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Remembering Srila Guru Maharaj (4)

His Divine Grace Om Vishnupad
Srila Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj
Sripat Hapaniya Dham, Anniversary Festival,
2 April 2021, part 4, translated from Bengali

 

Srila Sridhar Maharaj had a very profound vision; he could see the future. He also had a strong common sense. When Srila Sridhar Maharaj purchased the land of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math in 1941, he knew that this temple would grow very big. Whenever any of his godbrothers came to the temple, he would give everyone some place to stay. At first, the temple rented some houses, but later those houses were sold one by one to the temple. The temple’s territory expanded in this way.

Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s two brothers, Mani Babu and Amar Babu, gradually came to this line, too, and their wives took initiation as well. Amar Babu’s son, who was a school headmaster in Purbasthali, eventually came to stay here. Apart from that, there are not many family members – there are still one–two people in this lineage, but they live in other places now…

There is a book describing Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s biography in Bengali, and one of the chapters, written by Sri Saurindranath Bhakti Varidhi Prabhu, describes that one time, while on the parikrama of Vrindavan, Srila Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj did a full arati of Srila Sridhar Maharaj, offering him 108 ghee lamps. You all know Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj Prabhupad who became a great worldwide guru. Srila Swami Maharaj spent, perhaps, only ten days with his guru, but he spent much time in the association of Srila Sridhar Maharaj. It was as the result of that association that Srila Swami Maharaj became eager to take sannyas and preach all over the world.

There is also a tape recording in which Srila Sridhar Maharaj spoke about his life. [This recording was published in Centenary Anthology and also translated into Bengali by Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s godbrothers, forming the basis of the book from which His Divine Grace is reading below.] I will read it to you now:

I was born at midnight, Saturday 10th October, 1895. Navami-tithi [ninth lunar day] under the same sign as Lord Ramachandra: krishna-paksa [dark moon fortnight]. Sriman Mahaprabhu was also born on a Saturday. I was the second child. The first was a daughter, but she died early, so a Rama kavach [a protective mantram and amulet] was given to my mother for the protection of the next child, that is, myself. So I was born after my mother took the Rama kavach.

There were two thatched rooms, one of which was the maternity room. Because the first child had been lost, after I was born and my mother was still confined within the maternity area, just in the front of that place my two English-knowing cousins kept night watch to make sure that any ghosts or something like that may not come in the shape of a cat, or in any other way. So as they were reading and studying, they would protect the first half of the night. They were B.A.s studying for M.A. And during the second half, or last portion, of the night two Sanskrit students, one cousin and another an uncle, sat there just in front of that temporary shed, reading, to guard against any unseen attack at that time. They all kept night watch.

Then, as I remember, when I was a boy being carried on the shoulder of my father, there was going in the distance a sankirtan party; crying, I asked him to take me there. Anyway, to console me he took me there for some time and then came back.

I had a very good memory, especially in Sanskrit. I was taught a sloka in praise of Lord Siva (‘Namami sivam siva kalpataru’), and I could chant that by memory. When I was one year eight months, my grandfather died, but I can’t remember him. My earliest recollection is an earthquake. I was born in 1302, Mohammedan era, and 1304 in the month of Vaisakh there was an earthquake. I was only a child then of one year and eight months or so, but I remember that. I remember the shaking of the earth, so many cows gathered, and so on – this is my earliest recollection.

Then, my first brother was born when I was three. I remember the scene of the birth of my brother, around August, 1898. I can also remember when I reached the age of five and was engaged in studying writing, I was given to my maternal uncle’s house. Many things before that I can remember as well. And when I was in my maternal uncle’s house, for three years for early education in a primary school, I got some help from one of my aunts who taught me Ramayana and Mahabharata. That helped me a great deal. Already I had some affinity for all those things, some type of intuitive knowledge and partiality to ancient mythological teachings and culture of the orthodox section. From very childhood my tendency was with the culture of the orthodox section – Vedas, Upanisad, etc., faith in God, all these things.

At nine, I was admitted into high school [intermediate, according to the current system in India]. As a student, there in the debating club I always sided with the ancient sastrik culture, even against the teachers that took up the cause of the renaissance, or reformation. I was always on the side of the previous culture. I fought with them, and I don’t think they could defeat me. Then I got my sacred thread in the family tradition when I was fourteen years of age. I feel that my memory was more or less quite sharp. I could remember what I saw and heard in my early age.

