by Rupa Raghunath das
Srila Gurudeva’s overwhelming kindness endeared him to everyone. This is a personal memory of being with him while he was in Mauritius.
An all-important service of Srila Gurudeva and one he went to Mauritius for was his writing. He was very fond of writing books and wrote abundantly, removing our doubts and revealing long-hidden histories and true facts about the pastimes of the Lord. It was in this way that he introduced us to our real spiritual identity and showed us our real home. Srila Gurudeva wrote so many books and carefully executed purports that are packed full of deep meanings and realizations, that it is a truly a miracle. He didn’t need to write but he did it to help all of Lord Caitanya’s followers, not only now but for millions of years. As he said while on a writing retreat in Hawaii: “Mahaprabhu ordered Srila Rupa Gosvami to write about the deep moods of the gopis, as well as the process by which we can achieve similar moods. Most of you are not qualified to hear or read about this, what to speak of follow, and yet we are writing. Otherwise, if we do not do so, these moods will be lost to the world.” (05/11/02)
We are all here in this world because of one thing—illusion. When Srila Gurudeva came to me, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know who I was or what was within me. Although helpless and wretched, Srila Gurudeva mercifully came to break the illusion that we all have and bring us to the spiritual abode of love, the transcendental realm. As Lord Caitanya’s emissary, there is no limit to his mercy, so it is possible for even me to be saved if I surrender. Otherwise there is no hope.
Srila Gurudeva was almost ninety years old when he went to Mauritius. He apparently only went there to write, yet I witnessed him always preaching to whomever he met. Sometimes some of my relatives would come to meet him, or villagers from the small town we were staying in. After greeting them, Srila Gurudeva would immediately bring up the topic that we are not this body but that we are the eternal soul within, part and parcel of God and that we should chant the names of God to awaken our eternal nature. Even if he met someone for a very short duration of time, he would instruct them in chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. One day he said to me after a lecture to many new people in the small village we were staying in that it looked as if they couldn’t understand much, “but the medicine was injected into their ears. It will act.” Somehow he would inject the medicine of transcendental sound vibration in someone’s ear causing the holy name to appear in their heart. In his own personal way he would powerfully affect the hearts of everyone he met, whether it was high post ministers from the government, owners of banks, students or common everyday street level persons like the cleaning ladies at the beach resort where we stayed. I personally saw how he preached to all types of people without discrimination, giving his mercy freely to everyone. He was always ready to share transcendental knowledge with anyone and if a person had questions, he would be able to answer all of their questions, giving direction to them no matter which temple or group they affiliated themselves with. Sripad Madhav Maharaja and Brajanath Prabhu would also be there helping with whatever was needed and they would also make sure the guests got one of Gurudeva’s books or a magazine.
Srila Gurudeva was continuously and unceasingly engaged in Radha and Krsna’s service and never wasted his time with any activity other than speaking Their glories, writing about Them and chanting Their holy names. He also said that his servants, “Sripad Madhav Maharaja and Brajanath are engaged twenty-four hours in my service and because they are always asking only for bhakti, I must give”. I saw first hand how beautifully his most faithful servants were all doing so many services and arranging everything for Srila Gurudeva. Among countless other services, Sripad Madhav Maharaja was always dutifully at Srila Gurudeva’s side, sometimes involved in activities like a doctor or a dietician, sometimes as a cook, sometimes as an editor, but always taking care of his personal needs like a bosom friend. Sriman Brajanath Prabhu was not only Srila Gurudeva’s personal assistant and secretary, he helped him unflinchingly in every situation, especially with arranging his correspondence and his travels to meet devotees all over the world. He was also involved in recording and publishing Srila Gurudeva’s words and putting it on the internet for free for all of us to hear even now. Day in and day out Sriman Madhuvrata Prabhu cooked and prepared prasadam, not only for Srila Gurudeva but for all the devotees and guests. Srimati Vrinda devi not only took care of the Deities, she prepared Srila Gurudeva’s rooms, cleaned and tidied continuously, packed suitcases and made sure there was always first-class bhoga for offering and for travelling. She also would take care of any ladies that came and arrange for them to meet with Srila Gurudeva. Acyutananda Prabhu was Srila Gurudeva’s in-house writing assistant, preparing his manuscripts , proofreading, researching, copying and whatever else was needed in regards to the publication of Srila Gurudeva’s books.
