Dear brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and all devotees,
Sometime before, while I was at the Bhaktivedanta Research Centre in Kolkata, I had the chance to read original Harmonist magazines from the 1920s and 1930s. I noticed that in each magazine, a section titled “Round the Gaudiya Maths” gave regular updates on the activities of the different maṭhas. During his time, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura wanted to keep everyone informed about what was happening in all his maṭhas.
Nowadays, there are so many different communities, centers and devotees all around the world from which bhakti is being propagated more and more, and I feel that it is very important that devotees from each household, center, maṭha, or community continue giving regular updates on their saṅga’s activities, just like during the time of Śrila Bhaktisiddhānta Prabhupada. By doing so, the spirit of unity among us will strengthen, and it will encourage us further to invigorate our own preaching and tighten our congregational programs.
Having said that, I’d like to share with everyone what’s happening here in Puri. Oh, and for those who don’t know me, my name is Madhukara dāsa. I grew up in Badger (New Braja), went to the New Braja Village School and in 2006, having completed my studies, joined the math in Mathura. Then, in 2010, Premananda Prabhu placed me here in Puri, where I’ve been living ever since.
The maṭha here is beautifully situated, right on the beach, with nothing blocking our direct view of the ocean. One can hear the pounding of surf upon the sand. Adjacent to us on the right is the Cakratirtha Mandir, where Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra first floated to land in the form of logs. Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s Samādhi is only a half-hour’s walk along the beach away, and Ṭoṭa Gopīnātha is only a ten-minute walk from there. As Śrīla Gurudeva gazed out over the sea from his veranda, he used to mention that this was the very spot where Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu jumped into the sea, mistaking it to be Yamunā, and got caught in the net of a fisherman.
Puri is known as the viraha-kṣetra, the abode of separation, and in this land of separation, on the second floor of this maṭha, our Śrīla Gurudeva preformed his last physical act of mercy upon us by giving us all the chance to realize the meaning of meeting in separation.
This location and the pastimes that happened here are unique. For this reason, many senior disciples of Śrīla Prabhupada, our Śrīla Gurudeva, Śrīla Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja and other Vaiṣṇavas regularly come here to take darśana, thereby blessing us with the opportunity to render service to them and listen to their harikathā.
Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura writes in Śrī Gītāvali:
ĵe-dina gṛhe, bhajana dekhi, gṛhete goloka bhāya
My home is transformed into Goloka Vṛndāvana when I see bhajana of Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa being performed there.
In this maṭha there’s no break from kīrtana, harikathā and sevā. One of the things that I appreciate most about living here is how harikathā and kīrtana are given such importance and prominence. Following the instructions of Śrīla Gurudeva, all the maṭha brahmacaris attend the temple programs, which involve harikathā and kīrtana, both morning and evening, regardless of what service they do. We also have a daily śloka class and mṛdaṅga class.
There’s a strong, loving, family environment amongst all the devotees. The brahmacarīs—most of them young, some still in their teens—are being well looked after and nicely trained by Vaṁśi-vadana Prabhu and Uttama-kṛṣṇa Prabhu. Management should be done with love and affection, not with cold, harsh, military discipline. When I was in the Badger gurukula, being treated with such kindness made a deep impression on me. It changed my life and the lives of so many other kids fortunate enough to be there. I feel that same mood of love to be greatly prevalent here. Our congregation of local devotees is growing. Daily they attend the temple programs and render various services, such as stringing garlands, cleaning, cutting vegetables and so on.
We are regularly publishing books and magazines into Oriya and distributing them throughout Orissa. We often go out for house programs, village programs, book fairs, nagar-saṅkīrtana, and perform other various preaching activities. We distribute prasādam to thousands of people during ratha-yātra and commemorate a huge festival every year for Śrīla Gurudeva’s vyāsa-puja. Vaṁśi-vadana Prabhu goes out twice a month to Bhubaneswara, where he speaks Śrīla Gurudeva’s harikathā on a prominent TV station called MBC Odia. This is taped and is divided into parts and daily broadcast throughout India. We have future plans of doing pada-yātras, where we will go out for a week at a time throughout various villages, preaching the message of Mahāprabhu.
Everything, by Śrīla Gurudeva’s mercy, is running very happily and successfully, and we are in the process of purchasing a plot of land just behind the maṭha. If Jagannātha-deva and our Rādhā-Dāmodara are willing, then we will be able to construct a beautiful mandira for Them. Presently, our temple room is in just one of the rooms in the hotel, and it would be a huge step in our project here if we could have a separate temple outside of the hotel. This will only be possible with the help and blessings of all the devotees. We will be posting on our soon-to-be website the building design plan and the various construction costs. In order to be transparent, we will post the names of those who make a donation and the amount given. In this way we will show how the money is spent and also ensure that not one rupee is misused. Your help in this way will be much appreciated.
We always encourage—with a big, warm, open invitation—all devotees to come visit and stay in our temple here. I’m hoping that in the future more and more devotees come. Your trip to India is fully complete when you can take darśana of all three dhamas: Vrndavana, Navadvip and Puri. Puri is not so far from Navadvipa, so it will not be difficult for you to come.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I pray all devotees bestow their profuse blessings on us.
Jaya Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Dāmodara! Jaya Jagannātha-Baladeva-Subhadra-Sudarśana cakra jiu! Jaya Śrīla Gurudeva!