The first time we heard about Srila Maharaj was from our neighbor, Radhakanth Prabhu in 2010. He told us there is a hari katha broadcast from Pune from a senior Vaishnava; there are so few left now on earth like them, so you must listen to the broadcast. Then from 2011, he started visiting Bangalore every year, and from this, we got close association of Maharaj.
We did not know anything about him; in fact, we were very new and did not know about Srila Prabhupad, Caitanya Gaudiya Math, or anything at all! But Maharaj had such a powerful magnetism that he just attracted us and we were constantly aspiring for his association and to hear from him. He made everyone feel very comfortable around him, in spite of his seniority and knowledge, and he used to express this in many ways.
When he was staying at our homes, many of us used to cook something for him based on what we thought he would like. Of course, everything used to be taken to his room by his sevaks, but later on, he used to come out and ask, “Who prepared this drumstick sambar, it was very good! Who prepared the rasam, that was so nice!” He also used to see what everyone else were having, and paid attention to every detail. Once when Maharaj was coming to Bangalore, he was supposed to reach before noontime, and I was instructed to make Ragi dosa for him for lunch, which he used to like very much. When he was having it, he was telling Madhav Priya Prabhu, I hope Mataji will not think I am eating too many! He had such a childlike charm!
In this way, he was very approachable, and he guided us without any hesitation. Even though we were so new to bhakti, he answered many of our basic questions very patiently. We asked in the little free time we get should we concentrate on; chanting or reading scriptures. He said to always follow your heart, act based on what you feel like doing the most at the given time. We also asked that, if we need to start reading scriptures, which is the book we have to start; Maharaj suggested to start with “Caitanya Bhagavat”.
He used to very attentively listen to our mangal aarti from his room; we used to go to his room for darshan later on, and he used to always have the Gaudiya Panchika book with him to see the tithi of the day. One day he said “Your mangal aarti lasts for 15 minutes. You should also do Vaishnav vandana every morning. When we asked which one, he suggested the kirtan “Vrindavan Vasi Jata” by Devaki Nandan Das.
He also said when we awaken the Lord every morning before mangal aarti, reciting these 2 shlokas are good and removes inauspiciousness –
vrajangananam divam asprsad dhvanih
dadhnas ca nirmanthana-sabda-misrito
nirasyate yena disam amangalam
jayati jana-nivaso devaki-janma-vado
yadu-vara-parisat svair dorbhir asyann adharmam
vraja-pura-vanitanam vardhayan kama-devam
We requested him to recite them, which he kindly did while we recorded. (https://soundcloud.com/sbvbgm/mangal-aarti-shlokas-recited-by-srila-maharaja)
In 2016, he happened to be in our house during Sankranti festival. During our “after mangal aarti darshan” he was enquiring from us what we do on the day, and he was saying he is so fond of jaggery, that once he ate more than 1 kilo of jaggery at a stretch! Then he was saying how people in other states celebrate; his experience and knowledge was so vast! Before leaving our house, he told us, “Vaishnav seva is the right path for bhakti, you must continue to do Vaishnav seva”. His instructions were simple, yet so powerful.
By his mercy, we got our Diksha Guru, Nityaleela Pravishta Om Vishnupad Ashtotarashata Sri Srimad Bhakti Kamal Govind Maharaj. After our Gurudev left this world, when we met Bharathi Maharaj in Vrindavan in Kartik, at that time, he had just finished the evening katha (at Gopinath Gaudiya Math) and was resting in his bed. However, as soon as he saw us, he spoke “Your Gurudev came to meet me earlier this year. I saw that his diet restrictions were much more than mine. I asked Narottam to prepare for him neem leaves powder”. I was amazed at how clearly he remembered all the details. My Gurudev used to say about him, “He is a Mahabhagavat, you must always serve him.”
We were lucky to have Maharaj’s final darshan in Faridabad. In spite of having no eligibility, Maharaj came to our lives by himself and made a profound impact on us. I pray at his lotus feet that he may continue giving us his association and teachings through his various associates and give us opportunity to serve Vaishnavas.
krishna se tomara, krishna dite paro,
tomara sakati ache
ami to’ kangala, ‘krishna’ ‘krishna’ boli’,
dhai tava pache pache