Srila Sridhar Maharaj:
His Divine Grace Om Vishnupad
When Srila Sridhar Maharaj studied in the college, he did not study properly, with attention—he only studied attentively Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita and Sri Chaitanya-bhagavat. After he passed the exams and graduated, he came to Kolkata to study law. During this time, he met Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad at the Ultadanga Gaudiya Math Temple. Srila Sridhar Maharaj was connected with Gaudiya Math in 1926.
When Srila Sridhar Maharaj left his house and joined Gaudiya Mission (Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math Mission), Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur was very pleased, "This boy has finally left his parents and everybody else and has finally joined the mission." At that time, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur recited a sloka from Srimad Bhagavad-gita (3.21),
yad yad acharati sresthas, tat tad evetaro janah
"The masses follow the ways of great men, following the standards they set."
It means, "Simple people always follow great personalities because they think that whatever great personalities do is always perfect." Similarly, Srila Sridhar Maharaj also thought that Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur was a great personality and what he did was ultimately perfect, so he felt he had to follow him.
Even before taking sannyas, Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj was a great preacher. He was always very enthusiastic to preach. That is why Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur gave him sannyas and the name 'Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar' which means 'an illustrious guardian of devotion.' Srila Sridhar Maharaj could explain slokas in many different ways and he could extract very deep meanings. He was expert at English, Bengali, Hindi, and Sanskrit, and his English lectures were very sweet. Those who heard them, can understand it easily.
One time, Srila Sridhar Maharaj went to preach in Giridi, Bihar, and was giving a lecture at a forum in the Barrister Library (at an assembly of prominent barristers). Having heard his lecture, one barrister cried and said, "We used to think that our forefathers were very foolish and that we had become quite civilised in the association of the British, but today I have understood, Maharaj, when I listened to your lecture, how great we used to be before and how low we have fallen now. Our forefathers, our previous generation are so great, and now we have fallen into such filthy garbage! We have degraded to such a dirty level."
On another occasion, Srila Sridhar Maharaj was giving a lecture that was attended by a very intelligent scholar named Mr.Basak. This Mr. Basak said, "We used to think that Vaishnavism was a part, or a branch, of Hindu religion, but today I have understood that Vaishnav-dharma is the root of the all religions! Jaiva-dharma is the religion of the soul, and everything else is only misconception."
In Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj's own words, "The Vaishnav-dharma that was given to us by Mahaprabhu is the proper Vedic dharma, Vedic religion. What Srila Ramanuja Acharya and Srila Madhva Acharya gave has completely merged into the Line of Mahaprabhu. And what Lord Sankar, Lord Buddha, and other mission have given is all hodgepodge. Those who can understand this will be very benefitted. First comes sambandha-jnana, which is a great thing, then there is abhidheya, and then prayojan."
One time, Srila Sridhar Maharaj was giving a lecture in Mumbai. The subject of that lecture was the proper conception, or teachings, of Sri Chaitnayadev. The president of that meeting said, "All religions are one and the same." When it was Srila Sridhar Maharaj's turn to speak, he said, "It is a very regrettable that I must first, in order to speak on my subject, announce that I completely disagree with the president. Because to even enter into my subject, the prerequisite is the comparative study in theology. I have come to speak on not only the excellence, but the superexcellence of the Teachings of Sri Chaitanya. Therefore, I am bound to show the subject of my delivery by surpassing all the lower stages of soil. So, in order to have your attention, I am bound to first point out the president's gulf of difference in his opinion with me."
Then, Srila Sridhar Maharaj spoke first about the sambandha, then abhidheya and prayojan,
"Sambandha, abhidheya and prayojan—first we shall make these three divisions. Sambandha (relationship) will mean to first separate all other religious conceptions except for the Vaisnava-Dharma as given by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu—Krishna conception, the others all being concerned only with Brahma conception, Paramatma conception, etc. Abhidheya is the means to the end; that we can hear from Sriman Mahaprabhu to be jnana-sunya bhakti (devotion without intellectual pursuits), or suddha-bhakti (pure devotion)—it is that which is attained in sadhu-sanga (association of the true devotee). And prayojana, or the goal, is Prema; it can never be mukti (liberation). Dharmma-artha-kama-moksa (religiosity, economy, material desire and liberation) can never be the goal. Only Prema-Seva, Loving Service to Krishna, is the supreme goal."
