I repeatedly offer and unlimited heartfelt, respectful and affectionate dandavat pranams to my beloved diksa Gurudeva, Sri Srimad Bhakti Vijnana Bharati Gosvami Maharaja, and the same unlimited dandavat pranams to my beloved Siksa Gurudeva, Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, referred henceforth as Guru Maharaja and Srila Gurudeva respectively.
I do not have the wealth of many personal interactions with Guru Maharaja, neither do I have the wealth of realizations or purity to be able to glorify a personality like him, who is from the transcendental realm. Hence, I will only mention some experiences of a conditioned soul below. I pray that, being very merciful, which is their natural state, the vaisnavas and Guru Maharaja will accept these broken words…
‘I CAME TO VRNDAVANA FOR YOU’
From 2009 up until 2016, I went through ups and downs in my spiritual journey, leading to a buildup of anxiety to surrender at the lotus feet of a pure devotee. In 2013, I was first exposed to Srila Gurudeva’s teachings and was immensely attracted by his vani, a true savior. Through his words, it was clear that there could be no compromise in ‘settling for’ a spiritual master, that Sri Guru must be ‘nikunja yunoh rati-keli siddhyaih’ and hence it was best to just wait until such a guru, my eternal master, finds me. I had even resigned that this life might just pass by without a guru, unto whom I could surrender. But, by mid-2016, I was fervently praying to Srila Gurudeva to send someone that he ‘recommends’.
Except for having heard a bit from Guru Maharaja in 2012 and 2014, I wasn’t much aware of his glories, although it was apparent that he was an exalted Vaisnava. In 2016, there was word about Srila Bharati Maharaja coming to Vrndavana for the month of Kartika, then again, the plan was cancelled due to his ill-health but eventually he did come.
After he arrived, my husband, Ambarisa Dasa and I went to meet him, and spoke about our dilemma. Giving some sastric references, he told us that association does not depend on proximity and also spoke about the verse 6.40 from Bhagavag Gita.
sri-bhagavan uvaca partha naiveha namutra vinasas tasya vidyate na hi kalyana-krt kascid durgatim tata gacchati
[The Blessed Lord said: Son of Prtha, a transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil. BBT]
At the end, as we got up to leave, he suddenly smiled and assured us, “Krsna knows your heart. If you are sincere, you need not worry. He will surely arrange for you.” I remember that that was the first time I felt immense hope! Such was the power of his pure and most soothing words that I simply believed every bit of it. I was instantly convinced that Krsna knew my heart and I need not worry. It was such a wave of relief that I couldn’t control my tears. Ever since, I have heard this from so many devotees who interacted with Guru Maharaja – the feeling of the heart being soothed by the balm of his affection-laden words.
Soon thereafter, we were initiated and the entire month was blissful hearing Guru Maharaja’s hari-katha, getting prasad from his lotus hands (I would ensure I took it such that the tips of his fingers would touch my hand), and getting to place my head on his lotus feet each day before taking the prasad. Before I knew it, Kartika was over and he was leaving. I remember I was standing at the main gate of Gopinath Bhavan and Guru Maharaja was in the car just outside on the road, meeting with all the devotees, blessing them from his car window, and I thought to myself, ‘All these devotees have associated with him for so long, he knows them, he doesn’t even know me.’ There was no sense of personal connection since I hadn’t really spent any personal time with him. And just then, I felt him saying, ‘I came to Vrndavana for you.’ The feeling was so overwhelmingly real – I wondered how he could be so far and yet so close at the same time. It was so powerful that immediately a deep personal connection was made. Of course, I am certain many others may have experienced that very same feeling, and that’s the glory of a pure devotee who, just like Krsna, can be with many and yet, personally with each, at the same moment.
‘SERVE YOUR GOD-UNCLES’
After Guru Maharaja left our external vision in September 2017, I felt an urgent need to remain engaged in serving him, because that was the only available option to associate with him thereafter. So, in addition to transcribing all the tithi related articles to release on the website, I wanted to do something more. Working on books was not possible as the VCV team needed time to settle matters and hence, I took up the service of titling his lectures to prepare an organized archive in November 2017.
