Ajay Krishan Das (Pilot)
I offer my humble obeisances at the lotus feet of nitya-lila pravista om visnupada astottara-sata Sri Rupanuga Acarya varya Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja.
Meeting Srila Gurudeva
I met Srila Gurudeva in the year 1992/1993. It was by the mercy of our Pujjya Vinod Bihari Prabhu Ji (Kashyap Prabhu Ji), my uncle. My first darshan of Srila Gurudeva was in the house of our Pujjya Budhiraja Prabhu Ji. It was a house program and we reached early and did some kirtans and were waiting for Srila Gurudeva. Then He entered the hall. He looked so divine and serene, that everyone bowed down in unison. Everyone gathered around Him like bees around a flower. All this was very new to me. I was wondering with awe and reverence; who is this personality, why everyone has microphones to record whatever He is going to say? I just sat quite and watched. I do not remember much of what He said, but I clearly remember that He was saying that Bhakti is so much higher than Mukti. Suddenly He spoke so strongly-“Mukti, what is Mukti? Who wants Mukti - raise your hand!? I will give Mukti right now!” He spoke so powerfully and convincingly that I believed that He can surely give Mukti right-away. I had heard about four Purusharth- Dharm, Arth, Kama and Moksha. Moksha being the highest of all. I knew nothing higher than Moksha or Mukti. I had always heard that you have to do very austere sadhana to attain Mukti and here was a Mahatma who is ready to give Mukti in a split-second. Some part of me was saying that I should raise my hand, but I looked around, nobody had raised their hands, so I also stayed quiet. I was wondering why these people around me did not want Mukti! I thought that there must be something better and higher than Mukti, which they obviously want. I could not understand much of that, but I understood surely that this Mahatma was a divine personality, with divine powers.
Spiritual warm up
I started my spiritual life with the association and guidance of my uncle Pujjyapad Vinod Bihari Prabhu Ji, who led me to Srila Gurudeva. Once, I stayed in Delhi in his house for about 18 months. During this time, I met Srila Gurudeva and attended many of his Bhagwat Katha in Ramesh Nagar temple. I was also not inclined to get married, but just to please my uncle, I totally surrendered to him and he eventually got me engaged. Just after this ceremony, I went to Srila Gurudeva in Mathura for a full vrajamandala parikarma. I said to Srila Gurudevs that I want to complete the vrajamandala parikarma so he should give me some seva. He said, “Yes, you can do prasad seva.” I thought I would have to cook. I had never cooked in my life. He asked, “Do you understand what prasad seva is?” I said, “Yes, to help in cooking in the kitchen.” He said, “No! prasad seva means you honour Thakur Ji’s Prasad with great faith.” Later I realized there is so much difference between simply taking prasad and doing prasad seva.
With time passing, I was very increasingly being impressed by the management of the temple and parikarma. No one was asking anyone else to do anything and everyone was doing what they liked to do, and the whole system was working so beautifully under Srila Gurudeva’s guidance.
One day during the parikarma Srila Gurudeva asked me, “Can you write in Hindi?” I said "Yes, Maharaj ji". Then he said, “Ok, come to my room tomorrow at 3 PM". Next day I went to his room on the first floor in Mathura matha. He closed the door and was dictating me, the contents of the small book about Durvasa Muni, written by him. That time, Sri Durvasa Muni Ashram was under construction. I did this for about a week or so. After a few days, while dictating, he looked into my eyes and said “You -- don’t get married.” I said "Yes, Maharaj ji", and he started dictating again. I came out of Srila Gurudev’s room and straight away called my uncle and told him everything and to cancel my engagement, at once. When Srila Gurudeva gives orders, he also gives strength to carry out that order. The girl's father was very influential and strong, but Srila Gurudeva gave me the strength to go against him also! Srila Gurudeva knew my heart and saved me from a marriage which I didn’t want. That parikarma was a very uplifting spiritual experience for me.
