"MY SIKSA GURU AND PRIYA BANDHU"
Remembrances Of His Divine Grace
Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Compiled from selected interviews, lectures and writings
Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Memories of Srila Bhaktivedanta SwamiPrabhupada
Chapter Three: My Service to Him
This is a collection of recollections and reflections about His Divine Grace Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada from one of his earliest siksa followers and friends, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja. These descriptive accounts of his association with Srila Prabhupada span a long period of time, since they first met in 1947.
Srila Narayana Maharaja was happy to share his fond memories of thislong-standing and affectionate relationship. Excerpts from a variety of Maharaja's informal interviews and statements have been used. (The lotus flower markers distinguish material from different sources.) We also have lightly edited his often ambiguous and misunderstood English. If he had presented these memories and appreciations in Hindi, his native tongue, the details and heartfelt explanations would be far more eloquent, clear, and detailed. However, time and circumstances have not yet permitted this.
Srila Prabhupada is a "nitya-siddha" devotee. Therefore it should be noted that the descriptions Srila Prabhupada and Srila Narayana Maharaja give of these "nara-lila" (human-like pastimes) have nothing to do with this material environment. They are only meant to help instruct others how to advance in Krsna Consciousness.
Our sincere hope is that the worldwide audience of devotees will receive enlivenment by hearing inspirational memories about our Mahabhagavata guru from other of his admirers. Where this humble effort is not of the highest quality, or if it fails in any way to properly represent Srila Prabhupada or Srila Narayana Maharaja, we beg for the forgiveness of the merciful Vaisnavas. We pray that our most beloved Srila Prabhupada will be pleased with our greed to more deeply discover and glorify his transcendental personality, pastimes, and sankirtana mission.
(NOTE: Srila Prabhupada was addressed by many names throughout his life. His parents gave him the birth name of Abhay Caran Dey. At his initiation by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, he became Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu. Later in 1939, he was honored by an assembly of his Godbrothers with the title Sri Bhaktivedanta. During his grhastha years, many of his friends affectionately called him Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu, Abhay Babu Prabhu, or 'Prabhu'. These references are shown in the Lilamrta and Srila Narayana Maharaja recalls them here. In 1959 during his sannyas ceremony, Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Maharaja awarded him the formal name 'Swami'; and he became known as Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami. Maharaja is included as an honorary title.
'Swami' with 'ji' (Swamiji) is actually a designation of special respect and intimacy. Later his disciples and followers addressed him as 'Srila Prabhupada' (representative of the lotus feet of Krsna). Because the devotees in the Gaudiya Matha have for over a century been accustomed to addressing Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura as 'Srila Prabhupada', to avoid confusion Srila Narayana Maharaja generally refers to him after his sannyasa as Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja or Swamiji.
MEMORIES OF SRILA BHAKTIVEDANTA
ASSOCIATION WITH SRILA BHAKTIPRAJANA KESAVA MAHARAJA
My Gurudeva, Om Visnupada Srila Bhaktiprajana Kesava Maharaja, would often speak to me about his Godbrother, Pujyapada Sri Abhay Caranaravinda Bhaktivedanta Prabhu. At that time before his sannyasa, we affectionately called him Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu, or Prabhu. My Gurudeva always told me how, from the very beginning, this Godbrother was so dear to their Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. He explained to me that their Srila Prabhupada had always highly and intimately regarded Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu and had requested him to write articles for the Harmonist and other publications. Their Guru Maharaja had especially ordered him to preach in the English language and to distribute this knowledge widely in the Western countries.
According to my Gurudeva, Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu was a very great personality, very yuktivadi (good at giving logical arguments), always nirvika (bold), and a preacher of satya (truth) who was not afraid of anyone. I had already heard so many times about him from my Gurudeva and from others. I had heard how he was such a close friend to Guruji, such an excellent writer, and such a sincere and qualified devotee. At that time I had not yet seen him, but seeing by ears is even stronger than seeing by eyes.
Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu was a bosom friend of my Gurudeva when they met in the association of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's Gaudiya Matha since 1922. During those years he was a grhasta and was said to be very beautiful. In 1940, after the departure of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, there was turmoil in the Gaudiya Matha. One party wanted to arrest some of the senior Vaisnavas and cases were filed in the Calcutta court. At that time our Gurudeva, then known as Vinode Vihari Brahmacari, was akincana (without material possessions) and he travelled to Prayaga, Allahabad. There he stayed at the Rupa Gaudiya Matha for a few days. Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu, who had his family residence and business in Allahabad, invited our Gurudeva to come and stay in his home with him as a guest. So they lived together there for the next four or five months. During this extended time they became very near and dear to each other. They always discussed Bhagavad-gita and so many other subjects concerning guru-seva for their Srila Prabhupada and his mission. (Appendix 1)
When my Gurudeva lived with him for those months in Allahabad, Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu organized so much preaching for them everywhere in that city. He had cultivated numerous associates from his pharmaceutical business and knew many educated, qualified people. He also arranged for my Gurudeva to give extensive lectures on Vedanta. Together they defeated mayavadis and also several influential Catholics and Christians. Those opponents were favorably impressed by the bona fide arguments and siddhanta they presented. Because Abhay Charanaravinda Prabhu appreciated this preaching so much he would often tell me, "Your Gurudeva is so logical and he is such a great philosopher. That is why I have selected for myself a very best friend like your Gurudeva." (Appendix 2)
FOUNDING GAUDIYA VEDANTA SAMITI
My Gurudeva was then called Pujyapada Sri Vinode Vihari Brahmacari Krti-Ratna. The name Krti-Ratna, which means one who is a jewel of managers, was awarded to him by Srila Bhaktidsiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada because he managed the Gaudiya Matha so expertly. This was before my Gurudeva took sannyasa. In his heart there was a desire to show Vedanta-sutra as bhakti-sutra, and he quoted slokas of Srimad Bhagavatam to prove this. He would always state, "Wherever there is any sign of mayavadism, bhakti cannot be preached in full force. So we have to remove mayavada from the root." Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu also liked this idea very much. "We must kick out mayavada," he would always say. Both of them had this understanding; they were very united in their preaching. My Gurudeva gave the name 'Bhaktivedanta' to those of us who took sannyasa from him, and when they formed an organization, they called the samiti 'Gaudiya Vedanta', which denoted that Vedanta is synonymous with bhakti.
After the disappearance of their Srila Prabhupada and after the Gaudiya Matha institution had broken apart, my Gurudeva together with Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu and Narottamananda Brahmacari (later Srila Bhaktikamala Madhusudana Maharaja) filed the establishment papers for the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti. This was done on April 7th, 1940, the day of aksaya tritiya in a rented house at 33/2 Bosapada Lane, Calcutta. (Appendix 3)
Although they separated from the political upheaval happening within their Guru Maharaja's institution, they did not give up Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada or his mission and his siddhanta. They wanted to re-establish his bona-fide ideas and instructions, but they did not give up his Gaudiya Matha. Therefore the names of the manhas established by the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti were Devananda Gaudiya Matha, Uddharana Gaudiya Matha, Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha and many others.
OUR FIRST MEETING
In 1947 I was in Calcutta as the personal servant to my Gurudeva. One day there was an inauguration of a new branch of the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti. It was a large assembly and many Vaisnavas were present there. During the lecture given by my Gurudeva, a grhastha devotee came in at the back door. Upon seeing him, Gurudeva stopped speaking and asked me to bring him forward. That devotee humbly hesitated to come forward, but my Gurudeva ordered that he come all the way to the front. Gurudeva gave so much respect to him and insisted he sit next to him on the platform. I looked up at Guruji, silently questioning, "Who is this devotee?" It was very rare that he had done like this with others. Afterwards he told me, "This is Abhay Caraaaravinda Babu, my dear Godbrother. He is a very special disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada. He is so humble and qualifed. You should take note of him, you should hear carefully from him, and you should serve him."
At that time I would cook for Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu and many of the senior Vaisaavasˇbreakfast, lunch, everything. Also I would wash their clothes and clean for them. Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu used to watch and he became pleased with me. He was happy to see my service for my Gurudeva and asked me many questions about myself- - where I was from and where and how I had joined the matha. We spoke together and he was satisfied with my replies. I also was very impressed with him and attracted to him. This is when I began my service to him in my heart and in my work.
