Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kamala Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja
[June 28, 2023 is the disappearance day of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kamala Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja in Vṛndāvana, India. Below is an excerpt of his glories from 'My Beloved Masters' by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja.]
SURRENDERING TO ŚRĪLA PRABHUPĀDA
Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kamala Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja appeared in a family of brāhmaṇas and was previously known as Śrī Nṛpendra Sanyāla. Prior to taking shelter of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s lotus feet, Śrī Nṛpendra Sanyāla worked as a reporter for the famous Bengali newspaper Amṛta Bāzār Patrikā. He and a number of other reporters once went to Bāgbāzār Gauḍīya Maṭha to cover the Sat-śikṣā-pradarśinī exhibition organized by Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Through a series of dioramas, the exhibition exposed various corrupt practices prevalent in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava community. Such practices included shelling peanuts with worshipful śāligrāma-śilās, demanding money for the darśana of deities, making money through the recitation of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and the bestowal of mantras, the consuming of meat and wine by brāhmaṇas, and the shameless associating with women by Bābājīs who have accepted the external dress of a renunciate. Śrī Nṛpendra Sanyāla was naturally inclined to gain as much knowledge as possible, and so he posed many questions to the devotees present. Observing his inquisitiveness, the devotees took him to their gurudeva, Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura.
It was then that Śrī Nṛpendra Sanyāla met Śrīla Prabhupāda for the first time and received the opportunity to hear from his lotus mouth the pure concepts of the Gauḍīya line regarding bhāgavata-dharma, bhāgavata-paramparā and the inseparable connection between brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas.
The way in which Śrīman Mahāprabhu arranged for each personality to come to Śrīla Prabhupāda is an amazing affair. Śrī Nṛpendra Sanyāla was so thoroughly impressed by Śrīla Prabhupāda’s fearlessness that whenever the opportunity arose, he would visit the maṭha to hear hari-kathā and kīrtana. He deeply contemplated the significance of sādhu-saṅga, the true purpose of human life, the glories of a bona fide spiritual lineage, and many other important subjects.
After careful introspection, Śrī Nṛpendra Sanyāla decided, “I will take shelter of this great personality’s lotus feet, become his most insignificant servant, try to understand his true internal moods, and dedicate my life to the auspicious work he has begun.” He was profoundly impacted by Śrīla Prabhupāda’s decision to dedicate his life to undertaking such grave responsibilities. Shortly after, he revealed his heart to Śrīla Prabhupāda, Śrīla Prabhupāda awarded him harināma and mantra-dīkṣā and gave him the name Śrī Narottamānanda Brahmacārī.
SERVING IN SEPARATION
Śrī Narottamānanda Brahmacārī was a skilled reporter and especially proficient in English. Upon observing his attentiveness and his ability to eloquently repeat whatever he heard, Śrīla Prabhupāda sent him along with other sannyāsīs and brahmacārīs to preach in Mumbai under the guidance of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja. There, Śrī M.P. Engineer—the chairman of the Theosophical Society and, later, the first Advocate General of independent India—invited the Gauḍīya Maṭha preachers to speak at one of the society’s gatherings. He was greatly inspired by Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s lecture, as well as by the kīrtana, conduct and convictions of the devotees.
Later, when Śrīla Prabhupāda visited Mumbai, Śrī M.P. Engineer requested him to establish a Gauḍīya Maṭha branch there. Before offering a reply, Śrīla Prabhupāda asked Śrī Narottamānanda Brahmacārī, “Would you feel inconvenienced if I were to assign you the responsibility of preaching in Mumbai?”
In reply, Śrī Narottamānanda Brahmacārī quoted a kīrtana composed by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura:
tomāra sevāya, duḥkha haya ĵatô seo tô’ parama sukha
sevā-sukha-duḥkha, parama-sampada, nāśaye avidyā-duḥkha
Śaraṇāgati (Ātma-nivedana 8.4)
Whatever distress I may experience in the course of serving You is actually the greatest of joys. The pains and pleasures of serving You are the greatest wealth, for they destroy the misery of ignorance.
He continued, “Although a neophyte devotee like me derives the greatest amount of spiritual benefit in the direct association of śrī guru, still, I am convinced you will not deprive me of that same benefit if I obey your instruction to serve you from a distance.”
