1: Earlier Days
First part of an interview with His Divine Grace
Question: Now is the Golden Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Nabadwip. Please explain something of the early days here at the Math and in particular, why Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math is considered to be such a special place.
Srila Govinda Maharaj: After the disappearance of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada, the mission begun by him—Gaudiya Math—started to go in an unexpected way, therefore many of the prominent personalities left. When Srila Guru Maharaj came out from the Gaudiya Math then about fifty percent of the senior devotees also left. Everyone in the Mission had much respect for Srila Guru Maharaj, therefore when he left, they also left. Some of the devotees who withdrew from the Gaudiya Math at that time were: Hayagriva Brahmachari (Madhava Maharaj's former name); Goswami Maharaj, who was in charge of preaching in the West; Kesava Maharaj, who then was Vinod Bihari Brahmachari—he was the estate manager in charge of commanding Srila Prabhupada's central Math, Chaitanya Math, Mayapur; Narahari Prabhu, the advisory manager of Chaitanya Math; Narasimha Maharaj; Jajavar Maharaj; Vaikhanas Maharaj, as well as many others.
Most of the stalwarts left the Mission. Only three stayed: Nisikanta Sanyal; Bhakti Sudakash Prabhu, he was a man of great personality; and Sundarananda Vidyavinod, the editor and publisher of the Gaudiya Magazine as well as of many of the books of the Gaudiya Math. By the mercy of Srila Prabhupada he did much seva at that time.
After the breakup of the Gaudiya Math Srila Guru Maharaj was not very enthusiastic to preach. He did not want to make another mission and therefore went alone to Vrindavan. The devotees then lost track of him, but all Srila Guru Maharaj's Godbrothers were very enthusiastic to take him preaching, so they repeatedly searched in many places to try to locate him. Finally some Godbrothers discovered Srila Guru Maharaj in Nabadwip. I have seen the place in which he stayed at that time: it was a single room opposite the Ganges. It has since been altered but not demolished.
Word soon reached the other Godbrothers and they came to take Srila Guru Maharaj to preach. Again they tried to make another mission with the association of Srila Guru Maharaj. Then Kesava Maharaj, Goswami Maharaj, and Narasimha Maharaj all took sannyas. They were the first three sannyasa disciples of Srila Guru Maharaj, and with them the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti was started there at the Devananda Gaudiya Math. But again some differences came between the devotees.
It was Srila Guru Maharaj's nature to stay alone, so when again some differences came, he gave everything to Kesava Maharaj.
Kesava Maharaj was a great disciple of Srila Prabhupada. He took sannyas from Srila Guru Maharaj and wanted to preach and be a guru. Srila Guru Maharaj established him as the head of the Devananda Gaudiya Math, and under him the preaching programme continued.
Srila Guru Maharaj stayed alone and did not go out even to beg. Mani Babu, his next younger brother, was a divisional superintendent in the Eastern Railway. Every month he gave ten rupees to Srila Guru Maharaj with which he maintained himself, thus he did not go out to beg. He lived in a house named Mager Badi near to what is now Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math and he paid two rupees per month rent. That house has since been demolished.
While staying at that Mager Badi two Godbrothers of Srila Guru Maharaj were enthusiastic to stay with him. It later turned out that their thinking was that if they could help Srila Guru Maharaj to start another mission then in due course of time they would inherit it, but Srila Guru Maharaj was very simple-hearted and could not understand their motive. He again engaged himself in preaching, but in a limited way, and on one occasion he engaged in Bhagavata-pat (lecturing on Srimad Bhagavatam) for one month in the Temple at the King of Manipur's Palace.
At that time Sakhi Babu, a Godbrother of Srila Guru Maharaj, offered to buy Srila Guru Maharaj some land. Sakhi Babu was a great disciple of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada, who had done much service in Chaitanya Math. He did many things for Srila Prabhupada including the building of the Yogapitha Mandir, and also the Bhaktivijay Bhavan. He brought there electricity, a generator, and a road also.
