Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Śrīrūpa Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja
[November 9, 2021 is the appearance day of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Śrīrūpa Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja in Vṛndāvana, India. Below is an excerpt of his glories from 'My Beloved Masters' by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja]
THE MESSENGERS OF CAITANYA MAHĀPRABHU'S VĀNĪ
Once, Guru Mahārāja (then known as Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī), Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Śrīrūpa Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja (then Śrī Siddha-svarūpa Brahmacārī) and Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja were invited to preach at a three-day spiritual function in Sylhet, East Bengal (now Bangladesh). On the first day, in his address, Śrī Siddha-svarūpa Brahmacārī made use of very straightforward but harsh and immoderate words while establishing the superiority of the teachings of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu over the popular māyāvāda philosophies prevalent at that time. He referred to Vivekānanda, whose name means ‘one who takes bliss in having intelligence’ as ‘Vi-vekānanda,’ or ‘one who takes bliss in being ignorant,’ and to Rāmakṛṣṇa Paramahaṁsa as ‘Rāma-haṁsa,’ or ‘a large but worthless swan.’ Upon hearing these epithets, many residents of Sylhet became irritated. That night, leaflets were published and distributed all over town denouncing the Gauḍīya Maṭha and demanding the cancellation of the function.
The event faced such great opposition that the next day, Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī met with the convener, the district judge, who expressed his concerns about safety and advised us to cancel the remaining two days of the function, just to rule out the possibility of any undesirable incident. Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī assured the judge that the speaker who had used incendiary words the previous night would most definitely not be speaking again, and that only he and Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja would address the audience. The judge replied, “It is on your assurance alone that I will allow the function to continue. I will make all the necessary arrangements for providing increased security, but please be mindful of the content of your hari-kathā.”
The next evening, the venue was filled with antagonistic objectors. Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī was the first to address the crowd, and he began by praising the hospitality of the Sylhet people. After he finished his speech and established his objective, he conceded the podium to Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja. During his presentation, Śrīla Mahārāja said, “Our gurudeva, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, has taught us that in our preaching, we are delivering the message of Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself. Our only purpose in coming here is to deliver, through fearless yet fair speech, the vāṇī (teachings) that incessantly flow from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the natural commentary on Vedānta-sutra, as it has been presented by Śrīman Mahāprabhu and our line of guru-varga—such as Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī and others—who make up our bhāgavata-paramparā. We are not here to preach with the apprehension and shyness of a lady hiding her face behind a veil.
“What to speak of the philosophical doctrines of personalities like Śrī Śaṅkarācārya, Jaimini, Patañjali, Kaṇāda and so on, the ideology manifested by Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu is unparalleled and vastly superior to the ideologies established by even the previous four Vaiṣṇava ācāryās—Śrī Rāmānuja, Śrīla Madhvācārya, Śrī Nimbāditya and Śrī Viṣṇusvāmī. Through His teachings, He has highlighted the shortcomings of such doctrines and has conclusively defeated all erroneously fabricated philosophies. Therefore, in our presentation of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s ideology, how is it possible that the ideologies of persons like Vivekānanda, Rāmakṛṣṇa Paramahaṁsa and Bhandarkar will not be contested?
“Moreover, we are simply messengers of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu; our duty is merely to deliver His teachings. If anyone in this assembly has any objections, he may kindly address them to Śrīman Mahāprabhu, Śrīla Vedavyāsa or Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. Although we have unflinching faith in their vicāra-dhārā (line of ideology), we will undoubtedly surrender to any person who can present an ideology superior to that presented by Śrīman Mahāprabhu. But if such a person is not present in this world, what intelligent being would be unwilling to follow or feel uninspired by such a highly auspicious spiritual path as the one described by Śrīman Mahāprabhu and His followers?
“Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam has clearly described Śrī Kṛṣṇa as Svayam Bhagavān:
ete cāṁśa kalāḥ puṁsaḥ
kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam
All these avatāras are either plenary portions or portions of plenary portions of the Supreme Person, but Kṛṣṇa is the original Personality of Godhead.
“Furthermore, Kṛṣṇa Himself has stated in the Bhagavad-gītā that He is the ultimate object of surrender in such verses as:
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (18.66)
Completely abandoning all dharma, take shelter of Me alone. I will free you from the reactions of your sins. Do not lament.
man-manā bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi satyaṁ te
pratijāne priyo ’si me
Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (18.65)
Offer your mind to Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer praṇāma to Me. By this, you shall attain Me. I swear this truth to you because you are dear to Me.
ananyāś cintayanto māṁ
ye janāḥ paryupāsate
yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham
Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (9.22)
For those who are devoid of other desires, who are always absorbed in contemplation of Me and who always worship Me, I personally carry their necessities and preserve what they presently have.
“Therefore, what benefit is there in accepting the ideology of Rāmakṛṣṇa Paramahaṁsa, who advocates the worship of devatās (demigods)? Such worship is averse to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (4.31.14), which has firmly established:
yathā taror mūla-niṣecanena tṛpyanti tat-skandha-bhujopaśākhāḥ
prāṇopahārāc ca yathendriyāṇāṁ
tathaiva sarvārhaṇam acyutejyā
Just as pouring water on the root of a tree nourishes its trunk, branches, leaves and sprigs, and as giving food to the stomach nourishes all the senses and bodily limbs, all the demigods are automatically worshiped when one worships Śrī Acyuta (Bhagavān).
“The philosophy of Vivekānanda is ‘jīve prema kare ĵei jana sei jana seviche īśvara—one who has love for living entities actually serves the Supreme Lord.’ However, we see that his followers kill and eat animals, and we must therefore conclude that in this slogan, the word jīva, as used by Vivekānanda, refers only to human beings. But the true meaning of the word jīva refers to all living entities.
You should all deeply consider these points. There is no need for us to say anything further. You are all free to make complaints against any imperfections in our methods of delivery, but you must know for certain that the philosophy we have presented remains immaculately pure at all times, without the slightest trace of contamination.”
After Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja concluded his speech, the audience responded with thunderous applause. Indeed, they were truly pleased, and they requested that the organizers extend the function for an additional fifteen days. In this way, the preaching of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s vāṇī in the city of Sylhet was a great success. As Sylhet was a city renowned for its good-quality lime, the residents, in their appreciation, arranged for a wagonload to be used in the service of whitewashing the walls of Śrī Caitanya Maṭha, the temples at Yogapīṭha and other buildings in Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s Śrīdhāma Māyāpura.
Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was accustomed to speaking in a forthright manner that some may have found unpalatable, but he never presented anything other than śrauta-vāṇī, the teachings descending through the bhāgavata-paramparā. This was appreciated by the authoritative personality Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, his senior godbrother who defended the content of his junior godbrother’s speech that day in Sylhet.
PROCLAIMING THE TRUTH
Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was considerably bold and straightforward in his lectures. He would never hold back when refuting others’ mistaken philosophies, nor would he attempt to avoid confrontation by speaking indirectly. Because of his impartial nature, he spoke in the same manner publicly as he did privately.
Once, while preaching with Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Viveka Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrīla Mahārāja (then Śrī Siddha-svarūpa Brahmacārī) very forthrightly and unambiguously established the supremacy of pure bhakti over any and all pseudo-devotional religions included within the proverb “ĵata mata tata patha—there are as many paths to attain God as there are ways to see Him,” and that this popular slogan amounts merely to miśrita-bhakti, or mixed devotion. Needless to say, a number of people were greatly perturbed by this assertion, and they began to oppose the Gauḍīya Maṭha.
When Śrī Kuñja-bihārī Vidyābhūṣaṇa Prabhu, the secretary of the Gauḍīya Maṭha, related this event to Śrīla Prabhupāda, Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “While the scriptures affirm that Siddha-svarūpa Prabhu has spoken the truth, the harsh language he used should never come from our mouths. Be that as it may, his words have spread our message to such a large group of people that it would have cost us one lakh rupees otherwise. For this service, I will award him a Śrī Gaura Āśīrvāda certificate and grant him the special title ‘Vidyā-vāgīśa,’ which means ‘the best orator of true knowledge.’ Write that down, ‘Vidyā-vāgīśa,’ and reserve it for him.”
HIS APPRECIATION OF MY DETERMINATION
Once, due to the carelessness of railway baggage handlers, the hand of one of the uninstalled deities of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa I had sent by train to be installed in a maṭha in Kṛṣṇanagara was damaged. Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was present when I received this news, and he asked me, “What will you do now?”
“I will first seek compensation from Indian Railways,” I replied. “After that, I will decide how to further proceed.”
He advised, “You should give up any hope of receiving compensation. It is very difficult.” Then, as he spread his arms wide open, he said, “Trying to get money from Indian Railways is like trying to fish it out of a hole as deep as seven times the distance between my palms right now. It would be better to solicit a devotee for funds and have another deity made quickly.”
