Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja
[November 29, 2020 is the disappearance day of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja in Vṛndāvana, India. Below is an excerpt of his glories from 'My Beloved Masters' by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja]
UNPARALLELED SERVICE TO ŚRĪLA PRABHUPĀDA'S BRHAD-MRDANGA
In 1922, at the age of twenty-four, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja (then Śrī Prāṇavānanda Brahmacārī) accepted complete shelter at the lotus feet of Śrīla Prabhupāda on the most auspicious day of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Janmāṣṭamī. On that day, he accepted both harināma and dīkṣā initiations and engaged himself exclusively in the service of the maṭha. Previously, he had been a science student who later switched to studying the arts. After finishing his secondary schooling and receiving his Indian School Certificate, he went on to study the arts at the university level and acquired a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Knowing Śrī Prāṇavānanda Brahmacārī to be well educated, Śrīla Prabhupāda called him near and said, “I desire to publish a daily spiritual newspaper titled Dainika Nadiyā Prakāśa, and I want you to be its editor.”
Śrī Prāṇavānanda Brahmacārī asked Śrīla Prabhupāda, “What are the duties of an editor?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda replied, “When you begin your service and start publishing the newspaper, you will automatically understand what must be done. When a devotee accepts the responsibility of performing a service with the intention of pleasing Śrī Hari, guru and Vaiṣṇavas, then they themselves reveal all the necessary knowledge to him and invest him with the required competence to properly perform that service. There is no need to externally advise or instruct him on what must be done.”
Under the editorship of Śrī Prāṇavānanda Brahmacārī, Dainika Nadīyā Prakāśa preserved and broadcasted the teachings of Śrīla Prabhupāda, and when it was distributed among the masses, it illuminated the whole world with its literary and spiritual excellence. Contemporary scholars were baffled that someone was publishing a spiritual newspaper, and that too on a daily basis.
I heard the following instance from the lotus mouth of Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja himself.
Once, while speaking with Śrīla Prabhupāda at Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha in Bāgbāzār, Kolkata, Śrī Madana-mohana Malaviya, the founder of the world- famous Banaras Hindu University in Vārāṇasī, Uttar Pradesh, with great astonishment asked him, “For how long will you be able to run this Dainika Nadīyā Prakāśa? From where will you obtain the great number of spiritual articles needed to keep it in print every day?”
Śrīla Prabhupāda replied, “Your astonishment pales in comparison to the astonishment I feel in seeing that you, a person regarded as foremost among the best scholars of India, is expressing wonder about these concerns. This material creation is merely the reflection of a quarter of the transcendental creation.
“Across the globe, countless newspapers are published every day in different languages, and this earth planet is only one part of the fourteen-fold planetary system, which belongs to just one of the innumerable brahmāṇḍas in the material creation. Despite the mundanity of the articles in these newspapers, everyone feels they are ever-fresh. Therefore, why would you be astonished about the daily publishing of but one newspaper, the Dainika Nadīyā Prakāśa, which focuses on the transcendental spiritual world? In fact, we have enough transcendental content about the spiritual realm to publish numerous daily newspapers for all eternity.”
For approximately seventy-five years of his life— from the time Śrīla Prabhupāda was physically present until well after Śrīla Prabhupāda’s departure— Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja experienced great internal bliss in his persistent and enthusiastic service of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s bṛhad-mṛdaṅga, his printing press.
I personally witnessed how he engaged in publication services, even in his advanced age. In his later years, his bent back prevented him from sitting straight and from writing for long periods of time, and so he used a wooden plank to support his back and continue writing. Although his hands trembled from the effect of old age and his previously elegant handwriting gradually became less legible, he never stopped writing. Despite his advanced age, he never discontinued his service to the bṛhad-mṛdaṅga, for Śrīla Prabhupāda had personally entrusted this service to him.
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s untiring service has greatly benefitted each and every devotee among the Sārasvata Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. During the time Śrīla Prabhupāda was physically present, Śrīla Mahārāja served as the editor of Dainika Nadīyā Prakāśa, wrote articles for the weekly Gauḍīya magazine, and rendered various services for the publication of different scriptures, including an edition of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam with Śrīla Prabhupāda’s commentary and his own introductionary overviews of each chapter entitled Kathā-sāra. After Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance, he became the editor of the monthly magazine Gauḍīya and, later, Śrī Caitanya- vāṇī, which was founded by my gurupāda- padma. Additionally, he wrote numerous articles for a number of other magazines, and he edited and published many scholarly books.
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s publication services presented each of the truly sincere followers of Śrīla Prabhupāda with an opportunity to obtain their highest spiritual welfare. For this, the Śrī Sārasvata Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas remain eternally indebted and forever grateful to him.
Whether Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja is acknowledged or not, all the Gauḍīya Maṭha branches and sub-branches established in the wake of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance— as well as those that will be established in the future—bear a strong, unbreakable relation, whether direct or indirect, to the transcendental words (vāṇī) expounded in his literary contributions. No respectable, virtuous person will ever deny this.
COMPLETE DEPENDENCE ON BHAGAVĀN
The various disturbances that manifested within the Gauḍīya Maṭha institution following the disappearance of Śrīla Prabhupāda inspired Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja and his godbrother Śrī Ānanda-līlā-maya Prabhu to relocate to a place on the banks of the Gaṅgā in Kālanā, a town in the district of Bardhamāna. Kālanā was sanctified by the foot dust of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu during Their visit there.
During one of his preaching missions to England, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja met the king of Bardhamāna. In 1959, on the recommendation of Śrīla Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, the king donated the ancient Ananta-vāsudeva Temple in Kālanā to Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja. At that time, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja had already been serving his personal deities Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Gopīnātha for a considerably long time. Honoring the king’s request, he then began serving both Ananta-vāsudeva and Śrī Śrī Rādha-Gopīnātha with great love and affection.
The arcana (deity worship) performed by liberated personalities—for instance, the worship of Śrī Gopāla by Śrīla Mādhavendra Purīpāda, Śrī Govinda-deva by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmīpāda, Śrī Madana-mohana by Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmīpāda, Śrī Rādhā-vinoda by Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī, śrī girirāja-śilā by Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmīpāda, Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa by Śrīla Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmīpāda, Śrī Vṛndāvana-candra by Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī, Śrīman Mahāprabhu by Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, Śrī Syāmasundara by Śrīla Śyāmānanda Prabhu, Śrī Śrī Rādha-Gokulānanda by Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, Śrī Rādha-vijaya by Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa Prabhu and the many deities served by recent ācāryas—is not the same as the arcana performed by ordinary conditional souls. The difference between them is like that between heaven and hell.
Liberated personalities are able to realize the transcendental non-difference between the three forms of Bhagavān: His name, His deity form and His intrinsic form (svarūpa). Therefore, they are able to serve Him in an appropriate mood. But the conditioned souls, lacking such transcendental realization, must abide by the prescribed rules and regulations when performing deity worship.
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was fully renounced throughout his entire life. He always considered serving Śrīla Prabhupāda’s printing press, a service that was entrusted to him by Śrīla Prabhupāda himself, to be his primary objective. When the opportunity arose to perform other services, he would perform them with great sincerity, but he never developed such an attachment to them as he did to serving Śrīla Prabhupāda by publishing spiritual literature.
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja never directed even a fraction of his energy toward intentionally collecting money, attracting followers, garnering recognition or acquiring land. He would always say, “A person is lead to that in which he invests his energy.”
As part of his daily deity worship, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja would bathe the deities in water he personally fetched from the nearby Gaṅgā, offer Them bhoga and then perform āratī. When he would go out to collect bhikṣa (alms), Śrī Ānanda-līlā-maya Prabhu would serve the deities, and conversely, when Śrī Ānanda-līlā-maya Prabhu would collect bhikṣa, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja would serve the deities.
Once, Guru Mahārāja sent me a letter when I was in Kolkata. He wrote, “To commemorate the appearance day of Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, Śrī Purī Mahārāja is arranging for a festival to be held at the Ananta-vāsudeva temple in Kālanā on Maghī-pūrṇimā (the full moon day in January-February). It would be good if you could assist him. I have also asked Śrī Kṛṣṇa-keśava Prabhu, Śrī Madhu-mathana Prabhu, Śrī Vinoda-bihārī Prabhu and others in Māyāpura to join the festivities.”
When I reached Kālanā one day before the festival, I saw that the devotees Guru Mahārāja had mentioned in his letter were already there. Also present were Dr. S.N. Ghoṣa and Dr. Navīna Rañjana Sena Gupta, both of whom were disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda and residents of Kolkata. That evening, I asked Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, “Śrīla Mahārāja, is something wrong? I noticed there is nothing to cook, nor are there any cooking utensils. There are not even flowers with which to decorate the temple for tomorrow’s festival. What has happened?”
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja replied, “Śrī Ānanda-līlā-maya Prabhu never mentioned anything to me. I suppose these things will be managed somehow.”
Feeling dumbfounded, I thought, “Śrīla Mahārāja has invited so many people to this festival, but he is not the slightest bit worried that, as of yet, nothing has been arranged. Moreover, I do not understand why Śrīla Mahārāja has mentioned Śrī Ānanda-līlā-maya Prabhu’s name. To the best of my knowledge, Śrī Ānanda-līlā-maya Prabhu was never made responsible for arranging anything. Who knows what deep bhāva, what confidential mood Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja must be experiencing.” Although I tried, I was unable to ignore my concern. I asked Śrī Ānanda-līlā-maya Prabhu about the situation, but I was unconvinced by his reply. Thus, I returned to Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja and asked, “Mahārāja, when and from where are the ingredients for preparing bhoga to arrive?”
Śrīla Mahārāja replied,“I cannot say, but I have firm faith that by the will of Bhagavān, everything will be just fine.”
“Certainly,” I replied. I then asked, “Is it possible to borrow large pots and cooking utensils from someone nearby?”
He replied, “Śrī Prakṛti Bhūṣana Datta lives close by. He is the chairman of the Kālanā municipality and has many such items. You can ask him.”
Early the next morning, on the day of the festival, I went to the house of Śrī Prakṛti Bhūṣaṇa Datta and knocked on the door. When he sluggishly approached the entryway, I realized I had just woken him. I first offered my apologies and then explained the reason for my visit. Without asking any questions or saying anything, he called for his servant and gave him the keys to the room where the pots and utensils were kept. “Let him take whatever he needs,” he said.
After I brought all the necessary pots and utensils to the maṭha, all the devotees cleaned them. In the meantime, a couple of persons had brought a few meager ingredients for cooking bhoga, but the amount was far from sufficient. After I placed large pots of water on the stoves to boil, I sat back and waited for more ingredients to arrive. Within a very short time, people began to arrive one after another, like a line of ants, offering scores of items, like jaggery, sugar, rice, pulses, flour, vegetables, milk and curd.
Suddenly, there was no shortage at all; the maṭha appeared as if it were a grocery. Seeing the abundance, I was reminded of a verse from Bhagavad-gītā (9.22):
ananyāś cintayanto māṁ
ye janāḥ paryupāsate
yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham
For those who are devoid of other desires, who are always absorbed in contemplating Me and who always worship Me, I personally carry their necessities and preserve what they presently have.
I considered myself fortunate to witness such a practical example of this verse manifest before me. My bliss knew no end.
Seeing that no one was available to cook for the festival, I gratefully accepted the responsibility and cooked under the guidance of Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī, who used to cook for Śrīla Prabhupāda. Never before had I cooked for so many people at one time. I cooked all the preparations ordered by Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and did not stop until everyone was fully satisfied. Lunch prasāda was served the entire afternoon until evening approached. Innumerable devotees honored that prasāda. Many of them even took some prasāda home with them, but still there was no scarcity. In fact, the remaining ingredients were so plentiful that they lasted an entire month. Even so, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was as indifferent toward saving those ingredients as he was toward collecting them from the start. He was genuinely unconcerned for the future, and appeared to be the embodiment of the following verse:
alabdhe vā vinaṣṭe vā
harim eva dhiyā smaret
Even if a practitioner of devotion is unable to obtain the necessities of life or if he loses something after obtaining it, he should remain untroubled and continue remembering Śrī Hari.
Organizing a festival after having first collected all the necessary items is not the same as organizing a festival without having collected anything in advance. One way or another, Bhagavān undoubtedly fulfills the desires of a surrendered devotee. By Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s mercy, I was able to attend this most memorable and distinctly unique festival and thereby, for the first time in my life, gain the opportunity to receive darśana of several deities, including Śrī Śrī Gaura-Nityānanda Prabhu served by Śrī Gaurīdāsa Paṇḍitajī; the deities established by Śrī Surya-kānta Sarakhela, the father of Śrīman Nityānanda Prabhu’s wives, Śrī Jāhnavā devī and Śrī Vasudhā devī; the tamarind tree associated with Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s pastimes; the deity of Śrī Nāma-brahma served by Śrī Bhagavān dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja; as well as a number of other worshipful deities and places in Kālanā.
I attended many festivals organized by Śrī Gopīnātha Gauḍīya Maṭha, the maṭha established by Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, both while he was present in this world and after his disappearance, when his disciple Śrī Bhakti Bibudha Bodhāyana Mahārāja began organizing the festivals. I can say that although modern convenience has made it relatively easy to arrange extravagant festivals, I never again saw a festival as remarkable as the one I experienced in Kālanā, for which no prior arrangements were made. Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s transcendental glories manifested at that festival, and witnessing them firsthand left a deep impression on my heart.
SEEING ONLY VIRTUES, IGNORING FAULTS
Once, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja asked me to write a report about the spiritual activities happening at the Gokula branch of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha, where I was staying at the time. The report was to be published in Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha’s monthly magazine, Śrī Caitanya-vāṇī. Although I had no previous experience in composing articles for publication, I followed Śrīla Mahārāja’s instruction, considering it to be non-different from that of my Guru Mahārāja.
I sent my finalized report to him with a cover letter stating, “Śrīla Mahārāja-jī, although I have no prior journalistic experience, I have written this report to the best of my limited ability. Please accept whatever you deem adequate and reject the rest.” When the report was published in Śrī Caitanya-vāṇī, I noticed that he had published it exactly as I had sent it, with not a single word omitted or changed.
The next time I met with Śrīla Mahārāja, he told me, “Your writing was quite erudite. I did not find anything out of place or in need of editing, so I kept everything as it was.”
Hearing this reminded me of how Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī described Śrī Haridāsa Paṇḍita, the pūjārī of the Śrī Govinda-deva temple, in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 8.62) by saying, “Vaiṣṇavera guṇa-grāhī, nā dekhaye doṣa— He accepted the good qualities of the Vaiṣṇavas and ignored their faults.” Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s conduct—not only in this instance, but throughout his life—served as proof that he too possessed this special quality of seeing only the positive attributes of others.
In earlier times during Ratha-yātrā, the festival management used to arrange a special area in front of the chariots where devotees could perform kīrtana without any disturbance; common people were not permitted to enter there. Once, while Gauḍīya Maṭha devotees were performing kīrtana in that area under the guidance of my Guru Mahārāja, the servants, or paṇḍās of Lord Jagannātha became so ecstatic by hearing the kīrtana that they lifted Guru Mahārāja on their shoulders and forcibly carried him onto the Lord’s chariot.
Meanwhile, absorbed in the mood experienced by the vraja-gopīs when they meet with Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Kurukṣetra, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was dancing and singing the following song in front of the chariot:
sei tô’ parāṇa-nātha pāinu ĵāhā lāgi’ madana-dahane jhuri’ genu
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā, 13.113)
Now I have gained the Lord of My life, in the absence of whom I was being burned by Cupid and was withering away.
While Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was fully absorbed in singing this kīrtana, all the devotees around him also became immersed in the same mood of meeting and were feeling jubilant. A pickpocket used this opportunity to steal Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s wallet from his bag. Since most of the devotees were absorbed in the kīrtana, no one noticed except one of my godbrothers, Śrī Nārāyaṇa Brahmacārī (later known as Śrī Bhakti Prasāda Purī Mahārāja), who rushed forward and caught the pickpocket.
While restraining the thief, Śrī Nārāyaṇa Brahmacārī desperately tried to get the attention of Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, but Śrīla Mahārāja was so absorbed in kīrtana that he didn’t pay any attention to his words. When Śrī Nārāyaṇa Brahmacārī tried more insistently, Śrīla Mahārāja suddenly became very upset and chastised him, “Why are you disturbing me? Let him take the money. Money will come and go, but the mood that we are experiencing at this moment may not come again.”
Among the people who witnessed this, who could truly understand Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s internal mood or the cause of his irritation? It is only when one is highly sincere and spiritually mature—or in other words, completely surrendered—that one will be able to even notice such a subtle thing, what to speak of understand it. Therefore, although a praṇayi-bhakta may be present before us, and though we may personally witness his conduct, we will be unable to recognize him until we become completely sincere and surrender ourselves to his will. Without sincerity and surrender, we will not realize that his activities are those of a mahā-bhāgavata, and not of an ordinary devotee.
It is only when we become truly sincere that a praṇayi-bhakta, out of his non-duplicitous mercy, reveals his true identity and exalted position. At such a time, we will be able to not only understand the conduct of the praṇayi- bhaktas, but also keep it in our mind and heart and preserve it by imbibing it in our lives. By the mercy of those elevated Vaiṣṇavas, we will be granted the vision to clearly understand the true form of their transcendental activities and the deep moods behind them.
There is no possibility that praṇayi- bhaktas will manifest their mercy in a place where a fault in surrender is present. In the absence of their mercy, we will remain unable to recognize such advanced personalities, and because of this, we will at times misconstrue their conduct as being improper.
mahat-kṛpā binā kona karme ‘bhakti’ naya
kṛṣṇa-bhakti dūre rahu, saṁsāra nahe kṣaya
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 22.51)
One cannot attain bhakti without the mercy of a great devotee. What to speak of kṛṣṇa- bhakti, one cannot even be relieved from the bondage of material existence.