Then, I became friends with my present wife "Nona" as we were both pilots in the same batch. When she asked about marriage, I told her that I will only marry her if my Srila Gurudeva approves of my match. Then me and Nona went to Srila Gurudeva to ask permission for our marriage. Now his room was on the 2nd floor in Mathura. He asked both of us to stand up and he checked our height. Then he asked who earns more. I said we earn the same. Like a responsible father, he checked if the match was indeed - good. Then, he asked Sripad Madhav Maharaj to get two flower garlands and asked us to stand up at once. We did not know what was happening -- we exchanged garlands, he recited some Vedic mantras, gave us blessings and said both of you are now married from my side! Now, you can go and do your wedding, for the world. Within minutes he finished the wedding without any fire sacrifice and gave us blessings. We realized this only when everything was finally completed. By the grace of Sri Vinod Bihari Prabhu Ji, I had the opportunity to visit Srila Gurudeva in Mathura, Vrindavan and in Sri Goverdhan dhama many times. Srila Gurudeva was a father figure, always so loving and serene. One felt a great sense of calmness just by his darshan or just by sitting in front of him. He had a very transcendental aura around him.
Anarthas and Uttam Maha Bhavat
In general, due to anarthas, people cannot understand the very elevated maha bhagwat position of their Gurudeva. Srila Gurudeva is an Uttam Maha Bhagwat, Raman Manjari of Srimati Radha Rani. He would sometimes very mercifully indicate this in private. He used to go for regular morning walks in Mathura to Dampier Nagar park. He was always accompanied by Srila Madhav Maharaja Ji and few other devotees. On one such walk I was coming back with Srila Gurudeva, Pujjyapad Ramchandra Prabhu, Pujjyapad Srila Madhav Maharaja Ji and some other devotees. We saw a boy and girl around five years of age in their school uniforms walking ahead of us. Both of them looked back at Guruji for some time and said together “Radhe Radhe!” Gurudeva responded, “Radhe Radhe!” and smiled and asked Ramchandra Prabhu,”What do you call that person when just by seeing him, you remember God and her name automatically comes out of your mouth?” Sripad Ramchandra Prabhu smiled back and replied,”Uttam Maha Bhagavat” as indicated in Jaiva Dharma.
Srila Gurudeva very mercifully stayed at our house many times. Usually he would come to take rest, mostly after his hectic world preaching tours and sometimes before the tours also. One day, he was at our house in Gurgaon (now called Goregaon) and we were massaging his lotus feet (on the rooftop in the sun). Pujjyapad Ramchandra Prabhu said, “Oh Gurudeva, your limbs and feet are so beautiful and soft.” Then he replied, “Dhat, Mera swaroop toh bahut sundar hai.” (My actual form is very beautiful) This indicated towards his transcendental eternal form as Raman Manjari (please note that the form in which he appears in front of us is also transcendental like his Manjari form)
Once He was staying at our house and it was Shivratri the next day. We had heard that vaishnavas worship Shiva as the highest devotee of Krishna but they don’t offer water or bela patra on Shiv Lingam. On Shivratri day in the morning Srila Gurudeva asked “Do you have a lota? (water pitcher)”. We said “Yes, Srila Gurudeva”. Then he asked, “Is there a Shiv temple here?”. We said “Yes Sri Maharaj”. He said “Today is Shivratri. Let’s go to the temple with a Pooja thali with flowers, fruits, water etc”. We all went to the temple and Srila Grurdeva himself offered water, flowers, fruits and bela patra to Mahadev Ji and led the Pooja. My doubt was cleared and I was very happy to give offerings to Lord Shiva under the guidance of Srila Gurudeva.
Once he came after a long world tour to our house at noon. He looked very exhausted and tired. After some time he started feeling worse and fainted. We all immediately took him to Umkal hospital which was near to our house. After some check-ups in the ICU, the doctor advised that he was very low on sugar and the doctor gave him glucose through his veins. We were so worried. He regained physical consciousness shortly thereafter and we all were relieved. In the ICU there was a picture of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu just above his head on the wall. Next day we took him to his doctor in Batra hospital for a full check up. Srila Gurudeva would work so hard for all of us. In his old age he so painstakingly traveled all around the world for our good. That day, he performed his Aswasth Leela so that we could get an opportunity to intimately serve him.
