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A Divine Life
shri siddhanta-saraswatiti viditau gaudiya-gurv-anvaye bhato bhanur iva prabhata-gagane yo gaura-sankirtanaih
mayavada-timingilodara-gatan uddhritya jivaniman krishna-prema-sudhabdhi gahana sukham pradat prabhum tam bhaje
“In the great Gaudiya Vaishnava teachers’ line, as Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati he’s renowned. Like the radiant sun in the morning sky, he appeared to rescue all souls swallowed by the all-devouring impersonal philosophy. By spreading the teaching of Lord Gauranga to sing the holy name of Lord Krishna, he gave all the chance to dive in the ocean
of love for Shri Krishna, the Supreme Person. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta, my lord, divine master— at his feet do I pray to serve him forever.” —Shrila Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Goswami
Divinity can be seen by its own light. The transcendental life of Shrila Prabhupada Saraswati Thakura can be known to us only by his own causeless mercy—for such is the nature of the Supreme Lord and His representatives who come to this world. Shrila Prabhupada was an in?nite ocean of divine treasure; if we are fortunate enough, perhaps we can touch the waves of that ocean as they lap the shore of our mortal plane. Within that ocean are his innumerable transcendental qualities such as scholarship, genius, spiritual realization, humility, magnanimity, compassion, mercy, and divine love, to name only a few. The essence of Shrila Prabhupada’s life cannot be revealed in many volumes—let alone a single chapter—if they are merely a catalog of facts and ?gures. It takes the dedication of a lifetime to attain a true glimpse of his message, and his life is his message. We are about to stand in front of a divine personality; we are about to catch sight of that reality which is eternal and in?nite. Yet in our meeting with the eternal we have to retrace the footsteps of time, because we must begin somewhere.
Shrila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura made his appearance in Purushottam Kshetra (Jagannath Puri) in the state of Odissa, at 3:30 in the afternoon on Friday, the 6th of February, 1874. He was born in his family home, which was next to the holy site called the Narayan-chhata of Shri Jagannath Temple, and which always reverberated with the chanting of the holy name. He was the fourth son of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura and Shrimati Bhagavati Devi. Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura ?rmly established the concept of pure Vaishnavism in the hearts of many educated and spiritually inquisitive people of Bengal in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Shrila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura was a beautiful child with all the bodily symptoms of a great personality that are described in the scriptures. Everyone was amazed to see that the child was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck like a brahman’s sacred thread. Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura named his son Shri Bimala Prasad, meaning “the mercy of the transcendental potency of Lord Jagannath, Shrimati Bimala Devi.”
When Shri Bimala Prasad was six months old, Lord Jagannath’s annual chariot festival took place. That year the chariot stopped in front of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura’s house and could not be budged an inch for three days. So while Lord Jagannath stayed in front of the house, kirtan was continuously performed there under the leadership of Shrila Thakura Mahashay (“Mahashay” is an honori?c title). On one of these days Shri Bimala Prasad, in his mother’s arms, went to see Lord Jagannath, and extended his hand towards the Deity as if to offer his obeisance. At that moment a garland fell from the neck of Lord Jagannath and encircled the child. The crowd was jubilant witnessing Lord Jagannath’s blessing on the child. Amid the tumultuous sound of “Haribol!”, Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura fed Shri Bimala Prasad some of Lord Jagannath’s mahaprasad, and thus observed the child’s annaprashan (“grain ceremony”—?rst feeding of grains) under the most auspicious circumstances.
Shri Bimala Prasad lived in Jagannath Dham for ten months with his mother. Then they travelled to Bengal and resided ?rst at Ranaghat and then at Shrirampur. Once, when Shrila Bimala Prasad was a small boy, he took a mango without ?rst offering it to the Lord. When his father chastised him for this, he became very remorseful and immediately vowed never to eat a mango again—a vow which he observed his whole life. In 1881 Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura had a house built in Calcutta at Ram-bagan and named it Bhakti Bhavan. As the foundation was being dug, a Deity of Shri Kurma Dev manifested Himself from the ground. Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura gave this Deity to his son Shri Bimala Prasad when he was eight or nine years old, and taught him the mantra and the method of deity worship. The child duly started his deity worship with great care and devotion.
When Shri Bimala Prasad was in ?fth grade, he invented a new method of shorthand which he called Bicanto (or Vikrinti). His teachers were always amazed by his mastery of Bengali and Sanskrit, his extraordinary intelligence and memory, and his pure moral and devotional nature. At this time Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura gave him Shri Chaitanya Shikshamrita to read. Shri Bimala Prasad also displayed extraordinary ability in mathematics and astrology. He studied astrology under the tutelage of the famous astrologer Mahesh Chandra Churamani, and impressed his teacher with his mastery of the subject and his exceptional talent. He also studied astrology with Pandit Sundar Lal. Seeing his scholarship in many different subjects, including the scriptures, his teachers named him Shri Siddhanta Saraswati—“master of scriptural conclusions”. When Shrila Saraswati Thakura was a student in the seventh grade in Shrirampur, Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura gave him Harinam (the holy name) on Tulasi-mala (rosary made of Tulasi beads), as well as Shri Nrisimha mantra.
In 1885 Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura founded the Vaishnava Depository, a press which was housed in his own home. Shrila Saraswati Thakura learned about the printing press and began assisting his father in proofreading. At this time, Shrila Thakura Mahashay’s magazine, Sajjan Toshani, resumed publication. In that same year Shrila Saraswati Thakura accompanied Shrila Thakura Mahashaya on his pilgrimage to such places as Kulingram and Sargram. At these places he heard extensive discussions on the holy name. Also in 1885, Shrila Thakura Mahashay established his “Vishva-Vaishnava-Raj-Sabha” (“great assembly of the Vaishnavas of the world”) in the house of Shri Ramgopal Basu on Bethune Row in Calcutta. Many well-known personalities such as Madangopal Goswami, Nilkanta Goswami, Bipin Vihari Goswami, Radhikanath Goswami, and Shishir Kumar Ghosh attended the meetings of the society and participated in discussions. Shrila Saraswati Thakura used to carry Bhakti-rasamrita Sindhu (The Ocean of the Nectar of Devotion), by Shrila Rupa Goswami, to these meetings, and listen to the discussions there with rapt attention.
Shrila Saraswati Thakura was not interested in associating with other boys of his age unless they were interested in spiritual matters. His two favorite books were Prarthana and Prema-Bhakti Chandrika by Shrila Narottam Das Thakura. As a young boy he published books on astrology, such as Surya Siddhanta and Bhakti Bhavan Panjika. In the afternoons he spent hours debating about religion and philosophy with other students in Calcutta’s Beadon Square. Later out of these meetings he founded the August Assembly. All members of the Assembly had to take a vow of lifelong celibacy. Many educated people, both young and old, used to take part in the Assembly.
Sanskrit College and Work in Tripura, 1892–1905
In 1892 Shrila Saraswati Thakura ?nished high school and enrolled in the Sanskrit College. He was more interested in reading many different books in the college library than in reading his own textbooks. He used to study the Vedas under Pandit Prithvidhar Sharma after college. He also studied the Siddhanta Kaumudi within a very short time. As a student in Sanskrit College he refuted some concepts of Professor Panchanan Sahityacharya. Subsequently no one wanted to debate with Shrila Saraswati Thakura, for fear of defeat. But his spiritual interests did not allow him to stay in college for very long. He wrote in his autobiography, “If I keep studying at college with great attention, then I will be under a lot of pressure to enter family life. But if I am seen as a stupid, incompetent person, then no one will try to in?uence me towards material progress.’ Thinking this, I left the Sanskrit College, and in order to live a life of devotional service, I wanted a pious occupation so I could have a modest income.”
In 1897 Shrila Saraswati Thakura established the Saraswat Chatushpathi (The Saraswat Academy) at Bhakti Bhavan. Many prominent and educated men such as Lala Haragaurishankar, Dr. Ekendranath Ghosh, Satkari Chattopadhyaya, Shyamlal Goswami, and Saratchandra Vidyavinod came to study astrology and mathematics there. From Saraswat Chatushpathi, Shrila Saraswati Thakura published astrological magazines such as “Jyotirvid” and “Brihaspati”, as well as quite a few ancient astrological texts. Shrila Saraswati Thakura’s reputation as a very knowledgeable astrologer spread in the educated society of Calcutta. Later Sir Ashutosh Mukhopaddhyay, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Calcutta, said that the chair of astronomy at the University of Calcutta would be reserved for Shrila Saraswati Thakura.
In 1895 Shrila Saraswati Thakura accepted a job with the independent state of Tripura, as a scholar and tutor for the royal family thereof. After King Virchandra passed away in 1896, his son, King Radhakishor Manikya Bahadur, requested Shrila Saraswati Thakura to tutor the princes, and later to supervise the estate in Calcutta. But Shrila Saraswati Thakura soon wished to retire from this job, and the King allowed him to do so in 1905 with full pension. Shrila Saraswati Thakura accepted that pension until 1908.
Bhajan Life and Initiation, 1898–1905
Previously, in 1898, Shrila Saraswati Thakura had visited different places of pilgrimage such as Kashi, Prayag, and Gaya. At Kashi (Benares), he had an extensive discussion with Ram Mishra Shastri about the Ramanuja sampradaya. During this period the renunciate nature of his devotional life became very apparent. As early as 1897 he was observing the four months of chaturmasya with great austerity and devotion. He would eat only boiled food (habishyanna) which he cooked himself, and sleep on the ?oor without pillows. In 1899 he started writing various articles to preach Vaishnavism in a magazine called “Nivedan”, published in Calcutta. In 1890 his scholarly book Bange Samajikata, consisting of research on society and religion, was published in Calcutta.
In 1897 Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura established his own bhajan-kutir (cottage for reclusive devotional practice), called Ananda-sukhada-kunja, on the Godruma island of Navadwip on the bank of the river Saraswati. There, in the winter of 1898, Shrila Saraswati Thakura met with an extraordinary, exalted Vaishnava saint, Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji, who captured his heart. Shrila Saraswati Thakura wanted to take shelter at the lotus feet of Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji, and by the order of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura he surrendered at the lotus feet of Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji and received Bhagavati Diksha (initiation) from him in 1900.
Shortly before this, in March of the same year, Shrila Saraswati hakur had gone to Remuna via Baleshwar to see the Deity of Kshirachora Gopinath (Gopinath who stole the kshira, or milk pudding, for his devotee Shri Madhavendra Puri). Then he went to Puri via Bhuvaneshwar. Shrila Saraswati Thakura became very attached to the holy city of Puri. His great desire was to establish a math in front of the samadhi of Shrila Haridas Thakura. The subregistrar of Puri, Jagabandhu Pattanayak, and others requested him to take charge of the service of the Deity of Shri Giridhari at Satasan Math. In 1902 Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura started to build his Bhajan-kutir called Bhakti Kuthi near the samadhi of Shrila Haridas Thakura. The King of Kashim Bazar, Maharaja Manindra Chandra Nandi, who was griefstricken due to some personal tragedy, used to live there in a tent and listen to the Hari-katha of Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Shrila Saraswati Thakura. At this time Shrila Saraswati Thakura regularly used to read and explain the Chaitanya Charitamrita to the audience in Bhakti Kuthi, in front of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura. He was also working very hard to collect material for Vaishnava Manjusha, a Vaishnava encyclopedia.
One Babaji, Radha-raman-charan das, who lived in Puri, had concocted a song: “Bhaja Nitai Gaur Radhe Shyam/Japa Hare Krishna Hare Ram”. Shrila Saraswati Thakura not only protested against this but presented a very strong argument and proved it to be inauthentic and against Vaishnava scriptures. This Babaji also introduced the “Sakhiveki” concept by dressing one of his followers as Lalita Sakhi. This was against Mahaprabhu’s teachings since an ordinary jiva was being worshiped as though he were an expansion of Shrimati Radharani. Thus Shrila Saraswati Thakura opposed the Babaji. Shrila Saraswati Thakura was always a fearless and forthright speaker. Therefore those who opposed him, unable to defeat him in argument, tried other ways to suppress his preaching. Although Shrila Saraswati Thakura silently tolerated this oppression, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura asked him to go to Mayapur and practice his bhajan there, without obstacles.
In Shri Mayapur Dham, 1905–1910
In February 1905, Shrila Saraswati Thakura went on pilgrimage to various holy places in South India. After visiting Simhachal, Rajmahendri, Madras, Peremvedur, Tirupati, Kanjiveram, Kumbhakonam, Shrirangam, Madura, etc., he returned to Calcutta and then went on to Shri Mayapur. In Peremvedur he gathered information about the practice of Tridanda Vaishnava Sannyas from a Tridandi Swami who belonged to the Ramanuja sampradaya.
In 1905, Shrila Saraswati Thakura began preaching Shriman Mahaprabhu’s message while residing in Shri Mayapur. Following in the footsteps of Shrila Haridas Thakura, he would take the holy name 300,000 times a day. He used to sleep on the ?oor for only a few hours, eat very simply, and take the holy name day and night. In the afternoon he would speak Harikatha to the assembled devotees. On some days he would go to Kuliya to have darshan of Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji and receive his instruction. Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji was very pleased to see the great renunciation of Shrila Saraswati Thakura. He used to say, “In my Prabhu I see the same kind of renunciation that was seen in Shri Rupa and Shri Raghunath.” Shrila Babaji Mahashaya used to address his disciple Shrila Saraswati Thakura as “my Prabhu” (“my master”). Shrila Saraswati Thakura also received the blessings of Shrila Vamshidas Babaji Maharaj in Navadwip. Seeing Shrila Saraswati Thakura, Shrila Vamshidas Babaji Maharaj would say, “Someone very close to my Gaura has come to me.”
Shrila Saraswati Thakura began his intense preaching of pure devotional principles in a society in which the authority of the brahmans was unquestioned, and the concept of pure devotion was misinterpreted and misrepresented by the imitators of Vaishnavism (the Sahajiyas). In India in the 19th and early 20th centuries, most brahmans were more concerned about rules and regulations that were separated from the concept of devotion and not based on the injunctions of authentic scriptures than they were about what was spiritually and morally bene?cial for the rest of society. A brahman was no longer a person with brahminical qualities, but simply a person born in a family of brahmans. Since the caste system was rotting at its core, it had become meaningless and was in fact detrimental to the spiritual and moral welfare of society. The brahmans opposed any ideas that might threaten their preeminence, which was bereft of any moral or spiritual basis. Although many educated people had lost their faith in the bene?cial role of the brahman class, they did not know who could take their place. The pure Vaishnavas led reclusive lives hidden from the public eye, and the Sahajiya Vaishnavas aroused more hatred and suspicion than respect. In this context, Shrila Prabhupada wanted to establish the principles of Daivi-varnashrama dharma—the system in which the service of the Lord is placed in the center of society, a Vaishnava is respected by everyone else, and one’s caste is ascertained according to one’s natural tendency, not according to one’s birth.
A Letter from Bhaktivinode
In the meantime Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura was very concerned that pure Vaishnavism was being overshadowed by many other wrong concepts and also by imitators. He felt that among all his sons and disciples Shrila Saraswati Thakura was the most quali?ed person to preach pure Vaishnavism; he had more enthusiasm, courage, and quali?cation than anyone else. Therefore Shrila Thakura Mahashaya wrote him a letter:
People of this world who are proud of their own aristocratic birth cannot attain real aristocracy. Therefore they attack the pure Vaishnavas, saying, “They have taken birth in low-class families because of their sins.” Thus they commit offenses. The solution to this problem is to establish the order of Daivi-Varnashrama Dharma—something you have started doing; you should know that to be the real service to the Vaishnavas. Because pure devotional conclusions are not being preached, all kinds of superstitions and bad concepts are being called devotion by such pseudo-sampradayas as sahajiya and atibadi. Please always crush these anti-devotional concepts by preaching pure devotional conclusions and by setting an example through your personal conduct.
Please make great effort so you can start the parikrama [circumambulation] of Shridham Navadwip as soon as possible. It is by those actions that everyone in this world will receive Krishna-bhakti [devotional love for the Lord]. Please try very hard to make sure that the service to Shri Mayapur will become a permanent thing and will become brighter and brighter every day. The real service to Shri Mayapur can be done by acquiring printing presses, distributing devotional books, and preaching congregational chanting (not reclusive bhajan). Please do not neglect to serve Shri Mayapur or to preach for the sake of your own reclusive bhajan.
When I am not present any more, please take great care to serve Shri Mayapur Dham which is so dear to you. This is my special instruction to you. People who are like animals can never attain devotion; therefore never take their suggestions. But do not let them know this, directly or indirectly.
I had a special desire to preach the signi?cance of such books as Shrimad Bhagavatam, Shat Sandarbha, and Vedanta Darshan. You have to accept that responsibility. Shri Mayapur will prosper if you establish an educational institution there. Never make any effort to collect knowledge or money for your own enjoyment. Only to serve the Lord will you collect these things. Never engage in bad association, either for money or for some self-interest.
All the Vaishnava devotees who were in contact with Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura and Shrila Saraswati Thakura knew that the relationship between them was not mundane, like that between an ordinary father and son. Their relationship with each other was completely transcendental, like that between Guru and disciple, as is evident in this letter.
Shrila Saraswati Thakura became more enthused now to preach pure Vaishnavism. Apart from delivering hari-katha and leading congregational chanting, he also started collecting facts about the four Vaishnava sampradayas (branches of disciplic lineage). He started writing and publishing articles about Vaishnava acharyas in Sajjan Toshani.
