Giriraj Swami

Jul 222021
 

Today is Guru-purnima. Srila Prabhupada has explained that the system of honoring the spiritual master is current in all sections of Vedic followers. In the Mayavadi (impersonalist) sects, the disciples offer respect to the spiritual master once a year, on Guru-purnima. And in the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya, the disciples offer homage annually on the appearance day of the spiritual master, called Vyasa-puja because the spiritual master represents Vedavyasa, the empowered incarnation of Krishna who compiled the Vedic literatures, and the bona fide spiritual master presents the same knowledge through disciplic succession. Yet although Guru-purnima is generally observed by the Mayavadi groups, we shall take the opportunity to discuss the principle of guru—and glorify the acharya-sampradaya.

Guru is a deep subject. We sing, vande ’ham sri-guroh sri-yuta-pada-kamalam sri-gurun vaisnavams ca. We offer respects to the spiritual master in singular, to the spiritual masters in plural, and to all Vaishnavas. The singular spiritual master is our personal spiritual master, the plural spiritual masters are the predecessor acharyas, and the Vaishnavas are the followers of the spiritual master. We offer respects to them all, because they all come in the same line, the disciplic succession (parampara) from Krishna Himself.

Srila Prabhupada explains, “The offering of respect to the spiritual master means offering respect to all the previous acharyas. Gurun means plural number. All the acharyas, they are not different from one another, because they are coming in the disciplic succession from the original spiritual master and they have no different views.” Thus we offer respects to the predecessors.

Similarly, we offer respects to the followers. Srila Prabhupada explains further, “Spiritual master means they must have many followers, who are all Vaishnavas. They are called prabhus, and the spiritual master is called Prabhupada, because at his lotus feet there are many prabhus. Pada means ‘lotus foot.’ All these Vaishnavas are prabhus. So they are also offered respectful obeisances—not the spiritual master alone, but along with his associates. And these associates, his disciples, are all Vaishnavas. Therefore they should also be offered respectful obeisances.” (SP comment on Mangalacarana, January 8, 1969)

For us in ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada is the main guru; he is the founder-acharya. But he also has his associates—Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja, Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami Maharaja, Srila Sridhar Swami, Srila Bhakti Tirtha Swami, Srila Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami—to name some prominent ones who have departed. And, of course, Prabhupada is being served by so many others today, and we can serve and learn from all of them.

“One who teaches can be treated as spiritual master. . . . So if we take instruction from them, all senior godbrothers may be treated as guru. There is no harm. Actually, you have only one spiritual master, who initiates you, just as you have only one father. But every Vaishnava should be treated as prabhu, master, higher than me, and in this sense, if I learn from him, he may be regarded as guru.” (SP letter dated November 20, 1971)

The original guru is Krishna. He speaks the knowledge of Bhagavad-gita and enunciates the principles of religion. Dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: the principles of dharma—bhagavata-dharma, prema-dharma—are enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We cannot manufacture dharma. In reality, dharma means “the laws of God,” or “the orders of God.” So, dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam: the principles of religion are enacted by the Lord Himself. We cannot make religious principles any more than we can make our own laws. Srila Prabhupada gave the example that you can’t just get together with some friends and pass your own laws. “Okay, now I think we should legalize marijuana. Everyone agree? Good. Passed.” Law means that it must be enacted by the government, by the parliament or legislature. Similarly, dharma is enacted by God.

dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam
na vai vidur rsayo napi devah
na siddha-mukhya asura manusyah
  kuto nu vidyadhara-caranadayah

“Real religious principles are enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although fully situated in the mode of goodness, even the great rsis who occupy the topmost planets cannot ascertain the real religious principles, nor can the demigods or the leaders of Siddhaloka, to say nothing of the asuras, ordinary human beings, Vidyadharas, and Caranas.” (SB 6.3.19)

The conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita is sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja—to give up all varieties of dharma and just surrender to Krishna. And to understand the confidential truths about religious principles and the knowledge of the Bhagavad-gita, we need the help of mahajanas, authorities in Krishna consciousness—gurus.

svayambhur naradah sambhuh
  kumarah kapilo manuh
prahlado janako bhismo
  balir vaiyasakir vayam

 dvadasaite vijanimo
  dharmam bhagavatam bhatah
guhyam visuddham durbodham
  yam jnatvamrtam asnute

“Lord Brahma, Bhagavan Narada, Lord Siva, the four Kumaras, Lord Kapila [the son of Devahuti], Svayambhuva Manu, Prahlada Maharaja, Janaka Maharaja, Grandfather Bhisma, Bali Maharaja, Sukadeva Gosvami, and I myself [Yamaraja] know the real religious principle. My dear servants, this transcendental religious principle, which is known as bhagavata-dharma, or surrender unto the Supreme Lord and love for Him, is uncontaminated by the material modes of nature. It is very confidential and difficult for ordinary human beings to understand, but if by chance one fortunately understands it, he is immediately liberated, and thus he returns home, back to Godhead.” (SB 6.3.20–21)

This confidential knowledge is given by God in scriptures and passed down through disciplic succession (evam parampara-praptam) to great souls who in turn impart the knowledge to their eager followers. And of all scriptures, Srimad-Bhagavatam is considered the most important, the ripened fruit of the tree of Vedic knowledge.

nigama-kalpa-taror galitam phalam
  suka-mukhad amrta-drava-samyutam
pibata bhagavatam rasam alayam
  muhur aho rasika bhuvi bhavukah

“O expert and thoughtful men, relish Srimad-Bhagavatam, the mature fruit of the desire tree of Vedic literatures. It emanated from the lips of Sri Sukadeva Gosvami. Therefore this fruit has become even more tasteful, although its nectarean juice was already relishable for all, including liberated souls.” (SB 1.1.3)

This nectarean fruit is passed down to us through disciplic succession. In commenting on this verse, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura gives the example of a mango tree. To get a ripe mango from the top of a tree, different boys climb onto different branches. The boy at the top plucks the fruit and hands it to the boy on the next branch down, that boy hands it to the one on the next branch, and so on, until finally it reaches the boy on the ground—in the same perfect condition as when it was at the top of the tree. It hasn’t been bruised or broken but has been delivered intact, just as it was.

