Following the Footsteps of Śrī Guru
Never pass up the opportunity to serve the Vaiṣṇavas
Guru Mahārāja organized a three-day festival at the Vṛndāvana branch of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha for the installation of the deities. On the first day of the festival, a wonderful feast was arranged for all the Vaiṣṇavas from the different maṭhas in Vrṇdāvana; on the second day was a feast for the Vraja paṇḍās and their families; and on the third day was a feast for general people, and the Vaiṣṇavas and paṇḍās were again invited.
Guru Mahārāja spent more than twenty thousand rupees on the festival. In those days, one could purchase two-and-ahalf kilograms of flour for one rupee. At the time, we did not have a proper kitchen in the maṭha. All the cooking was done in a room with a temporary tin shed. Seeing this situation, someone told Guru Mahārāja, “With the amount of money you spent on this festival, you could have built eight rooms in the maṭha.”
Guru Mahārāja replied, “Later, we may find so many people willing to contribute to the construction of rooms that we will run out of space in the maṭha. But the opportunity we have received to serve many senior Vaiṣṇavas at one time and in one place will never again present itself.” With this mood, Guru Mahārāja organized great festivals in many places—like Yāṣāḍā, Guwāhaṭī, Kolkata, Purī and other locations—and invited all the Vaiṣṇavas.
Taking full advantage of the opportunity to serve Vaiṣṇavas
After the disappearance of my śikṣā-guru Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, the maṭha in-charge of Śrī Keśava-jī Gauḍīya Maṭha in Mathurā, sent a letter to Guru Mahārāja under the direction of Śrī Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Mahārāja, the then ācārya of Śrī Gauḍīya Vedānta Samiti. He wrote, “We will be coming for darśana of Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma under the auspices of Śrī Gauḍīya Vedānta Samiti. If you were to kindly allow, we would like to stay in Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha with our entire party for many days. Please inform us of your decision, so that we may make all the required arrangements.”
In his reply, Guru Mahārāja wrote, “We will indeed be extremely pleased to have your association here. However, we have one condition: while staying with us, do not make any independent arrangements for cooking. Your entire party will have to accept the same prasāda that is being cooked and honored by the sannyāsīs and brahmacārīs of our maṭha. If you find this condition acceptable, then you can plan your schedule as per your convenience.”
Guru Mahārāja then said to us, “Just see! The Vaiṣṇavas have very mercifully given us an opportunity to serve them. A most appropriate opportunity to render service has knocked on our door, and it is our duty to take full advantage of it. Because they may some day acquire a place of their own in Vṛndāvana, this opportunity may never come again.”
Some years after the disappearance of Guru Mahārāja, my godbrother Śrī Bhakti Prāpanna Tapasvī Mahārāja once went to Haridvāra with ten devotees and stayed at a branch of Śrī Gauḍīya Vedānta Samiti at Kankhal, in Haridvāra. There, the maṭha in-charge requested Śrī Tapasvī Mahārāja to make separate arrangements for cooking. When Śrī Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, who just so happened to be there at the time, saw Śrī Tapasvī Mahārāja cooking separately, he chastised the maṭha in-charge, saying, “When we went to Vṛndāvana for darśana and stayed at Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha, Śrīpāda Madhāva Gosvāmī Mahārāja perfectly arranged for the accommodations and prasāda of our entire party for many days, and you cannot arrange for prasāda for even ten devotees, and that too for only two days.”
The maṭha in-charge then requested Śrī Tapasvī Mahārāja not to cook separately, and from then on, the prasāda for all the devotees was prepared by the residents of the maṭha. We found out about this incident only because Śrī Tapasvī Mahārāja narrated it to us. At that time, I told Tapasvī Mahārāja that this is the quality of Vaiṣṇavas: they remember and follow the conduct of their guru-vargas and feel deeply indebted to them.
There is no lack of space in the heart of a Vaiṣṇava
Śrī Satyavrata Prabhu, a disciple of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, once visited us with a desire to reside at our Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha in Kolkata, which at that time was located in a rented house. In those times, we would have to cook rice two or three times every meal, because the pot we used for cooking rice was small in size, and we did not have enough money to purchase a larger pot. Feeling a little uneasy upon hearing Śrī Satyavrata Prabhu’s desire, one brahmacārī said to Guru Mahārāja, “Because there are too many devotees staying here, we must constantly bear many inconveniences. How will we able to accommodate even one more person?”
