Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī
[July 6, 2021 is the disappearance tithi of Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an article about his glories from 'My Beloved Masters' by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja.]
Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī told me the following story about how he came to reside in Śrīdhāma Māyāpura and how his father, Śrī Dīpa-rāma dāsa Gāubuḍā, tried to bring him back home.
“When I was about eleven years old and in the seventh grade, I went with a group of people from my village to have darśana of Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma. During our visit, I met Śrīla Prabhupāda. I was so enamored with him that I refused to return home. Instead, I decided to stay in Māyāpura and join the maṭha. Despite my young age, Śrīla Prabhupāda granted me harināma and mantra-dīkṣā.
“I was my father’s youngest child—his tenth. When word reached my village that I had stayed behind in Māyāpura, my father immediately departed for the dhāma to retrieve me. At the time, Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma parikramā was under way, with thousands of pilgrims in attendance. When the in-charge of Śrī Caitanya Maṭha was informed that my father had arrived, he treated him very respectfully and arranged a place for him to stay in the maṭha.
“While at the maṭha, my father received darśana of Śrīla Prabhupāda. He was amazed by the behavior and bold hari-kathā of the sannyāsīs and brahmacārīs, and he was especially impressed by the fact that such erudite individuals born of elite families were firmly established in the principle of offering respect to others while expecting none in return. He told me, ‘I would never have imagined that a place like this exists, where everyone discusses only matters of the spiritual world, and never those of this material world; where no one harbors a desire for mundane indulgence, but rather cultivates the desire to serve; where people have renounced material pleasures to live according to a simple yet elevated philosophy; and where the mysterious truths of the soul are revealed one after another.’
“His heart swelled with gratitude. He said, ‘Keśava, my son! You have blessed me by showing me this place. What to speak of accepting it, I had never even heard that this human form of life is meant for worshiping Bhagavān. Now that I have come to know this in my old age, I will perform bhajana for the remainder of my life. I, too, will take shelter of your gurudeva’s lotus feet and, when he will mercifully agree to it, accept mantra-dīkṣā from him. Please convey my intentions to him.’
“I then told him, ‘You eat meat and fish, and you smoke tobacco. Beyond giving up these, one must give up even onions and garlic before accepting dīkṣā and harināma.’
“ ‘I will give them up this very instant,’ he replied. ‘These are small things to leave aside for the sake of something so exalted.’
“ ‘Are you sure?’ I asked. ‘It will be a grave offense if you accept mantra-dīkṣā simply out of excitement and again consume these things because of habit.’
“My father assured me, ‘I fully comprehend the gravity of making a vow to an exalted personality. Trust me when I say I am of sound mind and that I am not being emotional. I have thought this over carefully.’
“While I was waiting for the right time to supplicate at Śrīla Prabhupāda’s lotus feet on behalf of my father, explain his background and attest to his state of mind, my father saw a group of devotees who had shaved their heads and were waiting to receive mantra-dīkṣā. He immediately went to have his head shaved, after which he sat down with the prospective initiates. When a servant informed Śrīla Prabhupāda of the situation, Śrīla Prabhupāda said, ‘Determination is the most important attribute needed for receiving dīkṣā. I will certainly grant him his wish.’
“And so it happened that Śrīla Prabhupāda gave my father mantra-dīkṣā that very day. When my father left Śrīdhāma Māyāpura, he told me, ‘Keśava, although I came to bring you back, the opposite has happened—I have offered myself here. My body may go, but I will forever remain here by heart.’
“Amazingly, from that day forward, my father never consumed any of those forbidden substances. Instead, he spent the rest of his life chanting harināma, his dīkṣā-mantras, various prayers and hymns, and engaging himself in activities favorable to bhakti.”
The streak of determination his father embodied was visible in Śrī Kṛṣṇakeśava Brahmacārī’s life, as well.
ATTENTION IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN SERVICE
Immediately after Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī received harināma and dikṣā from Śrīla Prabhupāda, he began performing various services in the maṭha. He was particularly avid in assisting Śrīla Prabhupāda’s cook by cutting and preparing vegetables, shopping for ingredients, scrubbing pots and cleaning the kitchen.
Once, while Śrīla Prabhupāda and his preaching party, which included his cook, were en route from Mumbai to Kolkata, his cook became worried he would be unable to punctually provide Śrīla Prabhupāda with prasāda upon their arrival.