At the top of the tree is Krishna, and He passes the knowledge down to Brahma. Brahma passes it to Narada, and Narada passes it to Vyasa. (Today is also called Vyasa Purnima because Vyasadeva, who compiled the Vedic literature, appeared on this date.) Vyasa passes it to Madhvacharya, and so on—Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the Six Gosvamis, and, further down, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and Srila Prabhupada. And now the followers of Srila Prabhupada are presenting the same knowledge. They follow and present the same teachings—that is their qualification.

About Vedavyasa, Srila Prabhupada wrote: “Vyasadeva was a real person accepted by all authorities, and anyone can judge how wonderful he was to have compiled the Vedic literatures. He is therefore known as Mahamuni. Muni means ‘thoughtful’ or ‘great thinker’ or ‘great poet,’ and maha means still greater. There is no comparison of Vyasadeva with any other writer or thinker or philosopher. Nobody can estimate the scholarly importance of Srila Vyasadeva. He composed many millions of Sanskrit verses, and we try to receive just a fragment of the knowledge in them by our tiny efforts. Srila Vyasadeva therefore summarized the whole Vedic knowledge in Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is known as the ripened fruit of the desire tree of Vedic knowledge. The ripened fruit is received hand to hand through disciplic succession, and anyone who does this work in disciplic succession from Srila Vyasadeva is considered a representative of Vyasadeva, and as such the bona fide spiritual master’s appearance day is worshiped as Vyasa-puja.” (Srila Prabhupada letter dated August 25, 1970)

Not only is today Vyasa-purnima, the appearance day of Vedavyasa, but it is also the disappearance day of Srila Sanatana Gosvami, the most senior of the Six Gosvamis of Vrindavan. His book Brhad-Bhagavatamrta was the first major work of the Six Gosvamis. Sanatana Gosvami also comes in the disciplic succession from Lord Krishna to Brahma, but he is especially significant because he is a direct follower of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krishna Himself. Because Lord Chaitanya is Krishna, He is capable of beginning His own disciplic succession, but because He was acting as a devotee, He chose to take initiation in the disciplic succession from Krishna and Brahma. Still, He is God, and the process by which He imparted knowledge to His immediate followers—Rupa and Sanatana Gosvamis—is comparable to the way Lord Krishna imparted knowledge to Brahma. Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, in his Caitanya-caritamrta, writes of Sanatana’s younger brother Rupa:

vrndavaniyam rasa-keli-vartam
  kalena luptam nija-saktim utkah
sancarya rupe vyatanot punah sa
  prabhur vidhau prag iva loka-srstim

“Before the creation of this cosmic manifestation, the Lord enlightened the heart of Lord Brahma with the details of the creation and manifested the Vedic knowledge. In exactly the same way, the Lord, being anxious to revive the Vrndavana pastimes of Lord Krsna, impregnated the heart of Rupa Gosvami with spiritual potency. By this potency, Srila Rupa Gosvami could revive the activities of Krishna in Vrndavana, activities almost lost to memory. In this way, He spread Krishna consciousness throughout the world.” (Cc Madhya 19.1) Lord Chaitanya also empowered him to write books on bhakti-yoga, and the same could be said about Sanatana Gosvami.

We are followers of the Six Gosvamis—followers of their followers. Srila Narottama dasa Thakura prays,

ei chaya gosai yara-mui tara dasa
tan’-sabara pada-renu mora panca-grasa

“I am the servant of that person who is a servant of the Six Gosvamis. The dust of their holy feet is my five kinds of foodstuffs.”

And:

tandera carana sevi-bhakta-sane vasa
janame janame hoy ei abhilasa

“This is my desire, that birth after birth I may live with those devotees who serve the lotus feet of the Six Gosvamis.”

A few weeks ago we were fortunate to have four devotees from Dallas, disciples of Tamal Krishna Goswami, visit us in Santa Barbara—Dharma Prabhu and his wife, Urjesvari; her sister, Saibya; and Padma Mataji. Mayapur dasa, Sridhar Swami’s personal servant for many years, was also with us. So we thought it a good occasion to glorify these two stalwart servants of Srila Prabhupada, these two powerful preachers, Tamal Krishna Goswami and Sridhar Swami. And it was very enlivening and purifying. All of the devotees spoke so beautifully—each and every one—and one could really feel Tamal Krishna Goswami’s and Sridhar Swami’s presence and really feel united with Srila Prabhupada and his associates. His Holiness Niranjana Swami also spoke beautifully and led kirtan.

Although we are all godbrothers in that we were all initiated by Srila Prabhupada, still, among Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, there are some who were—and are—leading the movement and showing the way for others to follow. Certainly His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami was a great pioneer, and His Holiness Sridhar Swami and the others I mentioned. And even now devotees are following Srila Prabhupada and leading us and showing us the way. We also are trying to make our little contributions, but still, there are some who are ahead of us, showing the way and making it easier for us to follow. And that is natural; it will always be that way.

At the same time, it is also very personal and individual—through whom Krishna speaks to whom. It is not that everyone has to follow only one particular person. Krishna can manifest Himself—Srila Prabhupada can manifest himself—through different servants, different Vaishnavas, and we should be open to that flow of mercy however, and through whomever, it comes. It is not stereotyped or fixed or rigid. That mercy can come in different ways, and we should be open to it. That is really the principle of guru: Krishna’s instructions come to us through some servant of Krishna, some representative of Krishna—and it is not limited to only one. Krishna can speak to us through many mouths, through many personalities, and we should be open to that guidance. We should take His instructions on our head and follow them. That is how Krishna guides the conditioned souls back home, back to Godhead. He can engage any number of His servants to help us; and God knows we need all the help we can get. So we shouldn’t be sectarian. We shouldn’t cut ourselves off from any flow of mercy that may come to us by the arrangement of the Lord, or the arrangement of Srila Prabhupada, or the arrangement of any of our spiritual masters.

