THE DIVINE SERVITOR : PART ONE (GLORIFICATION BY THE DEVOTEES)
Dayadhara Gauranga Dasa Bhakti Prabhakara Ph.D.
(This article first appeared in "Sadhu Sanga" Magazine Vol.5 No.l 1989.)
It is a well known fact that Srlla Guru Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami, at the age of 86 in 1979 was not prepared to begin a new campaign of initiating disciples from all over the world because he did not expect to survive long enough to give them shelter through their introduction to the bhakti path. Several disciples of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj had approached him in 1979 and 1980 for his connection, but for that reason he did not accept them as initiated disciples. Still, he became saddened with the circumstances of their plight. If was then that his dearmost disciple and long-time confidant, Srila Govinda Maharaj, urged Srila Guru Maharaj to reconsider giving his divine connection to those who approached. Srila Guru Maharaj desired to help but he feared he would not be staying much longer in this world to give them the necessary direct guidance. This seemingly impossible dilemma set the stage for the most wondrous and fortunate sacrifice to have ever been witnessed in our lifetimes. Feeling Srila Guru Maharaj's pain and understanding the dire need of the devotees approaching Srila Guru Maharaj for his connection, Srila Govinda Maharaj made a proposal to Srila Guru Maharaj. The substance of that proposal was staggering to the most imaginative minds: if Srila Guru Maharaj would give his connection to those devotees, then Srila Govinda Maharaj would accept the responsibility for their spiritual lives after Srila Guru Maharaj's departure from this worldly plane. It was then that Srila Guru Maharaj reversed his policy and began giving initiations to the Western devotees. Srila Govinda Maharaj's promise warmed the heart of Srila Guru Maharaj, and his acceptance of disciples from the West was similar to, and indeed reminded us, of the great campaign of Sri Nityananda Prabhu some 500 years ago. There it was first demonstrated how the saintly stalwarts canvas to recruit and accept anyone with interest in Mahaprabhu's mission, regardless of qualification.
Certainly our qualifications in coming to Srila Guru Maharaj were questionable. We had been summarily rejected by our former associates and we hadn't a clue really what we were coming for except to continue what Srila Swami Maharaj had given to us. Yet somehow, Srila Guru Maharaj accepted us—such was his magnanimity. And, moreover, this was only due to the great mercy of Srlla Govinda Maharaj. So, in what category can we posit his mercy?
From 1982 to 1986, Srila Guru Maharaj preached to the entire world, without, to use Srila Govinda Maharaj's words, "world itineracy"; and, according to Srila Guru Maharaj's own divine plan, Srila Govinda Maharaj took sannyasa in November of 1985. So it was that Srila Guru Maharaj, at Gaura-purnima in 1986, told the world of his decision to depart this worldly plane and reiterated his wish of the last forty years to leave everything in the hands of his dearmost disciple, Srila Govinda Maharaj. No doubt we were saddened to hear the news of his impending departure. But the inevitability of it had been before us for several years as Srila Guru Maharaj increasingly revealed the symptoms of failing health. Yet, we had the hope of a small child thinking that Srlla Guru Maharaj would remain in this earthly plane throughout our lives. Such was the love he cultivated in us and such was our unfathomable attachment to His Divine Grace. All the more remarkable was this feat when we consider that he only performed this service by, and for, the mercy of Srila Govinda Maharaj.
When Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj came to the West and created such a great following, it occurred to us (after his departure) that he came only to take us to the lotus feet of Sad-guru, his Siksa-guru, Srila Guru Maharaj. Now, shortly after the departure of Srila Guru Maharaj, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Srlla Guru Maharaj's great preaching and canvassing campaign to create a 'relief agency' for the fallen souls of the Western world, was to recruit us solely for the service of Srila Govinda Maharaj who would carry out the wishes of the parampara perfectly. Such is the way of the very high Vaishnavas, and we have been ever so fortunate to witness that. This was Sri Guru and His Divine Grace—and it was our great fortune to be recruited to fulfil that. A few days before the Gaura-purnima celebration of 1986, Srila Guru Maharaj delivered the following ordinance to all the devotional community present and, indeed, for his disciples near and far throughout the whole world:
"According to the desire of my Divine Master, I have been maintaining this disciplic succession but it is no longer possible for me, as I am now too old and invalid. You all know that from long ago I have chosen Sriman Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj and I have given him sannyasa. All my Vaishnava Godbrothers are very affectionate towards him and it is also their desire to give him this position. I have previously given to him the charge of the Math and now I am giving him the full responsibility of giving Harinama, diksa, sannyasa, etc, as an Acharya of this Math on behalf of myself.