In 1906, one gentleman called Shri Rohini Kumar Ghosh came to visit Shrila Prabhupada. He was the nephew of a High Court judge, Shri Chandra Madhav Ghosh of Barishal. Rohini Babu gave up his home life to have a devotional life in Navadwip. He found a guru from the Baul apasampradaya (one of the pseudo-Vaishnava groups) and started residing in his ashram. One afternoon he came to Shrila Prabhupada and heard some invaluable devotional instructions from him. Rohini Babu was deeply touched by this discussion, and when he came back to the ashram that night, it was all he could think about. Without taking his meal, he went to bed. That night, he had a dream in which that Baul Guru and his female companion came as tigers to attack him, but Shrila Saraswati Thakura came to rescue him from this danger. The next morning when Rohini Babu was awakened by the sunlight streaming through his window, he immediately left that ashram and set off for Mayapur to beg Shrila Saraswati Thakura for shelter at his lotus feet. He was the ?rst disciple of Shrila Prabhupada (Shrila Saraswati Thakura was thus addressed by his disciples).
Bhajan Kutir at Shri Vrajapattan, 1909
In February 1909, Shrila Prabhupada built a small Bhajan Kutir near the Bhavan, or residence, of Shri Chandrashekharacharya, who was the maternal uncle of Shriman Mahaprabhu. Remembering Mahaprabhu’s Vraja-lila that was performed here, he called this Shri Vrajapattan. Shrila Prabhupada continued his service at Shri Yogapith (the birthplace of Shriman Mahaprabhu), but stayed at Shri Vrajapattan. At this time his mother, Shrimati Bhagavati Devi, was staying at Yogapith and assisting him in his service to Shri Mayapur Dham.
While he was staying there by himself, two very young boys came to him and took shelter at his lotus feet. One of them, Ashvini Haldar, came from nearby Ballaldighi. Even though he was illiterate when he ?rst came, by the grace and guidance of Shrila Prabhupada he became a great scholar of scripture. Later when Shrila Prabhupada gave him initiation, he named him “Vaishnavadas” (“servant of the Vaishnavas”). Shripad Vaishnavadas Prabhu served Shrila Prabhupada for the rest of his life. He was known as a very expert kirtan singer.
The second boy, Shri Panchanan Samaddar, came from the village of Vinodnagar, in Jessore district. His father, Shri Tarinicharan Samaddar, had had the good fortune of associating with Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura. Shrila Thakura Mahashaya had visited their village once as well. The little boy Panchanan was very attracted to Hari-katha, and at the age of twelve he left home one night during the predawn hours and set forth in search of his devotional destiny. Somehow he came to Navadwip and, as if by some unknown attraction, came to Mayapur and met Shrila Prabhupada. Hearing from Shrila Prabhupada, he knew his destiny was at the lotus feet of this great personality. So he stayed there with Shrila Prabhupada. Later Prabhupada sent him to different schools, including the Sanagar School in Calcutta and the Hindu School in Navadwip. But his main teacher was Shrila Prabhupada himself. Later he was known as a great scholar and writer, and talented in many arts. In 1913, Shrila Prabhupada gave him initiation and named him “Paramananda Vidyaratna”. Throughout his life, he was always by the side of Shrila Prabhupada and he served his spiritual master in every capacity. Shrila Prabhupada made him one of the trustees of the Gaudiya Math.
Brahmins and Vaishnavas, 1911
In the year 1911 the Vaishnava devotees were confronted by a great deal of hostile criticism from the orthodox brahmanas of Bengal, known as the Smarta Samaj. These brahmanas, although bereft of real scriptural knowledge, were very proud of their own birth and social position, and their doctrines of rules and regulations. Because of their elevated social status, it was easy for them to in?uence the masses, who were ignorant of pure devotional conclusions. Even some Vaishnava devotees supported the brahmanas in order to get some favor from them. At this time Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was ill and bedridden. But he was still very concerned about the situation and wanted someone to confront the brahmana pandits face to face. By Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s desire, and having been so requested by the famous scholar Shri Madhusudan Goswami of Vrindavan, Shrila Prabhupada arranged a meeting with the brahman pandits at the town of Balighai, in Medinipur district. Pandit Shri Vishvambharananda Dev Goswami presided over this meeting.
Shrila Prabhupada read there his famous article, “Brahman and Vaishnava”. When he arrived, the assembled scholars were sitting in two different groups: those who believed in the superiority of brahmans over all other classes of people, and those who believed in the superiority of Vaishnavas, irrespective of birth or social position, over all other classes of people. At ?rst Shrila Prabhupada quoted from many scriptures glorifying brahmans. The joy of the assembled brahmans knew no bounds, because even they did not know that there was so much glori?cation of brahmans in so many different scriptures. But then Shrila Prabhupada started his glori?cation of Vaishnavas, again based on scripture, which far exceeded the glori?cation of brahmans in quality and quantity. This time the brahman pandits were not so pleased. Unable to respond to the evidence presented by Shrila Prabhupada, they started shouting and making a lot of noise. One or two of them desperately tried to present new arguments, but Shrila Prabhupada crushed those also by dint of his scriptural knowledge and irrefutable logic. He personally answered all questions and refuted all arguments by the brahmans, and thus established the superiority of pure devotees over all classes of people.
The Gaura Mantra, 1911
In that same year, at a meeting attended by many devotees and scholars of religion, Shrila Prabhupada established the truth that the Gaura Mantra is eternal and should be chanted by all devotees. He based his conclusions on the evidence of many scriptures, such as the Chaitanyopanishad from the Atharva Veda as well as other Upanishads and Puranas. Thus he crushed the theory that the name Gaura is not an eternal name of the Supreme Lord and that Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was not an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. Unbeknownst to Shrila Prabhupada, his Gurudeva Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji was also present in the audience and was ecstatic to hear his conclusions.
Kashim Bazar Religious Conference, 1912
In March 1912, Shrila Prabhupada was invited by the Maharaja of Kashim Bazar, Calcutta, Shri Manindra Chandra Nandi, to deliver hari-katha at the “Kashim Bazar Sammilani”, an annual religious conference. But when Shrila Prabhupada arrived there, he saw that the organizers were more interested in their mundane concept of religiosity and in pleasing other people than in promoting the concept of pure devotion. To protest against these concepts which were contradictory to pure devotion, Shrila Prabhupada fasted during his entire stay there and accepted prasadam (food that has been offered to the Supreme Lord) only after his return to Shri Mayapur Dham.
Pilgrimage and Preaching, 1912
On November 4th, 1912, Shrila Prabhupada, in the company of a few devotees, set out to visit the holy places where Shriman Mahaprabhu and his associates had their pastimes, such as Shrikhanda, Yajigram, Katwa, Jhamatpur, Chakhandi, Daihat, and so forth, and preached about pure devotion there. In Shridham Mayapur and the surrounding areas, and sometimes in other villages of Bengal and in Calcutta, Shrila Prabhupada constantly preached and answered spiritual questions.
The Printing Press
and the Anubhasya Commentaries, 1913–1915
In 1913, Shrila Prabhupada established a press called “Bhagavat Yantralaya” at 4 Sanagar Lane, Kalighat, Calcutta, and began publishing and printing such books as Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita with his commentaries called Anubhasya, Shrimad Bhagavad-gita with the commentaries of Shri Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakura, the Gaurakrishnodaya by the Odiyan poet Govinda Das, and so forth. In the evenings he would lead sankirtan and afterwards deliver hari-katha. Many distinguished gentlemen of Calcutta would come to listen to him. In 1914 Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura disappeared from this world to enter into the transcendental abode of his eternal pastimes. In January 1915, Shrila Prabhupada moved the printing press to Shri Vrajapattan at Mayapur, and continued publishing and printing books from there. He ?nished his commentaries on Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita on June 14th, 1915.
Editing Sajjan-Toshani, 1915
After the disappearance of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura, his famous and widely distributed Vaishnava magazine, Sajjan Toshani, continued publication under the editorship of Shrila Prabhupada. In July 1915 he moved the Bhagavat Yantra press to the town of Krishnanagar, and began publishing Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura’s books.
Disappearance of His Spiritual Master, 1915
On November 17th, 1915, on the holy day of Utthan Ekadashi, Shrila Prabhupada’s diksha guru, Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji Maharaj, disappeared from this world. Shrila Prabhupada immediately set forth for Navadwip from Mayapur. Shripad Kunjavihari Vidyabhushan (later Shrimad Bhakti Vilas Tirtha Maharaj) has described this incident in the biography of Shrila Prabhupada, Saraswati Jayashri. A few so-called Babajis of Navadwip began arguing with each other about who would give samadhi to the transcendental body of Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji. They all had some ulterior motive, namely to own this samadhi temple themselves so they could make money in the future from devotees and pilgrims. Apprehending a breach of the peace, the Inspector of Police, Shri Barindra Nath Singha, arrived there.
After much argument these Babajis said that Shrila Prabhupada was not a sannyasi and therefore did not have the right to give samadhi to Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji Maharaj. Shrila Prabhupada responded in a thunderous voice, “I am the only disciple of Shrila Babaji Maharaj. Although I am not a sannyasi, I have observed brahmacharya (celibacy) all my life. By the grace of Shrila Babaji Maharaj, I have not lived a secret life of illicit conduct and debauchery, like some ‘monkey’ renunciates. If there is someone among those present here who has a genuinely pure character and who is a renunciate, then he can give samadhi to Shrila Babaji Maharaj and we have no objection to that. If there is anyone here who, in the last one year, or six months, or three months, or one month, or even in the last three days, did not have any illicit contact with a woman, then he can touch this blissful transcendental body. If anyone else touches this body, he will be ruined.”
Hearing this the inspector asked, “What will be the proof of this?” Shrila Prabhupada replied, “I will believe their words.” Everyone present was amazed to see that all the so-called Babajis left the scene, one by one. The Inspector of Police was dumfounded.
Then by the order of Shrila Prabhupada, the Vaishnava devotees with him were fortunate enough to carry the transcendental body of Babaji Maharaj. Some people said, “When Shrila Babaji Maharaj was here, he said, ‘My body should be dragged on the ground of Navadwip so it can be covered by the dust of Navadwip.’ His instruction should be obeyed.”
Then Shrila Prabhupada said, “Even though we are stupid, ignorant, and offensive, we should still be able to understand the signi?cance of these humble words of my Gurudeva, which were spoken to destroy the pride and arrogance of materialistic people. Even Lord Krishna considers Himself fortunate to carry the body of my Gurudeva on His shoulders or head. After the disappearance of Shrila Haridas Thakura, Shri Gaursundar took his blissful body in his own arms and danced; such was the reverence he showed him. Therefore, following in the footsteps of Shriman Mahaprabhu, we shall also carry Shrila Babaji Maharaj’s blissful body on our heads.”
On November 17th, 1915, Shrila Prabhupada gave Samadhi to his Gurudeva, on the Nutan Chara of Navadwip, on the banks of the Ganga. Sixteen years later, the moving currents of the Ganga arrived at that holy place. By his instruction, on August 21st, 1932, some of his disciples from Shri Chaitanya Math, including Shripad Narahari Prabhu and Shripad Vinod Vihari Prabhu (later Shrila Bhakti Prajnan Keshav Maharaj) and others, removed this samadhi by boat across the Ganga from Navadwip to Shri Chaitanya Math, Mayapur.
The Divine Vision of Shrila Prabhupada, 1915
After the disappearance of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura and Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji Maharaj, Shrila Prabhupada was grief-stricken and was feeling the pangs of separation. At that time a wonderful incident took place. Shripad Paramananda Vidyaratna has described this in Saraswati Jayashri:
Shrila Prabhupada was feeling very discouraged in the absence of Shrila Thakura Mahashaya and Shrila Babaji Maharaj, seeing the helpless condition of the spiritual section in the country and the propaganda of the sahajiyas (imitators). He was thinking, “How will I ful?ll the desire of my spiritual masters? How will I be able to preach the message of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu? I do not have enough money or manpower. Nor do I have any knowledge or talent that would enchant the public. I have no material skill or wealth. How can this grave task be performed by me? Perhaps I won’t be able to preach the message of my spiritual masters.”
Thinking all this, Shrila Prabhupada displayed his pastime of gloom and depression. Then one night he saw in a visionary trance that Lord Gaursundar had arrived from the east side of the Yogapith temple with His associates. Amid the sound of sankirtan, He was ascending to His birthsite. With Him were the six goswamis. Shrila Jagannath Das Babaji, Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura, and Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji were also present in their effulgent transcendental forms. Addressing Shrila Prabhupada directly, they said, “Why are you in such a state of anxiety? Begin your task of establishing pure religion. Everywhere preach the message of Shri Gaura and spread the service of the holy name, abode, and desire of Shri Gaura. We are always ready to help you, being eternally present with you. In your mission of establishing pure devotional service, you will always receive our help. Behind you innumerable people, unlimited wealth, and extraordinary scholarship are waiting to help you. Whatever you need at any time will immediately appear to serve your mission of pure devotion. With full enthusiasm, proceed with your preaching of the message of pure devotion as it was preached by Shriman Mahaprabhu. No material problems can impede you. We are always with you.” The next morning Shrila Prabhupada told us about this visionary trance with great ecstasy.
Sannyas and Founding Shri Chaitanya Math, 1918
Even though Shrila Prabhupada was already a great renunciate and an eternally liberated (nitya-siddha) spiritual personality, in order to preach extensively as a travelling mendicant (parivrajak) and to set an example of Daivi-Varnashrama Dharma, he decided to take sannyas in the year 1918. By accepting the saffron cloth he actually took a humble position below his two gurus, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji, who had both accepted the paramahamsa-vesha (the white cloth of a renunciate Vaishnava who has given up varnashrama dharma; sannyas, which requires wearing a saffron cloth, is part of varnashrama dharma). On the full moon day of March 7th, 1918, on the auspicious occasion of the appearance festival of Shriman Mahaprabhu, Shrila Prabhupada took sannyas in Shri Mayapur according to Vedic rites. Early in the morning he shaved his head and then went to bathe in the old Ganga, near Vaman Pukur. Shri Ramgopal Vidyabhushan, Shri Ananta Vasudev Prabhu, Shrikant Dasadhikari (later Shrimad Bhakti Prakash Aranya Maharaj), and a few other devotees accompanied him. On the way Shrila Prabhupada spoke on such topics as the story of Ajamila, the sannyas pastime of Shriman Mahaprabhu, and some verses from the Shrimad Bhagavatam. After bathing he offered his dandavats and returned to Vrajapattan. The devotees had collected and arranged all the necessary paraphernalia there. Shrila Prabhupada went inside the temple and, remembering his Gurudeva, he took tridandi sannyas (the word “tridandi” signi?es the threefold vows of serving the Supreme Lord with body, mind, and soul).
In the meantime all the devotees were waiting outside. Among them were Shripad Paramananda Vidyaratna and Shripad Kunjavihari Vidyabhushan. A big crowd had also assembled to celebrate the appearance festival of Shriman Mahaprabhu. When Shrila Prabhupada emerged as a sannyasi, everyone became very sad, and remembered the sannyas pastime of Shriman Mahaprabhu. Overwhelmed with devotional emotion, they all started crying.
That same day, Shrila Prabhupada established Shri Chaitanya Math and installed the Deities of Shri Shri Guru Gauranga and Shri Shri Radha Govinda there. This Shri Chaitanya Math in Mayapur is the Akar Math (the original or parent math) of all the Gaudiya Maths all over the world. In the afternoon he delivered a lecture about the appearance of Shriman Mahaprabhu to the assembled crowd. The next day he initiated some of the surrendered devotees, such as Shripad Haripada Vidyaratna, Shripad Ananta Vasudev Prabhu, and Shripad Bhakti Prakash Prabhu.
After taking sannyas, Prabhupada displayed his extraordinary pastimes of renunciation and austerity. This was described in the memoir of Shripad Ananta Vasudev Prabhu quoted in Saraswati Jayashri:
Before taking sannyas he used to wear a top garment twenty-four hours a day. No one ever saw his upper body. But after sannyas he would wear a chadar most of the time. He gave up wearing sandals. Walking everywhere without sandals made his feet bleed, but he still would walk without sandals. Seeing his example of great renunciation, we were amazed. During chaturmasya (the four months of the rainy season) he would sleep on the ?oor and would only eat during the day, never after sunset. In the heat of summer in Mayapur he would close his door and chant night and day.
Later that month Shrila Prabhupada gave a very scholarly lecture called “Vaishnava Darshan” (“The Vaishnava Philosophy”) at a literary meeting in the Krishnanagar town hall. In May he took some of his disciples with him to preach in different places. In Daulatpur he stayed in the house of Vanamali Poddar and preached continuously for several days. There he initiated quite a few devotees including Shripad Yashodanandan Prabhu and Shripad Narahari Prabhu.
At this time his disciple Shripad Nayanabhiram Prabhu (later Shrimad Bhakti Vivek Bharati Maharaj) earnestly assisted Shrila Prabhupada with his preaching activities. Shrimad Bharati Maharaj would preach in very simple language and present the Vaishnava concept in a simple, but attractive, way. Shrila Prabhupada engaged Shrimad Bharati Maharaj to speak to the general public. Shrimad Bharati Maharaj would sometimes make them laugh and sometimes make them cry. His preaching captured their hearts and they would come by the thousands to listen to him. He was an expert kirtan singer. Shrila Prabhupada always knew the greatest strength of each of his disciples, and he would engage them accordingly. Before he left this world, he told Shrimad Bharati Maharaj that he was a hard-working and practical person, and should serve the mission.