It was this Sakhi Babu who told Srila Guru Maharaj, "If you choose a piece of land, I shall give the money to purchase it." In this way for his bhajan ashram Srila Guru Maharaj chose this land where Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math now stands. At first its area was one acre, stretching from the bamboo trees on one side, up to six feet behind Srila Guru Maharaj's building on the other side, and up to my present house on this side. The south-western corner was marked by the small bathroom building, now in ruins.
At the time when Srila Guru Maharaj chose this land there were only a few trees: three mango trees, two guava trees, and the tree just to the north of my house here. One of the three original mango trees left at the same time as Srila Guru Maharaj's disappearance.
After the purchase of this land in 1941 Srila Guru Maharaj made a thatched house, and on Ratha-yatra of that year he entered into this Math.
The Gaudiya Math was founded by Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada and later Jajavar Maharaj and other Godbrothers of Srila Guru Maharaj incorporated the word Gaudiya in the name of their Missions such as: Samanda Gaudiya Math, Devananda Gaudiya Math, etc. But Srila Guru Maharaj thought in another way. Our sampradaya was actually started by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and it is running under His divine direction. Although we are Brahma Madhava Gaudiya Sampradaya, the real conception of raganuga-bhakti is that first it was shown by Madhavendra Puri, the 'Grand Guru' of Sri Chaitanyadeva. There the conception was in seed form, but it manifest in the form of a tree in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Therefore, bearing in mind the main identification of our Sampradaya, Srila Guru Maharaj included the name of Sri Chaitanya in the name of his Math. The name of Srila Guru Maharaj's Guru is Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada, therefore to cover from beginning to end the identification of the whole sampradaya Srila Guru Maharaj used the name Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math as the name of his Temple and Mission.
Srila Guru Maharaj personally chose and purchased a very long, strong, and costly bamboo pole from one Narayana Ghosh who owned a large bamboo garden. On the very first day of his stay he hoisted a flag on that tall bamboo flagstaff on the spot where the Temple now stands.
When Guru Maharaj entered, his Deity was Giridharijiu, who he had brought from Vrindavan. He chose this place for a number of reasons. One reason was that it is aparadha-bhanjan-pat, Koladwip: the place where all offences of those who surrender are vanquished. Another reason for establishing his Math here was that, as well as being aparadha-bhanjan-pat, this is Giriraj Govardhan, Gupta Govardhan (Hidden Govardhan Hill).
Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada preached over the whole of India and he also tried to preach all over the world, but still he was not able to preach successfully in this area of Koladwip. Here there were many great pandits who heavily opposed Srila Prabhupada and his preaching programme, therefore Srila Guru Maharaj wanted to convert that section.
He started to preach to that party headed by Tripathanath Pandit. He was the head of the area of Tegharipara. Also there was another big pandit famous throughout India, his name was Gopendu Sankhyatirtha.
Srila Guru Maharaj started to preach in the house of his own aunt, Sarojabasini Devi. She was a very popular lady and her name is also included on a plaque on the side of Mahaprabhu's Temple here. She was very famous and everybody respected her. When Srila Guru Maharaj started preaching in her house many of the members of the opposing group also came to hear—and were converted by him.
After Srila Guru Maharaj first came here, some of his Godbrothers joined with him showing themselves to be unconditionally surrendered. Presently also, other Godbrothers joined with Srila Guru Maharaj. These brahmacharis joined at least a few months after Srila Guru Maharaj's first coming here to Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math.
Guru Maharaj's nature was always to compose something, and he composed many slokas. When he started Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math he immediately composed the following sloka:
"On the banks of the Ganges in Koladwip, Nabadwip, Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math stands resplendent. The flag flies high, singing its glories around the world. There, the residents chant the glories of Lord Gauranga and aspire to serve Sri Sri Radha-Govinda in the line of Sri Rupa."