When he came to our house for the first time he saw that we had a joint form of Radha and Krishna vigruha. He said that you should have Radha and Krishna separately. We got Radha and Krishna deities after some time. Next he came to our house while on his way back from his world tour. He was very happy to see the deities and asked “Has anyone done Pran Prathishta?” We said “No Srila Gurudeva”. He very mercifully said, “Get them to my room tomorrow and I’ll do Pran Prathishta. Next day he did the Pran Prathishta. It was our 1st marriage anniversary day and he gave the name Radha Raman Ji to our Thakur Ji. What a beautiful anniversary gift from Srila Gurudeva. We named our house Radha Raman Niwas. He also said to get Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which we did. How beautifully he guided our life and organised it around Sri Radha Raman Ji, and slowly pulled us into Braj Bhakti.
First trip abroad
After his first trip abroad, I asked him about the trip. He said, “...at every place I said that I have not come from poor India but I have come from a very rich India with very rich culture and heritage and I have come to give you something very precious which will make your life happy and joyful”. He was overflowing with Krsna-prema and Radha-dasyam and freely distributing it everywhere and to anyone who approached him.
On another instance at Mathura math when his worldwide preaching was going on very well I asked, “Maharaja Ji, how do you do such massive preaching throughout the world? He very humbly said,”Dear son (beta) I am nothing, if Krishna wants he can get all this done even from a wooden statue”. He worked so hard for all of us yet he was so humble.
Srila Gurudeva is known for being very rasik and a giver of advanced harikatha. You will never get to hear such harikatha anywhere else in the world. Some ignorant people criticized him for this. Once he explained why he was telling such a high level harikatha with a very good worldly example. He said there was a very fat, bald, short, poor and ugly man. He saw a very very beautiful lady dressed very nicely walking in front of him. After seeing such a beautiful lady a greed might arise in him to be friends with this lady or maybe to even marry her. He knows very well that he is no match for her but who can stop this greed from coming into his heart. Srila Gurudeva said, similarly I am telling you these very high class harikatha so that some greed, that is, laulyam may arise in your hearts. He knew exactly that we had no qualification but greed can come in anyone’s heart regardless of qualifications, especially if one hears from such a high class Maha-bhagavat. He would say that this greed will eventually manifest your higher adhikar and move you up in Bhakti. Srila Gurudeva will say that we should first know what we want, and he would always emphasis on nothing less than Radha-dasyam prema prayojan (life's goal and objective).
Our Material jobs
Me and my wife both being commercial pilots, we would never miss a chance to drop or receive Srila Gurudeva at Delhi airport. Because of our airport security ID card we would drop and receive Srila Gurudeva right till the airplane door. We got a good chance to be in his association at the airport because only passengers would be allowed inside the airport. Once We could not go to receive him and when we met him next time he asked, “you didn’t come to receive us at the airport last time?” He had a personal relationship with all his disciples and would inquire about everyone's personal conditions.
Once at the airport I asked him, “Maharaja Ji, what if sometimes we get so busy with our jobs and find it difficult to do proper sadhana?” He said whatever condition you might be in but never compromise on doing your Harinam and everything will be fine. I have been following this instruction.
Home of all souls
Once me and my wife visited him at Sri Somnath Ji’s house. My wife’s cousin died a few weeks ago. She was a little younger to my wife and they were very friends. My wife was finding it very difficult to cope with her sister’s death. When we met Gurudeva she started crying very profusely. Srila Gurudeva immediately asked her what was the matter. I told him that she lost her sister. He asked a few questions like what was her name and what happened and then he lifted his hand and made a hand gesture saying that now she has come to me. You don’t have to cry. It was so much better for her after that day. Gurudev could not see tears in anyone’s eyes especially if they were his disciples and how very mercifully he called the departed soul to his own lotus feet.