Shri Kshetra-Mandal Parikrama, 1918
To celebrate the fourth disappearance anniversary of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura, Shrila Prabhupada set forth for Puri Dham on June 2nd, 1918, along with twenty-three other devotees. Before going to Puri Dham, Shrila Prabhupada accepted the invitation of Shripad Kunjavihari Vidyabhushan and went to his residence in Gauribadi Lane, Calcutta, with all the devotees to take prasadam for two days. Shripad Kunjavihari Prabhu was an ordinary impoverished postal employee. But he arranged for a sumptuous feast of many courses for Shrila Prabhupada and his entourage. On his way to Puri Dham Shrila Prabhupada also preached at different places such as Sauri, Kuamara, and so forth. Then he went to Remuna to see the Deity of Kshirachora Gopinath. At a meeting in Baleshwar, he gave a lecture on the Shikshashtak verses of Mahaprabhu. On his way to Puri he became overwhelmed with the mood of separation of Shriman Mahaprabhu. Many distinguished government of?cers and citizens came to listen to his lectures, and some of them invited him to lecture in their homes.
After celebrating the disappearance festival of Shrila BhaktivinodThakura with extensive preaching and sankirtan in Puri, Shrila Prabhupada came back to Calcutta. For a little while he stayed at No. 3 British Indian Street. He delivered lectures there and his disciples used to visit him daily. Sometimes Shripad Kunjavihari Vidyabhushan would cook for Shrila Prabhupada there. During August and September 1918, a representative of a group of opponents of Vaishnavism presented Shrila Prabhupada with twenty-nine questions. He answered all of them on the basis of scripture and logic and thus silenced his opponents. These questions and answers were subsequently published in an article called “The Answers to the Questions of the Critics”. Later Shrila Prabhupada came back to Bhakti Bhavan.
Shri Bhaktivinod Asan
and the Visva-Vaishnava-Raj-Sabha, 1918–1919
In the next few months and years something unprecedented took place. The big city of Calcutta, previously thought by Vaishnavas to be a very unfavorable place, became the center of preaching for Shrila Prabhupada’s mission of pure devotion. It started when his disciple Shripad Kunjavihari Prabhu, who was always burning with fervent enthusiasm to serve Shrila Prabhupada, submitted a new proposal at his lotus feet. One day in Mayapur, he said, “Prabhupada, how many people can come here and listen to your glorious, powerful, and unparalleled message about Shriman Mahaprabhu? On the other hand, people from all over the world come to Calcutta or pass through that city. If we can arrange for a residence for you in Calcutta, faithful people from many places will have the good fortune of listening to you.” Shrila Prabhupada granted this request. Shripad Kunjavihari Prabhu rented a two-story house in November 1918 on No. 1 Ultodingi Junction Road, next to the famous temple of Pareshnath.
That same month Shrila Prabhupada established the spiritual institution called Bhaktivinod Asan there. The temple room and Shrila Prabhupada’s room were upstairs, and three or four devotees, including Shripad Kunjavihari Prabhu, lived downstairs. The rent was Rs. 50 per month. This was beyond the means of an impoverished postal employee. Other devotees staying there tried to help Shripad Kunjavihari Prabhu, but most of the time they also found it dif?cult to come up with that money. But Shripad Kunjavihari Prabhu always went out of his way to supply whatever was necessary to serve his Gurudeva, even if he had to incur a substantial debt in order to do so.
Shrila Prabhupada now started his regular preaching program in the newly established Bhaktivinod Asan. More and more people came to listen to him. On February 5th, 1919, on the auspicious appearance day of Shrimati Vishnupriya Devi, Shrila Prabhupada re-established the Vishva-Vaishnava-Raj-Sabha. He gave a scholarly lecture on the ancient history of this assembly. On June 27th, in Svananda-sukhada-kunja (the Bhajan Kutir of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura), the worshipable deity form of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura was installed.
Preaching in East Bengal, 1919
On October 4th, 1919, Shrila Prabhupada set forth to preach in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) and north Bengal. Right before this natural disasters, a strong hurricane and ?ood, had hit East Bengal. Thousands of people became homeless and many people died. Usually autumn is a season of festivity in Bengal, since during this time of year Bengalis celebrate their Durga Puja festival. But this year grief and loss took the place of festivity in many places. Shrila Prabhupada chose this time to preach his message of pure devotion. He decided that this was the proper time to sing the verse:
tatte ‘nukampam susamikshamano
bhunjana evatmakribham vipakam
hridvag vapubhir vidadhan namaste
jiveta yo muktipade sa dayabhak
—Shrimad Bhagavatam 10.14.8
“My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reaction of his past misdeeds and offering you respectful obeisances with his heart, words, and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.”
Shrila Prabhupada preached in many different towns and villages in East Bengal. Wherever he went, many people came to listen to his lectures. In many places special meetings were arranged where Shrila Prabhupada was requested to speak. Many distinguished gentlemen invited Shrila Prabhupada to their homes to deliver Hari-katha. He led sankirtan processions in different towns and villages. Shrila Prabhupada visited such places as Damurhuda, Kusthia, Pavna, Satberia, Sagarkandi, Belgachi, Rajbadi, Lauhajang, Domsar, Narayanganj, Dacca, Sirajdigha, Kotchandpur, Shripat Maheshpur, and so forth.
Questionnaire for the Kashim Bazar Conference
In April 1920 the religious conference, the “Kashim Bazar Sammilani”, took place in Kummila, East Bengal. The members of the Vishva-Vaishnava-Raj-Sabha were invited to participate in that conference. But when they saw the agenda of that conference, which included the discussion and singing of Lord Krishna’s very intimate pastimes with the gopis, by the order of Shrila Prabhupada they sent a questionnaire to that conference, care of the gentle and humble Maharaja of Kashim Bazar, Shri Manindra Chandra Nandi. Seven questions were posed regarding the propriety of such discussions of the intimate pastimes of Shri Shri Radha-Krishna among conditioned souls. The Maharaja duly presented the questionnaire to the assembled pandits. But no one dared to answer those questions.
Disappearance of Shrimati Bhagavati Devi, 1920
In June 1920 Shrila Prabhupada’s worshipable mother, Shrimati Bhagavati Devi, left this world to enter the abode of her eternal pastimes. Six years earlier on that very day Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura had left this world. For many years, Shrimati Bhagavati Devi had dedicated herself to assist the divine mission of Shrila Prabhupada. Before she left this world, she called Shrila Prabhupada to her bedside and expressed her last desire, that the message and the holy name of Shriman Mahaprabhu be preached all over the world.
Shri Gaudiya Math, 1920
On September 6th, 1920, Shrila Prabhupada founded Shri Gaudiya Math at Bhaktivinod Asan and installed the Deities of Shri Shri Guru Gauranga and Shri Shri Radha Govinda. Shrila Prabhupada s movement gained great momentum immediately after he chartered the Gaudiya Math. Shrila Prabhupada wanted to start a great mission which would propagate Shriman Mahaprabhu s teachings in their purest form. He wanted to preach that the goal of life is to love and serve Krishna, and that the only way for the fallen souls of Kali-yuga to be delivered is to chant the holy name and render unconditional devotional service. He wanted to preach his concept of pure devotion to all classes of people the educated and the uneducated, the rich and the poor, the orthodox brahmans and the young people in?uenced by Western ideas. He wanted hundreds of people to come to his lectures and thousands of people to read the books and magazines published by the Gaudiya Math. In short, he wanted to start a spiritual revolution a seemingly ambitious goal for someone who only had a handful of men to help him and hardly any money to spend. But the Gaudiya Math grew at an amazing speed. People came from all ?elds of life, and most of them were highly educated. Many people came to join his mission with many different talents and skills to contribute scholars, writers, editors, administrators, doctors, engineers, lawyers. Shrila Prabhupada s unique personality and his powerful speeches touched many people s hearts and changed their lives forever. A spiritual revolution was indeed taking place in Bengal.
The devotees of the Gaudiya Math worked very hard to propagate Shrila Prabhupada’s preaching mission. They begged from door to door, worshiped the Deities, performed kirtan inside the temple, and went on nagar-sankirtan on the streets of Calcutta. They also preached at various places, being so instructed by Shrila Prabhupada. In 1920, Shripad Kunjavihari Vidyabhushan Prabhu suddenly left for Basra (in present-day Iraq) to take a temporary position, so that he could pay off the huge debt he had incurred in trying to serve the Gaudiya Math.
On November 1st, 1920, Shrila Prabhupada gave sannyas to Shripad Jagadish Bhaktipradip, who was a disciple of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura. He was the ?rst devotee to receive sannyas from Shrila Prabhupada. Now he was called Shrila Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj.
On March 14th, 1921, Shrila Prabhupada revived Navadwip Dham Parikrama. At the end of March he once more went to preach in Puri Dham. At this time Shrimad Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj published a book called Achar O Acharya (The Spiritual Master and His Conduct), by Shrila Prabhupada. This book introduced revolutionary ideas by criticizing the contemporary practices of those gurus who had turned religion into a money-making profession.
From the 1920’s onward, Shrila Prabhupada’s movement started spreading steadily. Preaching went on continuously not only in Bengal, but in other parts of India. Scholars of every ?eld came to listen to Shrila Prabhupada’s lectures and ask him spiritual questions.
Shri Chaitanya Math, Mayapur, 1920
As Shrila Prabhupada was spending more and more time away from Mayapur while preaching at the Bagbazar Gaudiya Math or going on preaching tours of different places in Bengal, Bihar, and Odissa, in 1920 he decided to establish some of his disciples at Shri Chaitanya Math in Mayapur. He directed two devotees, Shripad Narahari Das Brahmachari and Shripad Vinod-vihari Brahmachari, to take charge of that math.
Gaudiya Math in East Bengal, 1921
In 1921, Shrila Prabhupada preached at different places in Bihar, including Dhanbad, and then returned to East Bengal to preach extensively there. Some of his disciples who were in?uential speakers, such as Shrimad Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj, also delivered many lectures and answered question. In the beginning considerable opposition to Shrila Prabhupada’s outspoken preaching arose. The professional speakers of Shrimad Bhagavatam did their best to launch a powerful campaign to mislead the common people against Shrila Prabhupada’s mission. Initially it worked, when some people refused to open their doors to Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples. But being empowered by his blessings, Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples were very determined to preach. They decided that if there was no food and shelter for them then they would just go hungry and drink the water of the Buriganga river. But they would go on preaching tirelessly. Such determination was rewarded by a renewed interest in Gaudiya Vaishnavism among the spiritually inquisitive. The ground for Shrila Prabhupada’s preaching in East Bengal was made fertile by the advance work of Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples.
When Shrila Prabhupada went to East Bengal, he gave realizations to the inquiring public that were beyond their dreams. For example, Shrila Prabhupada resided in the city of Dacca for one month and gave thirty different interpretations of the following verse from Shrimad Bhagavatam:
om namo bhagavate vasudevaya
janmady asya yato ‘nvayad itaratash
chartheshv abhijnah svarat
tene brahma hrida ya adi-kavaye
muhyanti yat surayah
tejo-vari-mridam yatha vinimayo
yatra tri-sargo ‘mrisha
dhamna svena sada nirasta-kuhakam
satyam param dhimahi
—Shrimad Bhagavatam 1.1.1
“O my Lord, Shri Krishna, son of Vasudeva, O all-pervading Personality of Godhead, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You. I meditate upon Lord Shri Krishna because He is the Absolute Truth and the primeval cause of all causes of the creation, sustenance, and destruction of the manifested universes. He is directly and indirectly conscious of all manifestations, and He is independent because there is no other cause beyond Him. It is only He who ?rst imparted the Vedic knowledge unto the heart of Brahmaji, the original living being. By Him even the great sages and demigods are placed into illusion, as one is bewildered by the illusory representations of water seen in ?re, or land seen on water. Only because of Him do the material universes, temporarily manifested by the reactions of the three modes of nature, appear factual, although they are unreal. I therefore meditate upon Him, Lord Shri Krishna, who is eternally existent in the transcendental abode, which is forever free from the illusory representations of the material world. I meditate upon Him, for He is the Absolute Truth.”
Even great scholars were amazed to hear these interpretations. Many sincere souls took initiation then from Shrila Prabhupada. One of the disciples who came from Dacca was Shripad Sundarananda Vidyavinod, who later became one of the main writers in the preaching mission of the Gaudiya Math.
That same year, Shripad Kunjavihari Vidyabhushan Prabhu returned from Basra and joined Shrila Prabhupada’s preaching mission in Dacca. Shrila Prabhupada had been missing him greatly, and had already made plans to take Shripad Kunjavihari Vidyabhushan Prabhu with him to different places.
On October 13th, 1921, Shrila Prabhupada established the Shri Madhva Gaudiya Math in Dacca, and on October 31st he installed the Deities there. In Faridabad Shrila Prabhupada delivered Harikatha in the house of Shri Saratchandra Bandopadhyay, who was grief-stricken by his son’s death. Hearing Shrila Prabhupada’s hari-katha, he felt relieved and took initiation from him. Later his two daughters, Shrimati Aparana Devi and Sushama Devi, also took initiation from Shrila Prabhupada. Shrimati Aparana Devi was a poet and a writer. She subsequently wrote quite a few articles in the Gaudiya magazine. Much later she translated Shri Rupa Goswami’s Stavamala and Shri Raghunath Das Goswami’s Stavavali into Bengali poetry, which was much appreciated by the Vaishnava devotees.
On his return from Dacca, Shrila Prabhupada renovated some ruined temples and places of pilgrimage from the time of Shriman Mahaprabhu’s pastimes, and reestablished regular worship there. Among them were the famous Gaur-Gadadhar temple in Champahati, the birthsite of Shri Vrindavan Das Thakura, the guesthouse in Modadruma-dwip, etc. In 1933, Shrila Prabhupad put Shripad Satish Prabhu (Shripad Satprasangananda Brahmachari, later Shrimad Nayanananda Babaji Maharaj) in charge of the Gaura-Gadadhar temple in Champahati.
Purusottam Math in Puri, 1922
“Hyutkale Purushottamat”—“From Utkal (Odissa) the concept of pure devotion will spread to the whole world.” To honor this prediction of the scriptures, Shrila Prabhupada founded the Purushottam Math in Puri in June 1922. Following in the footsteps of Shriman Mahaprabhu, he participated in the pastime of cleansing the Gundicha temple and in parikrama of Puri Dham along with his disciples. He sent his disciples to preach in various parts of Odissa.
Publication of the Gaudiya Magazine, 1922
On August 19th, 1922, Shrila Prabhupada began publishing a magazine called Gaudiya from the Krishnanagar Bhagavat Press, which would become the most famous and widely distributed spiritual Bengali magazine and one of the chief instruments of Shrila Prabhupada’s preaching mission. In its ?rst year the magazine was jointly edited by Shripad Atulchandra Bandopadhyay Bhaktisaranga (Shripad Aprakrita Prabhu—later Shrimad Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj) and Shripad Haripada Vidyaratna(later Shrimad Bhakti Sadhak Nishkinchan Maharaj). In its second year Shripad Sundarananda Vidyavinod became assistant editor. Subsequently Shripad Bhaktisaranga was editor-in-chief, Shripad Sundarananda Vidyavinod was editor, and Shripad Haripada Vidyaratna was assistant editor. From 1930 onward, Shripad Pranavananda Brahmachari (later Shrimad Bhakti Pramod Puri Maharaj) became joint editor of Gaudiya.
In each issue of Gaudiya there was an editorial; sometimes there would be an article by Shrila Prabhupada or an article based on his lectures. All together each issue would comprise three or four articles, short paragraphs on current topics and recent events or information on upcoming events, and a column of questions and answers. Sometimes there would be a poem, or a story of Mahaprabhu’s childhood pastimes written for children.
For a few years, Shripad Sundarananda Vidyavinod was posted in Dacca as a teacher in a high school there. But he used to send one or two articles every week. Shripad Pranavananda Prabhu also used to write articles, and would proofread the whole magazine. Shrila Prabhupada trusted him with the proofreading because he would work very hard and frequently stay up all night to make the text free from errors. The result was a perfect production every week. Devotees used to distribute Gaudiya with great enthusiasm. One devotee from Shri Chaitanya Math in Mayapur, Shripad Satyen Brahmachari (later Shrimad Bhakti Nilaya Giri Maharaj) used to take the ?rst train to Calcutta every morning to sell and distribute Gaudiya. The philosophical and literary standard of Gaudiya was unsurpassed.
Dr. Dinesh Chandra Sen, Professor of Bengali literature at the University of Calcutta, was a well-known scholar and writer. Some of his books, such as Ramayani Katha (Topics of the Ramayan) were prescribed textbooks for the students of Bengali literature. The editor of Gaudiya wrote an article criticizing some of his ideas. When Dr. Dinesh Sen read that article, he was so impressed by its literary standard that he wrote a letter of praise to the writer. That letter was kept in the archives of the Gaudiya Math. But more importantly, Gaudiya helped to keep the ?re of devotional inspiration burning in the hearts of many Bengalis, when another big ?re was burning in the heart of Bengal and the rest of India.
Gaudiya Math and the Freedom Movement of the 1920’s
That other ?re that was burning in the hearts of the masses of India was the desire for freedom. On one hand was Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent movement for freedom. On the other hand was the more radical guerrilla group. There were little pockets of guerrilla resistance everywhere in India. The British government, which was very reluctant to give up India, “the jewel of the crown of the British empire”, was equally intimidated by both groups.
In Bengal one of the groups of guerilla freedom ?ghters was called the “Anushilan Samiti” (Organization for the Cultivation of Freedom). Actually, “anushilan” means cultivation, but what was to be cultivated was not speci?ed, for obvious reasons. Hundreds and thousands of young, educated and talented men, with the support of their mothers, sisters, and wives, gave up their education, family life, and profession, and risked their lives to join one of these two movements: Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent movement or the guerrilla movement. If there was one desire that was shared by the whole nation, it was the desire for freedom from the British.
