CENTENARY ANTHOLOGY : PART 1


All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga

Chapter Two

Transcendental History

 

A condensed excerpt from
'Srila Guru Maharaj—His Divine Pastimes & Precepts in Brief'
by Sripad Bhakti Ananda Sagar Maharaj

 

The blessed parents of His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami, of highly respected Brahminical lineage, were Sri Sri Upendra Chandra Deva Sharma Bhattacharya Vidyaratna and Srimati Gauri Bala Devi. They named their illustrious son, our Srila Guru Maharaj, Sri Ramendra Chandra Deva Sharma Bhattacharya. His blessed Appearance took place at Sripat Hapaniya, District Burdwan, West Bengal. During the presence of Srila Guru Maharaj in the world, at that sacred place a beautiful Temple and Ashram, by the name of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Ashram, was constructed by our benevolent Sevaite-President-Acharya of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj.

From his noble and gracious father, Srila Guru Maharaj's exalted line of forefathers [Sat-purusa] are as follows: his father's name, Sriyukta Upendra Chandra Deva Sharma Bhattacharya; his grandfather's name, Sriyukta Ram Gopal Deva Sharma; his great grandfather's name, Sriyukta Ramdhan Deva Sharma; his father was Sriyukta Rajiva Lochan Deva Sharma; his father was Sriyukta Mrtyunjay Deva Sharma; his father was Sriyukta Dhananjay Deva Sharma; and his father was Sriyukta Govinda Ram Deva Sharma. The title 'Bhattacharya' was peculiar to the line when they predominantly performed and taught religious sacrifices and worship [paurohitya]. In the line, many were also Brahminical spiritual masters with thousands of disciples. There were a number of professions adopted in the line, including farming and landownership. Sanskrit scholarship was pre-dominant all through. Srila Guru Maharaj was aware that Sriyukta Ramdhan was a particularly outstanding scholar. The illustrious family line of Srila Guru Maharaj originates with the sage called Rajarsi Vatsya, and is known as the Rajarsi Vatsya Gotra. Srila Guru Maharaj's mother's family lineage was also Bhattacharya Brahmana. Her father's name was Sriyukta Radha Vallabha Bhattacharya, from a place called Khaithan.

By the arrangement of the free will of fortune, the first child of Srila Guru Maharaj's parents did not live. Srila Guru Maharaj was the first son, then after His Divine Grace the second son was Sriyukta Manindra Chandra, after whom came the first daughter Sriyukta Jagadhatri Devi. After her were two sons, Sriyukta Satyendra Chandra, then Sriyukta Amarendra Chandra. The last two children were the daughters Sriyukta Usa Rani Devi and Sriyukta Rama Rani Devi. Sriyukta Rama Rani Devi [Devya] later became a devout disciple of Srila Guru Maharaj. Also, Sriyukta Jagadhatri Devi, Sriyukta Satyendra Chandra and Sriyukta Amarendra Chandra all later accepted initiation from Srila Guru Maharaj.

Prior to the Appearance of Srila Guru Maharaj, his father's elder brother's wife [jethi-ma], Srimati Kumud Kamini, was one day visiting a holy place of pilgrimage to have the darsan of a particular Deity. She dreamt that night that the Deity presented her with a beautiful baby. The baby was effulgent and his head was without hair. She thought Srimati Gauri Devi has no issue, so in the dream she gave the baby to the hands of Srimati Gauri Devi. After some days, Srila Guru Maharaj appeared, and lo—Srimati Kumud Kamini saw that the newly-born child was identical with the beautiful baby of her dream.

He stayed at his maternal uncle's house for his primary education at Khaithan Gram where he attended the local Pathsala [primary school] there. His intelligence was brilliant, his character most exalted. Twice he got double promotions at school, and he was always top of the class.

From childhood, he had an in-born aptitude for the Sanskrit language. He attended the high school at Okarsa, about two miles walk West from his home at Hapaniya.