I always think of the example of Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, because he had so many gurus. Of course, he was a direct associate of Lord Chaitanya Himself, but even then, he was helped by so many well-wishers and guides. First, He was initiated by Yadunandana Acharya, Raghunatha’s family’s spiritual master. Yadunandana Acharya himself was a great Vaishnava, an initiated disciple of Advaita Acharya and an intimate student of Vasudeva Datta. And Balarama Acharya, a dear associate of Haridasa Thakura, was Raghunatha’s family’s priest. Raghunatha learned from him too. Balarama Acharya and Yadunandana Acharya were friends, and both used to host Haridasa Thakura at their homes. For some time, Balarama Acharya provided Haridasa with a thatched hut and prasada, and at that time, while still a student, Raghunatha visited Haridasa Thakura daily, and it is said that because of the mercy Haridasa showed him then, Raghunatha later attained the mercy of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Once, Balarama Acharya invited Haridasa Thakura to speak in the assembly of Raghunatha’s family, the Majumadaras, and thus Raghunatha heard from him again, about the glories of the holy name.

Eventually Raghunatha dasa met Nityananda Prabhu at Panihati and got His benediction to become free from all obstacles and attain shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Soon, Raghunatha escaped from home, traveled by foot to Puri, and attained the merciful shelter of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu—by the mercy of Nityananda Prabhu. Then Chaitanya Mahaprabhu entrusted Raghunatha dasa to Svarupa Damodara Gosvami: “I entrust Raghunatha to you. Please accept him as your son or servant.” Raghunatha was very young then, only about twenty-two. Then the Lord took Raghunatha’s hand and personally placed him in the hands of Svarupa Damodara Gosvami. And so Raghunatha became Svarupa Damodara’s assistant. Svarupa Damodara was Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s secretary, and Raghunatha dasa in effect became assistant secretary.

After Chaitanya Mahaprabhu left this world, followed by Svarupa Damodara and almost all of His other intimate associates, Raghunatha dasa felt bereft: “I am all alone. There is no reason to live. How can I live without my prabhus, without all of my masters?”

Raghunatha dasa felt so much separation that he decided to go to Vrindavan to see the lotus feet of Rupa and Sanatana and then give up his life by jumping from Govardhana Hill. But the two brothers did not allow him to die. They prevailed upon him to stay with them and speak about Mahaprabhu’s later pastimes. “You should not give up your life,” they told him. “You were with Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Puri and were witness to so many of His intimate pastimes. You should stay with us and tell us about your experiences with Him.” And they accepted him as their third brother.

Especially Sanatana Gosvami gave him shelter and took care of him. At first, when Raghunatha dasa Gosvami was doing bhajana at Radha-kunda, he didn’t have any residence. And while doing his bhajana, he was pretty much oblivious to everything else. He would chant, but sometimes he could hardly chant, because he would go into a trance. Still, he did chant at least one lakh names every day. But it could happen that he would chant one name and then go into a deep trance, and the pastimes of Krishna would play in his mind. Like that, one day he was chanting Krishna’s name and remembering Krishna’s pastimes and the hot sun was beating down on his head. Srimati Radharani Herself then came and held a cloth over his head, but Raghunatha dasa Gosvami didn’t know it, because he was in deep meditation. But Sanatana Gosvami understood, and he personally built a bhajana-kutira for him. He took care of him in every respect.

In his book Vilapa-kusumanjali, Raghunatha dasa Gosvami begins by offering respects to his gurus. In Sanskrit devotional works, authors begin by offering respects to their gurus and worshipable Deities. So at the beginning he offers respects to Sanatana Gosvami:

vairagya-yug-bhakti-rasam prayatnair
  apayayan mam anabhipsum andham
krpambudhir yah para-duhkha-duhkhi
  sanatanas tam prabhum asrayami

“I was unwilling to drink the nectar of devotional service possessed of renunciation, but Sanatana Gosvami, out of his causeless mercy, made me drink it, even though I was otherwise unable to do so. Therefore he is an ocean of mercy. He is very compassionate to fallen souls like me, and thus it is my duty to offer my respectful obeisances unto his lotus feet.” (Vilapa-kusumanjali 6)

In this verse, Raghunatha dasa Gosvami describes Sanatana Gosvami with a phrase that Srila Prabhupada often quoted (for all compassionate Vaishnavas): para-duhkha-duhkhi—“he felt sorrow in the sorrow of others.” Raghunatha dasa says, vairagya-yug-bhakti-rasam prayatnair—he gave me the nectar of devotional service enriched with renunciation; anabhipsum andham—but I was unwilling (anabhipsum) to drink it, because I was blind (andham) to my spiritual well-being; so apayayan mam—he forced me to drink it. Sanatana Gosvami is an ocean of mercy (krpambudhi), and therefore I offer my respectful obeisances to him. I take shelter of him, my master (prabhum asrayami).

Srila Prabhupada paraphrased this verse in composing a verse to honor his sannyasa-guru, Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja. He used almost the same words. The idea is that it is very hard to become free from the shackles of family life. Of course, one can be a pure devotee in the grihastha-ashrama—that is another thing—but to preach, sannyasa may be advised.

As Srila Prabhupada describes it, he was having dreams—in modern psychological language one might say recurring nightmares—that his guru maharaja was calling him to follow him and preach. And as Prabhupada describes it, he would wake up horrified: “How can I take sannyasa and become a mendicant? How can I leave my wife and children? What will happen then?” It’s a long story, but eventually Prabhupada accepted vanaprastha. He went to Jhansi and began the League of Devotees there. But there was some politics. The wife of the governor wanted the property that Srila Prabhupada had been using for the League of Devotees. She made all efforts to get it for some ladies’ program, and because she was so influential Prabhupada decided not to fight against her. So he left and went to Mathura, where he stayed in the matha of his godbrother Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja. And Kesava Maharaja insisted, “You must take sannyasa.” To fully take up the order of the spiritual master and preach, one must accept the renounced order of life. And Prabhupada did it. He took sannyasa.

