Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja
[July 17, 2023 is the disappearance day of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja in Vṛndāvana, India. Below is an excerpt of his glories from 'My Beloved Masters' by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja]
HAPPILY ENDURING DIFFICULTY FOR THE SERVICE OF ŚRĪ GURU
Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja once went to Ambālā to assist in setting up a spiritual education exhibition at Kurukṣetra, as per the desire of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Being unable to find accommodations for themselves, they resorted to spending the night under a bridge, where they bared the cold weather by embracing each other for warmth and remembering Kṛṣṇa’s pastime in which He spent a night in the forest with Sudāmā while serving their guru.
THE NATURAL HUMILITY OF VAISNAVAS
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja and my Guru Mahārāja (then known
as Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī), once preached in the city of Madras (now Chennai). At that time, a debate between Dr. Rādhā-Kṛṣṇan—who contrary to his name was a strong proponent of the school of advaitavāda (non-duality, or impersonalism)—and Dr. Nāgarāja Śarmā—who contrary to his name was a firm promoter of dvaitavāda (duality)—was published in the English daily paper The Hindu in the form of a series of articles. Through these articles, both men put forth arguments in favor of their respective faiths while refuting the other’s arguments. This continued for some time, until the dvaitavādīs and advaitavādīs of Madras decided to organize a debate between the two men under the chairmanship of a representative from the Gauḍīya Maṭha. Whatever conclusion the chairman would reach was to be considered final and acceptable for all.
When the local residents approached Guru Mahārāja with the proposal to ap- point a representative from the Gauḍīya Maṭha institution as chairman for the debate, he was very pleased and requested Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja to accept the chairmanship. In a humble manner befitting a Vaiṣṇava, Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja accepted the proposal.
In the meantime, Guru Mahārāja received a telegram from Śrīla Prabhupāda ordering him to come to Kolkata. When Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja heard about Śrīla Prabhupāda’s message, he said to Guru Mahārāja, “O Hayagrīva Prabhu, I will not be able to accept the post of the chairman for the debate if you are absent.”
Guru Mahārāja replied, “Although Śrīla Prabhupāda will certainly be pleased if I were to leave now for Kolkata as he has instructed, I firmly believe that he will be much more pleased to hear that the Gauḍīya Maṭha was awarded the chairmanship of a debate to be held in such a great assembly of dignitaries, even if it results in a slight delay in my reaching Kolkata.”
On the day of the debate, Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja was formally appointed as the chairman. In his opening address, he humbly said, “Although I am not qualified to hold the post of chairman for this debate, I have accepted the position in order to fulfill the instructions and desires of the Vaiṣṇavas and noble members of the society.”
When the debate started, Dr. Rādhā-Kṛṣṇan spoke first and attempted to establish the superiority of advaitavāda. Afterward, when dvaitavādī Dr. Nāgarāja Śarmā was asked to establish his viewpoint, he began his address by saying, “Because Vaiṣṇavas are humble by nature, they introduce themselves by saying ‘dāso ’smī—I am your servant.’ Advaitavādīs, however, being unable to appreciate such dignity, are always eager to proudly introduce themselves by saying ‘aham brahmāsmi—I am brahma (the Absolute Truth).’ ” Indirectly referring to the humble conduct of Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, he then said, “Truly speaking, there is no need for Vaiṣṇavas to exhibit their humility in all places and circumstances.” After this, Dr. Nāgarāja Śarmā went on to establish his views on dvaitavāda.
At the end of the debate, Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja said in his concluding speech as chairman, “It is a fact that a person’s pride becomes inflated when he associates with those lesser than himself. But such false pride can never enter a person who always remains in the association of transcendental personalities. Just as a father naturally behaves as a senior in front of his son and as a junior in front of his own father, a person who associates with those who have attained the topmost perfection— service to the Supreme Personality—no longer externally demonstrates humility by force; rather, divine humility naturally manifests in his heart and is reflected in his conduct. But if a person associates with someone inferior to him, then pride is bound to arise in his heart.”
