Dandavat Pranams! All glories to my most munificent spiritual master, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Vijnana Bharati Goswmai Maharaj. All glories to The Guru Parampara.
Mercy manifested in my life when I met Srila Bhakti Vijnana Bharati Goswmai Maharaj in Mayapur during the week before Gaura Purnima in 2016. My nephew Kostubha had had Srila Maharaj’s darshan a couple of years before that and he encouraged me go to see him. Later, when I learned that Syamarani didi and Vasanti didi were taking shelter of Maharaj, I essentially followed them to his lotus feet.
Many times as I sat in front of Srila Maharaj I looked at him thinking “he is not normal.” This perhaps sounds flippant but it simply reflects my inability to articulate what it is like to be in the presence of such a personality. I recall looking at him and asking myself “What is it like in there?“ My mind grappled with trying to comprehend his transcendental form.
The first things that Srila Maharaj did that instilled my faith in him happened after he gave me Harinam on Gaura Purnima 2016. Before he gave a few of us the Maha Mantra, Srila Maharaj said he would give us our names at the evening house program.
I am a tomboy and have been somewhat androgynous for my whole life. I chalk that up to strong male samskaras. By the time I took initiation, I had developed a full-blown phobia that I would be given a girlie-girl name that made me feel like I was wearing a gopi skirt. I was so stressed out about my potential spiritual name that I decided to write my concerns on paper in the hopes that I would stop thinking them. I wrote my thoughts in the form of a letter to Srila Maharaj. The gist of it was that I would lose my faith in him if he gave me a name that I hated. Though I felt terrible about my feelings, they remained.
At one point during that exceedingly long day, I read the note to Syamarani Didi. I remember that she laughed and told me not to worry. She assured me that Srila Maharaj knew what he was doing.
As the evening program started, Srila Maharaj walked out of his room. He was using a cane and walking on his own at that point. I had been doing flower seva so I was sitting a little bit off to the side at the dining room table. Srila Maharaj took a number of steps through the dining room towards the living room and then he paused. I was watching Him intently. He looked over at me for a brief moment and we made eye contact. His glance was unmistakable to me. He was chastising me with his eyes. Oddly, it felt wonderful. I knew in that moment that he knew my doubts and my fear.
After the evening Harikatha, he seemingly “forgot” to give us our names. In spite of his chastisement, I continued to worry all night. The next day, when Srila Maharaj gave us our names, Deva-Mayi sounded so beautiful to me. Though an extraordinarily feminine name, I loved it immediately. I asked him what it meant and was told that it is a reference to Radha. Deva indicates Krishna and Mayi means the deluding potency that causes Radha to perceive Krishna wherever she looks.
Srila Maharaj had given me a name with 8 letter, 4 which form a masculine word and 4 which form a feminine one. Structurally, Deva-Mayi is a perfectly androgynous name.
Besides the gender significance of my name, Deva-Mayi has an additional meaning for me. When I first became interested in Krishna Consciousness, Sura das, a Prabhupad disciple, had encouraged me to begin removing the mundane art in my home and replacing it with Krishna art. I asked him why. He said that this would help me because then no matter where I looked in my home, I would think of Krishna. I took his advice and soon began filling my home with decor related to Krishna. The intent of wanting to see Krishna everywhere I look has been a guiding force for me since the beginning of my foray into this tradition. My name, Deva-Mayi, demonstrates to me that Srila Maharaj knows my heart.
In 2017, I went to Mayapur again for Gaura Purnima. By then, Srila Maharaj had purchased the property across from Gopinath Gaudiya Matha. Visuddha Caitanya Vani now had a presence in Mayapur.
On my birthday, my Godsister Jamuna and I went to Visuddha Caitanya Vani for morning darshan. Much to our dismay, the sevaks told us that Srila Maharaj would not be giving darshan that morning. Jamuna and I were really disappointed. Perhaps to comfort ourselves, we headed off to Govinda’s for breakfast prasadam.
We were meandering down the Marg. All of a sudden, I stopped dead in my tracks. Jamuna kept going. Momentarily, I saw her stop and turn around, having realized I was no longer next to her. Whatever look she saw on my face, she asked with concern, “What’s wrong!?” Feeling and sounding panicked, I responded, “I have to go back.” She asked, “Why?” I said, “I don’t know.”
I turned around and sprinted back towards Srila Maharaj. Jamuna followed. I turned back a couple of times. Jamuna was running as fast as I’ve ever seen anyone run in a sari. She kept pace with me and we arrived back at the the brick wall at Visuddha Caitanya Vani at essentially the same time.
At the exact second we entered the courtyard, Srila Maharaja’s bedroom door swung open. The previously cancelled darshan was now going to happen. Since many devotees had also been informed that the darshan was cancelled, Jamuna and I and a few others received the gift of a semi-private moment with Srila Maharaj. What a birthday surprise. It was also Madhavendra Puri’s Disappearance Day. Super auspicious!
The experience was sublime. And the fact that I had stopped dead in my tracks and somehow knew to go back still amazes me! I am not a particularly intuitive person. Nor do I tend to be spontaneous. What happened that day in the Dhama was 100% Srila Maharaj. Jamuna will attest that it happened exactly as I have stated. I know she will because it was so unbelievable to me that I asked her a number of times if it happened the way I remember it. It did.
My friend Emon attended the 2017 New Braj Fest in Badger. Vasanti didi had arranged a Skype initiation appointment for him with Srila Maharaj. Emon (soon to be Ishan) was the only person planning to receive Harinam. A few of us close to him knew that but no one else did. Srila Maharaj knew he was giving someone Harinam but no one had told him who it would be.
Emon’s private Skype initiation was scheduled for after the public Skype darshan for all of the devotees at the festival. We all huddled in the pandal as the sevaks set up the computer for the Skype call. When the connection was made, Srila Maharaja’s beautiful form was projected onto a big screen above the stage. Nityananda used the computer to sweep the crowd so Srila Maharaj could see all of us, a gathering of about 300 people. Whoever didn’t fit on the cement slab was sitting on the grass surrounding it. After seeing all of us, Srila Maharaj asked, “Who is that dark boy in the middle?” I turned to see who Srila Maharaj meant and there was Emon, sitting to my right in the middle of the group, his dark-complected and fully-bearded face sitting there looking stunned. Srila Maharaj had picked Emon out of the large crowd as if to say “you are mine.” For those of us who knew Emon was about to receive Harinam, Srila Maharaj had demonstrated His omniscience.
Srila Maharaj continued with his Skype benediction as though nothing profound had transpired. The handful of us who realized what had just happened were awestruck. We soon confirmed with each other that we had seen and heard the same thing. It is not often that one gets to witness a miracle!
These moments and memories give me incredible faith in Srila Maharaj, in his capacity to see in and to be in our hearts, and in his ability to inspire us even when it seems he is absent from us.