I am told that I had a general tendency that if anyone would come to ask me something, I would reply, ‘No.’ Whatever would be asked of me, ‘No.’ But once, when one of our family members, a scholar, went to appear for his examination, he came to ask me whether he would pass or not. I pronounced, ‘Yes.’ And he won a scholarship. Then I matriculated from the local High School when I was fifteen years of age. I could write Sanskrit verse before that.

I like sacrifice in life. The magnanimous side. I had affinity for Lord Ramachandra, for the model pastimes, but not so much Lord Krishna, because of His Vrindavan-lila. I could not accommodate why God should be a liar and a girl-hunter. I could not accommodate this. Though I saw Radha-Govinda murtis [Deities] – They seemed to be very, very charming. I found some mystic background there, but on the surface, I had more liking for Ramachandra than Krishna.

My attraction to Krishna first came through Bhagavad-gita, and then through Mahaprabhu. I liked Ramachandra for His magnanimity. I was mainly attracted by the self-giving ideal. So I liked Radharani very much, I liked Mahaprabhu very much, but my attraction to Krishna was less. My attraction to Krishna came through Mahaprabhu and through Radharani – from Their side. When I was nine–ten or so, there was a temple where Radha-Krishna Deities were installed in Jagadanandapur, near Katwa, and where my father used to read Srimad Bhagavatam every year in Kartik month. Sometimes I visited that temple with him, and I found some mystic atmosphere there. It seemed very mystical to me.

After matriculation I went to Berhampore [District Murshidabad] for college study at the Krishnanath College. There, with the company of one of my cousins, my maternal uncle’s son, I came into connection with the East Bengal people, who were renowned, we had heard, for their boldness and sacrificing nature. I took residence in the same hostel as them.

Somehow, I had passed matriculation in the second division [Srila Sridhar Maharaj had suffered a very dangerous bout of malaria for a whole year at that time. – Ed.], but I passed I.A. [Intermediate Arts] in the first division. When we were studying in the local school, we had to do some family works along with our study. But now, from the hostel, I passed in the first division.

Then I was again admitted in that same college at Berhampore. After the fourth year, we sat for the B.A. examination. When I was a student of the fourth year, I came into the connection with a younger boy who had just passed matriculation and was newly admitted into the college. In the college I found that there was a small section of students who were addicted to some meditation, puja, etc., and there was another group that did not care for worshipping, but they liked to serve patients and do good for the public. But I have an internal nature for both.

I was a fourth-year student and that boy was a first-year student, so there was a three-year gap between us. I found that he was given to both sides very intensely: sometimes taking the Name of the Lord very loudly like a madman, and also doing sandhya-vandana [regular morning, noon and evening prayers and worship], etc.; at the same time, when there was any patient, he would engage himself in their service, even neglecting to attend the college classes. Both sides – social service as well as worship - were combined in him.

Before this, when I was at school, I got a book where it is mentioned that if we can go on with the japam [meditational chanting] of gayatri 432 times daily, we can achieve a very good spiritual improvement. I practised that for some time, and at that time I tried my best to understand the revealed truth, without consulting any dictionary or grammar (I had heard that gayatri is conscious, spiritual, not dead words)…

[His Divine Grace Srila Acharya Maharaj notes] You have heard that later Srila Sridhar Maharaj revealed the meaning of sri gayatri mantram: ‘Gayatri muralista-kirtana-dhanam Radha-padam dhimahi.’ The gist of the gayatri mantram is remembrance of the lotus feet of Sri Radha.

…So, if I go on with japam, gayatri itself will express its meaning and purpose. I approached it with that attitude, and I used to feel some light coming from the words of gayatri itself; I had some knowledge about that for some time.

Then, as I said, I came in connection with that boy in college, and I tried to associate with him. His name was Sri Suresh Bhattacharya – he came from a brahman family of Faridpur. The founder of the Bharat Seva Ashram, Sri Pranavananda, was from his village. Sripad Madhusudan Maharaj also comes from the same village – Bajepratappur in the district of Faridpur.

One day, when we two were going on a morning walk and also cleaning our teeth with small twigs, he referred to his father with the expression, ‘that gentleman’. I took exception to that.

‘Why do you use this expression for your father? You say “that gentleman”? What is this!’

