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Appearance of Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja



First Meeting with Srila Gurudeva

Today I am instructed to speak on my memories of Srila Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja. In reality, these memories are heartbreaking and it is said, in the words of ancient poets — ‘smriti tumi vedana’ — reminiscing of days gone by is painful, as the heart naturally melts. But, because my heart is as hard as stone, so therefore it refuses to melt. And this is my great misfortune. Nevertheless, following the instructions of my superiors, I wish to remember some of the pastimes of Srila Maharajaji [Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja].


When I first arrived in Navadvipa-dhama, there were no sannyasis in the matha, as they had all gone out in preparation for the occasion of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s appearance (Gaura-purnima). They had gone to fetch grains and rice required for it.


Though at that time, I was able to have the darshana (observance) of the lotus feet of my chachaji (paternal uncle), Srila Bhaktivedanta Madhusudana Gosvami Maharaja (formerly known as Krishna Kripa Brahmachari), and he mercifully gave me shelter in Navadvipa-dhama at his lotus feet.


From my childhood, I had an intense hankering for shravana-kirtana (listening) to hari-katha and could not do without it. At that time, I was not satisfied by the hari-katha which was given by the brahmacharis in the matha. And thus, from time to time, I was going to listen to hari-katha from Srimad Bhakti Rakshaka Sridhara Gosvami Maharaja.


A couple of months later, Srila Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, arrived in Navadvipa from Mathura. Upon seeing Srila Gurudeva for the first time, I can recollect that a transcendental mood arose within my heart and I immediately understood that this is my last life, that these are my final days on this Earth. After having darshana of the lotus feet of such a saintly person, I offered myself completely, in my heart of hearts, to his lotus feet.


Now I remember, at the time when I met Srila Gurudeva in Sri Devananda Gaudiya Matha, I recall his suhasya-vadana (positive smiling face) and his captivating lotus eyes, by which he was able to steal everyone’s heart. When I touched his feet, I experienced a divine internal perception. Actually, it is not possible to describe this experience. 


I recall, in our first conversation, Srila Gurudeva asked me where I had come from and who was I related to. Thus, I explained everything to him. Thereafter, he mercifully explained to me that hari-bhajana (worship of Hari) is the sole purpose of human life. He also enquired if I was chanting hari-nama (the Lord’s names), then I replied to him that I am chanting mentally, using only my fingers to count. Gurudeva responded, ‘’No, you should not perform bhajana only in your mind. Instead, you should chant on a tulasi-mala, loudly.” 


Upon hearing these words, all of a sudden, an enthusiasm arose from the inner chamber of my heart, a desire that, if only Gurudeva would give me a japa-mala, then I would consider my life to be blessed. I don’t know how Gurudeva understood my inner desire, but at that moment, he gave me a tulasi-mala— the same one I have with me to this day.


Gurudeva stressed to me that you cannot perform bhajana only by the mind, rather you have to do it by chanting loudly. He explained it to me like this. Further, he explained that nama (holy name) should be performed on tulasi beads. In this way, he instructed and inspired me, and by remembering him, I performed my harinama (holy name of Lord Hari).


Time of Initiation

Approximately a month later, my diksha-guru, Srimad Bhaktivedanta Vamana Gosvami Maharaja arrived in Navadvipa. Srila Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, was present too. Between them, I saw an unprecedented, heartfelt loving exchange and exceptional courteous behaviour towards one another. Seeing this, my heart was completely won over. After arriving, Srila Bhaktivedanta Vamana Gosvami, at Sri Narahari Torana (the gate of the matha), paid full prostrated obeisances to Srila Narayana Maharaja, which I felt very blessed to witness. And Srila Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, reciprocated this honorific gesture to his elder godbrother. The way Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja showed due respect towards Srila Bhaktivedanta Vamana Gosvami Maharaja, his elder godbrother, is very hard to see nowadays. 


During the time of my harinama initiation, Srila Vamana Gosvami Maharaja asked me about the japa-mala in my hands, “Where did you get this japa-mala from?” I honestly replied to him and in turn, he held the japa-mala and touched it on his head. Upon observing his actions, I began to cry, as I thought Gurudeva, Srila Vamana Gosvami Maharaja, is giving everyone harinama and japa-mala, but with my beads, he simply touched them on his head and returned them. 