I am thinking now how very fortunate I was to have met him so long ago and to have served him. We had so much affection for each other that I cannot open my heart to explain sufficiently. He stated in one of his letters to me that from the first time he saw me there was affection between us. He said that we shared a transcendental relationship of "spontaneous love", explaining that as from the beginning his Srila Prabhupada had such faith and love for him, so he similarly had love and well-wishing for me. (Appendix 4)
He was such a powerful speaker; his lectures were most influential. Reading translations from Srimad-Bhagavatam with word-for-word meanings, he would then give thorough explanations. What he spoke was very beautiful. In those days there were many senior disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada such as Srila Sridhara Maharaja, Srila Tirtha Maharaja, Srila Srauti Maharaja, Srila Naimi Maharaja, Srila Yayavar Maharaja, Srila Audalomi Maharaja and Srila Vaikanas Maharaja. Srila Puri Maharaja, Srila Giri Maharaja and Srila Madhava Maharaja were junior at that time. All these disciples were like tigers and thunderbolts, being well versed in siddhanta. They would often come to visit my Gurudeva and I was able to serve them. But Abhay Charanaravinda Prabhu, even though he was then a grhastha living outside any matha, was considered by all to be extremely qualified. He was very bold and never compromised with anyone regarding his established siddhanta - never. He defeated and convinced everyone by his realized preaching.
In those days I often saw him associating with all of his Godbrothers. He had many deep friendships in all the temples where they assembled-- in Calcutta, Navadvipa, Chinchura, Allahabad, Bombay, and Delhi. He was often meeting with many Godbrothers, travelling to different mathas for celebrations and discussions, and behaving with affectionate dealings. When his Godbrothers gathered, he would show respect to them because he was a grhastha at that time. But even though he was married then, all the sannyasis and senior brahmacaris highly regarded him because he was a learned scholar and a potent, brave preacher. He was known by all to be abhaya, fearless. (Appendix 5)
In 1953, our magazines 'Gaudiya-patrika' and 'Bhagavata-patrika' were started. Our Gurudeva requested Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu, "I want to establish a publication in Bengali and other languages. I especially want you to write articles for that." Earlier he had written articles for the Harmonist, and now he continued to write many wonderful essays, Gita purports, etc. He wrote so marvelously that everyone praised him. He challenged all who were opposed to pure bhakti at that time, especially the 'Murgi Mission'. He called the Ramakrsna Mission 'the Murgi Mission' because the members ate chicken. In fact, they took flesh, eggs and many abominable things. Vivekananda and his Ramakrsna Mission were very prominent in those days. They were renowned by the public who said, "Oh, these are such high-class devotees. In all of India only they are following the Vedas, and all others are not. The Gaudiya Mission and others are not Vedantic." Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu wrote this one particular two-part article about the murgis. He began with the first part, and when the second part was also printed all were astonished and convinced. It was like a drama. Everyone requested him to write more articles like these which called for the reform of religious institutions and samskaras .
Later Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu wrote another dramatic article - this time about some of the leaders in the Gaudiya Matha. The article explained how the institution was coming apart after Srila Prabhupada's departure. Grhasthas were giving up their wives and loving others' wives; others' wives were then loving others. Now, in the name of developing the mission, some were putting all the money in their pockets. Sannyasis, even those who had been with their Prabhupada, were making buildings and sending all the money to their sons in their former homes to go to high school and university, or to go to England and America to study law and other things.
He wrote about this situation and the first part was published in our Bhagavata-patrika and Gaudiya-patrika. At once a big storm broke out in the whole Gaudiya Mission. Although only about three pages were printed, letters began to come from many Gaudiya Mathas. It was like a revolution. Our Guru Maharaja and Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu were talking and smiling very secretly together. Prabhu said, "We should publish more of it. Why not?" Guru Maharaja was also in favor of publishing it.
However, many of the Godbrothers exclaimed, "Oh, Kesava Maharaja, what are you doing, printing this? Then everyone will know and all will criticize the Gaudiya Matha. These are our private family matters." Even Pujyapada Srila Sridhara Maharaja, who was highly respected by all, was consulted. Many Godbrothers came to Mathura at that time and Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu was residing here in our matha. Srila Tirtha Maharaja and other devotees asked, "What are you going to do? If you print this then our present institution will be smashed." Guru Maharaja and Prabhu were smiling and asking each other, "Oh, what to do?" But when requested by so many Godbrothers they decided, "Accha. Later on we will see, but for now we should obey their orders."
At that time the president of India was Dr. Radhakrishnan. He was very scholarly and his English was quite high-class, but he was world famous as a very bold mayavadi. He wrote an article in English saying that in Krsna's body the soul was there, and that soul was God, but Krsna's body was not God. He said that, as with our body and soul, there was also some difference between Krsna's body and soul.
Guru Maharaja was not here then, but Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu was here. So he wrote a very powerful article in response. He took many examples from here and there with strong quotations. He declared, 'Those who speak like this are rascals. There is no difference between deha and dehi, possession and possessor. All His qualities, pastimes, and names are transcendental. If one does not have a very pure and realized guru, he cannot understand this idea. You have no guru and you are reading sastra yourself. Just as Gautama Buddha became sunyavadi, you are just like that. At some time in South India you met with the very renowned Sankaracarya's teachings, but you have not read Ramanuja, Madhvacarya, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and Jiva Gosvamiˇyou have never read Baladeva Vidyabhusana. You should try to know what is acintya-bheda-abheda. Do not be sectarian. You should be very liberal to us because you are an authority of India, the President. But you are not an authority in religion. You will have to learn something from us".
Prabhu then challenged him to discuss all these issues face-to-face in any big council. He asked me to translate his article into Hindi for publication and it was printed in both of our magazines. He also wrote it in English and sent it to the Parliament of India, addressing it to the President, Mr. Nehru and the others. Their secretary received it and said 'Thank-you', but Dr. Radhakrishnan never accepted that challenge. He had nothing to reply because all of Prabhu's evidence had come from the Vedas, Upanisads, and from other bona-fide scriptures. In this way Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu was such a bold and powerful preacher. He never compromised.
Srila Vamana Maharaja appointed Abhay Caraaaravinda Prabhu to be the savapati (head of the editors) of the Gaudiya Patrika. Savapati means top of the editorial department, or editor-in-chief. I was also in the editorial sanga for the Hindi Bhagavata-patrika. He usually submitted his articles in Bengali, and sometimes if he wrote in Hindi I would edit and then submit it, because his mother language was not Hindi. Mostly he wrote his articles for our Gaudiya-patrika in Bengali. I then translated these into Hindi and printed them in the Bhagavata-patrika. Prabhu also was expert in the skill of stenography, before the time of tape machines. During lectures of my Gurudeva and other senior Vaisnavas he took shorthand perfectly and recorded those talks in his notebooks. His accurate transcriptions were also used for articles in the Gaudiya-patrika magazine. Abhay Caranaravina Prabhu continued writing for our magazines regularly every month for many years. Some of those original editions are still preserved at our manha. (Appendix 6)
I went twice to visit Abhaya Caranaravinda Prabhu while he was preaching in Jhansi. The first time I traveled on the train with some of the brahmacaris; the second time I went there to see him with my Gurudeva. We stayed four or five days each time. He had made some connections earlier during his frequent travels there for business. Some people had a building which was suitable for a manha. Prabhu invited us to consider it for one of our manhas, but our Gurudeva was not prepared to settle there. He didn't have enough brahmacaris, and he also favored a larger city like Mathura. The gentleman who had originally invited him, icarya Prabhakara Misra, became his initiated disciple. I don't know whether he gave diksa to him or not, but he said that he had accepted this man. I think that he had given harinama only. At that time Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu was translating Sri Caitanya-caritamrta and this disciple would help him to correct his Hindi because it was mixed with Bengali.
During his stay in Jhansi, Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu personally brought a large and very beautiful murti of Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu from Bankura (near Mednapore, West Bengal). This is where many Deities are made especially for the Gaudiya Vaisnavas. He had first ordered the Deity, and then brought Mahaprabhu to be established in that temple.
