Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktyāloka Paramahaṁsa Mahārāja
[April 21, 2023 is the appearance day of Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktyāloka Paramahaṁsa Mahārāja in Vṛndāvana, India. Below is an excerpt of his glories from 'My Beloved Masters' by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja]
SERVING BOTH GRANTHA-BHĀGAVATA AND BHAKTA-BHĀGAVATA
Before taking sannyāsa, Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktyāloka Paramahaṁsa Mahārāja, a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvātī Ṭhākura, was known as Mahānanda Brahmacārī. While Śrīla Prabhupāda was still present in this world, Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī managed Bhāgavata Press in Kṛṣṇanagara, which was dedicated to printing Śrīla Prabhupāda’s editions of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Actually, the title ‘manager’ does not befit devotees, because a devotee understands his position is always that of a servant. But as Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī’s duties were exactly like those of a manager, we are referring to him as such. He arranged everything for the in-house printing of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and other publications of Śrīla Prabhupāda.
For the service of these publications, Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī employed a stenographer and a typist. Once, the king of Nadīyā was in need of printing a publication, but had no one in his service capable of typing or taking dictation. Hearing of the king’s need, Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī offered the services of Bhāgavata Press’s stenographer and typist, and even offered to print the publication, as Bhāgavata Press often took outside clients.
They presented the king’s publication in a way that everything was exact and without even a single mistake. Seeing the high quality of his publication and the care with which the devotees of Bhāgavata Press produced it, the king decided that he would no longer send his future publications to Kolkata for printing, but would instead use Bhāgavata Press exclusively. In this way, the press eventually gained a favorable reputation due in part to the efforts of Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī. Everyone in the area knew they could put their full trust in the abilities of the devotees of Bhāgvata Press, and if by chance some mistake was made, the press would immediately correct it.
Another service Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī used to perform was to acquire properties for the maṭha. Because of this service and other services in which he acquired various items for the Gauḍīya Maṭha, he was given the name Kenārāma, which means ‘a person who purchases everything.’
SUBTLE INDICATION, BIG SERVICE
The villagers of Campaka-haṭṭa in Navadvīpa had a deep respect for Śrīla Prabhupāda, and some of them became his initiated disciples. Out of their regard for him, they donated to him the property that encompassed the previous residence of Jayadeva Gosvāmī, which is the present site of Śrī GauraGadādhara Gauḍīya Maṭha. There was one renowned person in that village who had two recently widowed daughters. The daughters’ in-laws were unwilling to hand over their respective inheritances, and so the two women were unable to maintain their life.
When Śrīla Prabhupāda learned about the situation these ladies faced, he simply said, “How will they maintain themselves?” Taking his Guru Mahārāja’s seemingly light inquiry as an order, Mahānanda Brahmacārī visited the local courts in Rāṇāghāṭa and filed a court case against the ladies’ in-laws, and eventually managed to secure their respective inheritances for them.
Śrīla Prabhupāda had a disciple named Niśikānta Sanyāla, a professor at Ravensā College in Kaṭaka. Although Mr. Sanyāla had an entire family to maintain, he would offer all his salary to Śrīla Prabhupāda, even after Śrīla Prabhupāda had told him, “If you keep donating your salary to me, then how will your family survive? It would be better if you were to keep something for their maintenance.”
Out of concern for the family, Śrīla Prabhupāda told Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī, “Because Niśikānta Sanyāla is donating his entire earnings to us, it is our responsibility to take care of his family. I want you to arrange for their complete maintenance.” On this order, Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī took care of the family’s necessities for many years. Whatever they were in need of—the education and marriages of the children, and everything else—was arranged by him.
Externally it seems as though such an arrangement would be improper; a renounced person generally has no business seeing to the needs of a gṛhasta family, and should instead be engaged in the service of Śrī Hari, guru and Vaiṣṇavas. However, there are two considerations in this situation. Firstly, Śrīla Prabhupāda had given him the direct order to maintain the family, and there is never any fault in carrying out the instructions of guru; quite the opposite, the guru’s order is the disciple’s duty. Secondly, Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī intelligently arranged everything in such a way that he was never required to be physically present for these services. Through delegating responsibilities to various people, he never had to visit the family even once.
MY SERVICE TO HIM
Sometime after Śrīla Prabhupāda’s departure, Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī acquired some land a short walk from Gaṅgā-ghāṭa in Māyāpura, near Kṣetra-pāla Śiva. Eventually, refugees from Bangladesh occupied that land and refused to leave. Acting as his army, a number of devotees and I drove the refugees from the land.
Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī’s godbrother, Śrīla Bhakti Saurabha Bhaktisāra Gosvāmī Mahārāja, eventually came to Māyāpura and desired to have some place to stay, and so Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī gave him half of his land.
After some time, the same situation with Bangladeshi refugees that occurred on Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī’s land also occurred there. Learning of this, I offered to help Śrīla Bhaktisāra Gosvāmī Mahārāja by driving the refugees from his land, but he mentioned, “I have no desire to construct a maṭha, because I can always visit the maṭhas of my godbrothers. Therefore, there’s no problem if these refugees are staying here; I have no plans to expand.”
I replied, “Mahārāja-jī, this would only take me half an hour. After that, all the refugees will be moved out of your land.” He accepted my proposal, and I was able to serve him in this way, just as I had served Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī.
ACCEPTANCE OF SANNYĀSA
Another disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda, Śrīla Bhakti Svarūpa Parvata Gosvāmī Mahārāja, originally from Svarūpa Gañj, had a maṭha called Vārṣabhānāvī-dayita Gauḍīya Maṭha in Udālā, Orissa, near Kṣīra-corā Gopīnātha. After his disappearance, many devotees wanted that maṭha to be given to my paramārādhyatama Guru Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and come under the banner of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha.
At that time, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciples had a discussion and considered that since Śrī Mahānanda Brahmacārī did not yet have any place, Śrī Vārṣabhānāvī-dayita Gauḍīya Maṭha should be given to him, and that he should take sannyāsa from Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja. He accepted his godbrothers’ proposal, and was thenceforth known as Śrī Bhaktyāloka Paramahaṁsa Mahārāja, the ācārya of Vārṣabhānāvī-dayita Gauḍīya Maṭha in Udālā.
HIS SERVICE ATTITUDE
When Guru Mahārāja accepted the responsibility of acquiring Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appearance place in Purī, many of the required documents were in the Oriya language. At that time, there was an Oriya devotee, Śrīpāda Bhakti Sundara Sāgara Mahāraja, residing in Śrī Vārṣabhānāvī-dayita Gauḍīya Maṭha. Guru Mahārāja asked Śrīla Paramahaṁsa Mahārāja, “Maharāja if it is not a problem for you, we would like to request that Sāgara Maharāja can stay with us for some time and help us in acquiring Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appearance place.”
Paramahaṁsa Mahārāja replied, “I am not so selfish as to hinder this important service. I will certainly send Śrī Sāgara Maharāja with you, even at the cost of my own inconvenience. It would be a matter of great happiness and honor to perform even the most menial of services for Śrīla Prabhupāda.”
We have personally experienced that the specialty of Śrīla Paramahaṁsa Mahārāja was that he was incredibly affectionate and simple. Whenever I would meet with him, I would offer my full aṣṭāṅga daṇḍavat-praṇāmas. But even though I was like his disciple, he would always embrace me. His nature was that he never considered anyone his junior, but rather respected all devotees simply because they were on the path of bhakti.