He said, ‘Yes, I have committed a wrong; I shouldn’t have spoken in this way before you. But really it is like that. “That gentleman” – he was a gentleman; in this life, I came to him and he has protected me for some time, and in the next life, I shall go to some other place. In this way we are moving hither and thither, coming to some gentleman, and from there to another gentleman…’

[His Divine Grace Srila Acharya Maharaj notes] This is true. Our father gives us a body, but he does not give us life. So, why must you call this gentleman a father? We have had so many of such fathers – when we were goats, we had a father and a mother; when we were dogs, we also had a father and a mother; and now we have got a human body, and we also have a father and a mother – but they are not our real parents. Gurudev is our real parent. It is necessary to understand that there is a soul within all big and small living entities.

…Although I gave opposition, that point hit me very hard. I began to think, ‘Yes, it is true. We are in the midst of father, mother, brother, or, as he said, “that gentleman”. What real connection have I got with them, or they with me? We are all almost like strangers!’ Thinking and thinking of this point, the whole world became as if vacant. I felt a furious atmosphere, with no shelter to take anywhere. A chaotic position, and I have no position of stability. Wherefrom am I coming, where to go, how long am I to stay here – this is a point in the infinite. I am an uncertain point in the whole of the infinite. A great shock came to me in this way. And that was the great turn in my life….

I wanted to become a sannyasi, but the countrymen wanted one year, so I thought I must sacrifice this for them. I left law college and worked for some time posted as a secretary of the movement here in Kalna, and sometimes in the village, for two or three years. Then it was stopped for some time, and later I was wanted for service in Kolkata. With the help of a government office superintendent, I got some vocation and was put up in Kolkata. I attended the office there.

My attraction stays always towards Mahaprabhu. In the meantime, I wandered here and there searching for a sadhu from whom to take initiation, but I couldn’t select anyone to my taste or satisfaction.

One day, I was returning from the office when I found a placard in Chittaranjan Avenue: Gaudiya Math Mahotsav [Grand Festival] for one month. The address was given, near the Pareshnath Temple. I found this red-coloured placard. I thought, Gaudiya Math must be Mahaprabhu’s followers, let me go and see what is there. When I was a law student, through Suresh Bhattacharya I knew the founder of Bharat Seva Ashram, Sri Pranavananda, and he tried his best to take me into his mission; but I flatly refused.

‘My head is sold to Mahaprabhu, Gauranga, so I can’t go anywhere else.’

He said, ‘I also have great reverence for Mahaprabhu Chaitanyadev, but I think the first stage must be Buddhistic abnegation, or vairagya, and indifference; second, Sankar’s Vedanta, or jnana; and the last and highest will be Chaitanya’s prema. Otherwise, people will misunderstand that prema for lust.’

I replied, ‘Yes, what you say is alright – that Sri Chaitanyadev’s prema-dharma is the highest, above the Buddhistic and Sankarite conceptions of theism. But Chaitanyadev did not tell us, “Go to the Buddhists and practise vairagya, and then go to Sankar and have knowledge of the Vedanta, and then come to Me.” He said that “wherever you are, take the association of a sadhu and you can take the Name.”’

He was silenced.

I said to him, ‘If you have got any supernatural power, I will be grateful if you can say where my spiritual guide, my gurudev, is.’

But he took the name of some gentleman, Haranath. I went to search for him but could not find him. But this was when I found that placard and went to Gaudiya Math. There I found only one gentleman manning the outside hall, and the rest had all gone on a procession of nagar-sankirtan [congregational chanting in town]. Then I had a little talk with that gentleman. I had studied something about Chaitanyadev and other scriptures, but I found that those people representing the Math had deeper and more sound knowledge than I. Then, the party came back from nagar-sankirtan and I found Guru Maharaj at the front with his danda [mendicant’s staff]. As soon as he reached the front of the Math, some disciple came and took the danda from him, and gradually he was received there.

At first sight, I found Guru Maharaj’s attitude was that of complete indifference to the ordinary world. He does not care for anyone, he is self-sufficient. I got that sort of impression from his first sight. Then I began visiting. Gradually I came to realise that I wanted to stay in that company.

Unfortunately, I had been unable to find it before, but now the thought came to me, ‘What’s to stop me coming and staying here?’ I cast my glance homeward: father gone, mother living, three younger brothers, they won’t be much affected, but my wife will be affected. I don’t know why, but a sudden thought came in my mind that if she died, I would be free. This thought came. I was attracted by that association because there were so many members of gentlemanly and educated nature and wholly given to the service of Mahaprabhu. That attracted me most.