When Srila Guru Maharaj was a youth, Srimati Gauri Devi would cook many tasteful vegetable dishes for the family. But when Srila Guru Maharaj ate, his mother wept. Guru Maharaj would only accept one vegetable—the bitter Neem leaf prepared as a wet vegetable with rice. Further, he would only eat what was given to him once. He wouldn't accept anything a second time—because in his heart he offered everything to the Lord before eating.

As a young lad, he unfailingly bathed every day in the sacred Ganges at Dampal. Rising early before sunrise, he would walk there daily, three miles and back. He would also pick some lotus flowers from a natural reservoir and offer them every day to the Ganges and Lord Siva. Once when walking to Jamapur with a lotus flower in his hand for offering to the Deity Buraraj [Lord Siva], he had a sudden revelation of Visva-Rupa, the Universal Form.

When studying at Baharampur college at District Mushirabad, one day Srila Guru Maharaj happened to meet an astrologer at the Baharampur railway station. The astrologer requested Srila Guru Maharaj to show him his hand, upon seeing which he remarked that [1] Srila Guru Maharaj would be fully self-realized, [2] he would become a famous preacher of Hari-katha far and wide, and [3] he would depart the world at ninety-three years of age. All three predictions came true. The name of the astrologer was Yogi Bir Sri Barada Majumdar. He was the headmaster of the Lalgola high school, seven stations down the line, about a two-hour trainride from Baharampur. That school was founded by a King by the name of Raja Yogendra Narayana Rao, in the name of his father Raja Mahendra Narayana Rao. Yogi Bir Barada Majumdar was accepted by the famous general of Bengal, Subhash Chandra Bose, as his Guru.

At college Srila Guru Maharaj became indifferent to his books of study, and would read only Sri Chaitanya-Charitamrta and Sri Chaitanya-Bhagavata. Yet, he passed his examinations, coming in the first division, while the student most diligent in his studies failed. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts he studied law, but before completing those studies he joined Mahatma Gandhi's non-cooperation movement in 1921, staying for about two years. From childhood, however, despite the fact that he was born in a renowned Smarta-brahmana family, his natural mood of religious attraction was for the Sankirtan [congregational chanting of the Holy Name] of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Om Visnupad Paramahamsa Sri Srila Prabhupad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami [1874–1937] was the illustrious Founder-President of Sri Chaitanya Math with sixty-four branches all over India, known as Gaudiya Maths. He also established preaching missions abroad. Srila Sridhar Maharaj, during his college studies, was deeply attracted to the Divine Life and Precepts of Sri Chaitanyadev, and as a result he first made contact with Srila Prabhupad in the Gaudiya Math, and he fully committed himself to the Mission in 1926. When Srila Sridhar Maharaj left home and joined the Mission, his Gurudev, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupad was overjoyed, and he quoted the famous Sri Gita sloka in appreciation:

yad yad acharati srestas tat tad evetaro janah
sa yat pramanai kurute lokas tad anuvarttate

"The people follow the ways of the great. They follow whatever conclusion the great personalities accept as correct." He expressed his openhearted joy that such an extremely qualified person as Srila Sridhar Maharaj had come forward to participate in the Mission of Sriman Mahaprabhu.

Even before taking sannyasa, Srila Sridhar Maharaj was a very exalted and firm preacher in the Mission, and Srila Prabhupad was most satisfied with him. In 1930, at the original Ultadanga Gaudiya Math, Srila Prabhupad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami ordained him in Sannyasa [monkhood], awarding him the Tridanda-Sannyasa title of Srimad Bhakti Raksak Sridhar, meaning'the Illustrious Guardian of Devotion', because of his formidable scriptural command and natural, deep spiritual insight. Srila Sridhar Maharaj travelled extensively throughout the whole of India preaching fluently in Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, and English. His English carried an attractive sweetness and eloquence of a unique character. He successfully spread Lord Sri Chaitanyadev's Message on mass levels such as various colleges and universities, and he conducted public seminars and Sankirtan Festivals.

