|NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Other Scriptures by Acharyas > Biographies of Acharyas > Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati > Prabhupada Sarasvati Thakura > Remembering the Lotus Feet|
Remembering the Lotus Feet
Memoirs of the Disciples and
Grand-disciples of Shrila Prabhupada
Let me tell you about an incident from the time when I [Bhakti Rakshaka Shridhara Dev Goswami] ?rst came to the Math to be at the lotus feet of my Guru Maharaja, Shrila Prabhupada. The temple in Shri Mayapura had been opened and the Deities were installed there. The circumambulation of Shri Navadwipa Dhama on the occasion of Shri Gaura Purnima had also taken place. At the end of the festival, everyone was going back home. Shrila Prabhupada was sitting on a canvas chair on the front porch.
All the devotees were coming to him to offer their dandavats before going home. Eager to hear what he was going to say, I came and sat behind him. Prabhupada told the devotees, “Please do not deceive me.” I became very alert. The festival had ended, everyone was going home, how were they deceiving him? Prabhupada said, “You gave assurances that you would do Krishna-bhajan. I also became attached to you in this relationship. You came for a few days, and now you are going back to that material world. Then I am deceived. If you say, ‘No, Prabhupad, we did not deceive you. We still have a few days’ work to complete, a few responsibilities to take care of. After we ?nish that we will come back to you and then whatever you will say, we will do,’ I will say ‘There is no need for all of that.’ If someone says, ‘My house is on ?re, let me put out the ?re and then I will come,’ I will say, ‘There is no need for that.’ The destination of your, our, and everyone’s self-interest is Shri Krishna. The living entity has no other duty than to serve Him. If the whole world is destroyed by ?re, it does not do you any harm: you are the transcendental, eternal soul. You have no duties other than serving Krishna. All your full?llment lies in the lotus feet of Krishna.”
At that time I ?nally surrendered at his lotus feet. I realized that it is true that we want happiness, peace and bliss—but whatever we want, through that we unconsciously want only Krishna, because He is the reservoir of all bliss. It is bliss, it is joy, that is the medium. Just as the standard of all currency is gold, similarly the standard of all ful?llment—whether it is on a theistic or an atheistic basis—is bliss or joy. Where shall we ?nd that in this world? We can only ?nd it by exclusive surrender to the Sweet Absolute, because Vedanta has said, “Raso vai sah”—“He is the personi?cation of in?nite joy. He is Reality the Beautiful.”
Excerpt translated from the Bengali:
Goswami, Shrila Bhakti Rakshaka Shridhara, Amrita-Vidya, ed. by Shrila Bhakti Sundara Govinda Maharaja, Shri Navadvip Dham: Shri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, 1985.
Around 1878 or 1879, when Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura was the Deputy Magistrate of Naral, my father was a classmate of his oldest son, Annada Prasad Babu, at Naral High School. Sometimes my father would go to Annada Babu’s house and have the good fortune of having the darshan of Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura. I have heard from my father that Shrila Thakura, while residing at Naral, used to travel to nearby places on his houseboat—such as Kaliya, Lohagara, and Lakshmipasha—to inspect the local proceedings and attend trials at law. At these times many fortunate people were able to hear about the pure devotional path of Gaudiya Vaishnavism from him.
Once Shrila Thakura went to inspect the condition of the Kanyadaha canal irrigation system, having been so requested by many of the local residents. He left his houseboat at our ghat and went there on horseback. I heard that my Gurudeva (Shrila Prabhupada), who was a very young child at that time, also came with his father in the houseboat. Our household sent some milk and sweets made of coconut and kshira (evaporated milk) to the travellers on the boat. In later years the holy association of these Acharyas helped my father to sincerely surrender at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.
One night in the spring of 1910, around 3 AM, I departed from my house with the goal of going to live in Hrishikesha after visiting the birthplace of Shriman Mahaprabhu, Shri Navadwip Dham. I went on foot for about ?fteen miles and then I travelled further by boat. Eventually I arrived at the Singia railroad station. This was the ?rst time I saw a train. One gentleman bought me a ticket and helped me board the train. I changed trains at Banga and Ranaghat and arrived at Krishnanagar at midnight the next day. Then I took a horse-drawn coach to the ghat, took a boat across the Ganga, and reached the town of Navadwip during the pre-dawn hours. In the morning, on inquiring about “Mahaprabhu’s house”, I was sent to a temple. I was told this was the main temple of Mahaprabhu in this town. As I was about to enter a man yelled in a rough voice, “You have to pay an entrance fee of three annas (about eighteen paisa).” Shocked, I left the temple. Sitting on the front porch of a run-down temple of Lord Shiva at Poramatala, I started pondering what I should do next. Shriman Mahaprabhu was the deliverer of fallen souls. He went from door to door instructing so many souls who had been burnt by the ?re of material life about the supreme bene?ts of devotional life, and look what had happened here today when I tried to have His darshan. This thought profoundly disturbed even a young boy like myself.
Two gentlemen who were returning from bathing in the Ganga passed by, talking about Shridham Mayapur, the birthplace of Shriman Mahaprabhu. Hearing them talking about Shridham Mayapur, I remembered what I had heard before [that Shrila Bhaktivinod Thakura had discovered the true birthplace of Mahaprabhu, in Shridham Mayapur], and immediately got up to go to Mayapur. I asked the local people how to get to the Ganga and then crossed the river. At that time, the pujari (priest) in Shriman Mahaprabhu’s house in Mayapur was Rajaram Tewari, the guard was Satyaram, and the treasurer was Padmanabha Brahmachari. The brahmachari told me, “In Vrajapattan, which is nearby, lives Shrila Siddhanta Saraswati. He is a brahmachari from childhood. Every day he chants the holy name 300,000 times, and his knowledge of the scriptures is limitless. Please take some prasadam, and then let’s go visit him. Please stay here for a while. Your health will get better here and you will have the opportunity to hear about many spiritual topics.” A little later, when I went to take prasadam, I had the darshan of the lotus feet of Shri Mata Thakuraani (Shrila Prabhupada’s mother). She sat next to me and personally served me prasadam, and then she sent me to Shrila Prabhupada in Vrajapattan with Padmanabha Brahmachari.
