Sripad B.V. Bhagavat Maharaja (Vrindavan)
Jaya Oṁ Viṣnu-pāda Aṣṭottara Śata Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyana Gosvāmī Mahārāja Ki Jaya!
On the auspicious occasion of your disappearance in the year of your auspicious 100 hundredth birth anniversary I beg to offer my prostrated dandavat praṇāmas at your auspicious lotus feet and pray for your causeless mercy. Everything in connection with you is auspicious and meditating upon them eradicates the darkness of the ignorance of this material world. By the instructions of our śāstras such as Caitanya Caritāmṛta Madhya-līlā, 22.54, we have heard that a mere moment’s contact with a pure bhakta can award all perfection. Thus the number of opportunities which you have awarded to the conditioned souls of this world is incalculable since you circled the globe 30 time in the fourteen years of your preaching outside of India.
The cause for my fortunate meeting with you O paramārādhyatama Gurudeva and my subsequent engagement in your service was the grace of my dīkṣā Gurudeva oṁ viṣnu pāda aṣṭottara śata śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Swāmī, our Śrīla Prabhupāda, who mercifully first blessed the western world and indeed all of the major countries of the world with his lotus feet. Without his mercy as expressed in his darśanas, in his morning walks, lectures and especially through his voluminous books, I would have been fully incapable of comprehending the teachings of Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja. The books opened up to me the very nature of the living being as an eternal cognizant blissful servant of the all-attractive reservoir of pleasure Rādhikā-ramaṇa Śrī Kṛṣṇa. They exposed the very plausible Vedic version of both material and spiritual worlds and delineated the ultimate destination of perfected devotees. The science of bhakti-yoga is very extensive and ranges from undergraduate levels to graduate and unlimited post-graduate levels. Just as a child studying arithmetic can not understand a scholar of nuclear physics, so a bhakta on the neophyte platform cannot comprehend the realizations of someone on an advanced platform of pure devotion such as you. I consider that both of you, my two gurus, have a powerful plan how to save all of us fallen souls from māyā’s clutches no matter what our present condition may be.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja explained it in this way: If one wants to build a beautiful palace, one will first have to make the land even and clear it of boulders and other obstacles, then one must dig a very solid foundation. Without this foundation the construction will ultimately crumble and be destroyed. Then there exists some possibility to build the palace. Our Śrila Prabhupāda came to clear away all the rubble and boulders in the form of obstacles such as misleading philosophies like Māyāvāda, the impersonalist teachings of Śaṅkarācārya, the voidist conceptions of Buddhism, atheistic conceptions of modern science and other atheist philosophers such as Astavakra, Kaṇāda and Carvaka, Paṭañanjala’s yoga sūtras, Gautama’s nyāya logic, karma and hedonist gross sensualism which is most prominent in modern society. All of these concepts are great boulder-like impediments and pose great distractions for sādhakas of bhakti who are not fixed on the path. Therefore our Śrīla Prabhupāda preached very vigorously and wrote literatures to expose these erroneous teachings in contra distinction to the pure teachings of śuddha-bhakti. He gave so much more in the form of Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Śrī Upadeśāmṛta, and Nectar of Devotion, but as Jesus said, “I have much more to tell you but you cannot bear it yet.” We were not ready at that time. However after we, his disciples, had become a little mature, in accordance with their transcendental plan Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Maharaja came with the key to the treasure chest of my dīkṣā Guru’s books and revealed to us their inner meaning and how to build the palace of śuddha-bhakti upon the firm foundation built by our Śrīla Prabhupāda. Thus one should not think that Prabhupāda and Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja are different. They are eka ātmā dui deha, one soul in two bodies.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, our Gurudeva was like Nityānanda, guṇa maṇi – a jewel of exalted qualities. One of these was his devotion to nāma. Nāma gāne sadā ruci. The most prominent symptom of bhāva is a taste to always chant nāma. Practically from the very time when he joined the Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha in Navadvīpa until his apparent departure from our presence, he would chant a minimum of one lakha nāma and often two lakhas or more. His servitor Navīna Kṛṣṇa told me that he did not like to be disturbed while chanting. Thus we surmise that he felt deep attachment for nāma, realising the identical nature of nāma and nāmī. He also instructed us to do likewise. Especially I know that he wanted those who were engaged in book publication to do their sevā only after completing their nāma sevā of one lakh. He said one should chant 16 mālās sitting down and 64 mālās sitting so that we could obtain maximum benefit. Gurudeva said if while chanting one lakh nāma with some aparādha, perhaps if we prayed, one nāma abhāsa may come and if somehow we can chant one lakha of nāma abhāsa, one utterance of śuddha nāma may come on our tongue and then our life will be on the path of perfection.