Some brahmacharis consoled me and said, “Look, if Srila Gurudeva, Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, gives someone japa-mala, then, Srila Gurudeva, Vamana Gosvami Maharaja does not give new beads to them.” Somehow, I managed to pacify myself. 


Also, during the festival of Gaura-purnima, when I went to accept diksha from Srila Gurudeva, Srila Vamana Gosvami Maharaja said to me, “First go and ask permission from Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja.” 


Only if Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja gave his approval, would Srila Bhaktivedanta Vamana Gosvami Maharaja award diksha to disciples. Subsequently, after getting permission from Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, Srila Bhaktivedanta Vamana Maharaja awarded me diksha-mantras, gayatri-mantras, etc. 


I observed the ideal example of the relationship between both personalities, where Srila Vamana Gosvami Maharaja would not do anything without the approval of Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja— he would not give harinama or diksha. Also, when giving saffron cloth, sannyasa-vesha, he instructed me to first seek the approval of Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja.


Although Srila Vamana Gosvami Maharaja was more senior and had received diksha from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada, he offered so much honour and respect to Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja. Incidentally, he had also received his diksha-mantras from Srila Bhakti Prajnana Keshava Gosvami Maharaja, prior to Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja receiving them. 


Nevertheless, he respected Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja just like Guru, and he used to refer to him as his ‘guardian’ in hari-katha.


Elegant Exchanges Between Great Personalities

I was fortunate enough to witness the profound relationship and friendship between them, which cannot be found elsewhere. When Gurudeva, Srila Vamana Gosvami Maharaja, used to visit Mathura, the mutual affection between them was unprecedented. Furthermore, in this Mathura Matha, Srila Vamana Gosvami Maharaja would insist on Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja seating himself first, before sitting down himself. In a similar way, he would insist that Srila Narayana Maharaja should speak first, before speaking himself.


My Gurudeva, Srila Vamana Gosvami Maharaja, was very sensitive, empathetic, and possessed a sense of humility. Even though he was aware of all tattva, nonetheless, he used to give the highest seat of honour to Srila Gurudeva, Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja. 


tṛṇād api sunīcena taror api sahiṣṇunā amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ


Shikshashtaka (3)


[One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honour yet is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.]


Srila Bhaktivedanta Vamana Gosvami Maharaja was the embodiment of this shloka


Srila Gurudeva’s One-pointedness For the Moods of Vraja

Srila Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, would be immersed in the moods of Vrajavasis and he used to speak about these pastimes and their glories. Srila Gurudeva Narayana Gosvami Maharaja’s discourses were unique; he would always conclude his hari-katha with the pastimes of vraja–gopis.


[Because Sri Rupa Gosvami and Srila Raghunatha Gosvami always discussed the pastimes of the vraja–gopis] their lives are exemplary and they are the essence of our lives. Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami has mentioned in Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita, “rūpa-raghunātha-pade, rahu mora āśa…” — my desire is to attain the lotus feet of Rupa and Raghunatha.


Srila Gurudeva’s virtue to bestow great affection impartially upon all was, in a sense, unparalleled. He never discriminated against any individual. He used to give harinama whilst adhering to the rules and regulations of the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti, whose acharya was Srila Bhaktivedanta Vamana Gosvami Maharaja. Srila Bhaktivedanta Vamana Gosvami Maharaja usually awarded harinama, diksha-mantras, gayatri-mantras, etc. But in special circumstances, Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja would also give harinama.


Srila Gurudeva’s Captivating Glance

Sometimes, due to our close relationship with Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, out of pride, we would sometimes say to him, “We are not your disciples, but the disciples of Srila Vamana Gosvami Maharaja!”

 

In response, Srila Gurudeva, with his sweet words, would pacify us and reply, “Look, there are two types of disciples, one is a svakiya (one’s own consort) disciple and the other is a parakiya (a consort who is other than one’s own) disciple. For example, the Queens of Dvaraka are married to Krishna, and they have a relationship known as svakiya with Him. On the other hand, the relationship of Krishna with the vraja-gopis is known as parakiya. And thus, the parakiya relationship has a greater importance than svakiya.” 


In this way, Gurudeva used to deal with us with much love and affection and with such sweet, pleasing words. Remembering all these pastimes is very painful. Remembering Gurudeva melts one’s heart. 