One day his Godbrother Sakhi Babu, after hearing this verse, told his other Godbrothers, "Srila Guru Maharaj has nothing except a thatched house, but he has erected a very long bamboo pole with a flag on top, and has then composed this sloka!" But Srila Guru Maharaj said to him, "You will see in future what will be here." And later he has come to see what has manifest, as have we all.
Question: What size was the original thatched room?
Srila Maharaj: That building was twenty feet long by about twelve feet wide. At first there was not even a bed, but with some bamboo Srila Guru Maharaj presently constructed two. It was perhaps a few months or a year later that the brahmacharis came and built a house out of bamboo with a corrugated tin roof. When I joined I first stayed in that house.
Giridhari was in a thatched room measuring about six feet by ten feet made by Guru Maharaj beside his own room. It was where the present kitchen and bhog store-room stand. After maybe one or two years Guru Maharaj's present building was constructed. Its picture is on the front of our Gaudiya Gitanjali book of bhajans. When I joined here on Nrisimha-chaturdasi day of 1946 or 47 I saw that building. It was then about two years old. The building was made by a donation of bricks from a nearby brick-field owner. The third generation of the man who gave the bricks still come here and they are very respectful always. Several of that family came and took diksa from this Math.
The building was made from earth and bricks and was covered by plaster. No cement was used. Until today it is standing, though I need to repair it from time to time. The upper floor of the building was built much later and is constructed using cement.
Giridhari and Mahaprabhu were installed there by Srila Guru Maharaj. In the right hand room where Sripad Aranya Maharaj now stays is where Mahaprabhu used to be. When I joined here Srila Guru Maharaj lived in the room to the left of Mahaprabhu, and later Srila Guru Maharaj came to stay in the right hand room and Mahaprabhu moved to the left room.
I made two latrines, one for the brahmacharis' room where Hari Charan Prabhu now stays, and the other for Srila Guru Maharaj's room. Around 1957 when we made the room upstairs for Srila Guru Maharaj, I then moved into Guru Maharaj's old room.
The first brahmacharis who came wanted to serve Srila Guru Maharaj, but some came with some inner intention. It was their understanding from his horoscope that he would not live for more than 58 years, furthermore his health was not very strong and three or four times each month he would be very sick with severe headaches. They did not consider Srila Guru Maharaj would live very long and they thought that after his disappearance they would become the proprietors of this Math. But Srila Guru Maharaj did not tell any of them that they would be chief sevaite or proprietor of the Math, this was because he wanted to maintain his preceptorial line as well as his Guru-parampara.
The Guru-parampara descends through the disciples, therefore Srila Guru Maharaj searched for someone a little younger who he could train up to continue his parampara. It was under such circumstances that I joined in 1947, and after talking with me Srila Guru Maharaj decided within seven days that he would train me to be his successor. He could not hide anything and he expressed this wish to Krishna Das Babaji Maharaj, Rama Didi, to Gopal's Mother, to his aunt, to Krishnamayi Didi, to his Godbrothers, and to others.
Question: In those days what was the daily routine?
Srila Maharaj: There was a full programme of worship.
Mahaprabhu was installed in 1944 or 45, so on the altar were Mahaprabhu and Giridhari. The morning, noon and evening aratis along with the other programmes were going on, just as at present. The programmes were held on the verandah.
Question: How many devotees were here when you first came?
Srila Maharaj: There were eighteen devotees: twelve adults and six youths. They would go to preach in Calcutta. Srila Guru Maharaj established the Calcutta Math some two or three years before I joined. It was started by the desire of Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj.
Srila Swami Maharaj was always very affectionate with Srila Guru Maharaj and he would come to meet him from time to time. He requested Srila Guru Maharaj, "I have two houses, one of which I am living in with my family, and the other has a laboratory downstairs. I shall give you the free use of two rooms above the laboratory for the purpose of preaching. In order to have your association I can spare these two rooms. If you will kindly go there and stay, I shall be very happy." This is how the 7 Sitakanta Banerjee Lane Branch of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math was begun.