Guru Mahārāja replied, “He will stay wherever we stay, and honor whatever prasāda we honor. He has no special or extra demands, and so there is no need to make any separate arrangements for him. It is our duty to assist Vaiṣṇavas in their bhajana. For true Vaiṣṇavas, there is never any dearth of space. If there is any deficiency, it is in the heart alone and should be removed. Other than this, there is no deficiency that can ever become an obstacle in our service to the Vaiṣṇavas.
“There were once three highly exalted Vaiṣṇavas residing in three different parts of South India. After hearing of each other’s respective qualities, they decided to visit to Śrī Raṅga-kṣetra, unbeknownst to each other, with the desire to meet one another. Thus, they separately departed for their journey from their respective places. Along the way, they encountered a heavy storm with strong winds and pouring rain. One of them found an old small cottage-like place with a door and took shelter there. Because he was exhausted from the journey, he somehow managed to lie down in that space, despite its small size. After some time, he heard a knock at the door. A voice from outside said, ‘Who is the great personality residing here? Can he mercifully give me shelter here for some time?’
“The Vaiṣṇava inside the room opened the door and asked the traveler to come inside. The Vaiṣṇava outside the room looked at the room and said, ‘It is only with great difficulty that you yourself can lay in this place. If I were to come in, you would be very uncomfortable. Do not worry, I will try to find another place.’
“The other Vaiṣṇava said, ‘Although the space is small for the two of us to lie down, it is big enough for us to sit and pass the night happily without any inconvenience. Please be merciful to me and come inside without any hesitation.’ Agreeing to his proposal, the Vaiṣṇava standing outside seated himself inside the small room.
“They had just started speaking hari-kathā when they heard a knock at the door. Outside was another person asking if he could take shelter in the room. When they opened the door, the Vaiṣṇava standing outside saw that only the two Vaiṣṇavas could sit in the very small room, and he was hesitant to go inside and inconvenience them. Understanding his mood, the Vaiṣṇavas sitting inside said, ‘If two of us can spend the night sitting, then why can’t the three of us can spend the whole night standing? Please come inside. We all shall engage in hari-kathā.’
“In this way, because there was no deficiency of any sort in their hearts, they happily spent the whole night engaged in hari-kathā, and their pleasure knew no bounds, especially when they realized that they were all visiting Śrī Raṅgakṣetra only to meet each other.
“You should heed this story and somehow adjust to accommodate Śrī Satyavrata Prabhu during the heavy storm that has presently hit Gauḍīya Maṭha. This storm will eventually pass. Later, you will not only remember this occasion and consider yourself fortunate to have received such association, but you will also pray to again obtain such association, without caring for the external inconveniences.”
A disciple of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja once expressed a desire to reside with us in Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha. When I asked Guru Mahārāja for permission, he said, “It is our duty to aid in the bhajana of whosoever wishes to come and reside in our maṭha. There is no need to inquire from me or seek my permission on this subject in the future. However, if someone is coming from another maṭha, you should first seek the advice of his gurudeva, or if his gurudeva is not easily contactable, you should consult with his maṭha in-charge before accepting him as a resident of our maṭha.”
As per the instructions of Guru Mahārāja, I approached Śrīla Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja and humbly submitted the proposal to him: “One of your brahmacārī disciples desires to stay in the Kolkata branch of our Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha. But we shall agree to it only if you have no objection.” He replied that he had no objection.
Later, when the Oriental Institute established by Śrīla Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja was attacked by dacoits, he wrote to us requesting us to send that disciple of his, who was physically very strong, so that he could help provide security for the maṭha. At that time, Guru Mahārāja described to the brahmacārī in detail the glories and importance of rendering guru-sevā, having firm unflinching faith in guru, and sincerely following the words emanating from the lotus lips of śrī guru. Having sufficiently made the brahmacārī understand the significance of śrī guru’s glories, Guru Mahārāja made the necessary arrangements for his journey to Vṛndāvana.
Affectionate concern for pilgrims
Whenever Śrī Caitanaya Gauḍīya Maṭha would host a parikramā of Śrī Vraja-maṇḍala, Guru Mahārāja would give us many instructions regarding the arrangement of the pilgrims’ prasāda and accommodations. He would not only instruct us to engage in vaiṣṇava-sevā in such a way that the Vaiṣṇavas would be pleased, but would also himself serve in this way. We were all utterly astonished to see the dedication with which he served the Vaiṣṇavas.
