Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj

Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj was by birth a member of the Nityananda vamsa, the family of Nityananda Prabhu. His previous name was Atulachandra Goswami. After the disappearance of Prabhupada Srila Saraswati Thakur he took sannyasa from Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj - he was the first to take sannyasa from Guru Maharaj. Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj opened twenty two temples and among those temples are some very important tirthas such as Imlitala in Vrindaban and the Acharya Bhavan at Sridham Mayapur.

After the return to India of Sripad Bon Maharaj, Srila Goswami Maharaj was sent to London and named as “Missionary in Charge” of preaching in Europe by Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. In 1937, Goswami Maharaj met with the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace. Also in 1937, Goswami Maharaj attended the World Congress of Faiths at Oxford as the representative of the Hindu faith and he delivered a wonderful address at that Congress glorifying the Hare Krishna Mahamantra.

Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj underwent great hardship and near-starvation in Britain. He lived in a park during the winter for some time before he miraculously found a golden Deity of Adhoksaja Visnu in a drain pipe. Finding this Adhoksaja Visnu in the park Goswami Maharaj’s heart was filled with amazement. Feeling his luck might be changing he went to a guest house he had been staying at previously and there he was presented with a letter from Saraswati Thakur which had just arrived. The letter contained information about some money that had been sent for Goswami Maharaj’s sustenance. In this way, his preaching life went on.

When Saraswati Thakur had come to farewell Goswami Maharaj at Howrah station Goswami Maharaj asked him, “What shall I do if someone in Europe wishes to take initiation”. Prabhupada Srila Saraswati Thakur replied, “You give them initiation”.

Goswami Maharaj did initiate his first disciple in Europe, an Australian man he brought back to India to meet Srila Saraswati Thakur. As a ritvik or “representative of his Guru”, Sripad Bon Maharaj gave harinama to a German man named Sadananda das; however Sripad Goswami gave initiation himself to this Australian disciple, in accordance with the direct instruction he had received from his Gurudev. Factually, he was the only disciple of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur who initiated disciples during the manifest lifetime of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. Goswami Maharaj was the first disciple of his generation to become an initating Guru.

Sripad Bhakti Sudhir Goswami told us the story that once, pictures of Bhaktivinode Thakur and Srila Saraswati Thakur were going to be placed in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and someone objected to this saying that you can't put these pictures in that book. The man thought that this was some sort of offense to the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Goswami Maharaj was very respected in Vaishnava society. So taking advantage of his position as a member of the Nityananda Prabhu vamsa, he told that man, “You consider me as a worshipable descendent of Nityananda Prabhu?”

And that man said, “Yes, yes, Gosani.”

Goswami Maharaj informed him, “I have sold my head to the lotus feet of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur.”

He continued: “Guru is to be seen as Radharani's delegation. And our Gurudev, and his Guru, if their picture will be in the Bhagavatam, which is the holy body of Krishna, Krishna will be pleased. He will be pleased anywhere we put that picture. You understand me?”

And the man said, “Yes Gosani. Yes Gosani I have committed a big offense.”

Bhakti Sudhir Goswami advised us this story gives us some indication as to the style of Sripad Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj's heavy preaching in the line of Srila Saraswati Thakur, establishing the dignity of our Guru-varga.

Another story is that every year, when they would have the meeting of the Visva Vaishnava Raja Sabha, Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Maharaj would be elected the president of the assembly and then he would defer to Goswami Maharaj. He would give the chair to him. Srila Guru Maharaj would be elected and then he would install Goswami Maharaj. This is the affectionate loving behaviour of the disciples of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad.

There is a famous picture of Srila Saraswati Thakur and Sir John Anderson, the Governor of Bengal. Srila Saraswati Thakur is wearing a garland and John Anderson is wearing a garland, but Srila Goswami Maharaj, also in the picture, is without a garland. Once, our Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj told Goswami Maharaj: “Maharaj, why don't you have a garland in this picture?”

Goswami Maharaj answered, “All of the respectable personalities, they have garlands. What is the necessity that I shall have a garland?”

Srila Govinda Maharaj then said: “I think I know the reason why you don't have a garland.”

Goswami Maharaj replied: “What do you know?”

Srila Govinda Maharaj said: “I can understand that the man who was responsible for supplying the garland, he was late so you took your garland and you offered it to Sir John Anderson.”

Then Goswami Maharaj said: “Oh, now you are crossing Visvannath Chakravarti!” Because Visvannath Chakravarti is always giving confidential details that are not obvious. Visvannath Chakravarti is extracting the inner meaning of things - so Sripad Goswami Maharaj detected that also in Srila Gurudev and gave Srila Govinda Maharaj this high compliment.

Another affectionate Godbrother of Srila Sridhar Maharaj, Sakhi Charan Ray, paid for the purchase of the land for Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math at Kolerganj in Nabadwip Dham. Sakhi Charan Ray, by the way, also paid the entire cost of construction of the Adbhuta Mandira, the main temple at the Mayapura Yogapith, the birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. But anyhow in 1941 Srila Sridhar Maharaj made a thatched house and on ratha-yatra day of that year he established his Math. Then when Srila Guru Maharaj entered this Math he established his Deity Giridharijiu, who he had brought from Vrindaban, and began his mission independent of all other institutions. However Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj was never separate from Srila Guru Maharaj and they always joined together for various preaching engagements.