Then, in 1968—in the early days of the movement in the West—Srila Prabhupada, in Seattle, got news that His Holiness Kesava Maharaja had passed away. So he held a meeting with the disciples there and spoke about the history, how his guru maharaja and his godbrother had “forced” him to take sannyasa: “My godbrother insisted. Not he insisted—practically my spiritual master insisted through him, that ‘You accept.’ He wanted me to become a preacher, so he forced me through this godbrother: ‘You accept.’ So, unwillingly I accepted.”

Srila Prabhupada saw his guru maharaja working through his godbrother, speaking through his godbrother—another Vaishnava—and he composed this verse, very similar to the one Raghunatha dasa composed for Sanatana Gosvami—but for Kesava Maharaja. Apayayan mam anabhipsum andham. “I was unwilling to take the medicine of bhakti with detachment because I was blind. I could not see my future, that spiritual life is the brightest future. So the Vaishnavas, the spiritual master, they force: ‘You must drink.’ ” Sri-kesava-bhakti-prajnana-nama krpambudhir yas tam aham prapadye: “Sri Bhaktiprajnana Kesava is an ocean of mercy, and I offer my respectful obeisances unto him.”

So, Sanatana Gosvami was a great shelter to Vaishnavas in Vrindavan. He was not only intelligent—all the Gosvamis were most intelligent—but he was very shrewd, very clever. He understood politics and diplomacy. It is said that Rupa Gosvami was very simple but that Sanatana Gosvami was very astute; he could understand people’s motives and intentions. So he was able to protect devotees in the most practical ways, because he had that type of intelligence. And he protected Raghunatha dasa Gosvami on every level.

Then, on the day of Guru-purnima, because Sanatana Gosvami was the most senior of the Gosvamis and the siksa-guru of almost everyone in Vrindavan, the Vaishnavas went to Govardhana to offer him respects. Upon their arrival at his bhajana-kutira at Manasi-ganga, they saw that he was in a trance. He didn’t move at all, and they didn’t want to disturb him. So they waited.

Eventually they understood that he had left, and they all were overwhelmed with separation. They took him on parikrama of Govardhana Hill—he had done parikrama of Govardhana Hill faithfully every day. Then they weren’t sure where to place his body. Jiva Gosvami, who was the leader after Sanatana, decided that they should bring him back to Vrindavan, close to the temple of the Deity of Madana-mohana, who was so dear to him. And that took place on Guru-purnima.

We can see how the devotees helped each other—everyone helped everyone. In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta we find that all the Vaishnavas were always helping each other, and we should learn from their example. We should develop that mood. Of course, help can come in different ways. Sometimes it comes in terms of instruction, and sometimes it comes in practical ways, like Sanatana Gosvami’s building Raghunatha dasa Gosvami’s bhajana-kutira. These exalted devotees were always serving each other—serving Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and serving each other. And that should be our mood: to serve each other, actually help each other—and to learn from each other.

In the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam we learn how an avadhuta brahman took lessons from others—twenty-four siksa-gurus: from material elements, natural phenomena, plants, animals, even from a prostitute. By his intelligence, he learned from all of them, and he accepted them all as his gurus. For example, he learned from the mountain that a saintly person should devote all his efforts to the service of others and make their welfare the sole reason for his existence (as we learn from Govardhana Hill). From the python he learned that one should give up material endeavor and accept what comes of its own accord—one should remain peaceful and steady, indifferent to material gain but always alert to self-realization. He even learned from Pingala, a prostitute. Because she had no other source of income, Pingala was very anxious for customers. One night she was waiting, waiting, waiting, and still no customer came. Finally, at the end of the night, she felt disgusted with her situation and thus became detached. From Pingala he learned detachment—and attachment for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whom she accepted as her ultimate shelter and object of love.

So we can learn from anyone and anything. If we are sincerely trying to serve Krishna and to understand how best to serve Him, the Lord in the heart will give us the intelligence of how to learn from others—even from trees and grass. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu glorified the trees and grass, for from them we learn how to be tolerant and humble. We can learn from anyone and everyone, and everything.

We can learn even from demons—and we are surrounded by them. Big business people, with their advertising and other strategies, are so clever. We should be that shrewd and clever for Krishna. Materialistic leaders figure out how to trap people in their nets and pull them in and keep them. We can learn from such powerful materialists how to attract people and keep them, for Krishna—how to be organized and intelligent, for Krishna. If we are in the proper mood, anything can remind us of devotional service and be used for Krishna’s benefit. Anyone can be a siksa-guru for us if we are absorbed in the mood of serving Krishna, fixed in Krishna consciousness.

But in particular, and especially on occasions like today, we are enjoined to offer respectful obeisances unto our diksa- and siksa-gurus in disciplic succession, from Krishna to Brahma to Narada to Vyasa, from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to Sanatana Gosvami, from Srila Prabhupada to his followers, which includes all of you.

Thank you very much.

Hare Krishna.

[A Talk by Giriraj Swami on Guru-purnima, July 29, 2007, Dallas]

Jul 222021
 

Radhanath Swami: “I was in Vrindavan in 1971, and I was among five or six other people sitting around Srila Prabhupada. He wasn’t my guru then; he was just one of the saints I was coming to visit. And Srila Prabhupada was in Vrindavan for a few days. Somebody asked him, ‘Are you the guru for the whole world?’ He didn’t say anything. I was really very excited with anticipation—what is he going to say? Most people would say, ‘Yes.’ And after he paused for a few minutes, he looked down to the ground. With tears of humility in his eyes, he said, ‘No, I am the servant of everyone. That’s all.’ And I was thinking, ‘He is really the guru of the whole world!’

“A true guru is not one who claims to be God. A true guru is one who claims to be a humble messenger of God.”

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Hare Krishna.