Question: Srila Guru Maharaj particularly came to Koladwip to be withdrawn from the preaching field, so was it purely Srila Swami Maharaj's petition that led him to start another Math in order to preach in Kolkata?
Srila Maharaj: Srila Guru Maharaj always wanted to stay in the background. He did not want to take a prominent role to recruit others, make disciples, etc., but Srila Swami Maharaj very much wanted to do something—to make another Gaudiya Mission headed by our Srila Guru Maharaj. He many times told Srila Guru Maharaj his wish, but Srila Guru Maharaj was not enthusiastic to do so. It was because of Srila Guru Maharaj's close, affectionate relationship with Srila Swami Maharaj that he accepted his proposal.
During their stay in Sitakanta Banerjee Lane some very prominent people came to see Srila Guru Maharaj through Swami Maharaj, and in that way some grihastha devotees joined. Bhutabrit Prabhu and Nrsimhananda Prabhu were big brahmacharis and they also stayed in Srila Swami Maharaj's house and preached in Calcutta. From time to time Srila Guru Maharaj would go there, and he would sometimes stay for two or three months during which time the other brahmacharis would run the Math here in Nabadwip.
Question: What service duties were here for those in the Math?
Srila Maharaj: At that time all the regular Temple programmes were running as well as cultivation. When I joined I made a very nice flower garden in front of the building. Also we cultivated vegetables and fruits. One day we picked a ten foot long "stick-subji plant" from the garden and took it to Sakhi Babu's house. He was greatly surprised to see it.
Question: When most devotees think of the Math they first of all think of the Temple. When did it begin to manifest?
Srila Maharaj: Consruction was begun on the Temple after the first group of brahmacharis left to start their own mission. A new group came to stay here which was mainly made up of the direct disciples of Srila Guru Maharaj. That new group consisted of myself, Hari Charan Prabhu, Krishna Sharan Prabhu (now Sripad Aranya Maharaj) as well as another two or three devotees. We stayed here and also we would go preaching outstation. We would go house to house to tell the people about Srila Guru Maharaj, and to beg alms. This was first begun by Jajavar Maharaj, Goswami Maharaj, and Madhusudan Maharaj who all helped Srila Guru Maharaj after the first group of brahmacharis left Sri Chaitanya Sasraswat Math. They were the first to start and establish the preaching for Guru Maharaj and they collected also. We went with them, and in later years when they stopped, we continued the collection from that same field.
Each of those sannyasis had their own mission, but they collected for Srila Guru Maharaj. Madhusudan Maharaj's mission is in Burdwan, Jajavar Maharaj has two or three, and also Goswami Maharaj has many Maths, but they each would come to preach and collect for Srila Guru Maharaj. We would take them and they would head our group. By their preaching, some rice, bhog, and money came. In this way they helped Srila Guru Maharaj.
Even when Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math was just two thatched houses, there would be many thousands of people coming to attend the festivals and to take prasadam—just like now. Srila Guru Maharaj was able to provide prasadam for everyone by the energy of the devotees' collection. Every year Madhusudan Maharaj would go to collect for the festivals with us, and sometimes Jajavar Maharaj would also come.
The first Nabadwip Dham parikrama was started by myself under the guidance of Srila Guru Maharaj. I proposed to Srila Guru Maharaj that if we could start a Nabadwip Dham Parikrama, it would not be difficult to find people to participate. When going out on the collections and meeting the many villagers I would have the chance to encourage many people to join our parikrama.
At that time only two other parties did Nabadwip Dham parikrama: Kesava Maharaj and the Mayapur Math.
Goswami Maharaj, Jajavar Maharaj, and Madhusudan Maharaj joined with our parikrama party along with their many disciples and followers. They would all come here in Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math at festival times. Their parties were big, and we would put up a temporary tent for their accommodation. Goswami Maharaj's party itself consisted of maybe two hundred followers; mainly grihastha villagers. Jajavar Maharaj's party was about a hundred persons, our own maybe two hundred, and Madhusudan Maharaj would have about fifty. In this way many people came and joined with our parikrama party. We continued in that way for a few years.