Prabhu invited Gurudeva and we came to visit there for the installation. Although we arrived for the program, the installment did not happen. This was because Guru Maharaja discussed with Prabhu about the manner in which those sponsors were allowing him to use the mandira. When he told us that they could kick him out, Gurudeva said he thought it might be better if a document was received. There was a discussion between Gurudeva and the sponsors and before all those people present he made a condition, "If you give the mandira to Pujyapada Abhay Caraaaravinda Bhaktivedanta Prabhu, then he will be the master of all these things. He will do everything according to our sampradaya." They, however, were in the mood that the temple should be in their charge and he would be like a priest. Both Prabhu and Guru Maharaja rejected their conditions.
They then brought that uninstalled vigraha here to Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha in Mathura. Prabhu had been doing some regular puja alone there in Jhansi, but the Deity was not yet officially installed. My Gurudeva and I came back first from Jhansi to Mathura on the train. Prabhu didn't come with us then, but after some days he returned with the Caitanya Mahaprabhu vigraha and put Him in the care of my Gurudeva. Then Gurudeva installed that very beautiful Caitanya Mahaprabhu here on the altar in our manha where He is still being served to this day.
RESIDING IN SRI KESAVAJI GAUDIYA MATHA
My Gurudeva and I were there on the day in 1955 when Abhay Caraaaravinda Prabhu came again to the Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha in Mathura. We embraced him and he embraced us. Before coming he had been successful with his pharmaceutical business in Allahabad, Prayaga Pharmacy, which was very famous. Many important personalities including the Prime Minister of India were customers in his shop. Later on, however, he had to sell it. Then he travelled to all the important cities of North IndiaˇDelhi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Agra, Jhansi, Mathura and other towns to sell some medicines he had made from his own formulas. Kunja Bihari Prabhu, a senior disciple in the matha, was especially devoted to him during this time. He helped to carry his bags and also to bring him prasadam while he worked.
After a while this job also finished and Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu gave up his household life and all its possessions in Calcutta. He again came to Mathura, this time without belongings. He brought a medical formula for treating ringworm which he distributed to the shopkeepers, store-to-store; but sales were not good. He was living in a room he had rented by the Yamuna, in Hooli Wali Gully near Bengali Ghat. He had been there three or four days when I went to see him. Straightaway I said, "Prabhu, why are you staying here?" He was very humble and didn't want to impose upon us so I forcibly took his luggage. I told him, " I will not let you go anywhere else. We are here. We are your sons. You are our Gurudeva's Godbrother and are very dear to us. We want to care for you. I will not allow you to stay here separate from us." So I brought the brahmacaris, Kunja Bihari Prabhu, Sesasayi Prabhu, and some others and we forcibly took what few utensils he had and we brought him to live in our manha.
I requested him, "Please stay here with us reading Bhagavad-gita, writing and so on. I know that no one is assisting you now. I want to personally serve you. You please live here forever; we never want you to leave." He became so glad. I gave him a room adjacent to mine. His room was there (pointing to the room one door from the kitchen) and my room is here. There were only two rooms then, his and mine. At that time there was no mandira in our Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha.
We had very little facility to offer to him, because nothing was there in our manha. There was just one bathroom-- an old type which we all used. But still we were very easily able to live peacefully and accomplish everything. At that time he also had nothing to show "this is mine." He had only his body and atma-- no paisa, nothing. He only had some copies of his "Back to Godhead" magazine, his Gita, and three or four volumes of a Bengali Srimad-Bhagavatam. These same books are now preserved in our library. He had only these few things, no bedding, no extra boxes or personal belongings.
We gave him one little room and many big books. Nrsingha Maharaja (one of his Godbrothers) and I donated some Sanskrit and Bengali books to him. There he began to write many English translations and articles. Day and night he would stay in his room and do this. He also chanted harinama so much and sang bhajans very beautifully. We did not know when he ever took rest. He slept only a short time in the morning , because all during the night he was awake, and throughout the day also. He became so pleased with this arrangement of staying with us. Our Guru Maharaja also became pleased when he was informed of this.
We always requested Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu to give Srimad Bhagavatam classes. Usually there was not a big audience because only a few of us lived in the matha then. We were just beginning the Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha temple, so we had just five or ten persons. But very high-class, learned gentlemen from Mathura would often come to hear him speak. I was known then as a kirtaniya in the Gaudiya Manhas in Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, so I would perform kirtana. Prabhu would lecture, explaining his discourses word-by-word. Very erudite scholars were attracted by his pravacana. Also during this time he would give Caitanya-caritamrta classes to those of us who were at the manha in the evenings. His devotion for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His pastimes was very deep. Later on, after he took sannyasa, he often gave these classes in English, even though almost everyone there could not understand English. He would say that he was 'practicing'.
We used to always joke together. From boyhood it was my habit to joke with everyone. Even though Prabhu was so much older and more qualified than me, he was affectionate like a friend, wanting no aisvarya (reverance). In age and in every way he was equal to my Gurudeva. He was a very respected and educated person. I still don't know why he especially loved me and gave me so much mercy. I find nothing in myself. There were many beautiful Vaisnavas with such good memories and with all kinds of virtues and good qualities; so why did he like me? I don't know. But in some way he favored me with his affection. I would sincerely try to serve him and he was controlled by that love.
I would joke with him, saying, " Oh, you may try to be responsible for your children and your wife, but they are rejecting you." One of his sons was not very favorable and another was somewhat helpful, but not wanting to serve him. So I would say, "Prabhu, why not take more service from all of us? You should not go back there. I will beg from door to door and arrange to get you rice and any other things." We would joke together about so many things. Just as I joke now, he was also very fond of joking. When he would laugh it was very sweet. He joked in an especially delightful way, with a slight playful smile. Like this-- (makes an imitation of Srila Prabhupada's smile). His lips were pursed just a little, but not wide.
When Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu first came to Mathura to stay with us he had an ailment which he humbly and silently tolerated. Because he was expert in medicines, when necessary he always used ayurvedic or homeopathic remedies and avoided alopathic treatment. I was fortunate that he then confided in me saying, "I do not have faith in any doctors. If they demand to operate, I may die." I told him that he could not die; he had too much important seva to do. He agreed that he was very determined to fulfill his Gurudeva's orders to preach all over the world. I said that I knew of a bona-fide doctor here in Mathura where others had been cured. So he let me take him there and during the entire operation I stayed by his side. There is hesitation to mention these details because it may sound as if I was helping him. Actually I know he was bestowing such mercy to allow me intimate service as his friend.
Often we would visit each others' rooms. We had many philosophical discussions together, speaking about Prahlada-caritra and Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. We read many of those books together. He would deeply discuss the matters he wrote about in the Gaudiya-patrika. Sometimes he would have talks with one, two, three, or five disciples of my Gurudeva in my room. There were also some big officers and other important gentlemen who came to hear him speak. They would say, "Oh, Abhay Caran Babu is such a learned advanced person." Everybody would glorify him.
He explained the Srimad-Bhagavatam word-for-word, just as he later wrote in his books. In our talks I would not just accept everything easily. I raised questions and more questions. Even to my Gurudeva I would do this. Whatever they told me I acceptedˇbut by logic and sastra-pramaaa (Vedic evidence), not blindly. With him it was also like this. I asked so many questions. Sometimes some of the other disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada could not satisfy me and they would say, "Go to your Gurudeva and he will satisfy you and completely quench your thirst." I wanted to go in deeper and deeper and would not accept anything without raising so many questions. I was 'ladaka', in a fighting mood, and was known for having strong philosophical arguments. I heard everything very patiently but did not accept anything blindly. Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu was also like this, and so he appreciated this quality in me. Our Gurudeva and he were very logical men. By logic they strongly explained everything.
I do not know what special topics Swamiji discussed with my Gurudeva because usually I was not in the room when they spoke privately together. Amongst the disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati it was not common to openly talk about the gopis, gopi-prema and all those topics. At that time Srila Janardana Maharaja was an exception, I was an exception, and my Guru Maharaja also would sometimes discuss these matters on a high level, but he did so carefully and not to everyone. Swamiji and I had many intimate talks together about Krsna consciousness, the Gaudiya Matha and other confidential topics which I cannot disclose to others.
