Of Separation and Love - Part 1 of 2
Acquiring the divine appearance place of Śrīla Prabhupāda
When Guru Mahārāja came to know about the possibility of acquiring the divine appearance place of Śrīla Prabhupāda in Purī, he firstly approached Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vilāsa Tīrtha Gosvāmī Mahārāja, who was the presiding ācārya of Śrī Caitanya Maṭha at that time. Through Śrī Śrīmad Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, he requested him, “There is no scarcity of resources at your disposal. Please assume proprietorship of this place, so that we may all gain the fortune of visiting and offering our praṇāmas there without restriction.”
Śrīla Tīrtha Gosvāmī Mahārāja replied, “Śrīla Prabhupāda did not give me any specific instructions regarding the preservation of that place. Rather, he advised me to incessantly engage in the service of Śrī Māyāpuradhāma alone, and thereby highlight the supremacy of Śrīman Mahāprabhu, Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s teachings and Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s dhāma. Moreover, Śrīla Prabhupāda made no endeavors to acquire the appearance place of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura.”
Upon receiving Śrīla Tīrtha Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s reply, my Guru Mahārāja, in the company of his godbrother Śrīpāda Jagamohana Prabhu took me along with him as his assistant to approach Śrī Bhakti Kevala Auḍulomi Mahārāja, the then presiding ācārya of Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha in Bāgbāzār, Kolkata, and request him to acquire custody of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appearance place.
Upon hearing Guru Mahārāja’s request, Śrī Auḍulomi Mahārāja replied, “We cannot spend such an amount of money for this. Moreover, you are known as the second-best donation collector of the Gauḍīya Maṭha, and therefore no financial constraints could stop you if you were to take charge of this responsibility.”
After their meeting, when we were returning to our maṭha in a taxi, Guru Mahārāja mentioned a Bengali proverb to Śrī Jagamohana Prabhu: “bhāgera mā gaṅgā pāye nā—a mother with many sons does not receive the fortune of having her ashes submerged in the Gaṅgā.” The logic behind this is that each of her sons will not bother arranging for their mother’s ashes to be put in the Gaṅgā, because they will assume that the other sons will do it. As a result, her ashes never reach the Gaṅgā.
Contemplating in this way, Guru Mahārāja said, “Everything will be just fine; we will try to the best of our ability to acquire this land.”
Who but ‘Mādhava?’
In those days, the disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda would gather at the maṭha of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja in Koladvīpa after completing Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma parikramā.
When my Guru Mahārāja met with his godbrothers at that time, he informed them about the opportunity to purchase the appearance place of Śrīla Prabhupāda in Jagannātha Purī, and he suggested they could purchase the land collectively.
After discussing the matter among themselves, a few of his godbrothers pledged whatever money they could, but the total amount was almost insignificant compared to the amount needed. Feeling perplexed about what to do, Guru Mahārāja said, “We will have to think of another way to collect the required funds.”
At that time, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja mentioned one verse from the Nṛsiṁha Purāṇa:
mādhavo mādhavo vāci
mādhavo mādhavo hṛdi
smaranti mādhavaḥ sarve
sarva kāryeṣu mādhavam
Mādhava is in one’s words. Mādhava is in one’s heart. All saintly persons remember Mādhava, the husband of Lakṣmī (the goddess of wealth) in all their endeavors.
Although the name ‘Mādhava’ in this verse refers to Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Śrīla Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja spoke the verse in reference to my most worshipful Guru Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and thus implied, “Mādhava Mahārāja is in the words and hearts of his godbrothers. All his godbrothers remember Mādhava Mahārāja, because he is able to collect any amount of lakṣmī (money). All his godbrothers remember Mādhava Mahārāja in all their undertakings, and that is why anything can be accomplished when Mādhava Mahārāja is there. What is the need to rely on anyone else?”
Upon hearing this, Guru Mahārāja understood that his godbrothers were blessing him by entrusting this service to him alone, and so he offered his prostrated daṇḍavat-praṇāma to all of them. Thus, he happily accepted the entire responsibility of acquiring Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appearance place.
Even the devotees of ISKCON, a large and resourceful organization, had lost all hope of acquiring this place after meeting with innumerable hardships and complications. My Guru Mahārāja, however, endured various physical and mental adversities in his service of acquiring this place, and after a long time of consistent effort, he came very close to succeeding in his service.
In the meantime, Śrī Bhakti Prajñāna Yati Mahārāja, a disciple of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vilāsa Tīrtha Gosvāmī Mahārāja of Śrī Caitanya Maṭha, submitted to the authorities of Dakṣiṇa Pārśva Maṭha, the owners of the site of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s appearance at that time, a lengthy collection of documents and letters, asserting, “Ours is the original and real Gauḍīya Maṭha. We alone reserve the right to bear the responsibility of managing the appearance place of Śrīla Prabhupāda. The institution on whose behalf Śrī Mādhava Mahārāja has submitted his application is not the original maṭha.”