When Śrīla Prabhupāda and his entourage reached the maṭha, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī had his meal cooked and ready to be served. When the cook saw all the items Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Prabhu had prepared, he was surprised beyond belief; they were nearly identical to those he usually prepared. After Śrīla Prabhupāda honored prasāda, his cook told him that Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī had prepared his meal that day. “Really?” Śrīla Prabhupāda asked. “I could not tell the difference. Did you teach him how to cook?”
“No,” the servant replied. “I never taught him to cook. But he does help me in the kitchen whenever he is around.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda summoned Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī and asked him, “From where did you learn to cook?”
“By carefully watching Prabhu cook every day,” he replied.
Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “You are sure to be successful in whatever you dedicate your full attention to or wish to learn. You should go on like this, learning the key principles of bhajana. By this, you will surely obtain auspiciousness.” After this incident, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī would cook for Śrīla Prabhupāda from time to time, and would lovingly bestow Śrīla Prabhupāda’s remnants to whoever would ask for them. He used to say, “Śrīla Prabhupāḍa always ate very little. I noticed whenever I served him his meals, there always seemed to be the same amount left on his plate as I had brought him.”
GURU MAHĀRĀJA's RIGHT-HAND MAN
When the excessive disturbance that followed Śrīla Prabhupāda‘s disappearance caused the Gauḍīya Maṭha mission to split into two factions, Guru Mahārāja took possession of Śrī Caitanya Maṭha on behalf of Śrī Kuñjabihārī Vidyābhūṣaṇa Prabhu. Many of his godbrothers insistently requested him to take sannyāsa and start accepting disciples, but he deferred their numerous pleas.
It was largely Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī who influenced Guru Mahārāja to finally agree to his godbrothers’ proposal. “Śrīla Prabhupāda has left behind such a massive mission,” he told Guru Mahārāja. “How will its services continue on properly if a qualified person like you refuses to accept disciples? If you begin awarding initiations, I will accept the responsibility of bringing prospective disciples to you.” Having received his dear godbrother’s support, Guru Mahārāja agreed to accept disciples.
Sometime later, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī took Guru Mahārāja to Āssām, where, by his tireless efforts, Guru Mahārāja’s preaching met with great success. Being attracted and inspired by Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī’s explanations of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s immaculate teachings, many people took shelter of Guru Mahārāja’s lotus feet. A good many of those new devotees became renounced and joined the maṭha, and later on, Guru Mahārāja even awarded some of them sannyāsa.
Guru Mahārāja regarded Śrī Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī as his right-hand man, and he had particular affection for him. Devotees who have taken shelter of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha shall remain forever indebted to Śrī Kṛṣṇa keśava Brahmacārī.
A FITTING RESPONSE TO CRITICISM
Once, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vilāsa Tīrtha Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, Śrīpāda Sundara-gopāla Prabhu, Śrīpāda Atulānanda Brahmacārī and other disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda were at the Sealdah station in Kolkata. Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī, who was then residing at Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha, was also present at the same station, but was situated a little further away. Some of them called for Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī to come close to them, and asked “Keśava! How are you?”
Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī replied, “I am very well.”
They again asked, “Keśava! How are you?”
“I am extremely well,” he replied.
A number of his godbrothers then audibly said among themselves, “Just see! Although he has left the maṭha established by Śrīla Prabhupāda, his own gurudeva, he says that he is very well.”
Hearing their words, Śrī Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī calmly said, “Had I continued to stay with you, I would have only ever heard that you alone are engaged in bhajana, and no one else is capable of properly serving. I would have been compelled to label all others as non-devotees, and would have become expert in vaiṣṇava-nindā, criticizing devotees.
“Fortunately,” he continued, “I have been saved from all such wretchedness by staying with Śrī Mādhava Mahārāja. With him, I remain immersed in practicing the principle of considering everyone else as honorable and myself as worthless. So, to reaffirm, yes, I am extremely well. What have you to say about that?”
Someone said, “Listen! Śrīla Prabhupāda blessed Śrī Tīrtha Mahārāja by saying, ‘May you attain abundant auspiciousness.’ Did he ever give such a blessing to Mādhava Mahārāja?”
Śrī Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī replied, “No one blesses a recipient of a Master of Arts degree by saying, ‘I bless you to acquire a Master of Arts degree.’ Such blessings are for those who have not yet attained some particular qualification. Therefore, the reason Śrīla Prabhupāda did not bestow the blessing to achieve abundant auspiciousness upon Śrī Mādhava Mahārāja is because he had already achieved abundant auspiciousness. By sincerely reflecting on the situation of the ‘blessed,’ one can easily understand why Śrīla Prabhupāda would have felt it necessary to bless them in this way.”