Prabhu was very fond of cooking delicious food; very delicious. He wanted to prepare it, he wanted me to prepare it also and then feed all of the Vaisnavas. By his request, he and I would cook and offer so many preparations. Occasionally when he received funds he would even offer fresh mangos to the Deities. Then he would distribute that opulent prasada to all of the brahmacaris. He always used pure ghee to cook for Krsna. No matter how few rupees he had at any time, he would have a special jar of ghee for cooking; he never used oil. Also he cooked with one or two green chilis and ginger instead of red chilis. A favorite preparation of his was ginger morabba (crushed ginger root cooked with ghee and sugar or gur).
Prabhu was so enthusiastic about that cooking and he often declared that all Gaudiya Vaisnavas should be expert in cooking for Krsna.
During the many months he stayed at the Kesavaji Matha, the two of us would perform sundara-arati together each evening. He would always play the mrdanga so expertly and I would play the kartalas and sing. He liked my singing very much and always requested me to lead the kirtanas. Someone asked me, "Why didn't Swamiji also sing? He had a beautiful voice as well." I replied, "Yes, surely he did, but there were times he didn't sing because he was having so much devotional feeling and was weeping." Just like on some of his cassettes which I have heard Gauranga bolite ha'be... Vande Rupa Sanatanau.
In 1959, we would talk together and he would say, "When I first met Srila Prabhupada and when he gave me initiation, he told me that I should preach in the Western countries in the English language. He told me this twenty years ago in Calcutta." Guru Maharaja and Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu were bosom friends and they had lived and served together. Both were intellectual giants, very erudite persons from high-class families. In Calcutta, Srila Sridhara Maharaja also had recommended that he approach our Gurudeva. So I encouraged him to accept sannyasa now from our Gurudeva and then go to preach in the Western countries. "We will try to help you", I said to him.
Prabhu explained, "After Srila Prabhupada gave me initiation I read a sloka in Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.88.8): yasyaham anugrhaami harinye tad-dhanam sanai╔ tato 'dhanam tyajanty asya svajana du╔kha-du╔khitam. 'If I especially favor someone, I gradually deprive him of his wealth. Then the relatives and friends of such a poverty-stricken man abandon him. In this way he suffers one distress after another. Krsna takes away everything from one who takes His shelter and receives His mercy, and makes him a street beggar. Then he has to weep again and again.' When I read this, I feared becoming a beggar. But I never stopped my chanting, remembering, and doing devotional service. That is why I lost my wealth. Although I tried to prevent it, all that I did to gain wealth failed."
He had been the manager of Bengal Chemicals and was so expert that he arranged another company himself, but there were problems. He came to Allahabad and managed a very big shop, but after some time there was also difficulty. He did a little more business, but Krsna would not allow. Then he came here. We would sit side by side. One time he said, "That which I feared has come on my head and now I see that I cannot successfully do these things." I replied, "Do not try for this any more. You are not a person to do anything associated with worldly business. Krsna and your Gurudeva want you to preach in the Western countries. You have such important work to do. You are so qualified." In a friendly way we laughed together about these things.
When my Gurudeva later arrived from Navadvipa I told him, "Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu is your friend. He can obey you because you are elder." Guru Maharaja was a sannyasi and Prabhu was in grhastha-vesa. Earlier, when I had written
to him that Pujyapada Abhay Caraaaravinda Prabhu was staying here with us, he told me, "He is my bosom friend. You should show all respect to him and give all the facilities that he wants." I had known him since 1947; I realized how highly qualified he was. Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja, Srila Srauti Maharaja, and Guru Maharaja would always give him high respect and hear from him, even though he was a householder. At this time, therefore, I requested my Gurudeva to apply some pressure so that he would take sannyasa. Guruji called him and said, "Narayana Maharaja and all the other boys are encouraging that you take sannyasa. I also support this idea. Do not hesitate to take the renounced order. You are so qualified. You please take sannyasa now. It will be very beneficial." (Appendix 7)
Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu thus agreed to accept sannyasa and the ceremony was held the very next day. That day was the auspicious Visvarupa-mahotsava. Prabhu asked, "How should I prepare?" I told him, "Don't worry, I will arrange everything." So I prepared bahira-vesa (sannyasa dhoti), uttariya (outer cloth) and a danda with my own hands. I taught him how to wear all these things and then I performed the fire yajna. Akincana Krsnadas Babaji Maharaja came, and Sesasayi Brahmacari, Kunja-bihari Brahmacari, Parijataka Maharaja and many other persons were there. Now most of these devotees have departed. Sanatana Prabhu took sannyasa with Swamiji and he became Bhaktivedanta Muni
Maharaja. He was ninety years old and had said to Swamiji, "If you agree to take sannyasa, then so shall I." He also is no longer here, having joined the eternal service of Krsna.
I recited the yajna-mantras and performed the ceremony. Akincana Krsnadas Babaji Maharaja, Prabhu's intimate Godbrother and friend, chanted Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. He chanted continuously from 8:00 AM until 3:00 PM in a most sweet and deep manner. Swamiji requested that only Krsna-nama be sung, the kirtana of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. My Gurudeva then gave him the sannyasa-mantra.
The sannyasa name which Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Maharaja gave to Abhay Caraaaravinda Prabhu is 'Swami'. It is one of the bona fide sannyasa names and means 'controller' and 'master'. The title 'Bhaktivedanta' had already been awarded in Calcutta by some of his Godbrothers, and 'Maharaja' is a formal ending for those in the renounced order. This name 'Swami' is just fitting because Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja became the controller of many, many jivas' hearts due to his being so strong and faithful to his Gurudeva. This is why we affectionately call him 'Swamiji'ˇnot at all in a common way, but showing the greatest respect.
After the ceremony Gurudeva requested Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja to speak. He spoke in English, though almost everyone there could not understand that language. He explained that just at this time he remembered his Gurudeva's specific orders to preach in the English language. He said, "I feel fortunate to accept sannyasa from my Godbrother, Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja. I have known him for a long time and he is my close friend. He is a very bona-fide disciple of our Jagad-guru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. He has kindly given me this sannyasa. Srila Narayana Maharaja and Srila Muni Maharaja have also given me inspiration to do this. The order of sannyasa means to preach the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and the mission of the guru everywhere. My Gurudeva instructed me to preach in English in the Western countries and that is why I am writing English articles and books. I am praying to Krsna, Gurudeva and all the Vaisnavas that they should give me the power to preach this mission all over the world."
Excerpts from his speech and a description of the ceremony were printed in a news article in our Bhagavat-patrika. The well-known photograph of our Gurudeva sitting between Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja and Srila Bhaktivedanta Muni Maharaja was taken on that day. Kunja Bihari Brahmacari, a formerly wealthy devotee who had helped build our matha, gladly donated five paisa he had saved, which at that time was the cost of one photographer's snapshot. Thus today we can all honor this sannyasa portrait.
It was a special privilege for us to participate in assisting Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja in accepting sannyasa. For the next three days after the ceremony, Krsnadas Babaji Maharaja stayed together with Srila Swami Maharaja in his room. They were especially close and confidential with each other. After this Swamiji went to Agra to preach in a program he had set up there. He was always coming and going on different guru-seva. We kept his room open for him for the next five years. He was writing some of his Easy Journey to Other Planets in his room here in Mathura. His three volumes of Srimad Bhagavatam were not printed yet; so here in Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha he continued writing and editing them. The manuscripts were then given to the press in Delhi and gradually published. He was also writing "Back to Godhead" and other publications. Perhaps before, in Calcutta and Allahabad, he had done some translating, but here he was easily able to concentrate and thus he accomplished so much.
Some don't consider the taking of sannyasa to be very valuable or of much importance. Actually it is so important. I think that if Srila SwamiMaharaja had not taken sannyasa perhaps he might not have done what he did in the Western countries. Srila Swami Maharaja himself explains in his books that it is favorable to accept the renounced order for preaching. In India everyone has honor for sannyasis. In sannyasa one gives up something but gains everything. As explained in Srimad-Bhagavatam: mukunda-seva-vrata. A sannyasi thinks, "I only love Krsna and Srimati Radharaai. I don't know anything else." The sannyasa-mantra is very helpful in attaining the Krsna-prema which Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, and all the other Gosvamis have tried to give us. I think that this is superior to all supermost things. It is svarupa-laksaaa. Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to give this; it is very important. Don't think it is a minor point.
