given by
His Divine Grace
Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj


Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj is known the world over by the affectionate but reverential name, 'Srila Guru Maharaj.' He disappeared from his manifest pastimes in this world on 12th August 1988. Since that time his dearmost and topmost Divine Servitor and Successor Acharya Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj has been increasingly involved with the direct guidance of Srila Guru Maharaj's Mission and devotees world-wide. Srila Govinda Maharaj himself is our shining example of exclusive devotion to Srila Guru Maharaj, and his radiance is felt by countless fortunate souls around the world through his replies to their letters.


Question: I used to help in the local preaching centre but that has closed down, therefore my service has stopped and I have gradually become isolated from my Godbrothers. What am I to do? At present myself and family are worshipping the pictures of Srila Guru Maharaj and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Would it be alright to have a Sri-Murti of Srila Guru Maharaj made for our altar? I would also greatly appreciate some personal information about Srila Guru Maharaj, such as his favourite prasadam, bhajans, slokas, etc.

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

In general we shall try always to associate with the devotees who are in the same line as ourselves, who are further ahead, and who are favourable in their mood of assistance to us. Therefore if we can associate with those who are going in the line of Srila Guru Maharaj, that will be good, otherwise not. If you have no association of good Vaishnavas then you can take association from Srila Guru Maharaj's books and instructions, with serious endeavour to put into practice the advice found there. When Srila Guru Maharaj was directly present he constantly gave his association in order to guide souls as fallen as ourselves on the path of the ultimate good. Now, in his absence, he remains present as our guardian in the form of his direct representative, dear associates and chaitya-guru who reveals that path of the highest good. Srila Guru Maharaj's presence is found in his message, in his instructions, in his guidance, and in each particle of every single atom of his established place of bhajan, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. With the vision of service to the holy abode, we can directly witness and realise this extension of his divine service: this wealth of his divine service. Srila Guru Maharaj himself many times said that in pursuit of the highest ideal it may sometimes be necessary to march on alone when favourable association is not immediately available by the side of a devotee.

Before installing any Sri-Murti it is absolutely necessary to see that Sri-Murti is not a doll. It is necessary that not only the present seva can be done nicely but also that in the future, for our lifetime and also after that, the service can be properly continued. Please carefully consider and with honest heart you decide.

Srila Guru Maharaj's favourite preparations included natural orange juice (with just a little sugar), cholar dahl, alu-bhaja (fried potatoes), and every day he would take mudi (puffed rice). He would very much like to take puris with the alu-bhaja, also he liked alu-dam (potato curry) and samosa.

There are many slokas and bhajans that he much appreciated and liked, especially Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur's songs from Saranagati: kabe habe bolo.., tunihu doya sagara..., ki jani ki bole..., emona durmmati.., radha-kunda tata... Also Srila Narottama Dasa Thakur's bhajans: hari hari bara sela..., Sri rupa manjari pada..., and also his own composition, sujanarbbuda radhita... He would always be reciting many different slokas and, included amongst them, he particularly liked many of the slokas in chapter two of the Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta, Madhya-lila.



Question: I have heard it said by the devotees that there is no such thing as love in this mundane world. Please can you explain this statement?

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

It is true that there is no word in English to correspond with the divine love mentioned in the scriptures. Love and prema are not the same. Each jiva-soul has three kinds of qualities: willing, feeling and thinking, but in this mundane world the jiva-soul is covered by illusion; that is called "Maya." The jiva-soul in his clean position always worships his beloved lover, that is Krishna, and that is the only duty he thinks of. The natural duty in the transcendental service world is love. The transcendental world is full of love. Krishna is infinitely loving. He gives love infinitely, but by giving His love to one. He is not reduced thereby so that He would not then be able to give His love to others. Mostly all the jivas are going there to that plane of the transcendental life of love, but unfortunately a few souls come here to this world. In this mundane plane they are always searching for love but here pure love is not to be found. There is the plane of renunciation, the plane of dedication and the plane of exploitation. Real love is seen in the plane of dedication and that is the transcendental world.