Once when Srila Guru Maharaj went to Giridi at Bihar, he delivered a lecture at the Barristers' Library there. After the lecture a gentleman came forward, and weeping, he said, "We used to think that our ancestors were fools, and that we have now become civilised by the association of the British. But today, Maharaj, hearing your talk, we cannot but feel how great we were, and how low we have fallen! Our ancestors were so, so great, and now we have fallen into such filthy garbage!"

On another occasion at Giridi, at a conference, the president of the conference, a learned scholar, one Mr. Basak, remarked after hearing Srila Guru Maharaj's speech, "We thought for so long now that Vaisnava-dharma was a branch of Hindu religion. But today, Maharaj, after what I have heard from you, with your sound argument and Scriptural evidence, we know now that Vaisnava-Dharma is the Original Religion—the Jaiva-Dharma or Religion of all souls—and all others are only the misconceived portion of the original."

In His Divine Grace Srila Sridhar Maharaj's own words: "This must be deeply studied and considered by the learned section. The Vaisnava-Dharma that Mahaprabhu gave is the original Vaidik-Dharma. What Srila Ramanuja Acharya and Srila Madhva Acharya gave has completely merged into the Line of Mahaprabhu. And what Lord Sankar, Lord Buddha, and Ramkrishna Mission have given is all hodgepodge. One who can properly catch the gist of this is benefitted in the extreme. Sambandha-jnana is a great thing; then there is Abhidheya and Prayojana. These are the essential three stages of the whole theology."

Once in Bombay, Srila Guru Maharaj gave a lecture at the Theosophical Society. The subject of his talk was "The Superexcellence of the Teachings of Sri Chaitanya". The president, in his introductory lecture, spoke the age-old dogma that all religions are one and the same. When Srila Guru Maharaj took the stand 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.

"Sambandha, Abhidheya and Prayojana—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 unalloyed by intellect], suddha-Bhakti [Pure Devotion], in sadhu-sanga [association of the true devotee]. And Prayojana, or the goal, is Prema; but not mukti [liberation]. Dharma-artha-kama-moksa [religiosity, economy, material desire and liberation]—these are not the goal. Only Prema-Seva, Loving Service to Krishna is the supreme goal."

Seeing Srila Sridhar Maharaj's sensitive, rich Sanskrit Writings, his Gurudev referred to him as 'a fit person to continue my Spiritual Succession'. Seeing his keen scriptural insight, his Gurudev also adorned him with the accolade 'Sastra-nipuna Sridhar Maharaj', or 'Scriptural Genius Sridhar Maharaj.' On another occasion his Gurudev also referred to him as 'niveditatma', or 'a pure soul fully surrendered unto the Supreme Lord'.

Just prior to departing this world he was fully satisfied to hear Sri Rupa-manjaripada—his most beloved Song of the deepest Divine Service—from the lips of Srila Sridhar Maharaj. Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupad, by virtue of this action, clearly illustrated that Srila Sridhar Maharaj is his Chief Successor Preceptor and Representative of Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhupad, who is the Foremost Preceptorial Apostle of Sri Chaitanyadev.

After the departure of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupad, Srila Sridhar Maharaj founded the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math in 1941. At that time, it was no more than a thatched hut on the banks of the holy river Ganges. At that time, Srila Sridhar Maharaj composed this beautiful Sanskrit verse. The verse is a mysterious prediction, telling of the universal renown the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math was to know in the future:

srimach-chaitanya-sarasvata-mathavara-udgita-kirtir jaya-srim
bibhrat sambhati ganga-tata-nikata-nabadwipa-koladri-raje
yatra sri-gaura-sarasvata-mata-nirata-gaura-gatha grnanti
nityam rupanuga sri-krtamati-guru-gauranga-radha-jitasa

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.