AT RADHA-DAMODARA MANDIR
We were Godbrothers in regards to sannyasa. I had taken sannyasa before him, in 1954, and he took sannyasa in 1959. However, I always considered him my superior and behaved towards him like he was my siksa-guru. But Swamiji never treated me like a disciple; rather always like a bosom friend. He had me sitting on the same seat with him while we were chanting, remembering, doing kirtana, and sometimes making capatis together. He rolled the capatis and I put them on the fire and then we would offer them. We would sit on the same bed together. One time I came to visit and gave him my cadara, because he had no cadara to put on his bed. Only one torn quilt was there. The walls were crumbling apart but he was too absorbed in his bhajana and seva to care for that. He performed intense tapasya and sadhana in that kutira, in that most sacred tirtha. I feel fortunate to have received his association at the Radha-Damodara Temple. (Appendix 8)
During those years there at Radha-Damodara he was consumed in the writing of his translations and purports of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Whenever I visited him I would try to offer him assistance. In those days I was editing the Bhagavata-patrika which left me very little time. We would often associate together there-- in his little bhajan kutir. Sometimes we took prasadam with the Radha-Damodara Gosvamis. We also performed Radha-Damodara parikrama, walking together and paying respects at the samadhis of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, Srila Jiva Gosvami, Srila Krsnadas Kaviraja Gosvami, and especially Srila Rupa Gosvami.
From the beginning he had strong sankalpata (determination) to go to the West. He had nurtured that idea for a long time . Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada had requested him to preach there. Even before he took sannyasa he was completely committed to going to the Western countries to preach. That is why he was translating Bhagavad-gita and writing books in English. With great determination he was accomplishing all this writing exclusively for that purpose. When he was residing at Radha-Damodara Mandir in his kunira he had no money or facility, but he was not in any dilemma about what to do. He was always thinking that somehow or other it would be possible to arrange to preach in the West. He was praying to Sri Radha-Damodara and all the acaryas for Them to bring him there. At this time he told us about several special incidents where his Gurudeva, his worshipable Lords Sri Radha-Damodara, Srila Rupa and Jiva Goswamis and others had given him internal encouragement and directions to execute his mission.
PREPARATION AND DEPARTURE FOR AMERICA
Srila Swami Maharaja spent considerable time in Delhi before he went to America. This is where he was printing and distributing his books. He had published three volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Several times I went there to be with him and we stayed together in his rooms at the Chippiwada Radha-Krsna Temple. He preached vigorously in Delhi. Wherever he went he preached to the public. To everyone he met he spoke about Radha-Krsna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission. He also engaged me along beside him. When he was in America, he wrote and encouraged me to continue preaching to the people he had cultivated there. (Appendix 9)
When Swamiji was leaving to go to America, he described everything to me about his travel plans. He told me how in Bombay he had been given a ticket to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to Boston by freighter. He explained his route and his plans when he would arrive there. He had great faith and a careful preaching strategy. His goal was to set up a Vaisaava institute and dormitory there in the videshi (Western) countries. Showing such confidence in the Holy Name, he said that even if at first the new students felt that they must take meat or wine, he would do what was necessary to begin their Krsna consciousness. Several times he asked me to accompany him. I begged him that I could not go without the permission of my Gurudeva who had personally ordered me to manage the manha in Mathura.
One day he announced to me, "Now the time has come and I am going." He was leaving for the Port of Calcutta and was to visit Mayapur also. I came and said good-bye and I took his footdust and put it on my head. Before he left he requested me to keep a regular correspondence with him, which we did. We wrote so many letters to each other in those next years. A few of these are printed in the pamphlet, "Srila Prabhupada's Letters from America". Unfortunately, most of his other letters to me were loaned and have not yet been returned. (Appendix 10)
Later he wrote to me to send him his books from his room in Mathura. So many of his thick volumes were stored in his almira. They were very dusty and for one entire day I cleaned and packed many boxes of his books. Then we shipped those books by boat to New York . When we visited his rooms in the Los Angeles temple I was touched to see many of those same books still there in his bookshelves. I tried faithfully to carry out all of the services he requested in his letters to me. (Appendix 11)
RETURN TO INDIA
When he came back to India in 1967 I met him and his disciple, Kirtanananda dasa, at the airport in Delhi. He had instructed me to do this in his telegram. (Appendix 12). He told me many wonderful accounts and details about his preaching in America, and how miraculous were the results. Humbly he felt that all this was only the mercy of his Gurudeva and the desire of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates. One special thing he told me was how when he first chanted the Hare Krsna Mahamantra in Tompkins Square Park in New York, he chanted for a very long time (several hours). He told me how he kept his eyes closed, just deeply hearing and depending completely on that mercy.
We stayed for seven days at the Chippiwada Radha-Krsna Temple in Delhi. Because Swamiji was sometimes feeling ill, he sent me along with Kirtanananda dasa to represent him in his preaching programs. He was always encouraging us to preach very strongly. He wanted everyone to see his Western Vaisnava and so he took us to chant and preach to people he knew in Delhi.
After a few weeks another of Swamiji's disciples, Acyutananda Prabhu, came to stay in Vrindavana. Because they were Swamiji's disciples I sat together with them and honored the mahaprasada they had prepared. All the caste Gosvamis and almost all of Swamiji's Godbrothers would never take any prasada or even the water Kirtanananda dasa and Acyutananda dasa offered them. The reason they offered was that those disciples were Westerners and had previously eaten flesh. I spoke out against this policy and encouraged others to accept Swamiji's disciples as bona-fide. I explained how Swamiji's preaching to foreigners was completely authorized and directly in the line of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and our guru varga. I think that most of the Indian Vaisnavas have now accepted this.
In 1967 during his first trip back to India he came to visit my Gurudeva, his sannyasa guru, Srila Bhaktiprajana Kesava Goswami. At that time my Gurudeva was in weak health and was confined to his bed in Calcutta. They had a confidential visit then. It was their last time together in this world. My Gurudeva was overjoyed at Swami Maharaja's devotional service to their Srila Prabhupada. He expressed his appreciation and glorification of Swamiji's preaching so much and pledged to cooperate in the preaching work. They also discussed my Gurudeva helping to arrange a donation of land for Swamiji's future Mayapur temple. Srila Trivikrama Maharaja and Srila Vamana Maharaja were present then. (Appendix 13)
After our Gurudeva Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Maharaja departed from this world in 1968, Srila Swami Maharaja along with his disciples sent us a telegram of condolence. He also sent a long letter to Trivikrama Maharaja in Navadvipa. In Seattle, Washington he delivered a lecture about our Gurudeva. There he described the history of his awarding him sannyasa. He wrote about how much appreciation, affection and glorification he had for him, and how he had now entered Krsna's abode. We heard later from some of his disciples that he shed tears when he received the telegram telling of our Gurudeva's entering into nitya-lila.
In one letter to Srila Trivikrama Maharaja, Srila Swami Maharaja asked him for a photo of Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Maharaja. He wanted to place it on the temple altars in the West. Swamiji also wrote asking me to send a picture of our Gurudeva to him in America. I remember in one letter he requested, "Please send me a picture of your Gurudeva so I can have a portrait painted for displaying with our disciplic succession in all of our temples." (Appendix 14) Somehow we were never able to arrange that, but I know that if we had been able to, he would have used it.
PREACHING IN INDIA
In 1969 Swami Maharaja came again to Navadvipa and stayed for a week or two at our Devananda Gaudiya Matha with a large group of disciples. Nikunja Brahmacari and others helped give everyone accommodations, special prasada, mosquito nets and all other arrangements. Swamiji was looking for land around Mayapura. He wanted to make an asrama and mandira there, but the inhabitants of Navadvipa told him that he should do it in Navadvipa town. They said that the birthplace of Mahaprabhu was there in Pracina Mayapura and tried to convince him to make his temple there. But he decided, "No, I will not do that. I will establish it on Srila Prabhupada's side." (Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura had established Mayapur and Yogapith on the Eastern bank of the Ganga, across from Navadwipa town.) At that time it was the rainy season and everywhere it was flooded. Even so, he travelled to the other side of the Ganga to arrange for purchasing his land.