By nature the jiva-soul is living. He must do something, and he is doing, but in this mundane plane his activity is always with the illusory plane of exploitation. Here everything is exploiting everything else but in the plane of dedication there is no possibility for exploiting, only for serving Krishna and His associates. There, whoever is taking and whoever is giving—everybody is extremely happy. Someone is eating an apple: the devotee is happy, the apple is happy, everyone is happy. That is Krishna-loka, Vraja-dham.

Srila Rupa Goswami gave a description of what love is:

vyatitya bhavana-vartma yas chamatkara bharabhuh
hrdi sattojjvale badham svadate sa raso matah

Whatever is the extreme point of what we can guess here to be love, real love is far beyond that. What kind of happiness, joyfulness and fulfilment of life is there, we cannot guess from this mundane position. But in suddha-sattva, in the heart free from the covering of illusion, then that ecstatic ocean, can be felt. In the mundane plane, what we see to be love is just a tiny shadow of those feelings. Therefore it is not possible to experience such things in this mundane plane without connection with the transcendental world. In this world we are living with only the shadow of that loving sense and with the identification of male and female. Sometimes we are trying our best together, and with each other, to get that essence. And sometimes for the non-disturbance of this mundane we are living together with some systematic system for sympathetically dealing with nature with our hankering for real love. But by our activity here we are going in a circular way, again and again dying and taking birth. We are taking so many different types of birth in different forms of life and we are searching, "Where is love? Where is love?" like a blind fellow searching for the light of the world of dedication. We cannot see where is that world of dedication but our Supreme Lover, Krishna, can see everything. Seeing our hankering tendency He may sometimes distribute His merciful loving light through Sri Guru-Vaishnava in order to prepare us to receive a drop of the ecstatic ocean of love.

Your letter is very hard as it is attached with the confidential pastimes of Radha and Krsna. Anyhow I hope that you can understand the meaning nicely. You are fortunate to have the association of a devotional family. It is by service to the devotees headed by our Srila Guru Maharaj that the real meaning of the transcendental world can be nicely understood. You can see so much guidance in Srila Guru Maharaj's books and can try to follow that. Everyone, in honesty, wants real love, and Srila Guru Maharaj is preparing us for that by his instructions and advice.



Question: What should our mood be for making real progress in spiritual life?

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

Srila Guru Maharaj said that always we must be humble and we should try to help our own spiritual lives as well as the devotional faith of the other devotees. That is only possible by the way of trnad api sunichena taror api sahisnuna, amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih. That is, the jiva-soul is independent but when he is bound by illusion everybody must think, "I have something." But when he can understand himself properly, then he will think, "I am very, very, insignificant and my only hope is the mercy of the Vaishnavas, and my only shelter is my Divine Master." If he thinks in this way then he will be free from Maya by the blessings of Krishna.

We are practising Krishna consciousness, or we came to practise Krishna consciousness, not for any mundane benefit. Where we shall see the real light of Krishna consciousness we must really pay obeisances there. If we can preach in this humble way then no problem will come and illusion cannot attack us. In this way all the devotees can cooperate together just like a noble family. Srila Guru Maharaj said himself that we are all students; maybe there is some classification but we always must learn from our Divine Master, from the glorified Vaisnavas and from the scriptures. After the disappearance of Srila Guru Maharaj many things have happened in the Western world that are no doubt mostly inauspicious, but if we can see by means of the conception of our Srlla Guru Maharaj then we can collect from there also our super benefit.



Question: Now that Srila Guru Maharaj has disappeared from this world I am feeling very empty. Therefore I am praying to you for guidance.