Ultimately, I decided I must at least make some effort to collect our rightful compensation. After investing a great deal of energy into the matter, I eventually managed to pressurize Indian Railways to reimburse us for the cost of the uninstalled deities, and after some time we received the payment. When I notified Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja of this success, he said, “You have made it back from the house of Yamarāja, Death himself. Only a determined devotee like you is able to protect the wealth meant for the service of Bhagavān.”
GIFTING ME A NRSIMHA-KAVACA
One day, during the time I was dealing with a lawsuit to remove the tenants illegally occupying the appearance place of Śrīla Prabhupāda in Purī, Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja approached me with concern for my wellbeing. With the affection of a guardian, he said, “I will have a nṛsiṁha-kavaca made for your protection. You must wear it at all times. You have no idea what harm these people might do to you.” Sure enough, some days later he brought me a nṛsiṁha-kavaca prepared by his godbrother, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī. When he gave it to me, he showed me his arm, which bore a nṛsiṁha-kavaca, and said, “Look, I too wear one.”
Although I accepted the nṛsiṁha-kavaca he gave me, I faced an internal dilemma about whether I should wear it. I thought it over and concluded that if I were truly surrendered and if all my efforts were intended purely for the service of Bhagavān, then indeed, no one would be able to cause me the least bit of harm or even so much as bruise me as long as He wishes to accept my service. Furthermore, since Bhagavān is the one accepting my service, the responsibility of my protection lies with Him alone. Why should I independently endeavor to protect myself? For these reasons, I was unenthusiastic about wearing the nṛsiṁha-kavaca. However, since it was affectionately given to me by Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, I always kept it with me. To this day, it is stored safely in my closet.
When we eventually won the lawsuit, Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja told me, “You have snatched this meal right out of the tiger’s mouth.”
“Mahārāja,” I replied, “what capacity do I possess to snatch a meal from the jaws of a tiger? It is by the power of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciples such as yourself- by your good wishes and mercy- that we have become instruments in fulfilling our gurupāda-padma’s desire.”
Śrīla Mahārāja then said, “Maintaining this kind of submissiveness is the key to gain rightful and eternal entry into vaiṣṇava-dharma.”
Under the guidance of Guru Mahārāja, a huge festival was organized at Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appearance place in 1978 to commemorate his vyāsa-pūjā. At that time, Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was the first to donate toward the construction of a maṭha there. As he handed me one thousand rupees, he expressed his happiness and bestowed many instructive blessings upon me.
HIS APPRECIATION OF ŚIVA AS THE GREATEST OF VAISNAVAS
I had the good fortune of accompanying Guru Mahārāja a number of times to festivals at Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s various maṭhas. Instead of inviting a great number of devotees all at once for a function, Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja preferred instead to invite a few devotees at a time. The prasāda he served during those small events always consisted of the best ingredients.
Once, while showing Guru Mahārāja the deity of Śiva-jī he had installed in his maṭha in Śrī Jagannātha Purī, Śrila Mahārāja explained, “Although my name was previously Śiva Śaṅkara De, I always disapproved of the worship of Śiva, deeming him to be a demigod in the mode of ignorance. But now, by the mercy of Śrīla Prabhupāda, I have realized that it is impossible for one to obtain the grace of Viṣṇu without first obtaining the mercy of Vaiṣṇavas. That is why I have built this temple for Śiva, the topmost among all Vaiṣṇavas.”
PERFORM OR PERISH
The land Guru Mahārāja had acquired in Kolkata for establishing Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha included an old one-story building that needed to be razed in order to construct a new building. During the building’s demolition, Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja visited the site. After observing us in our work, he asked me, “Have you people gone crazy? This place has been beautifully built with the most exquisite materials, like Italian mosaic flooring, Belgian glass windows, and even the door and window frames are made from top-quality Burmese teak wood. Yet, you are knocking it all down. Are you out of your mind? Why don’t you simply construct levels on top of the already-existing building? When Mādhava Mahārāja arrives, tell him that Siddhāntī Mahārāja visited this site and has advised against demolishing the building.”
I personally conveyed Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s message to Guru Mahārāja, who asked me, “If your goal is to throw a stone at this nearby door, how will you do it?” In response, I mimicked softly tossing a stone with very little force.
Guru Mahārāja then asked, “Now, if you intend to throw the stone somewhere far, how will you do it?” I then mimicked throwing a stone with much greater force.