On one occasion some of his Godbrothers in Mayapur suggested that he should not allow himself to be called 'Srila Prabhupada'. They also feared that he was not preaching the purest devotional standards, but rather was altering the strict Gaudiya Matha process too much out of deference to the Westerners. They said that maybe after Swamiji leaves, his mission will not remain bona-fide and his disciples might spoil the bhakti culture. I defended him saying, "I don't believe this. He has not given anything new. Far and wide in the English language he is preaching our same mission in a new bottle. Nothing is new and I don't see anything wrong. He has wonderfully preached this mission of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura everywhere. I think that if his disciples truly follow guru-bhakta (guru and Vaisnavas) then they will continue his line. I don't believe that just because he is doing some liberal and revolutionary preaching it is a problem. He is marvelously executing his Gurudeva's orders."
I also explained, "They may call their Gurudeva, 'Prabhupada,' or 'Om Visnupada.' I think in the future age, more disciples in the line of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada might also call another qualified Spiritual Master 'Srila Prabhupada' because it has been allowed in sastra. Disciples of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada who had agreed that they would not take this name can keep that agreement. Because of his high bhakti and world preaching, and because of their devotion for him, if Swamiji's disciples call him 'Srila Prabhupada' there is no harm. If you want to reject him for this reason, I don't agree. Srila Sridhara Maharaja, myself, and a few others explained this to the other devotees, especially in private to many of them.
On several occasions some of his Godbrothers in Mayapura directly asked Swamiji why he accepted that name 'Srila Prabhupada' from his disciples. We have heard about this explanation that he once gave to them. Humbly he told, "When Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura left this world, some of the Godbrothers took over everything of his mission, including his names like 'Om Visnupada,' 'Paramahamsa,' 'His Divine Grace.' All that remained for me was my 'Prabhupada'. He is my 'Prabhu', my master, and I am always at his 'pada', his feet. His feet are my only possession and shelter. So later when my young disciples began to call me that, I thought that it is true. If anyone calls me 'Srila Prabhupada' I only remember my Gurudeva's lotus feet and how I am situated there. If others think that I am an offender or proud, I request them to please accept my understanding."
During the following years, 1970-1977, I was going here and there, constantly travelling throughout India and preaching in Bengal. Because our Gurudeva had departed from this world, I was very busy managing everything in our manhas. So Srila Swami Maharaja and I were not able to arrange to meet together. He was also so busy during those years, continually travelling everywhere around the world. Unfortunately I was not there for the opening of the Krsna-Balarama Mandira which was established in 1975, near to Gaura Puraima time. He invited me, but I was not there in Mathura because we were so busy in Navadvipa. During most of those years I was not regularly present in Mathura so he did not come back to visit our manha. If I had been present at those times, I would have invited him and he would have come.
In the earlier days many of us wanted to directly help him but the time was not so ripe. There were only a few of us living in the matha then and we were all busy preaching in India. We were not doing as much preaching as he was doing; but we were busy. My Gurudeva had ordered me to do certain services. Every disciple naturally thinks that his Gurudeva is preaching and he should try to assist him. Each disciple thinks about his own guru like this. Swamiji was busy on a big scale and we were also busy on a little scale, but all were busy serving Guru and Gauranga. So I was not able to go to the West at that time to directly assist him.
Another difficulty was that in those early days most devotees knew very little English, especially for speaking. Therefore, although there were some who were very strong in bhakti, they were not able to meet and communicate with the Westerners. At that time there were some high-class devotees who did not externally manifest themselves as being so qualified. I knew of about ten or more Indian devotees, including some of Swamiji's Godbrothers and others who were initiated by them, who came to serve with him in India when ISKCON was newly established. Krsnadas Babaji Maharaja, Dinabandhu Babaji Maharaja, Govardhana Prabhu, inand Prabhu from Orissa, and several others came. But they did not know English and they appeared to be insignificant so hardly any of the Westerners understood their nature. Now almost everyone can speak English, but not then. Although we could not personally join Swamiji, many of us were very glad and proud that he was preaching so gloriously. It is a mistaken idea that none of us were his friends or his well-wishers.
Srila Swami Maharaja made arrangements for Acyutananda dasa to come and live with us in our manha. He came first to Mathura and stayed for some time. He also resided with Srila Sridhara Maharaja at Sri Caitanya Sarasvata Manha in Navadvipa. There he studied the songs of the Gaudiya acaryas. Swamiji also asked me to take Kirtanananda dasa when they first came to India. He wanted him to go and preach with our brahmacaris, so that he could hear from us. We would speak and he would sit and learn so many things. In Delhi I associated with Kirtanananda dasa, and also here in Mathura, but shortly afterwards he went back to the West. Later on also we arranged for Sesasayi Brahmacari, my Godbrother, to give classes in Gaudiya bhajans. Swamiji sent his own red car for him two or three times a week for some time, and tape recordings were made for the devotees.
SRILA PRABHUPADA'S DISAPPEARANCE
SRiLA PRABHUPDA DESIRED TO GO TO GOVARDHA
(excerpts from Mathura class, 1993)
In his last days Swamiji requested all of the devotees, "Take me to Govardhana. I want to go there just now. I don't want to go by car. By bullock cart I will go, like Nanda Baba, Yasodamaiya, like all the Vraja-vasis, like the gopis." He wished for this opportunity; I knew this fact. But he could not go. Actually he went there with his soul and transcendental body. He is always there amongst Sri Rupa, Sanatana, Raghunatha, by tad-anuragi jananugami (following those eternal residents of Vrindavana who possess inherent spontaneous attachment for Sri Krsna." Nectar of Instruction"- Verse 8 ). So this was his last wish.
Swamiji expressed his real intention: "Govardhana, please give me residence near you." Swamiji's desire was to go to Govardhana especially. In all of Vraja-maadala, Gokula is the best because Gokula is where Krsna was born from the womb of Yasoda and where He performed His childhood pastimes. In Gokula there is a multitude of cows, gopis, and gopas, and the main gopa is Krsna. He resides in Gokula, which includes Nandagaon, Varsana, Kamyavana, and Vrndavana. In all of Gokula, Vrndavana is the best, and in Vrndavana, Govardhana is best. In all of Govardhana, the two eyes, Radha-kunda and Syama-kuada, are the best. The sweetest, most attractive pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna take place there. Swamiji wanted to go to Govardhana because the best of all of Their pastimes is performed in that place. There the rasa-lila takes place in a special way. So much attractive Krsna-lila is enacted at Giriraja Govardhana. Devotees pray, "Hey Giriraja, please fulfill my desire to witness these pastimes."
Srila Swami Maharaja wanted to go to Govardhana with the same idea in mind. His life's ideal and principal desire was to give this prema to the world, but first he had to spend a long time preaching vaidhi-bhakti and cutting away the jungle of atheism and mayavada. He desired to translate the Srimad-Bhagavatam in full, and especially to elaborately describe the pastimes narrated in the Tenth Canto. But Bhagavan did not agree and He called him back to His nitya-lila. Perhaps Krsna did not want him to remain in separation from Him any longer. Therefore Swamiji's desire to go to Giriraja Govardhana was fulfilled by Bhagavan's calling him back to Giriraja Govardhana in Goloka Vrndavana.
Giriraja Govardhana is our primary shelter because prema-bhava, the mood of pure ecstatic love, is the highest there. Swamiji came to relish this pinnacle of Krsna-prema and to distribute it to the residents of this world. Therefore, like Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada and my own worshipable Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, Srila Swami Maharaja also wanted residence near Govardhana. Govardhana is the best place in Vraja for both sadhakas and siddhas. If a sadhaka who does not have prema does bhajana there, he will get prema; and if a perfected devotee goes there, he will relish Radha-Krsna's nitya-lila. He will also receive darsana of the mahabhava which is most dear to Radha-Krsna and which he himself also aspires to attain.
Those who are most intelligent want to serve the Divine Couple, Sri Sri Radha and Krsna on the bank of Radha-kuada. Swamiji explains this in his "Nectar of Instruction".