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

After the disappearance of Srila Guru Maharaj, in his separation so many inauspicious things have happened, and due to that I am really too much shocked both mentally and bodily, but by the will of Krsna, there is no other way to spend a single moment without His seva programme. Nirjan-bhajan may be possible singlely but sankirtan is not possible without Vaishnava association; in that way we are in the proper line of our Srlla Guru Maharaj. Until death we must try to maintain our joyful sankirtan life. We have no other ambition except to be the servants of the servants of the Vaishnavas, but when we see our friends madly jumping into the ocean of illusion and becoming puzzled, then we must be afraid of Maya and more tightly embrace the shelter of our protector.



Question: How can I best serve Srila Guru Maharaj?

Srlla Govinda Maharaj replied:

Srila Guru Maharaj has already instructed you on the highest direction of your service. There is no service anywhere that is comparable to service rendered to Koladwip. And in Koladwip there is no service that is comparable to the service of Srila Guru Maharaj and to his Sri Chaitanya Siraswat Math. You have the great fortune to have the opportunity to render such direct service. Only very few have such opportunity and this is not comparable to service rendered in any other quarter.

The wealth of the devotee is exclusive devotion to Sri Guru. We all have so many seniors; and Vridavan is the "Land of Gurus," but ananya-bhakti is the exclusive absorption in devotion to my own Sri Gurudev. Srila Guru Maharaj taught this and practised this, and we are to try to follow in that line.



Question: I am purchasing a building to be used as an asram here in the West to represent your Math in Nabadwip. I am asking your instructions as to how I shall proceed with full earnestness.

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

When we will go to start a new preaching centre and want to install the Deities for our seva programme, first it is necessary to see that the Deity is not a doll and also that the asram is a conscious part of the Krishna conception. If we can maintain properly both the Deities and the asram for as long as we live, and longer, then we can start a preaching centre.

Srila Guru Maharaj disappeared and we all fell down into the ocean of his separation but Srila Guru Maharaj gave us full direction in the Krishna-seva conception. His Divine Grace is now living with us in the form of his divya-vani, in his divine instructions and his associates. Now our only hopeful shelter is the lotus feet of his divine associates, servitors and followers.



Question: I am planning to purchase a small facility for an asram here in our country and am asking for your blessings and advice.

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

Try to preach from your asram the specific conception of our Srila Guru Maharaj about Krishna consciousness. Also Srila Guru Maharaj always asked all the devotees to try to serve his Deities here at Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math in the regular way. Preaching is life. Without preaching, Mahaprabhu may not be satisfied, but with preaching then your enthusiastic programme of service must surely become fulfilled, glorified and joyful. This is my prayer unto the lotus feet of our Divine Master.



Question: My wife is not attracted to chanting the Hare Krsna Mahamantra but she is presently associating with members of the Ramanuja sampradaya. They chant other names of the Lord. Please can you give some instruction on the difference between chanting Hare Krishna and chanting other names of the Lord? Please explain to her what is the topmost sampradaya.

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

I am happy to hear that you are sincerely trying to guide your good wife towards the all-fulfilling line of our Srila Guru Maharaj. Chapter Ten of "The Search for Sri Krsna" nicely presents the glories of the Mahamantra. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to give this Mahamantra as the yuga-dharma for this age, and all of our predecessor Acharyas are chanting its greatness. In Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta there are clear scientific explanations of the supremacy of Sri-Sri Radha-Krishna in Vrindavan, and Sriman Mahaprabhu established this conception over all others.

The Ramanuja sampradaya is glorious and is presenting pure devotion but of a lower order than the devotion presented by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's gift of service to Radha-Krishna. The highest goal of seva of the Ramanuja sampradaya is service of Laksmi-Narayana which is in viddhi-marga and therefore virtually unattainable for the fallen souls of Kali-yuga. However in Radha-Krishna's seva of Vrindavan the worship is in raga-marga, and by the grace of Sri Nitai-Gaura everyone has some hope to enter there. The service of Laksmi-Narayana can give up to two and half rasas whereas the Radha-Krishna bhakti can give us the full seva of five rasas; especially madhura is found there. It is only possible to get such service from one who is established there in raga-marga.