Once when we were in Nandagrāma during Vrajamaṇḍala parikramā, it rained heavily during the night. Everyone was peacefully sleeping in their respective rooms, but Guru Mahārāja awoke as soon as he heard raindrops falling on the roof of the dharmaśālā (guesthouse). He got up from his bed, woke me up and ordered me to go and check the pilgrims’ outside tent for leaks. I tried to pacify Guru Mahārāja by saying, “We have constructed an earthen ridge around the tent. It is impossible for water to find its way inside.”
Still, Guru Mahārāja was not satisfied. He said, “I will only be able to sleep after you personally go down and check that all is okay.”
On Guru Mahārāja’s order, I inspected the tent and reported to Guru Mahārāja, “Everything is fine, and the pilgrims are resting peacefully. Not a drop of water has entered the tent. The waterproof tent has two flaps, so there is no possibility of rain entering from the canopy. You can sleep without any worries.”
Guru Mahārāja then said, “It would be good if you could check the condition of tents on the rooftop, as well.”
I found myself in a dilemma. On one hand, it would be impossible for me to enter the tents on the roof, as they were occupied by ladies. On the other hand, it is my duty to carry out the order of śrī guru. Although I was unsure about what to do, I took Guru Mahārāja’s torch and headed for the tents on the rooftop. As I walked up the stairs, I happened upon my godbrother Śrī Viṣṇu dāsa (later known as Śrī Bhakti Vaibhava Araṇya Mahārāja after accepting sannyāsa), who told me without my asking, “The tent on the roof is fine; no water has entered inside and everything is safe.”
After I mentioned this to Guru Mahārāja, he was greatly relieved. He asked, “Did you inquire from other devotees, too?”
I replied, “Yes. I received this information from Śrī Viṣṇu Prabhu.” Hearing this, Guru Mahārāja became pacified and lay on his bed. Before falling asleep, he exquisitely described the unlimited mercy of Śrī Bhagavān, Bhagavān’s parental affection for His devotees and his own responsibility during the parikramā, and he expressed his sincere gratitude for all the devotees assisting him in his service.
Service to the Vaiṣṇavas should be sincere and heartfelt, not commercial
Once, when Guru Mahārāja was daily performing kīrtana and giving discourses in Goalpara, Assam, some devotees who lived in the mountains far away would ride their bicycles approximately twenty kilometers each way to attend Guru Mahārāja’s programs. One day, it rained heavily during the evening program and continued raining after the kathā had finished.
Guru Mahārāja called for me and my godbrother Śrī Mādhavānanda Prabhu and said, “Go and arrange for prasāda and accommodations for all the devotees who have travelled from the mountains by bicycle. These devotees have commuted a far distance to hear spiritual discourses with deep faith. We should serve them whenever an opportunity arises. Their commute to hear hari-kathā is nondifferent from performing dhāma-parikramā. The true benefit of performing dhāma-parikramā is achieved only when one visits the dhāma with praṇayi-bhaktas—devotees who possess transcendental love for Bhagavān and His devotees—and hears hari-kathā and kīrtana from their lotus lips. Because the place where pure self-realized devotees of Bhagavān (viśuddha-bhaktas) reside is non-different from Vṛndāvana, those who visit such pure devotees should be served in the same manner as those who visit the dhāma for parikramā. Such service should be sincere and heartfelt; it should not be commercial. The ideal way of serving pilgrims is by following the example of Śrī Śivānanda Sena.
“Śrī Śivānanda Sena would serve the devotees traveling from Bengal to Purī during their yearly journey to visit Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He would affectionately provide whatever the pilgrims required for their respective devotional practices, and he thereby received immense spiritual benefit. Similarly, we too will receive great benefit by providing the Vaiṣṇavas with whatever they may need, and we will not expect anything in return. Everyone in this material world is concerned only for his own personal benefit, so why should we not be concerned about our own spiritual benefit? Those who serve pilgrims with great sincerity will definitely receive the mercy of Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu, just as Śrī Śivānanda Sena did.”
Guru Mahārāja’s words filled our hearts with a rabid transcendental desire to dance in ecstasy. With this great joy in our hearts, we enthusiastically arranged for the pilgrims’ stay for the entire journey.
Helping and serving the Vaiṣṇavas as a principle, not for saving money
Once, when we organized a pilgrimage of North India, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Sambandha Akiñcana Gosvāmī Mahārāja suggested to Guru Mahārāja, “If we can skip Dakor, Ujjain and other nearby places we originally planned to visit, our journey will be reduced by one thousand kilometers. This will save us money, which can then be used in the service of the maṭha.”