After that, Madhava Maharaj also started to make Nabadwip Dham parikrama. Then, by the will of Srila Guru Maharaj, Goswami Maharaj made his Math in Mayapur—the Nandan Acharya Bhavan Temple—and he too started Nabadwip Dham parikrama. Jajavar Maharaj's party joined with Madhava Maharaj, and from that time our own parikrama continued independently. Every year since then there has been Nabadwip Dham parikrama from Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math.
Question: I heard that parikramas to other holy places were also arranged.
Srila Maharaj: I took pilgrimage parties to other places in India including Badarikashram, and so did Srila Guru Maharaj. At that time I wasn't so expert at collecting funds, especially in Calcutta, but our expenses increased day by day, furthermore no Temple building had yet been constructed.
I had noticed that Kesava Maharaj, Chaitanya Math, and Goswami Maharaj were all running Indian Tours. Therefore I proposed to Srila Guru Maharaj that we could also organise Indian tours, part by part: Southern India, Northern India, Western India, etc. Srila Guru Maharaj replied, "If you can, that will be very good."
The success of such a journey would very much depend on the cooperation of the railway company, so I suggested to Srila Guru Maharaj that if we go to Badrikasram then it would entail the least reliance upon the railways, therefore there would be a greater chance of success for the tour. To do that would entail taking the Doon Express to Hardvara, then a bus to Hrsikesa, from where the journey would continue by foot. Srila Guru Maharaj commented, "It would be an arduous journey. Can you organise and run it successfully?" I said, "Yes. If you give your grace, I can."
Srila Guru Maharaj gave me enthusiasm and said, "If you can, it will be very good."
Then, myself and other devotees, we went and gathered people for the tour. With the help of our patrons we advertised by distributing handbills from door to door.
In the first party were about fifty-four persons. Myself and Paramahamsa Maharaj—a sannyas disciple of Srila Guru Maharaj who also helped him very much by collection and preaching—we took charge of the party. I was very young at that time, around 24 years old. For that first tour Srila Guru Maharaj said it was necessary for an older devotee to also head the party, therefore he invited Paramahamsa Maharaj. Actually I was in charge, but Paramahamsa Maharaj was very helpful. Each year we would go to Kedarnath, Badrikasram, and Tunganath.
After that we started various parikrama tours to the holy places of Southern India, Western India, Puri, Vrindavan, Dvaraka, etc. These tours would all go to holy places. We established a good relation with many people, and many of them also took initiation from Srila Guru Maharaj. Many of the participants became devotees, in addition by those tours we were able to collect much money at that time. I can remember that each tour would make at least Rs5,000. With our nourishment they were very happy.
Srila Guru Maharaj also came with us on three or four occasions. He went on the train tours and also on the pilgrimage by foot to Badrikasram. By that time the bus ran into the Himalayas all the way up to Rudra Prayag or maybe Chamauli. When we first started, the whole journey by foot was about 286 kilometres and it took one month to complete.
Question: In order that Srila Guru Maharaj was able to go on these tours his health must have improved considerably.
Srila Maharaj: Yes. Although Guru Maharaj's health was not so good he would still go on these tours.
You would be surprised to hear that at that time no qualified person was in Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math who could maintain his Mission. When he was 55 years old Srila Guru Maharaj made a will. He made me the Sevaite and Acharya; Goswami Maharaj, Jajavar Maharaj, and Guru Maharaj's Godbrother, Sakhi Babu, were trustees, and perhaps Paramahamsa Maharaj was an adviser. Srila Guru Maharaj thought that they would stay and he would leave, and therefore he made them trustees, but they all left this world before him. In 1964, a few years after he passed the 58 years that some expected him to live, he made a registered "Deed of Gift and Settlement."
He installed Gandharva-Govindasundar about four years after I came to the Mission.
