Composed under the editorship of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja
RECEIVING DEVOTIONAL INSTRUCTIONS IN CHILDHOOD
In 1896, Śrīmad Bhaktivedanta Svāmī Mahārāja appeared in a family of devotees in Kolkata. In his previous āśrama, his father’s name was Gaura-mohana De. The name his father gave him was Abhaya-caraṇa De. Gaura-mohana De was initiated in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya.
Abhaya-caraṇa received many instructions from his father on the subject of devotion to Śrī Gaura and Kṛṣṇa. He received a B.A. from Scottish Church College with honors in philosophy. Afterward, in the course of his career, he became the manager of a pharmaceutical company—a laboratory on Amherst Street operated by Doctor Kārtika Vasu. After working there for some time, Abhaya-caraṇa De began producing medicines independently.
In 1922, he married, and in 1933, while still married, he took shelter of the most prominent among the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ācāryas, jagad-guru paramārādhya nitya-līlā-praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda aṣṭottara-śata śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, who is more glorious than the sun. His initiated name became ‘Śrī Abhaya-caraṇāravinda dāsa Adhikārī.’
THE BEGINNING OF HIS BṚHAD-MṚDAṄGA SERVICE
In 1944, Śrī Abhaya-caraṇāravinda Prabhu began publishing the monthly English magazine Back to Godhead. This magazine is now well-renowned. Hundreds of thousands of copies of this magazine are printed every month in various languages and are sent to devotees in numerous countries. Besides this, Śrīmat Svāmī Mahārāja published many books in the English language.
In 1958, Śrī Abhaya-caraṇāravinda Prabhu accepted tridaṇḍa-sannyāsa from the founder of Śrī Gauḍīya Vedānta Samiti, tridaṇḍi-svāmī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Mahārāja, a disciple of paramārādhya Prabhupāda Śrī Śrīla Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura, and became known as tridaṇḍi-svāmī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja. Later, he would introduce himself as Śrī A.C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja.
RESIDING IN VṚNDĀVANA
In 1959, Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja came to live in the Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara temple in Śrīdhāma Vṛndāvana. During this period, he translated into English the first two cantos of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. He was also translating Bhagavad-gītā and several other books at the time.
In 1965, at the age of seventy, he traveled virtually empty-handed to the United States of America. After his steamship docked in Boston for two days, it eventually made its way to New York. A year later, he rented an apartment at Twenty-six Second Avenue, Manhattan. It was there that he founded ISKCON, the International Society for Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. In Tompkins Square Park, with a pair of karatālas in hand, he began his preaching of the mahā-mantra. Many became his disciples after being attracted by his kīrtanas and classes.
PREACHING IN EVERY CORNER OF THE EARTH
Gradually, Śrīmat Svāmī Mahārāja attracted droves of pious people. In only twelve years, his preaching reached practically every corner of the Earth. Many educated and wealthy men and women took shelter of him. One by one, many preaching centers, temples and monasteries were established worldwide. The wind everywhere began to resonate with the chanting of mahā-mantra. Shortly after entrusting the responsibility of running his society and preaching to twelve disciples, he passed on to the Lord’s eternal abode.
HIS DELIGHTFUL ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS
During his time, Śrīmat Svāmī Mahārāja also presented Śrī Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī Prabhu’s Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta in its original Bengali script with an English transliteration of each and every verse, followed by an English word-for-word translation and an expert English translation. This in itself is a matter of particular delight for all Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. English readers express abundant praise for this rendition, because they have the convenience of learning Bengali as they read through this book, which was published in several volumes.All of his books concerning Śrī Gaura and Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes have been well-received and revered by Western scholars.
A MATTER OF GREAT PRIDE
The deities of Śrī Śrī Guru-Gaurāṅga Gāndhārvikā-Giridhārī-jiu are now being worshiped everywhere, and many festivals like Jhulana-, Dola- and even Śrī Śrī Jagannātha, Baladeva and Subhadra’s Ratha-yātrā are being held in numerous famous places in Europe and America. This is a matter of great pride for all of us. We pray with our whole hearts that the services of the society Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja founded continue to be managed beautifully in all respects and with enthusiasm.
HIS FORTUNE TO ATTAIN SHELTER OF ŚRĪ VṚNDĀVANEŚVARĪ
Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja had been manifesting his sickness pastime since this past Dola-pūrṇimā, but still, even in such a condition, he went to survey his various centers and temples in the West, including London just this past August. By the Lord’s desire, he was residing in Śrī Vṛndāvana since the middle of September. There, he attained the shelter of Śrī Śrī Vṛndāvaneśvarī.
Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahāśaya, who was present in Śrīdhāma Vṛndāvana when Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja disappeared, made his auspicious arrival in our Kolkata Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha on 20 November, 1977. We heard from him that Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja’s disciples were surrounding his bed and chanting harināma tirelessly. Although Svāmī Mahārāja stopped speaking, his lips were active until his last moment. When Śrīpāda Vana Mahārāja, Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja and other esteemed Vaiṣṇavas would visit him, his disciples, speaking loudly into his ear, would tell him who had come, and he would show them due respect by raising his hands to his forehead. He was fully conscious until his final moment.
His disciples chanted harināma loudly throughout the entire night, even after he disappeared. On Tuesday (Śuklā Pañcamī), they placed him on a decorated palanquin and took him to the seven main temples of Śrīdhāma Vṛndāvana accompanied by loud nāma-saṅkīrtana. The Gosvāmī directors of each of the temples extended to him the respect due a Vaiṣṇava ācārya and honored him with garland and candana remnants of their respective deities. Thereafter, he was placed in samādhi at his Śrī Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma temple in Ramaṇa-Reti according to the directives of scripture.
HIS UNIQUE ACCOMPLISHMENT
During his evening Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam class, the President-ācārya of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Matha, Śrīla Ācāryadeva Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Mahārāja, expressed the grief of his separation from his godbrother Svāmī Mahārāja, and extensively glorified Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja’s stupendous feat of preaching Śrī Caitanya’s message throughout the entire world in such a short time. He further illustrated Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja’s unique accomplishment in transforming his western disciples’ ingrained habits of dress, diet, conduct and behavior. They accepted the humble garb of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas, began accepting only bhagavat-prasāda (foodstuffs offered to the Lord), wearing strands of tulasī beads around their necks, chanting the holy names on japa-mālās, and bearing marks of gopī-candana tilaka on all limbs of their bodies. In this way, they adopted all the conventions of Vaiṣṇava etiquette and became committed to incessantly performing kīrtana of mahā-mantra without hesitation. It is a matter of great joy that they also began deeply studying devotional literatures and performing worship of the deities.
HIS ARDENT EFFORTS TO FULFILL SRILA PRABHUPADA’S DESIRE
In Śrīdhāma Māyāpura, there are serious plans to build a temple almost two hundred fifty feet high for the Śrī Māyāpura-Candrodaya temple he has already established there. We hope that his disciples, who are very qualified, will soon endeavor to fulfill this desire of their gurudeva.Śrīman Mahāprabhu predicted:
pṛthivīte āche ĵatô nagarādi grāma
sarvatra pracāra hôbie more nāma
My name will be propagated in every town and village all over this Earth.
Śrī Śrīla Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda and Śrī Śrīla Prabhupāda, two intimate associates of Śrī Gaura, have also expressed particular ambitions in their predictions concerning preaching in the West. Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja went to great lengths to propagate and fulfill this desire of theirs.
[Excerpts from an article published inŚrī Caitanya-vāṇī (Year 17, Volume 10)]