In reality, he never possessed the conception of ‘mine’ and ‘theirs’. Until the last moment, I observed that whoever came to see Gurudeva, he would have a special quality of capturing their hearts with his eyes. Just as Bilvamangala Thakura said to Krishna:


vraje prasiddhaḿ navanīta-cauraḿ gopāńganānāḿ ca dukūla-cauram aneka-janmārjita-pāpa-cauraḿ caurāgragaṇyaḿ puruṣaḿ namāmi


Sri Sri Chauragraganya-purushashtaka


[I offer pranama to that foremost of thieves – who is famous in Vraja as the butter-thief and He who steals the gopis’ clothes, and who, for those who take shelter of Him, steals the sins which have accrued over many lifetimes.]


This shloka also applies to Gurudeva too — whoever his merciful glance rests upon, he steals their hearts. He appeared on the day of amavasya (new moon). In shastra, it says that those who are born on amavasya will become thieves. Gurudeva appeared on mauni-amavasya, so therefore he is a thief. 

Just as a thief in this material world steals material wealth, and just as Krishna steals the hearts of the gopis, in the same way, Srila Gurudeva stole the hearts of his disciples and engaged them in his service. How can I describe the remembrance of such a great personality? 


Last Words — “I will meet you in Navadvipa”

Due to the limited time, I would just like to recall one more pastime of Srila Gurudeva. The year 2010 was Gurudeva’s last parikrama of Govardhana, coinciding with his sickness pastime. And on the last day of that parikrama, on Kartika-purnima (full moon day of the month of Kartika), I went to Gurudeva’s room to offer my obeisances, and as I was just getting up, Gurudeva enquired, “Are you going abroad to preach or not?” 


I replied, “Yes Gurudeva, I have a ticket to go to America.” 

I held Gurudeva’s feet tightly and said, “Gurudeva! This time I do not wish to go for prachara, because I desire the close association of your lotus feet.” 


Gurudeva put his hands on my head and replied, “Look, listen to the words of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada — ‘prana aache jethu, sethu prachara’ – preaching is the life of our Gaudiya Vaishnavas.” 


With his very sweet, gentle smile and his pacifying words, he blessed me and said, “Look, you should go and return very quickly, and I will meet you in Navadvipa.” He continued, “I will get well very soon, and I will surely meet you in Navadvipa parikrama at Sri Sri Keshavaji Matha. You should now go.” In this way, Gurudeva gave his blessings.    


Having faith in the words of Srila Gurudeva, I left for America and I remember when I was in Houston, whilst speaking about Srila Gurudeva on the morning of the 29th December, unknowingly I had an inauspicious feeling and my mind was restless. Later, I was flying from Miami to Rio de Janeiro, and I had a strange feeling. However, I boarded the plane. Thereafter, when I landed in Brazil, I heard the news of Srila Gurudeva’s disappearance. It was heartbreaking. 


I was thinking of Gurudeva from afar, as I could not be present at the time of his samadhi, which was held soon after. I continuously kept thinking of his last words, “I will meet you in Navadvipa.”  


guru mukha padma vākya, cittete koriyā aikya


 [The words from the lotus mouth of Sri Guru, impresses upon one’s heart.]


Even today, Gurudeva is present in his guiding form in Navadvipa-dhama. I reminisce about his hari-katha, his pastimes and his memories, up until this day. He is the source of everything that has happened in my life. In our time of service in Keshavaji Gaudiya Matha, we gave absolutely everything for Gurudeva, including whatever favourable items we had obtained or collected. During the construction project of Sri Keshavji Gaudiya Matha, I endeavoured to give everything with my body and mind. I am not seeking adulation, but this has to be said, given the context of this topic. 


Many times, my health was not so good, but Gurudeva’s merciful glance and his gentle touch used to make me feel alive. Those times awaken in my memory very clearly. 