In the Brahmanda Purana is the following quotation:

sahasra namnam punyanam trir avrtya tu yat phalam
ekavrtya tu krsnasya namaikam tat prayachchhati

"Three times chanting the one thousand names of Vishnu may give the result which can be achieved by once chanting Krishna's name."

In Jaiva Dharma, in Sri Nama, Namabhasa o Namaparadha Vichar, and in Sri Harinam Chintamani the glories of the Mahamantra have been chanted. However it is necessary to maintain our spiritual lives under the guidance of Sri Guru-Vaishnava otherwise we cannot progress properly. So many things may come in front of us to cause disturbance. Sri Sri Nitai-Gauranga are exclusively distributing this highest gift and we are to find guidance from Their bona fide representative. By sincerely wanting Their gift, Sri Krishna will lead us to such a bona fide guide.

Other sampradayas may also be chanting Hare Krishna but they are doing so under quite a different conception. Some consider that Narayana-loka is the highest and Krishna-loka is lower than that. Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur was once by Radha-kunda and an important person, a king perhaps, was doing dandavat pranams circumambulating this sacred kunda. At that time Paramananda Prabhu told Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada that they are also worshipping Radharani. He replied that they are worshipping Her but under the impression that Radharani is under the guidance of Krsna, whereas we have the clear conception from Sri Nitai-Gauranga which is quite the opposite.

You should both regularly read Srila Guru Maharaj's books and sincerely follow his guidance and advice. Everything is nicely presented by him in a short, conclusive and sweet way. By focusing our energy only there, it will bring the highest transcendental fruit.



Question: There seems to be a very fine line between reality and illusion. Everywhere I look I see a forest fire of self-interest. I feel we need some solid, tangible guidelines and encouragement to align us with the current of the Gaudiya sampradaya.

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

What Srila Guru Maharaj has given to the world is living and is with the highest prospect of fulfilment. He has glorified and distributed pure Vaikuntha-nama. By following the path of pure chanting with service-mood, gradually we can connect with the Lord's figure and colour. His qualities, then His associates and paraphernalia, and then His pastimes. We can be given the chance to enter there and be given some duty if we may be blessed by Him with some engagement. Srila Guru Maharaj is in front of us and is guiding us in this line. With firm faith, simply we are to follow the process that he is continually describing to us. With this real spiritual connection the path must take us to where we are welcome as a willing servitor. In the highest position all labour is a labour of love and there is no weariness, indifference or hate there. Srila Guru Maharaj has given such bright promise of that land, and that has drawn the fort unate souls throughout the whole world to his lotus feet.

The prospect is great, but no doubt these are difficult times for all the devotees now that Srila Guru Maharaj has disappeared from our immediate vision. It is a time of test, but Srila Guru Maharaj himself gave assurance that those who are victorious in standing by the ideal even after the disappearance of their guru, will be glorified and successful in spiritual life.



Question: I received connection with Srila Guru Maharaj by rtvik initiation but my rtvik guru has now fallen down. Like others I feel badly deceived. I am writing to you directly seeking your advice and shelter. Can you please tell me whether my existing diksa initiation by that rtvik guru is still valid under these circumstances? What should I do?

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

I am not aware of the exact circumstances of your own initiation but I can clarify what is the situation for devotees who may have received connection to Srila Guru Maharaj through the ftvik process. That is, when a person holds a post as an officer in the government, he may himself be given the duties to appoint others in certain ways and to make all types of arrangements. If he should leave or be ousted from that officer's post then naturally his authority as a government representative is also finished. However, whatever arrangements he had made and whoever he had appointed during the time of his holding office; all this will still stand and will be recognised by the government as before. But when that officer goes, then those that were being engaged by him may ask, "Now what is my duty?" For Srila Guru Mahjbfj's devotees that duty is to serve his central Math and Deities, and this is what Srila Guru Maharaj advised to everyone after their taking initiation. Engage in this central service, chant Hare Krishna and preach Srila Guru Maharaj's conception, and if anyone will find any difficulty then he will ask the Chief-Secretary.



Question: What should we think when chanting japa?