AN INCOMPLETE POINT IS A MISUNDERSTOOD POINT
At Guru Mahārāja’s invitation, many disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda gathered to attend the annual festival at the Kolkata branch of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha. One day, at the very end of the assembly, Guru Mahārāja asked Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī to speak. In his address, he said, “According to the philosophy the Vaiṣṇava speakers have expounded today, I can say that no one here, whether sitting on the dais or the ground, has attained Bhagavān. The scriptures state:
ĵadi haya saṁyoga tabe nā haya viyoga
ĵadi haya viyoga tabe nā thāke prāṇa
If there is meeting, there cannot be separation. If there is separation, then one cannot remain alive.
“Therefore, the fact that everyone assembled here today is showing signs of life is proof they have never met Bhagavān. If they had truly met Him, they would be unable to maintain their life in separation from Him.”
After prasāda that night, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vikāsa Hṛṣīkeśa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda, admonished Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī in front of their godbrothers. He said, “It was improper to question whether the persons seated on the dais have attained Bhagavān. We all accept disciples now. It was unwise to proclaim such ideas in front of our followers.”
Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī replied, “This happened only because I was allocated as much time as it takes you to recite the invocations before your lecture. I had presented only one aspect of this multifaceted subject when the karatālas chimed and indicated I should conclude. I had not finished explaining. If I am given sufficient time tomorrow, I will explain the rest.”
The next day, when Guru Mahārāja asked Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī to speak, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī narrated a story: “Once, a painter was told to paint a sign on a wall that read ‘ekhāne peśāba kôribena nā—do not pass urine here.’ He had painted the first three words, ‘ekhāne peśāba kôribena—pass urine here,’ before night fell and forced him to stop painting. Naturally, people started urinating there the next morning, thinking they had express permission. The employer chastised the painter, who replied, ‘Sir, this was not my fault. It got dark before I could finish. Do not worry. Now that the sun has risen, I will immediately paint the last word nā and complete the sign.’
“A similar incident occurred when I spoke yesterday, so I will now conclude my unfinished point. The devotees seated on the dais before you today are like modest wealthy persons who claim they have no money. Although they say, ‘na prema gandho ’sti—I have not a scent of prema,’ do not think they have not obtained bhagavat-prema. Conversely, we should understand a poor man’s claims of poverty to be not an expression of humility, but the truth, and we should sincerely try to help him. The people sitting on the dais today have certainly met Bhagavān. It is solely through the Lord’s inconceivable potency that they are able to survive such fatal, unbearable separation from Him. Bhagavān personally maintains their lives so that they may continue bringing Him endless pleasure by serving Him in this world. This principle, that living is evidence of an absence of bhagavat-prema, cannot be applied to realized personalities; it is meant only for conditioned souls like us.”
THE PASSING AWAY OF HIS PURE-DEVOTEE FATHER
In 1956, a year after I took shelter of my Guru Mahārāja and joined Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha, Guru Mahārāja took me to Vraja for Śrī Vrajamaṇḍala parikramā. There, I heard from Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī that his father had passed away and that his brother had sent him fifty rupees to serve the Vaiṣṇavas in their father’s memory. With that money, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇakeśava Brahmacārī ordered and distributed forty kilograms of rabaḍī, a sweet made from condensed milk.
That day, I witnessed devotees who normally snubbed anything served in remembrance of the deceased happily eating that rabaḍī with great relish, saying, “Eating something served in honor of a non-devotee’s passing implicates one in the sins of the departed. However, according to the blessings Śrīman Mahāprabhu bestowed on the occasion of Śrīla Haridāsa Thākura’s disappearance festival, one incurs offense by not accepting the prasāda distributed in honor of a pure devotee’s passing. In fact, one’s devotion is increased by eagerly accepting such prasāda.”
The way I saw Śrīla Prabhupāda’s brahmacārī and sannyāsī disciples lovingly honor the rabaḍī-prasāda that day confirmed that they indeed recognized Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī’s biological father as a pure devotee of Bhagavān.
RELIEVING THE DOUBTS OF A NEW MAṬHAVĀSĪ
When my godbrother pūjyapāda Bhakti Vallabha Tīrtha Mahārāja and two of his schoolmates took shelter of Guru Mahārāja’s lotus feet and began living in the maṭha, they overheard Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja express, “Even though I have associated with sādhus, resided in the dhāma, performed nāma-saṅkīrtana, surrendered myself at the lotus feet of my guru, preached all over and performed countless other activities that are favorable for bhakti, I have gained no benefit.”
Pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja (then known as Śrī Kṛṣṇa-vallabha Brahmacārī) and his two schoolmates became very disheartened by this statement. They debated amongst themselves the need to reside in the maṭha if a senior Vaiṣṇava like Śrīla Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja achieved nothing, despite having invested so much energy in spiritual practices and preaching all over the world. In the end, Śrī Kṛṣṇa-vallabha Brahmacārī’s two discouraged friends packed their belongings and left the maṭha. He, however, retained faith that there must be something more to Śrīla Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s troubling words.
In order to reconcile Śrīla Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s puzzling statement, Śrī Kṛṣṇa-vallabha Brahmacārī approached Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī, who then graciously explained everything to him: “A rich man will never disclose the fact that he is wealthy, even when asked. Instead, he will try to conceal this to the best of his ability. Similarly, Vaiṣṇavas who possess the wealth of prema often hide their fortune by claiming to be without any devotion. Besides, Śrīla Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja is extremely intelligent. If he actually believed he gained nothing from practicing bhakti, would he not direct his energy elsewhere?
“Listen,” he continued. “You are new to the maṭha. The more you associate with exalted Vaiṣṇavas, the more you will be able to navigate the current of emotions that flows in their hearts. It is only after you first learn, comprehend and realize the intricacies of their moods that you can grasp the mystery behind many of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s statements, such as:
na prema-gandho ’sti darāpi me harau
krandāmi saubhāgya-bharaṁ prakāśitum
bibharmi yat prāṇa-pataṅgakān vṛthā
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 2.45)
I have not even a scent of love for Śrī Kṛṣṇa. I am crying simply to flaunt whatever fortune I once obtained. If I truly loved Him, how could I endure this useless, insect-like life, bereft of the sight of His lotus face as He sports with His flute?
prabhu kahena “kṛṣṇa-kathā āmi nāhi jāni
sabe rāmānanda jāne tāra mukhe śuni”
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 5.7)
Śrīman Mahāprabhu said, “I know nothing of Kṛṣṇa, but Rāmānanda knows it all. Go hear from him.”
āmi tô’sannyāsī āpanāre virakta kôri’māni
darśana rahu dūre ‘prakṛtira’ nāma ĵadi śuni
tabahĩ vikāra pāya mora tanu-mana
prakṛti-darśane sthira haya kon jana?
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 5.35, 36)
[Śrīman Mahāprabhu said,] “Although I am a sannyāsī and I consider myself to be renounced, my body and mind become agitated by merely hearing the word ‘woman,’ not to speak of actually seeing one. Who can remain unaffected by the sight of a woman?”
Many of Śrīmad Mahāprabhu’s eternal associates have expressed their humility in similar ways:
prasīda mayi mādhava
Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī Stavamālā (1.12.14)
Although I am a mine of offenses, and although I cannot tell right from wrong, I still hope for Your mercy. O Mādhava, please be merciful to me.
jagāi mādhāi hôite muñi se pāpiṣṭha
purīṣera kīṭa hôite muñi se laghiṣṭha
Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 5.205)
I am more sinful that Jagāi and Mādhāi, and I am lower than the worms in stool.
“Additionally, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has said, ‘tumi tô’ ṭhākura, tomāra kukura, bôliyā jānahô more—You are my Lord. Please accept me as Your dog.’ Even Śrīla Prabhupāda has similarly expressed his humility. Although he is jagad-guru, the spiritual master of the entire world, he referred to his disciples as vipada-uddhāraka bandhu, friends who deliver him from misfortune.”
Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī concluded, “I therefore ask you not to follow the actions and reasoning of your schoolmates, but to instead follow the example of exalted Vaiṣṇavas. You have done well by asking me to alleviate your doubts today. This technique of seeking the council of senior Vaiṣṇavas has been approved and demonstrated by our exalted predecessors for those who wish to enter spiritual life.”
Śrī Kṛṣṇa-vallabha Brahmacārī staunchly accepted Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī’s advice and followed it throughout his life. In his lectures, he would often look back on this incident and say, “It is only by Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇakeśava Brahmacārī’s mercy that I continued to stay in the maṭha. When I later shared his insight with my schoolmates, they found it agreeable. From time to time, they would visit the Kolkata maṭha and participate in festivals, but they never again fully gave themselves to the maṭha.”
I remember that one of pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja’s schoolmates was a brāhmaṇa boy, and the other was the youngest son of a gentleman named Śrī Kāmākhyā Sena. I used to know their names, but now I am unable to recall them.
