Pūjyapāda Bhakti Vallabha Tīrtha Mahārāja
[April 16, 2020 is the disappearance day of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vallabha Tīrtha Gosvāmī Mahārāja. The following glorification of Śrīla Tīrtha Gosvāmī Mahārāja is a bhāvānuvāda of a lecture spoken on April 8, 2014, the anniversary of his appearance day, by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja at Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha, Kolkata. The same has been printed in 'Visuddha Caitanya-vani - Vol.1' as well.]
Today is the appearance day of Śrī Rāma-candra, as well as that of my godbrother and the present ācārya of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha, pūjyapāda Bhakti Vallabha Tīrtha Mahārāja.
It is extremely important for sincere sādhakas to observe the tithis of Bhagavān and Vaiṣṇavas, for it is an opportunity to glorify and remember their lotus feet. To neglect glorifying them on such days is certainly an offense.
Śrī Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura has written:
ĵe vaiṣṇava bhajile acintya kṛṣṇa pāi
se vaiṣṇava-pūjā hôite baḓô āra nāi
Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata (Antya-khaṇḍa 4.357)
By serving the lotus feet of Vaiṣṇavas, one attains the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is acintya (inconceivable); there is no greater sādhana than this. It is impossible to approach the transcendental Lord through the means of the material senses. In the conditioned stage in which the jīva is bound by many material desires, he cannot think about acintya Kṛṣṇa with his mind, nor can he see Him with his eyes. He becomes qualified to attain the inconceivable Lord’s mercy only after he takes complete shelter at the lotus feet of the Vaiṣṇavas.
Remembering this instruction, I will today serve pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja by remembering and glorifying him.
HIS FIRM FAITH IN THE WORDS OF HIS GURU-VARGA
Pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja appeared in Gwalpada, Assam. He was the first member of his family to accept and follow the tenets of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. He used to hear hari-kathā very attentively and with great interest. He only performed kīrtana of śrauta-vāṇī—that is, only what he had heard from our paramārādhyatama Guru Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, as well as senior authorities. In his hari-kathā and general talks, also, he would only repeat what he had heard from our Guru Mahārāja and guru-varga. This was one of his very special qualities. Because of this, most of our godbrothers would affectionately refer to him as a living tape recorder.
EXPERT IN SEVĀ
Once, pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja (then Śrī Kṛṣṇa-vallabha Brahmacārī), Kanhāī Brahmacārī, myself (then Narottama Brahmācarī) and Śrīpāda Mādhavānanda Vrajavāsī, a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda, traveled to Sarbhog, Assam, for preaching. While we were there, it rained heavily, and we could not see the sun for four or five days. We were completely unable to go outside. During that time, Tīrtha Mahārāja cooked for all of us; cooking was only one of his areas of expertise. He was an expert cook, and everyone was very fond of his cooking. This is one of the qualities of Vaiṣṇavas: they are expert in everything related to the service of the Vaiṣṇavas.
HIS LIGHT-HEARTED HUMOR
Pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja was also very rasika, which in Bengali means ‘humorous.’ In Sarbhog, there was one young boy who visited us regularly and would always refer to pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja as peṭa moṭā sādhu, or a fat-bellied saint. Śrīpāda Mādhavānanda Prabhu was chubbier than pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja, who was in fact not so chubby, and so we were quite surprised to hear the boy use this term for pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja and not Śrīpāda Mādhavānanda Prabhu. We could not understand why this young boy was repeatedly calling him this name, until one day I saw pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja alone with this boy. Mahārāja-jī was breathing in deeply to expand his belly, which he would then show to the boy. We then understood why the boy was calling pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja peṭa moṭā sādhu.
Although pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja was usually very grave and busily engaged in attentively hearing hari-kathā and serving the Vaiṣṇavas, he also had a sense of humor.