It was in this way that Srila Gurudeva came to Mauritius and encouraged all to chant and engage in bhakti. We are fortunate that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s representative has come. Srila Gurudeva prescribed that we should not do any other activity than bhajana, assuring us that if we do only that, all of our other duties and problems would be automatically taken care of. His own life and conduct clearly established this fact as he was always engaged in fulfilling the desire and mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We direct our hopes and ambitions to somehow be engaged in the service of our master Srila Gurudeva life after life. By serving and taking the remnants of the servants of his servants, surely we will receive Srila Gurudeva’s heartly blessings and service.
One day I asked Srila Gurudeva why people like me (in the Krsna Consciousness movement), after years and years of chanting, were still not able to strictly follow. He thought for a few moments and looking at me in a kind way, his blue eyes soft and compassionate, he simply said, “Their spiritual master is not powerful.” That careful reply struck me and I was unable to speak. He didn’t fear anything as he said his spiritual master was always with him, protecting him. All we have to do is give up our egoistic purusha bhav, our controlling nature and let our spiritual master take control of our life and destiny. It’s a matter of identity, whether I am identifying with the material energy, (my external body, its bodily extensions and my false ego) or identifying with the service, love and affection of my powerful spiritual master. When will we identify with him only and realize that he is always there with us, giving his protection and guidance?
When I told Srila Gurudeva I very much liked reading his biography of his spiritual master, Acarya Kesari, Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Goswami, he expressed his happiness and signed my book with, “to understand the inner mood of this book”. It was this inner mood that he was always stressing. Although his spiritual master entered nitya-lila more than forty years before, he said that he never felt separated from his guru; that he is always present and always giving mercy. He told me I can bow down and pray to him and he would be present. We can openly pray that he gives us facility and intelligence as to how we can practically serve him and his mission.
We regularly went out to get fruits and vegetables and whenever we got some exceptional coconuts, fruits or vegetables, we would always take them to Gurudeva’s room and show them to Srila Gurudeva. Sometimes he would reach out and feel them giving his approval with “very good”.
My uncle brought a huge papaya the size of a soccer ball from one of the forest groves. Acyutananda Prabhu and I immediately brought it in to show Srila Gurudeva while Madhuvrata Prabhu took pictures.
You can see how big it is compared to an average papaya. Madhuvrata Prabhu also cut it up and put it on a large plate to offer to the Deities and we all took the maha-prasada remnants of Srila Gurudeva. Just because it was big did not mean it lacked any sweetness. Sripad Madhav Maharaja gathered up the seeds and dried them in the sun for planting in the future.
We were heading down a dark perilous path but Srila Gurudeva changed us and gave us a new life of happiness. He also brought happiness to my family members and friends. He had that personal touch that showed that he genuinely cared about us and he revealed how Sri Radha and Sri Krsna also care. He didn’t just give us a glimpse of spiritual life with some piety and some religious principles to live our life by; he gave us everything—the whole package. He gave what Lord Caitanya Himself came to give. He gave what Srila Rupa Goswami came to give, what Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura came to give, what Narottama das Thakur came to give. He gave us the pure nectar of the holy name, pure hari-katha from his pure heart and his pure association. Just being in his presence had the effect of clearing our anarthas and our avidya (ignorance). He gave us amazing discourses and amazing morning walks. Without the sadhu-sanga association of a pure sad-guru like him and his pure Vaisnava servants, the natural characteristics of our soul would never begin to manifest and we would simply continue being unhappy and suffering in this world, completely lost in false ego. He was a most glorious and infectious personality that captivated the hearts of everyone who heard and met him. He was so filled with devotion and compassion that he captured the hearts of all of us who came into his sanga or the sanga of his surrendered servants.