Being humble is not a mechanical process, but rather a natural byproduct of spiritual realization. Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja has referred to himself by saying:
jagāi mādhāi hôite muĩ se pāpiṣṭha
purīṣera kīṭa hôite muĩ se laghiṣṭha
mora nāma śune ĵei tāra puṇya kṣaya
mora nāma laya ĵei tāra pāpa haya
emana nirghṛṇa more kebā kṛpā kare
eka nityānanda binu jagata bhitare
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 5.205-207)
I am more sinful than Jagāi and Mādhāi and even lower than a worm in stool. The pious activities of that person who hears my name are completely destroyed. Anyone who utters my name commits a sin. Who in this world but Nityānanda could show His mercy to such a vile person as me? Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, the foremost authority of the realm of bhakti, has expressed similar sentiments:
adharo ‘py aparadhanaṁ aviveka-hato ‘py aham
tvat-karuṇya-pratikṣo ‘smi prasīda mayi madhava
Stava-mālā, Volume 1 Praṇāma-praṇaya-stava (14)
Although I am a mine of offenses, and although I cannot tell right from wrong, I still hope for Your mercy. O Mādhava, please be merciful to me. Śrī Mādhava Sarasvatī, a Vaiṣṇava kavi (poet) from South India, has expressed his humility as follows:
jñānāvalambakāḥ kecit kecit karmāvalambakāḥ
vayaṁ tu hari-dāsānāṁ pāda-trāṇāvalambakāḥ
Some are inclined to jñāna, and others are inclined to karma. We, however, are inclined to take shelter of the shoes of the lotus feet of Śrī Hari’s servants.
By analyzing the humble expressions of such great personalities, one can clearly understand the actual position of the impersonal advaitavādīs as compared to that of the dvaitavādī Vaiṣṇavas. The former of the two groups possesses the self-conception of aham brahmāsmi and “pāśa-baddho bhavet jīvaḥ pāśa-muktaḥ sadāśivaḥ—a person bound by the ropes of māyā is a jīva, but when he is released from those bonds, he becomes Sadāśiva,” while members of the latter group conceive of themselves in the following manner:
maj-janmanaḥ phalam idaṁ madhu-kaiṭabhāre
mat prārthanīya mad-anugraha eṣa eva
bṛtyasya-bhṛtyam iti māṁ smara lokanātha
O Lokanātha (Lord of all)! O slayer of the demons Madhu and Kaiṭabha! Please be merciful to me and grant my prayer that You may remember me as a servant of the servant of the servant of the servant of Your servant’s servant.
Once, Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja and his godbrother Śrī
Svādhikārānanda Prabhu, who later became known as Śrī Śrīmad Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, were preaching in Ambālā on the order of Śrīla Prabhupāda. There, they met the superintendent of the Ambālā railway station, who repeatedly requested them to meet a so-called sādhu proclaiming himself to be Bhagavān. Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja explained to the superintendent that it is grossly improper to accept a mortal person as Bhagavān, and Śrī Svādhikārānanda Prabhu declined by saying, “We do not have time to meet such people.” Still, the superintendent strongly insisted.
Although they had absolutely no interest in meeting an imposter, they relented and accompanied the superintendent to meet the so-called sādhu at the railway station. After arriving there, Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja initiated a conversation by saying, “Please introduce yourself to us.”
The so-called sādhu replied in English, “I am Lord Kṛṣṇa. I am Mohammed. I am Christ. I am Buddha. I am Caitanya.”
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja told him, “You are speaking to a sensible person. Please speak accordingly.”
Hearing Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s words, the fraudulent sādhu became irritated and said, “Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, is a dog to me. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the President of United States of America, is a cat to me."
Seeing their gurudeva becoming angry, his disciples asked Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, “Why are you upsetting Bhagavān?”
The superintendent said, “Bhagavān and His devotee are having a conversation. Do not interfere.”
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja then asked the imposter, “What is cause of your irritation?”
Without being goaded or pressed, the imposter himself explained, “I sacrificed so much for India’s independence, but no one stepped forward to help me financially when my wife fell sick in Delhi. She died as a result. Am I mad that I will continue to sacrifice my life for those who have done nothing to help me, a soldier who fought so diligently for their freedom? They have cheated me, and now it is my turn to cheat them.”
Being shocked to hear this, many of the imposter’s prominent guests left, one by one. Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja turned to Śrī Svādhikārānanda Prabhu and said, “Ĵa palāyate sa jīvati—Those who discard the association of this wicked person will be saved. All others will be trapped.”
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, a recipient of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s mercy, had an uncanny ability to identify imposters, uproot their deception and expose their true nature to everyone.