Hearing this, Guru Mahārāja said in English, “My principle is to help and serve the devotees, not to save money. I have brought these pilgrims in order to serve them, not to profit from them. Moreover, these pilgrims have expressed their full faith in us and are traveling with us as if they are our dependents. They will visit these places maybe only once or twice in their entire life. It is completely inappropriate to cheat them.”
The topmost method of serving prasāda
Once, Guru Mahārāja organized a large festival at the Gokula branch of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha and invited all the local paṇḍās (priests). In those days, the paṇḍās would accept prasāda only from the hands of those who had been born in brāhmaṇa families. For this reason, Guru Mahārāja engaged his brāhmaṇa-born disciples in serving the paṇḍās. While prasāda was being served, Guru Mahārāja stood nearby and called out for the sevakas by the surnames they used prior to joining the maṭha, just so the paṇḍās would know for sure they were being served by familial brāhmaṇas.
He called out to me, “O Narottama Cakravartī! Serve chickpea-flour laḍḍūs to everyone.” As I served the laḍḍūs, he pointed at Śrī Sohan Lāl Paṇḍā and indicated via hand gestures that I should serve him as many laḍḍūs as I could fit in my two hands. Although Guru Mahārāja had told me not to count the number of laḍḍūs a person is served, still, being curious to know how many laḍḍūs Sohan Lāl Paṇḍā could eat, I kept count. In the first serving, I gave Sohan Lāl Paṇḍā twenty laḍḍūs, which he ate very easily. Guru Mahārāja then indicated that I should again give him another two handfuls of laḍḍūs without asking if he would like more. Again, he ate every single laḍḍū on his plate, one by one. Guru Mahārāja stood smiling, happy at heart, and continued signaling me to give Sohan Lāl Paṇḍā more and more laḍḍūs. While eating the laḍḍūs, Sohan Lāl Paṇḍā also ate kachaurīs, purīs, buttermilk and other preparations. It wasn’t until he had eaten eighty laḍḍūs that he asked me to stop serving him more.
At that time, some guests were honoring prasāda in Guru Mahārāja’s room, as well as in the courtyard outside his room, and I served prasāda at those two places, also. As I was serving there, Sohan Lāl Paṇḍā quickly got up and left, taking his leaf plate with him to throw in the garbage bin. Seeing that Sohan Lāl Paṇḍā himself had to throw out his own leaf plate, Guru Mahārāja became very angry and said, “Is there no one in the maṭha! The entirety of our spiritual merits has gone away. Even the most ordinary people abide by the saying ‘atithi-devo bhava—an uninvited guest is a representative of the Lord.’ Can we not understand the proper mood we should have while serving a formally invited guest? Should an invited guest be given a chance to throw away his own leaf plate?”
I became very frightened to witness Guru Mahārāja’s anger. Noticing my fright, Guru Mahārāja said, “I saw that you were serving prasāda at two or three places; I will take that into consideration. But what are the other residents of the maṭha doing? If invited guests are not served with dignity, then the host will be at fault, not the servants.”
Guru Mahārāja later told all the sevakas, “Our guests should be served as much prasāda as they desire without them having to ask. Otherwise, they may feel shy or embarrassed to ask for more. In order to assess our guests’ individual tastes, we should keep a close eye on their respective plates and serve each of them accordingly; this is the topmost method of serving prasāda. A guest should be served whatever he or she has taste for, without hesitation.”
Guru Mahārāja possessed an astonishingly deep desire to satisfy everyone in every possible way.
There is no loss in giving
During the course of Śrī Vraja-maṇḍala parikramā, pilgrims would stay in
large camps that had been set up at various locations. At every such location, Guru Mahārāja would send various amounts of sīdā—uncooked grocery items such as rice, pulses, flour, sugar and vegetables—to each of the local paṇḍās’ houses according to the number of members in their respective families. Many times, my godbrother Śrī Bhakti Prasāda Purī Mahārāja would avoid or attempt to delay sending these items to the paṇḍās. But Guru Mahārāja would never allow such neglect. He told Śrī Purī Mahārāja, “A crop is only as good as the seed from which it has grown. Therefore, an intelligent farmer sows good quality seeds at a most appropriate time. There is never any harm in sowing seeds in soil. In fact, merely one sown seed provides a farmer with the gift of many more seeds. Therefore, the act of giving never leads to a shortage for the giver. Whatever is destined for us shall always remain with us.