The Temple was begun perhaps in 1955. First there was one thatched house, then a second, then the building of bricks, mud, and plaster, and after that gradually came the other buildings. The year I went to Badrikasram we collected Rs5,000 and on returning I proposed to Srila Guru Maharaj that we shall make a Temple. Srila Guru Maharaj said, "With only Rs5,000 what shall you be able to make?" By the desire of Srila Guru Maharaj I then called Jajavar Maharaj. He came and Madhusudan Maharaj also came. It was Gaura-purnima time, and they went preaching for the festival to be held here. At that time a big donor came: Kisori Mohan Das Vairagya—his name is on the first of the marble plaques beside the Mandir. With his promise to give money for the Temple, Srila Guru Maharaj started the construction. I don't have a clear memory of historical dates but it was maybe 1955. Kisori Babu then gave maybe ten or twelve thousand rupees—a lot of money at that time.
At first the raised Deity room and roof were finished but there was no verandah. Then the verandah came, after which Srila Guru Maharaj installed there the Deity. I can remember that the first abhisek of the Deity was in the old building. The Deity therefore must have first been installed there.
Question: When the Temple was only a temple room with no verandah, where did the devotees do bhajan?
Srila Maharaj: The devotees held bhajan in a thatched shed in front the Temple, like a small nat mandir. It was made of bamboo and corrugated tin sheet. Another person, a lady, also gave some money towards the Nat Mandir.
A little later when Kisori Babu left his body, only the ground floor of the Temple had been completed. In order to raise funds to continue building, some devotees of Srila Guru Maharaj made further collections in addition to the annual parikrama tours by train and the Badrikasram pilgrimage. We continued those tours every year from 1953 until 1979. After Srila Swami Maharaj's disappearance when the Western devotees started coming, I no longer had the time to make the parikramas. Also some money started coming in from other sources, so for various reasons we stopped the parikramas. We are very few devotees here, and mainly it was due to a shortage of time that the parikramas were stopped.
Question: How long did it take to build the Temple?
Srila Maharaj: The Temple took twenty years to build, and when it was completed there was still no nat mandir. Around 1975 a lady devotee of Guru Maharaj promised Rs5,000 and we started the construction of the Nat Mandir.
Up until close to the time of the completion of the Temple there was only one other building of bricks: the building of Srila Guru Maharaj. The nat mandir was built after 1975 as was the gosala—cow-shed—by my present house. This building where I now stay was made also around that time. This was not originally to be my house but it was intended to be the kitchen.
One devotee, Banoyarilal Simhaniya, wanted to fulfil the wish of Srila Guru Maharaj to make a kitchen building. I considered it would be good to make a two-storey building so cooking could continue above water-level during the time of flooding. Sometimes the water is more than five feet deep. So by making a two-storey kitchen, when the flood comes we could move everything upstairs and still be able to cook. Throughout the rest of the year we could cook downstairs, and during festivals we could cook upstairs as well as down.
When Srila Guru Maharaj saw it he told me, "Now you should take the upstairs section and live there." Previously I lived in the small southerly room on the roof of the nat mandir, but that was not sufficiently big for my many books, etc.
Another factor that decided my move was that especially in the rainy season it was quite far from the two-storey kitchen to the Temple. The path became slippery and it was difficult to take bhoga from this building all the way to the Temple every day. Therefore, for convenience, the devotees still tended to use the old small kitchen close to the Temple.
Many big festivals happen here and at those times we would use this kitchen below my room, but generally throughout the year the small kitchen would be used.
As they were using the small old kitchen so much, I asked Srila Guru Maharaj, "Now we have some chance of money, shall I make a big new kitchen at the site of the old small one close to the Temple?" He agreed. The old kitchen was then demolished and nicely rebuilt; and that is the kitchen which is now used all the time.
I came to stay in my present room in maybe 1982.
In 1973 the Temple was completed. Then the double-storey kitchen was made and the nat mandir was begun. The houses where Krishnamayi Didi and Sankara Didi used to live were constructed earlier, about 1963, as was a third house where Dharmma Didi used to stay.
