One remarkable characteristic of Śrīla Mahārāja’s was, whenever he accepted responsibility for, or commenced any service, he would become so absorbed in it that all else would fade into oblivion. Having once imbibed something as truth or given his word to someone, he would never retract, no matter how much inconvenience was required to honor his promise. Even in the seemingly most inconsequential incidents, one would be astonished to hear his astutely subtle and deep viewpoint, which was always pursuant to scriptural doctrine. We will present two such anecdotes, as recounted by Śrīla Mahārāja, depicting these special qualities in him:
First Incident: “Once, while residing at Śrīdhāma Māyāpura, I along with many other devotees contracted chicken pox and was incapacitated to render any service. However, when I remembered, ‘tat-kṛpā-avalokana’— ‘seeing Bhagavān’s mercy in every situation’, which is one of the sixty four limbs of devotional service, I saw my present situation also as auspicious. I considered, “Generally, being engaged in some service or the other, there is no opportunity to study scriptures. But now I can study the scriptures for as long as I like.” Therefore I began reading Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta. As I read on, I became so engrossed and blissful that I would not feel like putting the book down for even a moment. At that time, Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa-keśava Brahmacārī, a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda, told other brahmacārīs, “Please keep an eye on him, lest he become insane by incessantly reading the scripture.” Anyhow, I actually did not experience the agony of chicken pox at all because most of my time was spent reading Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta.
Upon hearing that some devotees were suffering from chicken pox, Guru Mahārāja wrote a letter to the then temple president of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha, Śrīdhāma Māyāpura, Śrī Bhakti Prasāda Āśrama Mahārāja, informing him to provide a special diet such as halavāh and purī, etc. to those who were suffering. Although Śrī Āśrama Mahārāja related to us the contents of Guru Mahārāja’s letter and his instructions about the special prescribed diet, he was unable to provide that diet for us, whatever the reason may have been. At that time, some brahmacārīs began to urge me, “You always have an active correspondence with Guru Mahārāja through letters, so you should certainly keep Guru Mahārāja abreast of the fact that we are not being provided the diet he prescribed and about the overall situation.” I replied, “If, for some reason, Śrī Āśrama Mahārāja is unable to follow the order of Guru Mahārāja, then that should be a matter of his concern, not ours. Why should we become despondent over this? Secondly, I cannot demand anything from Guru Mahārāja because when I had expressed my desire to permanently reside at the maṭha, I had not entered into any agreement stating that ‘I will serve but all of you should take care of me in special circumstances.’ Therefore it is only appropriate to spend this time howsoever we can while depending on Guru, Vaiṣṇavas and Bhagavān.” Then, two of the brahmacārīs spoke, “We have intimated our family members by letter; they will definitely make some arrangement or other. If you wish, you can also write those from your pūrva-āśrama (life before joining maṭha) to request something.” I replied, “If I write to my ex-relatives, I know that they will certainly make some arrangement, but even still, I will not do so because despite the fact that they have fulfilled my various necessities for many years, I have not done anything for them in exchange. By becoming a brahmacārī, I indirectly declared my ‘lack-of-support’ to them and now upon experiencing a little inconvenience, is it befitting to ask them for help? Sheerly out of shame, I will never be able to do such a thing.” After a couple of days, one brahmacārī approached me, “My father has sent some money to me, I will get something for everyone out of that money”, he suggested. Hearing him, I exclaimed, “Don’t you dare get me anything using that money! I will not accept anything, so do not bring anything to me.” Petrified, the brahmacārī left.
Anyhow, after a couple of days, two of my godbrothers Śrī Nitāī Datta and Śrī Keśava Mukherjee came to Śrīdhāma Māyāpura for a few days. Seeing the devotees afflicted with chicken pox, they were inspired to arrange prasādam for all of us as per the prescribed diet. Then onwards, this belief became firmly rooted in my heart that if we are desirous to advance on the path of Truth, then by the inspiration of Bhagavān, even unknown and unlikely personalities will come forward and provide exactly whatever is necessary.”
Second incident: “One time I was in Hyderabad with the preaching party of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha. On the day that we were to return to Kolkata, while I was dressing after my morning bath, my foot suddenly slipped and I fell in such a way that my left hand hit the bed with such force that I endured two internal injuries which were excruciatingly painful. I requested one devotee to inform the devotees bound for Kolkata that I would not be able to accompany them, and if possible, they should cancel my ticket, as I would need to be taken to a hospital. That devotee did not heed my words. At any rate, eventually I was taken to the hospital. I felt I had fractured my hand, thus I suggested they request the physician to attend to me first. The physician, however, dismissed the request saying, “If it was indeed a fracture, then he would have created a great commotion, screaming at the top of his lungs [due to the pain]. So please wait your turn patiently. I will attend to him shortly.” Later, the physician first took an x-ray and saw that my hand was fractured in two places. Thereafter, while applying a plaster-like bandage the physician enquired, “Mahārāja, even in the case of one fracture, people become restless, screaming in pain. How did you manage to remain unperturbed despite two fractures?” I replied, “Would screaming relieve my pain? Till date I haven’t heard that there is any relief through screaming.
Happiness and distress appear in accordance to one’s destiny, therefore, I consider it my duty to follow, to the best of my ability, the words of Bhagavad-gītā—duḥkhesv anudvigna-manaḥ - one should not become disturbed upon the appearance of distress”.
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.