by Rupa Raghunath das
What I remember most about Srila Gurudeva was that he was always affectionate and merciful to everyone. I am very grateful to him for mercifully giving us his association. I would like to share several different memories of some moments we spent with him.
Anyone who associated with Srila Gurudeva is forever blessed. He was the greatest of personalities, yet he was exceptionally humble and unassuming, always ready to hear and help even the newest devotees and conditioned souls like me. His beneficial influence on others was unsurpassed. More than anyone, he changed us. My physical association with him was very limited, but I kept those treasured memories written down in notes. This is an attempt to present a drop of his unlimited glories. Srila Gurudeva said that our preaching will be successful if we always glorify our spiritual master and guru-parampara. I hope that this may be a catalyst to spur up some of your own unforgettable memories of him. It was an honor to be with Srila Gurudeva and to hear from him. He is a completely transcendental resident of the spiritual world who came here specifically to tell us about that realm and to deliver us. Spiritual memories of Sri Guru summon up spiritual feelings that make us want to deepen our relationship and service to him. Here are a few notes from one day in Orlando which have triggered other remembrances of Srila Gurudeva and his guiding words.
Florida, May 23, 2010
I just went into Srila Gurudeva’s room. Sripad Madhava Maharaja is away to take a look at a site for Srila Gurudeva’s Orlando One Day Harikatha Festival which is coming up in a few days. Sriman Brajanath Prabhu is also busy, so I’m stationed just outside Srila Gurudeva’s room in case he might need something. The door is partially open and he is chanting on his beads. He is always chanting or writing, deeply absorbed in his bhajan. I wondered if it was ok for me to go inside and ask a question about Srimati Radharani.
Earlier in Mauritius, I had many questions which Srila Gurudeva would immediately answer. We need to hear relevant instructions and guidance from a realized Vaisnava. Their words are powerful. If we regularly hear from such a person, the covering potency of maya will be withdrawn and our understanding and realization will develop and mature. Simply being in the presence of Sri Guru brings out our natural inquisitiveness and a desire to understand our constitutional nature.
Nothing is hidden from a pure devotee such as Srila Gurudeva. In simple language, Srila Gurudeva straightforwardly explained many things that were previously unknown to me and he personally told me, “What I am giving, no one else is giving.”
In my case, it was definitely true that what he gave, no one else was giving. Before meeting Srila Gurudeva, I had no idea that the highest conclusion, the purest and most confidential part of Krsna consciousness is the bhava of the associates of Srimati Radharani. Due to his books being distributed everywhere and his travelling all over the world, things are much different now, but back in the 80’s and early 90’s, in the temples I stayed in and visited, we never discussed such things. We were told not to think about or discuss anything about gopi-bhava as it was a subject only for liberated souls. They said that it was a farce for people with sex desire to talk about Krsna joking with the gopis or gopi manjaris and that there was no point in talking about it without any realization of it. These concerns were legitimate for the general mass; however, these restrictions could not stop prema-bhaktas like Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja from discussing such things. Instead of hearing it from the right source, we were not to hear at all. It was considered taboo. Pretty well anyone showing interest in such topics were immediately discredited as a sahajiya (a devious, pseudo devotee who equates mundane sex life with Krsna’s transcendental loving pastimes).
Srila Gurudeva was already in his mid-seventies when he first came to the West. A strict renunciate and sannyasi and for almost fifty years, he was one of the most prominent Vaisnava scholars of the Gaudiya mission started by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada. He knew very well how to present the sweet nectar of hari-katha and he very carefully introduced these lila pastimes of the Lord. To hear about this purest form of love of God is the unique heritage of our Gaudiya rupanuga line. We have to hear it from a bona fide, pure Vaisnava. Whereas others told us not to think or talk about gopi and manjari-bhava, Srila Gurudeva not only introduced it, he thoroughly described it in many of his books and lectures and encouraged us to properly understand it. He said Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has bestowed on the jivas of this world that specific bhakti. He also quoted the commentary of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura from Caitanya Caritamrta which clearly says that “the love between Sri Radha Madhava is meant to be discussed and contemplated.” It is all a matter of association.