Arriving at Vrajapattan, I had my ?rst darshan of my most worshippable lord, the ful?llment of all my desires. At that time he was writing an article on “Conclusions (siddhanta) about the difference between Brahmanas and Vaishnavas”. Seeing his soothing and pleasing beautiful face, and hearing from him such instructions as I had never heard before, I not only forgot all the troubles of my journey, but I felt as if I had arrived in a new world. So I stayed in Shri Yogapith. Every day I would do a little bit of service, and around 3 o’clock in the afternoon I would go to Shrila Prabhupada in Vrajapattan and hear him read from his articles and his commentaries of Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita. Once I went home for a few days, but after I came back I started staying in Vrajapattan with Shrila Prabhupada.
Shrila Prabhupada would stay behind closed doors in his Bhajan-kutir and chant for long hours. Once, the day before Janmashtami, no milk could be found for offering. Suddenly Shrila Prabhupada thought, “If I could get some milk today, then I would offer it to Shriman Mahaprabhu.” As soon as he had this thought he chastised himself in his mind and thought, “Am I thinking this because I am afraid of the prospect of fasting without water tomorrow? Then this idea is very wrong.” This was the time of the monsoon. All the land around Mahaprabhu’s house was ?ooded. The only way to get around was by boat. Under these circumstances, that afternoon a milkman came to Yogapitha, wading in water up to his neck, with an abundance of milk, kshira, curd, butter, cream, etc. The milkman said that the rich landholder Harinath Chakravarti had sent these things from his estate to offer to Mahaprabhu. The pujari at Yogapitha offered these items to Mahaprabhu and then brought them to Vrajapattan, where Shrila Prabhupada was. It was Shrila Prabhupada’s speci?c instruction that any sumptuous foodstuffs offered to Mahaprabhu should not be brought to him. But that day, when the pujari brought those items to him, despite having been forbidden to do so, Shrila Prabhupada went to Shriman Mahaprabhu and said, “How much trouble I have given you. Why did such wrong ideas come to my mind, that you had to send these things for me by inspiring someone else in his heart!”
Excerpt translated from the Bengali memoirs of Shripad Paramananda Vidyaratna, as quoted in Saraswati Jayashri, ed. by Shri Sundarananda Vidyavinod. Calcutta: Shri Gaudiya Math, Baghbazar, 1934.
Shrila Gurudeva [Shrila Bhakti Dayita Madhava Maharaja] went from Calcutta to visit Shri Navadwipa Dhama with a few of his young friends, including Shri Narayana Chandra Mukhopadhyaya (later Shrimad Bodhayana Maharaja). They had heard about the very beautiful place called Shri Mayapur, where Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had appeared and where now very beautiful Deities were being worshiped at the Shri Chaitanya Math. Even though some people who were against the Gaudiya Math had tried to confuse him about Shri Mayapur, due to Mahaprabhu’s mercy on him Shrila Gurudeva overcame these obstacles and went there in 1925. He could not reach Shri Mayapur before afternoon, and the altar was closed. Shrila Gurudeva was very disappointed. When a brahmachari servitor saw these good-looking, educated, digni?ed young gentlemen from Calcutta he welcomed them with great warmth, very respectfully invited them to accept mahaprasada, and requested them to wait until the altar reopened. He also told them that a distinguished doctor—Dr. S.N. Ghosh—had been initiated that day, along with his wife, and had sponsored the feast that day. (In later years Dr. S.N. Ghosh (Sujanananda Dasadhikari) became one of the chief supporters of the Shri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math founded by Shrila Gurudeva.) After honoring mahaprasada, Shrila Gurudeva was waiting for the altar to reopen. Then the brahmachari servitor came again and told them, “You do not have anything to do now. Our Gurudeva is here; if you see him, you will be bene?tted by hearing Hari-katha from him, and we will also get the opportunity to hear Hari-katha again.” Shrila Gurudeva and his friends heartily accepted this proposal and went to Shrila Prabhupada’s bhajan-kutira.
Seeing Shrila Prabhupada’s sweet, long, golden, transcendental, effulgent divine form, they were in awe and considered themselves very fortunate to be in his presence. They had been to many places of pilgrimage, but nowhere had they seen such a self-effulgent great saint. They immediately realized that he was an intimate associate of Mahaprabhu; he was a great personality from the spiritual world. Shrila Gurudeva realized that Shrila Prabhupada must be the spiritual master whom Providence had ordained for him, by surrendering to whom his goal would be ful?lled. They offered their obeisances to Shrila Prabhupada with great respect and sat down.
Shrila Prabhupada asked them their names and so forth, and then asked what their purpose was in coming there. Shrila Gurudeva said he had heard the name of Shri Mayapur, and had heard that beautiful Deities were being worshiped there. So he came to visit the Deities. Shrila Prabhupada asked them if they had not seen Deities anywhere else. Shrila Gurudeva answered that they had been to many temples all over India and had seen many Deities. Then Shrila Prabhupada asked whether this had done them any good. Now Shrila Gurudeva was in anxiety. He did not know what to say; one was supposed to be truthful to a saint. Shrila Gurudeva said he did not know if it had done him any good; he only visited the Deities because he was supposed to. Shrila Prabhupada told them in an encouraging tone, “Of course one is supposed to see the Deities, but before we see Them, we have to learn how to see Them. One cannot see Their Lordships with the eyes of desire, but only with the eyes of love.”