DEFENDING THE AUTHENTICITY OF SRIMAD-BHAGAVATAM
Once, a scholar told Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, “Many people do not accept Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam among the authentic scriptures Śrī Vyāsadeva manifested. And at least to some extent, their argument seems logical.” He explained, “A linguistic comparison between Bhāgavatam and Vyāsadeva’s other scriptures reveals troubling dissimilarities. It is evident that Bhāgavatam’s modern morphology contrasts with that of the ancient language used in Vedavyāsa’s other scriptures. Naturally, this leads many to question not only the era of Bhāgavatam’s origin, but its authenticity as well. What is your opinion on this?”
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s response was extraordinary. “Oh, yes,” he replied, his words dripping with sarcasm, “Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam was certainly composed yesterday.”
He then earnestly asked the scholar, “Is antiquity the sole factor by which a scripture’s authenticity is to be assessed? Should we not assign greater value to a relatively recent text whose gravity and depth is far superior to the ancient texts against which it is being compared? Should the potency of the atom bomb, which is undisputedly the deadliest and most powerful weapon ever created, be dismissed merely due to its recent invention?
He continued, “Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the butter churned from the bhakti-śāstras and Upaniṣads. The date of its origin is irrelevant to the superiority of its depth. Whether ancient or composed yesterday, it remains far superior to the Upaniṣads. Śrīla Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura Mahāśaya, a prominent personality in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava lineage, has stated:
cāri-veda ‘dadhi’ bhāgavata ‘navanīta’
mathilena śuke khāilena parīkṣita
Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata (Madhya-khaṇḍa 21.16)
The four Vedas are like yogurt, and Śrīmad- Bhāgavatam is like butter. Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī churned that yogurt into butter, and Śrī Parīkṣit Mahārāja relished the result.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja concluded, “An unqualified person’s inability to assess the true worth of an invaluable albeit recently created object is a testament to his foolishness. An intelligent person, however, accepts apprenticeship at the feet of a learned mentor who can instill in him the ability to assess an object’s value based on merit alone.”
ON KNOWING THE UNKNOWABLE
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja once preached in Bombay (now Mumbai) before the establishment of a Gauḍīya Maṭha there. Śrī M.P. Engineer, the first Advocate General of independent India, was at that time the chairman of the Theosophical Society, and he invited Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja to speak at one of the Society’s gatherings. Because many speakers had been invited, each speaker was asked to keep his speech to a concise fifteen minutes.
In his speech, Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja mentioned that the Supreme Lord Śrī Bhagavān is advaya-jñāna para-tattva, which means one cannot attain true knowledge about His supremacy simply by one’s own endeavors, nor can He be made understood by anyone else:
nāyam ātmā pravacanena labhya na medhayā na bahunā śrutena
Kaṭha Upaniṣad (1.2.23)
The Supreme Soul can never be attained by one’s intelligence, by delivering sermons nor by extensively hearing about Him.
Upon the conclusion of Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s presentation, Śrī M.P. Engineer posed a question to Śrīla Mahārāja before he could even take his seat: “Mahārāja, you have just professed Śrī Bhagavān to be unknown and unknowable. If this is true, then for what purpose have you given up the material comforts of this world and accepted the renounced order of life, if not to attain Him?”
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja immediately responded, “Śrī Bhagavān can most certainly be known.”
Hearing this, Śrī M.P. Engineer good-humoredly said, “I must admit that according to my vision, you do not appear to be a renunciant in any true sense, because you have instantly changed your stance on this matter, just like a lawyer.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja replied, “You had given me a time limit. I was able to express only one viewpoint of a highly profound subject matter, and the allocated time was over before I could mention the other viewpoint. Therefore, I could not complete the description of my desired subject matter in the allotted time.” Hearing the words of Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī M.P Engineer said, “You began explaining a highly insightful topic in a very beautiful way. Therefore, please take another fifteen minutes and complete your presentation on this subject matter.” Śrīla Mahārāja then went on to firmly establish the full, proper siddhānta: “Although the śāstras mention that Śrī Bhagavān is the non-dual Absolute Truth, it is mentioned in the same scriptures that if He, the Supreme Absolute Truth, does not possess the ability to make Himself known to whomever He desires, then His supremacy and His qualities of being limitless and infinite are immediately called into question. Therefore, it is said:
yam evaiṣa vṛṇute tena labhyas tasyaiṣa ātmā vivṛṇute tanuṁ svām
Kaṭha Upaniṣad (1.2.23)
The Supreme Soul is attainable only by one upon whom He has bestowed His mercy. To such a person, He reveals His personal form.