But Shrila Prabhupada wanted to preach about another kind of freedom which transcends any freedom of the mundane world: the freedom of the soul. While nationalistic leaders were preaching that it is the birthright of a nation to have freedom and sovereignty, Shrila Prabhupada was preaching that it is the birthright of every soul to seek freedom from material bondage and ?nd its rightful place in the realm of eternity. The nationalistic leaders would argue that that could wait, but Shrila Prabhupada insisted that one should not waste one minute while reaching for the supreme goal of human life, because it can end at any moment.
Shrila Prabhupada said, “First of all we have to know who we are. After that it will become very easy to ?nd out what is our foremost duty. The only path to our eternal welfare is to serve the Lord and have His grace. The human birth is the root of devotional service. It is not possible to render devotional service in animal life.…We all have to become free. But the state of freedom is nothing other than the state of cultivating Krishna consciousness with the support of all our senses, being ?xed in our real identity.” (Upadeshamrita pp. 462–463)
As one can imagine, it is easier to arouse the oppressed masses to seek political freedom than to arouse the soul to look for its eternal prospect. Yet many young men gave up the nationalistic movement and came to Shrila Prabhupada’s spiritual movement.
Shripad Vinod Vihari Prabhu was formerly a member of the secret organization called the Anushilan Samiti. He gave up his af?liation with it and joined Shrila Prabhupada’s movement, and so did a few others. But the British police remained very suspicious of their activities. So they sent undercover agents to the Gaudiya Math to spy on the activities of its members. One such undercover agent listened to Shrila Prabhupada’s lectures with rapt attention, and gave up his profession to become Shrila Prabhupada’s disciple. Before begging for Shrila Prabhupada’s mercy, he disclosed that he had come as a spy. He became Shripad Gaurendu Brahmachari (later Shrimad Bhakti Vardhan Sagar Maharaj).
After this incident, in 1924 or 1925, another very learned gentleman, Shri Ramendra Chandra Bhattacharya, who was not known to any of the devotees, began coming to the math regularly. He would silently listen to Shrila Prabhupada’s lectures with rapt attention. One day Shripad Pranavananda Brahmachari was giving a lecture when he arrived. One devotee, Shripad Kirtanananda Brahmachari, cautioned Shripad Pranavananda Prabhu about this gentleman. He said, “I have noticed that he does not ask anything, but listens to every word with rapt attention. He must be an undercover spy.”
Shripad Kirtanananda Prabhu started keeping an eye on this gentleman. But it so happened that very soon Shri Ramendra Chandra Bhatöacharya attracted Shrila Prabhupada’s attention. It was discovered that he was no spy, but in fact was formerly in Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom movement. Shrila Prabhupada gave him initiation, and later named him Shri Ramananda Das Brahmachari. Within a few years he gave him sannyas, naming him Shrimad Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Dev Goswami Maharaj. Shrila Prabhupada was very fond of him, and so were his other disciples. Shrimad Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Maharaj was known for his extraordinary scholarship, his poetic talent, his powerful preaching, his saintly character, and his wholehearted dedication to serving his Gurudeva.
Many distinguished citizens of Calcutta admired Shrila Prabhupada’s unprecedented and extraordinary contribution to the Vaishnava movement of Bengal. But not everyone shared their sentiment. The famous Bengali leader of the freedom movement, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, complained to Shrila Prabhupada that he was diverting the attention of the youth from the freedom movement to his devotional mission. Shrila Prabhupada appeased him by saying, “These men are not so physically strong. They will not be of much use to you.” Of course, he did not think that Netaji would be interested in the concept of spiritual freedom at that moment.
The Acharya Who Could Inspire And Engage
Freedom ?ghters or not, intelligent and spiritually inquisitive young men were coming to Shrila Prabhupada, giving up their family ties and material prospects. To cite only one example: Before he took initiation, Shripad Pranavananda Brahmachari used to go to Shri Gaudiya Maöh every day after work. One day, just as he was about to leave for Shri Gaudiya Maöh, he was stung by a scorpion hidden in his shoe. Two days previously a man had died from a scorpion’s sting. Although Shripad Pranavananda Brahmachari was bleeding profusely, and the blood was blackish with venom, he told his weeping mother he was all right and set forth for Shri Gaudiya Maöh as if nothing had happened. There he listened to Shrila Prabhupada’s lecture, and although the intense pain continued throughout that evening and the rest of the night, his mind was on Shrila Prabhupada’s words, not on his pain. When his Godbrothers refer to this incident, he says, “That was my time of navanurag [the ?rst stage of love, when any separation seems risky and unbearable].”
Shrila Prabhupada’s transcendental personality was extremely attractive, and his powerful preaching could plant the seed of divine love in one’s heart—with tangible results. The proof of this was to be found in the atmosphere of the Gaudiya Maöh, which was always lively with the sights and sounds of uninterrupted, wholehearted devotional service. Shrimad Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Maharaj said in his memoir, “When I went there again, I saw many things that touched me. Shrila Prabhupada was delivering a lecture to so many gentlemen—educated persons. In another place the elderly Shripad Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj was giving a lecture. Elsewhere Shripad Bhakti Swarup Parvat Maharaj was found writing receipts, collecting funds from the people. It was a hive of activity. I felt a transcendental happy atmosphere there.”
At the center of this transcendentally happy hive of activity was the Acharya who was known to be “softer than a ?ower and harder than a thunderbolt”. Nothing escaped Shrila Prabhupada’s keen eyes. His affection for his disciples was also all-encompassing. Shrila Prabhupada would personally supervise the distribution of prasadam to his disciples; he would stand there and make sure everyone ate well. When his disciples’ family members came to visit, he would personally welcome them, make them comfortable, and spend considerable time with them.
Shrila Prabhupada’s deep humility was re?ected in his thoughts, words, and actions. He called his disciples “Prabhu” (“master”). He never asked any of them to do anything for him, personally. Yet each of them was eager to render some service to him, for he was their supremely worshipable lord (“Paramaradhya Shrila Prabhupada”). Not only was he worshipable to them, but so was anyone who served him with total dedication. Because Shripad Kunjavihari Vidyabhushan had a long history of selfless dedicated service to Shrila Prabhupada, the brahmacharis staying at the maöh would stand in line to eat his remnants (a traditional Vaishnava devotional practice), in the hope that it would give them Guru-seva-kunja (the grove of devotional service to Gurudeva—kunja means “grove”).
Shri Vraja-Mandal, Shri Chaitanya Math, and Puri Dham, 1922–1923
On September 28th, 1922, Shrila Prabhupada went to Vraja-mandal (Mathura and Vrindavan) with the goal of establishing centers for preaching the pure devotional concept of Shriman Mahaprabhu as preached by Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji and Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura. Later he went back to Dacca, East Bengal, to preach there again. Then he went to Kuliya, Navadwip, and S?aotal Pargana (in Bihar).
On March 2nd, 1923, on Gaura-Purnima day, construction of the new temple of Shri Chaitanya Maöh in Mayapur began. As per Shrila Prabhupada’s plan, the Deities on the main altar were Shri Shri Guru Gauranga and Shri Shri Radha Govinda, and outside on the four sides were altars to Shri, Brahma, Rudra, and Chatuh-Sana, as well as the four acharyas of the four Vaishnava sampradayas, Shri Ramanujacharya, Shri Madhvacharya, Shri Vishnuswami, and Shri Nimbarkacharya.
Later Shrila Prabhupada went to Puri Dham with many devotees for Shri Jagannath’s Ratha-yatra (chariot festival), and following in the footsteps of Shriman Mahaprabhu, he sang and danced in front of the chariot of Shri Jagannath in the mood of separation. Later he lectured to a huge crowd consisting of many distinguished gentlemen from Calcutta. He also sent some disciples to preach in Odissa and Madras.
Publication of Scriptural Texts, 1923
In 1923 Shrila Prabhupada started printing Shrimad Bhagavatam at the Calcutta Gaudiya Printing Works. Eventually all twelve cantos were published, with summaries of each chapter and various commentaries.
The First Vyasa-Puja, 1924
On February 24th, 1924, the ?ftieth birth anniversary of Shrila Prabhupada, his disciples celebrated his Vyasa-puja for the ?rst time. In response to their homage, Shrila Prabhupada gave a speech. That speech is regarded as a jewel in Vaishnava literature. In it he addressed his disciples as “amar vipad-taran bandhu-gan” (“my friends who rescue me from danger”).
The same year, during Gaura-Purnima, the ?rst edition of Shri Chaitanya Bhagavat, by Shri Vrindavan Das Thakura, was edited by Shrila Prabhupada and published by Shri Madhva-Gaudiya Maöh, Dacca. In July, Shrila Prabhupada established Tridandi Maöh in Odissa. Later he established the Saraswat-Asan in Shri Gaudiya Maöh, a devotional school in which the devotees could study scripture and study and distribute Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura’s books. In October, he went to Dacca for the ?fth time. There he gave an erudite lecture about Shri Madhva-Gaudiya sampradaya and its concept of Vaishnavism. On December 16th, he gave a lecture at the Benares Hindu University on “The Place of Vaishnavism in the World of Religion”. This lecture was very much appreciated by such distinguished professors of Oriental Studies as Prof. Pramathnath Tarkabhushan and Prof. Phanibhushan Adhikari. He searched for the places in Benares that were visited by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Later he indicated to his disciples the location of the Dasashvamedha Ghaö in Prayag where Shriman Mahaprabhu instructed Shri Rupa Goswami. He went to preach in the village of Adail, which had previously been visited by Shriman Mahaprabhu.
Two of Shrila Prabhupada’s brahmachari disciples, Shripad Pranavananda Brahmachari (later Shrimad Bhakti Pramod Puri Maharaj) and Shripad Nandasunu Brahmachari (later Shrimad Bhakti Hriday Ban Maharaj), visited one of Shrila Prabhupada’s grihastha disciples, Shripad Vaikunöhanath Dasadhikari, for a few days, to attend a preaching program in his house. During this time, Shripad Vaikunöhanath Prabhu’s eleven-year-old son would always stay close to the brahmacharis, listening avidly to their spiritual discussions. He seemed to have a voracious appetite for devotional topics. So the brahmacharis told his father, “Your son is very extraordinary. Unlike other children of his age, he is not so interested in playing as in listening to hari-katha.” Shripad Vaikunöhanath Prabhu said, “This is how he has always been. Would you like to take my son to the maöh?” The brahmacharis answered, “We would love to have a boy like this in our mission.”
So the parents decided to send their son to the maöh with the brahmacharis. Even though the boy was the beloved child of a wealthy landholder, he was very happy at the prospect of a life in the maöh. When the time came for the brahmacharis to leave, the parents did not deviate from their decision. Referring to this incident, later the brahmacharis said it reminded them of how little Dhruva Maharaj was dressed by his own mother as she bade him go to the forest to meditate on Shri Krishna.
Shrila Prabhupada became very fond of this boy (who later became Shrimad Bhakti Kumud Santa Maharaj). He sent him to school, but he himself also tutored him. Later Shrimad Santa Maharaj became known for his powerful preaching.
Devotees Attacked: Gaura-mandal Parikrama, 1925
On January 29th, 1925, Shrila Prabhupada took many devotees and went on a parikrama of the whole Gaura-mandal to visit and preach at the various places where the pastimes of Shriman Mahaprabhu and his associates took place. Everywhere Shrila Prabhupada preached about the pure devotional concept of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. The imitators of Gaudiya Vaishnavism (the Sahajiyas) and the commercial exploiters of the Vaishnava concept were intimidated by Shrila Prabhupada’s powerful preaching and his ever-increasing following. That year, in Navadwip, they made plans to launch a vicious attack on the sankirtan party.
Hundreds and thousands of devotees assembled at Podamatala, Navadwip, for preaching and sankirtan. Their Lordships Shri Shri Radha Govinda were placed on the back of a decorated elephant and were guarded by two devotees. Sannyasis were giving lectures and many people assembled to listen to the Hari-katha. Unbeknownst to them, some carriages which had been ?lled with broken bricks and draped with cloth were waiting nearby.
Suddenly the thugs started throwing these broken bricks at the assembled devotees. Shripad Sundarananda Vidyavinod, who was on the elephant, immediately guided the elephant away from the scene, to protect Their Lordships. The devotees ?rst tried to appease the thugs by reasoning with them, but this didn’t work. Many of the devotees were wounded and began bleeding. All of them tried to look for shelter in the nearby homes, especially for Shrila Prabhupada. But all the nearby homeowners had been ordered beforehand not to open their doors. They were also afraid that they too would be attacked by the thugs. Amidst the shock and confusion, somehow Shripad Vinod Vihari Brahmachari managed to take Shrila Prabhupada inside a house. There he exchanged his white clothes with Shrila Prabhupada’s saffron clothes so Shrila Prabhupada wouldn’t be recognized. Then he very quickly took Shrila Prabhupada away to a safer place. Thus Shripad Vinod Vihari Prabhu managed to protect his spiritual master by his extraordinary dexterity and presence of mind. He risked his own life in order to do so.
Some of those present were completely shocked, and one local resident wrote in the Ananda Bazar Patrika of Calcutta, “I witnessed the reenaction of what Jagai and Madhai did to Shrila Nityananda Prabhu more than four hundred years ago.” All over Bengal, many distinguished people protested in magazines and newspapers against this incident. As a result the Chief Inspector of Police of Navadwip was ?red, and the next year the police department sent 36 police of?cers to escort the devotees on parikrama in Navadwip.
Shrila Prabhupada’s Concern for Women Devotees
On September 21st, 1925, Shrila Prabhupada gave a long lecture to the devotees assembled at the Gaudiya Maöh about how to lead an exemplary devotional life. An excerpt from that lecture follows:
All of you please perceive everything of this world as ingredients for serving Krishna; everything of this world is actually meant for Krishna’s service. Please see the whole race of women as beloved consorts of Krishna, and help them to always engage themselves in the service of Krishna. Please do not consider them as objects of your sense enjoyment. They are to be enjoyed by Krishna; they are never to be enjoyed by the living entities. Please do not see your fathers and mothers as a means to your own sense grati?cation, but see them as Krishna’s fathers and mothers. Please do not see your sons as a means to your own sense grati?cation, but see them as belonging to the group of servitors of Bala-Gopal. With your eyes please see the kadamba tree, the river Yamuna and its sandy bank, and the beauty of the full moon. You won’t have any more mundane feelings; you will see Goloka, and the beauty of Goloka will be manifest in your home. Then you won’t have any material feelings for your home. You will be relieved from the propensities of householder life.
Our maöhs are being built at many places, and many sannyasis, vanaprasthas, grihasthas, and brahmacharis are living there all the time and receiving the opportunity to learn spiritual conduct. But we have been trying for a long time to also give the mothers [women] the opportunity for devotional service. Of course, those who have the facility and opportunity for devotional service in their own homes do not need a separate residence. But very often we hear that many of them get impeded in their devotional service due to bad association. It will be very bene?cial for them if we can build Shri Vishnupriya-palli [”palli” means “neighborhood”] in Shridham Mayapur near the residence of Shriman Mahaprabhu, and if they can live there separately from their families and render devotional service. They actually belong to the group of Shri Vishnupriya Devi [the wife of Shriman Mahaprabhu, who was left behind in Navadwip when He took sannyas]. Therefore it is proper for them to live in the house of Shriman Mahaprabhu and to serve Him under the shelter of Shri Vishnupriya Devi. There should not be any bad association or mundane male association for them there. Only a few devotees like Ishan [the old devotee servant who took care of Shri Shachidevi and Shri Vishnupriya Devi after Shriman Mahaprabhu left] would stay at a distance and take care of them. It is necessary to have such an exemplary neighborhood so that the mothers [women] can read scripture every day, discuss devotional topics with each other, and have ishöa-goshöhi about devotional topics, so they can give up all luxury and live an exemplary, saintly life and always chant the holy name and take care of the ingredients of Shriman Mahaprabhu’s service and serve him in every way.
—Saraswati Jayashri, p. 339
Festival of Shri Nityananda, Preaching,
and Publication of Nadiya Prakash, 1926
In 1926, Shrila Prabhupada held nama-sankirtan for three days to celebrate the appearance day of Shri Nityananda Prabhu. Thereafter this became an annual tradition.
One of Shrila Prabhupada’s dear disciples, Shripad Bhagavat Janananda Das Brahmachari, had disappeared the year before. In April 1926, Shrila Prabhupada established a maöh in Chiruliya in his memory and named it “Bhagavat Janananda Maöh”. Then he preached at different places in Bengal and sent his sannyasi preachers to different places in Bengal, Bihar, Odissa, and northern and western India. He himself also travelled all over India to preach the message of Shriman Mahaprabhu, to have discussions with scholars of religion, and to collect facts about the religious traditions of India.
Shrila Prabhupada also established the Paramahamsa Maöh in Naimisharanya, and he established Paravidyapiö in Shri Mayapur. He installed the Deities of the Acharya and Their Lordships Shri Shri Radha-Govinda in the newly built temple of Shri Chaitanya Maöh.
In October 1926, Shrila Prabhupada began publishing a new weekly spiritual magazine, Nadiya Prakash, in both Bengali and English, at Shri Bhagavat Press, Krishnanagar. The joint editors of Nadiya Prakas were Pandit Shripad Pramod Bhushan Chakravarti (Shripad Pranavananda Brahmachari) and Pandit Shriyukta Chandicharan Mukhopadhyay. In its second year, Shrila Prabhupada turned it into a daily spiritual newspaper. From this time to its fourth year, Shripad Pranavananda Brahmachari was its editor. Then in 1930 Shrila Prabhupada made Shripad Pranavananda Brahmachari joint editor of Gaudiya, so Shripad Atindanath Bandyopadhyay and Shri Krishnakanti Brahmachari (later Shrimad Bhakti Kusum Sraman Maharaj) became joint editors of Nadiya Prakash.