Shrila Gurudeva and his friends listened to Shrila Prabhupada’s Hari-katha for a long time and felt an inexpressible bliss in their hearts. Shrila Prabhupada’s transcendental form and his powerful words made a deep impression on them. They wanted to know if they could see him again in Calcutta. They were told that in Calcutta a math had been founded at a1 Ultodanga Junction Road, and they could see Shrila Prabhupada there. Shrila Gurudeva and his friends considered themselves very fortunate, and went back to Calcutta with joyful hearts.
When Shrila Prabhupada wanted to install the Deities in the Math at Sarvbhog Kamroop, Assam, he sent Shrila Gurudeva and his senior Godbrother Tridandiswami Shrimad Bhakti Rakshaka Shridhara Deva Goswami Maharaja, along with Shri Janakivallabha Brahmachari and other devotees, to do the necessary arrangements beforehand. At that time Shrimad Bhakti Vijnana Ashrama Maharaja was in charge of that Math. Among the devotees in Assam, Shrila Nimananda Dasadhikari Prabhu was a learned and charismatic householder, very expert in preaching. Everyone expected him to make all arrangements for the bhoga and paraphernalia needed for the Deity installation. They also expected that he would make arrangements for the living quarters for Shrila Prabhupada and his entourage. When Shrila Gurudeva arrived there a few days before the festival, he was surprised to see that no such arrangements had been made. Shrila Gurudeva had such a transcendental personality, and was so determined to make all effort to do what had to be done, that nothing could discourage him. Immediately he engaged all his energies in ?nding living quarters for Shrila Prabhupada and his associates, and he accomplished his goal with a lot of hard work. Shrila Nimananda Prabhu also came with his family to participate in the festival and found a place to stay in the Chakchaka Bazaar.
On Sunday, the 15th of March, 1936, Shrila Prabhupada arrived at the Sarvbhog railroad station with his associates, and they were welcomed with great festivity. Among those who came with Shrila Prabhupada were Shrimad Kunjavihari Vidyabhushana Prabhu, Shrimad Paramananda Vidyaratna Prabhu, Shrimad Vasudeva Prabhu, Shrimad Kirtanananda Brahmachari, Shrimad Sajjana Maharaja, and Shrimad Krishna-Keshava Brahmachari. In the forefront of the big sankirtan procession, which accompanied Shrila Prabhupada and his entourage all the way from the railroad station to Sarvbhog Gaudiya Math, were a decorated elephant and a band.
Shrila Gurudeva had been very anxious about not being able to collect a lot of foodstuffs for the guests. But by the sincere desire of his heart and by the inconceivable greatness of Shrila Prabhupada, before the latter’s arrival there was a mountain of rice, dahl, vegetables, and other foodstuffs. When the religious people of Assam heard that a great saint was going to come from Navadwipa, then people started coming from six, eight, twenty, thirty, or forty miles and even further, from all directions, carrying foodstuffs on both shoulders, and they kept coming in a continuous ?ow. The whole Math was ?lled with foodstuffs donated by them. Shrila Prabhupada was amazed, seeing their tendency to serve the sadhus and their simplicity. During Shrila Prabhupada’s visit to Sarvbhog Math, every day there was a big festival and thousands of people were fed a sumptuous feast.
The next day, on Shrila Prabhupada’s request, Shrila Bhakti Rakshaka Shridhara Maharaja dressed the Deities, and decorated Their Lordships Shri Shri Guru-Gauranga-Gandharvika-Giridhari with ?owers, garlands, etc., inside the temple. Their Lordships were supposed to manifest in Their Deity forms after they were installed by Shrila Prabhupada. At the auspicious moment, which was at ten o’clock in the morning, Shrila Prabhupada arrived at the temple and saw that Their Lordships had been beautifully decorated. He then offered his obeisances to Them and said, “The Deities are already manifest.” Hearing this, Shrila Bhakti Rakshaka Shridhara Maharaja became very remorseful, thinking that he had done what was supposed to be done by his Gurudeva and so he must have committed a great offense. Then the Deities were installed with great Vaishnava festivities and the appropriate rituals such as sankirtan, ?re sacri?ce, etc. At this Mahotsava (Vaishnava festival), innumerable people were served with mahaprasada.
At the end of the festival Shrila Bhakti Vijnana Ashrama Maharaja repeatedly requested Shrila Gurudeva to inform Shrila Prabhupada that Nimananda Prabhu had not done what he was supposed to do. Thinking Shrila Prabhupada would not be pleased to hear this, Shrila Gurudeva at ?rst refused to so inform him. But when he was asked repeatedly, then to keep the honor of his senior Godbrother, Shrila Gurudeva considered submitting this to Shrila Prabhupada. One day, when Shrila Prabhupada was pacing up and down the front porch and Shrila Gurudeva was following him and fanning him, talking to him about a few other things, he brought up the subject of Nimananda Prabhu. Shrila Prabhupada immediately became angry and chastised Shrila Gurudeva. Shrila Gurudeva became very repentant, realizing this was not pleasing to Shrila Prabhupada. Immediately Shrila Prabhupada changed his mood and started praising Shrila Gurudeva with great affection. But Shrila Gurudeva was not happy to hear this, thinking that Shrila Prabhupada was afraid that Shrila Gurudeva would not be able to tolerate his chastisement. Then Shrila Prabhupada gave Shrila Gurudeva many valuable instructions and indirectly let him know that he was very dear to him. The ?rst thing Shrila Prabhupada said was, “Why do you want so much and why do you suffer so much? It is not proper to expect that someone else should do this much service. Your service to your Gurudeva is all yours. If someone else performs some of this service, then you should be grateful to him. Radharani is the only housewife in the household of Krishna. Shrimati Radhika knows that all service to Krishna is to be done by Her. If someone else helps Her in some way, then She is grateful to her.”