Therefore, it is only when one receives the mercy of praṇayi-bhaktas that one can identify both praṇayi-bhaktas and those who are sincere in their efforts to become praṇayi-bhaktas.
We have seen that if anyone would give even a single rupee to Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, he would take it, touch it to his forehead and then very carefully keep it in his bag, saying, “This money has been sent by Śrīla Prabhupāda for the service of Bhagavān.” But in the above-mentioned incident, Śrīla Mahārāja has said, “Let them take my money, but do not bother me.” Why is it that he has in one instance shown deep respect for an object he considers to be sent by his Guru Mahārāja for the service of Bhagavān, but in another instance has exhibited disregard for that very same object? Through this, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja is demonstrating that when one is absorbed in performing a higher service, a smaller service may be automatically neglected. There is no consideration of loss or harm in this.
Many people were present when the pickpocket was stealing Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s money, and each reacted to the incident according to his respective qualification. The senior Vaiṣṇavas, who were fully absorbed in kīrtana and relishing the divine moods of the Ratha-yātrā festival, were not at all agitated, whereas the junior, neophyte devotees who hurried to apprehend and punish the pickpocket must have felt disappointed when Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja chastised them for disturbing his mood.
When I witnessed this incident, I was reminded of a verse from Bhagavad-gītā: (2.69):
yā niśā sarva-bhūtānāṁ
tasyāṁ jāgarti saṁyamī
yasyāṁ jāgrati bhūtāni
sā niśā paśyato muneḥ
Intelligence related to the soul is like night for common, materialistic persons. However, a steady and controlled person with fixed intelligence remains awake in that same intelligence. The common person remains awake when intelligence is engaged in sense objects, but for he who perceives the Absolute Truth, this same situation is like night.
Materialistic persons are conscious only of things related to this material world, and their concern for collecting money is such that they may fight over a single penny. They have no time to think about their true, spiritual welfare (paramārtha), nor are they the least bit bothered to inquire about it. Conversely, those who are completely aware of ātma-tattva, or the truth about the soul, always endeavor to accrue their real, transcendental wealth; they do not waste even a single moment by caring for material possessions, knowing well that such things hold no true value.
In accordance with this verse from Bhagavad-gītā, I could observe that the senior Vaiṣṇavas participating in Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s kīrtana were completely absorbed mood similar to his. Due to their absorption, they were oblivious to the pickpocket. The neophyte devotees, however, were oblivious to the senior Vaiṣṇavas’ absorption, and so their priority was to apprehend the pickpocket.
PARIKRAMĀ WITHOUT THE ASSOCIATION OF PRAṆAYI-BHAKTAS IS NOT PARIKRAMĀ
I had the good fortune of performing parikramā of Śrī Navadvīpa-dāma, Śrī Vraja-maṇḍala, North India and South India with my Guru Mahārāja and many other disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. They carried deeply intense feelings of separation within their hearts, and their words were so powerful that we would experience great bliss in their association, despite our being engaged in the physical labor of organizing the parikramā from morning until night.
Once, during Śrī Vraja-maṇḍala parikramā in Govardhana, the parikramā party reached Govinda-kuṇḍa later than the scheduled time.
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja addressed the assembled devotees, saying, “Although it is very late and I am not a capable speaker, Śrī Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Mahārāja has given me the service of speaking about every place we visit by reading excerpts from Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Bhakti-ratnākara and other scriptures in which the glories of those places have been described. I do not mind speaking here, but it is late and there are still many other places we must go. You all must be feeling quite hungry. Therefore, I will speak only if you are willing to listen; otherwise, we will take darśana of the other places now and speak their glories when time permits, so that you may take prasāda sooner rather than later.”
Everyone replied, as if in unison, “Food is plentifully available in our homes. We have come to perform parikramā and taste the nectar you are pouring into our ears. We are not here to simply eat, drink and sleep. Please kindly narrate the pastimes associated with these places we are visiting.”
At that time, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja began reading from Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta about the pastimes of Śrī Mādhavendra Purīpāda, as well as the glories of Govinda-kuṇḍa and the pastimes that took place there. Next, he spoke on the glories of Girirāja- Govardhana and recited Śrī Govardhana- vāsa-prārthanā-daśakam, composed by Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, in which Śrīla Dāsa Gosvāmī prays, “nija-nikaṭa-nivāsaṁ dehi govardhana! tvam—O Girirāja-Govardhana! Please give me residence close to you.”
The entire assembly listened very attentively and remained so quiet that anyone could have heard a pin drop. Tears flowed from the eyes of many, and nobody experienced hunger or thirst; all were fully absorbed in hari-kathā.
Nowadays, the devotees performing and arranging parikramā do not have to undergo the same level of strenuous labor as devotees did in the past; they have sufficient time to relax and hear hari- kathā. Despite this, we do not see the type of bliss we used to experience during parikramā manifesting in the current parikramā parties.
When we perform parikramā in the association of praṇayi-bhaktas, there is never any time for nonsense; rather, we become completely focused on hearing, chanting and remembering. Only in the association of such exalted devotees can one understand and realize the real benefit of performing parikramā.
HEARING THE GLORIES OF THE DHĀMA IS TRUE DHĀMA-PARIKRAMA
Our parikramā party once stayed at Vṛndāvana Daravājā Dharmaśālā in Mathurā during Vraja-maṇḍala parikramā. It had rained heavily that particular year, and so Yamunā’s water level was much higher than normal. Due to his advanced age, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja walked slowly and generally remained in the back of the parikramā procession. My service at that time was to trail behind and prevent pilgrims from becoming separated from the group. Fortunately, this gave me the opportunity to walk beside Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja and hear him comment on the glories of each place we passed.
Noticing the locals passing urine and stool very close to the ghāṭas, many pilgrims in our parikramā party would spit in disgust as they walked past those places and remain fixated on it, keeping it as a topic of discussion for much of the parikramā. Seeing this, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja expressed his displeasure with these pilgrims by saying, “These people have not come here to have darśana of the dhāma, but of stool and urine. The proper method of having darśana involves hearing the glories of the dhāma from the lips of a realized Vaiṣṇava sādhu. These pilgrims have yet to realize that actual, authentic darśana cannot be attained through one’s material senses.”
THE SEVERITY OF OFFENDING VAIṢṆAVAS
Once, my godbrother Śrī Viṣṇu dāsa (later known as Śrī Bhakti Viveka Paramārthī Mahārāja) and I accompanied Śrīla Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on a train from Kolkata to Purī. While the train was standing on the platform at Howrah Station in Kolkata, a wealthy man, in the presence of many other passengers, spoke to Śrī Viṣṇu Prabhu in a rude manner, cursing at him and calling him many derogatory names.
The nature of Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja exactly mirrored scripture’s description of extraordinary personalities: “vajrād api kaṭhorāṇi mṛdūni kusumād api— harder than a thunderbolt and softer than a flower.” When the same wealthy man who had cursed Śrī Viṣṇu Prabhu tried to offer praṇāmī to Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, in whom the qualities of sweetness and softness were prominent, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja manifested his quality of forcefulness and strongly rejected his offer. He told the man, “You have committed vaiṣṇava-aparādha. What to speak of accepting an offering, I do not even want to speak to or keep any relation with a person like you.”
The wealthy man said, “Mahārāja, I want to serve you. Please be merciful and accept this small offering from me.”
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja said, “If I accept service from you, I too will be implicated in your offense. I will never accept anything from you.”
Despite his insistence, the wealthy man was unsuccessful in his attempts to persuade Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja to accept his offering. Unfortunately, he was unable to pick up on Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s subtle hint that he should ask forgiveness from Śrī Viṣṇu dāsa for his offence.
GREAT EAGERNESS TO SERVE THE SUPREME LORD
One night, the deity Śrī Gopīnātha-jiu of Agradvīpa, Śrī Gauḍa-maṇdala appeared to Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja in a dream. Previously, Śrī Gopīnātha-jiu was served and worshipped by the expert singers and eternal associates of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Śrī Govinda Ghoṣa and his two brothers, Śrī Vāsudeva Ghoṣa and Śrī Mādhava Ghoṣa. In this dream, Śrī Gopīnātha-jiu expressed His desire to eat sweet rice cooked by Śrīla Mahārāja.
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja gave fulfilling Śrī Gopīnātha’s desire the highest priority. Without delay, he inconspicuously hired four rikśaws early that very morning with the help of Śrī Bhūpen Mitra and departed for Agradvīpa with great enthusiasm. Several devotees, including my godbrother Śrī Bhakti Nīlaya Maṅgala Mahārāja and myself, accompanied him. As soon as we arrived, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja prepared sweet rice for Śrī Gopīnātha-jiu.
Previous to this experience, I had no knowledge of that place, nor had I known Śrī Gopīnātha-jiu resided there. It is due to Śrīla Mahārāja’s mercy that I was able to have darśana of Śrī Gopīnātha-jiu.
DHĀMA-PARIKRAMĀ IS A LIMB OF DIETY WORSHIP
During Navadvīpa-dhāma parikramā, Guru Mahārāja would respectfully engage Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja in leading the parikramā party. In this way all the pilgrims could perform parikramā under Śrīla Mahārāja’s senior guidance.