Each of the leading Godbrothers who took sannyasa from Srila Sridhar Maharaj established their own missions. But a number of them gave donations and supported the mission of Srila Sridhar Maharaj in various ways. Madhusudan Maharaj’s mission was in Burdwan. Jajavara Maharaj, the last sannyasi disciple of Srila Saraswati Thakura and the first person to proclaim that Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as a saktyavesha avatara, had two or three missions in Mayapur and other places. Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj, who had opened many Maths and had many disciples, also always joined in collecting alms and preaching for Srila Sridhar Maharaj. Joining together in a big group these devotees would preach in different places and help Srila Sridhar Maharaj.

The two parties of Sripad Kesava Maharaj and the Chaitanya Math parikrama party were already doing Nabadwip parikrama each year when the parikrama party of Srila Sridhar Maharaj commenced in 1949 or so. Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Vicar Jajavara Maharaj and Sripad Madhusudana Maharaj joined to form a parikrama party with Srila Sridhar Maharaj. That parikrama party is continuing to this present day. In time, the number of devotees within this parikrama party became very large so Srila Sridhar Maharaj requested Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj and the others to form separate parikrama parties, since it became somewhat difficult to provide meals and accommodation for the large number of pilgrims who were assembling each year for the Nabadwip parikrama in the mid 1950’s. Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj then agreed to start his own parikrama party, but he said that at least one of his disciples must always stay within the parikrama party of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. He then told his disciple Sripad Bhakti Kiran Giri Maharaj to remain within the parikrama party of Srila Sridhar Maharaj. And from that time right up to the present day Sripad Bhakti Kiran Giri Maharaj has remained within the parikrama party of Srila Sridhar Maharaj - from the very beginning he has been the leader of the parikrama party of Srila Sridhar Maharaj. Such are the ways of Vaishnava etiquette.

Another thing, that is almost inconceivable, is that Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj would invite Srila Sridhar Maharaj to his Vyasa-puja and Guru Maharaj would gladly come. All of the pranami, all of the offerings, all of the money that was given to Goswami Maharaj, and all of the gifts and everything, Srila Goswami Maharaj would give all of it to Srila Guru Maharaj. In view of this, Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj once remarked, “We can't believe such Vaishnava behaviour!”

The one year that Srila Guru Maharaj couldn't come, when Goswami Maharaj was asked how his Vyasa-puja was that year, said: “This year it wasn't good at all because Srila Guru Maharaj didn't come.” Within a few months Goswami Maharaj left the world. Sripad Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj departed from this life in 1962.

We understand that Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s most affectionate and close friend of all, amongst all of his many Godbrothers, was Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj.

Commentary to the Hare Krishna Mahamantra by Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj:

The text-

Harey Krishna Harey Krishna
Krishna Krishna Harey Harey
Harey Rama Harey Rama
Rama Rama Harey Harey

The nomenclature of the Absolute has been put in this rhyme as Krishna. Krishna literally means That Most Beautiful Personality Who attracts all beings and gives joy. The form of Krishna is His inconceivable simultaneous personal and impersonal, self-contradictory Form. True devotees see that Form in their purified hearts under the influence of Devotional Trance. Rama is His other Name, conveying the idea of His being perpetually engaged in His transcendental revels with His excellent servitors led by His Consort called Hara (Radha).

These three Holy Words, viz..(1) Harey (Hara), (2) Krishna and (3) Rama, have been repeated over and over again addressing the Divine Couple in a systematic order which is realized by pure devotees when, by the grace of the Name, they see the Lord in their heart of hearts with the eye of devotion tinged with the salve of Divine Love, the seed of which is planted in the soul through these Holy Words by the Guru (an Absolute-realized soul who is authorized to act as a Divine Intermediary).

The seed of devotion that is implanted in the soul by the mercy of the Guru and the Supreme Lord, if properly watered by the hearing and chanting of these Holy Words, sprouts forth into a tender creeper of devotion which by her progressive growth enables us to transcend the successive planes of (1) the mundane sphere of active opposition to the Absolute (2) 'Biroja' (Viraja, or Nirvana), the sphere of universal scepticism, and (3) Brahmaloke, or the sphere of dim reflection of transcendental knowledge; till finally we come face to face to the Most Beautiful Personality of Krishna Who is indentical with His Name, Form, Attributes, Activities and Entourages.

The Harey Krisna rhyme of Holy Words is the visualized symbol of the revealed Transcendental Sound originating from the Holy Lips of Krishna - the Primary Source of all Gurus, all transcendendal authorities or means of obtaining Divine Knowledge. He is the eye of eyes and the illuminator of sight and other sense organs.

As the hub is the centre of the spokes of a wheel, so Krishna is the eternal core of created beings including Brahma - the creator of this world who first heard the Holy Words and realized their meaning - the drops of Truth forming the stream of the Divine Sound which flowed in disciplic order through the ears, hearts and lips of Narad (Brahma's disciple) and Vyas (Narad's disciple) to the present Gurus - the reservoirs of pure drinking water to quench our spiritual thirst. Shrutee (Vedas) reveals Herself through Guru - the Divine Transparent Agent - to sincere souls purified by the Transcendental Sound - the basis upon which religion is built and the root from which it grows.

These Holy Words are known as the Mahamantra (greatest rhyme of Transcendental Sound), by which the sacrifice of the chanting of the Lord's Holy Name is to be performed.

This Mahamantra is used in this iron age as the transcendental escalator to transport us up to God. This Mahamantra takes us back to our eternal Home away from this world of tribulations where we have been caged due to having misused our free will at the outset. We are now averse to the loving service of the Lord which is the proper function of all individual souls.

The Lord eternally manifests Himself in the Form of the Name through the medium of His plenery servitors, the Gurus, for the deliverance of fallen souls, as we have no access to the Spiritual World through our empiric knowledge.

-----From the book Spiritual Successors of the Six Goswamis, by Muralidhar das.

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