Our Hope, Prayer, and Promise
His Divine Grace Om Vishnupad
Today is an auspicious day for us—today is our Founder Acharya Om Vishnupad Jagad-Guru Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj's disappearance festival. He disappeared from this world on this day, on 12 August 1988.
COMING TO PRABHUPAD
When Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj first came to the temple of Gaudiya Math at Ulta Danga, Kolkata, he was a student of law. He would come there every day and listen to the Hari-katha, Krishna-katha from Prabhupad Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. At that time, India was under the control of the British (British government ruled India), so one of the brahmacharis, the manager of the temple, thought that since Srila Sridhar Maharaj only came and sat at the lectures never asking any questions, he could be from the CID detective branch, some bad person, or maybe a British spy. So, one day, that brahmachari told Srila Sridhar Maharaj not to come to the temple again. At that time, the Gaudiya Math at Ulta Danga where Srila Prabhupad started preaching from was quite small, it was a house like the Caracas temple, and not so many people were there. So, when that brahmachari told Srila Sridhar Maharaj not to come and he did not come, Prabhupad noticed it. Not initiated yet at that time (his name was Ramendra Bhattacharya, he was from a brahman family), Srila Sridhar Maharaj thought, "What do I go there for? I do not go there for my own interest, some enjoyment, food or anything like that. Even if they tell me not to come, I must still go there!" So, after much deliberation, he finally did come to Gaudiya Math the next day. When Prabhupad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur noticed that he had not come that day, he asked one of the devotees, "There was a boy sitting behind and listening to Hari-katha without asking any questions—why did he not come today?" The devotees told the truth that the manager had told him not to come and explained why. So, when Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj came there the next day, Prabhupad asked him, "Why did you not come yesterday?" Srila Sridhar Maharaj did not tell anybody's name—instead, he replied, "Prabhupad, I had some problem, that is why I could not come." Then Prabhupad told him, "You must come every day," and he also told all the devotees, "Do not disturb him. He must come every day, do not prevent him." A short while after that, Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj took initiation and joined the Gaudiya Math temple permanently.
CONQUERING PRABHUPAD'S HEART
From the beginning, Srila Sridhar Maharaj always practised properly and always helped Prabhupad very much. As a brahmachari (his name was Ramendra Sundar Brahmachari), he preached in Kashmir, at Godavari (the place where the discourse between Ramananda Ray and Mahaprabhu took place; Prabhupad made a temple there and Srila Sridhar Maharaj helped there a lot), he helped Prabhupad open a temple in Madras (Chennai). Srila Sridhar Maharaj helped Prabhupad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur in his service and preaching movement very much. Actually, after he joined he very quickly established himself as a big scholar, a big philosopher, and a big pandit—he could defeat anyone. Srila Sridhar Maharaj's special qualities were his strong common sense and disinterested nature, and Prabhupad loved him very much. Also, he was a pandit of Sanskrit language—as you know, he composed many slokas, including the famous Bhaktivinod-viraha Dasakam about Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur. When Srila Prabhupad saw the 'Sri-gauranumatam svarupa-viditam...' sloka from it, he commented, "Happy style." Srila Sridhar Maharaj immediately conquered, possessed Srila Prabhupad's heart. Following that, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur decided to give sannyas to Srila Sridhar Maharaj. Srila Sridhar Maharaj did so much service during his life.
Actually, Prabhupad Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur did not clearly give any declaration, he did not appoint anybody the next acharya in writing, but he left his qualified manager, secretary and disciple in charge and also declared Srila Sridhar Maharaj to be the spiritual leader. You know that when Srila Prabhupad showed his disappearance pastime (when he was leaving his body), he said in front of all his sannyasis, brahmacharis, and other disciples, "I want to hear this song, "'Sri-rupa-manjari-pada, sei mora sampada, sei mora bhajana-pujana' from Srila Sridhar Maharaj's mouth."
'ON MY BEHALF'
Our Gurudev, Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj, would always sing this song ('Sri-rupa-manjari-pada, sei mora sampada') at Srila Sridhar Maharaj's disappearance festival. Actually, he never wanted to be at the Nabadwip temple on this day—he said, "This is the worst day in my life, and I do not want to remember it. It is very difficult for me." He also told me fifteen-twenty years ago, "I do not want to be in Nabadwip on that day. You are in Nabadwip, so you can make that festival, and you must sing that song, 'Sri-rupa-manjari-pada' on my behalf." We celebrated this festival at all our temples in India yesterday, and I was present at the Vrindavan temple on this day. I gave a class and also sang that song... Many devotees came...
