Divine appearance day of Srila Sridhar Maharaj

A very beautiful, inspired, and flowing discourse by our Gurudev, Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Deva-Goswami Maharaj, speaking on the divine appearance day of Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Deva Goswami Maharaj in Soquel, California, 3 November 2007. Continue reading “Divine appearance day of Srila Sridhar Maharaj”

Villa Govinda Reflections

It is our good fortune that we were able to participate in the festivals which concluded last week at our Villa Govinda Ashram on the outskirts of Milan, Italy. The focus of the festival was the inauguration of our Gurudev’s, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj’s, pushpa samadhi, which took place on Sunday 12 August, the day after Srila Param Guru Maharaj’s, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj’s, disappearance anniversary. Sripad Tyagi Maharaj acted as the priest and performed a fire sacrifice at the start of the ceremony; afterwards Sripad Madhusudan Maharaj spoke for some time in glorification of Srila Gurudev. Finally, with a flower which had been preserved from one of Srila Gurudev’s personal garlands on the day of his departure, Krishna Kanta Didi inaugurated the new pushpa samadhi for His Divine Grace. Munindra Mohan Prabhu then concluded by performing an arati to His Divine Grace, accompanied by the singing of Sri Guru Arati and heartfelt offerings of flowers from the devotees and sincere seekers present who had travelled from Italy, USA, England, Brazil, Venezuela, Portugal, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, and Ukraine to be a part of this momentous occasion.
We are blessed to have been associated with the Villa Govinda Ashram since its beginnings in 2003, and were present when our beloved Srila Gurudev visited both in 2003 and then again in 2007. On those occasions Srila Gurudev appeared very happy, relaxed, and at home, and many felt that his mercy was flowing very freely there. Srila Gurudev was particularly pleased with the service of the Italian devotees headed by Krishna Kanta DD and Munindra Mohan Prabhu, and was greatly moved by the sacrifice of Krishna Kanta, who manifest the ashram while facing a life-threatening illness. It was there at Villa Govinda that Srila Gurudev revealed his inner heart and pain of separation and openly shed tears on the disappearance day of Srila Param Guru Maharaj in July of 2003. He had also been very specific, when the tour was in the planning stages, about wanting to observe that day with the devotees in Italy.
At Villa Govinda Srila Gurudev had no pressure to give formal lectures or instruction, and rather when he spoke it was when he wanted to, as if with his close friends, and there would be long periods when he would sit in a comfortable silence with the devotees at different places around the ashram. He liked to observe the beautiful panoramic view surrounding the ashram, perched on the corner of a hilltop.
The presiding Deity at the ashram is Sri Giriraj, of whom Srila Gurudev commented, “Bala Gopaljiu is playing inside there”. He is worshipped with natural faith and affection, without much formality, mantras, and so on, as per Srila Gurudev’s direction.
Srila Gurudev would sometimes speak of “the bright future” that is awaiting all the sincere practitioners of this line. One day during his visit to Villa Govinda in 2007, speaking with the devotees about the charm of Sri Krishna’s aprakrita-lila, Srila Gurudev commented, “We give honour to everyone, we must give our full daṇḍavat to everyone, but after that we will go to our playground and with Kṛṣṇa play in śānta-rasa, dāsya-rasa, sakhya- rasa, vātsalya-rasa, and madhura-rasa; parenthood, and servitorhood, friendship, and even paramour love is possible with God. Who can believe it?”
Srila Gurudev himself embodied the aprakrita mood of sweetness, charm, and simplicity.