THE SATISFACTION OF REMAINING UNDER GUIDANCE
When Guru Mahārāja would go on preaching missions, there would often be several events scheduled concurrently, and so the preaching party would split into different groups to honor all the invitations. I noticed that Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmācārī would travel only with Guru Mahārāja and remain under his guidance; he never preached with anyone else. He used to say, “I consider it a matter of great fortune to carry out my life under the guidance of an exalted personality while remaining insignificant. In that alone, I find joy, contentment and satisfaction. I never want to go anywhere I may be forced to act superior to others.”
HEARING MEANS FOLLOWING
Once, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Prabhu and his senior sannyāsī godbrothers were preaching at a university, where highly intellectual professors and students had assembled to hear about the philosophy of the Gauḍīya Maṭha. Yet, each time the sannyāsīs delivered their speeches, several professors and students would insist, “You are reiterating ancient ideas. We have heard these concepts many times before.” Although, the various sannyāsīs tried to help them understand the specialty of the Gauḍīya Maṭha, the objectors maintained their philosophy was simply old wine in a new bottle.
Finally, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmcārī asked Guru Mahārāja for a chance to speak. When Guru Mahārāja consented, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī stood up and said, “I am not an intellectual like you learned academics. I concluded my efforts to accrue worldly knowledge when I came to the Gauḍīya Maṭha in the seventh grade. Today, I will speak a few points before you all, based on what I have learned from my spiritual teachers. Although my presentation may contain errors, you will be able to infer the essence if you listen patiently.
“You yourselves have readily admitted you have already heard, understood and memorized well the views my godbrothers discussed before you here today. You have asked us many questions in response, but I request you to please ask yourselves this one question: ‘Do I live my life according to these teachings?’ If the answer is yes, then very well. Otherwise, your knowledge of those teachings will be of no true benefit. Merely memorizing them will do you no lasting good. Although your education allows you to read, understand and memorize a doctor’s prescription, your illness will not be cured unless you follow the prescription’s instructions to take a particular medicine. On the other hand, an illiterate person will be cured if he, after taking that prescription to a qualified, educated person who can explain its contents, consumes the medicine prescribed therein. This is the specialty of the Gauḍīya Maṭha: we practice what we preach, and what we preach is ‘uṭho re, uṭho re bhāi, āra to’ samaya nāi—get up, get up, brother! There is no time left.’ ”
The professors unanimously conceded. “You have spoken the truth,” they said. “The trouble with society nowadays is that despite having vast knowledge, people seldom follow any of what they know.”
THE GREAT IMPACT OF A SIMPLE EXPLANATION
Once, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī and an entourage of devotees accompanied Guru Mahārāja on a preaching mission to Guwahati, Assam. Being Assamese, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī and my godbrother, Śrī Cintāharaṇa Pāṭagiri Prabhu, knew the local language. As per the instruction of Guru Mahārāja, the two met with deśa-priya Śrī Gopīnātha Bordoloi, the then Chief Minister of Assam who was an object of affection for the country’s citizens, to invite him to hear bhāgavata-kathā at Guru Mahārāja’s program.
At the meeting, Śrī Bordoloi first asked them to introduce themselves, their organization and the reason for their visit. After their introduction, he asked, “You are both Assamese. Why then have you not accepted the principles of śrī bhagavata-dharma as preached in Assam by Śrī Śaṅkara-deva, Śrī Dāmodaradeva and other renowned Assamese bhaktas? Why have you instead accepted the teachings of Śrīman Caitanyadeva, a Bengali?”
Śrīpāda Cintāharaṇa Prabhu requested Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī to kindly answer Śrī Bordoloi, and Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī obliged: “Respected Mr. Bordoloi, if I may, I would like to preface my reply to your question with a brief question of my own. You, too, are Assamese, and you belong to a brāhmaṇa family. Why, then, did you consider it appropriate to attend Oxford University in England, accept Englishmen as your teachers, your gurus, and follow their teachings, when they use paper to clean themselves after passing stool instead of following the proper practice of using water? What more should I speak about their lack of etiquette? “Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma has long been famous as the Oxford of India, and scholars from even Assam have regularly gone there for higher education. We therefore fail to understand the inherent fault in our following Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.”
Śrī Gopinātha Bordoloi was rendered speechless. Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī and Śrīpāda Cintāharaṇa Pāṭagiri Prabhu left his office and returned to Guru Mahārāja. When they arrived back at Guru Mahārāja’s quarters, they were greatly surprised to see Śrī Bordoloi sitting next to Guru Mahārāja. They realized he had come by car while they travelled by rikśaw.
