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16. SRIDHARA DEVA GOSVAMI
Devotee: There has been some discussion on the use of the honorific title 'Deva as in the name of Srila B. R. Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja to the extent that some parties say that it is appropriate while others say that it is not. Could you please say something that would shed some light on this topic?Narasingha Maharaja: According to the tradition of the Gaudiya sampraddya wt cannot find fault with the honorific title Deva, as used to address an extremely advanced and revered Vaisnava such as Srila B. R. Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja.The name Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja was printed on the cover of and in many books of Srila Sridhara Maharaja, such as Bhagavad-gitd, Bhakti-rasdmrta'Sindhu, Sri Klrtana-manjusa, Prema--dhama--deva Stotram, Sri Guru and His Grace, Search for Sri krishna, Reality the Beautiful, The Golden Volcano of Divine Love, Loving Search for the Lost Servant,Sermons from the Guardian of Devotion, and more. Furthermore, the name Sridhara Deva Gosvami was engraved in the ndtha-mandira of Sri Caitanya Sarasvata Matha in 1976. All this was done in the
lifetime of Srila Sridhara Maharaja and was approved by him. So to say, as some persons have said, that the suffix deva is an insult to a great deary a, such as Srila Sridhara Maharaja, has no real basis and is obviously false.The root of the word deva is diva, meaning lustrous or shining brightly. Another meaning is to play or to sport. The suffix deva in fact is quite common in the Gaudiya sampraddya and is used in such names of the Supreme Lord and His devotees as Govindadeva, Baladeva, Gaurangadeva, Purusottamadeva, Sukadeva, and Gurudeva, etc.As a prefix, deva has also been in use among the brahmana community in India for many centuries to designate a person with divine characteristics —in the case of Srlla Sridhara Maharaja divine characteristics and especially, divine intelligence. So either as a prefix or a suffix, the use of the title deva may be considered appropriate.Another example of the use of the word 'deva' is found in the guru' pranama prayer to our Guru Maharaja, Srlla A. C. Bhaktivedanta SvamI Prabhupada. There it is written, 'namaste sdrasvate deve.' Here the words 'sarasvati' and 'deva are joined together under the Sanskrit rule of grammar known as samdsa. Thus 'deva becomes 'deve,' 'sarasvati' becomes 'sdrasvate' and the first 'a' in 'sdrasvate' becomes long. Thus the meaning of 'namaste sdrasvate deve' means, 'I offer my respects unto he who belongs to, or is a servant of 'Sarasvati-deva.'The pranama prayer, 'namaste sdrasvate deve' was written personally by our Guru Maharaja for his disciples to chant. So at least for those who profess to be followers of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta
SvamI Prabhupada, the use of the word 'deva in glorifying one's guru may be deemed appropriate.Both the Gaudiya tradition and the Sanskrit rules of grammar harmonize and support the use of the word deva as an honorific title for great Vaisnavas and saintly persons. Indeed, even the Supreme Lord Himself is known as deva, so how can it be a demeaning title?Some will say that deva refers to the demigods, but to such persons we say, krishna is the deva of such devas 'deva'deva jagatpate' krishna is the God of Gods.In the Kdma'gdyatri we find, 'kdma-devdya vidmahe.' In the Damodara-gayatrl we find, 'tanno devah pracodayat' and in the Gadadhara-gdyatri we also find 'tanno devah pracodayat'. In each of these instances deva indicates the Supreme Lord or His Internal Energy (as in the case of Gadadhara Pandita).In Caitanya-lild Gadadhara Pandita represents the guru-tattva for those devotees following in the mddhurya'rasa. This is another bona-fide reason why Srila B. R. Sridhara Maharaja may be addressed as Deva because he has revealed the hidden treasure of mddhurya-bhdva (parakiya-rasa) in Bhagavad-gitd (Chapter 10, Verses 9 & 10) and also he has revealed Rddhd-ddsyam (the service of Sri Radha) in the heart of Gdyatri-mantra (Gdyatri Nigudhdrtha).In the Brahma'gayatri we find the words, 'bhargo devasya dhimahi.' Srila Sridhara Maharaja has given the meaning, "Bhargo represents Mahdbhdva (Srimati Radharani) the predominated Moiety, and Deva, krishna, is Rasardja, the predominating Moiety. Deva
means 'who is beautiful and playful,' that is, krishna Reality the Beautiful. He is not a non-differentiated substance, but is full of lild, pastimes. Deva means pastimes and beauty combined, and this means krishna."So we may understand the word deva to mean one who reveals wonderful pastimes of love, krishna. Since Srila B. R. Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja is that divine personality who has disclosed the hidden wealth of the Brahma-gdyatri, revealing that ultimately Gdyatri worships Srimati Radharani, he is therefore highly qualified to be honored with the title Deva. This is most appropriate.One who is expert in revealing the inner-most plane of the domain of the Lords confidential pastimes, as is condensed in Gdyatri, is certainly worthy of such a title as Deva. Not only is his purport of Gdyatri taking us to krishna's lild but Srila Sridhara Maharaja has also concisely manifest Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's divine lild in his Sanskrit composition, Prema-dhama'deva Stotram.Srila Sridhara Maharaja has begun Prema'dhdma'deva Stotram with the words, 'deva'SiMlw'mukta'yukta'bhakta'vmda'Vanditam' and he has sung in each of the seventy verses, 'prema'dhdma'devam' eva-naumi gaura-sundaram.' Srila Sridhara Maharaja is therefore recognized as Deva because he has expertly sung the glories of the Supreme Lord, the Golden avatdra, Sri Caitanyadeva.These are a few of the reasons why the title Deva is appropriate in the case of Srila B. R. Sridhara Deva Gosvami Maharaja, but still some persons may not be satisfied with the above. Therefore, we requested one of our sannydsis to go to Navadvipa'dhdma to speak with Sripada Govinda Maharaja, the successor of Srila Sridhara Maharaja and to ask him about the use of Deva in Srila Sridhara Maharaja's name. Sripada Govinda Maharaja commented that in the last years of Srila Sridhara Maharaja's life that he used to sign letters and other papers as Sridhara Deva Gosvami.So, either from the ontological point of view or from the practical point of view, it seems that Deva is an appropriate title for Srila Sridhara Maharaja, used and approved by him personally.