They also submitted to the High Court a petition requesting a ‘stay order’ on the transfer of rights. Guru Mahārāja was distraught to hear this news. In the beginning, before he made any independent endeavor to acquire the property, he had approached Śrīla Tīrtha Gosvāmī Mahārāja with a proposal. It was due only to Śrīla Tīrtha Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s refusal that Guru Mahārāja began soliciting his other godbrothers for help, which later lead him to accept sole responsibility for acquiring the property. At that point, after so much endeavor, it was unfeasible for him to relinquish his role in that service.
Although Guru Mahārāja was upset, he was not the slightest bit disheartened. He told me, “In the absence of this obstacle, we might have made only gradual progress in our efforts. But now, in the face of adversity, we will proceed with greater determination and make all necessary efforts to achieve success.” By the mercy of Śrīla Prabhupāda, the transfer of the property’s ownership to Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha was completed one day before the High Court was to deliberate on the stay order.
The first vyāsa-pūjā festival of Śrīla Prabhupāda at his appearance place
Under Guru Mahārāja’s auspices, a grand festival celebrating the 104th appearance day of Śrīla Prabhupāda was organized to be held at his appearance place on 28 February, 1978. A five-day religious conference—from 26 February to 2 March—was also organized for the occasion. During the festival, the foundation stone laying ceremony was performed amid tumultuous chants of śrī nāma-saṅkīrtana.
Guru Mahārāja himself wrote invitation letters to all his godbrothers, requesting them to attend the festival: “Kindly grace the occasion with your divine presence and shower your mercy upon us.” Upon receiving the invitation from Guru Mahārāja, devotees from all walks of life—sannyāsīs, brahmacārīs, vānaprasthīs, gṛhasthas and many distinguished personalities—came to take part in the occasion. A few foreign devotees were also in attendance.
Other than Guru Mahārāja, those present at the festival included his constant companions Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Śravaṇa Trivikrama Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇakeśava Brahmacārī, Śrīpāda Jagamohana Prabhu, Śrīpāda Uddhāraṇa Prabhu, Śrī Śrīmad Indupati dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja and many surrendered disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda, the most prominent of whom were Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kumuda Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kamala Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Saurabha Bhaktisāra Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vilāsa Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vikāśa Hṛśikeṣa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Saudha Āśrama Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Rāsa-bihārī dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prapanna Daṇḍī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Suhṛt Bodhāyana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prapanna Dāmodara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Suvrata Paramārthī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrīpāda Dr. Śyāmasundara Brahmacārī and Śrīpāda Yatiśekhara dāsa Adhikārī.
During the five-day festival commemorating the vyāsapūjā of Śrīla Prabhupāda, various Vaiṣṇavas spoke on his teachings, instructions, statements, conduct, character and personality from a multitude of viewpoints. During that ongoing sequence of heart-touching narrations, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, with great eagerness and a heart filled with joy, said to all those present, “Now that we have been bestowed with the opportunity to construct a Gauḍīya Maṭha at the appearance place of Śrīla Prabhupāda, all his disciples will be extremely pleased to annually gather here at his birthplace in honor of his appearance day festival, and at his samādhi-pīṭha in Śrīdhāma Māyāpura to honor his disappearance day festival. Of this there is no doubt.”
The distribution centers of unnatojjvāla-rasa
In his lectures, Guru Mahārāja would often offer his perspective about the divine birth of Śrīla Prabhupāda. In Padma Purāṇa, Śrīla Vyāsadeva has stated hyutkale puruṣottamāt. By these words, he prophesized that the message of śuddha-bhakti for Kṛṣṇa, the primeval Supreme Lord, would be distributed to the whole world, and that the epicenter of this distribution would be the land of Puruṣottama, or Śrī Purī-dhāma. This prophecy was fulfilled by the appearance of Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura in that very Śrī Puruṣottama-dhāma.
Although Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu appeared in Śrīdhāma Māyāpura to distribute unnatojjvala rasa (the most sublime and radiant mellow of devotional service, or madhura-rasa), it was from Śrī Jagannātha Purī that he actually began distributing it. Having established this topmost treasure of prema in Śrī Purī-dhāma, He manifested His disappearance pastime. Some time later, Śrīla Prabhupāda appeared in Śrī Purī-dhāma and collected that divine treasure, which he then distributed to the whole world from Śrīdhāma Māyāpura, the appearance place of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
Firm faith beyond external circumstances
Before we acquired the appearance place of Śrīla Prabhupāda, we would stay at various other places while visiting Purī-dhāma with Guru Mahārāja. At that time, Guru Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja and all the disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda would offer daṇḍavat-praṇāma at this place from beyond the property lines, since entry was prohibited without prior permission. Although the area around the entrance gate was incredibly filthy, the disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda would still offer daṇḍavat-praṇāma, totally oblivious to the external cleanliness of the place. Those who witnessed this were struck with great wonder and respect.
Because of the unclean condition of that place, I was hesitant to offer praṇāma. However, upon seeing others offering praṇāma, I would find a less grimy place and offer pañcāṅga-praṇāma and quickly get up. But after repeatedly hearing about the glories of this divine place from the lotus lips of our guruvarga, I gradually began offering aṣṭāṅga-praṇāma to that place, just as they did.