Every morning in the maṭha, before the parikramā party departed, a number of devotees and I would serve prasāda to the sannyāsīs, brahmacārīs and pilgrims. Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Guru Mahārāja, however, would not accept prasāda at that time; I noticed they would accept prasāda only after our parikramā reached Yogapīṭha and they had darśana of the deities. I requested Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, “Please kindly explain the reason you and Guru Mahārāja have only now accepted prasāda here at Yogapīṭha, and not in our maṭha this morning. I am unable to understand the mysterious principle behind your conduct.”
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja replied, “Dhāma-parikramā is a limb of arcana (deity worship). Just as a pūjārī accepts prasāda only after completing his arcana, and is thereby not obliged to fast until the midday offering, we do not accept prasāda until our first darśana of the day and do not observe any further fasting.”
EVERYTHING GIVEN BY VAIṢṆAVAS IS TRANSCENDENTAL
Raw rice belongs to the mode of goodness and when it is cooked, it is suitable for offering to Bhagavān. Therefore, the only rice prasāda I would accept was that which had been cooked from raw grains. This habit was shared by Guru Mahārāja and Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, as well.
Once, during a deity installation festival I attended with Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja at Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Saurabha Bhaktisāra Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s maṭha, we were served parboiled (processed) rice. As I hesitatingly stared at my plate, Śrīla Bhaktisāra Gosvāmī Mahārāja requested us to begin honoring prasāda. Knowing well that I would not accept processed rice, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja looked at me and said, “A Vaiṣṇava has ordered us to accept prasāda. Everything offered by the Vaiṣṇavas is nirguṇa, or transcendental and free from the effects of the three modes of material nature.” He then began honoring prasāda. Humbled by Śrīla Mahārāja’s personal conduct, I decided to accept processed rice for the first time in my life. I began honoring the rice prasāda for the pleasure of the Vaiṣṇavas.
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja gave greater significance to a transcendental item given by a Vaiṣṇava than to his own personal vow. By observing this, I received a profound teaching: a person may strictly maintain vows in order to attain objects belonging to this fourteen-fold planetary system, but bhakti can be attained only by giving precedence to vaiṣṇava-sevā. Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja personally lived this teaching.
HIS UNPRECEDENTED HONOR FOR ALL VAIṢṆAVAS
One of the services I was assigned during Vraja-maṇḍala parikramā was to provide the disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura with hot water for their morning bath. Each time I would bring Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja his bucket of hot water, he would first sprinkle a few drops of that water on his head. I heard him explain, “This water has been brought by a Vaiṣṇava. Everything given by a Vaiṣṇava is prasāda, his mercy. How, then, can I use this water to wash my feet? Before using it, I must first honor it by touching it to my head. Only then will I use it to wash my body. I must treat this water in the same manner as the remnants given by senior Vaiṣṇavas, like clothes and other items. Such items are tangible manifestations of the Vaiṣṇavas’ mercy, and can be utilized to aid in our service if necessary.”
That he treated me, an ordinary person who can be counted among his disciples, with the respect due a Vaiṣṇava attests to the immense veneration he possesses for his fellow godbrothers and senior Vaiṣṇavas.
A REALIZED KĪRTANĪYA
In the month of Kārtika during Vraja-maṇḍala parikramā, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja would, according to the eight divisions of the day (āṣṭa-yāma), sing kīrtanas composed by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura that are based on the eight verses of Śikṣāṣṭakam and relate to aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā. Additionally, he would sing the kīrtanas Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura composed as adaptations of verses from Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī’s Śrī Govinda-līlāmṛta. His voice was naturally sweet, and the various melodies he used, which were appropriately chosen according to the time of the day, were so enchanting that it was as if divine nectar was being poured into the ears of his listeners.
As he would sing, his heart would rejoice, and his melodious voice would attract one and all, young and old alike. Upon hearing such a glorious sound, every single pilgrim would leave aside his or her chores and rush to participate in Śrīla Mahārāja’s kīrtanas; no one could remain absent.
While Śrīla Prabhupāda was still physically present, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja (then known as Śrī Praṇavānanda Brahmacārī) used to perform Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura and Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s kīrtanas on the radio. In this way, he served Śrīla Prabhupāda by assisting him in his mission to expose the living entities to pure harināma-saṅkīrtana, which has the potency to deliver the entire world.
Once, while Śrīla Prabhupāda was in Darjeeling, he listened to Śrī Praṇavānanda Brahmacārī sing Gopīnātha Mama Nivedana Śunô on the radio. The divine ecstasy Śrīla Prabhupāda experienced upon hearing this kīrtana was so immense that when he returned to Kolkata, he called Śrī Praṇavānanda Brahmacārī to his room and asked him to sing it for him in private. Perhaps this is why Gopīnātha Mama Nivedana Śunô was Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s favorite kīrtana.
RECOGNIZING HIS HUMBLE POSITION IN ŚRĪLA PRABHUPADA'S MISSION
In a letter addressed to Śrī Atendriya dāsa Adhikārī, the compiler of Śrī Gauḍīya Kaṇṭhahāra, Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote, “Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has revealed a wonderful pastime by describing himself as a sweeper of Śrī Nāma-haṭṭa, the marketplace where śrī harināma is bought and sold. We, with our hundreds of collective mouths, will follow the footsteps of the great personalities who came before us. We will present ourselves as brooms to accomplish his task of prapañca-mārjana-līlā, or removing the dirt of ignorance born of materiality from the hearts of the conditional souls. In other words, we shall preach hari-kathā everywhere and endeavor with all sincerity to save others from harmful association. Although this activity may not appeal to the people of this world, it is the sole means by which they will attain true auspiciousness.”
Each time Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja would recite this quotation, he would add, “Śrīla Prabhupāda has instructed us to become brooms to clean the dirt of ignorance from the hearts of the conditioned souls. Still, it is not by becoming an independent broom that I will consider myself most fortunate and my life to be successful. Rather, I wish to become just one of the twigs of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s transcendental broom.”
THE HALLMARK OF HIGH-CLASS ASSOCIATION
Once, the Māyāpura branch of Śrī Gopinātha Gauḍīya Maṭha organized a festival to commemorate the appearance day of Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja. My godbrother pūjyapāda Bhakti Vallabha Tīrtha Mahārāja and I were appointed as the assembly’s sabhāpatīs (chairpersons) for the first and the second days, respectively.
During the assembly, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja humbly said, “Although my bāndhavas (sincere friends), the servants of Śrī Gopinātha Gauḍīya Maṭha, have organized a grand festival today for my birthday, I am completely unqualified to accept this worship.
“My most worshipful gurupāda-padma, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, is present here in the form of his portrait. He is the embodiment of all our previous ācāryas, and I am the most insignificant servant of his servants. In the book Śaraṇāgati (3.3.1), Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has taught us:
sarvasva tomāra, caraṇe sãpiyā,
paḓechi tomāra ghare
tumi tô’ ṭhākura, tomāra kukura,
bôliyā jānahô more
Having surrendered everything at Your lotus feet, I remain prostrated at Your house. You are my Lord. Kindly accept me as Your dog. *
“Inspired by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s example of the ideal mood of a servant, I hereby proclaim myself to be the pet dog of the servants of the servants of Śrīla Prabhupāda.
“In my opinion, the root cause of your honoring and worshiping me is my relationship with my spiritual master. Therefore, your worship is actually directed to him, and not me. Because I am his servant, I am naturally seated at his lotus feet. It is only due to my proximity to him that the elements of this grand worship have happened to touch my body. This worship belongs not to this pet dog, but to my beloved master. This is my firm belief. I am extremely joyful when I see my master being worshiped. Therefore, it would greatly please me if you could understand that this is the subtle essence of the divine worship you are performing today.”
The humble manner in which Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja presented his views indicated that he was firmly situated in the most exalted Vaiṣṇava association. In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 3.21), Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī has stated:
āpane nā kaile dharma śikhānô nā ĵāya
ei tô’ siddhānta gītā-bhāgavate gāya
A person cannot instruct others in religious principles if he does not practice them himself. This is the conclusion of Bhagavad- gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
Through his own conduct, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja demonstrated that the conception of śrauta-paramparā, the divine disciplic lineage through which pure spiritual knowledge descends, becomes adulterated when one accepts the adoration shown by others as one’s own. It is only when one is firmly in line with the śrauta-paramparā that one is adorned with transcendental realization.
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s humble address on his appearance day reminded me of the divine humility demonstrated by Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī and other exalted personalities in our Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava lineage. It was then that I understood just how advanced and realized Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was.
AN EXCHANGE OF AFFECTION BETWEEN GODBROTHERS
One day, Guru Mahārāja called me into his room and, after handing me flowers, fruits, sweets, a set of saffron-colored clothes and an envelope containing praṇāmī, he ordered, “Go and give these things to Śrī Bhakti Pramoda Purī Mahārāja and offer praṇāma to him with the utmost devotion. Offer praṇāma on my behalf, as well. I am sending you, because he may be hesitant to accept these items if I were to offer them personally.”