“In other words, it is impossible for one to gain knowledge about Bhagavān through one’s own endeavors or through the help of someone on the same level of devotion. However, when the Supreme Lord observes in one the inclination to serve Him, He imparts knowledge by which one can understand Him, either directly or through one of His associates.”
ataḥ śrī-kṛṣṇa-nāmādi na bhaved grāhyam indriyaiḥ
sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam eva sphuraty adaḥ
The name, form, qualities and pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa cannot be perceived by the material senses; they become manifest when one’s senses, starting with the tongue, are permeated with the desire to render service.
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s presentation had such a profound effect on Śrī M.P. Engineer, that when Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura later visited Bombay, he humbly requested Śrīla Prabhupāda not to deprive the city’s residents of his vicāra-dhāra (line of philosophical conceptions) and to establish a maṭha there. Later, as per the instructions of Śrīla Prabhupāda, a property was rented in Bombay to establish a Gauḍīya Maṭha, from which the preaching of the Gauḍīya line in that city was initiated.
THE MESSENGERS OF SRI CAITANYA MAHAPRABHU'S VANI
Once, Guru Mahārāja (at the time, Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī), went along with Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Śrīrūpa Siddhāntī Gosvāmī Mahārāja (then Śrī Siddha- svarūpa Brahmacārī) and Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja to preach in Sylhet, East Bengal (now Bangladesh), where they had been invited to speak at a three day spiritual function. On the first day, Śrī Siddha-svarūpa Brahmacārī, in his address,made use of very straightforward but harsh and immoderate words while establishing the superiority of the teachings of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu over the popular māyāvāda philosophies prevalent at that time. He referred to Vivekānanda, whose name means ‘one who takes bliss in having intelligence’ as ‘Vi-vekānanda,’ or ‘one who takes bliss in being ignorant,’ and to Rāmakṛṣṇa Paramahaṁsa as ‘Rāma-haṁsa,’ or ‘a large but worthless swan.’ Upon hearing these epithets, many residents of Sylhet became irritated. That night, leaflets that denounced the Gauḍīya Maṭha and demanded the cancellation of the function were published and distributed all over town.
The next day, Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī met with the convener, the district judge, who expressed his concerns about safety and said that since the event had faced such great opposition, it would be advisable to cancel the remaining two days of the function, just to rule out the possibility of any undesirable incident. Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī assured the judge that the speaker who had used incendiary words the previous night would most definitely not be speaking again, and that only he and Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja would address the audience. The judge replied, “It is on your assurance alone that I will allow the function to continue. I will make all the necessary arrangements for providing increased security, but please be mindful of the content of your hari-kathā.”
The next evening, the venue was filled with antagonistic objectors. Śrī Haryagrīva Brahmacārī was the first to address the crowd, and he began by praising the hospitality of the Sylhet people. After he finished his speech and established his objective, he conceded the podium to Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja. During his presentation, Śrīla Mahārāja said, “Our Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, has taught us that in our preaching, we are delivering the message of Svayaṁ Bhagavān Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself. Our only purpose in coming here is to deliver, through fearless yet fair speech, the vāṇī (teachings) that incessantly flow from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the natural commentary on Vedānta-sutra, as it has been presented by Śrīman Mahāprabhu and our line of guru-varga—which includes Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, Śrīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī and others—who make up our bhāgavata-paramparā. We are not here to preach with the apprehension and shyness of a lady hiding her face behind a veil.
“What to speak of the philosophical doctrines of personalities like Śrī Śaṅkarācārya, Jamini, Patañjali, Kaṇāda and so on, the ideology manifested by Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu is unparalleled and vastly superior to the ideologies established by even the previous four Vaiṣṇava ācāryās— Śrī Rāmānuja, Śrīla Madhvācārya, Śrī Nimbāditya and Śrī Viṣṇusvāmī. Through His teachings, He has highlighted the shortcomings of such doctrines and has conclusively defeated all erroneously fabricated philosophies. Therefore, in our presentation of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s ideology, how is it possible that the ideologies of persons like Vivekānanda, Rāmakṛṣṇa Paramahaṁsa and Bhandarkar will not be contested?