When Shrila Gurudeva wanted to explain the glories of Sharanagati (exclusive surrender) to his disciples, he frequently referred to one incident at the Sarvbhog Math. Shrila Shridhara Maharaja was very anxious, thinking he had committed a great offense by doing what was supposed to be done by Shrila Prabhupada. So he requested Shrila Gurudeva to submit to Shrila Prabhupada his prayer forgiveness for the offense that he had committed unknowingly and to let him know about the condition of his disturbed heart. Being so requested by Shrila Shridhara Maharaja, Shrila Gurudeva submitted this to Shrila Prabhupada in a letter. In response, Shrila Prabhupada wrote, “One who is surrendered never commits any offense. The Supreme Lord does not see any fault in one who is surrendered to Him. The surrendered soul is always forgiven because he is always dedicating himself to the service of the Lord, without any ulterior motive. On the other hand, one who is not surrendered and who has ulterior motives is in danger of committing offenses at every step.”
Excerpts translated from the Bengali:
Shrila Bhakti Vallabha Tirtha Maharaja, Shri Shrimad Bhakti Dayita Madhava Goswami Maharaja Vishnupadera Puta Charitamrita (The Holy Biography of Shrila Madhava Goswami Maharaja), Calcutta: Shri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math, 1986.
In February 1936, on the occasion of Shrila Prabhupada’s 62nd appearance day, the great festival of his most auspicious Vyasa Puja (worship of Shri Guru on his appearance day) was held at Shrivasa Angana (the courtyard of Shrivasa Thakura, an intimate associate of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu) at Shri Mayapur Dham, and lasted for ?ve days. No one thought at that time that this would be the last Vyasa Puja of his manifested pastime in this world.
Shrivasa Angana was reverberating with the loud sound of the Hari-sankirtana of thousands of devotees who came from all directions. The courtyard was decorated very beautifully with gates, pillars, and valances of many colorful ?owers and leaves. The joyous mood of that great festival reminded devotees of the festival at Shri Kheturi Dhama. When Shrila Prabhupada, surrounded by devotees, arrived from Shri Chaitanya Math, he ?rst entered the temple and worshiped the Deities of Shri Shri Nityananda and Shri Shri Gaurasundara with ?owers, garlands, sandalwood, etc. He then came out of the temple and offered his prostrate obeisances. Then he went to the kirtana hall and sat on his asana, which was decorated with ?owers and garlands. The devotees kept loudly chanting “Jaya Shrila Prabhupada”. Then Shripada Narahari Brahmachari, Seva-vigraha Prabhu, performed Guru Puja with perfume, ?ower, incense, lamp, cloth, and fans. Shripada Kunjavihari Vidyabhushana Prabhu performed the ?ower offering (pushpanjali). Shripada Radha-Govinda Kavya-Purana Tirtha Bhaktishastri sang the invocation song. Then Tridandi Swami Shrimad Bhakti Kevala Audulomi Maharaja read about Shri Vyasa Puja from Shri Chaitanya Bhagavata. After this all the assembled devotees glori?ed Shrila Prabhupada by reading their offerings.
Rice, new clothes, etc. were distributed to hundreds of poor people. From eleven o’clock in the morning until early evening thousands of people who came from outside the Math were fed a sumptuous feast. The new magistrate of Nadiya, Shri Nilakantha Mahadeva Ayar, came with his wife to pay his respects to Shrila Prabhupada. In the afternoon, amid loud chanting of “All Glories!”, Shrila Prabhupada went to Shri Chaitanya Math Lecture Hall and sat on his decorated chair. On top was a decorated canopy and in front the verse “narayanam namaskritya” was written. There was a decorated doorway in front of the hall.
After the offerings of everyone (those who were present, and those who were absent due to their service at distant maths) had been read, Shrila Prabhupada responded to those offerings with the following words: “Today in this great assembly where many learned devotees are gathered, many devotees said many things. The audience here has spent a lot of time listening to these offerings. I do not have too many things to say. But what I wanted to say was expressed here today by the words of these learned devotees.
“Today I have learned about many things. Today the worshippable devotees here, by singing my glories, have actually taught me how to sing the glories of the Lord and the devotees. If a non-devotee is glori?ed then this becomes a cause of trouble for the both the glori?er and the glori?ed. My worshippable Gurus are trying to purify my heart by teaching me humility through their own example. I take it that they are saying to me, ‘Please always remain engaged in the service of the Lord and His devotees, and please give the same respect to others that we are giving to you.’
“I have spent many years in this world now. I have realized that I have no other shelter than at the lotus feet of the Vaishnavas.
“One who serves the Supreme Lord always considers himself the most fallen. Only when one thinks of himself as the most inferior can he become the best Vaishnava; only then can he talk about the highest kind of devotion. Sarvottama apanake hina kari mane’—’The one who is superior to all others considers himself more inferior than anyone else.’
“We shall roll in the dust of the feet of the devotees. I have not made any disciples, nor will I make any. Otherwise I will be in?uenced by non-devotees, and I will go on a different path, in a different direction. You are all my Gurus; please have mercy on me, considering me as your disciple.”
After Shrila Prabhupada’s speech, Tridandi Swami Shrimad Bhakti Hridaya Bana Maharaja expressed his thanks to everyone and begged for Shrila Prabhupada’s causeless mercy on behalf of everyone. Then Shripada Haripada Vidyaratna (Shrimad Bhakti Sadhaka Nishkinchana Maharaja) sang the song “prabhu hetuya padye e minati mora”.