“Listen carefully to the following story, which I heard in my childhood. Once, an astrologer told someone, ‘You are destined to always have one-and–a-quarter rupees with you. You will never accrue more, nor you will possess less.’ That person was very kind and charitable in nature. He never failed to give something to any visitors he would receive. Still, he would always be left with a balance of one-and-aquarter rupees. One day, when he happened to again meet with that same astrologer, he said, ‘You told me that I am destined to have only one-and-a-quarter rupees in my possession, but I have distributed hundreds of rupees to many people.’
“The astrologer said, ‘Brother! Whatever you donated to others was not destined to be yours; it belonged to them, as per their respective destinies. Even if you were to desire so, you would never be able to give away something destined for you. Therefore, please continue donating whatever is practically feasible. This will never result in any shortage for you. Whatever the receiver takes is destined for him. You are merely the medium through which he receives it.”
This teaching had a profound effect on Śrī Bhakti Prasad Purī Mahārāja. From that point until his last day in this world, he served everyone, including the paṇḍās, by all possible means.
The symptoms of a truly successful festival
Whenever Guru Mahārāja would organize a grand festival in any of his maṭhas, he would be sure to honor not only the sannyāsīs and brahmacārīs, but every conscious being in attendance with special attention. He instructed us that although the deities are offered fresh garlands everyday, on festival days They should be offered garlands made from the most exquisite flowers. Similarly, although They are adorned with clean clothes every day, on festival days They should be dressed in extraordinarily beautiful new clothes and lavishly decorated with ornaments. All Their paraphernalia, like Kṛṣṇa’s flute, should also be special for the day of a festival, and the cows in the maṭha’s gośālā (cowshed) should be served high quality feed that is different from their daily diet. All hired persons serving in the maṭha —laborers, masons, guards and others—should also be offered something special on the day of a festival. A festival will be successful only when all these activities have been performed. Such was the magnanimity of Guru Mahārāja’s vision towards everyone and everything.
Engaging servants according to their respective natures
Once, when I was with Guru Mahārāja sitting outside of his bhajana-kuṭīra in the Māyāpura branch of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha, all the maṭha’s cows came and stood next to us. Guru Mahārāja asked, “Why have all these cows come here?”
My godbrother Śrī Bhagavān dāsa (who later became Śrī Bhakti Niketan Turyāśramī Mahārāja after sannyāsa) replied, “They came because Narottama Prabhu is here.”
“Why is that?” Guru Mahārāja asked.
“He serves the cows nowadays.”
Guru Mahārāja then said to me, “Bring the cows something to eat, otherwise it will be a breach of etiquette.” On Guru Mahārāja’s order, I went to a nearby garden, picked many ripe guavas and then returned to give them to Guru Mahārāja. Guru Mahārāja then spread out the guavas on the ground of an elevated courtyard, and the cows lovingly ate them. Guru Mahārāja smiled when he saw this. He then took ten rupees from his pocket and gave it to me, saying, “Bring forty kilograms of dried mustard seed paddy from which oil has already been extracted and feed it to the cows.” After I did this, Guru Mahārāja spoke extensively about how Śrī Kṛṣṇa lovingly served His cows and calves in Vraja. This kathā inspired me to serve the cows in the Māyāpura maṭha, whose lives were completely dedicated to enthusiastically serving Śrī Śrī Rādhā Madana-mohana-jī. On this inspiration, I would bathe all the cows and calves with Lifebuoy brand soap once a week and give them food according to their individual tastes, which I discovered by carefully observing them.
When Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kamala Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja once saw the effulgent bodies of our cows, he asked me, “Who serves these cows?”
I replied, “I do, Mahārāja-jī”
“What is your name?” he asked.
“No, I want to know the surname you used prior to joining the maṭha.”
“I was previously known as Narottama Cakravartī.”
“Cakravatī, you say? Yes. You have come from a brāhmaṇa family. This is why you are serving them so nicely. One of my disciples does not serve cows because he possesses an inferiority complex. He says, ‘I am a brahmacārī. I should serve Ṭhākura-jī. Why should I serve cows?’ Well, I can plainly see that Śrī Mādhava Mahārāja knows very well whom to engage in which services.”