After that, you know that, through the kirtan Rupa-manjari-pada, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur selected Srila Sridhar Maharaj as his Chief Successor Preceptor and Representative of Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupad, who is the Foremost Preceptorial Apostle of Sri Chaitanyadev. After Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur's demise, Srila Sridhar Maharaj established Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math in 1941. He made a thatched house and composed a great sloka,
"In the Holy Abode of Transcendental Touchstone Sri Nabadwip Dham—the selfsame Sri Vrindavan, in the land of Koladwip, whose inner identity is the King of mountains Sri Govardhan, near the charming shores of the Holy River Bhagirathi who delivers all the fallen souls, stands that grand and glorious King of all Temples—Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. In that beautiful retreat, the surrendered devotees whose lives are the Message of Sri Gaura, are eternally absorbed in the Loving Service of the Divine Master, the Golden Lord Gauranga and the Loving Lord Sri Govindasundar with His Consort Srimati Gandharva, accompanied by all Their Beloved Associates. With hearts always filled with good hope to attain the Grace of the Lord, following faithfully in the Line of Sri Sri Rupa and Raghunath—the Storekeepers of the Unlimited Treasure of Pure, Sweet Love Divine, those surrendered souls ever sing the unending Glories of the Transcendental Name and Qualities of the Most Magnanimous, Original Supreme Lord Sri Sri Gaurangasundar. Indeed, the hearts of all beings, moving and still, marvel in the Glory of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math as they take shelter in the soothing, affectionate shade of the victory flag that flies aloft and sings wholeheartedly to the world the ever-expanding renown of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math; bearing that banner of all Transcendental Benedictions, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math ever shines resplendent in all its Divine Magnificence."
You all know the meaning of this sloka.
After the demise of Srila Prabhupad, Srila Sridhar Maharaj became unanimously honoured as the most exalted representative of the Gaudiya Succession, although he always considered himself as junior. Srila Sridhar Maharaj was always very humble, he never thought he would one day become so great. Moreover, he made many of his godbrothers acharyas of big, great missions—for example, Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Prajnan Keshav Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Aloka Paramahamsa Maharaj and Srila Bhakti Kamal Madhusudan Maharaj, Srila Narasimha Maharaj, Srila Bhagavat Maharaj, Srila Acharya Maharaj, and others. He gave sannyas to so many great personalities.
One time, one such great personality, Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj, was present at the festival in honour of the appearance day of Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj celebrated in Vrindavan. Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj already had many disciple at that time, and many of his disciples and godbrothers were present that day at the festival, and Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj did a full arati of Srila Sridhar Maharaj with 108 candle-wicks that day.
When Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj was eighty years old, so many foregin devotees and so many Indian devotees started coming to him. He stayed in Koladwip, Nabadwip Dham, and distributed Mahaprabhu's conception sitting there. He did not go to so many places, but everybody came to see him—everybody would come to hear his Hari-katha. Moreover, Srila Bon Maharaj and Srila Madhav Goswami Maharaj said, "If you want to hear Hari-katha now, after Prabhupad Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, you must go to Srila Sridhar Maharaj."
After Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, there appeared two groups in Gaudiya Math. Srila Sridhar Maharaj sided with one of the groups, and when somebody from the opposing group came to Srila Sridhar Maharaj, Srila Sridhar Maharaj asked him, "You are supposed to be a member of the oppositionist party to me. Why are you always coming here to see me?" That devotee answered, "I come to see you because of your disinterested nature, super intelligence, and strong common sense. Even though I mix with the opposition group, I come to you."
Also we can remember how Srila Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj always went to Hapaniya and always searched, "Which school did Srila Sridhar Maharaj study at? Which pond did he bathe in?" and so on. Srila Sridhar Maharaj asked him once, "Maharaj, you are my godbrother and you can go there, but why do you go there and look for the pond where I bathed, which school I went to, etc. What is the necessity in it?" Srila Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj replied, "Maharaj, you have composed so many slokas, and I see that Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhu himself has written them. I do not see any difference between you and Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhu. That is why, remembering Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhu, I go to your birthplace and visit so many places. I come to see the places of your pastimes and to take the dust from those places on my head."
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