In 1920 Shrila Prabhupada was travelling in the village of Purulia, in Jessore District in East Bengal (now Bangladesh). There was a two-day festival of Hari-katha and sankirtana. Then Shrila Prabhupada proceeded to the Sholpur railroad station along with the other devotees. On the way was a river. After crossing the river Shrila Prabhupada and the devotees were going through a village. Shrila Prabhupada was in the front of the group. By the road was a one-room cottage belonging to an old woman. When the old woman saw Shrila Prabhupada, she became very anxious to give him something. By the time she had collected something to give and come out with it, Shrila Prabhupada had gone quite a distance. So she went behind the group anyway and tried to give the devotees her offering of one penny and four limes. The devotees did not want to take that. Then the old woman started begging them to take it.
The Supreme Lord is very affectionate to His devotees; in the same way, His pure devotee is also very affection to the devotees. Omniscient Shrila Prabhupada realized the situation, and looking behind him, noticed the sincerity of the old woman. Even though by then he had gone quite a distance, he came all the way back to the old woman and with great respect and appreciation accepted her gift in his own hands. The old woman became very joyous. In a voice choked with emotion she cried “O merciful Lord” and fell at Shrila Prabhupada’s feet. The devotees were amazed to see Shrila Prabhupada’s mercy on the old woman. Then Shrila Prabhupada resumed his journey and said, “Even a little gift from His devotees is considered a lot by the Supreme Lord. Today Mahaprabhu would have been displeased if we did not take this old lady’s gift for Him.”
Excerpt translated from the Bengali:
Bhaktishastri, Shri Hari-kripa Dasa Brahmachari, Parama Gurudeva Prabhupada Shri-Shrimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, Bombay: Shri Gaudiya Math, 1980.
When Shrila Prabhupada was travelling in Orissa, one day, as he was coming back from the temple of Shakshi Gopala, some people on the road begged for alms from the householders who were accompanying Shrila Prabhupada. But none of the householders were ready to give alms. Seeing this, Shrila Prabhupada stopped, sat down, and started talking about the duties of householders. In the course of his talk, he said, “If the householders think, ‘I should not give any of my money that I consider reserved for Krishna to the poor and the destitute,’ then they are actually showing symptoms of miserliness, cruelty, and lack of compassion for others. They should not consider giving charity to the very poor as fruitive activities. This kind of mentality will make their hearts very hard, and they will suffer from avarice. As a result of this, they will not want to spend their money even in the devotional service of the Supreme Lord, which is our ultimate goal in life. This will invite offense regarding service. To save us from this kind of deceitful and sinful concept, Shri Gaurasundara used to give money and so forth to poor people during His pastime as a householder. The money we have, we have earned only by the grace of the Lord. If we give some of this to begging poor people then that is not misuse of money, that is good use of money. To serve prasadam (food offered to the Lord) to others is the necessary duty of every Vaishnava householder. Even if those others have become poor by their karma or destiny, they are still part of the Lord’s family. Therefore it is de?nitely the duty of well-off householders to help them.”
Excerpts translated from the Bengali:
Tridandi Swami Shrila Bhakti Kusuma Shramana Maharaja, Prabhupada Shrila Saraswati Thakura, Mayapur, Nadiya: Shri Chaitanya Math, 1991.
In the year 1912, I heard that the religious conference called Kashim Bazar Sammilani would take place in Kashim Bazar, Calcutta from March 20th to March 25th. Curious to hear those discussions, I went to Kashim Bazar at that time. There I saw Shrila Prabhupada for the second time. Being earnestly requested by the Maharaja of Kashim Bazar, Shri Manindra Chandra Nandi, Shrila Prabhupada came there to deliver some Hari-katha. At that time I had not taken shelter at Shrila Prabhupada’s lotus feet. I went there only as an ordinary member of the audience. When I arrived there I saw that some people—such as the late Pulin Mallik, also known as Nityananda Das, a businessman called K.B. Sen, of Tara Chand Datta Street, Calcutta, and Shri Gopendu Bandhopadhyay of Kalna—were all requesting Shrila Prabhupada to say something about the matri-mandir (Mother’s temple, or the temple of Goddess Durga) of Kuliya. In response Shrila Prabhupada told them, “I have come to deliver hari-katha, so let me deliver some hari-katha.” At that time I used to stay close to Shrila Prabhupada most of the time to listen to his hari-katha. I noticed that Shrila Prabhupada would ?rst offer his dandavat to everyone and then chant on his tulasi beads all day. I never saw him sleeping or resting. Another surprising thing I saw was that the Maharaja of Kashim Bazar used to send an abundance of sumptuous foodstuffs for Shrila Prabhupada. But Shrila Prabhupada never accepted any of it. Only one day, Shrila Prabhupada accepted one tulasi leaf. Shrila Prabhupada used to distribute all that foodstuff among the guests. From March 21st to March 24th, the four days that he was there, I saw him fasting like this. One day Shrila Prabhupada instructed me, “Eating, sleeping, and acts of personal hygiene should take place far from the eyes of the public.” Even today we see that Shrila Prabhupada has this nature. In response to my question, Shrila Prabhupada made me understand what is wrong with the modern concocted lyric: “Bhaja Nitai Gaur Radhe Shyam / Japa Hare Krishna Hare Ram”. By quoting from the scriptures, he explained how it was against bona ?de conclusion (siddhanta) and how it was faulty with rasabhas (having contradictory devotional sentiments).