Travelling All Over India
and Publishing The Harmonist Magazine, 1927
On June 15th, 1927, Shrila Prabhupada started publishing Sajjan Toshani in English, Sanskrit, and Hindi. The English version was called The Harmonist. Its editor, Professor Nishikanta Sannyal (Shripad Narayandas Bhaktisudhakar) of Ravenshaw College, Cuttack was a learned scholar and a talented writer. Shrila Prabhupada was extremely fond of him. Shripad Bhaktisudhakar Prabhu used to offer his entire salary to Shrila Prabhupada each month. Shrila Prabhupada would then give it to Shripad Narahari Prabhu and tell him, “Now you manage your household [Shri Chaitanya Maöh, Mayapur] with this.”
Under the expert editorship of Shripad Bhaktisudhakar Prabhu, The Harmonist enjoyed the same fame and popularity as Gaudiya. Shrila Prabhupada considered Shripad Bhaktisudhakar Prabhu a strong pillar of his preaching mission, and before he left this world he expressed his gratitude to him. Many devotees who were pro?cient in English, such as Shrimad Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Hriday Ban Maharaj, and Shrimad Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj, regularly contributed to The Harmonist. The British editor of a British-run newspaper of Calcutta sent a letter of appreciation to the editor of The Harmonist.
The following letter appeared in Gaudiya, Vol. 14, No. 24, p. 383:
The Biosophical Institute
250 West 100th Street
New York City
December 10, 1935
Since we have been receiving your magazine The Harmonist, each issue has given us new joy and inspiration. The spirit pervading the whole magazine is a most unusual one.
Sd/ Sylvia Goodwin,
Secretary to Dr. F. Kettner
In September 1927, Shrila Prabhupada set forth to preach in North India in different places. Among them were Kashi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Jaipur, Galataparvat, Salimabad, Pushkar, Ajmid, Dwarka, Sudamapuri, Girnar Parvat, Prabhas, Avanti, Mathura-mandal, Indraprastha, Kurukshetra, and Naimisharanya.
Preaching, Kurukshetra, Shri Chaitanya Padapith, 1928–1929
In 1928, Shrila Prabhupada edited the fourth edition of Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita. He went to preach in different places of Assam. On November 4th, during the solar eclipse, he went to Kurukshetra and, following the mood of separation of the gopis and Shriman Mahaprabhu, he preached the message of Shriman Mahaprabhu to millions of devotees who assembled there. At that time he installed a Deity of Shriman Mahaprabhu at Shri Vyasa Gaudiya Maöh in Kurukshetra and opened a spiritual exhibition (“Bhagavat Pradarshani”) there. He gave Shrimad Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Maharaj responsibility for the Kurukshetra maöh.
In 1929, Shrila Prabhupada established the Ekayan Maöh in Krishnanagar. In January he discussed Vaishnava religion extensively with Professor Albert E. Suthers of Ohio State University. Shrila Prabhupada presented the concept of Vaishnavism as extended and perfect Christianity. At ?rst Professor Suthers was very skeptical and argumentative, but after long discussions he was very impressed by Shrila Prabhupada’s deep, scholarly, and logical presentation. As a result he decided to visit Shriman Mahaprabhu’s birthsite before he left. Later Shrila Prabhupada established a Gaudiya Maöh in Delhi.
Shrila Prabhupada wanted to establish all the sites which Shriman Mahaprabhu had visited as places of pilgrimage. He called them “Shri Chaitanya Padapiöh” and selected 108 such places. He began this task in October 1929 and established the ?rst two sites at Kanair Naöshala and Mandar. Later that year he preached extensively in Bihar, in such places as Bhagalpur, Nalanda, and Rajgiri. Subsequently he went to Benares and interpreted Shri Sanatan-Shiksha (Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s instruction to Shri Sanatan Goswami). Then Shrila Prabhupada set forth once more on his North Indian preaching mission, and visited such places as Faijabad, Ayodhya, Naimisharanya, Karauna, Mishrik, Sitapur, and Lucknow. Throughout North India, many people took initiation from him.
On June 1st, 1929, the first post of?ce had opened in Mayapur. At this time, Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples had arranged to have electricity at Ishodyan and electric lights on the domes of Shri Chaitanya Maöh.
The Mayapur Exhibition, 1930
On February 3rd, 1930, Shrila Prabhupada arranged a spectacular spiritual exhibition at Mayapur, which went on until March 17th. The famous chemist, Sir Prafulla Chandra Ray, opened the exhibition. Thousands ?ocked to see the exhibition, which contained many stalls depicting stories and lessons from Shrimad Bhagavatam through dioramas and paintings.
Shri Jagabandhu Datta, a rich businessman of Calcutta (originally from Banaripada, Barishal), had the good fortune of associating with some of Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples. He was an experienced and prudent man in many ways, and he watched the activities and conduct of the devotees at the Gaudiya Maöh with a keen eye. Previously he had seen and heard so-called devotees concocting their own philosophy to gratify their senses. Within a short time, he realized this was not the case here. Even though he was wealthy and successful, in the late 1920’s he was overwhelmed with physical and emotional problems. He wanted some relief from his material miseries, and he came to visit Shrila Prabhupada.
Shrila Prabhupada was very merciful to him and spent many hours with him, speaking hari-katha and explaining many things. Shri Jagabandhu Datta was extremely impressed by Shrila Prabhupada’s explanations. He began to have a clear concept of Shriman Mahaprabhu’s message of pure devotion. He said of Shrila Prabhupada, “What I have heard from him, I have not heard from anyone else.” Sometimes he would invite Shrila Prabhupada to his home to deliver Hari-katha to his friends and relatives. Following is an excerpt from one of Shrila Prabhupada’s lectures at Shri Jagabandhu Datta’s house:
Shri Gaursundar lived in his own house in Navadwip only to arouse the devotional consciousness of the people who were attached to their family life. Again when he displayed his pastime of leaving home, that was also to enlighten the ignorant souls. He told his mother and his wife, ‘Know Krishna as your only son and husband.’ Leaving his mother grieving for her son, and his helpless young wife grieving for her husband, he set forth for the eternal welfare of the poor, miserable, and fallen souls of the world. Giving up all his material duty and the vows he had taken at his wedding, he went for krishna-kirtan.
Shriman Mahaprabhu’s sannyas-lila, departing from his household life, was not the same as Shakyasimha’s [Gautama Buddha’s] departure from his house, as Shakyasimha was motivated by the sel?sh desire to attain liberation for himself. Shriman Mahaprabhu displayed his pastime of sannyas only to eradicate the eternal poverty of all created beings and to give them an eternal and unequalled gift. He himself was not lacking in anything. He is the only husband of the eternal race of women; He is the only son of the eternal mothers and fathers; He is the eternal friend and master of His servants.
It is not that Shriman Mahaprabhu’s magnanimous gift will remain con?ned within the perimeters of Bengal; nor is it due only to those who are born in brahman families. People of all races—irrespective of whether they are sinful or pious, Hindus or non-Hindus; indeed, all the living entities of the whole world—can accept this magnanimous gift, which was never offered before, if they can give up their pride.
—Saraswati Jayashri, p. 356
The Bagbazar Gaudiya Math, 1930
Shri Jagabandhu Datta begged Shrila Prabhupada to give him initiation, and Shrila Prabhupada granted his request, giving him the name “Jagabandhu Bhaktiranjan”. Shripad Bhaktiranjan Prabhu had no children to inherit his wealth, and he wanted to offer his wealth to serve Shrila Prabhupada’s mission. He wanted a speci?c service in which his wealth could be utilized, and he begged Shrila Prabhupada to give him that service. Shrila Prabhupada had been thinking of having a bigger building in Calcutta, where more devotees could stay and more people could come to attend lectures and sankirtan. He also wanted to have a printing press on the premises. So he expressed this desire to Shripad Bhaktiranjan Prabhu.
Shripad Bhaktiranjan Prabhu was ecstatic to have the opportunity to ?nance the new Gaudiya Maöh temple. This service became his life and soul. He bought a sizeable piece of land in the heart of Calcutta. It was located near the Ganga, on Kaliprasad Chakravarti Street in Bagbazar. Within two years construction of the new temple was ?nished. It was a beautiful, palatial marble temple, with many rooms, a conference hall, a library, large kitchens, and a hall for the printing press.
On October 5th, 1930, Their Lordships Shri Shri Guru Gauranga Gandharvika Giridhari were taken on a chariot from the Gaudiya Maöh at No. 1 Ulöodingi Junction Road to the new Bagbazar Gaudiya Maöh. A big sankirtan procession escorted Their Lordships all the way. A large crowd followed the procession. It was a major event in Calcutta. It was described thus in Gaudiya:
The city of Calcutta has been overwhelmed with joy today. Everyone forgot their daily tasks of earning their livelihood. When the tumultuous sound of kirtan was heard on the streets of Calcutta, all the people, attracted by that sound, left whatever they were doing and came running into the street. The devotees following the chariot, headed by the sannyasis, were singing a special song composed [by Shrila Prabhupada] for this occasion, “pujala raga patha gorava bhange, matala harijana vishaya range”.
—Gaudiya, Volume 9, No. 8
The gist of the song was as follows: “Today, the servants of Hari have become intoxicated by the joy of his divine pastime. They worshiped with great reverence the street on which He rode His chariot.”
So many people came to the Gaudiya Maöh that day that as people went up the stairs, the iron banister was bent by the pressure of the crowd. Great festivities took place following the Deity installation, arati, Hari-katha, and prasadam. Thousands of destitute people were also fed sumptuous prasadam that day. Shrila Prabhupada said in his hari-katha:
Now we have only procured a seat [for Hari-katha]. We have built a castle to preach about the Lord by spending someone’s entire savings of a lifetime. But we have to protect ourselves in this castle from the association of materialistic people; we have to defend ourselves from the confusion of this age of Kali (the age of quarrel and hypocrisy). So we have to publish and distribute many more books. Only if we can construct the temple in the form of books and in the form of ideal lives can the idea of devotional service remain permanently in this world.
In the Bagbazar Gaudiya Maöh, Shrila Prabhupada’s preaching mission gained new momentum. More devotees were staying at the maöh now, and more people were coming to listen to hari-katha. The professors and students from prestigious nearby colleges, such as Scottish Church College and Presidency College, were coming to listen to Shrila Prabhupada’s lectures. Shrila Prabhupada had a core group of eighteen sannyasis for preaching and organizing. The sannyasis were always travelling and preaching, and they only stayed at the maöh for a few days at a time while en route to their next destination.
Shortly after the construction of the Gaudiya Maöh temple, on November 19th, Shripad Jagabandhu Bhaktiranjan left this material world. Shrila Prabhupada was deeply saddened by the departure of his dear disciple. By his instruction, every year the Gaudiya Maöh would celebrate the disappearance day of Shripad Jagabandhu Bhaktiranjan Prabhu, and the Gaudiya would publish a special issue dedicated to his memory. As long as Shrila Prabhupada lived in this mortal world, he glori?ed Shripad Jagabandhu Prabhu with great affection in many of his letters, speeches, and articles.
Before he left this world, Shripad Jagabandhu Prabhu wrote a poem to Shrila Prabhupada. The translation of that poem is as follows: “What can I give you Gurudeva? The wealth I can give you is yours. You are my treasure and I belong to you. By giving you your property I have nothing to lose. You knew about the sadness in my heart, who else could I talk to? By giving you what belongs to you, I become yours. Jagabandhu dasa says, ‘O you who are the land of nectar personi?ed, you have everything. All I have is you.’”
South India, 1930
In December 1930, Shrila Prabhupada went on a preaching mission in South India. Among the places he visited were Kurmakshetra, Simhachal, Kabhur, and Mangalgiri. He established Shri Chaitanya Pada-piöh at Mangalgiri. Many distinguished high of?icials, scholars, and professionals were attracted to the message of Shriman Mahaprabhu as preached by Shrila Prabhupada.
Emphasis On Book Publication
Shrila Prabhupada called his printing press Brihat Mridanga (the big clay drum). During sankirtan the sound of the ordinary clay drum (mridanga) can be heard only in the immediate vicinity. But the divine message of Shriman Mahaprabhu can be spread all over the world through the publication of books.
At the opening ceremony of the Bagbazar Gaudiya Maöh, Shrila Prabhupada said, “…to establish internal hari-bhajan in this world quite a few books have to be written and published. The temple which is within the books and the temple which is within the devotees are more important than the temple built with bricks and stones, because by constructing such temples hari-katha can be preached in this world much longer.”
Shrila Prabhupada had among his disciples a very talented team of writers and editors, who dedicated their lives to his publication mission. Among them were: Shripad Sundarananda Vidyavinod, Shripad Paramananda Vidyaratna, Shripad Bhaktisudhakar Prabhu (Professor Nishikant Sannyal), Shrimad Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj, and Shripad Pranavananda Pratnavidyalankar (later Shrimad Bhakti Pramod Puri Maharaj).
After the disappearance of Shrila Prabhupada another name would be added to this list, that of Shrila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, who published beautifully designed English translations of Bhagavad-gita (as Bhagavad-gita As It Is), Shrimad Bhagavatam, Shri Bhakti-rasamrita sindhu (as Nectar of Devotion), and Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita. These books would capture the hearts of thousands of people all over the world.
The printing presses of the Gaudiya Maöh were busy night and day printing books, magazines, and pamphlets. It is not possible within the narrow scope of this chapter to list all the books published by the Gaudiya Maöh.
The Bhaktivinod Institute and the Sat-Shiksha Exhibition, 1931
On April 3rd, 1931, Shrila Prabhupada opened a new high school in Shridham Mayapur, called the Bhaktivinod Institute. At a large assembly there he gave a lecture about material education and spiritual knowledge. Later he went to preach at the resort of Darjeeling in north Bengal, in the foothills of the Himalayas. On September 6th, during the celebration of the Gaudiya Maöh’s anniversary, Shrila Prabhupada opened a big exhibition in Calcutta, the Sat-Shiksha exhibition.
Rejection of Sahajiya Imitationists
Shrila Prabhupada preached against the abominable practices and concepts of the pseudo-Vaishnava sampradayas (sahajiyas). Inside the Gaudiya Maöh as well, he kept a vigilant eye out against any potential for imitation in the path of devotion. Shrila Prabhupada preached in very forceful language against any false external display of devotion. He made it very clear in his lectures that devotion for the Supreme Lord is not some cheap sentiment. Devotion means submission to Gurudeva, self-discipline, self-sacri?ce, and wholehearted effort to render devotional service. Unless one is an eternally liberated soul, one cannot attain the platform of spontaneous love (raganuga bhakti) without ?rst going through all the stages of regulated practice (vaidhi bhakti).
Even though Shrila Prabhupada wanted his disciples to become knowledgeable about scripture, so they could become expert preachers, he did not encourage new devotees to read the intimate pastimes of Shri Shri Radha-Krishna. He made it clear that if a devotee prematurely enters that realm of Krishna’s pastimes which can be understood only by advanced devotees, then such an act of trespassing will do more harm than good to his bhajan life. If one with a propensity for sense-grati?cation reads about Shri Shri Radha-Krishna’s intimate pastimes, then his enjoying propensity will only increase, because he will not realize their transcendental nature. This will be very detrimental to his devotional life. Shrila Prabhupada did not even encourage new disciples to read the tenth canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam. He also disapproved of indiscriminate displays of paintings of radha-krishna-lila. An article on this subject, entitled “Alekhya”, appeared in Gaudiya, Volume 13, No. 41. Shrila Prabhupada made it very clear that Krishna consciousness is not an object of sense enjoyment, but the object of worship and service.
Every spring a festival called “Vasanta-gan” (“Songs of Spring”) or dhulaö used to take place in the town of Navadwip. In different public places of Navadwip, music concerts would be held in which professional singers would sing songs about the intimate pastimes of Shri Shri Radha-Krishna. These concerts were attended by many local people as well as people from East Bengal. During the concerts, members of the audience would become emotionally aroused and start to dance, roll on the ground, and so forth. Every year some scandals would arise in connection with these concerts. When the festival ?rst started, the audience consisted mostly of uneducated women. Subsequently some educated people, such as writers, also started attending these concerts. They tried to rationalize listening to these songs with the excuse that Shriman Mahaprabhu used to like the songs of Jayadev, Chandidas, Vidyapati, Bilvamangal Thakura, and Raya Ramananda. But Shrila Prabhupada quoted from the scriptures written by the Goswamis, and cited the examples of the conduct of Shriman Mahaprabhu and his associates, to establish that if one who is in an illusioned state listens to these songs composed by liberated souls, it is only sense grati?cation in the name of shravan-kirtan. He particularly mentioned the history over the previous few hundred years of the community of sahajiyas, which con?rmed this fact. For some people these music concerts were a means to develop reputations as bhaktas (devotees) or rasiks (connoisseurs of rasa), and for others they were a means for commercial exploitation of ignorant people. But by indulging in these practices, one can be deviated from the path of bhakti, which is the supreme goal of life. This was discussed in detail in an article called vasanta-gan which appeared in Gaudiya, Volume 1, No. 22.
Just as Shrila Prabhupada was opposed to the enjoying mentality, he also rejected the idea of renunciation for its own sake—without consideration of whether it is favorable for one’s devotional service. Instead, he propagated the principle of yukta-vairagya (positive renunciation), according to which one gives up his enjoying propensity but accepts everything that is favorable for devotional service.
North India and Publishing in Hindi, 1931
In October, Shrila Prabhupada was invited to preach in Benares at the Mint Palace. Later he went to Lucknow and introduced a new Hindi magazine, Bhagavat. In November he sent one of his sannyasi preachers to the Viceroy of India, Lord Willingdon, in New Delhi. On November 17th, he celebrated the anniversary festival of the Delhi Gaudiya Maöh for the ?rst time. On December 6th, he installed Their Lordships Shri Shri Radha Govinda there.