And it was that very day when I came to my quarter and found that my wife was ill. I came home that night, and after three days she passed away. My mother tried to have me married again, but she could not do so. And within six months she also disappeared in Haridwar, at the time of the Kumbha Mela. She died there. One of my brothers, Satyen, was attending to her with other pilgrims and sisters, etc.

I was free. I was visiting the Math. I was thinking that I must cast my faith here, so I thought it necessary to know as much as possible about the mission; and to know the mission means to know the leader of the mission. So I tried to go upstairs to where Guru Maharaj stayed. I would go in front of his room and sit there to hear, because I was thinking I shall join here. Then one day, it so occurred that Kirtanananda Prabhu, one brahmachari, stopped me when I was making an attempt to go upstairs.

‘Where are you going?’

‘I’m going to Guru Maharaj. I like it very much [to hear and associate].’

‘No, never. You must stay here in the waiting room, and when you find anyone, you will inform him who you want to meet. He will check, and when he returns with the answer, you can go. Otherwise, you must stay here. Never cross this threshold.’

A little harsh. Then I thought, ‘What should be the considerate nature of sadhus? Why should there be any difference outwardly and inwardly? So, I need not come here again!’

But at that very moment the position of Sukadev appeared in my mind. I had read in Mahabharata that Srila Vyasadev sent Srila Sukadev Goswami to Rajarsi Janak to finish his education, or sadhana. Srila Sukadev came, but he was detained for seven days at the outer gate. Then information went to Janak, who sanctioned, ‘Allow him to pass the gate.’ The next gate. He was again detained. In this way, there were seven boundaries of the capital, and at each of the seven gates he was detained for seven days. So, seven times seven means forty-nine days he was detained, and only then could he meet Janak. This thought came in my mind. And then the next concluding thought came, ‘If there is anything bad here and they take me and put me onto a throne to worship me, I should not come here; but if there is real good and they beat with a broomstick, I must not leave!’ That conclusion came in my mind, and I kept visiting.

Then one day, Guru Maharaj was strolling on the roof just after having taken his afternoon meal (generally he did not take any food at night). I just approached and took my stand in a corner. One man was attending him, and Guru Maharaj asked him, ‘Has he something to say?’

The attending person came and asked me, ‘Have you something to say?’

‘No. I have nothing to say.’

He went back. ‘He says he has nothing to say.’

Then Guru Maharaj said, ‘Has he something to ask?’

He again came to me and said, ‘Guru Maharaj asks if you have got something to ask’

‘No, I have nothing to ask.’

He again returned to Guru Maharaj. ‘He says he has nothing to ask.’ Then again Guru Maharaj put forward, ‘Has he got some purpose in mind for coming here?’

The person returned to me.

I said, ‘Yes, without purpose no incident can happen. When I have come, I have some purpose.’

‘What is your purpose?’

‘To gain the grace of you all.’ That was my answer. ‘Apnar prasannata (for Your grace).’ Nothing else but that.

Perhaps that touched Guru Maharaj. He approached me and enquired from me who I was, what I did, where my home was, and so on. And then he said, ‘Yes, you are fortunate. You were born in the area of Gauda-mandal.’

They had one booklet printed then, and the attending person said, ‘Guru Maharaj is offering this booklet to you.’

I said, ‘I already have it.’

He said, ‘That does not matter. With his good will he is giving this to you, so it is something else. Take it.’

Then I took it on my head and accepted it. That was the first talk with Guru Maharaj.

 

Jay Srila Guru Maharaj ki jay.
Jay Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj ki jay.

We do not have time to read all of this chapter now, but it is a very beautiful text. [His Divine Grace then chants Nitai-pada-kamala, Emona durmati, concluding the class, and then starts the bhoga-arati.]

 

— : • : —

 

 

 

 

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Attachment to Service or to the Self?
'They want some relation, but actually they take from the devotees more than they give. Such is this world, people always think about themselves. People do not serve properly—they come to use Gurudev, they do not come to surrender to Gurudev..'

 

Ke yabi ke yabi
'Who will cross, O brother, who will cross the ocean of material existence? Oh! The fortune of this Age of Kali is the appearance of Sri Chaitanya.'
কে যাবি কে যাবি

Everybody can run with the people who have good qualities,
but who can run with the crazy people?

HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE | HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE