Mar 092023

My dear Kadamba Kanana Swami Maharaja,

Please accept my prostrated obeisances at your lotus feet. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. And all glories to your wonderful service to him.

Srila Prabhupada said that when a Vaishnava departs, we feel simultaneously happy and sad. We feel happy because we know that the Vaishnava has gone to serve Krishna, but we feel sad because we will miss the Vaishnava’s association. In your case, I am also happy that you no longer have to suffer in your disease-ridden body.

You were a most worthy, beloved disciple of His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami Maharaja, who was very reserved about and selective in accepting disciples.

As Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote,

He reasons ill who tells that Vaishnavas die,
When thou art living still in sound!
The Vaishnavas die to live, and living try
To spread the holy name around!

You were a man of character and integrity. You were strong and kept your word.

And you were like a loving father in taking care of your disciple children.

I was blessed to have your association in India, Africa, and America. In India we served together in Vrindavan, in Africa we served together in South Africa, and in America we met at the Sadhu Sanga Retreat in Utah, where we had heart-to-heart talks and relished kirtan together.

You also preached in Mauritius, where I have been deeply involved. And in South Africa you specifically encouraged the black preaching, practically more than any other ISKCON leader. I am grateful to you for the support you gave to my disciple Mahaprabhu dasa in Soweto—and to so many other initiatives in relation to black preaching.

In a letter in 2021, you wrote to the devotees in South Africa, “All my prayers are with you. I have been so closely connected with you for so many years. To see that you are now in such a difficult situation is very sad. May Krishna watch over all of you.

“I left South Africa approximately one year ago, after having spent the Covid lockdown in Durban. I haven’t been away from you all for such a long time in twenty-six years. I hope that soon things will return to a relative normal.

“The material world is never meant to be our real home; the material energy will bring happiness and distress. Srila Prabhupada instructed us to make the best use of a bad bargain. Under these grim circumstances, may you find shelter in Krishna consciousness. May you find shelter in Srila Prabhupada’s books and in chanting the holy name. . . .

“I hope that soon the nightmare of all the terrible things that have happened in the last one and half year may come to an end and that we may be reunited again and chant together in kirtan and discuss matters related to Krishna and enjoy happiness in Krishna consciousness.”

During this last year in Vrindavan, I frequently visited you in your apartment, and I was struck by your elevated Krishna consciousness. We discussed many topics, including your writing projects, which would be so valuable to generations of ISKCON devotees. I was impressed by how you encouraged and engaged your disciples who came to visit you from different parts of the world—your instructions to them were brilliant and compassionate.

Considering your illness, I always thought that I should visit you at your place, but one day, you, considering my seniority, came to mine and joined me and other devotees for japa in my temple room before you and I went upstairs and spoke.

You had so much faith in and taste for chanting the holy name, both japa and kirtan. I relished chanting japa with you and singing in kirtan with you, and your kirtans at the Sadhu Sanga Retreat in Utah were most memorable.

You published a book called Kirtaniyah Sada Hari: To always chant the holy name of Krsna, which you called “a collection of short meditations on the holy name”—a compilation of excerpts from your talks along with your reflections on the holy names. You wrote, “I’ve boarded the train. I’ve got my seat, and now let the journey begin. Like that, let me get ready to chant my rounds and get into a regular rhythm just like the train—name after name in an unbroken chain with Goloka as my destination.”

You also encouraged book distribution. You wrote, “Prabhupada was reading the Krsna book and said to Srutakirti, ‘This is such a wonderful book. Anyone who reads this book will become a pure devotee! Anyone who reads one chapter of this book can become a pure devotee. Anyone who reads one page of this book can become a pure devotee. Not only that, anyone who reads one sentence can become a pure devotee.’ And then Prabhupada said, “Anyone who reads one word can become a pure devotee.’

“I met Srutakirti in Vrindavan, and we were talking about this pastime. Srutakirti said, ‘Yes, Prabhupada said it to me several times about different books—about the Krsna book, about Nectar of Devotion and other books.” Srutakirti then said, ‘Obviously, Prabhupada knew that I wasn’t reading.’

“Anyway, these books are very potent, and anyone who gets such a book is greatly benefitted. But the person who distributes the book is even more benefitted, because that person is undertaking austerity for the welfare of others and is finally learning how to stop manipulating things for their own advantage and is making a sacrifice to give out the mercy.

“In some parts of our movement, book distribution is a little out of fashion. There are many other ways to reach out to people. Times have changed, and there are other interesting strategic ways to reach people and all are good. But book distribution is like a cold shower, whereas some of these other preaching tactics are nice, warm showers. Cold showers get the blood circulation really going. We can consider that there is a special purification when doing book distribution. It is this spirit of giving the mercy to others that should be our focus.”

And you were grateful. You wrote, “Dear Vaishnavas . . . I want to express my gratitude to all of you for your kindness, prayers, and good wishes in this trying time. It has been about a month since I was diagnosed with a tumor . . . I feel greatly . . . more close to my heart following a natural path and investing in my own Krishna consciousness and sharing it through writing. . . . You are all wonderful people. I am living by your prayers and kindness.”

Dear Maharaja, how I miss you now! There was never anyone like you, and there never will be.

I pray that you will put in a word with Srila Prabhupada and his lords to bring me to you all—after I have done what they want me to do here in this world—and we will all be reunited again in service to Srila Prabhupada, the holy names, and the Vaishnavas.

Maharaja, I love you.

Your eternal, grateful servant,
Giriraj Swami