Yours in service,
Giriraj Swami

 

 

 

Jul 122021
 

It is a great honor, privilege, and pleasure to be here on the auspicious occasion of Snana-yatra. The first deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra in ISKCON were discovered in San Francisco in 1967. One of Srila Prabhupada’s early disciples, Malati dasi, saw a small figure in an import store, Cost Plus, and brought it to him. When Prabhupada saw the figure, his eyes opened wide. He folded his palms and bowed his head in respect. Then he said, “You have brought Lord Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe. He is Krishna.” He said that Lord Jagannatha was worshipped with two other deities: His brother, Balarama, and His sister, Subhadra. Malati confirmed that there were other, similar figures at the store, and Prabhupada asked her to go and buy them. So she and her husband, Shyamasundar, immediately went and brought the other two figures. Srila Prabhupada placed them with Lord Jagannatha on his desk and told the devotees about Jagannatha’s appearance in India thousands of years ago, and how He was still worshipped in a great temple in Puri and taken in an annual procession with His brother and sister, each in a huge chariot, in the Ratha-yatra festival. Prabhupada chanted, jagannatha-svami nayana-patha-gami bhavatu me: “O Lord of the universe, kindly be visible unto me.” And he said that henceforth San Francisco should be called New Jagannatha Puri.

Srila Prabhupada asked if any of the devotees knew how to carve, and Shyamasundar said that he did. So Prabhupada requested him to carve three-foot-high replicas of the small Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra. Shyamasundar got three large blocks of wood, and, following sketches and directions that Prabhupada gave him, carved the first large deities of Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra in the West.

Then Prabhupada said that the devotees should hold a Ratha-yatra festival. So, following Prabhupada’s instructions, Shyamasundar and the others arranged a flatbed truck on which they erected five tall columns and covered them with cloth to serve as a canopy over the deities. And then they decorated the “chariot” with flowers. The devotees didn’t have many vehicles then, and those they did have were pretty old and dilapidated—and unpredictable in their performance.

At the time, Srila Prabhupada was unwell, and the devotees had rented a place for him to recuperate at nearby Stinson Beach. Although he was unable to attend the festival, the devotees—along with the Ratha-yatra truck, the deities, and some hippies—came to visit him the next day. They were excited and eager to report. Shyamasundar explained that while he had been driving the truck up a steep hill, the truck had stalled and that although he had tried to start the engine, he hadn’t been able to. Then the brakes had failed, and the truck had begun to roll backwards down the hill. Finally he had been able to stop it, but when he had tried to move forward, again the engine had stalled and the truck had rolled backwards. Again and again he would get it started, the truck would go forward, the engine would stall, and the truck would roll backwards. The situation had seemed hopeless, and the devotees had wondered if they would be able to finish the parade.

But somehow they had, and they had come to give the report. Srila Prabhupada told them the story of how Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had celebrated the Ratha-yatra in Puri. He said that in Puri too the chariot would stop, even with thousands of people pulling the ropes. The king would order powerful wrestlers and elephants to push the chariot, but still it wouldn’t move. Finally, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would put His head on the back of the chariot and push, and only then would the chariot move. “Now that Ratha-yatra has come to the West,” Srila Prabhupada said, “this pastime has come too.” Continue reading »

Jul 092021
 

Today we are observing the disappearance day of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Sri Gadadhara Pandita. I first learned of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura when I visited the Boston temple. At that time there were only two published books in ISKCON: the abridged edition of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, published by Macmillan, and Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, published by ISKCON. And at the front of Teachings of Lord Chaitanya was a series of very dignified black-and-white photographs of Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Gaurakisora dasa Babaji, and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Under the photograph of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a caption: “The pioneer of the program for benedicting the entire world with Krishna consciousness by the instructions of Lord Chaitanya.” I understood from the caption that Srila Prabhupada was continuing the work of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and that we were able to come in touch with Krishna consciousness in part because of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

As the years passed and I came to learn more about Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, I began to see more and more how the Krishna consciousness movement brought by Srila Prabhupada to the West and expanded throughout the world was a continuation of the work of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and the result of his desire. So we are all indebted to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and we are intimately connected with him through parampara.

Lord Chaitanya predicted, prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama/ sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama: “In every town and village of every country of the world, My name [Krishna’s name] will be preached.” Although Lord Chaitanya made this prediction more than five hundred years ago, even His followers have sometimes been bewildered about how it would be fulfilled. Some of them have even thought the prediction was metaphorical or abstract. But Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had faith in the order and in the desire of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and through his books he began the work of spreading Krishna consciousness and the holy name of Krishna throughout the world. In particular, in 1896, the year of Srila Prabhupada’s birth, he wrote a book called Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: His Life and Precepts and distributed it to libraries worldwide.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura passed on his desire, which was Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s desire, to his son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, though he never left India, passed on the same desire to his disciples. In particular, he gave Srila Prabhupada the order to preach Krishna consciousness in the English language, which even then was the universal language in the Western world, and in the whole world.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura predicted, “Very soon the unparalleled path of hari-nama-sankirtana will be propagated all over the world.” He foresaw the day when Vaishnavas from all over the world would come to Mayapur and chant, “Jaya Sacinandana” together with the Bengali Vaishnavas, Gaudiya Vaishnavas. And Srila Prabhupada was the one who acted to fulfill the desire and prediction of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura:

“Oh, for that day when the fortunate English, French, Russian, German, and American people will take up banners, mridangas, and karatalas and raise kirtan through their streets and towns. When will that day come? Oh, for the day when the fair-skinned men from their side, chanting, ‘Jaya Sacinandana ki jaya,’ will extend their arms and, embracing devotees of our country coming from our side, treat us with brotherly feelings. When will that day be?” (Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, in Sajjana-tosani)

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura had a house in Godrumadvipa, across the Jalangi River from Mayapur, and he used to chant on his balcony there. One day he looked across the river and had a vision of an effulgent city with a wonderful temple, an adbhuta mandira, at its center. He desired that this wonderful temple and splendorous city should come into existence, and here too Srila Prabhupada has engaged his followers to fulfill the prediction and desire of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Sri Nityananda Prabhu:

eka adbhuta mandira ei haibe prakasa
gaurangera nitya-seva haibe vikasa

“An astounding temple will appear and will engage the entire world in the eternal service of Lord Chaitanya.” (Sri Navadvipa-Mahatmya, Parikrama Khanda, Ch. 4)

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura also discovered the actual birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Mayapur. Over centuries of the Ganges flooding and changing course, the location of Mayapur, the birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, was lost. Bhaktivinoda Thakura studied old maps and consulted different local people, and ultimately he determined the actual location.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura carried forward the idea of the Vedic city in Mayapur, and he had some of his householder disciples build small houses there. But again, it was really Srila Prabhupada who carried the desire of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura forward to the point where there is now a budding metropolis in Mayapur. He was very enthusiastic about the project, and now his disciples are working to make this magnificent vision a physical reality.