His affection for Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s bovine servants
In Kolkata, a judge once donated a cow to Guru Mahārāja. Guru Mahārāja arranged for Śrī Uddhāraṇa Prabhu to take that cow to the Māyāpura branch of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha. Later, another person donated another cow to Guru Mahārāja, and Guru Mahārāja sent that cow to Śrīdhāma Māyāpura, also. That same year, Guru Mahārāja awarded sannyāsa to my godbrothers pūjyapāda Bhakti Vallabha Tīrtha Mahārāja, Śrī Bhakti Lalita Giri Mahārāja, Śrī Bhakti Prasāda Āśrama Mahārāja and others, and then took them along with him to visit various holy places. In the meantime, the cowherd boy who was looking after the cows in the Māyāpura maṭha demanded a monthly fee of sixteen rupees for his services, instead of the agreed upon eight rupees he was currently receiving. I sent a letter to Śrī Jagamohana Prabhu in Kolkata and asked him if he could spare one sevaka to serve the cows. He replied in his letter, “It appears that Śrī Śrī Rādhā Madana-mohana-jī wish for you to serve the cows; I have no one here in Kolkata whom I can send to assist you.”
Meanwhile, Guru Mahārāja informed me by letter, “The cows complained to me in a dream that they are not being served properly.” Considering Guru Mahārāja and Śrī Jagamohana Prabhu’s statements to be the order of guru and Vaiṣṇavas, I served the cows to the best of my ability.
When Guru Mahārāja returned to Śrīdhāma Māyāpura, he offered praṇāma and flower garlands to the cows and gave them something to eat. I asked him whether the cows were still complaining to him. He smiled and replied, “No, they do not complain to me anymore.”
Guru Mahārāja saw all cows as Kṛṣṇa’s topmost servants and was extremely pleased to see them being served nicely.
Considering oneself the servant of all
Once, the mother of Śrī Gajānana Tāpaḍiya-jī, who had contributed the entire cost of the construction for our Kolkata maṭha’s kīrtana hall, donated a red cow and her white calf for the service of the maṭha while Guru Mahārāja was away on a preaching tour. I kept that cow in the Kolkata maṭha, where construction work was still under way. When Guru Mahārāja returned from his preaching tour and reached the previous Kolkata branch Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha on Rāsa-bihārī Avenue—where the residents of the maṭha were staying while the new maṭha was being constructed—he heard about the new cow and said to me, “Serving cows is excellent. But in a city like Kolkata, how and where will she be able to stay? Our maṭha is quite small.”
I replied, “If forty devotees can stay in the maṭha, we can certainly make room for one cow.”
Guru Mahārāja said, “It would be great if you could look after a cow here. Then, not only Ṭhākura-jī, but my godbrothers, also, would receive pure milk when they visit here.”
Guru Mahārāja then asked the bhaṇḍārī (in-charge of the supply room), “How much milk does the cow give in the morning and in the evening?”
The bhaṇḍārī replied, “Ten liters in the morning and five in the evening.”
Guru Mahārāja turned to me and asked, “Do you allow the calf to drink enough milk, or do you allow him to drink just a little and take the rest for yourselves?”
I replied, “I cannot be certain whether the calf drinks until his stomach is full. But His face and body tell me that he does not experience any discomfort.” Guru Mahārāja became very satisfied to hear this.
The next morning, Guru Mahārāja came to the place where the red cow and her tranquil calf were staying to have their darśana, after which he offered them daṇḍavat-praṇāmas and flower garlands. He then called the bhaṇḍārī and said, “I have come unprepared. I do not have any food to offer the cows. Go to Gaṅguram Māravāḍī sweet shop and bring the best available sandeśa.” When the bhaṇḍārī brought the sandeśa sweets, Guru Mahārāja very blissfully fed them to the cow and her calf with his very own hands.
Later, Guru Mahārāja went around the maṭha and inquired about what the cows were being fed, which containers were being used to feed them, which utensils were being used to extract milk, and other questions, after which he personally examined everything. He then extensively glorified the beauty of the red cow and her white calf. Whenever a festival would take place at the maṭha on Rāsabihārī Avenue, Guru Mahārāja would include special items for the cow and her calf when making a list of all the items needed for the festival.
Ignoring hostility, recognizing service rendered
Śrī Śrīmad Kṛṣṇa-prema dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda, was the manager of a maṭha in Mymensingh (now part of Bangladesh), and he later established an āśrama in Māyāpura. Once, when he went to the Medinīpura area for preaching, he somehow slipped and injured his tailbone.
