- Remembrance in Separation - Bhagavata Patrikā
Acceptance of Harīnāma and Dīksā
Śrīla Mahārāja obtained primary education in his village Śrī Sītā-Rāmapura and further education in Pāncarulā. Subsequently, for some time, he practiced as a private tutor in Pāncarulā. It was then that Śrīla Mahārāja was first introduced to the Gauḍīya Maṭha, having met few disciples of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja there. By the influence of their association, Śrīla Mahārāja began frequenting Śrī Śyāmānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha, at Medinīpura. From time to time, Śrīla Mahārāja obtained darśana of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kumuda Santa Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Jīvana Janārdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja and many other disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura in that maṭha.
After some time, in 1955, Śrīla Mahārāja arrived at Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha at 86, Rāsābihāri Avenue, Kolkata (situated in a rented apartment) along with a disciple of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Lokanātha Brahmacāri (later Śrī Bhakti Suhṛta Dāmodara Māhāraja) with an objective to hear hari-kathā. Śrīla Mahārāja would relate this incident in the following manner:
“Once, Śrī Lokanātha Brahmacārī took me with him to the Kolkata maṭha. Prior to coming to the maṭha, I had read some portions of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta. Hence, upon coming to Kolkata, I would recite some payāras (verses composed in standard Bengali style) of Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta and stutīs & stavas (hymns and verses) in front of the Lordships. Seeing me pray like this in front of the Lordships daily, Śrī Uddhāraṇa Prabhu, told me one day, “You should accept harināma and dīkṣā from my god-brother Śrī Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Mahārāja.”
“I replied, “I have come here to hear hari-kathā from the Gauḍīya Maṭha sādhus because I like to hear from them. I have come to understand and learn about the tenets of the philosophy of the Gauḍīya Maṭha. However, I have not come to become a sādhu or a resident of the maṭha. I am still young, healthy and robust. Why then, should I live off the laboriously hard-earned wealth of others simply by accepting the dress of a sādhu, instead of earning a livelihood for myself?”
“I went to Śrīla Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and while complaining about Śrī Uddhāraṇa Prabhu, said, “My ears, nose, hands and all other body parts are still (perfectly) functional. Yet, Śrī Uddhāraṇa Prabhu is suggesting that I shave up and take harināma and become a bhikṣuka (mendicant)!” Guru Mahārāja replied, “It is not that everyone who accepts harināma becomes a renunciant. Even gṛhasthas (householders) can accept harināma and become Vaiṣṇavas. Do not accept harināma simply on someone’s suggestion; accept it only when you desire it yourself.”
“In this way, I continued to stay at the maṭha for a few days. Each afternoon I would see everyone doing harināma on the terrace. Observing this daily practice of theirs, I thought to myself, ‘I am not habituated to resting during the day. Hence, if I had also received harināma, even I would have been able to chant in the afternoons, when there is time out from kathā, kīrtana and other sevās. Śrī Uddhāraṇa prabhu had even told me to accept harināma, but I myself had refused it. Nevertheless, Śrī Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja has said, “Accept harināma only when you desire it yourself, not because someone else is saying so.” Therefore, now if Śrī Uddhāraṇa Prabhu or anyone else suggests again, I will definitely accept harināma.’
“Within some time, the news of Śrī Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja giving harināma on the upcoming Śayana Ekādaśī, fell on my ears. Thus, Śrī Uddhāraṇa Prabhu said to me, “Look, a wonderful opportunity has presented itself. On the most auspicious day of Śrī Śayana Ekādaśī, Śrī Mādhava Mahārāja will be awarding harināma. You should also accept it.” I said, “Alright. I will accept harināma then.”