The original sidha mahatama from Braja
Srila Gurudeva was from the spiritual world. He had a transcendental body and he could depart from this world according to his own will. Srila Gurudeva demonstrated this in his life. When he was doing his aswasth leela (sickness pastimes) it was very difficult for his disciples. He was in Goverdhan for Kartik. Few years before, while talking to some devotees he had said that he will leave his body on the tithi of his godbrother. Slowly everyone came to know about this. On the disappearance day of Pujjyapad BV Vaman Maharaja Ji and Pujjyapad BV Trivikram Maharaja Ji, during Kartik all the devotees were very worried and everyone stayed up all night. Some were doing kirtans outside. Pujjyapad Tirth Maharaja Ji and Pujjyapad Madhav Maharaja Ji and other senior devotees were reciting Narsingh Mantras holding Maharaja Ji’s hand. Everyone was relieved in the morning that Srila Gurudeva was still with us. He made an appearance to everyone on the last day of Kartik to invite everyone to Navdeep Dham Parikarma. He announced- the 3 P’s should always continue- Preaching, Publications and Parikarma. After Kartik he moved to Raman Vihari Gaudiya math. There, mostly he was absorbed in his internal state and would remain quiet, but on some days, when he gave sannyas diksha he would be very active and talk nicely. It was very difficult for all of us as we could not see him or talk to him. We just got one or two darshans and that too from far. We were feeling a lot of separation and pain. Then Gurudeva does a wonderful pastime to give his last darshan and also a little seva. Pujjyapad Brajnath Prabhu calls and tells us that Srila Gurudeva wants to go to Puri and there are no flight tickets available. This had never happened before. We quickly search the Internet to make the booking. Only Air India was flying to Bhubaneswar that time and all the seats were full. Luckily only a few seats were available in business class. We booked the tickets, and then went to Math to give them to Pujjyapad Madhav Maharaja Ji. That day Guru Ji met us and spoke very nicely. Only me and my wife were there. We asked how he was and that we were very worried about his health during Kartik. He said- “I wanted to go in the month of Kartik but these people didn’t let me go.” This reply shook us. It showed how Srila Gurudeva had a plan to leave his body at his own will and how because of the love of his disciples he changed this plan. We didn’t know what to say. Just as a father we asked him how he was feeling then. He said, “beta (son) old age brings a lot of problems which cannot be described in words and I pray for both of you that you do not have to go through such problems.” Both of us were in tears to see his causeless mercy. He looked so frail and here he was giving such big blessings to us. We didn’t deserve anything and had no qualifications, but his causeless love and mercy was overflowing all the time. We offered our last Dandavat Pranams to our ever well wisher, father and guide. That was my last darshan and last interaction with him in this world. My wife was lucky to drop him off at the airport. It’s amazing how very mercifully he called us and gave nice darshans and blessings. After a few months in the holy dham of Jagannath Puri he quietly left this world for his eternal spiritual abode in the early morning on the holy appearance day of his beloved godbrother Pujjyapaad BV Vaman Maharaja Ji. Thus he demonstrated how he left this world at his own will and on the day he wanted.
We were very fortunate to witness such a loving and respectful relationship between Srila Gurudeva and his God brothers. Gurudeva will always ask Pujjyapad BV Trivikrama Maharaja to speak before him and give him so much respect. Pujjyapad BV Trivikrama Maharaja will many times lovingly argue with Gurudeva to bring out more sweet harikatha. Whenever Pujjyapad B.V. Trivikrama Maharaj would pass in front of Srila Gurudeva’s room he would offer pranam to his shoes. Pujjyapad B.V. Vaman Maharaja ordered many of his senior disciples to stay with Gurudev in his seva. How Pujjyapad BV Vaman Maharaja being the president of Gaudiya Vedant Samiti gave so much responsibility to Gurudeva. It was amazing to see so much trust, love and respect between the Godbrothers.
Srila Gurudeva will always give shelter and love to anyone who wants it without any discrimination. So he was the Siksha Guru of so many disciples who had different Diksha Guru. Many disciples came from other Maths for instructions but stayed back with Gurudev for ever.
Srila Gurudevaguided my entire family- My father, mother, brother, sisters, children and then further families of my sisters etc. I am forever grateful to him and can never ever repay him, however hard I try. I can simply, on behalf of my entire extended family bow down to him and pray in his lotus feet to keep guiding us in this difficult world.
Your fallen servant,
Ajay Krsna Das