“Moreover, we are simply messengers of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu; our duty is merely to deliver his teachings. If anyone in this assembly has any objections, he may kindly address them to Śrīman Mahāprabhu, Śrīla Vedavyāsa or Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī. Although we have unflinching faith in their vicāra-dhārā (line of ideology), we will undoubtedly surrender to any person who can present an ideology superior to that presented by Śrīman Mahāprabhu. But if such a person is not present in this world, what intelligent being would be unwilling to follow or feel uninspired by such a highly auspicious spiritual path as the one described by Śrīman Mahāprabhu and His followers? “Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam has clearly described Śrī Kṛṣṇa as Svayam Bhagavān:
ete cāṁśa kalāḥ puṁsaḥ
kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam
All avatāras are either plenary portions or portions of plenary portions of the Supreme Person, but Kṛṣṇa is the original Personality of Godhead.
“Furthermore, Kṛṣṇa Himself has stated in Bhagavad-gītā that He is the ultimate object of surrender in such verses as:
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (18.66)
Completely abandoning all dharma, take shelter of Me alone. I will free you from the reactions of your sins. Do not lament.
man-manā bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi satyaṁ te
pratijāne priyo ’si me
Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (18.65)
Offer your mind to Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer praṇāma to Me. By this, you shall attain Me. I swear this truth to you because you are dear to Me.
ananyāś cintayanto māṁ
ye janāḥ paryupāsate
yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham
Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (9.22)
For those who are devoid of other desires, who are always absorbed in contemplation of Me and who always worship Me, I personally carry their necessities and preserve what they presently have.
“Therefore, what benefit is there in accepting the ideology of Rāmakṛṣṇa Paramahaṁsa, who advocates the worship of devatās (demigods)? Such worship is averse to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (4.31.14), which has firmly established:
yathā taror mūla-niṣecanena tṛpyanti tat-skandha-bhujopaśākhāḥ
prāṇopahārāc ca yathendriyāṇāṁ
tathaiva sarvārhaṇam acyutejyā
Just as pouring water on the root of a tree nourishes its trunk, branches, leaves and sprigs, and as giving food to the stomach nourishes all the senses and bodily limbs, all the demigods are automatically worshiped when one worships Śrī Acutya (Bhagavān).
“The philosophy of Vivekānanda is ‘jīve prema kare ĵei jana sei jana seviche īśvara—one who has love for living entities actually serves the Supreme Lord.’ However, we see that his followers kill and eat animals, and we must therefore conclude that in this slogan, the word jīva, as used by Vivekānanda, refers only to human beings. But the true meaning of the word jīva refers to all living entities.
“You should all deeply consider these points. There is no need for us to say anything further. You are all free to make complaints against any imperfections in our methods of delivery, but you must know for certain that the philosophy we have presented remains immaculately pure at all times, without the slightest trace of contamination.”
After Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja concluded his speech, the audience responded with thunderous applause. Indeed, they were truly pleased, and they requested that the organizers extend the function for an additional fifteen days. In this way, the preaching of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s vāṇī in the city of Sylhet was a great success. As Sylhet was well known as a city with good-quality lime, the residents, in their appreciation, arranged for a wagonload to be used in the service of whitewashing the walls of Śrī Caitanya Maṭha, the temples at Yogapīṭha and other buildings in Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s Śrīdhāma Māyāpura.
HIS NON-DUPLICIOUS GLORIFICATION OF A JUNIOR GODBROTHER
Every year after the Gaura-pūrṇimā festival, Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja used to invite many of his godbrothers to attend a function at his Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha at Kolera Gañj, Navadvīpa-dhāma. During one such occasion, my Guru Mahārāja, after the completion of the Gaura-pūrṇimā festival, was engaged in managing the affairs of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha— such as bidding farewell to the pilgrims and settling accounts—and despite his most sincere desire and efforts to reach Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha in a punctual manner, he arrived somewhat late to the assembly of Vaiṣṇavas gathered there. Upon seeing that Guru Mahārāja had arrived, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Kamala Madhusūdana Gosvāmī Mahārāja said, “Mādhava Mahārāja, you have arrived very late today. We have been waiting for you for a long time.”
Guru Mahārāja replied, “Mahārāja, because many pilgrims had come to our maṭha for Navadvīpa-dhāma parikramā, we have incurred a great debt. Today I was busily engaged in settling these debts and resolving other issues, so that the services of the maṭha can continue. You and all the other Vaiṣṇavas present please forgive me for my delay.”
Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, having heard the response of Guru Mahārāja, said, “Nārambhān ārabhet kvacit—one must never attempt to unnecessarily increase one’s material opulence.”
Hearing this, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja said, “Mādhava Mahārāja, I would like to reply to pūjyapāda Yāyāvara Mahārāja’s comment.” “Yes, Mahārāja-jī. As you please,” Guru Mahārāja replied.
“For an elephant,” Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja began, “a stick of sugar cane is as insignificant as nasavāra (snuff tobacco), whereas for an ant, the same sugar cane stick is like a mountain. An activity that to us may seem like a huge endeavor is nothing but an insignificant task for pūjyapāda Mādhava Mahārāja; he can perform such deeds without any difficulty. “
In this regard, I have had first-hand experience. Śrīla Prabhupāda had sent
pūjyapāda Mādhava Mahārāja—then known as Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī—and me to acquire some land at the meeting place of Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Rāya Rāmānanda at Kovvur, near the banks of the Godāvarī River, in order to establish Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s footprints (pada-pīṭha) there. After many days of endless endeavor, I said, ‘Hayagrīva Prabhu, Śrīla Prabhupāda has sent us here with great hope to obtain a piece of land on which to establish Mahāprabhu’s pada-pīṭha. My brahmacārī name given by Śrīla Prabhupāda was Rāmānanda dāsa, and this is the meeting place of Mahāprabhu and Rāmānanda Rāya. Although we have tried our best to acquire land, we have not been successful. What is your opinion? Should we stay here longer, or should we leave for Madras for preaching?’
“Śrī Hayagrīva Prabhu replied, ‘It is my feeling that we have thus far not made any special endeavors. I think we should continue our efforts for some time more.’ ”
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja then mentioned to all the Vaiṣṇavas pre- sent, “You may estimate his capability from this statement of his. The apparent end point of our attempts was for him a beginning point of fresh endeavors. Later, through his tireless efforts, a plot of land was acquired in Kovvur and a maṭha was established there. Śrīla Prabhupāda used to refer to Śrī Hayagrīva Brahmacārī as having ‘volcanic energy.’ Śrī Vāsudeva Prabhu used to call him sarva ghaṭe, one who excels in completing all types of tasks.
“My personal view about pūjyapāda Mādhava Mahārāja is that he is comparable to none other than Śrīla Vakreśvara Paṇḍita, an associate of Śrīman Mahāprabhu who could dance continuously during kīrtana for seventy-two hours without becoming fatigued.”
Beyond the glorification of my Guru Mahārāja, this narration relates a significant lesson. Although Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja was senior to my Guru Mahārāja, having joined the maṭha and having been awarded sannyāsa-veśa earlier than him, he did not hesitate in observing and speaking about the good qualities of his junior. Śrī Goloka Vṛndāvana is the topmost abode, superior to all other Vaikuṇṭha planets, and it remains eternally free from even the faintest scent of jealousy and envy. Because Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja is among the great personalities who are sincere (nirmatsara) followers of the loving residents of this very Goloka Vṛndāvana, he remains free from the material limitations of this world, and was therefore able to offer such genuinely humble and non-duplicitous praise.
THE REPUGNANCE OF PRATISTHA
A devotee once asked Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja, “In his kīrtana entitled Vaiṣṇava Ke?, Śrīla Prabhupāda has written, ‘tomāra pratiṣṭhā, śūkarera viṣṭhā—your prestige is hog excrement.’ Why has he specifically chosen the words śūkarera viṣṭhā, ‘the stool of hogs,’ to describe pratiṣṭhā (worldly prestige)?”
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja replied, “Pratiṣṭhā is abominable and worthless, and it is only proper to compare it to an equally worthless object. Had Śrīla Prabhupāda discovered a more worthless substance than the stool of hogs, he would have utilized that substance in his metaphor.”
ENCOURAGING OTHERS TO SPEAK HARI-KATHA
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja once inquired from me, “If I were to ask you, could you deliver a spiritual discourse on stage?”
“No, Mahārāja,” I replied. “I am just a newcomer. How can I deliver a speech when I am not well-versed in scriptural conclusions?”
Śrīla Mahārāja further asked, “Tell me, what is your view on Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu?”