According to Guru Mahārāja’s order, I went to Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s room, offered praṇāma and the items given by Guru Mahārāja, and then relayed the message that Guru Mahārāja also offers his praṇāma. Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja laughingly said, “According to the tithi, today is my birthday. All this is for me on my birthday! Even though he is so busy, Mādhava Mahārāja remembered my birthday.”
This was the first time I came to know the date of Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s appearance day. In this way, Guru Mahārāja initiated the practice of honoring the appearance day of his dear godbrother.
When I returned to Guru Mahārāja and informed him that I had given everything to Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, he said, “One should worship the Vaiṣṇavas on their appearance days by remembering and serving them. We should hear the glorifications (kīrtana) of their most sublime qualities and divine character. Because Śrī Purī Mahārāja is my senior godbrother, I have taken a room directly below his, so that I may always honor him by keeping him on my head, and thus receive the shelter of his lotus feet.”
In the core of my heart, I felt overwhelmingly pleased that I could become the medium to deliver Guru Mahārāja’s affectionate and loving gifts to Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja.
HIS DISINTEREST IN VIEWING OTHERS AS HIS PROPERTY
Whenever Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was absorbed in service, he would often send devotees with spiritual questions to me, so that I could resolve their issues. This especially happened in his later years. He would tell such devotees, “My memory is weakening day by day. Please approach Śrīpāda Bhāratī Mahārāja. He will be able to answer any questions you may have.”
We often see that many so-called gurus view their disciples as their own property and forbid them from seeking the guidance of qualified Vaiṣṇavas. But Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja never felt his disciples belonged to him. Rather, he firmly believed they belonged to Bhagavān and his gurupāda-padma, Śrīla Prabhupāda. Only those endowed with anyābhilāṣa-śūnyatā (the quality of being devoid of desires other than pleasing Śrī Kṛṣṇa) and the prerequisites for performing hari-kīrtana are able to hold such a view and non-duplicitously send their disciples and followers to others for instruction.
A GODBROTHER'S GLORIFICATION
Śrī Kṛṣṇa-keśava Prabhu, a disciple of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, would repeatedly tell us, “Even if a scholarly and realized Vaiṣṇava like Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja does nothing but sit and chant harināma in the maṭha, he brings about auspiciousness for conditioned souls like us. By his divine potency, many people from outside will be attracted and come to him. And by virtue of his mere presence, the residents of the maṭha will serve diligently. Even if we were to loudly beat our own drum, we could never attain even a fraction of the glories or the divine character with which he is adorned. Therefore, you should pray to always remain in his association.”
In my life, I too have seen that the presence of an elevated personality causes his surrounding area to become elevated as well. It is natural for a disciple to glorify his spiritual master, but that a godbrother would glorify him is truly a testament to his extraordinary qualities.
HIS EAGERNESS FOR BHAGAVAD-DARŚANA
Once, my godbrother Śrī Brahmānanda dāsa Adhikārī came from Vanagrāma to Purī to have darśana of the dhāma. After Śrī Brahmānanda Prabhu repeatedly requested Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja to accompany him, Śrīla Mahārāja relented and agreed to go with him to have darśana of Śrī Ananta-vāsudeva in Bhuvaneśvara. Śrī Brahmānanda Prabhu, who was quite ignorant about how to accord due honor and respect to senior Vaiṣṇavas, spent a great deal of their time visiting other places along the way, like Khandagiri, Udayagiri and so on. By the time they reached Bhuvaneśvara, the temple of Śrī Ananta-vāsudeva had closed. They had no choice but to return to Purī.
For the rest of the day, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja fasted from even water. On the way to Bhuvaneśvara, he had mentioned to Śrī Brahmānanda Prabhu that he would not accept water or prasāda until they received darśana of Śrī Ananta-vāsudeva. It was only for Śrī Ananta-vāsudeva’s darśana that Śrīla Mahārāja had agreed to go to Bhuvaneśvara in the first place; he was uninterested in visiting many different places. Needless to say, he was quite upset.
When they reached the maṭha, it was only after first bathing, applying tilaka and performing gāyatrī that Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja honored the
śrī jagannātha-prasāda brought by my godbrother Śrī Navīna-madan Brahmacārī (later known as Śrī Bhakti Nirmalānanda Vana Mahārāja).
Where can one find such eagerness and dedication for bhagavad-darśana or vaiṣṇava-darśana nowadays? Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s conduct made me realize he was not of this world; it made me understand that he was comprised not of the elements of this material world, but of the divine elements of the spiritual world.
RECOGNIZING THE VALUE OF A FAULT-FINDER
When the devotees of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha would perform parikramā of South India under the guidance of Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrīla Mahārāja would earnestly inquire about the history of every place we would visit—the deities, their pastimes, their glories, the method in which they were worshiped, the procedure for receiving their darśana, and many other details. He would note all these details in his diary, and when we would return to Kolkata, he would write an elaborate report for Śrī Caitanya-vāṇī describing the parikramā.
One day, I was sitting in his room reading a draft of one such report. Seeing that he had forgotten to mention a particular place we had visited, I mentioned it to him.
“You are right,” he responded. “I will include that, also.”
He continued, “It is my principle to accord more appreciation to those who notify me of mistakes in my work than to those who may notice but remain quiet. Yes-men are easier to come by, but it is rare to find a bāndhava, a sincere well-wisher with honest intentions. I do not consider those who simply agree with and praise whatever I may say or write to be my bāndhavas. I much prefer the company of a proofreader—or for that matter, any individual—who is unafraid to point out my mistakes than someone who remains excessively idle.”
Almost immediately after this incident, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja approached Guru Mahārāja and said, “If you wish to ensure that the publishing of Śrī Caitanya-vāṇī remains proficient, please allow Bhāratī Mahārāja to join its publication team. Though others may not appreciate his reluctance to readily agree with anyone and everyone, it is this reluctance that makes him qualified to serve on the publication team and help me to improve the quality of the magazine.”
Guru Mahārāja replied, “This very quality is the reason I consider Bhāratī Mahārāja my right-hand man. If I were to allow him to work with you, I would not have anyone qualified to oversee other equally important services. I desperately need him for the new maṭha we are currently constructing. Please allow me to keep him with me for the time being.”
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, who was like a simple, gentle child at heart, easily accepted Guru Mahārāja’s request without any protest.
SEEING HIMSELF AS THE CAUSE OF OTHER'S HOSTILITY
Once, when Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja went to have darśana of a godbrother, that godbrother, instead of meeting Śrīla Mahārāja, sent one hundred rupees as donation through his sevaka and sent Śrīla Mahārāja away. When Śrīla Mahārāja returned to the maṭha, he fasted for the entire day. He did not accept even water. Without keeping a single paisā of his godbrother’s donation for himself, he put the entire hundred rupees into Ṭhākura-jī’s donation box.
When I asked him the reason why he was fasting, Śrīla Mahārāja replied, “I went for vaiṣṇava-darśana, but I was unable to attain it because I am an offender. I am fasting in order to atone for my offenses. Śrī Caitanya Bhāgavata (Madhya khaṇḍa 8.197) states, ‘sarva-mahā- prāyaścitta ĵe prabhura nāma—chanting the Lord’s names is the highest form of atonement.’ Therefore, I shall disengage myself from all activities today other than chanting the holy names of Bhagavān.”
I said, “It appears to me that it was not you who committed an offense, but rather the person who refused to meet with you.”
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja replied by quoting a verse from a kīrtana in Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s Kalyāṇa-kalpataru (Ucchvāsa2.7.6). He said, “‘Vaiṣṇava-caritra, sarvadā pavitra—The Vaiṣṇavas’ character is ever-pure.’ If a Vaiṣṇava behaves maliciously with us, we should remain guided by the principle of the verse tat te ’nukampāṁ su-samīkṣamāṇo. We should remain dependent on Bhagavān’s mercy and consider such hostility to be the result of our past karma.”
HIS VIEW ON VAISNAVA-APARĀDHA
During the time of pāraṇa one Dvādaśī day, all the devotees were seated in a line waiting to honor prasāda. Just as prasāda was finished being served, one brahmacārī removed a particular sannyāsī’s leaf plate, threw it away and ordered the sannyāsī to leave that place and never return.
Witnessing such behavior, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja became gravely upset and said, “I cannot remain here any longer. For so many years I have stayed with Śrī Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Mahārāja, whose standards for diligently serving Vaiṣṇavas are renowned. Śrī Mādhava Mahārāja demonstrated those standards through his conduct, and he served even those who opposed him.”
A few devotees tried their best to pacify Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, but were unsuccessful. Śrīla Mahārāja then quoted Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī:
mahāntera apamāna ĵe deśa-grāme haya
eka janāra doṣe saba deśa ujāḍaya
Śrī Caitanya-cairtāmṛta (Antya-līlā 3.164)
He explained, “The entire village must suffer if even one person living there insults a great personality. This can be seen in the life of Rāmacandra Khān. His offense to Haridāsa Ṭhākura later led to him offending Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu, and subsequently, his entire village was destroyed as a result. And when Devānanda Paṇḍita remained a mute spectator while his students dragged Śrīvasa Paṇḍita out of his assembly, he too was implicated in that offence and became deprived of Mahaprabhu’s mercy.