One day he was invited to give a lecture, but he was only given ?ve minutes. He started giving his lecture in a very concise way by quoting the “brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva” verse from Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita, but within a few minutes they asked him to sit down. In that short time, I realized the special characteristic of his talk: its originality and deep substance. I understood that this great personality made a few objective true statements which were not pleasant to a group of people. Then I thought in my mind, “Perhaps this is why this great person is not accepting the food from the Maharaja.” Later when I asked him, he said, “If I cannot bene?t someone, if I cannot deliver a materialistic person from the dirt of materialism, then if I accept his association by sharing his food, etc., my own mind will become dirty. Therefore everyone on the spiritual path should have the six kinds of association [as explained by Shrila Rupa Goswami in his Upadeshamrita] only with a devotee.”
Shrila Prabhupada was asked to stay in the private quarters of the Maharaja. The Maharaja employed one gentleman full-time to serve and attend Shrila Prabhupada. One day he told Shrila Prabhupada in front of me, “You are a real Vaishnava. The others who came took Maharaja’s hospitality, but they did not bene?t him in any way. You came to give Maharaja the real bene?t. But our great misfortune is that his associates did not let him understand your objectivity and your concept of true Vaishnavism.”
In the summer of 1917, there was a Vaishnava conference in the house of Shri Vanamali Poddar at Daulatpur. There I heard Shrila Prabhupada delivering Hari-katha night and day. Early in the morning he would start his Hari-katha, and sometimes it would go on until afternoon without interruption. Again in the evening he would give Hari-katha, which would go on until late at night. At this time, I heard Shrila Prabhupada interpreting the bhakti yogena manasi samyak pranihite ‘male” verse (Shrimad Bhagavatam 1.7.4) in many ways. I remember he also interpreted the verse atma-sevanande yadi krishna-seva badhe se anander prati bhakter hay maha krodhe (“If a devotee sees that his joy in serving has become an obstacle to the service of Krishna, then he becomes very angry at that joy.”) from Shri Chaitanya-charitamrita. In this regard, he explained how Krishna’s charioteer Daruk detested his own ecstasy of love when, as he was fanning Krishna, the fan fell from his hand due to this ecstasy.
This was the time when Ramgopal Babu gave up smoking forever. Before coming to Shrila Prabhupada, he used to smoke so frequently that life would be unbearable to him unless he could smoke every few hours. One day Shrila Prabhupada told him, “The Vaishnavas will bring you the best tobacco available anywhere. You take all that, go at least one hundred yards from here into a ?eld and offer it all to Krishna. Krishna has a monopoly over all intoxicating substances, and they can only be enjoyed by Him. But if the living entity tries to enjoy what is enjoyable by Krishna, he becomes enslaved by intoxication. What is meant for Krishna’s sense grati?cation can actually dull the senses of the living entity, who eventually becomes bereft of human virtues.”
I also heard something completely new from Shrila Prabhupada: The living entity should see himself as an object of Krishna’s vision, and see the world as an object of Krishna’s enjoyment. It is disastrous for the living entity to think that he is the seer, or that he is the enjoyer, or that he is the controller, of this world. Right now the world is going completely in the opposite direction from the consideration that “I am not the seer, but I am to be seen; I am not the enjoyer, but I am to be enjoyed.”
Excerpt translated from the Bengali memoir of Shripad Ananta Vasudeva, as quoted in
Saraswati Jayashri, ed. by Shri Sundarananda Vidyavinod. Calcutta: Shri Gaudiya Math, Baghbazar, 1934.
The famous business tycoon, Shakshi-Gopal Badal, used to come to the Gaudiya Math sometimes and listen to Shrila Prabhupada’s Hari-katha. One day Shrila Prabhupada was sitting at the Gaudiya Printing Works when Badal Mahashay arrived there. Badal Mahashay started glorifying the interpretations of a professional Bhagavat speaker. Shrila Prabhupada told Badal Mahashay, “Pure devotion has been described in Shrimad Bhagavatam. If one hears interpretations of Shrimad Bhagavatam from a materialistic person, then he may enjoy some taste of literature and poetry, but this cannot bring him the supreme bene?t. After hearing Shrimad Bhagavatam, one cannot have greed or attraction for material enjoyment. Only those who have become free from worldly thought can hear Krishna-lila.” It seemed to us that this concept was completely new to Badal Mahashay. He said, “Can somebody not bene?t people, if by hearing his interpretations they are enchanted and openly shed tears?” Shrila Prabhupada said, “After shedding tears, why do they become attached to material enjoyment again?” This did not please Badal Mahashay very much. But we did not see Shrila Prabhupada deviate from speaking the truth as it is to please an in?uential business tycoon. We have seen thousands of examples in Shrila Prabhupada’s life that if someone had the highest position in society because of their wealth, scholarship, or some power or position, Shrila Prabhupada never tried to please them in any way by minimizing the honest truth. It was the specialty of his character that he would never sacri?ce the honest truth to gratify the senses of the people of this world, even if that meant that some in?uential person would become inimical to Shrila Prabhupada’s preaching and his mission and would start persecuting him or his mission in some way. When the preaching mission of this math started, there was no material wealth to support this. All his life, Shrila Prabhupada’s main weapon against materialism has been sincere Hari-kirtan that was detached from all worldly matters. He always says, “It is not that one can serve God just because one has money. But if one has great determination to preach Hari-katha and to serve the Lord, and if one’s life is sincerely dedicated to service, then everything will be accomplished. You all please don’t worry about money. A math cannot be preserved by money. On the other hand, the characteristic of money is that if one is not serving the Lord, it makes him intoxicated with material enjoyment.” In our practical experience also, this is what we have always seen. So many big things have happened here, and we never even had ten rupees in our possession. But just by the order of Shrila Prabhupada, whose intentions always materialized, his blessings and inspiration made hundreds of impossible things possible.