According to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instructions and guidance, Śrī Narottamānanda Brahmacārī preached all over Mumbai. While he was there, Śrīla Prabhupāda mercifully blessed him by sending him a set of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam’s twelve cantos inscribed with the name ‘Narottamānanda Brahmacārī.’ Recalling this instance, Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja used to say, “I considered Śrīla Prabhupāda’s gift as an instruction to preoccupy myself with the practice and preaching of śrī bhāgavata-dharma.”
THE LOTUS OF DEVOTION
Śrī Narottamānanda Brahmacārī would deliver exceptionally sweet sermons on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, explaining every subject with sound reasoning and in no uncertain terms.
Śrīla Prabhupāda kept a complete record of his disciples’ preaching activities. Being highly pleased by the enthusiasm and expertise with which Śrī Narottamānanda Brahmacārī preached bhāgavata-dharma, he thus conferred upon him a Śrī Gaura Āśīrvāda certificate and the title ‘Bhakti Kamala,’ which means ‘the lotus of devotion.’ Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja honored this title when he awarded Śrī Narottamānanda Brahmacārī with sannyāsa and gave him the name ‘Śrī Bhakti Kamala Madhusūdana Mahārāja.’
THE FRUIT OF HIS INVALUABLE PREACHING SERVICE
Initially after Śrīla Prabhupāda’s departure, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kamala Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktyāloka Paramahaṁsa Mahārāja joined together and preached the message of Śrīla Prabhupāda under the banner of Śrī Gauḍīya Vedānta Samiti, an organization they founded. Śrīla Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja would accept disciples, and Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Śrīla Paramahaṁsa Mahārāja would preach under his guidance. It was by the preaching and association of Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja that Śrīla Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja obtained two prominent and invaluable jewels: Śrī Rādhānātha Vanacārī and Śrī Gauranārāyaṇa Vanacārī, later known as Śrī Bhaktivedānta Trivikrama Mahārāja and Śrī Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, respectively. This contribution of his will forever remain embedded in golden letters in the chronicles of the Sārasvata Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas.
ACQUIRING THE LAND FOR HIS MĀYĀPURA MAṬHA
Later, when differences arose among the prominent members of the Gauḍīya Vedānta Samiti, Guru Mahārāja was called to reconcile those differences and resolve the situation. After hearing each of their views, Guru Mahārāja concluded, “Śrī Keśava Mahārāja has many renounced disciples, and therefore it is better that Śrī Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha remains with him. Śrī Madhusūdana Mahārāja should continue preaching from the maṭha in Bardhamāna, and later I will personally assist him in acquiring a plot of land in Māyāpura and building a maṭha there. Śrī Paramahaṁsa Mahārāja should be given a sufficient amount of funds, so that he can purchase land in Māyāpura and continue his services most suitably.”
The solution Guru Mahārāja proposed was readily accepted by all parties involved. Soon after, Guru Mahārāja inspired a lady devotee, Śrīmati Pannā Mā—a disciple of Śrīla Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja who had taken up the path of bhakti after hearing hari-kathā from Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja— to acquire land in Śrīdhāma Māyāpura for Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja and, true to his word, personally assisted in the construction of Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s maṭha to the furthest extent possible.
A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE ON PRASĀDA
During the deity installation festival at Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Maṭha, Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s maṭha in Māyāpura, I assisted Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja in performing the installation ceremony. It was then that Śrīla Madhusūdana Mahārāja revealed to me a special view concerning the prasāda.
Upon observing that the deities’ bhoga offering would be delayed due to Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s advanced age and commitment to perfection, Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja told me, “Quickly prepare Ṭhākura-jī’s offering plate and keep it inside the altar room, so that Śrī Purī Mahārāja can make the bhoga offering when it is convenient for him. The Vaiṣṇavas assembled here today have come from various places and have other services to perform elsewhere. I do not want to make them wait too long; I am certain they would like to return to their respective homes and āśramas punctually. Once the first portion of bhoga has been kept aside for Ṭhākura-jī, I will begin distributing the prasāda among the Vaisnavas.”
