability to experience this rasa is solely due to an absence of either of these two requirements. Such genuine, transcendental experience can never be achieved through a mere act of imitation.
Śrī guru is an ocean of mercy, whereas the material world is an ocean of birth and death. The only means to cross over this woeful ocean is to surrender exclusively to the lotus feet of the spiritual master. Śrī guru has no occupation other than performing bhagavad-bhakti, and by the infinite grace of his preceptor, he is well-versed in every aspect of the transcendental realm. Having already obtained the mercy of his predecessor ācāryas, he too possesses all the qualities of a true ācārya. Thus, śrī guru is qualified to bestow blessings on others and deliver the fallen souls.
If we deeply consider the principle of śrī guru, we find that the root words gu and ru in Sanskrit mean ‘darkness’ and ‘that which destroys or eliminates,’ respectively. Therefore, it is evident that one who is incapable of removing the darkness of ignorance from the hearts of the living entities cannot be considered a true guru.
Living our lives in this material world is difficult and dangerous, like walking on the sharp edge of a razor; every step gives rise to sorrow and pain. Moreover, to be bereft of spiritual knowledge is a source of great misery.
It is impossible to realize the Absolute Truth through parrot-like preaching or the pursuit of speculative knowledge. The purports of the Vedic scriptures are revealed through the medium of śrī guru only to the surrendered bhaktas who serve the spiritual master with the same completely pure and unalloyed devotion with which they serve Bhagavān.
Real education begins when one’s capacity to learn is directed toward serving Śrī Hari. Many individuals study scriptures merely to exhibit their half-baked knowledge, but such ambition is strictly forbidden. True knowledge is that which inspires one to seek the service of Bhagavān.