“When by good fortune the jiva attains sadhu-sanga and the mercy of Guru, gradually maya begins to go away and his svarupa (constitutional form and nature) begins to manifest…If by extreme good fortune, the jivas attain the association of the dear associates of Sri Gaurasundara, then lobha (spiritual greed) for the mood of the residents of Vraja must certainly be evoked.” (Acarya Kesari, the Life and Teachings of Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Goswami by Srila Gurudeva) By giving initiation and mantra, he also established this type of relationship with Bhagavan, according to one’s natural inclination. By the mercy of sad-guru, one’s constitutional nature and one’s inherent service relationship is revealed more and more. Srila Gurudeva has in his heart vraja-prema and wherever he went, he preached love and affection, changing the mood of the people from worldly desires to serving Krsna. He showed us the supreme goal of our lives and he also gave us the means to attain it.
Instead of seeing Srila Gurudeva’s kindness in presenting this most sublime gift of Mahaprabhu, the unnatojjvala rasam sva-bhakti sriyam (service to Srimati Radharani as Her maidservant), some unfortunate persons came to the wrong conclusion about him and to dissuade others, started making false allegations against him. Srila Gurudeva is the Lord’s eternal associate and expertly described the unparalleled beauty and sweetness of Sri Krsna in the association of the Vraja gopis. In giving the essence, he was able to reach inside people, change their hearts and make them surrender to God. There were so many things in our devotional practice that we did not know or could not understand and he was revealing it and helping us see this process which was given by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. What he was speaking was a cause for celebration, so it was strange that some took it all wrong. Fearing that Srila Gurudeva’s influence would spread and attract their disciples, they directly opposed him, intentionally creating a sectarian divide. Srila Gurudeva, however, was not ambitious to make his own disciples or take theirs. He said that love has nothing to take but everything to give. He just wanted to preach the proper siddhantic conclusions of the previous acaryas to help the devotees and make them strong. It had nothing to do with numbers or an ill-concealed objective of ‘luring’ someone else’s disciples, but it was all to please Guru and Krsna. There is no place for false ego in Sri Krsna’s abode, Vrindvana. He is the source of unlimited Vaikunta planets, so whether one has one disciple or a thousand, what does Sri Krsna care? It is all external. Krsna cares about His devotees who are with Him and who are in His heart. I am in the heart of My devotees and the devotees are in My heart… My devotees are My life. I am a prisoner of their love. Even their devotees are very dear to Me.” [The Heart of Krishna – Bhakti Promode Puri Goswami Maharaja]
Only by surrendering to the Lord’s devotees can we get His mercy as they alone can give us Krsna. Unless we are connecting with Krsna internally, the external has no value.
To mistake Srila Gurudeva’s authoritative statements on rasika for sahajiya is simply foolishness. On the other hand, organizing a smear campaign against him, one of Sri Radhika and Lord Madhava’s dearest associates, is a tragedy, equal to committing spiritual suicide. Inevitably, many of them, including some of their most influential sannyasis, fell down and left their spiritual practice. More and more people started seeing the truth and became attracted to Srila Gurudeva, giving him their full-hearted support.
Srila Gurudeva was very merciful, just like a tolerant father with small children who’d sometimes yank the father’s hair or accidentally pee on him. I personally heard Srila Gurudeva in Badger saying that those who were criticizing him are like his children and that he does not take their offences.
Srila Gurudeva may not take offence, but the dust of his lotus feet, his disciples could not tolerate such offences. What to speak of Sri Krsna!
Srila Gurudeva is one of the supreme grand masters in the school of bhakti. He never spoke critically or disrespectfully towards any acarya. Those who criticized him however were themselves exposed of insufficiencies and faulty behavior.
Srila Gurudeva eternally resides in that transcendental place which is full of love. He never rejected us as unqualified. He knows everything. He knows our hearts are dirty but he cleanses them by engaging us in bhakti and injecting in our ears his sweet hari-katha. He told me in Mauritius, after giving a Hindi lecture to many new people, that although it looked as if they couldn’t understand much, “the medicine (hari-katha) was injected into their ears” and “it will act.”