After his injury, he sought help at our Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha branch in Kolkata on Rāsa-bihārī Avenue, which Guru Mahārāja had established in a rented home. I admitted Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja to Śambhunātha Hospital, where I knew one doctor, Dr. Brahma, who arranged for an X-ray examination of his tailbone. Later, when Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja was discharged from the hospital, he spent a few days at Ayurvedic Aṣṭāṅga Hospital, after which he returned back to his āśrama in Māyāpura. During his time under our care, we served him to the best of our abilities.
In his Māyāpura āśrama, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja would proudly proclaim, “We are the children of the lion Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda. We are afraid of no one.” It also came to my attention that he had made critical remarks about Guru Mahārāja.
Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja had made a deal with a worker to extract juice from the date trees growing on the property of his āśrama. As compensation for his labor, the worker would receive half of the total juice he collected. However, the worker was wicked-hearted and wanted to keep everything for himself. He told Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja, “You are a bābājī, a renounced person. Of what use is this juice to you?” When he refused to yield after repeated requests, they had heated arguments and a fierce fight. That wicked worker struck Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja very hard with a stick and badly injured him. Śrī Gaura dāsa Prabhu, a disciple of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Sāraṅga Gosvāmī Mahārāja, sent news to me, saying, “The lion’s child has been hit by a jackal. Please go and help him if you can.”
When I arrived at Śrīla Kṛṣṇa-prema dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja’s āśrama, he narrated the entire story to me. Afterward, Śrī Gaura dāsa Prabhu and I went to the police station and brought a police officer to meet Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja and resolve the issue. Later, I wrote a letter to Guru Mahārāja informing him about the incident. In his reply, he wrote, “You should serve Śrī Kṛṣna-prema dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja suitably and fulfill all his requirements by using the resources of our maṭha.”
I wrote back, “Although we previously served him nicely in Kolkata, he began making derogatory comments against you as soon as he returned to Māyāpura. He often uses bitter language, too. I have thus lost all śraddhā (faith) in him and have no inclination to serve him.”
Guru Mahārāja again sent a reply: “I will be highly pleased by your flawless service to Śrī Bābājī Mahārāja.”
I responded, “It is only for your pleasure that I shall continue to serve him and do my very best to satisfy him without making any mistakes. However, it will not be possible for me to serve him with my full heart.”
On the order of Guru Mahārāja, I served Śrīla Kṛṣṇaprema dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, who eventually recovered from his injuries. Later, he wrote a letter to Guru Mahārāja stating, “Although with a bitter tongue I have spoken disrespectfully to your disciples, they served me very sincerely with full efforts. I wish to handover my Māyāpura āśrama to you. I request you to kindly accept it.”
I read Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja’s letter to Guru Mahārāja, who dictated his reply for me to transcribe: “You have written that you wish to offer your Māyāpura āśrama to me, but we already have a maṭha in Māyāpura. I do not wish to have two establishments at one place. Please offer your āśrama to another godbrother of ours who does not have a maṭha in Māyāpura. Please know that it was not out of a desire to own your āśrama that we served you. Truthfully, I have no interest in taking your āśrama. It is only because you possess deep, unflinching faith in Śrīla Prabhupāda that you are an object of our most sincere service.”
As I listened to Guru Mahārāja’s dictation, my hand stopped writing and tears flowed from my eyes. I was reminded of a verse written by Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī:
prabhu kahe—bhaṭ ṭācārya, karahô vicāra
gurura kiṅkara haya mānya se āmāra
(Śrī Caitanya-caitāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 10.142)
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, “O Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, consider this: the servant of the guru is always respectable for me.”
Upon hearing my most worshipful Guru Mahārāja glorifying a godbrother who had previously criticized him, I realized that the true meaning of Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī’s words was manifesting in front of me. Although I had previously read this verse many times, I had not experienced its actual meaning until that moment.
Upon remembering this incident, another consideration about Guru Mahārāja’s most exemplary conduct comes to my mind: he never thought it necessary to respond to anyone’s hostile behavior toward him. Instead, he always considered those who nurture deep, sincere devotion to the lotus feet of Śrīla Prabhupāda as respectable and worthy of his sincerest service.
Nowadays, however, this type of vision is lacking among many devotees. In fact, the opposite consideration is mostly seen: “It does not matter how closely and to what extent one may have previously served his gurudeva and guru-vargas. If presently such a devotee is not favorable toward me or does not support me in spite of my countless faults, then what is the need for me to serve him? Why should I maintain any relationship with him? In fact, he is an offender and is unworthy of being served.”