Out of service to his Gurudeva Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Mahārāja and our guru varga he was always engaged in translating or writing books written by members of our disciplic succession such as Veda Vyāsa, Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Śrīla Rūpa and Raghunātha Gosvāmis, Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura and Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Many important literatures were generally out of print so he printed them for the benefit of the Vaiṣṇava world.
Gurudeva would endeavour to create unity amongst the disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda encouraging them to make one Vaiṣṇava calendar and unity in all things because one stick can be broken easily but many tied together become strong. Because of his broadminded vision, many members of different Maṭhas would come to him, which brings us to his service to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī.
Since he established the mission to fulfil the heart’s desire of Śrī Chaitanya Mahāprabhu, Gurudeva for many years organised a three day festival of Rūpa Gosvāmī kathā on his tirobhava mahotsava inviting all senior preachers of Vṛndāvana to participate. It was very successful and did indeed help to create unity.
Gurudeva wrote a small book of five esssys, Five Essential Essays, to help eradicate misunderstandings about important truths of Vaiṣṇava siddhānta which had arisen in modern times. (1 GauḍĪya Vaiṣṇava Sampradāya and Sannyāsa: Herein he establishes unequivocally that sannyāsa is without doubt an authorised process as per the Upaniṣads and other Vedic literatures and that numerous followers of Mahāprabhu such as Śrī Gadādhara Paṇḍita, Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī and Viśvarūpa Prabhu (Mahāprabhu’s elder brother) who accepted the sannyāsa name Śaṅkarāraṇya, accepted sannyāsa. The next essay discusses the superiority of the Bhāgavata Guru Paramparā to the Pañca-rātrika Paramparā since the Bhāgavata Paramparā includes the Pañca-rātrika line, i.e., all the ācāryas have bonafide disciple and guru relationships yet all of the Bhāgavata ācāryas are fully self realised souls (mahābhāgavatas) whereas the pañcaratika sampradaya is just a line of gurus and disciples although come of those gurus may not be mahābhāgavatas. In the third essay he establishes that the Gauḍiya Vaiṣṇava Sampradāya follows the line of Mādhvacārya since Mādhvācārya taught in a forceful and convincing way dvaita-vāda which shows the fundamental differences between the one jīva and another, between the jīvas and matter, between Bhagavān and the jīvas, is in direct opposition to kevalādvaita: the exclusive monism taught by Śrī Śaṅkarācarya which states that there is only oneness and any other concept is due to māyā illusion, and which is a formidable enemy to pure bhakti and Kṛṣṇa-prema, the goal of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavism. In the fourth essay. Gurudeva establishes that the genuine process of bābājī veśa and siddha-praṇālī is not to accept ekadaśa bhāva while still anartha-grasta: overwhelmed by mundane habits harmful to bhakti, but rather to perform the 8 steps instructed by Śrīla Rupa Gosvāmi and expanded on in Mādhurya Kaḍambinī by Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura
tato ‘narth-nivṛttiḥ syāt tato niṣṭhā rucis tataḥ
athāsaktis tato bhāvas tataḥ premabhyudañcati
sādhakānām ayaṁ premnaḥ pradurbhāve bhavet kramaḥ
First of all there arises some faith which comes from some preliminary sādhu-saṅga, from that one hears further from a sādhu, thereafter one engages in bhajana-kriyā by accepting dīkṣā and śikṣa from a sadhu who engages as dīkṣā guru. By performance of bhajana-kriyā headed by śravaṇa and kīrtana, thus one’s anarthas diminish. Then after progressing in bhajana-kriya one becomes fixed, niṣṭhā, and further practice gives a taste, ruci, and then deep attachment, āsakti, arises. Consequently the ray of prema, bhāva, manifests and then prema arises. This is the sequence for sādhakas, practioners of bhakti, to awaken prema, love of God. This process requires dedication, mercy of guru and sādhus and full absorption in a day-by-day practice. Thus persons who desire to achieve instantaneous prema accept a cheater who can award so-called siddha-praṇālī, ekadaśa bhāva.