“While narrating the instance of Dakṣa Prajāpati and Satī, Śrīmad- Bhāgavatam asserts that if one cannot punish a vaiṣṇava-aparādhī by either cutting out his tongue or publicly rendering him speechless through scriptural arguments, then one is required to leave that place.”
This incident inspired Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja to write a multitude of essays on the subject of vaiṣṇava-aparādha, including the grave consequences of committing such offenses.
THE ĀCHĀRYA OF ŚRĪ GOPĪNĀTHA GAUDĪYA MATHA
Guru Mahārāja knew well that Gopīnātha Mama Nivedana Śunô was Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s favorite kīrtana, and also that he used to worship the deities of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Gopīnātha. Hence, he referred to Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja as ‘the ācārya of Śrī Gopīnātha Gauḍīya Maṭha.’ Guru Mahārāja always used this title when printing invitations for events at which Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was scheduled to speak. This was long before Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja formally established Śrī Gopīnātha Gauḍīya Maṭha. It was as if Guru Mahārāja was predicting Śrīla Mahārāja would later establish an institution with this name.
Many years later when, by the desire of Bhagavān, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja established a maṭha, he did not opt for a new name for his institution. Rather, he respectfully kept the name his godbrother had revealed. Thus, his maṭha is now known by all as Śrī Gopīnātha Gauḍīya Maṭha.
OUR GUIDE ON THE PATH OF BHAKTI
After Guru Mahārāja manifested his disappearance pastimes and entered nitya-līlā, it was Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja who, due to having resided in Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha for such a long time, acted as the foremost savior of Guru Mahārāja’s disciples. He was our main guide who helped us navigate the rugged road that lay ahead, and he advised us regarding what is proper and what is improper. The shelter of his lotus feet always provided us with the utmost tranquility. Nowhere else have we found such peacefulness.
EXPRESSING THE GREIF OF SEPARATION FROM A DEAR FRIEND
After the completion of the Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma parikramā that followed Guru Mahārāja’s disappearance pastime, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja addressed the final assembly as follows: “Śrī gaura-kiśora-keli-bhavana—Śrī Māyāpura, the place of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s pastimes as a youth—was pūjyapāda Mādhava Mahārāja’s life and soul, just as it was for our most worshipful Śrīla Prabhupāda. Pūjyapāda Mādhava Mahārāja often enthusiastically discussed the glories of the dhāma with his dear associates, and he engaged everyone in revealing the brilliance of those glories by encouraging them to perform dhāma-sevā.
“In Śrī Śrī Navadvīpa-bhāva-taraṅga (26–27), Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has described Śrī Īśodyāna, a magnificent garden in Śrī Māyāpura:
māyāpura-dakṣiṇāṁśe jāhnavīra taṭe
sarasvatī-saṅgamera atīva nikaṭe
īśodyāna nāma upavana suvistāra
sarvadā bhajana-sthāna hauka āmāra
In the southern part of Māyāpura on the bank of the Gaṅgā—near its confluence with the Sarasvatī River—is the enormous garden of Īśodyāna. May that garden always remain my place of bhajana.
ĵe vane āmāra prabhu śrī śacīnandana
madhyāhna karena līlā laye bhakta jana
vana-śobhā heri’ rādhā-kṛṣṇa paḓe mane
se saba sphuruk sadā āmāra nayane
Seeing that garden, in which my Master Śrī Śacīnandana performed His midday pastimes with His devotees, I am reminded of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. May such places always appear before my eyes.
“Pūjyapāda Mādhava Mahārāja, the servant of the servant of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, fulfilled the Ṭhākura’s ardent desire to manifest the glories of serving Īśodyāna to the whole world. Although there is ecstatic rejoicing on the spiritual plane in Iśodyāna today because pūjyapāda Mādhava Mahārāja now resides here eternally in the form of his samādhi, we on this material plane are experiencing unbearable distress in separation from him. Tears now fill the eyes of his godbrothers, his disciples and all those who have been attracted by his qualities. In his absence, the presence of the thousands assembled here and the resounding kīrtana they perform are as if meaningless to me.”
Śrīla Mahārāja then ended his address by quoting the words through which Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, in his Śrī Stavāvalī (Śrī Prārthanāśraya-caturdāsakam 11), expressed the torment of his separation from Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmīpāda: “śūnyāyate mahāgoṣṭhaṁ—the land of Vraja has become desolate.”
Such was the strong, affectionate bond shared by Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Guru Mahārāja. Their intimate relationship was the reason Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja displayed deep parental love for Guru Mahārāja’s disciples.
THE CORNERSTONE LAYING CEREMONY OF ŚRĪ GOPĪNĀTHA GAUDĪYA MATHA, MĀYĀPURA
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja entrusted his disciple Śrī Gopīnātha Prabhu with the responsibility of finding and acquiring land in Śrīdhama Māyāpura, where the first branch of Śrī Gopīnātha Gauḍīya Maṭha would be constructed. When Śrī Gopīnātha Prabhu had come to Māyāpura and narrowed his choice down to two plots, he asked for my opinion on which of the two plots he should purchase.
I told him, “It is best to establish your maṭha on whatever land is in closest proximity to the other Gaudiya Maṭhas of Māyāpura. That way, devotees will always be nearby, and you need not be concerned about the maṭha’s security should you have to leave. Moreover, you can ask the nearby maṭhas for provisions when you are in need. Being near the other Gauḍīya Maṭhas is not only convenient, but is conducive for bhajana, as well.”
Following my advice, Śrī Gopīnātha Prabhu acquired the land where the Māyāpura branch of Śrī Gopīnātha Gauḍīya Maṭha is presently located. Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja also gave his consent, saying, “Why seek any further? For what should we be concerned when a Vaiṣṇava has already selected a piece of land?”
Once the date for the auspicious cornerstone laying ceremony was decided, Śrī Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja wrote me a letter saying, “I want you to be present during the cornerstone laying ceremony.” When I reached Māyāpura two days prior to the ceremony, Śrī Kṛṣṇa-dhana Banerjee, a disciple of Śrīla Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, handed me another letter from Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja. Through that letter, Śrīla Mahārāja intimated his deep faith and affection for me and awarded me his mercy.
Śrīla Mahārāja wrote, “The grandmother of my dear Gopīnātha Prabhu has left this world. She was also my disciple. Her funeral and related services will be held in Amata, near Kolkata, and I must attend. I am pleased to know you have already reached Māyāpura. I can completely rely on you to conduct the cornerstone laying ceremony in my stead. I wholeheartedly accept whatever you chose to do, as I trust it will be most auspicious.”
As I processed Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s order, I found myself struck by his humble vaiṣṇava nature. I thought, “Since I joined the maṭha, I have seen Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja preside over formal ceremonies as per Guru Mahārāja’s desire. He is renowned as being an expert in these matters, and I have always considered myself fortunate to have served as his assistant during such functions. But today, by his mercy, I will perform the cornerstone laying ceremony for his maṭha on his behalf.”
I invited Vaiṣṇavas from all the maṭhas in Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma to attend. On the day of the ceremony, at an auspicious time, I reached the future site of Śrī Gopīnātha Gauḍīya Maṭha with a spade, bricks and other building tools and materials. The number of devotees assembled for the occasion was much greater than I had expected. Even devotees from Śrī Caitanya Maṭha, who generally never attended such functions, were present.
As all the assembled devotees enthusiastically performed kīrtana, five bricks were worshipped according to the Vedic prescriptions for laying a cornerstone. Śrī Phanī Lāl, a disciple of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, untiringly played mṛdaṅga for serveral hours. I distributed sandeśa and other sweets I had purchased from Navadvīpa, but they were quickly finished by the many devotees in attendance. We then purchased and distributed all the sweets available from the one sweet shop in Māyāpura. If I remember correctly, the turnout was so great that even after this, there were still some devotees left who did not receive prasāda sweets.
It was due only to Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s reputation as one of the community’s most exalted Vaiṣṇavas that so many people devotedly attended the cornerstone laying ceremony.
NON-ENVIOUSNESS BETWEEN GODBROTHERS
Once when I was at Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha in Jagannātha Purī, the vice principal of Khadīrpura University, Dr. Nārāyaṇa Bandhopādhyāya of Behālā, Kolkata, came to stay in the maṭha with his wife for the month of Kārtika. I noticed that although his wife would attend hari-kathā daily, he never did.
One day during hari-kathā, I was explaining the four main qualities of Bhagavān: He is vadānya (munificent), kṛtajña (aware of all activities), bhakta-vatsala (affectionate toward His devotees) and samarthā (capable of achieving everything). As I explained the meaning of the word kṛtajña—‘one who knows (jña) the activities (kṛtya) everyone performs’— Dr. Nārāyaṇa Bandhopādhyāya happened to walk by. This explanation piqued his interest, as he had never before heard it described in this way. He remained listening in the back of the hall.