Srila Prabhupada had to struggle to get some land in Mayapur. Eventually it was Tamal Krishna Goswami who was able to secure the purchase of the land. Then Srila Prabhupada designed, or gave the basic idea for, the first building to be constructed and brought the drawings with him from London to Calcutta.

But there had been flooding in Mayapur, and sometimes the flooding there is very severe. Therefore—although Srila Prabhupada was so enthusiastic about the project and had struggled so hard to get the land in Mayapur and had personally brought the plans for the first building there—still, right when we were at the peak of our enthusiasm, he raised the question: “What will happen if the Ganges floods? What will happen to the temple, to the project?”

He suggested that we not build the temple in Mayapur and discussed different arguments for and against his suggestion. Then he presented the idea that we should build the temple at Birnagar, the birthplace of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. We were completely bewildered, and when Srila Prabhupada argued so strongly that we should build the temple at Birnagar because it would be safe from the floods there, we were swayed by His Divine Grace’s argument. But in the end he brought us back to the conclusion that we should go ahead with the project in Mayapur. “If you all build this temple,” he said, “Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura will personally come and take you all back to Godhead.”

So, that is both Srila Prabhupada’s and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s desire—that we build a wonderful temple and go back to Godhead. And by following in Srila Prabhupada’s footsteps, we are also following in the footsteps of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

Another important program of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was nama-hatta. In fact, before Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura built his house in Godrumadvipa, he built a bhajana-kutira near the site of the house, in Surabhi-kunja, which is the original place where the nama-hatta was started by Nityananda Prabhu. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura got his inspiration for the nama-hatta there.

The basic idea of the nama-hatta is that grihastha Vaishnavas, householder devotees, preach. By definition, householders will usually have a spouse, children, work, and a home. But they should still preach; they should use all of their spare time to preach. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura himself was a householder for many years, and he would lead his householder devotees through the streets, performing sankirtana, and then they would hold festivals, large gatherings where Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura would preach bhagavata-dharma and the glories of the holy name. He published a book, Sri Godruma Kalpatavi, about his nama-hatta program, which included reports of some of his preaching events. The harinama-sankirtana and bhagavata-dharma discourses were ecstatic, and the nama-hatta was spreading very nicely. During Srila Prabhupada’s presence His Holiness Jayapataka Swami and other ISKCON devotees revived the nama-hatta in Bengal and Orissa, and now it has spread all over the world.

So, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura set a great example for us all. Although he had so many responsibilities—as a magistrate, as superintendent of the Jagannatha temple, as a husband, as the father of ten children—still he did so much service. He was expert at utilizing his time so that he could serve Krishna more. He would generally take rest at eight o’clock at night and get up at midnight to write. He wrote approximately one hundred books. He was expert in many things, including fulfilling his duties as magistrate. He would dispose of his cases very quickly. Judges are also judged—by how quickly they dispose of their cases and by how many of their judgments are overturned and appealed. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura disposed of his cases quickly and expertly.

Somehow, with so many duties and responsibilities and so many children, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was able to write many, many books and spread Krishna consciousness widely. We can take inspiration from him and keep in our minds and hearts his glorious example: that even in our various, demanding positions, we can do more and more for Krishna and for the disciplic succession, for Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and for our spiritual master.

One of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s books, Sri Harinama-cintamani, has as its subject, as the title suggests, the touchstone of the holy name. The book is a dialogue between Lord Chaitanya and Haridasa Thakura. They begin by discussing the holy name in general. Then they consider the ten offenses against the holy name, because the efficacy of the name depends on the quality of the chanting. In her prayers to Lord Krishna, Queen Kunti says:

janmaisvarya-sruta-sribhir
  edhamana-madah puman
naivarhaty abhidhatum vai
  tvam akincana-gocaram

“My Lord, Your Lordship can easily be approached, but only by those who are materially exhausted. One who is on the path of [material] progress, trying to improve himself with respectable parentage, great opulence, high education and bodily beauty, cannot approach You with sincere feeling.” (SB 1.8.26) In the purport, Srila Prabhupada remarks that the scriptures state that “by once uttering the holy name of the Lord, the sinner gets rid of a quantity of sins that he is unable to commit. Such is the power of uttering the holy name of the Lord. There is not the least exaggeration in this statement. . . . But there is a quality to such utterances also. It depends on the quality of feeling. A helpless man can feelingly utter the holy name of the Lord.”

Ordinary devotees like us have to practice to come to the stage of such chanting, and in particular we must be aware of the ten offenses and try to avoid them. In Harinama-cintamani Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura discusses each of the ten offenses one by one in depth and in detail. First he defines and describes what constitutes each offense; then he explains how to avoid each offense; and then, in case somehow we have fallen into the offense, he discusses how to become free from it and from its damaging effects.

The first offense is sadhu-ninda: blaspheming the devotees who have dedicated their lives to the propagation of the holy name. Ninda means to criticize or to blaspheme. But what is the meaning of sadhu? How do we recognize a sadhu? Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura explains that in essence a sadhu is one who has taken shelter of Krishna, or of the holy name of Krishna, which is non-different from Krishna. He lists twenty-six qualities of a sadhu, as stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Then he says that of all the qualities, one is the primary characteristic (svarupa-laksana) and the others are marginal (tatastha). The essential quality of the devotee is that he or she has taken shelter of Krishna (mat-sarana), or the holy name of Krishna. Even if a devotee is lacking in the other qualifications, if he or she has the single qualification of having taken exclusive shelter of Krishna, then that devotee is considered a sadhu. On the other hand, if someone has the other qualifications but lacks the one qualification of complete surrender to Krishna, then the other qualities have no particular value.

Now that we know who a sadhu is, we can avoid criticizing or blaspheming him or her. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura discusses different grounds that people may think are justification for criticizing a sadhu. One is the sadhu’s caste or low birth, but Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that this is not ground for criticizing a sadhu. If one criticizes a sadhu because of his or her low birth or caste, then that critic is involved in sadhu-ninda. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura also mentions past sinful activities. If one criticizes a sadhu for past sinful activities, one is involved in sadhu-ninda. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura also mentions present traces of sinful activities. In other words, a sadhu may have engaged in sinful activities before he or she got the association of devotees but even after coming to the association of devotees may maintain some last traces of previous bad habits or by accident may fall down. Even then we do not have grounds to criticize. If we criticize a sadhu for an accidental falldown or for traces of past sinful activities, we are involved in sadhu-ninda.

Then he discusses different categories of asadhus, or nondevotees, so that we can clearly identify them too. In other words, as preachers, do we hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil? Do we not speak the truth if we see something is wrong and we want to correct it or protect others from it? No—as preachers we must be able to recognize nondevotees, especially if they are posing as devotees, and help neophyte devotees avoid them. Thus, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura lists three categories of persons who are not sadhus but who may be mistaken for sadhus. One is the Mayavadi impersonalist, who thinks that Krishna’s eternal form and holy name are illusory, or maya. Another is the pretender, or dharma-dhvaji, who waves the flag of religion; he is not actually a devotee, but he makes a show of being a sadhu for materialistic ends. And one is the atheist. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that when one preaches one has to criticize nondevotees and advise innocent devotees to avoid their association and influence. Such criticism does not constitute sadhu-ninda. If ignorant or envious people argue that such criticism is sadhu-ninda, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, we should avoid their association. Because they are wrongly accusing or criticizing the preacher, they themselves are implicated in sadhu-ninda.

I will give an example. When I was in Madras on Srila Prabhupada’s behalf, I preached more or less the way I had heard him preach, criticizing demigod worshippers and impersonalists. In Madras there were a lot of impersonalists and demigod worshippers, and when I repeated what the Bhagavad-gita said about them, some people began to criticize me for criticizing others. Some said, “You shouldn’t criticize others; you should just state positively what you want to say about your philosophy and activities, but you shouldn’t criticize others.” The criticism of my criticism reached such a point that I actually began to have doubts. I thought, “So many people are saying the same thing, maybe I am doing something wrong.” They even gave the example of the Gaudiya Matha: “They don’t criticize others like you do; they have a nice temple, and every year they have a big celebration of Janmashtami and thousands of people come. Why can’t you be like them?”

So, I thought about what they said. I wasn’t really convinced that Srila Prabhupada would want us to be like the Gaudiya Matha, but then again, even people who were our friends, who were sympathetic to us, were saying the same thing: “Don’t criticize others. Just say what you want in a positive way about your own philosophy and activities.” So I wrote to Srila Prabhupada, and he wrote back, “The fact is that I am the only one in India who is openly criticizing—not only demigod worship and impersonalism, but everything that falls short of complete surrender to Krishna.” And he continued, “My guru maharaja never compromised in his preaching, nor will I, nor should any of my students. We are firmly convinced that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and all others are His part-and-parcel servants. This we must declare boldly to the whole world, that they should not foolishly dream of world peace unless they are prepared to surrender fully to Krishna as Supreme Lord.”

So, that is the mood of the preacher: he or she has to criticize the nondevotees. In the course of criticizing the nondevotees, a preacher may offend people who have sentiments for such nondevotees because they think that such nondevotees are devotees. But what else can we do? This, as Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura discusses, is not sadhu-ninda; it is in the category of those things that might appear to be offenses but really are not.

There was a vivid example of this once, when Srila Prabhupada was walking one morning with Dr. Patel on Juhu Beach. Dr. Patel was praising someone who was definitely not a devotee but who was revered in India as a spiritual leader and teacher, and Srila Prabhupada began to criticize the person and point out the defects in his philosophy and his procedures. Dr. Patel became very offended and agitated—incensed. He began to argue with Srila Prabhupada and was practically shouting at him. And Srila Prabhupada was shouting at Dr. Patel. Srila Prabhupada roared, “I am not saying; Krishna is saying, na mam duskrtino mudhah prapadyante naradhamah: anyone who does not surrender to Krishna is a mudha [fool], naradhama [lowest of mankind].” It became a fierce argument, and Dr. Patel’s friends tried to restrain him. “Swamiji is an old man,” they said. “He has a heart condition; you shouldn’t excite him.” It was like an explosion. Finally, Dr. Patel’s friends pulled him away and we reached the spot where we would leave the beach for the temple, and the argument ended.

After that, Srila Prabhupada said, “All right. No more discussion. We will just read from the Krsna book on the morning walks.” So we started to read from the Krsna book. Before this, Dr. Patel would come faithfully every morning and walk with Srila Prabhupada. Often, he would drive Srila Prabhupada to the beach in his car and then they would walk and talk on the beach, or they would walk from the temple to the beach and talk. Now, for the first time, Dr. Patel avoided the morning walks with Srila Prabhupada—because of that big argument. But some days later, he was drawn back to Srila Prabhupada. He said to Srila Prabhupada, “We are trained to respect all the accredited saints of India.” And Srila Prabhupada replied, “Our business is to point out who is not a saint.”

So, that is the mood of a preacher. If a preacher criticizes nondevotees who may be revered as saints by many people, he or she is not involved in sadhu-ninda. But if people criticize the preacher for criticizing such nondevotees, those critics may be involved in sadhu-ninda and we should avoid their association—unless we can change them or engage them, like Srila Prabhupada did with Dr. Patel.