Before meeting Srila Gurudeva we were told that our unwanted desires such as lust, anger and greed will have to go first before we should hear the confidential topics of Krsna in Vrindavan. First the dirt must be removed from the heart. Srila Gurudeva said that this is a completely wrong idea. “How it is possible without hearing?”
How is it possible that Srila AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gave us the Krsna Book after just a few short years of preaching in the West? Srila Prabhupada wrote that the gopis had only Krsna within their hearts and that they were completely surrendered and dedicated souls. Srila Prabhupada further said that hearing of the rasa dance can free us of lusty desires but we have to hear from the right source.
In Krsna Book, Srila Prabhupada writes, “In the material world, pleasure is ultimately manifested in the sex attraction between a man and woman. The man lives simply to be attracted by women and the woman lives simply to be attracted by men. That is the basic principle of material life. As soon as these attractions are combined, people become more and more implicated in material existence. In order to show them special favor, Krsna exhibited this rasa-lila dance. It is just to captivate the conditioned soul. Since they are very much attracted by sex, they can enjoy the same life with Krsna and thus become liberated from the material condition. In the Second Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, Maharaja Pariksit also explains that the pastimes and activities of Lord Krsna are medicine for the conditioned souls. If they simply hear about Krsna, they become relieved of the material disease. They are addicted to material enjoyment and are accustomed to reading sex literature; but by hearing these transcendental pastimes of Krsna with the gopis, they will be relieved of material contamination.”
To hear these pastimes is a must as is stated in Srimad Bhagavatam10.33.36, anugrahaya bhaktanam manusam deham asthitah bhajate tadrisih krida yah srutva tat-paro bhavet. Srila Gurudeva explains that this word ‘bhavet’ means, “You must hear. If you are not hearing, then it is like an offense. You must obey. If you are not hearing, you are killing yourself.’
But how do we hear? Srila Gurudeva clarifies, ‘you must hear-but with honor, from elevated devotees. Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, who is a rupanuga Vaisnava, is telling this in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta. You must hear, but don’t imitate.”
By faithfully hearing with honor from the right source, in the association of elevated Vaisnavas, one will quickly become sober and conquer lust which is the disease of the conditioned heart.
In New Jersey Srila Gurudeva gave a very interesting example of a pitcher. He said that there is no need of extra labor to first take the air out of the pitcher; you just fill it with water and automatically the air will come out. In the same way, if one hears hari-katha from a transcendental personality and renders service to him, bhakti comes into the heart and consequently, lust and all dirty, unwanted things go away. But if you cover the pitcher and by some machine try and take out the air first, before filling it with water, there will be a big explosion and the pitcher will break.
Srila Gurudeva never cheated anyone but came only to give freely the most beautiful jewels of love of Godhead.
Like parched land receiving a torrent of rain, I was also caught in his downpour of mercy, although I was unqualified. As long as we continue to hear, chant and remember what he has given us, then his rain of mercy will continue to pour over us.
Srila Gurudeva wanted me to become aware of something that I had no previous knowledge or understanding of—that it is possible to personally render service to Srimati Radharani and that Radha-dasyam (service to Her) should be our ultimate aim and goal.
Being a most intimate eternal servant of Sri Radha, he realizes all the nuances and the sweetness of the scriptural texts and therefore has authoritatively spoken about and written commentary on all the important Vedic scriptures. All this is from the heart of Srila Gurudeva.
Only those who are transcendental themselves can truly understand and describe the transcendental realm. In this connection, I heard that when Syamarani Didi finally finished the large Seva Kunja painting, Srila Gurudeva said, “This picture began in my heart, and it now has manifested outwardly.”
So here I am standing by Srila Gurudeva’s doorway.
Florida, May 23, 2010
Srila Gurudeva looks very relaxed with his lotus feet resting on the footstool. His door is partially open, so I thought, “Here is an opportunity to ask Srila Gurudeva something.”