Vehement Opposition to Impersonalism
Following in the footsteps of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura, Shrila Prabhupada spoke out against impersonalism through his preaching mission. The impersonalist religious sect of Bengal, called the “Brahma Samaj”, which was founded by Raja Rammohan Ray in the 19th century, was the greatest opponent of Vaishnavism and the idea of a personal God.
Once the instructor of the Sadharan Brahma Samaj of Calcutta, Shri Hemchandra Sarkar, came to the Gaudiya Maöh to ?nd out about Shri Chaitanya Deva and His successor acharyas from Shrila Prabhupada. During the discussion that followed, Shrila Prabhupada said, “It is the concept of the Brahma’s that is based on idolatry. They have opposed gross idolatry but they have accepted subtle idolatry. The idol that is made by the material mind on the basis of a material concept of the formless Brahma is more dangerous than the idolatry of demigod worshippers. Real Vaishnavas are not such idolaters. Gaudiya Vaishnavism is clearly different from the two kinds of idolatry: iconolatry and iconomachy. The pure Vaishnavas never worship some doll made of wood or clay or a doll fabricated by the material mind. The worshipable Lord of the Vaishnavas is not some imaginary temporary thing.”
Hearing this, Shri Hemchandra Sarkar said, “Then don’t you worship idols?” Shrila Prabhupada said, “We do not worship any imaginary form or doll whom we are going to break later. We worship the eternal deity form that is manifested by the transcendental knowledge potency of the Supreme Lord, whose potencies are inconceivable.”
Then Shrila Prabhupada made Shri Hemchandra Sarkar understand the difference between idolatry and deity worship through a logical presentation. Finally Shri Hemchandra Sarkar said, “But we see that the Vaishnavas in our village worship many demigods.” Shrila Prabhupada said, “Considering them to be real Vaishnavas, you criticize us, but they cannot touch the real Vaishnavas or real Vaishnavism. To ascertain the real form of Vaishnavism on the basis of its degenerated form is not an intelligent act. Vaishnavas never become gross or subtle idolaters by worshipping some imagined gross temporary form, as the demigod worshippers do, or some imagined and temporary subtle form or idea, as the impersonalists do. One imagines the absence of God’s embodiment of eternity, knowledge, and bliss and of His inconceivable potency by giving him an imagined form based on a material concept or making him formless. This is against the injunctions of the Vedas. Humans have no right to expand their imaginations by thinking that just because God does not have material senses or form, He cannot have transcendental senses or form. Just because the Vedas have denied the material form of Brahma, some people have thought the Supreme Lord cannot have a transcendental form which is an embodiment of eternity, knowledge, and bliss either. On one hand they are saying ‘Brahma’, indicating that this worshipable truth is greater than themselves, but on the other hand they are trying to measure that great reality. Raja Rammohan Ray has protested against the ignorant concepts of someone with the title of ‘Goswami’. But he did not hear about Vaishnavism from a real Vaishnava acharya—this we can prove with hundreds of logical statements.” (Saraswati Jayashri, pp. 348–350)
Preaching in South India, 1932
Shrila Prabhupada went on an extensive preaching mission in South India in 1932. He had already sent some of his disciples to preach in South India. Among them were Shrimad Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Maharaj and Shripad Hayagriva Brahmachari (later Shrimad Bhakti Dayita Madhav Maharaj).
On January 10th, 1932, Shrila Prabhupada went to Madras with twenty disciples. A large party of high government of?cials were waiting to receive him there. Among them was the mayor of Madras, Mr. T. S. Ramaswami Ayar. A large sankirtan procession accompanied Shrila Prabhupada to the Madras Gaudiya Maöh in Gopalpuram, and there some of the of?cials gave speeches honoring Shrila Prabhupada. On January 23rd, Shrila Prabhupada installed deities at the Madras Gaudiya Maöh. He also laid the cornerstone of the new temple at Rayapeööa. On January 27th, the governor of Madras, Sir George Frederick Stanley, came to the Madras Gaudiya Maöh to lay the cornerstone of Shri Krishna Kirtan Hall.
Shrila Prabhupada preached with great success in Madras and surrounding areas of South India. Many people took initiation from him. Then he went back to Mayapur in time for Shri Navadwip parikrama. This year, his disciples took such examinations as the Bhakti-shastri. The purpose of these examinations was to make Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples familiar with the intimate details of all aspects of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
On May 23rd, Shrila Prabhupada returned to Madras. This time he met with the acharyas of different sampradayas and explained Gaudiya Vaishnavism to them. Later he also preached at Uökamand, Mysore, and Kabhur.
Glorification of Shrimati Radharani
When asked “Who are the Gaudiya Vaishnavas?”, Shrila Prabhupada replied that they are the devotees of Shrimati Radharani (Shri Upadeshamrita, p. 236). He called himself Shri Varshabhanavi-dayita dasa (the servant of the beloved of Shrimati Radharani).
He said that Shrimati Radharani, who is the transcendental energy of Shri Krishna and the personi?cation of Shri Krishna’s pleasure potency (Hladini-svarupa Para Shakti), is the spiritual master of all devotees. Indeed, She is even Krishna’s Guru: Krishna learns to be an actor and dancer as Her disciple. All the pure devotees who are not worshipping Shri Krishna in the mellow of conjugal relationship (madhura rasa) know Lord Nityananda to be their original spiritual master. But the original spiritual master of those who worship Shri Krishna in madhura rasa is Shrimati Radharani. (Shri Upadeshamrita p. 27)
Shrila Prabhupada said that Shrimati Radharani is Shri Krishna’s eternal consort; She is the crest jewel of the gopis. No one is more dear to Krishna than Shrimati Radharani. Shrimati Radharani is not inferior to Shri Krishna in any way. It is Shri Krishna Himself who enjoys Himself in two separate forms, as the enjoyer and the enjoyed. Shri Krishna’s beauty is so stunning that He Himself becomes enchanted by His own beauty. But if the beauty of Shrimati Radharani were not greater than that of Shri Krishna, She could not enchant Krishna, who can enchant the whole universe. That is why She is called Bhuvan-mohan-mohini. She is the effulgence of Shri Krishna, who is like the full moon (Krishnachandra). Shri Krishna is the sum total of all ecstasy, all beauty. He is the original reservoir of all wealth, prowess, and knowledge. So the greatness of Radharani, who is the ashraya and vishaya of this most perfect Person, Shri Krishna, is beyond the limit of human knowledge—even beyond the limit of understanding of many liberated souls. (Shri Upadeshamrita pp. 330–1)
Whenever Shrila Prabhupada talked about Shrimati Radharani, he would become overwhelmed with the symptoms of deep loving ecstasy. Shrila Raghunath Das Goswami’s famous composition Vilap-Kusumanjali consists of verses addressed to Shrimati Radharani in the mood of intense separation, as Shrila Dasa Goswami is an intimate servitor of Shrimati Radharani in his eternal identity as Shri Rati-manjari. (The manjaris are young pre-teen girls who serve Shrimati Radharani.) Shrila Prabhupada could quote from memory all 104 verses of Vilap-Kusumanjali, and tears would ?ow from his eyes. He was always in a mood of separation from Shrimati Radharani.
Every Radhashöami day (the appearance day of Shrimati Radharani), Shrila Prabhupada would display the symptoms of deep ecstasy while talking about Shrimati Radharani. Following is an excerpt from a lecture given by Shrila Prabhupada on the day of Radhashöami in 1931 at the Saraswat Naömandir of Shri Gaudiya Maöh.
Let that personi?cation of supreme magnanimity, Shrimati Radharani, who is always eager to collect the mercy of the Supreme Lord on behalf of all living entities, appear in our hearts and make Her presence known. Let Her appearance be our object of worship. Without submission to the one whom Govinda considers to be everything to Him (sarvasva), we do not realize the meaning of the word “sarva”. “Govinda sarvasva”—“sva” means “one’s own”, “sva” means “wealth”. If we have the one who is Govinda’s own wealth—the one who makes Him wealthy; that wealth is everything to Govinda—if She becomes the object of our worship, then we will understand what worship is. If after reading the 18,000 verses of Shrimad Bhagavatam we do not come to know about Her, then our reading was in vain.
If by some unknown sukriti we get the association of those who are close to Shri Vrishabhanunandini (Shrimati Radharani), if we are are fortunate enough to hear about Her, then we can get the inspiration to proceed towards our supremely bene?cial goal. She is everything to the son of Nanda who is the reservoir of all ecstasy, and we will never attain devotional service to Govinda without serving Her and Her servitors.
—Prabhupada Shri Shrimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, pp. 99–100
Shri Vraja-Mandal Parikrama, 1932
It is in this mood of separation from Shrimati Radharani that Shrila Prabhupada went on Vraja-mandal praikrama. In October, Shrila Prabhupada started his Vraja-mandal parikrama with many devotees. He circumambulated the Vraja-mandal along its 32-mile perimeter. At each place of Krishna’s pastimes, he gave Hari-katha. For the bene?t of people who spoke other languages, he himself and many of his followers gave hari-katha in different languages. Shrila Prabhupada explained Shri Rupa Goswami’s Upadeshamrita to the assembled Vrajavasis and scholars.
On November 4th, Shrila Prabhupada went to Haridwar to lay the cornerstone of the Saraswat Gaudiya Maöh. By his request, the governor of Yukta Pradesh, Sir William Malcolm Haley, laid the cornerstone of Shri Rupa Gaudiya Maöh.
Preaching Mission to the West, 1933
In 1933, the English book Shri Krishna Chaitanya, by Professor Nishikant Sannyal, was published in a beautifully bound edition. It was Shrila Prabhupada’s desire to send a preaching mission to Europe now. Shrila Prabhupada wanted to preach Mahaprabhu’s message all over the world. He used to tell his disciples, “We’ll go on our preaching mission, riding horses, elephants, trains, boats, and airplanes.” His dream of preaching all over the West was later greatly ful?lled by his disciple, Shrimad Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami, who took initiation from Shrila Prabupada in 1933 in Allahabad.
Bon Maharaja with Lord Zetland
On March 18th, 1933, Shrila Prabhupada gave instruction to Shrimad Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Hriday Bon Maharaj, and Shripad Samvidananda Das Bhakti-shastri as they were departing to preach in Europe. At a meeting that was arranged to see them off, Shrila Prabhupada gave a farewell address entitled Amar Katha (“My Message”).
In the beginning of May, Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples established a preaching center in Kensington, London. At the end of that month, Shrila Prabhupada got letters inquiring into spiritual matters from Lord Zetland, who had formerly been the governor of Bengal, and the Marquis of Ludian, to which he replied. In June he got letters of appreciation from Lord Irwin’s secretary, the Marquis of Ludian, the editor of the London Times, and Sir Stanley Jackson. In July, Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples met with King George V and Queen Mary at Buckingham Palace, and also with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In November, Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples went to preach in Germany and France. At the end of December they returned to London. As one can imagine, this was not a very favorable time to preach Shriman Mahaprabhu’s mission in Europe. Traumatized by the First World War, the West was plagued by the Great Depression, international tension, and the rise of totalitarianism. Furthermore, all of these factors had combined to create a deep cynicism about God and spirituality, which was manifest in the popularity of thinkers such as Nietzsche and Freud. The atmosphere, particularly in Germany, was one of extreme anxiety, due to the recent collapse of many aspects of the predominant worldview, from the way war was waged to the workings of the universe.
Contribution of the Gaudiya Math
In the meantime, preaching in India was going on in full swing, in the midst of the great national current of the freedom movement. In the same year the Bagbazar Gaudiya Maöh was opened (1930), throughout India Mahatma Gandhi’s followers took an uncompromising stand upholding his nonviolent noncooperation with the British Government. That year Gandhi went on his famous Salt March, which was a decisive turn in the march towards freedom. In Bengal, the guerilla groups also carried on their subversive activities. That same year three young Bengali freedom ?ghters—Binay, Badal, and Dinesh—launched an open attack on British of?cials at the Writers’ Building in Calcutta. In the chaos that followed, two of them were captured (and later executed) and one shot himself to death. In the heart of Bengal emotions were running high against the British. It might be considered amazing that at a time like this, the Gaudiya Maöh managed to win such a favorable position among the educated people of Bengal—that so many people came forward to somehow participate in this mission of pure devotion. Shrila Prabhupada hoisted the ?ag of the Gaudiya Maöh to a great height, and he upheld its goal as the most sublime destination of human birth.
Regarding the contribution of the Gaudiya Maöh, Shrila Prabhupada said:
In the history of spirituality, how many other historical events of great revolution, like the preaching of the Gaudiya Maöh, have taken place, the historians of spirituality will determine. What a great revolution this is, that everyone in the Gaudiya Maöh is dedicating themselves to preach something that at ?rst sight seems completely unique in the history of the human race. They [the devotees] are not afraid of thousands of people who are proud of their knowledge. Nor are they ready to indulge the deceitfulness and debauchery of the lecherous. The Gaudiya Maöh is ready to put to death the mentality of the innumerable living entities of the world who are averse to Krishna and who are devising many plans to steal the property of the Supreme Sovereign. They [the devotees] do not want one penny from this world [for themselves]; they want to give the world that which is complete. They want to completely give them Chaitanya Deva, who is the full transcendental consciousness.
Preaching in India, 1933
That year, Shrila Prabhupada preached extensively in Bombay, and the Bombay Gaudiya Maöh preaching center was established on Babulnath Road. In August, Shrila Prabhupada gave a lecture about one of his books, The Vedanta: Its Morphology and Ontology. Later he preached in Navadwip. In November he preached extensively in Bihar and Odissa. At the same time, preaching went on in Karachi, in present-day Pakistan.
Building a New Temple At Yogapith
and Preaching All Over India, 1934
In January 1934, the King of Tripura, Maharaja Virvikramkishor Devavarma Manikya Bahadur, came to the Gaudiya Maöh with his retinue and gave a lecture in appreciation of the Gaudiya Maöh’s preaching mission. On February 4th, on the occasion of Shrila Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja, a seminar took place in London, over which Lord Zetland presided. On March 18th, Shrila Prabhupada laid the cornerstone of the new Yogapiöh temple in Mayapur. On April 24th, Lord Zetland opened the Gaudiya Mission Society in London. On May 6th, the well-known archeologist, Sir Ramaprasad Chanda, gave a lecture at the Gaudiya Maöh called “Navadwip At the Time of Shri Chaitanya”.
One of Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples, Shriyukta Sakhicharan Ray Bhaktivijay, ?nanced the construction of the Yogapiöh temple in Mayapur. Shrila Prabhupada greatly appreciated this service. Before he left this world, Shrila Prabhupada told Shripad Sakhicharan Ray Bhaktivijay that his life was successful, as he had done a great service to Shridham Mayapur.
On June 13th, while the foundation was being excavated, a four-handed Deity of Lord Vishnu manifested Himself from the ground. Shrila Prabhupada expressed his opinion that this deity was worshiped by Shri Jagannath Mishra. The archeologist Ramaprasad Chanda declared the Deity to be quite ancient.
On August 14th, deities were installed at the Paöna Gaudiya Maöh. On September 1st, on the day of Shri Krishna Janmashöami, Saraswati Jayashri, a biography of Shrila Prabhupada, was published. Different sections of the book were written by different disciples, and the descriptions of many incidents were quoted from the memoirs of other disciples and from Gaudiya. The principal writers of Saraswati Jayashri were Shripad Paramananda Vidyaratna, Shripad Kunjavihari Vidyabhushan, Shripad Ananta Vasudeva Prabhu, Shripad Sundarananda Vidyavinod, and Shrimad Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj.
In October, Shrila Prabhupada went to Mathura with many devotees to observe Kartik-vrata, and he established the practice of shravan-kirtan of ashöa-kaliya lila (hearing and chanting of Krishna’s pastimes during the eight periods of the day). On December 6th, Shrila Prabhupada’s disciple from Andhra Pradesh, Shriyukta Y. Jagannatham, published Shri Chaitanya Shikshamrita in Telegu.
Extraordinary Preaching Organization
Shrila Prabhupada’s unique and unprecedented contribution to the world of Gaudiya Vaishnavism did not consist solely of his own greatness, but also included the extraordinary preaching organization that he envisioned, built, and nurtured. He alone could bring a spiritual revolution to Bengal and to India—indeed, to the world—but he wanted to leave behind a magni?cent spiritual legacy, in the form of a group of dedicated souls who would carry on his mission in his absence in the face of seemingly insurmountable dif?culties. He attracted these pure hearts, taught and trained them, and left them behind him to spread his movement throughout the inevitable advancement of Kali-yuga in future decades. Even under the shelter of Shrila Prabhupada’s lotus feet, they had to face many tests and trials, but with Shrila Prabhupada’s divine guidance, ultimately fate always favored them.
Anyone coming to the Gaudiya Maöh would be awed by the divine personality of Shrila Prabhupada, and then impressed by his team of dedicated disciples. The disciples of a guru are known as his vaibhav (wealth), and Shrila Prabhupada was certainly a very wealthy spiritual master. This wealth of his was “in the form of ideal characters”. Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples were known for their unending enthusiasm for preaching, their undefeatable scholarship, their sincere humility, their strong moral character, and their total dedication to serve the mission of Gurudeva. All Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples who stayed at the different maöhs were intelligent, talented, hardworking, and knowledgeable about scripture.
The core of Shrila Prabhupada’s preaching mission consisted of eighteen sannyasis: Shrimad Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Hriday Ban Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Sarvasya Giri Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Sambandha Turyashrami Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Vivek Bharati Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Shrirup Puri Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Prakash Aranya Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Vilas Gabhastinemi Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Bhudev Shrauti Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Svarup Parvat Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Prasun Bodhayan Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Gaurav Vaikhanas Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Sambal Bhagavat Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Vijnan Ashram Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Sudhir Yachak Maharaj, Shrimad Bhakti Vaibhav Sagar Maharaj, and Shrimad Bhakti Vardhan Sagar Maharaj.