Next Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, “All right, if one has committed the offense, what does one then do? What is the remedy?” The specific way to counteract the offense of sadhu-ninda, or vaisnava-aparadha, is to go to the person we have offended and beg the person to forgive us. Generally, the Vaishnava is softhearted and will forgive the offender if he has realized his mistake and is sincerely repenting and earnestly trying to improve.

One may also commit an offense that is not directly against another person. To counteract such an offense, one may confess to other Vaishnavas. There is value to opening one’s heart to other Vaishnavas and admitting one’s offenses.

 What Srila Prabhupada criticized about the Christians’ practice of confession was that after they had sinned and confessed, they would often go and commit the same sin again. In other words, the process of confession alone was not sufficient to remove the heart’s desire to sin. But here, if a devotee sincerely repents her or his mistake and confesses and begs for the mercy of the Vaishnavas and then really tries his or her best not to commit the offense again—and continues with the real process of purification, hearing and chanting the holy name—then such confession or admission becomes a part of the process of purification and rectification.

 Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura instructs us that the best way to avoid offense, which is negative, is to go to the other side and be positive. The best way to protect ourselves from sadhu-ninda, for example—from blaspheming or criticizing devotees—is to glorify the devotees, to appreciate and praise them.

So, we can benefit greatly from reading Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s books. Once, a disciple asked Srila Prabhupada about reading books of the previous acharyas: “Srila Prabhupada, I remember once I heard a tape where you told us that we should not try to read . . . Bhaktivinoda’s books or earlier books of other, all acharyas.” Srila Prabhupada clarified, “No, you should read. . . . We are following previous acharyas.”

Of course, for ISKCON devotees, Srila Prabhupada’s books are the basis. And if we are well versed in Srila Prabhupada’s books and faithful to Srila Prabhupada, then when we read the previous acharyas we will see how Srila Prabhupada is representing them, as we do with Sri Brhad-bhagavatamrta. So much of what Brhad-bhagavatamrta says about the holy name is exactly what Srila Prabhupada taught us. Thus, reading the book strengthens our faith in Srila Prabhupada. It also clarifies for us the philosophy and principles of devotional service so that we can practice better in the line of Srila Prabhupada. At the same time, the reading makes us more knowledgeable in the scriptures so that we are better equipped to preach.

So, we’re gathered here at the feet of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. I believe he is pleased with our efforts to serve him through his representatives, and we can pray to him to bless us with a drop of faith in the holy name and with a fraction of a drop of his enthusiasm for preaching, so that even amidst our heavy duties and responsibilities we can also find time, as he did, to chant the holy name in the association of other devotees and to spread the mission of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura ki jaya! Srila Prabhupada ki jaya! Nitai-Gaura premanande hari-haribol!

I have only touched a few drops of the nectarean ocean of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Would any other devotee like to speak something in his glorification?

Kesava Bharati Dasa: One of the prominent characteristics of Bhaktivinoda Thakura was that throughout his life he had recurring diseases. He suffered from rheumatic fever, and he was born in a town that was wiped out by a plague—his whole family. Over time, he underwent many traumas, and so one of the important aspects of his life was how he dealt with difficulties. His life wasn’t laid out on a silver platter. He was born in a very exalted family—descendants of kings, devotional kings—but at the same time, he had to face so many obstacles and difficulties, and in an exemplary way he showed how to take shelter in devotional service, in the holy name, in the lotus feet of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, Sri Sri Gaura-Gadadhara, and guru. He confronted and overcame many obstacles. For instance, there was a yogi in Jagannatha Puri who was doing all kinds of nonsense and had the power to make people sick and cause problems for their family members—so many things. Bhaktivinoda Thakura confronted him and put him in jail. He himself went and physically arrested the yogi. Then the yogi cursed him, and in fact Bhaktivinoda Thakura and his family members did become sick. In jail the yogi was saying all sorts of blasphemous things—“Everyone’s going to die; you’re going to die; your family is going to die!” At one point, as he was fighting the yogi within the court, the Thakura realized that the man was carrying his power in his hair—he had all these matted locks. As the judge, Bhaktivinoda Thakura instructed the constables to cut the yogi’s hair, so they cut his hair and the yogi lost his power, and soon thereafter he died in jail. And Bhaktivinoda Thakura, along with everyone in his family, got well.

Also, at that time there was a powerful dacoit movement in Vrindavan—there is always a dacoit movement there—but Bhaktivinoda Thakura went there, and just by his tremendous spiritual power and strength, he cleaned up those dacoits. Anybody who has ever been in Vrindavan knows what that means. Cleaning up the dacoits there is practically impossible. His spiritual strength was just extraordinary.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura attained a prominent position under the British rule when the British were systematically and powerfully convincing people in India that their culture and philosophy were inferior to Western culture and philosophies. Indians weren’t appointed to key positions very often, but Bhaktivinoda Thakura was so good—so pious and so popular wherever he went—that they wouldn’t dare pass him over. And they trusted him. He was so honest, so forthright, and such a wonderful servant, that they put him in important positions of authority, and wherever he was posted they wanted him to stay. Throughout, he kept wanting to go to Navadvipa, but his administrative authorities always tried to get him to stay. Even at a time when the ruling government did not favor people like him, Bhaktivinoda Thakura was granted high material status, placed in very responsible positions.

So, we can be in any ashrama—grihastha or any other—any position in life, and still develop devotional qualities if we follow the instructions that Bhaktivinoda Thakura gave in Harinama-cintamani—to stop criticizing one another, playing politics with one another, and backbiting one another, and instead to glorify one another, even if the other person is not present. Then we will get the power to serve the cause of Krishna consciousness to our full capacity.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura gave us all these different standards and all these priceless examples. Hare Krishna.

Giriraj Swami: Jaya! Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura ki jaya!

[A talk by Giriraj Swami on Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s disappearance day, June 29, 2003, Dallas, Texas]