Gradually the Math's land area increased during the time the Temple was being built. Simhajuli, where the rice is grown for the Math, was purchased in 1962. Srila Guru Maharaj himself used to oversee the cultivation of that land. During cultivation we would go there daily by bicycle, but Srila Guru Maharaj would go only every few days and he would take a rickshaw. At that time the eight kilometre journey cost two rupees. Only if necessary would he go daily. Satish Prabhu also helped much with the cultivation in Simhajuli.
In the very early days of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Satish Prabhu stayed here. Nobody wanted to stay without a roof even, but Satish Prabhu happily stayed here and he helped Srila Guru Maharaj to make the thatched house. He was the very first person to come and stay on the land after Srila Guru Maharaj purchased it.
Guru Maharaj himself planted the compound hedge and he did much other physical labouring work around the Math. I also helped Srila Guru Maharaj with the labouring duties in the Math compound.
Question: Are labourers hired to assist with the cultivation?
Srila Maharaj: Generally the cultivation is done by the brahmacharis of the Math, but at certain times extra labour is hired. Around 1962 we purchased two very big and strong male buffaloes to help with the cultivation. I was the driver of the buffaloes and they were very happy with me. They were very broad and strong, and they were so big it is not easy to imagine. The cross-bars on the cart were especially wide for the buffaloes to fit in.
Those buffaloes would play with me here, but Srila Guru Maharaj would be afraid they may kill me. They were big, strong, and young, and Guru Maharaj did not like that I would always mix with them.
In order to feed them grass I would take them to the pasture in front of Mahaprabhu's Temple. One day I was with them there and Srila Guru Maharaj told me, "Don't go close to the buffaloes." But I assured him, "These buffaloes will not attack me." He objected, "These are beasts, they can attack you."
I replied, "No, Maharaj, these are not like beasts." Then I went in front of the biggest buffalo, then I quickly went to his rear and thumped him on his leg. Then, like a kid goat, he quickly turned, and with his horns he put his head against my body, but very carefully. Seeing this, Srila Guru Maharaj said, "Oh, he will not attack you?" And I reassured him that he would not. Again I did it many times. Srila Guru Maharaj watched and was surprised to see that each time the buffalo appeared to be quickly going to attack I would raise my arm slightly and he would put his horns carefully there by my side in a playing way. Srila Guru Maharaj was surprised to see that such a strong red-eyed buffalo of whom everyone was fearful, was playing with me.
That buffalo's name was Ramdas. The other buffalo was called Syamdas. When Syamdas died, I purchased another, named Haridas. They were very strong and they ploughed the fields, pulled carts, etc.
Question: We are often asked what happens to the old cows here at the Math.
Srila Maharaj: Generally a cow will stay here all its life. The cows generally grow old and die here, though sometimes we do sell them when we have too many. When a cow becomes very old we will not sell her. Only we shall sell cows that produce milk or that can have calves, then also only if there is an excess of cows.
There were two cows here when I first came. One was white and named Surabhi, and the other was named Shyamali. Shyamali was very naughty and she attacked everyone. I think she probably wasn't happy with her food.
In my youth I had been accustomed to drinking much milk, but after three or four years in the Math I became sick, and was diagnosed by the doctor to be suffering from a lack of milk. I was very sick and the doctor prescribed one or two apples and a kilogram of milk daily. I suggested to Srila Guru Maharaj, "I would like to do seva of Shyamali, then she will give enough milk for me, in that way it won't be necessary to purchase any additional quantity from the market."
Srila Guru Maharaj readily and happily agreed. At that time Shyamali was giving 2.5 kgs of milk, but after I started to serve her she became very happy and gave up to 6.25 kgs. When I would go to Kolkata she gave less milk, and when I would return she would give more. We didn't have many cows at that time: Shyamali was the first cow, then Surabhi, and then Nandini came a little later.
Later still, when more cows came, the gosala was constructed. At first we purchased some cows, but since then all the cows have been either bred here, or donated.
Question: In what way are we to understand the spiritual qualities of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math?
