I had the opportunity to have my first darshan of Srila Bharati Maharaja when he came to Bangalore in the year 2011. It was a very short trip and I attended only one or two of his hari-kathas. His Hindi language, accent and the words he mixed from other languages were completely new to me as I knew only very basic Hindi. Then in the year 2012 he came to Bangalore again. Since he knew that I was not fluent in Hindi he used talk in English and sometimes gave hari-kathas in English as well. It was Rama-Navami that year and he gave his hari-katha in English though he was not able to talk fluently in English. Thus I was able to talk to him and hear hari-kathas as well through the language I know. To me, it showed how merciful Vaishnavas are to devotees like me in bringing us to the path of bhakti.
That year, on one evening walk in the park, devotes were asking questions to Srila Maharaja. I asked my first question to him that day. It was, "What is the color of Krsna?" Though this question may look simple I asked this because many devotees were saying Krsna is black, dark black or blue. So I wanted to get it cleared from him. He replied with saying dark blue. Then when I asked why in the temples the vigrahas are not in that color. To that he replied it may be because dark blue stones are not available.
Srila Maharaja is very humble by nature; he would address everyone with 'aap' (a respectful way of addressing someone in Hindi)- even though the person who he is addressing is very much younger to him. When I asked about this to one of his sevaks he replied it is his nature to address everyone like this.
From 2012 onwards I used to hear his hari-kathas to the maximum possible extent. He used to mention several times in his hari-kathas about three types devotee - Kanishta, Madhyama and Uttama. He has also mentioned that an Uttama devotee is one who understands his gurudeva's desire and act accordingly without being told. Once when I was reading one of his books - where he had mentioned a pastime related to his gurudeva - Bhakti Dayita Madhava Gosvami Maharaja. Bhakti Dayita Madhava Gosvami Maharaja had written a letter and kept it on a table for it to be posted later. Then he went to take bath. After sometime, Srila Maharaja, who had gone outside, came to his gurudeva's room. He saw the letter on the table and left with the letter to post it. No one had seen this. Later, when Bhakti Dayita Madhava Maharaja came out after taking his bath saw that the letter was missing. He asked his servant - 'Did Bharati Maharaja come to my room?'. He did not ask where is the letter? Or, did anyone come to my room? To me, this pastime showed that Srila Maharaja is an Uttama devotee.
Srila Maharaja gives explanations to almost any questions with evidences from scriptures. Sometimes he provides his explanations from his experience as well. Once he mentioned about one panda in Puri temple who had got elephantiasis disease. When Maharaja asked the panda how he got it, the panda told it was because he might have stepped on Tulsi leaves. Though Srila Maharaja said in his hari-katha that he has not seen any evidence for this he shares this information with the devotees. To me, he is like an encyclopedia of Vaishnava philosophy.
Srila Maharaja used to narrate pastimes of Vaishnavas on their Avirbhav or Tirobhav tithis (appearance / disappearance). On those days, his hari-katha would always start with “Today is the appearance (or disappearance) day of this Vaishnava. We have to remember these days of the Vaishnavas. Not remembering them on these days is an offence”. Sometimes I used to wonder why is he repeating these lines every time? He told these same lines yesterday or few days before also, during some other Vaishnava’s appearance / disappearance day. But later i.e. after he left this world only I understood the reason why he was repeating. That he wanted us to follow and execute this instruction but I realized that I have not followed his instruction till he was in this world. Then I got a panchika (book containing all the tithis) and am now trying to follow up this instruction – either by reading their pastimes or at least glorifying them during 'Jai dhvani' if I don’t know any of their pastimes.
I have heard about the glories of a few of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples. But, after reading Srila Maharaja’s “My Beloved Masters” book, I was astonished to hear the glories of many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and still more astonished to see how Srila Maharaja had served them. I have read in that book that Sri Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Gosvami Maharaja had advised Srila Maharaja to become ‘Ugraśravā’. From the sevas Srila Maharaja has rendered to many of the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, I come to know to my little knowledge that he has really taken the advice of Sri Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Gosvami Maharaja to his heart and executed it. Though I have visited Mayapur a few times, I had never visited these Samadhis which are located on both sides of the main road. After reading their glories from “My Beloved Masters” when I went to Mayapur this year for Gaura Purnima, I visited these Samadhis and paid my obeisances. To me, they were hidden treasures which were not known to me. But Maharaj has revealed these treasures to me.
When I went to Puri in June 2017 and during his darshan time I was asking him in general about how to progress in bhakti. He asked me if I have read the "My Beloved Masters" book. He continued saying whatever benefit he got is what he has shared in that book. Every Vaishnava appears in this world for some reason. To me, Srila Maharaja came to this world to distribute the glories of the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, who are none other than the dear devotees sent by Mahaprabhu himself. Had Srila Maharaja not come to this world I would not have known about their glories.
Like the Lord, His devotees are also Bhakta-vatsalas. I could feel this during Srila Maharaja’s disappearance day. His disappearance was around noon time. Not at mid-night, late night or early morning which otherwise would have been a discomfort for devotees to arrive at. I had reached the previous day late night but still I was served prasadam and got a place to sleep for few hours as well. The next day (on his disappearance day) I got many chances to have his darshan through the main door as well as the through the window of the back door of his room. Even on that day there was breakfast prasadam served. Then after he left his body, I had enough time to plan for my travel back to my hometown. And again, prasadam was served in the afternoon. Thus I saw how merciful was Srila Maharaj who did not want any discomfort to his devotees even when he departed.
Srila Maharaja would finish most of the hari-kathas with “Badaa Mushkil” followed by a smile. I remember in one such hari-katha he ended with a question 'Did Krsna come to taste Vatsalya rasa or to give it?' Then he ended saying 'Badaa Mushkil' with a smile. This one thing is enough for me - to always remember him.
I pay my dandavat-pranams to all his sevakas who have taken care of him very well throughout these years. They have shown their mercy by giving me the opportunity to serve Srila Maharaja. I am always indebted to them.
I pray to Srila Bharati Maharaja to give me the strength to follow his instructions and always serve Hari, Guru and Vaishnavas.