Offer Everything For the Pleasure of Guru

Once, in Keshavaji Gaudiya Matha, I remember at the time of performing bhiksha, whichever seasonal fruits I collected would be given to Gurudeva. If I were unable to obtain any fruits, then I would buy some vegetables of Gurudeva’s preference from the money collected. Srila Gurudeva was very fond of loki (bottle gourd) and I would try to buy such vegetables for his pleasure. Guru-seva is the essence and the goal of life.


yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādo yasyāprasādān na gatiḥ kuto ‘pi dhyāyan stuvaṁs tasya yaśas tri-sandhyaṁ vande guroḥ śrī-caraṇāravindam 


Gurvashtaka (8) by Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura


[By satisfaction of the spiritual master, the Supreme Personality of Godhead becomes satisfied. And by not satisfying the spiritual master, there is no chance of being promoted to the plane of Krishna consciousness. I should, therefore, meditate and pray for his mercy three times a day, and offer my respectful obeisances unto him, my spiritual master.]


I had the good fortune to stay at the lotus feet of Gurudeva and his hari-katha  was always a great attraction for me. Whenever I went for bhiksha, I used to make sure that I would always come back in time for Gurudeva’s hari-katha. If I were ever late, in certain circumstances, Gurudeva would say, “Where has Subal Sakha gone?” Or, “Where has Vana Maharaja gone?”


Usually, in preparation for Janmashtami, I was required to go far for collection which meant I was late in returning, but Gurudeva would always anticipate my return. Once, when I went to his room, Gurudeva said, “I have not started the hari-katha yet, as I was in anticipation of your return. Don’t tell anyone I said this, because other’s may resent me for appearing to be partial.”


Furthermore, when speaking hari-katha, Gurudeva would say, “This hari-katha, which I am about to speak now or I am speaking to you regularly, is very confidential in nature; the katha of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Radha-Krishna and the last limit of prema–divya-unmada-dasha. Look, I am only speaking this katha to those who are present in front of me. In reality this katha is the essence of our life.” How could we ever forget this unique love and affection given by Srila Gurudeva?


Srila Gurudeva’s Chastisement

At other times Srila Gurudeva, upon observing our indiscretions, used to discipline us. Once, in 2001, while performing parikrama during the first year of my sannyasa, Prema Prayojana Prabhu (formerly Arunya Maharaja) and I had gone to take darshana of Brahmanda-ghata and then of Yamala-Arjuna. Also, some devotees from abroad had come along with us. They had gathered around while I was speaking hari-katha, and my nature is that I lose consideration of time if people are keen to listen. While I was speaking, someone complained to Srila Gurudeva, “Srila Vana Maharaja is speaking hari-katha right over there and no pilgrims are getting on the buses.” 


And at that very moment, Gurudeva was coming for us— I knew that if anyone complained to him, then he would most certainly punish us. He caught hold of Prema Prayojana Prabhu and slapped him, but I managed to get away. After, Gurudeva began chasing after me with his danda. Eventually, he caught up with me, caught me by my ear and beat me with his danda in front of everyone. 


Afterwards, I felt slightly irritated that Gurudeva had punished me. Later that evening, I went to visit him and paid my obeisances. He said, “Look, you all are sannyasis, it is not appropriate what I did today.” 


I happily replied, “This mercy that you bestowed upon us today cannot be surpassed, neither in the present nor in the past.”


Thereafter, Gurudeva recounted the hari-katha of Prabhupada — the day that a guru chastises his disciple and disciplines them, that is when he considers the disciple his own. Just as a mother punishes her child, and also she shows love and affection. In Bengali there is a saying, ‘Shasana kare tahara sahaje suhaaga kare jayi’ — one is only allowed to punish another, if they have love and affection for them.


The lesson was that if one wants mercy, then he has to accept the chastisement of the guru. All these memories of Gurudeva are now flooding back. During parikrama when Gurudeva used to take prasada in his room, we used to go inside, and while he was honouring prasada, he would give us his remnants. In this way, I received the good fortune of having his remnants.


Remembering these pastimes today… if only Gurudeva would be with us in his direct manifestation, I would…for him…what can I say? I pray that life after life he mercifully bestows upon me the service to his lotus feet.



Date: 14 December 2020    Location: Zoom


 

Translator: Ananga-mohana dasa (UK) Editor: Damodara dasa (UK), Sanatana dasa (US) Integrity check: Divya-premamayi dasi (Slovakia), Ragalekha dasi (Holland) Proofreader: Chandrika dasi (UK) Image: Navina-krishna dasa (Holland)



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