The fifth essay establishes from the spotless evidence of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.33.39 the eligibility to hear rāsa-līlā kathā. Gurudeva establishes that the eligibility to hear is not to initially be completely free from all anarthas (which requires lengthy sādhana) which but to be a faithful śraddhānvitaḥ sādhaka with firm belief in the statements of sādhu, guru and śāstra, These five essays were written by Gurudeva to give fundamental help to all aspiring sādhakas many of whom are bewildered by the above points.
For me and all others, the false ego is the greatest obstacle to advancement. In Śrīmad Bhagavad Gītā. Śrī Kṛṣṇa instructs Arjuna about the the 8 elements, 5 gross and 3 subtle, while describing the subtle elements he says, "mano buddhir eva ca ahaṅkāra iti" with a special stress "eva ca" on "ahaṇkāra." Thus false ego is a difficult obstacle. Gurudeva is renowned for giving help in removing this ahaṇkāra. Since in ISKCON, my ego of being a senior disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda had been blown out of size and I really thought I was something special. Initially Gurudeva would pat me on the back and acknowledge me whenever he saw me. But after I had appreciated his immense gifts in the form of his books, lectures, etc., he utterly ignored me for the most part. Gurudeva would speak apparently harshly to anyone without considering their position. This neglect and occasional chastisement I was informed of by other devotees is amṛta-svarūpa, the embodiment of nectar. Just this single contribution which he made to my life was the greatest blessing and kindness. Following the footsteps of Śrīla Bhaktisiddānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda who said that one who praises me is my enemy and one criticises me is my friend, Śrīla Gurudeva expressed similar sentiments. Generally a conditioned soul becomes addicted to hearing sweet words of praise and thus his ahaṅkāra becomes diseased. When he hears criticism, his mind recoils in distaste. Chanakya Paṇḍita however states that one should take gold even from a filthy place. Hearing truth from a sādhu, although his sharp words may cause pain, is indeed a blessing, if one can accept it.
Gurudeva is renowned for his explanation of the verses concerning Mahāprabhu’s descent from CC Ādi.4-7 which describe His coming as Rasika-śekhara to taste unnatojjvala rasa, the madanākhya mahābhāva of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and for being parama-karuṇa - supremely merciful by awarding rāga-marga-bhakti to humanity for attaining sva-bhakti-śrīyam, the beautiful embodiments of the leaves and mañjarīs who enhance the beauty of the golden creeper of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. This is the highest possible attainment for the jīva. This was awarded to us by Śrīla Gurudeva. He also informed us of the inner meaning of Mahāprabhu’s name mahā and prabhu: rasa-rāja.
Once Gurudeva said words to the effect that if he should perform anything wrong against the principles of bhakti, he should be rejected. This humble statement is meant to encourage us to become ācārya. The word ācārya is defined in śāstra: ācaratīti ācārya. One who sets an example for his disciples by his actions is known an ācārya. His example was spotless for all time. He had no private life that was remotely different from his preaching.
Gurudeva’s preaching was so immense and broad that I feel incapable to speak about it, nor is there time available at my disposal. Fortunately, Gurudeva left so many exalted devotees who can make up for my unlimited defects.
Tridaṇḍī Svāmī Bhaktivedānta Bhāgavata (choṭa)