Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vikāsa Hṛṣīkeśa Gosvāmī Mahārāja
[December 2, 2023 is the appearance day of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vikāsa Hṛṣīkeśa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, in Vṛndāvana, India. The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of a discourse by Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja on October 25, 2009. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Today is a special day; Today our śīkṣā guru, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vikāsa Hṛṣīkeśa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, appeared in this world at Adhunā, Bangladesh.
‘WE WILL PROVIDE YOU’
Our parama-gurudeva, Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura, harbored no desire to preach, he only wanted to perform solitary bhajana. He chanted one hundred crore [one billion] nāma in the span of ten years while performing severe austerities like go-grāsa bhojana [eating food directly from the bare ground without the use of hands, just as cows do]. He had no desire to preach. However, when his Gurupādapadma [Śrīla Gaurakiśora Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja], pañca-tattva and Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura appeared to him in a dream instructing him to preach, Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura responded, “I possess neither money nor manpower, how then can I preach?” Then they assured him, “We will send money as well as manpower.”
Subsequent to that, one individual approached Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura and said, “You can certainly perform solitary bhajana here [In Māyāpura], but this will not benefit people at large, instead if you were to move to Kolkata and preach out of a maṭha, that would be more beneficial.”
THE PREACHING EVOLUTION
So Śrīla Prabhupāda accepted sannyāsa in 1918 and rented an apartment at No. 1 Ultādangā Junction for eight rupees per month. During that time, gradually, one by one, many men approached him. He did not go anywhere. Śrīla Prabhupāda began re-publishing the patrikā Sajjana Toṣanī [a Bengali monthly]. He opened four printing presses - Nadiā Prakāśa Printing Works [Śrī Māyāpura], Gauḍīya Printing Works [Kolkata], Bhāgavata Press [Kṛṣṇanagara] and [Paramārtha Press at Cuttack]. From these four, various publications were initiated, such as the Nadiā Prakāśa, which was a daily newspaper, the Gauḍīya [a Bengali weekly], the Harmonist in English [monthly], the Bhāgavata in Hindi [fortnightly], the Paramārthī in Odiā [fortnightly] and the Kīrtana in Assamese [monthly]. All these different magazines/journals were started by Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura. He also established an institute called Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda Institute. Just as students pursue academics to learn subjects pertaining to this world, alongside material education, they taught knowledge concerning transcendence. For this reason, a high school was established and those who taught there were all maṭha-vāsīs [residents of the maṭha]. This school remained closed on Ekādaśī (full day) and Dvādaśī (half day), likewise, they took a full day holiday on Pañcamī and a half day holiday on Ṣaṣṭi. That was the rule.
No student could venture out; they had to remain there as residential students. For this reason, many children who were especially undisciplined and mischievous would be admitted to this school by their parents. Some students were from the state of Assam. Because one Muslim parent had no knowledge about Ekādaśī tithi, he inquired, “Should there be no Ekādaśī appearing in a given month, does that imply that the children do not get any holiday?” There was only one class for all children on the subject of religion.
Although originally all teachers were maṭha-vāsīs, gradually teachers from outside also began to teach there. Among them was Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vikāsa Hṛṣīkeśa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, who was a teacher turned maṭha-vāsī. Likewise, Śrīla Sāra Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pradīpa Tīrtha Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktikevala Auḍulomi Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and Satya Govinda Prabhu all joined as teachers and later became maṭha-vāsīs. Attracted by the rules and regulations of the maṭha, observing the maṭha-vāsīs’ ideal character, they became maṭha-vāsīs themselves. Then they joined in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s preaching mission. In essence, they were all inspired by Mahāprabhu.
SUSTAINING ON MĀDHUKARĪ
Later due to some unrest in Gauḍīya Maṭha, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vikāsa Hṛṣīkeśa Gosvāmī Mahārāja came to Vṛndāvana and sustained himself on mādhukarī [a practice adopted by a mendicant who beg alms from door to door]. He used to reside in Chīpī Galī. Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja also used to reside in Chīpī Galī and later he moved to Rādhā-Dāmodara Mandira. After leaving that place, Śrīla Hṛṣīkeśa Mahārāja established a maṭha at Rishla near Kolkata. Before establishing the maṭha, he performed Vraja-maṇḍala Parikramā with us in 1956.
It is also worthy to note that he did not give up his bhajana under any circumstance. When there was unrest in the Gauḍīya Maṭha, he sustained himself by mādhukarī while residing in Chīpī Galī in Vṛndāvana and performed his bhajana there. He would daily perform Vṛndāvana pañca-kosī [one kosī is 3 kms.] parikramā, and whenever he was in Govardhana, he would daily perform Govardhana parikramā and very enthusiastically sing kīrtana – ‘nija-nikaṭa-nivāsaḿ dehi govardhana tvam'.
MY SERVICE TO HIM
I had visited his maṭha on two occasions. Once I went there on his desire to ensure that there would be an uninterrupted water supply at all places within the maṭha. He was aware that in our maṭha, there would be an uninterrupted water supply even if 20-22 taps were opened simultaneously so Śrīla Hṛṣīkeśa Mahārāja asked to have the same arrangement in his maṭha. On another occasion, I was asked to go there to give some advice regarding the matha. He would join our Vraja-maṇḍala Parikramā party every year.
ORNAMENTED WITH MANY QUALITIES
He was endowed with a melodious voice and he was miṣṭa bhāsi [one who spoke sweetly]. He would sing very exquisite kīrtanas while he himself would play on the karatālas. Guru Mahārāja took him along to various places such as Agartala, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, and so on. He was fluent in speaking English and Hindi. Another distinctive quality he possessed was that he could conclude his speech within the time allotted to him. If he was asked to speak for ten minutes, he would not speak for eleven minutes.
He also possessed a voracious appetite. He would effortlessly polish off two kilos of rābṛi [condensed milk sweet]. Once he called me over and mentioned, “Can one eat [to one’s liking] in the company of these mahātmās? They honor very little.” Although he had already honored earlier, he still managed to finish two earthen pots of rābṛi, which they sell in Vṛndāvana [each pot had 1 kilo of rābṛi], in one go.
Although he was heavy set, when it came to walking, he was no less. He was even expert at swimming. Once, on the day of Guṇḍicā mārjana, we went to the ocean for a bath. Śrīla Hṛṣīkeśa Mahārāja swam way beyond the shore, almost a mile out into the ocean. He was our leader; there was our Śrīla Vāmana Mahārāja and I along with a couple of other devotees. We all went further into the ocean and found it to be very calm. One who knows how to swim can remain afloat without any fear.
SENIORITY NOT AN IMPEDIMENT
Whenever I visited him, he would very affectionately feed me prasādam. When I would tell him, “Mahārāja when you are to serve me like this, and I simply honor, I feel ashamed. [Usually] I serve you, and here you are cutting fruits and feeding me, I do not feel good.” He replied, “What is the big deal about it? I have seen your Guru Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and [he too] would personally serve and feed all of you.”
Today is his āvirbhāva tithi, Kṛṣṇa-pañcamī. Such great souls ascended to Śrīla Prabhupāda. Falling at his feet, I beg for his mercy.