By his desire, the service started gaining traction soon and we had made substantial progress in the first month itself (currently, its 70% done). That is when, in December 2017, Vrinda Didi first approached me to help organize Srila Gurudeva’s archives. My first reaction was, this archive is too huge and messed up to manage along with the services I am currently doing for Guru Maharaja and so, although I would love to do it, it will be impossible to manage both. So, after sharing some ideas, it was left at that.
Meanwhile, the transcription of Guru Maharaja’s tithi-related lectures continued and among them were many pertaining to how he served his God-uncles, considering them non-different from his Gurudeva. I slowly began to realise how I had innately prioritized my diksa Gurudeva’s service over my siksa Gurudeva’s. As this dawned on me, I was inspired by the precept of Guru Maharaja, who didn’t distinguish between them at all, by the desire and training of his Guru Maharaja - my parama-gurudeva - Sri Srimad Bhakti Dayita Madhava Gosvami Maharaja.
I also had the immense desire to serve Srila Gurudeva since 2013, being so indebted to his vani, which lucidly explained the path of rupanuga bhakti and which had shown me the direction. So, when Vrinda didi approached me again a month later, I just jumped in, after praying to Guru Maharaja and Srila Gurudeva to please manage their sevas, using me as an instrument in their hands.
Thereafter, we formed the Audio Seva Team and the seva started growing manifold. As it kept growing, I was and still remain amazed to see how both my Gurudeva’s are really managing everything and I am just a front-face to it. Whenever there is need for more attention for Guru Maharaja’s seva, Audio Seva issues simply resolve themselves and the other way around as well. Thus, I constantly meditate on this picture of them together – it feels like they are discussing which seva they wish to get done! It’s beautiful to always be reminded of the synergy between these two ‘bāndhavas’. [Guru Maharaja always referred to Srila Gurudeva as his bāndhava or closest friend] First, Srila Gurudeva brought me to Guru Maharaja and now Guru Maharaja is happily engaging me in Srila Gurudeva's service.
ALL PROBLEMS, SAME SOLUTION
While hearing Guru Maharaja’s darsanas as well as lectures, two of his instructions emphatically stand out. The first and foremost being, that Vaisnava seva is the solution to all spiritual problems. He corroborates this principle from so many variegated perspectives, that it leaves no room for his followers but to become convinced of it! Recently, I heard Guru Maharaja say in a lecture, while he was discussing the verse from Manah Siksa (7) which he would quote so often –
pratisthasa dhrsta svapaca-ramani me hrdi natet katham-sadhu-prema sprsati sucir etan nanu manah sada tvam-sevasva prabhu-dayita-samantam atulam yatha tam-niskasya tvaritam iha tam- vesayati sah
[(Why is it that deceit still lingers in the heart in spite of one’s having given up all material sense- enjoyment? This verse has been composed in order to answer this question.) O mind! How can pure divine love appear in my heart as long as the shameless dog-eating outcaste woman of the desire for prestige is audaciously dancing there? Therefore, always remember and serve the immeasurably powerful commanders of the army of Sri Krsna, the beloved devotees of the Lord. They will at once banish this outcaste woman and initiate the flow of immaculate vraja-prema in your heart. GVP]
Guru Maharaja explained that the hope for pratistha (desire for fame) is addressed by vaisnava seva, however, it is also the desire for fame that is actually the manifestation of so many other anarthas and hence to address ALL anarthas, vaisnava seva is the only way!
The other aspect Guru Maharaja always stressed is to chant harinama loudly and clearly and to hear it attentively. Once Ramacandra Prabhu asked Guru Maharaja, “What should be done if the mind wanders away while chanting?” Guru Maharaja replied, “Chant louder.” He then asked, “What if it still wavers?” Guru Maharaja replied, “Then chant even louder!” Jagatmohini didi once asked Guru Maharaja, who has instructed her to preach – “What if I become proud due to preaching?” Guru Maharaja replied, “Chant loudly.”
Narottama Prabhu once told us that Guru Maharaja would chant half a lakh extra nama in advance each day, over and above one lakh, to make up just in case the next day there might be some seva that might disallow him from finishing his daily quota! Such was his attachment for the holy name!
So today, I beg for the mercy of Guru Maharaja and all the vaisnavas that I may imbibe these two teachings at some point in my spiritual journey, whether in this life or some other. I have deep conviction that only if these blessings come, there is some hope.
(Praying for the opportunity and ability to serve the Vaisnavas),
Lavang Manjari Dasi.