They are not conscious of their own exalted position. A king, when he is not very conscious of his power, thinks of himself as an ordinary person. It is something like that. Someone may be a great doctor but through affection he may do the work of a nurse for his patient. Out of his love and affection for the patient, he may come down to do such work, but still he is great. This is the beautiful nature of Vṛndāvan life. It is great without the attitude, the air of bigness. Although they are really great, they appear to be simple. Power dressed in affection and love, couched in humility—that is Vṛndāvan. And that is also Nabadwīp.
(Srila Sridhar Maharaj, The Golden Volcano of Divine Love)

As the perfect ambassador of that Goloka plane, Srila Gurudev revealed its sweetness and charming glory, and awakened some attraction within our densely covered hearts for Reality the Beautiful.
At present we cannot begin to properly conceive of what kind of “bright future” is awaiting us, but we are confident that if we can remain, or become, faithful followers of our Srila Gurudev, we must attain it.

We are so fortunate that we have one little thread or rope with His Divine Grace [Srila Sridhar Maharaj]. If we can hold on tightly to that we will have no problem with our spiritual life. That is our good fortune.

When the sincere seeker is trying to get initiation within the line of Guru Maharaj, at that time I am thinking that this boy or this girl does not know what they have got. But one day will come when they will feel this connection and they will understand what they have got. But it is necessary to follow some process, and that is:

tṛṇād api su-nīchena taror iva sahiṣṇunā
amāninā māna-dena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ

Tṛṇād api su-nīchena taror iva sahiṣṇunā—humility is the best quality of Vaishnavism—tṛṇād api su-nīchena. And taror iva sahiṣṇunā—tolerance. Tolerance in this material world gives so much benefit. We will be tolerant remembering Sriman Mahaprabhu’s directives. And if we give honour to others then everyone will be my friend. No one will be my enemy. That is the best procedure.

Anyhow, we will at once be qualified if sincerity and chastity is with us, and love and affection will give us the super benefit of our spiritual life.
(Srila Gurudev speaking on Govardhan Puja in Soquel, California, USA, 10 November 2007)

All glories to our Srila Gurudev, Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj, and all glories to his faithful followers, whom we humbly aspire to serve.
A few photos from the pushpa samadhi inauguration, Sunday 12 August 2018:

Video of part of Sripad Madhusudan Maharaj’s talk, and the following ceremony, arati, and pushpanjali:
Featured image: Gauranga Prabhu of Sao Paulo, Brazil
Other photos and video: the devotees of Villa Govinda Ashram

The activating principle

Sincerely, earnestly, desperately, we offer ourselves at the feet of Śrī Guru-Vaiṣṇava, wholeheartedly considering it to be our greatest fortune to be utilised by them, for their divine purpose, in the least way.

“Religion is proper adjustment”—we have been told by our Param Gurudev, Om Viṣṇupad Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj, that this was a favourite expression of Śrīla Bhakti Siddhānta Saraswatī Ṭhākur in his final days. In Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa describes this as the art of yoga: yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam (2.50); samatvaṁ yoga uchyate (2.48). The question arises, adjustment to what? What will be that central, fundamental, guiding principle to which moment by moment, day by day, all persons, places, and things will be adjusted and seen in relation to? For the Vaiṣṇavas, that can only be one thing: the sweet will of the Lord.
yato vā imāni bhūtāni jāyante,
yena jātāni jīvanti,
yat prayanty abhisaṁviśanti,
tad vijijñāsasva tad eva Brahma
Because He is that source from Whom everything has come, by Whom everything is maintained, and into Whom everything will again enter.
For those attracted to the sweetness of the Rūpānuga line, however, this is not enough. Rather, as told by Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī, bhajanīya guṇa-viśiṣṭa: simply by virtue of His infinitely charming qualities and nature, one is irresistibly bound in absolute, loving adherence to satisfying His least whim. Thus, “Whatever wave has come from that centre of absolute beauty, love, and charm, and in whatever outward manifestation or expression it has assumed and entered my limited sphere of experience—I will take it on my head with full faith and optimism”—such are the feelings of the true Vaiṣṇavas.
But again a question arises: how to ascertain that all-important will of the Lord?
The scripture of course, the Lord’s own word in recorded form, comes forward to help in a passive way. The scripture, the holy book, will give us understanding of sambandha-jñāna, what is what and who is who, understanding of how to approach the Lord along with understanding of what is pleasing and not pleasing to Him, and understanding of what we can hope to attain as a result.
As the scripture will also tell us, however, connection with the sādhu, the living scripture, is essential.
tad viddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ
(Srimad Bhagavad-gita: 4.34)
If we want to receive a genuine connection with that knowledge which is supersubjective to ourselves, which embodies the Lord Himself, it must come in the proper channel, it must come from one of the Lord’s own.
In the words of our Śrīla Gurudev, Om Viṣṇupād Śrīla Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj,

