Pūjyapāda Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja
[December 17, 2022 is the appearance day of Pūjyapāda Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja in Vṛndāvana, India. Below is an excerpt of his glories from 'Viśuddha Caitanya-vāṇī Volume I' by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja]
When pūjyapāda Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja first came to the maṭha as a young boy, his mother put him under the care of Śrī Vinoda-bihārī Brahmacārī (later known as Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja), and he attended the Bhaktivinoda Institute for schooling. After some time, when Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura disappeared from this world, some disturbances arose in the maṭha, and Śrī Vinoda-bihārī Brahmacārī was sent to prison along with many other devotees on the strength of a false accusation. Pūjyapāda Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja (then Śrī Sajjana-sevaka Brahmacārī) had not received mantra-dīkṣā from Śrīla Prabhupāda, and so he was unable to cook for Śrī Vinoda-bihārī Brahmacārī and all the other jailed devotees. To remedy this, Śrī Vinoda-bihārī Brahmacārī gave mantra-dīkṣā to Śrī Sajjana-sevaka Brahmacārī through the bars of the jail cell, and later, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja performed the fire yajña for his dīkṣā ceremony. Śrī Sajjana-sevaka Brahmacārī was then able to prepare prasāda for all the detained devotees.
Although Śrī Sajjana-sevaka Brahmacārī witnessed Śrī Vinoda-bihārī Brahmacārī’s imprisonment, his niṣṭhā was such that he never doubted Śrī Vinoda-bihārī Brahmacārī’s qualification to be guru. He never for a moment thought, “How can I accept as guru a person whose actions have landed him in jail?”
NO ENVY OR POSSESSIVENESS
Although he was a disciple of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Sajjana-sevaka Brahmacārī would often accompany my paramārādhyatama Guru Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, on preaching tours. In those earlier days, there was little distinction between the maṭhas of those disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda who closely followed his vāṇī. Śrī Sajjana-sevaka Brahmacārī used to visit the vegetable gardens of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha in Māyāpura, and, without the need of taking any permission, pick whatever vegetables were required for the service of the Vaiṣṇavas residing in Śrī Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha. No one ever considered, “This is our land, and these are our vegetables.” He never used a rikshaw in those days, and so he would himself carry all the collected vegetables and walk back to Śrī Devanānda Gauḍīya Maṭha. I developed great faith and respect for him upon seeing his tireless efforts in performing vaiṣṇava-sevā.
Such concerns and distinctions between maṭhas never arose at that time, even among ācāryas. The two foremost godbrothers of pūjyapāda Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja—pūjyapāda Bhaktivedānta Trivikrama Gosvāmī Mahārāja and pūjyapāda Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja—joined the maṭha as a result of the preaching efforts of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kamala Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja (then Śrī Narottamānanda Brahmacārī), a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda. When their attraction to bhakti was awakened, Śrīla Madhusudana Gosvāmī Mahārāja took them to his godbrother, Śrīla Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja. There was no envy or conception that, “Because I have nourished these devotees and brought them to the path of bhakti, they are therefore my disciples.” Similarly, my Guru Mahārāja used to bring many devotees to Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Saraṅga Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja.
After the disappearance of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Jīvana Janārdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, a three-day viraha mahotsava was held in his Khaḍagapura maṭha. I was invited to be the sabhā-pati (chairman) for the first day, and pūjyapāda Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja was invited to be the sabhā-pati for the third day. Pūjyapāda Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja had to take a train from Chennai (then Madras) to Khaḍagapura to attend the assembly. Because his train was late, he was somewhat delayed in his arrival at the program, and so I was asked to accept the responsibilities of the sabhā-pati. When pūjyapāda Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja arrived and was given the opportunity to speak, he turned to me and asked, “For what amount of time should I speak?”
I replied, “Mahārāja, you are the actual sabhā-pati today; time limits do not apply to you.” Although he was ill and his servants kept indicating for him to stop speaking, he continued without any concerns for his physical wellbeing, and thus displayed his strong attachment to glorifying Śrī Hari, guru and Vaiṣṇavas.
STAYING OUT OF TROUBLE
During the festival in Khaḍagapura, I stayed in the room next to pūjyapāda Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja. When we talked, we discussed only the teachings and conduct of Śrīla Prabhupāda. He told me, “I have seen three generations of devotees in my life and I am astonished to see how diluted the devotees’ implementation of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s teachings and conduct has become. I want to say one thing to you, but please take it as advice rather than an instruction, because I am not so arrogant as to think I am qualified to instruct anyone: ‘dekhibe, śunibe, bolibe nā—observe and hear, but do not speak.’ By following this, you will stay out of trouble.” He faultlessly observed this ideal in his own life and maintained perfect vaiṣṇava-maryādā, or etiquette befitting a Vaiṣṇava.
I especially noted a particular demonstration of pūjyapāda Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s conduct. During Navadvīpa-dhāma parikramā, even when thousands of devotees would assemble to hear him speak, he would, for the sake of teaching his disciples proper conduct, remain silent and request his junior godbrothers—pūjyapāda Trivikrama Gosvāmī Mahārāja and pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa GosvāmīMahārāja—to speak hari-kathā. He would say with deep humility, “Although they are considered my juniors, in reality, they know much more than me.”
We do not witness such exemplary conduct in devotees nowadays. Many devotees appear as though they are experiencing prasava-pīḍā (labor pains) if they do not receive the chance to speak hari-kathā; they cannot tolerate allowing others to speak, even when more qualified devotees are present or the audience is small.