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 22.75) states, “kṛṣṇa-bhakte kṛṣṇera guṇa sakali sañcāre— all the qualities of Kṛṣṇa arise in His devotee.” In this way, we can understand that although the Vaiṣṇavas are generally very grave, they also engage in humor, because all the qualities of Kṛṣṇa—who is the source of all transcendental mellows, including humor—are also present in His pure devotees.
HIS HUMILITY AND SURRENDER
Pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja, as well as a number of other devotees including myself, never desired to speak hari-kathā in front of our guru-varga, but were instead always eager to hear from them. There were other brahmacārīs, however, who were very eager to speak hari-kathā. They would approach Guru Mahārāja and other guru-varga to allow them to speak. I observed in my guru-varga—particularly in our Guru Mahārāja and Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja—a special quality: if anyone approached them and requested them for permission to speak hari-kathā, they would never grant them permission. On the other hand, they would force those who were reluctant to speak publicly to speak hari-kathā.
Pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja was quite keen on hearing hari-kathā, but was
very reluctant to speak it. One day, Śrīla Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja announced, “Today, our Śrīman Kṛṣṇa-vallabha Brahmacārī will speak hari-kathā.” Without protesting, pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja spoke hari-kathā on the order of his guru-varga. I witnessed many examples of how he always remained under the anugatya of his guruvargas. His surrender at the lotus feet of guru-varga is unparalleled.
ALWAYS SEEKING THE ADVICE OF VAIṢṆAVAS
Another quality of pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja is that whenever he possessed doubt or question, he would always approach his guru-varga and request the answer from them.
A senior devotee of the maṭha once mentioned, “Although I have been staying in the maṭha for long time, and though I have performed parikramā and many other spiritual activities, nothing has happened; both my mind and life have not changed.”
Hearing this, Śrī Kṛṣṇa-vallabha Brahmacārī and a number of other devotees became a bit disheartened. They questioned, “What is the use of staying in the maṭha if such a senior Vaiṣṇava feels he did not receive any benefit as a result of his maṭha-vāsa?”
To remedy their puzzlement, Śrī Kṛṣṇa-vallabha Brahmacārī approached Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Prabhu a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda who used to stay with our Guru Mahārāja in Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha, and inquired, “Prabhu, a senior Vaiṣṇava has commented that he feels he has not derived any benefit from his time residing in the maṭha. Some of the devotees are bothered to have heard this. Because they are disturbed, I am sincerely asking you for clarification. How can we reconcile such a statement?”
Seeing his sincerity, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Prabhu mentioned, “It is natural for humility to arise in a person in proportion to the amount he has associated with senior Vaiṣṇavas and advanced in bhakti. Thus, it is out of humility that a spiritually advanced devotee will express his lack of progress in bhakti. In this way, we can reconcile such statements of senior Vaiṣṇavas.” Upon hearing Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Prabhu’s answer, Śrī Kṛṣṇa-vallabha Brahmacārī understood everything very clearly.
KĪRTANĪYAḤ SADĀ HARIḤ
As time passed, pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja remained always immersed in speaking hari-kathā. Wherever he would go, it was impossible for him to stay without speaking hari-kathā.
OUR AFFECTIONATE RELATIONSHIP
Sometimes, pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja would call me or meet with me to ask my advice on various matters. If someone else was present at that time, he would say, “Please excuse us, but we want to speak to each other privately.” In this way, we used to sit together and discuss many different things.
The relationship between us is such that it is not easily understood by many people, but my heart says that our relationship has always been very sweet. From the very first day we met, we visited many different places together for preaching, stayed together, and served our Guru Mahārāja together in many different ways. We have—and have always had—a deeply affectionate relationship, but because many persons observe only external appearances and neglect to consider the true, heartfelt sentiments between us, they are are unable to perceive this deep affection. Instead, they come to various mistaken conclusions about our relationship.
Although I wish to continue glorifying my dear godbrother pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja, my health does not allow me to sit or speak for too long. Today, on the auspicious day of his divine appearance in this world, I pray at his lotus feet to forgive me for any offenses I may have committed against him, either knowingly or unknowingly.