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

I asked Srila Guru Maharaj what we should focus our attention on while chanting japa, whether on the Deity form of Krsna etc. His reply was that we are only to concentrate on avoiding the ten offences and four namabhasa. Everything is in the pure name chanted under the guidance of Gurudev, so if we can chant purely, without offence, then everything will be revealed. We are not yogis, jnanis, tapasvis etc. but we are active devotees aspiring after the pure ideal of our Srila Guru Maharaj.



Question: For two years now I have been intrigued by astrology. I am enclosing my birth-chart and asking if you can give some advice?

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

Srila Guru Maharaj and Srila Prabhupada Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati were both great jyotishis, knowers of astrology, but few people know that Srila Guru Maharaj was a great jyotishi. By the order of Srila Guru Maharaj I also studied astrology in order to get some understanding, but I am not practising that. I looked a little at your chart but I do not know the Western type of astrology, only something of the Eastern system.

Although Srila Guru Maharaj knew astrology well, he did not practise it. Rather he gave enthusiasm for chanting, reading devotional books, service etc. and if we can unquestionably follow that line it will be best for our future.



Question: My wife is not a devotee and sometimes she gives opposition to my own practising life. How can I overcome this problem? Also Srila Gurudeva, I wish to ask some further questions: i) Can you tell me about my past lives as I have been asked this by colleagues at work? ii) Is "Prabhu" used only to address initiated disciples? And, iii) May we read Srimad Bhagavatam ?

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

When Srila Swami Maharaj first started his Krishna consciousness movement in the West, in America, at that time he tolerated many things for the sake of the fallen souls. Even he could not take the food to which he was accustomed, but gradually everything came under his control nicely. In this way we must tolerate everything and know that if it is Krishna's will, it will therefore come gradually to the set-right position. With the proper transcendental vision we can always and everywhere receive enthusiasm to do the seva of our Divine Master.

Regarding your first question, Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur in his Saranagati song:

purva itihas bhulinu sakal
seva sukha peye mane
ami to tomara tumi to amara
ki kaj apara dhane

The meaning is that the Vaishnava does not care to remember or think about his past lives. He is fully engaged with joyful Krishna-seva through his Gurudeva, and he is satisfied.

Secondly: "Prabhu" is customarily only used as a title for initiated devotees.

Thirdly: we can read Srimad Bhagavatam but cautiously and with the association of a qualified Vaishnava, otherwise we may go in the line of sahajiya (imitation). Some of the sections of Srimad Bhagavatam are very helpful for the devotees, but that also must be read within the association of the Vaishnavas. In Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta it is given:

yaho bhagavat pada vaisnaver sthane

For the fallen souls of this age it is better to read the many scriptures of our Srila Guru Maharaj and to hear the Srimad Bhagavatam from a qualified Vaishnava. In our fallen position Srimad Bhagavatam is always as worshipable as Sri Krishna. We are to pray to it in our heart as His manifestation.



Question: I have been involved with the Krishna consciousness movement for several years and have recently had the association of some disciples of Srila Sridhar Maharaj. They have described his teachings and mood, and their association has inspired me, again giving me hope in spiritual life. They have also chanted your glories and I am writing to you [to ask you] for your mercy.

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

It is true that we are most fortunate to have come across the shelter of Srila Guru Maharaj and Srila Swami Maharaj, and the association of their devotees. Vaishnava-sanga is giving us the highest opportunity to serve Sri Sri Guru-Gauranga-Gandharva-Govinda-sundar as we can directly connect with them (the Vaishnavas). Like the telescopic system we must send our service through Guru-Vaishnava. Service is our life and in the association of the Vaishnavas we must get everything. You please try to read the books of Srila Guru Maharaj, especially "The Loving Search for the Lost Servant," "Sermons of the Guardian of Devotion," "Prapanna-jivanamrtam," etc. It is not only that we are to get inspiration but we need to something, and that is seva of Sri Guru-Vaishnava. From that door our super-fortune will come to take us into the ecstatic ocean of Nama-sankirtan.