Such devotees want to be there. If they cannot be there in their body, they can live there by mind and heart. Those who are always doing like this are devotees like Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Jiva Gosvami, Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, Srila Raghunatha Bhatta, and Srila Krsnadas Kaviraja Gosvami. They all have permanent seats there. Have you gone there? If you go there with any high-class advanced devotee, you may see something. Everything is there. The Paadavas and Draupadi are also there. They are doing aradhana (worship) of the gopis there. Those who are always there in their transcendental bodies, under the guidance of Rupa-manjari and Rati-manjari, they are the topmost. We want to follow them. This is the mood of Sri Rupa and Raghunatha dasa Gosvamis and also the mood of Swamiji.
Actually this is the highest glorification of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja. If anyone is not understanding this glory he is unfortunate because he is not actually touching the glory of Swamiji. Such a person cannot glorify him properly. Everyone must appreciate him for these high-class qualities, describing his highest love and affection to Srimati Radhika especially. We should not desire that all high-class devotees, uttama-bhagavatas, come down to the level of kanisnha-adhikaris. I know that Swamiji wanted to be there in Govardhana forever and to serve. He actually realized this poem (Sri Upadesamrta) of Srila Rupa Gosvami.
VISITING HIM IN HIS LAST DAYS
Srila Swami Maharaja was becoming very ill. Our Sukananda Prabhu was offering him naturopathic massages with Gangajala. These helped him, before he last went abroad to England. Sukananda Prabhu came to Vrindavana for two hours every morning and evening for fourteen days to massage him. We also sometimes visited and spoke with Swamiji then. Once we came at a time when he had hardly eaten or even taken water for many days. Yet still he affectionately greeted us and, as he had always done with all, he lovingly offered us opulent maha-prasadam which had been prepared and offered by his disciples. He exclaimed how nicely his young students were trying to serve their gurudeva and Krsna. Even though he himself had taken nothing at all for so long, in such a careful and affectionate way he made sure that each of us took prasada to our full satisfaction.
Some Godbrothers and associates were paying visits to his room. Around this time, Akincana Krsnadas Babaji Maharaja, Srila Bon Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaja, Srila B.V. Puri Maharaja, Indupati Prabhu (from Srila Madhava Maharaja's temple), Anand Prabhu, and many more devotees also came to see him. We also came several times to be with him along with our brahmacaris - Sesasayi Prabhu, Subananda Prabhu, Premananda Prabhu and sometimes others. There are tape recordings of some of these different conversations, but most were in Bengali or Hindi.
Just before Kartika month in early October when our annual Vraja Mandal parikrama was about to begin, Srila Swami Maharaja sent for me. He requested his senior sannyasis and many others, "I want to meet with Narayana Maharaja." They came by car and requested me, " Srila Prabhupada wants you, so please come now." We were just giving evening discourse for our parikrama party; but I came immediately. (Appendix 15)
When I arrived in his room at Krsna-Balarama Mandira, he was quite silent. Some boys were singing the Hare Krsna maha-mantra and some sannyasis and other disciples were silent. After some time he opened his eyes and indicated with his eyes for me to come close. He was so enthusiastic before his death- not his death, no, his entering into Krsna-lila. He was not speaking, but when he saw me he was happy. The devotees were chanting Hare Krsna very softly in Swamiji's special tune. All could see that he was not speaking anything now.
I did praaams to him, santya praaams (standing and silent) because I saw that there were so many persons there and no space for me to do full praaams. Then he saw me and at once said, "Oh Narayana Maharaja has come." He wanted me to take a seat on his bed. He tried to sit up but I put my hands on him and said, "Please lie down and I will sit over here." He then motioned for me to come nearer to his bed and said, "I want to speak to you." He wanted me to sit closer to his ear so he told some disciples, "Bring a chair" and I sat on it near to his ear. (Appendix 16)
First he began to weep. His heart was melted. From the core of his heart he told me, "Narayana Maharaja, can you excuse me? I feel that there is cause. For the sake of preaching I have told my disciples some things which perhaps I should not have said. Also I spoke so strongly about my Godbrothers in one letter which was then revealed to everyone. I said that we are preaching and others are not, that they are kanistha-adhikaris who don't preach but are idle. I said that all the Gaudiya Vaisnavas did not help me and they only take mahaprasadam and sleep." Swamiji had once written one letter to me saying, "I am preaching all over the world, but they are not doing this nor are they cooperating with me."
At this time many of his sannyasi disciples were watching. His words and mood implied to me many things about how he had wanted to encourage his young students. As we are careful with babies, so he instructed them not to mix with his Godbrothers and the other Gaudiya Vaisnavas. To save his newcomers from becoming disturbed or confused, he sometimes told them not to visit anywhere else because a few of his Godbrothers had done some wrong things. His disciples were simple-hearted and straight-forward and did not understand the Indian indirect subtle meanings. They did not know all these things yet and needed to progress gradually and be trained carefully in bhakti rules. He did not want them to lose heart due to criticism from any Indian Vaisnavas who may not understand their nature and his style of training them.
Swamiji had been a member of the Gaudiya Matha for a very long time and he knew the regulations and siddhanta- but he could not teach all of his disciples everything in just a few years. He had been cultivating many Vaisnava videshis (Westerners) from different countries but they still lacked our Vedic culture and sadacara (devotional habits). He had given such instructions to avoid other Vaisnavas just to protect his young disciples. Swamji said, "Although they are not fully trained, their devotional attitude is so nice. I am praying to my Guru Maharaja and the Rupanuga Guruvarga to bless them all. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Nityananda Prabhu, and Sri Baladeva Prabhu will surely give them Their mercy."
Swamiji was remembering all these things. He requested me, "Kindly tell the other Vaisnavas that I have made this offense and to please excuse me. I have so much sorrow for this." I think he felt that if any devotee was chanting the pure Name and was absorbed in hearing and preaching hari-katha like Srila Rupa Goswami, he could be considered even more qualified than one who is only preaching without pure devotion. I told him, "You are my siksa-guru and a pure Vaisnava. I know that you cannot do anything that is not in the way of bhakti. You have done these things only for serving your Gurudeva and Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We also do like this. All of us are indebted to you; there is no question. We know the prediction: prithi viti ache yata nagaradi-grama... You have done a miracle; you have spread His glories everywhere. We don't think that you have done anything wrong so I have nothing to excuse you for. But I will tell your request to the senior Vaisnavas and there can be peace. You are my siksa-guru; whatever instructions you give me I will follow with absolute sincerity." Tears were falling from his eyes very sweetly. He was acting in such a humble way, as if he was not a good Vaisaava, but actually he was like Narottama dasa Thakura and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
Swamiji continued, "Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada ordered all of us to preach in Europe and America. That was his strong desire. His other desire was that we all work together to preach. I didn't waste a single moment. I tried my best, and to some extent it has been successful." His voice was choked with emotion. "If we can work conjointly then, as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu declared, this sankirtana movement has great possibilities."
Then he told me, "I want you to help take care of my disciples. I want them to be good and qualified devotees. If they come to you, please care for them." Many of Swamiji's disciples were nearby so he softly whispered in Bengali, "When I went to the West, I caught so many monkeys in my net. Really, they are very expert in quarrelling amongst themselves like that. They are still very young and untrained. So I request you that after my departure you will help them in every respect." Considering the implications of this order from my siksa-guru, I hesitated. Then he grasped both of my hands in his own, looked deeply into my eyes and asked me to promise to help. Therefore I agreed, saying, "I promise that according to my ability and my bhaktisiddhanta-tattva (understanding of the conclusive statements of bhakti). I will always be ready to help them as you request."