They were all expert preachers, and some of them were great scholars, such as Shrimad Bhakti Gaurav Vaikhanas Maharaj, who had been the court pandit of Odissa and whom Shrila Prabhupad sent to speak with the Viceroy of India.
Shrila Prabhupada called Shrimad Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Maharaj “Shastranipun [expert on scripture] Shridhar Maharaj”. Shrimad Shridhar Maharaj was a talented writer of Bengali, English, and Sanskrit. When he wrote his glori?cation of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura, Shrila Prabhupada described his style as “happy style”. Shrila Prabhupada also said of this verse to Shripad Aprakrita Prabhu, “I am satis?ed that what I came to say will remain after me; I ?nd in this verse the siddhanta (perfect theological conclusion).” Shrila Prabhupada noted the highly philosophical content of Shrimad Shridhar Maharaj’s lectures, and when he himself delivered Hari-katha it would always give him great satisfaction to see Shrimad Shridhar Maharaj in the audience.
Shrimad Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj was also noted for his scholarship. He translated the Bhagavad-gita into English, and wrote quite a few other books in English. His powerful lectures in Dacca became legendary. Shrila Prabhupada sent him to preach in the West, along with Shrimad Bhakti Hriday Ban Maharaj. Shrimad Ban Maharaj’s English lectures were so well-reputed that the mere mention of his name would attract high government of?cials to attend Hari-katha.
Shrimad Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj was also famous for his scholarship and his lectures. Shrimad Yayavar Maharaj was known for his ability to quote scripture. Among the brahmachari preachers, Shripad Hayagriva Brahmachari (later Shrimad Bhakti Dayita Madhav Maharaj) and Shripad Siddhasvarup Brahmachari were known for their preaching ability. Shripad Hayagriva Brahmachari was instrumental, along with Shrimad Shridhar Maharaj, in opening maöhs in Assam and Madras.
Shripad Svadhikarananda Brahmachari (later Shrimad Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj) was also an expert preacher. He was known for his extreme simplicity, incomparable humility, and very austere lifestyle. He was always chanting and singing, and was always in an extremely happy mood. It was impossible to offend him in any way. Pride and anger could not come anywhere near him. Everybody loved him and he loved everybody. He used to make small, cheap pamphlets of Shrila Prabhupada's lectures and so forth, and distribute them widely during his preaching trips. He was very dear to Shrila Prabhupada. He was a very expert singer, and knew many songs and verses by heart. Shrila Prabhupada said in one poem, "kanaka kamini, pratishöha baghini, chhadiyachhe yare sei ta' vaishnava"—"one who has been released from the clutches of the three tigers representing money, women, and personal ambition is a Vaishnava". By the light of this statement, every devotee who met Shripad Svadhikarananda Brahmachari thought of him as a Vaishnava.
Shrila Prabhupada always stressed the importance of preaching. Once Shripad Hayagriva Brahmachari asked Shrila Prabhupada whether they should learn the local language while preaching in South India. Shrila Prabhupada replied, “You have to preach in the language you know [in common with the South Indians, e.g., English and Hindi]. I cannot let you waste your precious time learning a new language.” Shrila Prabhupada sent his preachers all over India and Burma, and to England, France, Germany, and the United States.
Shrila Prabhupada told his disciples:
Please preach the kirtan of the Supreme Lord, even if in doing so you have to incur debt; then in order to pay off that debt, you will have to be even more engaged in seva. When your creditors put pressure on you, you will be forced to beg more for alms. Again, as the pious householders will not give you alms unless your character and conduct are pure, you will be forced to preserve a pure lifestyle with great determination and care. I will not leave one penny for you, so that in future you won’t indulge in laziness and you won’t be able to give up your devotional lives full of Hari-kirtan and Hari-seva.
The maöh is the center of Hari-kirtan, and Hari-kirtan is life and consciousness. To ensure that there is no place for laziness, bad conduct, trivial thought, gossip, or vulgar desire in the maöh, you have to go from door to door, where your Hari-kirtan will be tested by the public. When the public will think that they are the givers of alms and you are the receivers of alms—in other words, that their status is higher than yours—they will criticize you in many ways, thinking you are objects of their mercy. Perhaps some of them will also be ready to kick you out. Then, on one hand, you will be able to become “trinad api sunicha” (“humbler than a blade of grass”) and “manada” (“respectful to others”), and on the other hand, you will take great care to make your lives and characters pure and exemplary. Furthermore, what will be bene?cial for you is this: as you will correct the mistakes of the common people by citing the message of sadhu, shastra, and guru-varga, you will not make those same mistakes.
Please do not be upset if someone criticizes you personally. But your guru-varga, shastra, and mahajans are completely faultless, supremely liberated, and eternal associates of the Lord. If, due to ignorance, someone criticizes them, then you should correct that person’s mistakes by telling them the real truth. This will be very bene?cial for both you and the ignorant people. If you become lazy about begging for alms from door to door to collect ingredients for Hari-kirtan, and if you indulge in laziness and bad habits, preferring reclusive bhajan so you can escape others’ criticism, then your character will not be puri?ed. You will not have the life of devotional practice. I will never give you any opportunity to become deceitful in the path of devotion in the privacy of your own home; I will never give you any opportunity to live in a reclusive place so that you can become undisciplined in your heart, thinking no one will come to see or hear you there. You are my dearmost friends. I will never allow you to get into trouble. I will never allow you to give up the path of pleasing the senses of the Lord so you can please the senses of the people of the world, as well as your own, because you received some temporary position or you could not tolerate some temporary criticism.
Preaching on the Radio and Welcoming German Devotees, 1935
On January 15th, 1935, the Governor of Bengal, Sir John Anderson, came to Shridham Mayapur, visited the holy places of Shriman Mahaprabhu’s pastimes, and gave a speech. On February 23rd, on the occasion of Shrila Prabhupada’s 61st appearance anniversary, a big gathering was arranged in Shri Purushottam Maöh, Puri. The King of Odissa, Gajapati Shri Ramachandra Dev himself, presided over the gathering. Before Gaura-purnima that year, Shripad Sakhicharan Bhaktivijay brought electricity to the Yogapiöh temple. On March 20th, on the auspicious occasion of Shri Gaura-purnima, the King of Tripura came and opened the newly built temple at Yogapiöh. In April, Shrila Prabhupada established the Gaya Gaudiya Maöh. On April 13, he sent a few preachers to Burma to spread the message of Mahaprabhu. On June 9th, Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples preached Mahaprabhu’s message on the radio for the ?rst time, at the Indian Broadcasting Service, Calcutta. Among those who delivered hari-katha on the radio were Shrimad Bhakti Hriday Ban Maharaj and Shripad Sundarananda Vidyavinod Prabhu. Shripad Pranavananda Pratnavidyalankar (later Shrimad Bhakti Pramod Puri Maharaj) sang the collection of verses entitled "Gopinath-vij–apti" by Shrila Bhaktivinod hakur. At this time, Shrila Prabhupada was in Darjeeling, North Bengal. But he and his other disciples heard the broadcast from there. When Shrila Prabhupada returned, he requested Shripad Pranavananda Prabhu to sing "Gopinath-vij–apti" again for him.
On July 8th, he installed deities at the Bombay Gaudiya Math. At this time, Shriman Samvidananda Das, M.A., received a Ph.D from London University in Vaishnava history and literature.
On September 12th, the twelve cantos of Shrimad Bhagavatam with the commentaries of Shrila Prabhupada were completed and published. The summaries of each canto up to the ninth canto was written by Shripad Pranavananda Brahmachari, the summary of the tenth canto was written by Shripad Navin Krishna Vidyalankar, and the summaries of the eleventh and twelfth cantos were written by Shrimad Bhakti Bhudev Shrauti Maharaj.
On September 18th, the devotees in Gaudiya Maöh and many distinguished citizens of Calcutta welcomed two German devotees, Ernst George Schulge and H. E. von Queth, who came to Calcutta with Shrimad Bhakti Hriday Ban Maharaj to see Shrila Prabhupada. They were each given a decorated cloth scroll welcoming them at a lavish reception in their honor. In October Shrila Prabhupada went to Mathura and observed Kartik-vrata at Shri Radha-kunda. On November 7th, he went to Delhi, and from there he went to Gaya. At this time, preaching in Burma was going on very successfully.
Preaching in the West, Burma, and India, 1936
On February 12th, on his 62nd appearance anniversary, Shrila Prabhupada established the Bhaktivinod Research Institute. In London his appearance anniversary was also celebrated at a special gathering. In the meantime, Shrimad Bhakti Sarvasya Giri Maharaj and Shrimad Bhakti Vilas Gabhastinemi Maharaj were preaching in Burma with great success, and on March 8th, a Gaudiya Maöh preaching center was established there with the help of the education minister, Dr. Bame, on 29 Brookings Street, Rangoon. On March 15th, Shrila Prabhupada installed deities in Sarbhog Gaudiya Maöh, Assam. On March 29th, Shrila Prabhupada went to Puri, where a sankirtan festival was held for seven days. In June and July, Shrila Prabhupada preached at different places in Bengal. Among them were Baliyaöi, Godruma, Darjeeling, and Baguda. On June 13th and 14th, at Dacca University and the Bar (law) Library of Dacca, Shrila Prabhupada’s sannyasi disciples and the two German devotees preached hari-katha. In August, Shrila Prabhupada went to Mathura to observe Purushottam-vrata. On September 9th, he came back to Calcutta Gaudiya Maöh.
Meetings with Scholars and Indologists
Throughout his preaching mission, Shrila Prabhupada met with many scholars, national leaders, and Indologists from abroad who were visiting India. At one time or another, Shrila Prabhupada met with all the most famous men of Bengal. He also met with high government of?icials and scholars of religion from all over India. They listened to Shrila Prabhupada’s Hari-katha for hours, took part in discussions, and asked him spiritual questions. All of them left him with a sense of reverence for his divine personality and a favorable impression of Vaishnavism. This should not surprise anyone, as Shrila Prabhupada’s scholarship was unquestionable, his logic was razor-sharp, his concepts were deep and sublime, and his expressions were strikingly beautiful.
It is not possible to mention here all those he met, but following are the names of some of them:
Raut Ray Saheb, His Excellency General Punya Samaser Rana Jambahadur of Nepal, Manmathanath Mukhopaddhyay (Calcutta High Court Justice), September 1924, Pandit Pramath Nath Tarkabhushan, Professor Phanibhushan Adhikari, December 1924, Pandit Madan-mohan Malavya, April 1925, The Mahanta Maharaj of Shri Nathdwar, Gokulnath Goswami Maharaj of Bombay, the Acharya of Madhvacharya Maöh of Udupi, the Acharya of Gadir Maöh of Salimabad, 1926, Professor Albert E. Suthers (University of Ohio) 1929, A.P. Sen, Professor Radhakumud MukhopaddhyRiy, Dr. RRidhRikamal Mukhopaddhyay, Dr. A.N. Sengupta 1929, Sir P.C. Roy (famous chemist) 1930, Dr. Kalidas Nag (famous historian and professor at the University of Calcutta), Shri Jatindra Nath Basu, Dr. Dinesh Chandra Sen (famous writer and professor at the University of Calcutta), Shri Birajmohan Mukhopaddhyay (Vice Principal of the Law College of the University of Calcutta), Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld (German scholar and world traveller), Dr. Stella Kremrich, A.J. Jacob (American world traveller), Col. Dwaraka Prasad Goel (Principal of Calcutta Medical College), Dr. Ganganath Jha (Vice Chancellor of Allahabad University), Vasanta Kumar Chatterjee, 1931, Justice Sundaram Cheööiyar of Madras High Court, Sir P.S. Shiva Swami Aiyar, Sir George Frederick Stanley (Governor of Madras), Professor K. Panchapagesan of Purukote College in Madras, Dr. Suniti Chatterjee of the University of Calcutta, Sir William Malcolm Haily (Governor of United Provinces), Dr. Sudhindu Kumar Das (Professor of Krishnagar College), Shri Vishwambhar Vyakaran Tirtha Vedanta Shastri of Radhakanta Maöh of Puri, 1932, Shri Satish Chandra De (Principal of Howrah Narsingha College), Professor Ranada Charan Chakravarti, Shri Sanjiv Kumar Choudhury (professor from Nepal), Shri Ganesh Chandra Chanda (Superintendent of the Archaeological Division of Bihar), 1933, Rai Bahadur Ramprasad Chanda, Shri Ananda Mahapatra (Senior Professor in the Ayurveda Department of the Sanskrit College in Puri), Mr. Junakar (Professor at Dacca University), Khagendra Nath Mitra (Professor at Presidency College, Calcutta), 1934, Sir Jadunath Sarkar, Dr. Henry Hand and Mr. S.V. Rosetto of California, Mr. S.N. Rudra Bar-at-law, Indira Devi (Queen of Cochbihar), Mme. M. Potters (French scholar), 1935
Correspondence With Western Representatives
Shrila Prabhupada maintained a steady correspondence with his representatives in Europe. Following are excerpts from some of his letters to Shrimad Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj.
April 4, 1933
“Your conversation with the cultured people of the west following the words of the Divine Lord will surely be appreciated by all sincere souls amidst their busy life. I don’t know any body who was more delighted than myself to hear that at last the Gaudiya Maöh Of?ice has been opened in the British Isles.”
May 5, 1933
“By delivering Hari-katha to many people, maybe one or two good people will become interested in devotional topics—this is my expectation.”
June 27, 1933
“The esoteric representation need not be placed on the table at the sacri?ce of the exoteric code and exposition, as the people are found to be very hasty to judge a person by his external appearance.”
July 26, 1933
“We are no mediators, but on the other hand solicitors of congregational meetings. So shifting from the centre of London is now out of the question.”
August 21, 1933
“I have much enjoyed learning that the senior Tridandi Swami has been honored and received by Her Majesty, the Queen of England. This unforeseen chance is really a very rare opportunity that hardly falls to the lot of a monk with his triple staff and bowl in his hand.
“We take pride that you are acting as our proxy in a distant land, which our crippled movements have not yet approached.”
August 28, 1933
“I learn with great delight that the City of London has found you keeping the fast on Janmashöami day and am more glad to learn that you could make ‘parayan’ (completion) of Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita on that day.”
February 23, 1934
“Though we are distantly placed by the will of Providence, still the symbolic sounds in letters will not keep us at such a distance.
“One does not receive a letter from the Supreme Lord. We hear about Him only from His devotees, and our news also can be sent to Him through His devotees. Such communication took place long before telegrams, air-mail, or radio.
“The benign hand of Shri Krishna is a better judge than our silly selves. We should ever be in the service of the Supreme Lord Krishna, whatever troubles we meet in our journey of life.”
The Final Days, 1936
On October 24th, 1936, Shrila Prabhupada bade farewell to Shrimad Bhakti Sharanga Goswami Maharaj and sent him to preach in England and then in America. At this time Shrila Prabhupada blessed him and gave him shalagrama-shila, gomati-shila, and govardhan-shila. That same day Shrila Prabhupada set forth from Calcutta for Puri Dham. He arrived the following day with many of his disciples accompanying him. Among them were Shripad Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Maharaj, Shripad Kunjavihari Prabhu, Shripad Hayagriva Das Brahmachari (later Shrimad Bhakti Dayita Madhav Maharaj), Shripad Paramananda Vidyaratna, and Shripad Sajjananda Brahmachari.
Many devotees came to the train station to welcome Shrila Prabhupada, and they brought a decorated car for him. When Shrila Prabhupad arrived at the Purushottam Math, a big crowd was assembled there to have his darshan.
Shrila Prabhupada seemed to be in a meditative mood of deep devotion in Puri. He showed transcendental symptoms of divine ecstasy. From time to time he would tell the devotees, “It is in this life that we have to serve our Lord, so we can gain eternal service at the lotus feet of our eternal Lord. We should not waste any time!”
People started coming from all directions to hear Shrila Prabhupada. Shrila Prabhupada expressed his desire to celebrate the Annakuta festival at Chatak Pravat. There was not much time left before the festival, but his dedicated disciples made all the arrangements very quickly. The following description was printed in the Gaudiya, 15th Canto, No. 16:
Tridandi Swami Shrimad Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Maharaj, Shripad Hayagriva Brahmachari, Shrimad Sajjanananda Brahmachari, and others took great care to bring sumptuous foodstuffs for the festival and to decorate the place. Sadhunivas was beautifully decorated with fruit, ?owers, mango leaves, banana trees, coconuts, and waterpots. On the altar was a very beautiful embroidered canopy. All of the way from the street to Chaöak Parvat was decorated with ?ags, banana trees, waterpots, and arches. Different foodstuffs, such as white rice, yellow rice, sweet rice, khichuri, rice pudding, chapatis, puris, and so forth were arranged in the shape of a mountain. There were other mountains of foodstuffs, such as the Bengali delicacies described in Chaitanya-charitamrita, the delicacies of Vraja described in Shri Govinda Lila, and all the favorite offerings of Lord Jagannath. Also an immeasurable amount of mahaprasad, consisting of many vegetable and grain preparations and sweets, came from the Jagannath temple. Tulasi manjaris were placed on all the offerings, and Shrila Prabhupada, singing the songs of Shri Rupa and Shri Raghunath, worshiped Shri Govardhan. The festival opened with sankirtan. Then, by Shrila Prabhupada’s instruction, Shripad Sundarananda Vidyavinod read about Shripad Madhavendra Puri’s Annakut Festival from the fourth chapter of Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita: Madhya-lila. Hundreds of people were fed mahaprasad that night, and the next morning hundreds of beggars and destitute people were fed.