I replied, “I have no independent view on Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who is Bhagavān Himself. But, I can try to present before you whatever I have heard and understood from śrī guru and the Vaiṣṇavas.” Mahārāja consented, and I described whatever I knew to the best of my ability.
Śrīla Mahārāja then asked, “What do you know about the teachings of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and the process to follow those teachings?”
I replied, “Śrīman Mahāprabhu has described the four prerequisites for performing kṛṣṇa-kīrtana:
tṛṇād api sunīcena
taror iva sahiṣṇuna
kirtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ
Śrī Śikṣāṣṭaka (3)
“A chanter of kīrtana must consider himself to be more worthless than straw in the street and more tolerant than a tree. He must be devoid of all pride, and he must offer due respect to all.
Śrīman Mahāprabhu is the very embodiment of these four principles. In Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 3.20), Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī has recorded Śrīman Mahāprabhu as saying, ‘Āpani ācari’ bhakti śikhāimu sabāre—I shall teach bhakti to everyone by practicing it Myself,’ and ‘Āpani nā kaile dharma śikhāna nā yāya—If I do not practice it Myself, then pure bhakti, which is the essential principle of religion, will not be taught.’ ”
Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja said, “What you have just spoken easily develops into a full speech by simply adding a few more details.” He went on to describe how tṛṇād api sunīcena, the quality of being humbler than a blade of grass, manifests automatically by being in the association of advanced devotees. “Other than sevā-sādhana,” he said, “no sādhana is required.”
THE FRUIT OF CULTIVATING A MOOD OF SERVICE
One day, Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja gave me the following instructions: “Instead of paying attention simply to a kīrtana’s melody and rhythm, you should instead always focus on its deep meaning and try to follow the moods of the Vaiṣṇava who composed it. Try to become ugraśravā. That is, always hear the narrations of Bhagavāṇ’s pastimes exclusively from the lotus lips of advanced devotees, for such narrations are tremendously powerful.”
I asked, “Mahārāja-jī, how will it be possible for me to always hear from advanced devotees?”
Śrīla Mahārāja replied, “Everything is possible by sincerely serving the Vaiṣṇavas. Serve advanced devotees whenever you receive the opportunity to do so.”
Firmly fixing Śrīla Mahārāja’s advice in my heart, I never allowed an opportunity to serve advanced devotees pass me by. In my life, I have served them in countless ways, including providing them warm bathing water, washing their clothes, cleaning their rooms, assisting them in their travels, attentively hearing their hari-kathā and discussions and closely observing their conduct.
Being pleased with my mood of service, the many disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda who visited our maṭha would often specifically request Guru Mahārāja to assign me to their service during their visit. In this way, I received the rare fortune of serving some of the most exalted Vaiṣṇavas, each of whom was capable of purifying the whole world. In their service, I directly witnessed their standards for performing bhajana, in addition to receiving the golden opportunity to hear the deepest, subtlest and most secret teachings of the scriptures from their lotus lips.
SARASVATI-PUTRA—THE SONS OF SRILA SARASVATI THAKURA
I once went with a few Punjabi devotees to Śrī Navadvīpa to have darśana of Śrīla Śrīdhara Gosvāmī Mahārāja. However, when we reached Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Gauḍīya Maṭha, Śrīla Śrīdhāra Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s sevaka informed us that we would be unable to meet with Śrīla Mahārāja, as he was feeling unwell. We offered praṇāma from outside Śrīla Mahārāja’s room and were preparing to leave, when Śrīla Mahārāja called for his sevaka. “Who has come?” he asked. “I heard voices.” The sevaka mentioned my name, and Śrīla Mahārāja told him to call us.
When we entered his room, he expressed a bit of displeasure with me. He asked, “Were you about to leave without meeting me?”
“No, Mahārāja-jī,” I said. “It’s not like that. We were about to leave only because we were told you were unwell. We did not want to disturb you, and so we offered praṇāma from outside.”
Śrīla Mahārāja then spoke about his different preaching missions to Punjab during the time Śrīla Prabhupāda was physically present. He particularly mentioned the warm hospitality of the Punjabi people. He then said, “We are sarasvatī-putra, the sons of Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura, and we will remain healthy as long as we engage in the service of Sarasvatī by speaking about Bhagavān and Bhagavān’s associates. We will be greatly fortunate if by destiny we leave this world performing kīrtana and hari-kathā.”