After this I spoke again, " I want to say something else to them". Srila Swami Maharaja at once became inspired and called, "Oh, you should all come near and hear Narayana Maharaja. Please take into your hearts what he is speaking." Then I told them all, "Don't think that Swamiji is leaving from this world, leaving his body. Gurudeva is eternal. You are fortunate to have such a bona fide guru and Vaisaava. You should try to preach his mission more and more enthusiastically. But if you are after material things, you will find yourselves quarrelling over name, fame and worldly gain. You will not be following the siksa (teachings) of Swamiji. You will not be following his mission; you'll be doing wrong. So don't pursue your svartha, your own self-interest. Give up all these things. To serve Swamiji, and to preach his mission, you should be united with all of the devotees. Don't quarrel with the others over some little point. Don't expel anyone from this mission by finding small faults. Try to behave like friends, with brotherhood, and then you can preach. If you have difficulty with any of these things, then as Swamiji has requested me, you can come to me and I will try to help you from the core of my heart." They all listened to me then. It was recorded on cassette tape. (Appendix 17)
Srila Swami Maharaja turned his head slowly, looking over the devotees as they gathered in closely. Then he slowly lifted his hand, as if to call them to attention, and said, "Listen to Narayana Maharaja. Don't fight amongst yourselves. I have given all direction in my books." Then he lowered his hand.
After this Swamiji told me, "I pray to you that you will put me into my samadhi with your own hand. I don't want to take samadhi from anyone else's hands. I think you are the proper person. After my samadhi arrange to celebrate my mahotsava separation festival. You should give some amount of money to all the seven temples in Vrndavana and to all the Gaudiya Manhas. It depends upon you, 201 rps, 1001 rps, according to your discretion, whatever you recommend. They should all hear these instructions and arrange to pay. Do a mahotsava festival also in Mathura and invite all of the senior Vaisnavas to the feast. Invite all the Vaisnavas in Vrndavana. Do like this for me. And again I am telling you that you should always help my devotees."
(EDITORS NOTE: For special insight into the historical record, we have chosen to include here excerpts from the transcription of an original taped recording. These memories and personal insights were spoken in a temple class shortly after Srila Prabhupada's departure by one of his senior disciples who had been present on this same occasion which Srila Narayana Maharaja described above. We pray that the assembled Vaisnavas will treat this information with sensitive care, as such topics are generally not for public discussion.)
"While Srila Prabhupada was lying there he assumed a certain pose but we couldn't understand it. We just thought he was lying on the bed. He had his hands in a certain way, his head was in a certain way, and his legs were in a certain way, and he arched his body in a certain manner. So then Srila Narayana Maharaja said, "Oh, he is in such and such mudra. It's a type of mudra." He said, "This is exhibited by someone in the last period before he passes away. It indicates that he is dancing with Krsna. When he exhibits this form in the bed it means that he is dancing with Krsna, it's a dancing pose." Some people may try to understand Srila Prabhupada's relationship with Krsna, but this indicated a specific pastime.
Then he brought in his brahmacaris. He has a little choir there in Mathura. Srila Narayana Maharaja and the brahmacaris began to sing "Sri rupa-manjari pada". Srila Narayana Maharaja has a beautiful voice; a very baratone voice, "Sri Rupa-manjari pada, sei mora sampada." He sang very, very slowly. Everyone was crying. The whole room was in tears. Everyone was very, very shook up, and then as the night wore on, the kirtana was going on and on with this chanting. (Time break. End of taped account of Oct.8, 1977)
This second account is a continuation of the previous tape-recorded class, describing recollections of later on November 14th, during Srila Prabhupada's final five hours.
"..He (Srila Prabhupada) started exhibiting extraordinary activities. He started to roll back and forth on the bed, back and forth, and he would flail his arms in the air and then suddenly stop like he was stunned. He wasn't speaking at all, and then he would groan. Then suddenly he would belch very, very loudly and then he would shed tears and tremble, and then he would roll again. In this way he would go on and on in so many different postures. At first everyone was horrified
Then Srila Narayana Maharaja came, and he was the last one that Srila Prabhupada communicated with. I don't know what Srila Narayana Maharaja said to him because I never asked him. Someone should ask him that. He entered the room and Srila Prabhupada was shaking about, flailing his arms and then Srila Narayana Maharaja went right up to Srila Prabhupada's ear and whispered something and then Srila Prabhupada stopped, and Srila Narayana Maharaja whispered something else. And then Srila Prabhupada put up his hand and shook it like he had benedicted Srila Narayana Maharaja understood what he meant, and then he put his hand down.
(End of taped segment)
HIS DIVINE DEPARTURE
When we arrived in those final hours on November 14th he was not speaking. I felt at that time by seeing his face that he was fully remembering the pastimes of Krsna in Vrndavana. I think it was great mercy coming from Krsna because for his whole lifetime he had served Radha-Krsna. For that special person, Krsna absorption is there. Entranced in this way, his eyes were closed and he was exhibiting special symptoms. It was a very touching (karuna) scene. He had no pain, no distraction. At that time his mouth was so beautiful-- like a blossomed rose, like a lotus.
These are the signs of a very great personality. Otherwise another may cry, "I am dying, I am dying" and the face will be so ugly. But he was never like that. He was like a beautiful lotus flower. So I knew what he was doing. I have seen others also, including my Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, going to aprakana-lila (entering Krsna's eternal pastimes at the time of leaving the body). I have seen Ananga-mohana Brahmacari, Jagannatha Babaji Maharaja (disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada), Narasimha Maharaja and Padmanabha Maharaja. I have seen many when they departed so I could judge at that time how it was going on. They would say, 'Krsna Krsna ... Radhe Radhe'. There are signs, particular signs at that moment which show someone is remembering Krsna, and Swami Maharaja was exhibiting all those signs. He was very beautiful, very high-class. There was no sign of pain, and no attachment to the body or anything else. He was no longer anxious for his young disciples nor for any of the outward things he had established in his Krsna consciousness movement. Now there was nothing else; only remembering Krsna.
Our brahmacaris were softly singing some bhajanas. At that time I saw that he was fully satisfied, and thus I was also fully satisfied. I knew then that he would surely go soon, but there was no sign when he would go; he would leave now or in a short time. Before, he had talked with me when he was in his external senses, but he did not request me to stay. I was not in a hurry, but I was thinking that just after my leaving for Mathura he would enter into nitya-lila. We left to return to Mathura and then we were informed that he departed a few hours later.
Shortly after that time we returned to the Krsna-Balarama Mandir and made all arrangements for his mahotsava. According to his wishes we took him on procession in front of most of the important deities of Vrndavana. There were so many of his disciples and other persons chanting in that procession. All of the Vraja-vasis came into the streets to honor him. After this, I prepared his body. I wrote the special mantras on his chest and forehead with tilaka. I used the salt for his body. Then, following all of the proper Vaisnava procedures, I put his transcendental body into samadhi with my own hand.
IN MADHURYA RASA
Prema cannot be contained within this body. One with a material body can attain up to the stage of svarupa-siddhi. Yet we see that rasika-bhaktas (those who are already internally situated in their exchanges with Krsna in His lila) have prema and also appear in a body. We should understand, therefore, that their body is not a worldly material body. This body cannot bear to hold prema. In such a mood of separation, this body would burst in pieces.
To understand this we must do sadhana bhajana and become qualified. Swamiji was always in that mood, but he did not externally manifest it. He kept it as a seed within himself. For his preaching purpose he had to suppress all these actual moods. His prema was displaying itself inside, but it was not fully manifested externally. Otherwise all would have been madness and the preaching would have been stopped. The uddipana (stimulus) was always there, but inside. When he went to the West there was uddipana for preaching. He preached "You are not your body" and he preached Gita, Jagannatha worship, etc. At the end he came back to Vrndavana Dhama to relish all the internal things; he was always deeply hearing and chanting Hare Krsna. Some could see this mood of his, others might not have been qualified to realize it. He told us, "My home is in Vrndavana." Home means his loving home, his real home.
Srila Swami Maharaja was surely in madhurya-rasa. Some may say, why not sakhya-rasa? I am not denying this because in madhurya-rasa everything is there. In madhurya-rasa all other rasas-- vatsalya-rasa, sakhya-rasa, everything is included there. So it may be said that all rasas were in him; he was not deprived of sakhya-rasa. He had written some things in his poems and he had special affection for Gaura-Nitai and Krsna-Balarama, we know. But Swamiji was certainly also in madhurya-rasa, because his sannyasa-guru, my Gurudeva, gave him the sannyasa-mantra, the gopi-bhava-mantra in our Rupanuga line. Just like Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Jiva Gosvami, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and his Gurudeva, and just as he wrote in his realizations in the purports of his books, he was surely in madhurya rasa.