Actually, Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj could see the future—whatever he thought, whatever he said, whatever came from his mouth, invariably came true. If he said something, it had to happen. So, when our Gurudev joined the mission in 1947, Srila Sridhar Maharaj thought that young boy, Gaurendu Brahmachari (Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj) would become the next acharya of the temple—he had decided this within seven days after Gurudev had joined. Gurudev told me also, "My Guru Maharaj had been waiting for thirty years to give me this chair, then I cannot leave this chair until my death—I have to serve my Guru until my death."
When Gurudev bought the land in Hapaniya, Srila Sridhar Maharaj's godbrother Srila Krishna Das Babaji Maharaj would often walk for twenty-five kilometres from Nabadwip to Hapaniya and sing,
Later, the Supreme Lord travelled to the holy places of pilgrimage in South India with the clever intention of delivering the fallen souls. Appearing as a beautiful young renunciate, He distributed the sweet Names of the Lord, singing: "Krishna Krishna Krishna Krishna Krishna Krishna Krishna he," as He strolled down the different pathways, entered temples, and visited homesteads during the sacred pilgrimage. Infused with an inconceivable type of divine inspiration, the Lord freely chanted "Rama Rama" and joyfully danced with the most charming gestures. Irrespective of time or personal qualification, the assembled bystanders were delivered by the Lord, who inspired them to chant Krishna's Holy Names. I offer my obeisances to that beautiful Golden Lord, Gauranga Sundar, the divine form of Krishna prema.
(Prema-dhama-deva Stotram, 22)
He would sing the entire Prema-dhama Stotram on his way from Nabadwip to Hapaniya. When in Hapaniya, Krishna Das Babaji Maharaj would search for the places related to Srila Sridhar Maharaj's childhood: the playground where he played football, the pond where he bathed, the school where he studied, and so on. Srila Sridhar Maharaj asked him, "O Babaji Maharaj, you are my godbrother—I do not mind you going to my birthplace, but why do you search that pond, school, playground, etc. What for?" And Srila Krishna Das Babaji Maharaj explained, "When I see your Sanskrit slokas, I think Srila Rupa Goswami himself wrote it. That is why, thinking you are non-different from Srila Rupa Goswami, I go to your birthplaces remembering Srila Rupa Goswami's pastimes."
Many of Srila Sridhar Maharaj's godbrothers would come to visit him—Srila Bhakti Prajnan Keshav Goswami Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Vichar Jajavar Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Kamal Madhusundan Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Pramode Puri Maharaj, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj Prabhupad also.
Srila Swami Maharaj Prabhu went to preach all over the world, and when he was abroad, in his lifetime, he told his disciples, "My siksa-guru, Srila Sridhar Maharaj, is there in Nabadwip—he is the biggest personality. After me, if you want to learn something, if you want to hear something, or if you want to get something, you can surrender to Srila Sridhar Maharaj." Although Srila Swami Maharaj Prabhupad was the first worldwide preacher in the Western countries, he showed that he recognised Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj as the biggest guru and the Rupanuga-acharya of the mission.
Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj would every year invite Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj to his appearance day, and every year Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj would go to Mayapur, Nandan-acharya-bhavan (Gaura Nityananda mandir), on that day. Whatever offerings Srila Goswami Maharaj had got on that day of his birth day, he would offer everything to Srila Sridhar Maharaj. One year, it happened so that Srila Sridhar Maharaj could not attend his birth day, and Srila Goswami Maharaj said, "Every year my siksa-guru, my sannyas guru, Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj, comes here on my birth day and gives me thus one more year of life, but he could not come this year, then I will not be alive next year." And you know that year he indeed passed away...
Before Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj disappeared, he told Gurudev, "Govinda Maharaj, when I die, you must burn my body at the ghat and throw the ashes into the Ganges. You do not need to make any samadhi—I am a fallen soul, and this body will be useless for service, so you can burn it." Gurudev joked at that time, "When you die, then you will see what I do with your body." Then, one day, Gurudev took Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj's hand and showed him some place at the temple in Nabadwip saying, "Maharaj, I have chosen this place. Do you like it?" Srila Sridhar Maharaj said, "You can do as you like..." Gurudev explained to him, "Many foreign devotees, many foreign sannyasis will not allow me to burn your body and throw it into the Ganges—they will kill me. That is why I was thinking this could be a good place." (Srila Gurudev was showing Srila Sridhar Maharaj the same place where Srila Sridhar Maharaj's samadhi is at present.) Then, Srila Sridhar Maharaj said, "You can choose and do as you like. I do not mind it." There was a mango tree at that place before, and that mango tree died the same very day as Srila Sridhar Maharaj expired—the tree's leaves dried up and the mango tree left its body giving thus place to make Srila Sridhar Maharaj's samadhi.