Serving his detractors
Śrī Śrīmad Guru dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, used to reside at Śrī Caitanya Maṭha in Māyāpura. Once, when Guru Mahārāja was engaged in the service of preaching in Nawabgañja, a small town near Kolkata, Śrīla Guru dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, with concealed intentions, cunningly told all the renunciate disciples of Guru Mahārāja, “Your Guru Mahārāja has sent a message ordering you all to immediately pack your bags and depart for Nawab-gañja. He requires the assistance of many devotees to hold a large nagara-saṅkīrtana there. After his preaching program there is complete, he will proceed on a long preaching tour to many distant places, and you shall all accompany him.”
Hearing his words, Śrī Bhagavān dāsa (now pūjyapāda Bhakti Niketana Turyāśramī Mahārāja), pūjyapāda Āśrama Mahārāja and many other renunciant disciples of Guru Mahārāja immediately left Māyāpura for Nawab-gañja. Upon their arrival, Guru Mahārāja asked, “Why have you come here? I have not called for you.” After hearing the whole story, he realized the truth behind Śrī Guru dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja’s intentions.
With all the devotees present, the nagara-saṅkīrtana was a great success. Later, Guru Mahārāja went to Kolkata on his own and arranged for a rented house. He then called for all the devotees who had come to Nawab-gañja, telling them to come and stay with him. There, they were all engaged in service.
Śrī Guru dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja eventually moved to Śrī Puruoṣottama Gauḍīya Maṭha, the Purī branch of Śrī Caitanya Maṭha, despite the fact that he would often tell people, “I have little faith in the devotees residing in Śrī Caitanya Maṭha.” Because of this lack of trust, he would give all the donations he received to the disciples of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vilāsa Gabhastinemi Gosvāmī Mahārāja for safekeeping.
Once, Śrīla Guru dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja underwent eye surgery at the District Hospital in Purī. While there, he sent a message through a devotee for Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prapanna Daṇḍī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda, and me, requesting us to meet him.When we arrived at the hospital, he told me, “I am in need of two devotees to stay and look after me while I am in the hospital—one in the daytime and one in the night. Please arrange this for me.” I thus requested my godbrothers Śrī Lakhana Prabhu and Śrī Yaśodā-jīvana Prabhu to serve Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja during the day and night, respectively.
When I wrote a letter to Guru Mahārāja informing him about this matter, he replied, “I am highly pleased to hear that you are all properly serving Śrī Guru dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja. Because he is connected to Śrīla Prabhupāda, he is worthy of our service. Please use the resources of our maṭha to see that all his requirements are met during his stay in the hospital. I am fully aware of the dire financial position of the Purī maṭha, and will be sending you funds very soon.”
As per the desire of Guru Mahārāja, we arranged for Śrīla Guru dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja’s prasāda from our maṭha, as well as everything else he required. When Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja was released from the hospital, he did not go back to Śrī Puruṣottama Gauḍīya Maṭha, but rather expressed his desire to stay with us in our Purī branch of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha. In the maṭha, a new room with an attached bathroom had recently been built for Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja during his attendance of the śrī vyāsa-pūjā celebrations of Śrīla Prabhupāda. We arranged for Śrīla Guru dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja to stay in that very room.
After the surgery, Bābājī Mahārāja was prescribed black glasses, which made it difficult for him to see. Once, while honoring prasāda in the maṭha, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja came across Śrī Bhagavān dāsa, but because his black glasses obscured his vision, he could not make out who was in front of him. He asked, “Who are you?”
Śrī Bhagavān dāsa replied, “I am the very same Bhagavān dāsa whom you cunningly drove out of Śrīvāsa-aṅgana in Māyāpura.”
Hearing his harsh words, Śrīla Bābājī Mahārāja turned to Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prapanna Daṇḍī Gosvāmī Mahārāja and said, “Just see how bitterly this brahmacārī is speaking to me. Mādhava Mahārāja would never use such words.”
Śrīla Daṇḍī Gosvāmī Mahārāja replied, “Bābājī Mahārāja, it is certainly true that Śrī Mādhava Mahārāja would never speak in such a manner; he is a pure, realized Vaiṣṇava. But there is gulf of a difference between his position and and the position of Bhagavān dāsa. Why do you expect there not to be a visible difference in their words, as well? Moreover, Bhagavān dāsa has not said anything untrue.”
The import of this narration is that whenever the opportunity presented itself, Guru Mahārāja eagerly rendered service even to those who were against him. He served such persons not only on his own, but he engaged his disciples in their service, also.