Śrīla Mahārāja explained, “I do not subscribe to the idea that prasāda is not to be considered prasāda until all the preparations from Ṭhākura-jī’s plate have been mixed back in with the respective receptacles from which they came. I believe that in special circumstances, there is no fault in distributing prasāda to the Vaiṣṇavas once the first portion of bhoga has been set aside and taken into the deity room for offering. There is even no need to wait until the pūjārī has brought the bhoga offering out from the deity room. On occasions such as this, the auspicious installation of Bhagavān’s deity form, there is bound to be delay. But as Vaiṣṇavas are the objects of our service, we should not make them wait. Therefore, apart from those who want to observe the new deities’ bhoga offering and bhoga-āratī, it is only appropriate that the devotees be punctually served prasāda.”
Once the bhoga offerings were brought into the deity room, Śrīla Mahārāja instructed a few devotees to distribute prasāda. That was the first time in my life that I saw prasāda being distributed immediately after Ṭhākurajī’s plate had been prepared and before the actual offering was made.
HIS EXEMPLARY COMPLIANCE WITH SENIOR VAIṢṆAVAS
During the manifest presence of Śrīla Prabhupāda, Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja remained under the direct guidance of his gurudeva. After Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance, he served under the guidance of his senior godbrother Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja and, later on, another senior godbrother, Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, who also awarded him sannyāsa. He would always consult his godbrothers and receive their permission before proceeding with any service. In this way, he substantiated the principle that vaiṣṇava-dharma is to be observed while remaining under the guidance of senior devotees, and that one cannot become steadfast in vaiṣṇava-dharma while remaining independent and unrestrained.
REGARDING HIS GOD-BROTHER AS A MANIFESTATION OF ŚRĪ GURU
Some Sārasvata Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas maintain that while reciting the jayadhvani or even in general, one ought to use the term oṁ viṣṇupāda only in conjunction with the name of one’s dīkṣā-guru and no one else, not even one’s śikṣā-guru. However, I always personally witnessed Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, whom I recognize as an authentic guru in our line of spiritual masters, use this honorific before uttering the name of his senior godbrother Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, who granted him the sannyāsa-mantra and whom he regarded as his śikṣā-guru.
Śrīla Mahārāja used to say, “Since dīkṣā-guru and śikṣā-guru are considered non-different in tattva, it is only proper to include oṁ viṣṇupāda before both their names. In fact, it would be improper not to do so. Because he has fully internalized Śrīla Prabhupāda’s exemplary character, conduct, teachings and conceptions, I consider Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja to be like a second manifestation of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Therefore, I feel he is worthy of the title oṁ viṣṇupāda.”
Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s fathomless surrender to one of his own godbrothers is exemplary. This further signifies and prominently establishes his highly evolved disposition and Vaiṣṇava humility.
HIS CONSIDERATE AND GENTLE NATURE
When Guru Mahārāja planned for the deities of the Kolkata branch of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha to enter their newly constructed room on the auspicious day of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s puṣyābhiṣeka (showering of flowers), he invited almost all his prominent godbrothers, including Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, to participate in a five-day festival in celebration of the occasion. When Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja arrived at the maṭha, he called me to his room and softly asked, “You won’t be displeased if I point out a mistake you have made, will you?”
“Of course not, Mahārāja,” I said. “In fact, I would be grateful to be given the chance to make amends. Please tell me what I have done wrong.”
Śrīla Mahārāja then pointed at the walls of the room. “You have not put hooks on the walls to tie up a mosquito net,” he said.
“Mahārāja,” I said, “I did not have hooks installed, as they would have interfered with the plastering work that was happening. But now that the work has been completed, I will arrange for hooks to be installed right away.”
Despite Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s exalted stature, he would never speak to anyone in a raised tone. He was very mindful and considerate in his dealings with junior devotees, and he was always careful not to hurt anyone with his words.
HIS DEEP RESPECT FOR GURU MAHĀRĀJA
One day, during a festival at the Hyderbad branch of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha, I witnessed a friendly, humorous conversation between Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vikāśa Hṛṣīkeśa Gosvāmī Mahārāja. As they remembered their times together during Śrīla Prabhupāda’s manifest presence, they affectionately teased each other, saying things like, “It was your fault I couldn’t perform Vraja-maṇḍala parikramā,” and playfully accused each other, saying, “You did this,” and, “You did that.” However, I was amazed to see that as soon as Guru Mahārāja walked in the room, their joking immediately subsided and they began to discuss amongst themselves in a disciplined manner. Then, once Guru Mahārāja left the room, they returned to their fun.