"Those who have any regard for me should give this respect and position to Govinda Maharaj as my successor. As much as you have faith in my sincerity, then with all sincerity I believe that he has got the capacity of rendering service in this way. With this, I transfer these beads and from now, he will initiate on my behalf as Ritvik. The Ritvik system is already involved both here and also in the foreign land. The Ritvik is the representative. So, if you want to take from me, and you take by his hands, then it will be as well and as good as taking from me.
"In the Mahamandala, Sagara Maharaj and many others are also Ritvik of Swami Maharaj and also myself. They may do so, but in this Math and in any Math under this Math, he will be the representative. If anyone cannot accept this, he may leave the Math rather than stay here and disturb the peace of the Math. With all my sincerity and good feelings to Guru-Gauranga, to the Vaishnavas and the Acharyas, Mahaprabhu, Pancha-Tattva, Radha-Govinda and Their Parsadas, with all my sincere prayers to Them, henceforth he will represent me in this affair beginning from today's function.
"Now I shall go from here and he will do the necessary. On my behalf, he will give Harinama, diksa, sannyasa, and everything."
Srila Govinda Maharaj agreed to accept the responsibility of the Western disciples of Srila Guru Maharaj in 1981, out of his intense desire to serve Srila Guru Maharaj. As Srila Guru Maharaj's disciple, he could empathise with the yearning of the Western devotees for Srila Guru Maharaj's connection. In this way, both Srila Guru Maharaj and Srila Govinda Maharaj were helping each other to serve the divine mission of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Govinda Maharaj further explained at informal gatherings during Srila Guru Maharaj's Vyasa-puja celebration in 1988 in Nabadwip-Dham:
"Srila Guru Maharaj called Puri Maharaj and requested him, 'You arrange everything for Govinda Maharaj's sannyasa.' And after that function was performed, Srila Guru Maharaj was somewhat satisfied. Then on the 2nd of December 1985, Srila Guru Maharaj registered his last will. He became very satisfied after that with this work—his transcendental work. Of course, we were praying, very selfishly perhaps, that Srila Guru Maharaj must stay with us, but I came to understand that Srila Guru Maharaj has his own desire and his own life also, and we cannot disturb that. One time when I voiced the sentiment that he stay with us, Srila Guru Maharaj very quickly turned away his head from me. That time, it came very heavily to my heart that Srila Guru Maharaj wants his own association, the pastimes of Sri-Sri Radha-Krishna lila. He is that Srila Rupa Goswami coming in the form of Guru Maharaj in this world, and he now wants to go there, but we are disturbing him. Then I thought either today or tomorrow or someday—any day we must face the inevitable separation. This situation of separation will come and then, what to do? If Srlla Guru Maharaj wants, immediately he can leave. And he did that.
"But afterwards when we took Srila Guru Maharaj's Divine Form downstairs, I could see that so bright was his body, and no disturbance was in his body. So from upstairs to downstairs, I was steady. And since that time, I have not come back up here until today (to Srila Guru Maharaj's room). This is the first time since Srila Guru Maharaj's departure (on August 12th, 1988) and it is for duty to Srila Guru Maharaj. Only I am coming now to give the initiation for the devotees. Now we are bound to do our duty. Sometimes Srila Guru Maharaj would say, 'The transcendental duty is our life—there is no other life.'