This pastime illustrates the convincing effect Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī’s simple explanations had on not only Śrī Gopinātha Bordoloi, but many people around the world.
HIS SISTER'S TENACITY
Once, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī brought Guru Mahārāja and a preaching party to his sister Śrī Saheśvarī devī’s home in Sārabhoga, Assam. At that time, the people of Sārabhoga were not cordial with the Gauḍīya Maṭha. Not long before, an ignorant maṭhavāsī, a newcomer, killed Śrī Erāma Pāṭhaka, the benefactor who had donated the land for the Sārabhoga maṭha, by striking him on the head with a hammer.
When the people of the village heard that the Gauḍīya Maṭha sannyāsīs and brahmacārīs had come to preach, they fervently objected. “We refuse to let them preach here!” they exclaimed. “We will not make their stay in this village easy.”
Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī told Guru Mahārāja, “She is Keśava’s sister and her father’s daughter. You must trust her resolve. Please stay here a few days and perform kathā and kīrtana.”
Guru Mahārāja heeded Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī’s advice and stayed for a few days, during which, an amazing thing happened: Śrī Kamalā- kānta, the person who had instigated the opposition, took initiation from Guru Mahārāja along with his two wives.
During their future visits to Sārabhoga after Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance, Guru Mahārāja and his preaching party did not stay in the branch of Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha there, as the management had unfavorably changed. Instead, they stayed in the home of Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī’s family, and Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī’s mother, a staunchly service-inclined devotee, happily prepared delicious prasāda for all the devotees during their visits.
PLEASURE AND NOURISHMENT: TWO ASPECTS OF SERVICE
I once cooked under Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī’s guidance at the Śrī Ananta-vāsudeva temple in Kālnā. At that time, the temple was under the care of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja. In the course of cooking, I had forgotten whether I had added salt to one of the vegetable preparations. When I told Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī about this, he said, “I can tell from the steam rising from the pot whether or not you have added salt.” Sure enough, when he saw the steam from a distance, he said, “No, you haven’t added salt yet.”
He then gave me the following cooking advise: “If you ever happen to add too much turmeric, put a few pumpkin or gourd leaves into the pot and they will soak up the excess turmeric. And if you happen to add too much salt, a ball of dough will absorb it.” He went on to tell me many more things about cooking, including how to cook large quantities in only a short time.
During our conversation, he said, “Cooking is Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’s service, and She always presents new dishes to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Although Śrī Durvāsā Ṛṣi gave Her a boon by which everything She cooked would be like nectar, She still fully absorbs Herself in cooking, as She does with whatever other services She may perform. Moreover, She reflects on what is best for Kṛṣṇa. She considers not only whether Kṛṣṇa will find a dish tasty, but also whether it will nourish Him. It was with a similar mood that Śrī Rāghava Paṇḍita’s sister, Śrī Damayantī, would send medicinal preparations to Purī for Śrīman Mahāprabhu, so that He could find relief from any acidity or stomach pain He may have experienced.
“In our conditioned state, we do not know Śrī Kṛṣṇa or Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s tastes, nor have we any idea which dishes nourish Them. Still, we have heard that Bhagavān accepts food through the mouths of His devotees. Keeping this in mind, we should be especially careful to consider what is most beneficial for them when preparing their meals. When cooking for them, we must dedicate our full attention to that service."
WORRYING FOR THE WELFARE OF OTHERS
Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī once chastised a person he had inspired to join the maṭha. That person responded by saying, “If you weren’t such an old man, I would have grabbed you and forcibly thrown you out of the maṭha.” Śrīpāda Keśava Prabhu made no rebuttal, but rather remained silent.
After I repeatedly asked him about the incident, he finally said, “There is a difference of heaven and earth between the era we live in today and that of bygone times. Previously, people felt forever indebted to those who helped them even slightly. But nowadays, not to speak of a scent of gratitude, people feel no shame in arguing with and falsely accusing those who have helped them. Their only motivation for such quarrels is to receive recognition and fulfill their selfish desires. There was a time when, what to speak of those in positions of authority, everyone in the maṭha desired to increase the maṭha’s number of sevakas. But now we see that many of those holding high posts do not object to expelling devotees from the maṭha.
“This reminds me of an old story,” he continued. “Once, a man put what he thought was a turtle egg in a pond, because turtles help protect water by eating many polluting entities. But when the egg hatched, he discovered it was actually a crocodile egg. He now had a pond with a crocodile that wanted to eat him, the same person who had put the egg in the pond.”