After I finished my lecture, he approached me and said, “Your hari-kathā was quite touching. I would like to hear hari-kathā from a devotee like you every day. Please accept me as your disciple and give me shelter.”
“I do not give mantra-dīkṣā to anyone,” I replied. “You may accept dīkṣā from a pure devotee and thereby make your life successful.”
After performing the month-long kārtika-vrata, Dr. Nārāyaṇa Bandhopādhyāya and his wife returned to Kolkata. There, in Behālā, they would daily visit Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kumuda Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s maṭha, Śrī Caitanya Āśrama, to hear hari-kathā. By hearing from Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, they gradually became familiar with the tenets of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. As they became increasingly convinced of the need to accept a guru, they went to Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha in Kolkata with the desire to accept mantra-dīkṣā from Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja.
When they introduced themselves to Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrīla Mahārāja asked, “Why haven’t you requested Śrī Santa Mahārāja for dīkṣā in Behālā? Why have you come here instead?”
Dr. Nārāyaṇa Bandhopādhyāya explained, “Mahārāja-jī, we would like to accept dīkṣā from a brāhmaṇa-born Vaiṣṇava.” “This concept is improper,” Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja said. “Brāhmaṇatā, the quality of being a brāhmaṇa, is intrinsically present in vaiṣṇavatā; Vaiṣṇavas subsume all the qualities of brāhmaṇas. They are naturally and firmly established in ātma- dharma, the principle of identifying one-self as a soul. It is offensive to identify or distinguish them based on śarīra-dharma, on bodily considerations like caste and race.”
He continued, “You are mistaken in considering Śrī Santa Mahārāja to be a non-brāhmaṇa. An intelligent person will never leave the nearby Gaṅgā to bathe in a faraway lake. You should therefore make your lives successful by accepting Śrī Santa Mahārāja’s shelter. Moreover, the scriptures declare that one must atone for the offense of distinguishing a Vaiṣṇava based on śarīra-dharma, or bodily considerations, by immediately taking shelter of that Vaiṣṇava.”
ārcye viṣṇau śilā-dhīr guruṣu
nara-matir vaiṣṇave jāti-buddhir
viṣṇor vā vaiṣṇavānāṁ kali-mala-
maṭhane pāda-tīrthe ‘mbu-buddhiḥ
śrī-viṣṇor nāmni mantre sakala-kaluṣa-
viṣṇau sarveśvare tad-itara-sama-
dhīr yasya vā nārakī saḥ
A person is bound for hell who considers the deity to be made out of wood, stone or any alloy; who considers the guru, who is an eternal devotee of Bhagavān, to be an ordinary human who is subject to death; who considers a Vaiṣṇava to belong to a particular caste or creed; who considers caraṇāmṛta, water which has washed the feet of Śrī Viṣṇu and the Vaiṣṇavas, to be ordinary water when in reality it destroys the evils of the age of Kali; who considers the holy name and the mantra of Śrī Viṣṇu, which destroy all types of sinful reaction, to be ordinary material sound vibrations; and who considers the supreme controller Śrī Viṣṇu to be equal to the many demigods.
As per the advice of Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Dr. Nārāyaṇa Bandhopādhyāya and his wife took shelter at the lotus feet of Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja.
The above incident prominently demonstrates Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s sincere vaiṣṇava humility, his ardent desire to bring about the welfare of those who approached him, as well as the deep faith and non-envious affection he possessed for his junior godbrother Śrīla Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja.
PERSISTENCE IN BHAJANA DESPITE ILLNESS
Once, while Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was staying in a room with a temporary asbestos roof at Śrī Gopīnātha Gauḍīya Maṭha’s newly acquired property at Cakra-tīrtha, Jagannātha Purī, he fell sick due to the cold weather. He was brought to Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha at Grand Road so that he could be provided comfortable facilities while he recovered. Upon his arrival at the maṭha, I immediately called for a specialist from the hospital. After examining Śrīla Mahārāja, the doctor advised us to admit him for a night in the hospital, where he would receive oxygen and a saline drip. My godbrother Śrī Gaurāṅga-prasāda Brahmacārī (now Śrī Bhakti Saurabha Ācārya Mahārāja) said, “Those who go to the hospital in Purī never return.”
Hearing this comment, a few of Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s female disciples began crying, and many devotees became reluctant to admit Śrīla Mahārāja to the hospital. Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, however, had faith in my counsel. He told his sevakas, “You should follow whatever Bhāratī Mahārāja feels is appropriate.”
I said, “Mahārāja, it would be best for you to go to the hospital, for they are able to provide oxygen and saline drips there. Moreover, the doctor is recommending you be admitted for only one night.”
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja agreed, and we admitted him to the hospital. He felt a bit hot at that time, and so I personally brought two of the maṭha’s standing fans for him. I stayed with him through the night and brought him back to the maṭha when the doctor gave permission the following day.
While in the hospital, he recited his daily stavas and stutis (verses of prayer and praise) just as he would in the maṭha. I was astonished that his condition had no effect on his conduct, his gentle temperament, his forbearance or his spiritual practices.
A SOLEMN PRAYER TO REMAIN UNAFFECTED BY WEALTH
To commemorate the one hundredth appearance day anniversary of Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Gopīnātha Gauḍīya Maṭha arranged a festival in Jagannātha Purī. When Śrīla Mahārāja arrived at the assembly, he respectfully requested Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kumuda Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, my godbrother pūjyapāda Bhakti Vallabha Tīrtha Mahārāja and me to sit on the dais. After we seated ourselves, Śrīla Mahārāja personally applied sandalwood paste to our foreheads and garlanded us.
As he spoke hari-kathā that day, he mentioned one point that struck me as especially significant and remains fixed in my memory even today. He said, “The life we lead now is vastly different from the kind of life we used to lead. Previously, we considered a donation of two or three lakhs rupees to be enormous. But nowadays, such donations no longer seem significant, because by the grace of Śrīla Prabhupāda, devotees from both within India and abroad currently make such large contributions to our mission.
“Now that our supporters are many and we are financially prosperous, I pray to the lotus feet of Śrīla Prabhupāda and to the lotus feet of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His associates that my disciples may not fail to practically apply the principle of ‘tṛṇād api sunīcena— remaining humbler than straw,’ and that they do not become influenced by the false pride that comes with wealth and followers. I pray that the opulence we have acquired may not obstruct their bhajana, that they remain steadfast, that they shall not deviate from the path of bhakti, and that their life’s goal remains fixed. I pray that they remain unaffected by opulence, and that they may realize and follow the essential teachings in the following instructions of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.”
Śrīla Mahārāja then quoted two verses:
vairāgyaṁ phalgu kathyate
When sādhakas who desire liberation renounce that which is related to Hari, such as the scriptures, the deity, the holy name, mahā-prasāda, the spiritual master and Vaiṣṇavas, considering them material, their renunciation is called futile renunciation, phalgu-vairāgya. This is unfavorable to bhakti.
yuktaṁ vairāgyam ucyate
A person without attachment to sense enjoyment who accepts whatever facilities are appropriate for the service of Śrī Kṛṣṇa is not bound by such activities. Such detachment is said to be yukta-vairāgya, renunciation through always maintaining a connection with Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
HONORING ALL VAIṢṆAVAS BOTH SENIOR AND JUNIOR
Because of his natural humility, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s life and character demonstrated the full import of Śrī Devakīnandana dāsa’s words:
hôiyāchena hôibena prabhura ĵatô dāsa
sabhāra caraṇa vandõ dante kôri’ ghāsa
Holding a straw between my teeth, I venerate the lotus feet of all the servants of my master who ever were or will be.
Not to speak of his senior godbrothers, he would offer praṇāma even to those he inspired to join the maṭha, like Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kumuda Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, me—although I am so junior to him and like his disciple—as well as devotees who joined the maṭha much later than I did. He would clasp his hands and plead, “Please tell me the means by which I can repay the debt of your affection.”
EXPRESSING GRATITUDE FOR A GODBROTHER
In writing about his godbrother Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kumuda Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja has said, “Śrī Santa Mahārāja’s inner moods match perfectly his external behavior. This quality of his is delightful and exemplary. This wretch is forever indebted to him for the mercy he has shown me. May he be victorious.”
ŚRĪLA PRABHUPĀDA'S FINAL INSTRUCTIONS
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja would frequently mention the following in his hari-kathā:
“The entirety of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instructions and the example he personally set deserve perpetual scrutinization and implementation. This is certainly true. However, in keeping with the popular adage ‘pūrvaparayoḥ para-vidhi balavān—the latter directive trumps those preceding,’ I present to you now the instructions Śrīla Prabhupāda imparted to a group of devotees, just eight or nine days before he manifested his disappearance pastime.
“He said, ‘In every place in this world there exists a scarcity of hari-kathā, which bestows ultimate perfection, the perfection of devotion. Our sole duty and dharma is to dispel this scarcity by preaching the service of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Śrī Bhagavān. Every place where hari-kathā is present is to be considered a holy place.
“ ‘We have not come to this world to be carpenters or masons. We are simply the carriers of the message of Śrī Caitanya-deva. Śrī Rūpa established the innermost desire of Śrī Caitanya-deva in this world. The dust of his lotus feet is the object of our life’s sole ambition.’