From their conduct, I understood that although Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Śrīla Hṛṣīkeśa Gosvāmī Mahārāja behaved as typical friends with one another, they possessed a reverential respect for Guru Mahārāja.
ACCOMPLISHING HIS SERVICE THROUGH THE MOST APPROPRIATE MEANS
I personally witnessed that Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja would interact with Guru Mahārāja in various different ways according to time, place and circumstance. Once, at Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s maṭha in Navadvīpa, on the occasion of Śrī Jagannātha Miśra Mahotsava (the day after Śrī Gaura-pūrṇīmā), he addressed Guru Mahārāja as if he were complaining. “You have come late,” he said. “Is it appropriate to make everyone wait for you? Please do not be late again.”
Another time, in Śrī Jagannātha Purī, he praised Guru Mahārāja, saying, “No one else has been able to render the same unique service as you have. By your grace, we are fortunate enough to have gathered here today at the appearance place of Śrīla Prabhupāda.”
Yet another time, he said to Guru Mahārāja during an explanation of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, “It is only by following every instruction of grantha-bhāgavata that one can become bhakta-bhāgavata.”
The key to understanding the import of these different modes of behavior is found in a kīrtana of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura: “antare-bāhire, sama vyavahāra, amānī mānada ha’bô—no disparity shall remain between my internal and external behavior. I shall not desire honor for myself and shall instead offer respect to others.” In other words, Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja would conduct himself according to the demands of service. Whether it was teaching, instructing, praising or chastising, he always chose the means that would best accomplish the pleasure of Śrī Hari, guru and Vaiṣṇavas.
HIS RECOGNITION OF MY COW SEVĀ
When Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja once saw the effulgent bodies of the cows at our Māyāpura branch of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha, he asked me, “Who serves these cows?”
I replied, “I do, Mahārāja-jī”
“What is your name?” he asked.
“No, I want to know the surname you used prior to joining the maṭha.” “I was previously known as Narottama Cakravartī.”
“Cakravartī, you say? Yes. You have come from a brāhmaṇa family, and you definitely possess the qualities befitting Vaiṣṇavas, who are the true brāhmaṇas. This is why you are serving these cows so nicely. Due to possessing an inferiority complex, one of my disciples refuses to serve the cows in our maṭha. He says, ‘I am a brahmacārī. I should serve Ṭhākura-jī. Why should I serve cows?’ Well, I can plainly see that Śrī Mādhava Mahārāja knows very well whom to engage in which services.”
A SENIOR GODBROTHER'S APPRECIATION
On the instruction of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja led Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma parikramā from Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha for many years and also served as the editor of the maṭha’s Bengali magazine, Śrī Gauḍīya-darśana. Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja would say, “Servants are plentiful, but it is a matter of great fortune to find devotees like Śrīla Madhusūdana Mahārāja who are willing to accept full responsibility for a task and achieve it. It is solely because of him that I need not worry about many things and can perform my bhajana in peace.”
HIS APPRECIATION OF GURU MAHĀRĀJA'S DETERMINATION
On the occasion of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s vyāsa-pūjā in 1978, Guru Mahārāja organized a grand festival at Śrīla Prabhupāda’s newly acquired appearance place in Purī. When Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja addressed the assembly, he said, “We disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda are many, but other than Śrī Mādhava Mahārāja, not one of us attempted to preserve Śrīla Prabhupāda’s glorious appearance place. Although many disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda had ample means at their disposal, they did nothing. But what Śrī Mādhava Mahārāja lacked in financial resources, he made up for in ardent determination. It was by this determination that he managed to accomplish the impossible.”
After Guru Mahārāja manifested his disappearance pastime, I also recall the way Śrīla Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja came forward to impart some much needed inspiration when the deities of Śrīla Prabhupāda, Śrīman Mahāprabhu and Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Nāyana-maṇi were installed in the newly established maṭha.