To the most venerable and cherished Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Mahārāja
First, I offer my insignificant praṇāmas at the lotus feet of my beloved Gurudeva, nitya-līlā-praviṣṭa Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja. I pray to one day be focused solely on serving him with true niṣṭhā, unalloyed affection. Next, I offer my praṇāmas at your lotus feet, which soothe the inner recesses of my heart. With boundless affection, you are guiding us all toward realizing the magnitude of sincere guru and vaiṣṇava sevā. And next, I offer my worthless praṇāmas at the lotus feet of our ever-merciful, illustrious guru-varga. All of you are nourishing my fledgling vine of devotion with unlimited benevolence, yet I remain dull to this. Still, that does not stop you from doing so, and you ever encourage me to continue.
On the path of bhakti, at least for me, it is not always easy to articulate my appreciation of its aspects. Words only go so far. Fortunately, bhāva-grahī Janārdana – He who accepts only loving sentiments – understands and accepts our internal feelings. More fortunately, His pure devotees, to whom He has entrusted the potency to bestow bhakti, do the same.
We hear faith-increasing stories about how our holy masters, knowing the hearts of all, accept a simple devotee imbued with a mood of submission and service and remain somewhat indifferent to one devoid of those qualities, even if that devotee is erudite and articulate. Moreover, we see this simplicity and mood of submission and service in those same holy masters themselves. I think this is the one thing that convinces me of a Vaiṣṇava’s quality: He is what he teaches, and also, he knows our heart. Situating himself there, he chooses to sometimes make his presence known to us.
In regard to your transcendental self, even one such as me, who is full of duplicity and whose service is devoid of a mood of submission, experienced that you perceived our inner aspiration and potential, and knowing the glories of bhakti, you were confident that if we just continued on this path and did not commit grievous offences, one day we would attain success. It reminded me of a loving grandfather, whose years of experience give him the confidence that there is no need for undue concern. In time, the children in his excellent care will surely mature.
I don’t remember doing anything to receive any kindness from you, and I did not consciously invite you into my heart, but somehow or other, by some inexplicable mercy, I became aware of your presence there, deep, internal and loving, never failing to soothe it with your affection. My at times poor behaviour did not drive you away from my heart, and your occasional external dealings with me did not amplify your presence there. You were and are just there. Steady, strong and dependable, never taking my focus from my Gurudeva for a moment. Rather, you gave essential teachings that helped bring me closer to striving for the goal he so emphasized.
Through your harikathā, you reminded me again and again, just as our Gurudeva did, that bhakti is all about one’s inner intention and purpose, and an external show of devotion bears no fruit. Your even greater teaching was that you lived that, exemplified it. You also shone a light on the path to attaining that, urging us all to at least try to absorb all of our senses in selfless guru and vaiṣṇava sevā and assuring us repeatedly that if we did so while sincerely following the process, all success will be guaranteed.
Our Gurudeva once told us that a Vaiṣṇava is the same on the inside as on the outside. There is no disparity between his external behaviour and internal thoughts, or his emotions. This I saw in you. Well, I did not ‘see’ it (1) because how can a kaniṣṭha observe the emotions of a pure Vaiṣṇava? and (2), because I was never constantly in your company. But it was so apparent to all that your mind never deviated for a second from thoughts of serving Kṛṣṇa, either when alone or when speaking to large assemblies. Your immaculate childlike innocence and, simultaneously, your being firmly rooted in ageless transcendental wisdom was so pristine that in your presence, we all felt totally safe in the deepest way. No extra assurance was required.
Your transcendental glories could be sung eternally. On this most auspicious day of your appearance, I beg you to mercifully develop within me a sincere zeal and determination to, like you and my Gurudeva, become situated in pure, selfless service to Śrī Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas.
Your insignificant servant