Earlier Srila Gurudeva said, “Without the mercy of Panca-tattva—Sri Krsna Caitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Advaita, Gadahara, Srivasadi-Sri-Gaura-Bhakta-Vrinda—you cannot get the mercy of Radha and Krsna.” Their mercy is to awaken the inherent love and eternal intimate relationship of the soul with the Divine Couple, Radha and Krsna.
I hesitated. Sripad Madhava Maharaja and Brajanath prabhu were always merciful and would usually allow me to go in and ask a question. I was going back and forth chanting my japa and I became more and more anxious to go in. I finally went in and prostrated myself at his lotus feet. Srila Gurudeva immediately put his left hand up to his left ear.
I went up close. My heart was pounding and the question came out like this, “Srila Gurudeva, how do we address Radharani?”
He looked at me as if he did not hear, so I came even closer and went right up to his ear and said again, “How do we address Radharani?”
He replied, “You have to be attracted.”
Then he continued, “You have to attract Her. You have to read the books of the Goswamis—they will instruct you…especially read Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s Raga-vartma-chandrika.”
Srila Gurudeva looked at me with his deep blue eyes and repeated, “Raga-vartma-chandrika. He paused and then continued, “If it is a dark night… it is very dark; you cannot see. If there is any light, by this you can see – this is raga-vartma-chandrika.”
Srila Gurudeva then began his chanting again, Hare Krsna Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. He is now ninety and is not talking extensively. That is all he said. I thanked him, prostrated myself before him and left the room feeling so happy and excited.
Now I am thinking about what Gurudeva had just said. It is sweet to remember. The night is so dark and I cannot see, but this… the illumination of this book, Raga-vartma-chandrika, will allow me to see the path by which I will be attracted to Srimati Radhika and most importantly, which will attract Her mercy. Sriman Madhuvrata prabhu told me that he has an unedited English version of this book on his computer that he’ll give to me. He also said that Syamarani Didi and some others are working on the editing of the book for publishing it. Raga-vartama-candrika—I must have that book.
Srila Gurudeva wanted the devotional moods to come into our heart.
Sriman Brajanath Prabhu nicely explained that we have to be humble and give Srila Gurudeva our heart. Gurudeva only wants our heart. That, we can do, by giving our ear. By regular hearing, Krsna enters our heart and cleanses the dirt. When we hear from the right source, inspiration comes naturally and anarthas naturally go away. Srila Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Goswami Maharaja says that, “we will attain auspiciousness to the extent we are able to limit the involvement of the senses. That is why sravana (hearing) and kirtana (chanting) are considered superior to the other limbs of bhakti.” (From: “Remembering Srila Prabhupada in Separation on His Appearance Day” – Harmonist, Sri Vyasa-Puja Edition)
Srila Gurudeva’s mano-bhistam, his heart’s desire, is certainly there in his books. Srila Gurudeva wrote to Dhanvantari prabhu, on April 18, 2009, “Regarding the message from Binaya Krsna prabhu, convey my heartly blessings to him and also give him my expert advice. Daily he should chant and meditate upon harinama and diksa mantras. Moreover, he should read my books and know that these books are non-different from my heart.”
The path of pure devotion is only illuminated by the love and mercy of the pure devotees like Srila Gurudeva. Srila Bhakti Promoda Puri Goswami Maharaja said to one of his disciples about Srila Gurudeva, “If you include anything that he says in your magazine, it will be a thousand times blessed.” (Vishva-Vaisnava-Raj-Sabha, Vol. #3) If we rely on worldly experts and our material reasoning to become happy, we will sadly continue to stray in the darkness of illusion. So with a sober and grateful attitude, we should follow Srila Gurudeva’s heart. We should remember that this Vedic transcendental knowledge must be accompanied with association of self-realized souls. So, we should absorb ourselves in his books, deliberate on their contents with sadhu sanga, hear his lectures and pray that we may become constantly under the shelter of pure devotees like him.
All glories to Srila Gurudeva! All glories to Srila Gurudeva’s books! All glories to those who mercifully distribute the valuable jewels Srila Gurudeva came to give! All glories to all devotees!