Guru Mahārāja concluded, “Similarly, the higher we aim, the better our efforts to achieve our goal will be. Upon reaching a country he wanted to attack and conquer, Napoleon would either burn his ship or intentionally sink it, boldly signifying to his soldiers that their only option was to perform or perish. When he ordered his army to cross over the Alps mountain range, most of the soldiers were dumbfounded, and said, ‘It is impossible!’ Napoleon replied, ‘The word impossible exists only in a fool’s dictionary.’
“When a person is left with no other option but to act, he makes his best efforts to accomplish his goal. But if given the slightest leeway, he thinks endlessly without acting. It has been rightly said, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ Therefore, demolish that building, so that we may be compelled to act and construct for ourselves a place to stay. Moreover, we need a much bigger hall for hari-kathā and kīrtana, even if it is only a tin shed without opulent decorations.”
While Guru Mahārāja’s words filled my heart with great energy and enthusiasm, I also understood Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s concern for the protection and preservation of something beautiful that could be used in kṛṣṇa-sevā. Although these two godbrothers held different views, I was able to grasp the depth of their relationship, and I knew in my heart that Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja did not feel the least bit offended that Guru Mahārāja did not adhere to his advice.
After the construction of the Kolkata branch of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha was completed, Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja attended the inauguration festivities. When he inspected the kīrtana hall and the quality of its construction, he appreciatively noted, “You have done a great job. This is fantastic. I only mentioned you should not demolish the previous building because I thought you did not have enough funds to create something as beautiful as this.”
PUBLISHING GAUDĪYA VAISNAVA SCRIPTURES
Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja published an unprecedented edition of Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā with the Rasika-rañjana commentary of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, the Gītā-bhūṣaṇa commentary of Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, and his own Anubhūṣaṇa commentary. He also published a few Upaniṣads like the Īśa, Kaṭha, Māṇḍukya, and Gopāla-tāpanī Upaṇiṣads with his Tattva-kaṇā commentaries, as well as the three books Śrī Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi-kiraṇa, Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu-bindu and Bhāgavatāmṛta-kaṇā.
He also rendered tremendous service to the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradāya by publishing Vedānta-sūtra in Bengali with Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s Govinda-bhāṣya commentary and brief commentary thereon, along with an assisting explanation of his own called Siddhānta-kaṇā, which he fortified with references from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja endeavored tirelessly to publish this particular book, and his godbrother Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Bhūdeva Śrautī Gosvāmī Mahārāja offered extensive assistance in proofreading.
Whenever a new book was released, Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja would hold a festival and say, “Just as Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is verily the divine form of Bhagavān, the literatures that have been written in the light of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and further endorse the doctrines presented therein are non-different from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and are therefore just as worshipful as Bhagavān Himself. It is only fitting to commemorate the divine appearance of such literatures in the world by organizing a festival.”
SPREADING THE PASTIMES OF BHAGĀVAN'S TEACHINGS THROUGH DIORAMAS
Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura engaged his disciples in performing kīrtana of viśuddha caitanya-vāṇī, the immaculate message of Śrī Caitanya, by publishing and distributing countless spiritual books, newsletters and magazines, as well as by sending niṣkiñcana preachers to various locations. Although most people could grasp the concepts these publications and Vaiṣṇava preachers presented, there were still many who could not.
Concerned for the welfare of such persons, Śrīla Prabhupāda, whose heart was always full of compassion, granted them the wonderful opportunity to understand the pristine message of Śrī Caitanya-deva by organizing Sat-śikṣā Pradarśinīs, exhibitions that involved beautiful dioramas and displays along with appointed representatives to explain the various spiritual teachings they depicted. These exhibitions were organized and led by such stalwart Vaiṣṇavas as Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Guru Mahārāja. In addition to the exhibitions, silent ‘magic lantern’ films produced by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prasūna Bodhāyana Gosvāmī Mahārāja were also presented.
Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja gave this conceptual legacy of Śrīla Prabhupāda a permanent form of expression when he unveiled in his maṭhas many sculpted dioramas of instructive pastimes from kṛṣṇa-līlā, rāma-līlā and gaura-līlā. These dioramas were highly beneficial, as they simultaneously communicated profound concepts to the general public and brought numerous pastimes of the Lord to the minds of well-informed devotees.
HIS SAMĀDHI PASTIME
A few of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s sannyāsa disciples, namely Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Viveka Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Suhṛt Paramārthī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prāpaṇa Daṇḍī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, were not interred with samādhi burials. Instead, for whatever reasons, they instructed their disciples to cremate their divine bodies. Some time after Śrīla Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s body was cremated, his disciples established his puṣpa-samādhi at his maṭha in Śrī Jagannātha Purī.
After deeply deliberating on the subject