Question: Here in the cultural environment of the West it seems necessary to make adjustments for time and place. Must we wear the dress of the traditional cloth of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas, tilak, etc. to present the teachings of Mahaprabhu? Please offer me some advice on this matter.

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

Regarding your questions: for householders, what is suitable dress for their duties they may accept that. For their preaching, what is most suitable may be worn; but at least for arati, for the worshipping of the Deities, the dhoti etc. should be worn. The brahmacharis will more actively maintain the external garments. They are full time representing the Mission and should be recognised as such, as far as possible. But for sannyasis they are to always wear the dress of sannyasa. If it is absolutely necessary for them to wear at any time the shirt, pants, etc. then under those garments their sannyasa cloth will be worn. The only time for them not to wear their sannyasa garments is in a grave life-or-death situation.

The thread must always be worn. The kunti-mala (neck beads) must also be worn but, if necessary, a single thread may be worn at the least. These general guidelines you can follow. We want to favourably present Srila Guru Maharaj and what is suitable for that we will accept according to the circumstances.

In every sampradaya and every religion there must be some who will misrepresent the teachings or give a bad impression to the public, but that should not hamper our own mission. Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada would always establish the super-excellence of the pure Gaudiya-Vaishnava conception and he would march onwards strongly despite so much heavy opposition. In this way he established the dignity of this Mission.



Question: I am a householder and I have one room which is reserved solely for worshipping the Lord and bhajan. My request is: what form should that worship take, and in what way can I improve my sadhana?

Sometimes I hear devotees criticising other devotees and I feel I must run away and hide so as not to lose respect for them. But Srila Guru Maharaj mentions that our environment is always favourable. I see that the devotees are a part of that environment and should not be criticised. Is this correct?

Srila Govinda Maharaj replied:

There are nine kinds of sadhana-bhakti:

sravanam kirtanam visnoh smaranam pada-sevanam
archanam vandanam dasyam sakhyam atma-nivedanam

iti pumsarpita visnau bhaktis chen nava-laksana
kriyeta bhagavaty addha tan manye 'dhitam uttamam

Archchana is one branch of sadhana-bhakti but Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu described that really the path for the fallen souls of Kali-yuga is the congregational chanting of Harinama and also the independent chanting of the Mahamantra. If the fully surrendered soul will try to maintain this practice then that is enough for that jiva-soul especially in this age.

harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha

And also in Srimad Bhagavatam:

kaler dosa-nidhe rajann, asti hy eko mahan gunah
kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet

In order to have more engagement the grhastha bhakta can practise other branches of bhakti, but chanting the Name without aparadha, called suddha-nama, can give everything to us.

Practically a real devotee does not criticise anyone. Sometimes they may analyse others and learn from them, but not in the mood of criticism. Also it is practically to be noted that sat-sanga, real sadhu-sanga, is very rare in this world. When great personalities like Sripad Swami Maharaj and Srila Guru Maharaj will point out others' practice of religion, then that is not criticism but it is only for the benefit of their associates and followers that they are to beware of such things.

I am trying to answer your questions but no doubt it may not be possible to cover everything in a letter. Anyhow, with the guidance of Srila Guru Maharaj given in his books, lectures, etc. and with sincerity of purpose in following them, the proper adjustment to each circumstance will come. Srila Guru Maharaj himself always stressed that we are all students, not masters; so always we are learning how to serve and what is service. Our real wealth and fortune is that we have come across a true guide for our divine prospect.





— : CONTENTS : —


Chapter One: Glorious Advent of the Pure Devotee
Chapter Two: A Born Preceptor
Chapter Three: The Spiritual Succession of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math

Part Two: DISCOURSES by His Divine Grace Srila B.S. Govinda Maharaj
First Discourse: The Divine Account
Second Discourse: Surrender and Serve
Third Discourse: The Living Life
Fourth Discourse: Sweet Success Assured

Part Three:
Answers through letters