One day Shrila Prabhupada, sitting in his bhajan kutir, told the devotees, “All the residents of the math should always be engaged in the service of Shri Hari, Guru, and Vaishnava. They should always be engaged in hearing Hari-katha and discussing Hari-katha. If one becomes averse to hari-katha and hari-seva then one will again be entangled by one’s material desires. Then one’s time will be spent in gossiping, criticizing others, ?ghting with others and gratifying one’s senses. If the residents of the maöh do not understand that Vaishnava-seva is the most bene?cial thing, then they will not make progress in the realm of devotion. One has to cultivate one’s Krishna-consciousness by sincerely serving the Vaishnavas and by endeavoring to please the Vaishnavas with body, mind, and soul.
“’By the petition of a Vaishnava, merciful Krishna will give His mercy to this sinful soul.’ This we have to remember all the time.
“If a Godbrother falls from the platform of service to Hari, Guru, and Vaishnava, then you should think that your own brother is falling down. Then you have to openly advise him about hari-bhajan and nicely make him understand the situation. Sing the beneficial message of Guru and Gauranga to him. If you merely comment on his downfall, then you are not his well-wisher. You have to be merciful to him by talking to him about the Lord. By doing this you will bene?t yourself as well as him, and your goal of living in the maöh will be accomplished. We are living together to help each other serve the Lord.
“We will not live in this world very long. If we can die while continuously doing hari-kirtan, then our birth will be successful. We have not come to this world to be carpenters, to deal with wood and stone. We are only the carries of the message of Shri Chaitanyadeva.”
On December 7th, 1936, Shrila Prabhupada left Puri for Calcutta. The next day a huge crowd of devotees was waiting at Howrah Station to welcome Shrila Prabhupada. Shrila Prabhupada’s car was decorated with flowers, and it went to the Gaudiya Math amid a sankirtan procession. While in Puri, Shrila Prabhupada had displayed his pastime of illness. So his disciples had engaged the most famous physicians in Calcutta, such as Sir Nilratan Sarkar, Dr. Shivapada Bhattacharya, Dr. Indubhushan Basu, Dr. P. Brahmachari, and Dr. Nagendra Gopal Bishwas, to take care of Shrila Prabhupada full-time. As instructed by the doctors, Shrila Prabhupada’s disciples requested him not to speak for very long at a stretch. When asked how he was, Shrila Prabhupada would say that his only problem was that he was not allowed to do Hari-kirtan.
Shrila Prabhupada told the assembled devotees, “One should not make many disciples. I have not made any disciples. They are all my Gurus. I learn something from all of them. May they give me the opportunity to follow the example of their pure devotion. This is my prayer.”
His Final Instructions
On December 23rd, Shrila Prabhupada gave his final instruction to the assembled devotees: “I have caused anxiety for many people. Perhaps many people have considered me their enemy, because I was compelled to tell the unadulterated truth. I asked them to serve the Lord with all sincerity. I have given much anxiety to many people only because I wanted to inspire them to serve Krishna sincerely without material desire and duplicity. One day they will understand this.
Preach about Shri Rupa and Shri Raghunath
“All of you please preach about Shri Rupa and Shri Raghunath with great enthusiasm. The supreme goal of all our desire is to become specks of dust at the lotus feet of the followers of Shri Rupa Goswami. All of you remain united in the shelter of the ashraya-vigraha in order to satisfy the transcendental senses of the Supreme Entity of non-dual knowledge. All of you somehow live simply in this temporary world with the single goal of serving the Lord. Please do not give up your devotional service in spite of hundreds of dangers, insults, or persecutions. Please do not be discouraged by seeing that most people of the world are not listening to the transcendental topics of devotional service. Please do not give up shravan-kirtan of krishna-katha, which is your own bhajan and your sole property. Please always chant the name of the Lord, being humbler than a blade of grass and more tolerant than a tree.
The Fire of Sankirtan
“We only cherish one desire in our hearts: to sacri?ce this body, which is only a lump of matter, in the ?re of the sankirtan yajna of Lord Shri Krishna Chaitanya and his associates. We do not wish to be heroes by dint of our action, bravery or religiosity. But let this be our real identity life after life: that we are specks of dust under the lotus feet of Shri Rupa. Let that mean everything to us. The Bhaktivinod current will never be stemmed. Please take up the mission of preaching the desire of Bhaktivinod with greater enthusiasm. There are many quali?ed and accomplished people among you. We have no other desire; our only message is this:
‘Taking a blade of grass between my teeth, I fall down and pray again and again that I may become the dust at the feet of Shri Rupa birth after birth.’
“Living in this world, one has to face many kinds of dif?culties. It is not our job to try to remove those dif?culties. Nor should we become depressed by them. After these dif?culties are gone, what shall we gain? What will our eternal lives be? While staying here we should have some idea of that. All the things that attract us or repel us, what we want and what we do not want—we have to resolve these things in our minds. The more we distance ourselves from the lotus feet of Krishna, the more these things will draw us in. The joy of Krishna-seva can be realized when one is attracted to His divine name after transcending the happiness and misery of this world. At present, the topic of Krishna is startling and perplexing to us. The continuing events of our lives pose obstacles to the realization of our eternal ful?llment. Knowingly or unknowingly, all human beings are struggling to eliminate these. Our only need is to enter that realm of eternal ful?llment, transcending all duality.
“We have no attachment or hostility towards anyone in this world. All arrangements of this world are temporary. Everyone has an indispensable need for the Absolute Truth. May all of you with one goal, and in harmony with each other, attain the right to serve the original ashraya-vigraha. Let the currents of thought of the followers of Shri Rupa ?ow in this world. May we never under any circumstances show antipathy towards the seven-tongued ?re of Shri Krishna sankirtan-yajna. If we have an increasing attachment for it, then all our goals will be ful?lled. All of you please preach fearlessly about Shri Rupa and Shri Raghunath with great enthusiasm, under the guidance of their followers.”
Then Shrila Prabhupada displayed his pastime of illness. At the same time he was incessantly chanting and meditating. Shripad Kunjavihari Prabhu made up a duty roster for some of the devotees who were present, so one of them would be with Shrila Prabhupada every hour of the day and night. Among those who had this service were Shrimad Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Maharaj, Shripad Pranavananda Brahmachari, and Shripad Krishnananda Brahmachari.
Requests Song Shri Rupa Manjari Pada
In the morning of December 31, 1936, Shrila Prabhupada requested Shrimad Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Maharaj to sing the song shri rupa-manjari-pada sei mora sampada by Shrila Narottam Das Thakura. He also asked Shripad Navin Krishna Vidyalankar to sing the song tuhu daya sagar tarayite prani by Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura. Then Shrila Prabhupada expressed his appreciation to some of his disciples for their service, and gave some instructions for the future. Finally he said, “Love and rupture both should have the same end in view. Shrila Narottam Das Thakura lived by the concept of Shri Rupa and Shri Raghunath. We should also live our lives according to that concept.” Then Shrila Prabhupada told everyone, “All of you who are present here, as well as those who are not present, please accept my blessings. Please remember that our only duty and religion is to propagate the service of the Lord and His devotees.”
At about 5:20 the next morning, Shripad Pranavananda Brahmachari was at Shrila Prabhupada’s bedside. Suddenly Shrila Prabhupada came out of his deep meditation and said, “Who is here?” Shripad Pranavananda Prabhu said, “It’s me, Pranavananda, Prabhupada.” Shrila Prabhupada said, “Oh, Pranavananda Prabhu?” Shripad Pranavananda Prabhu asked him, “How are you feeling, Prabhupada?” Shrila Prabhupada said, “What can I say? Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna!” These were his last words. As it was time for the next devotee, Shripad Krishnananda Prabhu, to take up his post at Shrila Prabhupada’s bedside, Shripad Pranavananda Prabhu went back to his room. He sat there thinking, “Is Shrila Prabhupada going to leave us now? What will happen if he leaves us now, what shall we do?” His thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of footsteps. It was Shripad Krishnananda Prabhu. He said, “Come quickly! I think the great disaster has happened to us.” Then there was the tumultuous sound of crying all over the Gaudiya Maöh, and amazingly enough, all the clocks in the maöh stopped.
At 5:30 AM, on Thursday, January 1st, 1937, Shrila Prabhupada left this material world to enter Shri Shri Radha-Govinda’s nishanta-lila. At the pre-dawn hour when Shri Shri Radha-Govinda are united as One, when the divine pastime of Shri Gaursundara is eternally manifest, the most worshipable lord of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas, Shrila Prabhupada, who called himself Shri Varshabhanavi-dayita dasa (the servant of the beloved of Shrimati Radharani), entered the abode of his eternal pastime. The grief and lamentation of the devotees at the Gaudiya Math were beyond description. Some were sobbing as if their hearts would break, some were chanting loudly with eyes ?ooded with tears, some were falling at Shrila Prabhupada’s lotus feet, some were falling on the ground and chanting with their heads bowed down, and some were hitting their foreheads and saying “Oh Prabhupada! Oh Prabhupada!” Even though the sun had just risen, it seemed that in the sky of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas the sun had just set.
The devotees started performing the Vedic rites with great care, in spite of the intolerable burning pain of separation. First of all they bathed Shrila Prabhupada with sandalwood water. Then they dressed him in new clothes and decorated him with flowers, garlands, and sandalwood. Crying incessantly, they put tilak on twelve parts of his body. Then Shrila Prabhupada was laid on a new bed in front of the Deities. The devotees circumambulated him and performed puja, bhoga, and arati to him amid tumultuous sankirtan. Thousands of people started coming to have their last darshan of Shrila Prabhupada. Flowers and tears were everywhere. Then Shrila Prabhupada was taken to Sealdah Station amid a sankirtan procession of thousands of people. A devotee of Shrila Prabhupada called Shri Yamini Mukhopadhyay arranged for a special train for Shrila Prabhupada. The train was fully occupied with thousands of devotees, both men and women. The destination was Krishnanagar, but all the way from Calcutta to Krishnanagar, thousands of people were waiting at every station to see Shrila Prabhupada. The devotees were displaying photos of Shrila Prabhupada from the windows of the train, and the crowds were offering flowers to those pictures. At Krishnanagar Station, all the high government officials were waiting to offer their obeisances to him. Then he was taken to Navadwip Ghat by car, and then they crossed the Ganga on boats to arrive at Mayapur. A big crowd was already waiting at Mayapur. When the Calcutta devotees met the Mayapur devotees, another wave of grief engulfed them.
First Shrila Prabhupada was taken to Shriman Mahaprabhu’s birthplace in Yogapith. More devotees were waiting there. Then they laid him down in front of the Deities and offered him puja and arati. Both the Hindus and the Muslims of Mayapur were singing his glories with tears in their eyes. Shrila Prabhupada was given the garland which had been offered to Shriman Mahaprabhu. Next he was taken to Shrivas Angan, Shri Adwaita Bhavan, Shri Bhakti Vijay Bhavan, the samadhi mandir of Shrila Gaurkishor Das Babaji Maharaj, and finally Shri Chaitanya Math; at each stop he was offered puja and arati. When he came to his own Shri Chaitanya Math, the devotees' hearts broke with unbearable pain.
They decided that the place of his samadhi would be in between Shri Chaitanya Math and Shri Bhakti Vijay Bhavan. Singing sankirtan, sannyasi, brahmachari, and grihastha devotees together began digging the foundation of the samadhi mandir. Shrila Prabhupada was bathed in Ganga water, dressed in new clothes, and decorated with sandalwood. Shrimad Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj wrote the samadhi mantra with sandalwood, following the injunction of Shri Gopal Bhatta Goswami. Now Shrila Prabhupada was brought to the place of samadhi, and amid obeisances, prayer, glorification, and offering of flowers, he was seated on a marble throne covered with delicate cloth. The tumultuous sound of glorification and sankirtan resounded as sandalwood, flowers, garlands, and arati were offered at his lotus feet. Devotees were rolling on the ground, crying “Jaya Prabhupada!” and singing his favorite songs, shri rupa-manjari-pada, svananda-sukhada-kunja manohara, and yashomati nandana.
Shrila Shridhar Maharaj and Shripad Pranavananda Brahmachari offered a fire sacrifice. Shrila Bharati Maharaj read the disappearance pastime of Shrila Haridas Thakura from Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita, and the devotees circumambulated the samadhi, singing yei anilo prema-dhana and gurudev kripa bindu diya. Then they sang Shrila Prabhupada’s pranam mantra (nama om vishnu-padaya krishna-preshthaya bhu-tale shrimate bhaktisiddhanta-saraswatiti namine):
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet.
“I offer my respectful obeisances to Shri Varshabhanavi-devi-dayita Das, who is favored by Shrimati Radharani and who is the ocean of transcendental mercy and the deliverer of the science of Krishna.
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto you, the personi?ed energy of Shri Chaitanya’s mercy, who deliver devotional service which is enriched with conjugal love of Radha and Krishna, coming exactly in the line of revelation of Shrila Rupa Goswami.
“I offer my respectful obeisances unto you, who are the personi?ed teachings of Lord Chaitanya. You are the deliverer of the fallen souls. You do not tolerate any statement which is against the teachings of devotional service enunciated by Shrila Rupa Goswami.”
Shrila Prabhupada is the most magnanimous giver of the message of Mahaprabhu in this age. He took the treasure which had been safeguarded by a few and gave it to many. He revived the sankirtan movement of Mahaprabhu by enabling devotees to joyfully assemble together in a modern institution. Now that Vaishnavism was no longer in constant danger from oppressive regimes and reactionary brahmans, and now that the permanence of printing could protect the sanctity of the true and pure Vaishnavism of Mahaprabhu from the corruption of Sahajiya interpretation, it could be given out again, freely.
Before Shrila Prabhupada began the Gaudiya Maöh, the general public had come to regard sannyasis with contempt or, at best, apathy, for their personal conduct and spiritual backgrounds were considered questionable. But Shrila Prabhupada conquered the public’s apathy towards sadhus and religion. He defeated the sahajiyas, who wrongly imitated the pastimes of the Lord, and the impersonalists, who belittled the path of pure devotion. He protected Shriman Mahaprabhu’s mission from those who would dilute and distemper it in the name of adaptation.
Shrila Prabhupada knew that while the mundane world had changed greatly since Shriman Mahaprabhu’s time, the path of Vaishnavism was eternal and required no modernization. Instead he modernized its institutions: devotees could assemble freely, to do sankirtan in the halls of the Gaudiya Maöh and Hari-katha in the pages of Gaudiya.
Shrila Prabhupada saw and appreciated the contraptions of the modern world the way he appreciated anything—as items to be utilized in Mahaprabhu’s mission, for devotional service. He preached through the printing press, while simultaneously using it to protect the sanctity and authority of pure Vaishnavism from corruption and misinterpretation. He himself wrote more than 108 essays and books; published the magazines Sajjan Toshani, Gaudiya, Nadiya Prakash, Bhagavat, Paramarthi, and Kirtan; and established the presses Bhagavat Yantra, Gaudiya Printing Works, Nadiya Prakash Printing Press, and Paramarthi Printing Works. He published Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita Shri Chaitanya Bhagavat, and Shri Brahma-samhita with commentaries.
Shrila Prabhupada established 64 temples, introduced devotional exhibitions, conducted radio broadcasts, and established organized parikramas of the holy Dhamas. He was the ?rst acharya to research and compile information on the four Vaishnava sampradayas and emphasize their common ground.
Shrila Prabhupada won the respect and admiration of all by inspiring excellence in every spiritual endeavor: the scholarship, integrity, and re?nement of the Gaudiya Maöh were unquestionable. His standards were unassailable. He was so formidable in debate that he was never defeated. The strength of his conviction and ?erce determination earned him the title of simha guru, or “lion guru”.
Shrila Prabhupada was not, however, merely a teacher of strict austerity. He spread compassion and devotion around him like a fountain; he nurtured his disciples with divine affection. As Shrila Bhakti Kusum Shraman Maharaj wrote in his biography of Shrila Prabhupada, Prabhupada Shrila Saraswati Thakura, “Wherever he appeared, many people had come there before him in order to see him, and as soon as he arrived the sound of sankirtan would reverberate in all directions. Even when he was walking, he was absorbed in the ecstasy of hari-katha kirtan. An unearthly, indescribable current of joy would follow Shrila Prabhupada everywhere.”
The greatest gift of Shrila Prabhupada was that he gave the highest concept of devotion to thousands of surrendered souls who took shelter at his lotus feet. Those who came to inquire from him about krishna-prema, the ultimate goal of their lives, were overjoyed to ?nd out that whatever concept of pure devotion they might have had before, Shrila Prabhupada's concept was in?nitely higher than that. His disciples saw him as their supreme source of the highest devotion. Shrila Bhakti Rakshak Shridhar Maharaj has expressed this very beautifully in his “Shri Shri Dayita Dasa Dashakam" verses:
“From his lotus feet, the nectarine river of divine love ?ows throughout the universe; his servitors, like bees, maintain their lives drinking the honey that falls from his lotus feet; and the pure devotees in the shelter of the con?dential mellows of Vraja revel in the bliss of singing the glories of his lotus feet.
“Parental affection, so highly esteemed in the world, is a colossal hoax. And without a doubt the reciprocation of conjugal affection shared in matrimony is legal dacoity. And worldly friendship and family relationships are simply cheating in disguise. I have gleaned these thoughts from the rays of light that emanate from the toenails of the holy feet of that great personality, the embodiment of supramundane affection.”
Shrila Prabhupada said, “The Bhaktivinod current will never be stemmed”, and indeed his movement has ?owed all over the world, brought and carried on by his disciples. Shrila Prabhupada is the personi?cation of Shriman Mahaprabhu’s causeless and perfect mercy. He is the desire tree (kalpa-vriksha) of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Not only has he attracted them to Shriman Mahaprabhu’s movement—through his own preaching or the preaching of his followers—but, through his message and the example of his personal conduct, he is also able to provide them with everything they need for devotional service, eternally.
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