“Afterwards, one day Śrī Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja told me, “If you do not desire to marry, thus entering into this samsāra (endless cycle of birth and death), then it is best to accept harināma.” I replied, “When Śrī Uddhāraṇa Prabhu informed me about harināma being awarded on Śayana Ekādaśī, at that moment itself I had resolved to accept it on that day. But I will not shave my head and beg alms (bhikṣā).” Śrī Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja said, “There are many different sevās in the maṭha. If you don’t wish to beg alms, don’t do it.”
“Anyhow, that auspicious moment arrived on Śrī Śayana Ekādaśī when Guru Mahārāja, first of all, was to give some instructions before awarding harināma. On that day, an elderly couple had also accepted harināma. So, making them an instrument, Guru Mahārāja gave many instructions about food and lifestyle and then, one by one, awarded mantras to all. Later, when I was alone in Guru Mahārāja’s quarters, I inquired, “Making that old couple an instrument you mentioned many rules to be followed by a harināma aspirant. Are those rules exempt for a youth like me, since you did not directly instruct me on them?” Guru Mahārāja said, “Just by seeing you, I feel that you do not indulge in any prohibited activities. That is why I did not say anything to you. Regardless, I feel that along with harināma, you should also accept dīkṣā.” Hearing this from Guru Mahārāja, I was slightly taken aback because, until then, I wasn’t aware that harināma and dīkṣā were two different things. I said, “I didn’t know that harināma and dīkṣā are two different things, however, you do whatever you deem appropriate. I have firm faith that you are my well-wisher, and whatever you do, will bring me topmost auspiciousness.”
“After awarding harināma and dīkṣā, when Guru Mahārāja spoke of chanting the mantras twelve times during the three sandhyās, I said, “Guru Mahārāja, ever since I received the upanayanam saṁskāra at the age of eight, I have been chanting the brahma gāyatrī ten times. So, should I chant that mantra twelve times as well?” Guru Mahārāja said, “Scriptures say that gāyatrī mantra can be chanted either ten, twelve or eighteen times; hence it can be chanted any number of times, as mentioned above. Since you are already habituated to chanting ten times, you can chant all the gāyatrī mantras ten times.” Although all my god-brothers and god-sisters chant all the gāyatrī mantras twelve times; as per Guru Mahārāja’s advice, I kept a vow to chant all the mantras ten times only.
“At the end of awarding dīkṣā, Guru Mahārāja gave me a mantra sheet and an approximately fifteen-page booklet titled, ‘Sādhana-saṅket’ and said, “To the extent possible, follow the jaya dhvani and all other details mentioned in this book every day.”
SERVICE OF WRITING LETTERS
“About three-four days after having received harināma and dīkṣā, Guru Mahārāja called for me and handing out a blank piece of paper and a pen, requested me to write the following on it, in both Bengali and English – ‘Oṁ Viṣṇupāda Aṣṭottara-śata Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’ and ‘Śrī Śrī Guru-Gaurāṅgau Jayatah’. Noting that my handwriting was clear [and legible], Guru Mahārāja said, “You did not wish to shave up your head and beg alms. That is not an issue. From today, you will pen down letters dictated by me.” From then onwards, mostly every day, Guru Mahārāja would dictate many letters to me. Those were the days when Guru Mahārāja had started preaching independently, having separated from Śrī Caitanya Maṭha. For this reason, he would receive frequent letters. After sifting through them, he would respond to many of the letters. By virtue of writing those letters, I had the opportunity of becoming privy to the innermost confidential thoughts and moods of Guru Mahārāja’s heart, as well as to assimilate the conceptions of the tenets of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism.
The ‘Remembrance in Separation’ series, dedicated to Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja, was first published in Sri Sri Bhagavata Patrika in Hindi in the year 2018. The series unfolded over three volumes (Year 14, Volume 9-10, 10-11, 11-12).
Now, we are presenting the English translation of this in the form of a series of articles released in www.vcvani.com.
Since it covers a brief sketch of Śrīla Mahārāja’s life and precepts from childhood to his final pastimes, this series will be unfolded from now until his tirobhava tithi.