"So, duty we must do, but there are two kinds of duty: mundane duty and transcendental duty. Sometimes mundane duty is attracting us, but we can transform that duty also in a transcendental way. Narottama Dasa Thakur also said in one song, grhe va vanete thake, that we can stay in grhastha life, or sannyasa life, or brahmachari life—any life, if we can chant the Mahamantra and worship Mah5prabhu. Then, everything is going in that direction. No problem. At the time of Sriman Mahaprabhu, most of his devotees were also grhasthas—Srivasa Pandita was a grhastha of the Pancha-tattva; and Advaita Prabhu showed grhastha life. Nityananda Prabhu lastly also showed grhastha life. In Kali-yuga, sannyasa life is not recommended, not favoured for the devotional attitude. But tridanda-sannyasa is accepted in the Srimad-Bhagavatam—not karma-sannyasa, but bhakta-sannyasa, that is another type of sannyasa. It has its root exclusively in Guru-seva—nothing else. No other thing. This way, there is some promise in Vaishnava-sannyasa: by kaya—body, mana—mind, vakya—speech, everything I shall engage in the service of Guru-Vaishnava. That is the sannyasa for this age. That sannyasa is possible everywhere, and everyone can take it.
"Formally, in our Vedic sastra, there is brahmachari, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasa; that sannyasa is daiva-varnasrama-dharma. There are two kinds of varnasrama: daiva-varnasrama and asura-varnasrama. That sastric sannyasa is daiva-varnasrama, and that is also accepted by Srimad Bhagavatam and certainly other sastras. But commenting on the parichaya—identity or acquaintance—of the Vaishnava, Mahaprabhu says in one sloka:
naham vipro na cha nara-patir napi vaisyo na sudro
"This is our parichaya. We are not brahmanas, we are not kings, vaisyas, or sudras; we are not brahmacharis, sannyasis, or vanaprasthas, but our parichaya is that we are the servitors of the servitors of the servitors of Guru-Vaishnava.
gopi-barttuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah
"This is Mahaprabhu's desire and we are following that. But for the general people, they want to see the red cloth and they are thinking, 'It is a sadhu in this way, for the benefit of the people—the general mass—we are trying to maintain the sannyasa life, trying to maintain the grhastha life, every life. But bhakta life is the only life. Where there is bhakti, there—that is life. Where there is no bhakti, there is no life. This is Mahaprabhu's teaching."
We had the rare pleasure and opportunity to come to Srila Guru Maharaj, no doubt. But what we have yet to learn is that we entered onto a stage where a transcendental symphony was playing (lila)—where Srila Guru Maharaj and Srila Govinda Maharaj were playing and we were also a witness to that. Those who came but could not, cannot, or will not, see this divine relationship playing before our eyes have missed the most valuable treasure shown: sadhu-sanga.
Our greatest fortune is in being placed in the divine hands of Srila Govinda Maharaj after Srila Guru Maharaj's unexpected (by us) departure. Srila Guru Maharaj's arrival, his pastimes and his departure were all miraculous and transcendental. Those who wish to fault any part of his pastimes as mundane, incoherent or foolhardy, do themselves the greatest harm. But they are certainly not the first to underestimate the divine instructions of Srila Guru Maharaj.
In 1981 when I visited a number of Srlla Guru Maharaj's Godbrothers on his order (to undertake a comparative study), I was often told by those well-meaning Godbrothers, "Yes, but Srila Sridhar Maharaj is now too old and invalid," as if to say "Your Guru Maharaj is no longer preaching in this world at large." But we can see that after 1981, from Srlla Guru Maharaj's informal talks alone have already come several books lauded the world over. In addition, he closely supervised our printing and translation of his most revered writings, "The Hidden Treasure of the Sweet Absolute" and "Positive and Progressive Immortality." Certainly now, no one thinks we were following an 'invalid.' So also, the entire life span of Srila Guru Maharaj was filled with integrity and intent of purpose. He did not decide on his successor at the time of his departure: forty years earlier he had decided that Srila Govinda Maharaj would succeed him, and at the end of his life, as we have quoted herein, he has firmly and resolutely reasserted his wish for our benefit. The Elixir of Nectar which has been carried to us from Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math for the last fifty years is still flowing by the mercy of Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu represented in the person of Srila Govinda Maharaj. I take the feet dust of that Elixir on my head and pray that the good sense to continue to do so never leaves me. The nectar has now become doubly sweet with the advent of Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj. Srila Guru Maharaj—acclaimed by one and all as the "Maker of Gurus"—has presented us with his most precious gem in the personage of Srila Govinda Maharaj. In Srila Guru Maharaj's own words, we say, "May we thank our lucky stars!"
— : CONTENTS : —
Part Two: DISCOURSES by His Divine Grace Srila B.S. Govinda Maharaj
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