STARTING NABADWIP TEMPLE
Srila Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj was attached to Krishna consciousness and Harinam from his childhood. His whole life was like that—he was fully surrendered. When Prabhupad Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur disappeared, there was much fighting in Chaitanya Math, Mayapur, there were many problems with his godbrothers, so in the end, thinking, "I do not want any politics, I did not come here for any politics" and desiring to do bhajan, he left for Vrindavan and stayed there in one place. After some time, he got an akash-dhvani (a message from the sky) from Prabhupad saying, "I have made you the Rupanuga-acharya—why are you sitting in Vrindavan?!" Then he came to Koladwip, Kolerganj, where the temple is now, and made a small thatched house—his pillow was a brick and the mattress some straw. Such was his lifestyle at that time. His godbrother Sakhi Charan Bhakti Vijay bought the land of Chaitanya Saraswat Math and gave it to Srila Sridhar Maharaj. Moreover, he would also give ten rupees per month for the monthly expenditure of the temple. At the beginning, Srila Sridhar Maharaj maintained the temple with those ten rupees per month. Many of his godbrothers would come to see him there, but there was not even a toilet—the toilet was under a tree, without any fence or a plastic sheet for privacy. Srila Sridhar Maharaj's godbrothers complained, "Maharaj, we come to you to hear some Hari-katha, but how are we to stay with you here when you do not even have a toilet?" At that time a sheet of plastic cost, perhaps, half a rupee (fifty paise), and Srila Sridhar Maharaj could not even get half a rupee. Such was his position at the temple at the beginning.
OUR HOPE, PRAYER, AND PROMISE
In this way, Srila Sridhar Maharaj made Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. Srila Sridhar Maharaj handed it over to Gurudev, and Gurudev then made so many temples that we see now—he preached all over the world and brought so many followers. Guru Maharaj is always powerful—he empowers Gurudev and preaches through him all over the world.
We must pray to him wherever he is staying now. Today is a viraha-tithi, disappearance festival, but actually Guru-varga is always nitya-lila—they always perform their pastimes, wherever they stay, they do their service, they give us their mercy and engage us in service. That is our hope. Then, today is a good day because Gurudev is non-different from Krishna—when Krishna sends him, he comes to tell us Krishna-katha and we can also tell our Guru our deepest and honest enquiry (sad-jijnasa—pranipatena, pariprasnena, sevaya), he will direct it to our perfect place.
We must promise on this day that we must stay in Srila Sridhar Maharaj's Mission, Chaitanya Saraswat Math and all of its branches, we must keep connection with his Mission and we must engage ourselves in the service to his Mission. We must also promise one more thing on this day: "Please, Guru Maharaj, forgive our offence. We are fallen souls, we have no quality or qualification, but we want to serve you. Please, tolerate me and engage me in your service. I have no qualification, but you have so much power, you can engage me and you can make me perfect. I am not perfect, but your power, your quality is such that you can make me good."
I would like to finish here.
দেবং দেব্যতনুং সুছন্দবদনং বালার্কচেলাঞ্চিতং
devam divya-tanum suchanda-vadanam balarka-chelanchitam
I offer my obeisance unto my lord, Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj, whose speech is most pleasing; whose divine form is adorned with garments the colour of the newly-risen sun; who is an abode of intense, ecstatic devotion; who is the sadhus' sole choice; who is an ocean of renunciation and knowledge; who is a treasure-house of perfect conclusions; who is resplendent with pure devotion; who is the best of Srila Saraswati Thakur's followers; who is the giver of all good; who is the leading general of the tridandi-sannyasis; and who is my sole shelter.
This is Srila Sridhar Maharaj's pranam-mantra, composed by Srila Gurudev. You can now sing the arati song 'Jaya Guru Maharaj jyoti rajeswara', make an arati, offer pushpanjali, then finish the programme and take prasadam.
You know that Srila Sridhar Maharaj wrote about his Prabhupad,
jayare jayare jaya gaura-sarasvati
"All glory to the voice of Sri Gauranga, the embodiment of Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur's mercy, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur!"
prakasile gaura-sevabhuvana mangala
"He manifested Sri Gauranga's service for the upliftment of the world. His teaching of devotion is pure, brilliant, and enlightening."
He always glorified his Gurudev, Prabhupad, and we must always glorify our Guru Maharaj, our Gurudev.
jaya 'guru-maharaja' yati-rajesvara
"All glory to Srila Guru Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami, the leading general of the tridandi-sannyasis!"
patita-pavana-lila vistari' bhuvane
"You revealed your Pastimes in this world as the saviour of the fallen and delivered the sinful and unfortunate souls."
Sing this arati song, pay obeisance and give some puspanjali and then take prasadam.
Jay Om Vishnupad Jagad-Guru Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami
Maharaj ki jay
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