“In our attempts to follow these instructions, which Śrīla Prabhupāda repeatedly uttered in the final days before his disappearance, we must remember the following words of Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura:
guru-mukha padma-vākya, cittete kôriyā aikya,
āra nā kôrihô mane āśā
śrī guru-caraṇe rati, ei se uttama-gati,
ĵe prasāde pure sarva āśā
Make the words emanating from the lotus mouth of śrī guru one with your heart and aspire for nothing more. Attachment to the lotus feet of śrī guru is the ultimate attainment, for his mercy fulfills all desires.
“I convey my gratitude to all the devotees sincerely striving to follow Śrīla Prabhupāda and preach the message of Bhāgavata, wherever and in whatever form they may preach it.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF PUBLICATION SEVĀ
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja used to say, “I often heard from my most worshipful gurudeva, Prabhupāda Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, that the summum bonum of our lives should be to publish books and preach the message of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura and other predecessor Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ācāryas. This is the only way in which the conditioned souls can ever hope to attain kṛṣṇa-prema, the highest goal of life.”
Taking this instruction to heart, Śrīla Mahārāja always maintained that it is the duty of Sārasvata Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas to distribute all over the world magazines and books that illustrate the sublime teachings of Śrīman Mahāprabhu. To this end, he spent his entire life in publication services, and he encouraged devotees for the same, saying, “The teachings must be distributed throughout the world.”
ON VRAJA-VĀSA AND RĀGĀNUGA-BHAKTI
When Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja held a festival at the old Daujī temple he acquired in Vṛndāvana, he instructed me to speak on the glories of Śrī Vṛndāvana-dhāma. After my address, he spoke the following:
“I am now in the very last phase of my life. My only wish is to spend the last few days of my life chanting harināma at the lotus feet of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī, the queen of Vṛndāvana. Without the blessings of the devotees, it is impossible to receive Rādhārānī’s blessings, for it is said, ‘vaiṣṇavera kṛpā ĵāhe sarva-siddhi—all perfections come through the mercy of the Vaiṣṇavas.’
“Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī has expressed:
jagāi mādhāi hôite muĩ se pāpiṣṭha
purīṣera kīṭa hôite muĩ se laghiṣṭha
I am more sinful than Jagāi and Mādhāi and even lower than a worm in stool.
“Although in following the mahājanas, the great authorities, I may repeat similar expressions of humility, my statements will amount to nothing but mere deception if genuine humility has not appeared in my heart. Now, at the end of my life, I have no desire to make any pretense of humility. I am no longer capable of giving lectures. Still, you have all spent a great amount of money to bring me here and to construct an opulent new room for me. In addition to your collective wellbeing, I pray that I may not be affected by even a particle of egotism due to accepting this service of yours, for Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has said:
āmi tô’ vaiṣṇava’—e buddhi hôile,
amānī nā ha’bô āmi
pratiṣṭhāśā āsi’, hṛdaya dūṣibe,
Kalyāṇa-kalpataru (Ucchvāsa 2.8.2)
If I develop the idea that “I am a Vaiṣṇava,” then I will never become humble. My heart will become contaminated with the desire to receive honor from others, and I shall go to hell.
“The purpose of residing in Vṛndāvana is to obtain the dust of the Vaiṣṇava’s lotus feet, follow in their footsteps, and chant śrī kṛṣṇa-nāma.
“Our divine spiritual master has mercifully revealed his identity as Śrī Vārṣabhānavī-dayita dāsa, the servant of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī’s beloved. Śrīla Prabhupāda is eternally Rādhārānī’s personal associate. Without his mercy and the mercy of those Vaiṣṇavas who comprise his spiritual family, we cannot make our residence in Vṛndāvana meaningful. We must fervently pray for the ability to forever follow in their footsteps and constantly remember their lotus feet.
“We cannot achieve the mood of Vṛndāvana through simply following vidhi- mārga, the path of regulative principles. Therefore, we must necessarily take up rāgānuga-mārga, the path of spontaneous, absorptive love. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has said:
iṣṭe svārasiki rāgaḥ paramāviṣṭatā bhavet
tanmayi yā bhaved bhaktiḥ sātra rāgātmikoditā
The intense and spontaneous absorption in the object of one’s adoration (iṣṭa) is called rāga. Devotion that is characterized by such rāga is called rāgātmika-bhakti.
“Rāgānuga-bhakti is defined as devotion that follows the example of the Vrajavāsīs’ rāgātmika-bhakti. We must all strive for this kind of devotion.”
HIS SAMĀDHI CEREMONY
In the month of Kārtika, 1999, Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha’s month-long Śrī Vraja-maṇḍala parikramā culminated in a grand two-day festival beginning on Utthāna Ekādaśī to commemorate Guru Mahārāja’s appearance day. It was just after the completion of the festival that the sevakas of the Purī branch of Śrī Gopīnātha Gauḍīya Maṭha informed us that Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja had manifested his disappearance pastime and entered nitya-līlā. Upon hearing the news, I immediately decided I must attend Śrīla Mahārāja’s samādhi ceremony.
Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s disciple Śrī Bhakti Bibudha Bodhāyana Mahārāja was preaching overseas at the time, but he spoke with my godbrother pūjyapāda Bhakti Vallabha Tīrtha Mahārāja by phone. Pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja then called me to his room and briefed me on his discussion with Śrī Bodhāyana Mahārāja. He said, “Śrī Bodhāyana Mahārāja is greatly distressed that he will be unable to reach Māyāpura in time for his gurudeva’s samādhi ceremony. He has humbly requested for at least one of us to attend the samādhi ceremony if we are unable to both go.”
Pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja then requested me to go to Śrīdhāma Māyāpura without him and assist with the ceremony. He promptly arranged a plane ticket and gave me five thousand rupees to contribute toward Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s viraha-mahotsava (festival of separation).
I left for Delhi in the evening, and from there flew to Kolkata early the next day. I reached Śrī Gopīnātha Gauḍīya Maṭha in Māyāpura around two o’clock in the afternoon, by which time the samādhi ceremony had almost been completed. After the ceremony, I accepted prasāda there in the maṭha. It was agreed that a viraha-mahostava would be held the following day and that I would act as sabhāpati (chairman) for the assembly. Śrī Bodhāyana Mahārāja arrived in Māyāpura on the day of the viraha-mahostava. During the assembly, I read aloud Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s will, wherein Śrī Bodhāyana Mahārāja was officially appointed the ācārya of Śrī Gopīnātha Gauḍīya Maṭha.
HIS SURRENDER-INDUCING CONDUCT AND QUALITIES
By Guru Mahārāja’s mercy, I received the fortunate opportunity to serve and associate with many disciples of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda. My association with Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja was especially intimate and extensive, lasting approximately forty-five years. Throughout the course of our relationship, I was often astonished by his ideal conduct and his inexhaustible dedication toward serving Śrī Hari, guru and Vaiṣṇavas. His faith in performing parikramā of both Śrī Vraja-maṇḍala and Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma was so firm that he insisted on walking even in his advanced age, when he required the assistance of devotees. He would perform parikramā slowly, stopping frequently to rest. Nevertheless, when he would finally arrive at a particular pastime place, he would narrate its glories, take the dust of that place on his forehead and, if he was visiting a body of water, perform ācamana.
Whenever he narrated the glories of pastime places, his absorption was so intense that he would become completely oblivious to the external world. When he served the deities, his passion was such that anyone could understand he was serving someone dearer than his own self, and that he was prepared to offer everything for Their pleasure. When he glorified devotees connected with Śrīla Prabhupāda, his voice would choke up and he would weep. Though he tried his best, it was impossible for him to conceal his deep love and devotion for Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Simply witnessing the gentle manner in which he dealt with other Vaiṣṇavas was enough to inspire anyone to sell his life at his lotus feet for all eternity. Hearing him perform kirtāna, especially the aṣṭa-kāliya-līlā yāma-kīrtānas sung during the month of Kārtika, felt as if someone was pouring nectar in our ears and transporting us to another world. His unwavering dedication to serving the bṛhad-mṛdanga demonstrated his firm faith in the service Śrīla Prabhupāda personally entrusted to him, as well as the faith he had in the order of his gurudeva. Such dedication inspires us to pray for similar niṣṭhā (determined conviction), toward śrī guru.
He possessed deep insights into the conceptions of Gauḍīya Sārasvata philosophy. All that he spoke was based on the scriptures and the words of our previous ācāryas. He carefully listened to everyone’s questions with great seriousness before answering, even to inquires that seemed simple.
From his conduct I learned that one should never make loose comments; he never spoke carelessly about anyone or anything.
During the time he intentionally concealed his divine potency by leading a simple life and remaining under the guidance of his godbrothers, very few persons came forward to serve him. But after he manifested that potency, I heard a number of people who were previously absent from his association say things like, “I associated and served Śrīla Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja so much.” Hearing such fabrications would remind me of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s statement, “keśāva tuā jagata vicitra—O Keśava, strange is your world.” The nature of conditioned souls is to lie for the sake of fame and adoration.