Another characteristic we see in him: among his followers, if he ?nds any fault with those who serve him all the time in many ways then he immediately tries to correct it by protesting strongly about it. Shrila Prabhupada never hesitated to strongly chastise his followers—which was always bene?cial for them—thinking they would become displeased or sad. Whenever one’s words, actions, conduct, or behavior was not proper according to the true injunctions of pure devotional conclusions, we always saw Shrila Prabhupada condemn it in forceful language. The message of Shrila Prabhupada is this: “You should all get together and satisfy Krishna’s senses. A person or a society will not be bene?tted by personal or collective sense grati?cation.”
Excerpt translated from the Bengali memoir of Shripad Ku–ja-vihari Vidyabhushan, as quoted in
Saraswati Jayashri, ed. by Shri Sundarananda Vidyavinod. Calcutta: Shri Gaudiya Math, Baghbazar, 1934.
Here is an excerpt from a letter from Shrila Prabhupada I received in 1931:
“The Supreme Lord is existing everywhere. If we are engaged in serving one part of HIm, then our concept of Krishna-seva will be wiped out and it will become the worship of Garbhodakashayi Vishnu. Worshipping Krishna is different from worshipping Garbhodakashayi or Narayan. If I suggest that you should serve a part of Krishna, then all your endeavor will not go towards Krishna; you will be rendering partial service, not full service. If one is not versatile in his service, then one will become eccentric, and he will become averse to the mood of Shrimati Radharani’s service, which is all-inclusive. If one has partial vision, then he cannot pay attention to all kinds of service. But Krishna, the Supreme Lord, is present everywhere; the wealth of Shrimati Radharani [all-inclusive seva] can be attained only by the mercy of Shrimati Radharani.”
I hope this invaluable instruction from Shrila Prabhupada will end the wrong concept that many of us have: “It is not I but so-and-so who is appointed for such-and-such service; why is the money or ingredient meant for such-and-such service being used for some other service?” This kind of eccentric consciousness will be completely removed when we will have the all-inclusive mood of service by following the one who is very close to Shrimati Radharani [Shri Gurudeva].
Excerpt translated from the Bengali memoir of Shrimad Bhakti Pradip Tirtha Maharaj, as quoted in Saraswati Jayashri, ed. by Shri Sundarananda Vidyavinod. Calcutta: Shri Gaudiya Math, Baghbazar, 1934.
Once Shrila Prabhupada sent his disciples to preach in a distant part of India. As the preaching was going on successfully, he instructed them to open a math there. So his disciples were working night and day to open the math on an auspicious day, as instructed by Shrila Prabhupada. Right before the opening of the math and the installation of the deities, Shrila Prabhupada would arrive there with his entourage, so there was a lot of service to be done. In the meantime, an unfortunate incident took place there. One brahmachari devotee was seen acting improperly with a woman who was staying near the property. So his senior Godbrothers chastised him heavily. The next morning, that brahmachari could not be found anywhere. In the middle of the night he had left without telling anyone and taken all his belongings. Shrila Prabupada’s disciples felt sad and repentant; they thought perhaps they had been too harsh with him. They looked everywhere for him, but he still could not be found. Even though the devotees were not happy about this, they did not have too much time to look for him.
Shrila Prabhupada arrived before the opening of the temple, and he was extremely happy to see the new building and all the arrangements. When he saw so many people were interested in the mission, he praised the preaching effort of his disciples. All the disciples were very happy to see that they had been able to please Shrila Prabhupada. Suddenly Shrila Prabhupada asked, “Where is ——? I don’t see him anywhere.” Then the devotees told him what had happened. Shrila Prabhupada became very sad. He said, “It is so dif?cult to bring one person from the clutches of the illusory energy into the realm of devotion. One person came to us, and somehow we have sent him back to the material world. That one person means more to me than all these buildings and everything else here.” Seeing Shrila Prabhupada’s mood, his disciples became very sad and remorseful. They talked among themselves: “We have caused some pain to Shrila Prabhupada, and we have to rectify it. We have to look for him and bring him back here.” They thought about it a lot, but did not know how they could search him out, as they had already tried and failed. But Shripad Hayagriva Prabhu (later Shrimad Bhakti Dayita Madhav Maharaj) did not want to give up. He always had ?erce determination to carry out Shrila Prabhupada’s wishes, and he always displayed extraordinary intelligence and resourcefulness in doing so. Suddenly he said, “I know where to ?nd him. One day a devotee’s watch broke, and he immediately repaired it. So he knows how to repair watches. He must be working for a watch repair shop. So they went to look for him in all the watch repair shops in the city. After they had gone to many shops, one shopkeeper, on being given the description of ——, said he was in the back room. So they went to the back room and found him there. Seeing them, he started crying: “Krishna has answered my prayer. I have been so miserable since I left the math. Yet I was too embarassed to come back. So I was praying to Krishna night and day that somehow He would take me back there, even though I didn’t know how.” So the devotees said, “Yes, you will have to come back, because Shrila Prabhupada is missing you greatly. Please forgive us for chastising you.” Then —— said, “No, I am the one who should ask for forgiveness.” Then they were all crying, and the shopkeeper was very moved by the scene. Shrila Prabhupada was very happy to see his lost disciple, and the disciple was completely overwhelmed realizing the glory of his merciful Gurudeva. It is he who told this story to others for the rest of his life.
—Excerpt translated from the Bengali memoir of Shrimad Bhakti Kumud Santa Maharaj.
Throughout his manifested pastime, we noticed that anything that Shrila Prabhupada wanted to get done always got done. Whatever desire he expressed always was ful?lled, sometimes very miraculously. Let me tell you about just two incidents.
