First of all I would like offer unlimited prostrated obeisances unto the lotus feet of my diksa guru padapadma Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvāmī Maharaja. Then I would like to offer unlimited prostrated obeisances unto the lotus feet of my siksa gurudeva Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijnana Bharati Gosvāmī Maharaja (Śrīla Maharaja).
Śrīla Maharaja’s instructions and teachings have been particularly useful/valuable for the disciples and followers of Śrīla Gurudeva (Śrīla Narayana Gosvāmī Maharaja). Sripad Bhaktivedanta Tridandi Maharaja mentioned in his offering to Śrīla Maharaja in Mayapura last year during Śrīla Maharaja’s Tirobhava festival “Śrīla Maharaja through his harikatha has made the devotees more sober.” Not to focus on the external but the internal. Śrīla Gurudeva inspired many devotees to chant more rounds, to always be in sadhu sanga and to perform parikrama. Śrīla Maharaja used to emphasise that physical association is not enough and real association involves following the teachings thus when devotees used to ask why their bhakti was not increasing or why their anarthas were not leaving even though they always tried to be in sadhu sanga – Śrīla Maharaja used to reply that they are not really doing sadhu sanga.
When Śrīla Maharaja started awarding harinama initiation – he used to tell the aspiring devotees that he preferred that they chant a certain number of rounds with attention and quality rather than prescribing them a certain number of rounds because he didn’t want them to sacrifice the quality in the name of quantity.
Śrīla Gurudeva inspired devotees to aspire for rupanuga bhakti and gave many classes on how to progress from our conditioned nature to that level. However being conditioned and a neophyte – I heard only those things that I wanted to hear and ignored many things. Hence Śrīla Maharaja’s association was very valuable as he emphasised on sadhana (practices) to attain the goal that Śrīla Gurudeva had set for me. Unfortunately I didn’t appreciate this while Śrīla Maharaja was physically present but now in his physical absence – when hearing his teachings from senior devotees – I am slowly realising how much depth and gravity were in his teachings and that I was unfortunate that I did not take full advantage of his physical association.
ANUGATYA OF GURU VARGA
When I first met Śrīla Maharaja in February 2013 at the Kolkata Branch of Śrī Caitanya Gaudiya Matha he was speaking on the topic of Brahma Stava Stuti “Prayers by Lord Brahma” – Srimad Bhagavatam 10 Canto Chapter 14. He used to read each sloka, then the translation and the each word of the commentary by Śrīla Visvanatha Cakravati Thakura and the commentary of Śrīla Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Thakura (wherever that was present). Then from there he went to Mayapua for Gaura Purnima and we later returned home.
In January 2014, I was fortunate to become part of the team of his sevaks. Śrīla Maharaja was in Jagannath Puri and he again began reciting Brahma Stava Stuti from the beginning as he did previously. As Śrīla Maharaja was speaking in Hindi I started doing simultaneous translation for the Western devotees present. Even though he spoke on this topic for a month – he was only able to go through about 20 (out of the 40) verses because of the other tithis that came during this time and he unfailingly spoke on the glories of the tithis as they appeared.
During the year Śrīla Maharaja again spoke on Brahma Stava Stuti at one other location before going to Chandigarh to observe the month of Kartik. Śrīla Maharaja’s Guru Maharaja, nitya lila pravista om visnupada Śrīla Bhakti Dayita Madhav Gosvāmī Maharaja, had made the system where devotees should speak on either the pastime “Deliverance of Gajendra” or “Prayers by Lord Brahma” in the evenings during the month of Kartik. Śrīla Maharaja decided to speak on the “Prayers by Lord Brahma” that Kartik. As usual when speaking from the Bhagavatam, he used to go through each sentence of the commentaries even though there would often be repetitions. Śrīla Maharaja would very rarely speak his own words or experiences. I was again translating for the western devotees and it was becoming very painful/boring to translate especially with the repetitions. The month of Kartika has a lot of tithis - vaisnava tithis and other tithis like Gopastami, Govardhan puja etc – which Śrīla Maharaja unfailingly observed with great happiness and enthusiasm. By the end of Kartik, Śrīla Maharaja was about to read the verses by Lord Brahma where he was glorifying the vraja vasis but the Kartik month ended and he went to his next destination for preaching.
Śrīla Maharaja again started speaking on Brahma Stava Stuti in Jagannath Puri or Kolkata before celebrating Gaura Purnima in Mayapura. Purshottam Masa occurred in mid-2015 which Śrīla Maharaja observed in Chandigarh. When I heard some devotees mentioned that “Prayers by Lord Brahma” is usually spoken during the month of Purshottam, I indirectly asked Śrīla Maharaja on what topic he would be speaking and he replied “Brahma Stava Stuti”. By that time I had had enough of Brahma Stava Stuti (having heard it about 4-5 times in the last two years) especially as I also had to translate it so I requested one of the senior sevaks if he could request Śrīla Maharaja to speak on something else as Śrīla Maharaja already spoke on this during Kartik.
On the first evening of Purshottam Masa, Śrīla Maharaja started his katha by saying something to the effect “some devotees had requested me to speak on something else because they have already heard Brahma Stava Stuti but in actuality they have not really heard anything. This katha is ever fresh” and then started speaking on Brahma Stava Stuti, in the way he usually does. I just smiled and resigned to my fate. Again Śrīla Maharaja barely finished more than half of the prayers during Purshottam Masa.
Over the next couple of years he spoke Brahma stava stuti at different locations. He mentioned once that whenever he stayed at any Math – he would just speak on whatever chapter the devotees of the Matha would be speaking on and he would continue from there. It just happened that different mathas were on the Brahma Stava Stuti when Śrīla Maharaja used to be there. [In the 3-4 years I was with Śrīla Maharaja – I didn’t hear the complete prayers of Lord Brahma from him.]
I didn’t give much thought to the above incidences till after his disappearance. While thinking about it – some little realisation came by his mercy showing how much nistha he had in his gurudeva, guru varga and always being under the guidance of vaisnavas.
At that stage of his life – he was one the senior-most vaisnavas in Śrī Caitanya Gaudiya Matha – he could have spoken on anything he liked without anyone saying anything – still he spoke on the topics as set out by his Guru Maharaja. He could have easily skipped through the commentaries and spoke only on the “important” verses of brahma stava stuti – still he went through each sentence of the commentaries without caring whether he would finish Brahma Stava Stuti or not or come to the more interesting verses - showing his complete nistha on Guru varga that even though these early verses externally may have very little to do with vraja bhakti or glories of the vraja vasis – still by reading the Bhagavatam and the commentaries of the acaryas he would be getting their complete blessings and mercy.
Once Śrīla Maharaja mentioned to one devotee “I don’t care whether anyone likes my katha or not. As long as I am able to engage in ‘nityam bhagavatam sevayam’ – I am happy because I am able to follow the order of Guru Maharaja and Guru varga.”
Even though he was one of the senior-most vaisnavas of Śrī Caitanya Gaudiya Matha – still when he went to each matha he would speak on whatever topic they would be speaking on rather that speaking on something he may have preferred showing no separate independence and not considering himself to be above the authority of the society.
In this way he gave the valuable instruction to aspiring sadhakas of always being the guidance of gurudeva and vaisnavas and not acting independently.
Through his own example Śrīla Maharaja used to give many valuable instructions on seemingly ‘small’ things but very important for those who want to progress in their spiritual life. On this auspicious occasion, I am praying at the lotus feet of Śrīla Maharaja that even though I am still commiting so many offences, to please forgive me and always keep engaged in the service of Hari, guru and Vaisnavas.
sundar gopal das