Srila Maharaj: We can have some idea of the spiritual nature of the Math from what Srila Guru Maharaj has said. Hearing his words and conception our own vision has grown. When Sakhi Babu one day jokingly said, "Srila Sridhar Maharaj has only erected a tall bamboo flagstaff but he has composed such a grand sloka!" Srila Guru Maharaj responded, "In future you will see what will manifest." Lastly we can see what has come here and not only the buildings. When the ground floor of the Temple was completed, the Koladwip-adhipati, the Master of Koladwip, Laksmi-Varahadeva, in the form of a Salagram-sila Deity came here gradually, by His wish. He was living like a king in a brahmana's house, from where He came here through Jajavar Maharaj and Goswami Maharaj. When He first arrived here, we did not know what type of Salagram-sila had come, but under instruction from Srila Guru Maharaj I searched the Garuda Purana to identify the name of the Salagram-sila according to His markings. From that I considered Him to be Laksmi-Varahadeva. In order to double check my conclusion, Srila Guru Maharaj wrote a letter to the brahmana who had been caring for Him. He replied confirming the Salagram to indeed be Laksmi-Varahadeva. He also mentioned in his reply that if a brahmana brahmachari will serve Him then He will be very happy.
Hearing this, Srila Guru Maharaj told me, "Arrange for Laksmi-Varahadeva to have special sweet-rice—paramanna—every day. In that way He will be happy and the Math will be very peaceful." Since that day a brahmana brahmachari has always been doing His worship, and daily offering paramanna.
Srila Guru Maharaj saw Nabadwip Dham as aparadha-bhanjan-pat, and Koladwip as the ksetra, the land, of Laksmi-Varahadeva. Kola means Varahadeva. Srila Guru Maharaj with his transcendental vision has seen what is actually here. We consider that what is manifesting is in Koladwip, and by devotional service it is becoming revealed gradually.
Especially when Srila Guru Maharaj disappeared we have seen some special symptoms. From my youth I always tried to see that all the trees and all the paraphernalia of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math are not mundane. Actually, with my sense of vision I always consider everything here to be transcendental. I do not know how much I can feel, but I have no doubt that sometimes I feel it to be transcendental. We have also seen many symptoms.
In my younger days I would sometimes be a little angry and would want to leave the Math, but at that time I always asked permission to go from the trees, cows, etc. Therefore I can understand I have some feeling for everything here otherwise why did I go to ask permission from tree to tree? Furthermore, they didn't give permission for me to go! Whether or not I see correctly, I can say I have some standard feelings given in the Scriptures of how to see the Holy Dham and its paraphernalia. Through knowledge and the vision of Srila Guru Maharaj we are trying to see and sometimes we are able to see also.
Question: What advice did Srila Guru Maharaj give as to how to see this place?
Srila Maharaj: He said this is a very auspicious place, and specifically it is Gupta Govardhan. Close to Govardhan Hill is Manasa Ganga, and Govinda Kunda is also here in remembrance of Govinda Kunda by Govardhan. In Vrindavan is Manasa Ganga, and here in Nabadwip is the Ganges. In Govardhan the Lila of Krishna goes on in many ways, and here also the Lila of Gandharva-Govindasundar takes place: the Pastimes of the Lord near Govinda Kunda of Vrindavan are happening here. And we remember Kusum Sarovar also, but until now I haven't made it because time has been short due to the many services going on in our various Centres here in India. I have always wanted to excavate the hole behind the Indians' Guest House and make it into Kusum Sarovar. That was my plan, and I asked Guru Maharaj if we could dig there a nice kunda with steps going down into it. He happily agreed.
You can see Koladwip-lila here:
kuliya-gramete asi' sri-krsna-chaitanya
(Sri Caitanya-Bhagavat: Antya 3.541)
In order to very widely rescue the fallen souls Sriman Mahaprabhu showed here His Pastimes in such a way that anyone who takes shelter here must be rescued by Him from his unfortunate position.
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