[Rendered into English by Tridandi-bhiksu Sri B.A. Sagar, from the Bengali translation of His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj.]

Srila Sridhar Maharaj, after the departure of his Gurudev, naturally became unanimously honoured as the most exalted Representative of the Gaudiya Succession; although he always, and openly so, considered himself as junior. By their requests, he conferred the holy order of sannyasa upon many of his exalted, eminent Godbrothers, including Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Prajnan Keshav Maharaj, Srila Bhakti Aloka Paramahaisa Maharaj and Srila Bhakti Kamal Madhusudan Maharaj, Srila Narasimha Maharaj, Srila Bhagavat Maharaj, Srila Acharya Maharaj, etc.

During a circumambulation Festival at Vrindavan, Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj, the most senior preacher, and disciple of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupad, personally worshipped Srila Sridhar Maharaj with one hundred and eight lamps, and incense, etc., on the occasion of Srila Sridhar Maharaj's Appearance Day. Srila Goswami Maharaj performed this function joined by many of his disciples and other Godbrothers.

The Godbrother of His Divine Grace Srila Sridhar Maharaj, His Divine Grace Sri Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj Prabhupad, was, of course, the personality to inundate the Western world by cultural and spiritual tidal waves. From 1965 to 1977, he single-handedly transmitted the original Teachings of Krishna consciousness in a global proportion. His Divine Grace Srila Swami Maharaj Prabhupad was an unprecedented, magnificent Divine Phenomenon in himself. Yet, we heard from him personally, and history has recorded it, that he had only about ten days of association with his Gurudev, Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupad. But he had long and intimate association from his time of initiation all through, with the most intimate of all his Godbrothers, Srila Sridhar Maharaj.

Later, when Srila Guru Maharaj was over 80, thousands of persons from all over the world took the pilgrimage to Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, in Nabadwip, India. He accepted some thousands of persons from all over as his disciples. And he handed their charge over to his intimate attendant and associate-servitor, and his personally selected successor, Acharyadev Sri Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj. It is indeed the greatest fortune for the world that [at the time of this printing] Srila Govinda Maharaj, since 1992, has now completed his fifth World Tour, preaching the Religion of humility, selflessness, and tolerance. It is the fulfillment of the heart's desire of our beloved Master Srila Guru Maharaj.

As I mentioned in the beginning, the Ocean of the Pastimes of Srila Guru Maharaj is unlimited. How many drops of that ocean can a mere sparrow extract? In this world, time is not on our side. Ordered by my Gurudev, I have tried—in my own random way—to present some of these drops of honey for the bumblebee devotees of the Lord. I pray there is no offence in my doing so. If I do not try, that will also be an offence. Whoever hears the nectarean Divine Pastimes and Teachings of Srila Guru Maharaj cannot but attain the Supreme Wealth of life itself—Love for the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna.

Before closing this chapter, two other incidences suddenly come to mind.

After the disappearance of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad, there were major struggles. They were always resolved and harmonised by Srila Guru Maharaj. Srila Guru Maharaj was loved by all. Once during that period, a very learned devotee personality who was considered an adversary of Srila Guru Maharaj, came to visit him. In fact, he had a habit of visiting Srila Guru Maharaj quite often.

That day, Srila Guru Maharaj asked him,

"You are supposed to be a member of the oppositionist party to me. Why do you always come here to see me?"

That devotee personality immediately replied, "Because of your disinterested nature, super intelligence, and strong common sense."

Srila Krishnadas Babaji Maharaj often visited Srila Guru Maharaj's birthplace Sri Hapaniya. He would ask the villagers, did Sridhar Maharaj study at school here? Did he bathe in this pond here? and so on, and so on. One day Srila Guru Maharaj asked him, "You are my Godbrother; why are you so often visiting my birthplace? What is the reason?"

Srila Babaji Maharaj replied, "Because your writings are non-different from the writings of Srila Rupa Goswami. So I'm going there to take the dust of the land of your Pastimes on my head."

 


 

 

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