The new temple at Shri Yogapith in Mayapur was going to be opened in a few days by the King of Tripura. Since there was no electricity in Mayapur at that time, we had ordered a generator to be shipped to Mayapur from Calcutta. We went to the Dhubulia Railroad Station to get the generator. The generator had come on a railroad car from which it had to be brought down with a crane. But unfortunately there was no crane at that station at that time. So the railway clerk suggested that we send the generator back to Calcutta, so that it could come back to us in a railroad car with a door. We did not know if Shrila Prabhupada would approve of this plan. So I went back to Mayapur on my bicycle to tell Shrila Prabhupada what had happened. As we had guessed, Shrila Prabhupada did not approve of the plan. He said there was no certainty that the generator would come back in time for us to use it at the opening. Then Shrila Prabhupada told me, "You go and try. You will ?nd a way to get it out."
So I went back to the Dhubulia Station and told my Godbrothers what Shrila Prabhupada had said. No one could ?gure out what to do now. Suddenly Revati-raman Brahmachari thought of somehow using some spare railroad ties that were there to get the generator down. So we got permission from the railway clerk to use those ties. We arranged them to form a ramp to the railroad car. Then we manhandled the generator down the ramp. Next we had to put it on our own bullock cart and take it to Mayapur. But our bullock cart was rather old and worn-out, and it broke under the weight of the generator. Now we were really at a loss for what to do, and there was no one else there besides us. Suddenly a man appeared there on a brand-new bullock cart. He approached us and asked us if we could give him a job. We asked him if he would take our generator to Mayapur on his cart, and he very happily agreed. When I went back to Mayapur and told Shrila Prabhupada what had happened, he was very happy, and he told me to let him know when the generator arrived. It took the bullock cart a long time to come, but when it ?nally arrived Shrila Prabhupada was waiting for it. He gave the poor bullock cart driver a reward that was ten times more than what he had requested.
Everyone was very busy at the temple putting ?nishing touches on the arrangements for the upcoming opening. Besides all the devotees, all the local people who were available for work were employed there. We were working in the garden when Shrila Prabhupada came there. He pointed at a pond and asked if there was anyone who could clean it. Cleaning the pond would be very time-consuming, and there wasn't anyone available to do that. Then Shrila Prabhupada told us, "Perhaps it will be done anyway," and left us. All of a sudden, a group of Muslim laborers arrived there from Murshidabad. They asked us if there was any job for them to do. All the poor people—Hindus and Muslims alike—liked to come and work for the Gaudiya Math, as they knew they would be treated well and paid generously. Shrila Prabhupada was always very generous to poor people. So the pond was cleaned in no time. Everything else Shrila Prabhupada wanted done for the opening of the temple somehow also got done.
—Translated from the Bengali memoir of Shrimad Nayanananda Babaji Maharaj (previously Shripad Satprasangananda Brahmachari).
We see in Shrimad Bhagavatam that Shri Krishna went to Sandipani Muni's ashram to study the Vedas. One day, by the order of His Guru, Lord Shri Krishna went to the forest to get some wood. In the forest a rainstorm began, so Shri Krishna could not return home but spent the night in a cave. When the Supreme Lord Himself took so much trouble to obey His Gurudeva's order, then it is not surprising that other people also have to take some trouble to carry out their Gurudeva's order. It is the duty of a disciple to serve his Gurudeva and obey his order. But the conduct of the Gurudeva at the Gaudiya Math, Shrimad Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, is rather unique. He does not order his disciples to do anything, even something very simple. If he becomes very thirsty, he will look at the waterpot, but he will not ask anyone to give him some water. Late in the day, after walking and speaking Hari-katha, he may say he is a little bit tired, but he will not say "Please give me something to eat." He thinks saying that to his disciples would be ordering them around. He doesn't think he is superior to them, therefore he does not give them orders. He thinks that if he thinks himself superior, he will become proud. Everything about him is very unique. I am an old man now, but I have not seen anyone like him before.
Just by seeing him one will not know how much he knows. But I have seen many scholars, and I have not seen a scholar like him. I have in my possession ?fteen interpretations of Shrimad Bhagavatam, but his interpretation is always new. One day he was explaining a verse from Shrimad Bhagavatam. He spent two hours explaining two lines. My heart, which is like a desert, absorbed the cooling nectar of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati hakur's interpretation. If I had a great memory, I could have reproduced his interpretation. But who has interpreted Shrimad Bhagavatam as he has? If one wants to know if the rice has been well-cooked, one doesn't have to taste each and every grain of rice. By tasting one grain one knows whether the whole pot is cooked. So by hearing him once, one will know how unique his interpretations can be.
The reason for this is that he takes the holy name night and day. When Shrila Bhaktivinod hakur was present, I saw that Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati hakur used to sit nearby, but his lips were always moving. Who knows if they were moving at night as well? If it weren't so, then how could he give such interpretations, which can only be given on the strength of the holy name? The interpretation is not his own: the Supreme Lord makes him say these things.
When I used to subscribe to Sajjan Toshani and Nivedan, sometimes I used to come to Calcutta, and I saw his lips moving in this way, chanting the holy name. At that time I could not conceive that the strength of the holy name would make him so powerful, and Shriman Mahaprabhu would make him perform such great tasks. Many people take the holy name, including myself, so why didn't I become so powerful? What to speak of having such power, I cannot even comprehend his interpretations. The effulgence of his interpretation cannot stay in a heart that is dirty and sinful. Pujyapad Bhakti Vijay Mahashay says that although he has been staying with Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura for six years, he has not heard the same interpretation twice.
I am not a disciple of Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, so it is not that it is my duty to glorify him. But due to my good fortune, I am a dog who has eaten the prasad of the Vaishnava prabhus of Shri Gaudiya Math.
—Translated from the Bengali memoir of Pandit Shri Vidubhushan Shastri, ?rst printed in Gaudiya, Vol. 3, No. 37