I told Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī, “You have served both Śrīla Prabhupāda and Guru Mahārāja so much. You should never have to endure any sort of inconvenience. When government employees retire, they receive a pension. Bhagavān’s is the biggest government. How could those who have served Him not possibly receive a pension? In this world, a pensioner must go to the bank and prove his identity before he receives any funds. But Bhagavān’s devotees receive their pension automatically, without having to go anywhere. You have never collected any money for yourself; you have lived your whole life as a totally renounced Vaiṣṇava. Although they have never met you, devotees both here and abroad joyfully exclaim ‘All glories to Prabhupāda’s cook!’ whenever they hear about you. There are plenty of people who would happily donate to serve you. Do not concern yourself with the actions or words of others. You have nothing to worry about.”
“I know all this very well,” he told me. “I am not worried for my maintenance. I worry only for those who, though residing with sādhus, are unable to take full advantage of their association. These persons are unable to realize that they must taste the fruits of their actions. Where, then, must they go to experience a change of heart? Anyway, I can only pray for Bhagavān to bring them auspiciousness. May Śrīla Prabhupāda rest his auspicious gaze on all of us.”
Various godbrothers of Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī would repeatedly ask him to accept sannyāsa, but he would always say, “It is duplicitous for a person to superficially accept someone as his dīkṣā-, śikṣā- or sannyāsa-guru. Even a sannyāsa disciple must readily accept his sannyāsa guru’s instructions, including chastisement, with great pleasure and eagerness, for the scriptures declare it improper to not regard one’s gurus as being on the same level. Śrīla Prabhupāda is my dīkṣā-guru, and I simply cannot put anyone else on the same seat he occupies in my heart. He has taught that it is better to live as an animal, bird, worm, insect or any other of the millions of species than to resort to duplicity, so how could I accept sannyāsa if I am unable to give my heart to anyone else but him?
“Śrīla Prabhupāda has also taught that the servants of paramahaṁsa Vaiṣṇavas are simple-hearted. I therefore pray that you may encourage and help me in cultivating simplicity, so that I may become a true disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda in this lifetime and thereby become satisfied. This would be an expression of your true mercy upon me.”
PROTECTING HIS GOD-BROTHERS' AND GOD-SISTERS' JAPA-MĀLĀS
When Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī’s godbrothers or godsisters would leave this material world, he would acquire and carefully store the japamālā (chanting beads) Śrīla Prabhupāda had given them. Whenever any of his fellow godbrothers or godsisters happened to lose or misplace their japamālā, he would provide them one of the mālās he had saved. Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇakeśava Brahmacārī was so pleased after the construction of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha’s branch at Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appearance place in Purī that he blessed the person who funded the maṭha’s construction, Śrī Banavārī Lāla Siṁhāniyā, by giving him one of the mālās on which Śrīla Prabhupāda chanted.
READING FOR THE PLEASURE OF BHAGAVĀN AND HIS DEVOTEES
Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī would study Bengali translations of many books. I noted he especially liked reading the Bengali versions of various Purāṇas. He always avoided using his reading light at night, instead opting to read by candlelight, so as not to inconvenience the other devotees sleeping in his room.
He used to say, “I read only to please Bhagavān and His devotees. If my reading light disturbs a devotee of Bhagavān, then of what benefit will my reading be?”
WASTED TIME IS A WASTED OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE
Someone once notified Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī, “There is a person from our village who, after living in the Himalayas for ten years, claims to have gained the mystic ability to walk on water. Today, he is returning to our village to show his extraordinary new ability. I can arrange for you to come and see if you would like.”
Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī told that person, “I am not a fool. I will not waste my invaluable time to see a crazy person who spent ten years of his life just to attain the ability to walk on water. You can take a boat for a couple paisā, and an airplane ticket to the furthest possible country costs at most a month’s salary. What, then, is the need to spend ten years mastering such a pointless feat? Those who pursue such attainments simply crave mundane prestige, and nothing more. An intelligent person should understand the true value of his time. Knowing that one’s time should be used to pursue that which cannot be attained by money, affluence, knowledge or ritual practice, what intelligent person would ever endeavor for material prestige?”
ESSENCE OVER EXTERNALITIES
Once, an initiated devotee petitioned Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī, saying, “Prabhu, I have not been chanting my gāyatri-mantras for quite some time. I have heard that the mantras are rendered ineffective after three days of neglect. I am unable to hear them again from my dīkṣā-guru, for he has left this world to join Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s eternal pastimes. I implore you to mercifully recite the gāyatrī-mantras to me.”
Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī asked the devotee, “Do you still remember the mantras your gurudeva gave you?”
“Yes,” he said. “I remember all the mantras.”
Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī told him, “Then you need not hear mantras from anyone else. It is true that neglecting to chant the mantras given by śrī guru is a form of gurur-avajña, disobeying one’s spiritual master. Nevertheless, you must beg forgiveness at the lotus feet of your gurudeva and again start chanting your mantras according to the proper regulations. Everything will be rectified by his mercy.”
The devotee then raised another question: “I have heard that I should at least change my upavīta (sacred thread) before beginning to chant my mantras again. Is this true?”
Śrī Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī replied, “If that were the case, then wouldn’t ladies, who are never given a sacred thread, be doomed? Do not invest your attention and energy only in external activities. Instead, always seek and give greater value to the essence. When traveling, retaining your ticket is the most important concern. Stations, co-passengers and conductors may come and go with little or no consequence. In the same way, your ticket to Goloka Vṛndāvana is the mahā-mantra, and to some extent, your gāyatrī-mantras, which indirectly assist the mahā-mantra. Concern yourself with nothing else. No obstacle can harm you if you take full shelter of śrī harināma and your gāyatrī-mantras under proper guidance.”
THE TRANSCENDENTAL CLERK
Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Prabhu lived in Śrī Jagannātha Purī for approximately ten years before leaving this world. Whenever I would visit Purī, he would open up his trunk, place it in front of me and say, “Count how much money is there.” After I would count the money and tell him the amount, he would often say, “I must definitely provide Jagannātha prasāda to the residents of the maṭha. Also, I want you to invite as many paṇḍās from Śrī Jagannātha Mandira as we can host so that they may partake as well.”
Accordingly, I would procure Jagannātha prasāda and invite the paṇḍās. Seeing this, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Prabhu would become very pleased and say, “Bhakata sevā parama siddhi prema-latikāra mūla—Serving devotees is the greatest perfection and the root of the creeper of divine love.”
He would also explain, “When devotees offer me donations, they do so with the intention of serving Vaiṣṇavas. If I properly fulfill my responsibility to utilize their donations in service, I will become a recipient of Bhagavān’s mercy, and the donors will be spiritually benefited. I am a like bank teller or a railway enquiry clerk who deals with the public’s money, but does not receive a direct payment from them. It is the bank or railway management that pays his salary for fulfilling his responsibility of providing customers with the convenience of depositing or withdrawing their money or inquiring about train timings.”
PREPARING FOR HIS DISAPPEARANCE PASTIME
In the year leading up to his disappearance, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī would continually cry out the following verses at the top of his voice:
labdhvā sudurlabham idaṁ bahu-sambhavānte
mānuṣyam arthadam anityam apīha dhīraḥ
tūrṇaṁ yateta na pated anumṛtyu yāvan
niḥśreyasāya viṣayaḥ khalu sarvataḥ syāt
We have attained this rare human life after countless births, and though it is temporary, it affords one purpose in this world. Therefore, as long as he has not dropped dead, a wise person must swiftly strive to attain ultimate liberation, for pleasures can always be had in all forms of life.
adyaiva me viśatu mānasa-rāja-haṁsaḥ
kaṇṭhāvarodhana-vidhau smaraṇaṁ kutas te
O Kṛṣṇa, may the royal swan that is my mind submerge itself this instant at the stems of Your lotus-flower-like feet. How else will I be able to remember You during my last breath, when my throat is constricted by air, bile and phlegm?
AN ĀCĀRYA IN THE TRUEST SENSE
Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī lead such a simple and modest life that the only items he left behind after his disappearance were a few books, two sets of clothes and a trivial amount of money, all of which were kept in one small box, the only box he owned. Although he never externally accepted the role of ācārya nor gave mantra-dīkṣā, he abided by the following words of the scriptures, and thereby fortified many devotees to do the same:
ācinoti yaḥ śāstrārthaṁ
ācare sthāpayatya ‘pi
svayaṁ ācarati yasmad
ācāryas tena kīrtitaḥ
A person who grasps the import of the scriptures and, through his words and conduct, establishes others in such standards gains renown as an ācārya.
Although he never accumulated anything for himself, he never lacked anything in his service. When he disappeared from this world on the day of Yoginī Ekādaśī, many devotees gave me donations to organize his viraha mahotsava. Just as it had satisfied him so much to feed Jagannātha-deva’s prasāda to the maṭhavāsīs and the paṇḍās in the past, I invited all the Gauḍīya Maṭha devotees in Śrī Jagannātha Purī and numerous paṇḍās on the day of his viraha-mahotsava and distributed Jagannātha prasāda to them.