“Only when we hear from the sādhu are we receiving something in the proper channel, receiving something descending down from Goloka Vṛndāvan through the hearts of our paramparā’s Gurus which is perfect and necessary for our spiritual life. Only when we hear in the proper channel from the sādhu is there a transmission of the power which reveals the essence of the scriptures’ words in our hearts.”

That essential ingredient, the activating principle of our spiritual life, is the good will of the Vaiṣṇava, the good will of Śrī Gurudev. The Vaiṣṇava thus assumes the position of that absolute, reliable centre around whom and for whom we will adjust and readjust ourselves in every time, place, and circumstance, large or small, significant or apparently insignificant:

“With humble and prayerful mind if we try to show our allegiance, to surrender to the smallest advices of the Guru-Vaiṣṇava, that is the door through which we can enter that world. Our submissive acceptance of the smallest meanings of the words coming from Guru-Vaiṣṇava—that is the door by which we can enter Vaikuṇṭha and Goloka.” (Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj)

Thus Śrīman Mahāprabhu, citing Yudhiṣṭhir Mahārāj’s famous conclusion (mahājano yena gataḥ sa panthāḥ), chooses to overlook scriptural stereotype and instead follow the precedent set by Śrī Mādhavendra Purī,
dharma-sthāpana-hetu sādhura vyavahāra
(Cc 2.17.185)
“A devotee’s behaviour establishes the true purpose of religious principles.”
Sincerely, earnestly, desperately, we therefore offer ourselves at the feet of Śrī Guru-Vaiṣṇava, wholeheartedly considering it to be our greatest fortune to be utilised by them, for their divine purpose, in the least way.

“Cast yourself wholly at the feet of the Vaiṣṇava proper and try to be utilised by him. Be aloof to your own ego. Take it off and allow a Vaiṣṇava to work in the workshop of your heart, allow him to handle things there.” (Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj)

Falling down, getting up

Facing our shortcomings with hope and determination: words of love and wisdom from His Divine Grace.
We have attachment with this mundane world and with our body; it must be, because we are fallen souls. But we promised our Guru, “I must practise Krishna consciousness.” Taking diksa [initiation] means a promise, “I promise Gurudev, I promise Mahaprabhu: yes, any circumstance may come to me, but I will not leave your lotus feet.” And you have still not left: you are running, but only wake up from that illusion. You can see everything, and that is necessary. To always fall down somewhere is not good. Sometimes falling down is a possibility. And what loss is there? There is no loss. When a boy is running on the ground he will fall down on the ground. What loss does he have? He is not going underground; he will take help from the ground, and again he will run. This is the conception of Guru Maharaj, and not only Guru Maharaj: it is the conception of Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhu and Srila Sanatan Goswami Prabhu. They are the golden pillars of the sampradaya of Mahaprabhu.

My only shelter is your lotus feet. I may fall down, but will I sleep there?

Rupa Goswami Prabhu said,
bhūmau skhalita pādānāṁ bhūmir evāvalambanam
tvayi jātāparādhānāṁ tvam eva śaraṇaṁ prabho
“Oh Prabhu, you are my shelter. Tad api kila payodah stūyate chātakena. What shall I do? In the future, if I do not have your lotus feet I have no shelter. Then where shall I go? I cannot go to Brahmaloka [plane of non-differentiated spirit] and I cannot go to Svargaloka [plane of heavenly enjoyment]: my satisfaction is not there, my end is not there. My only shelter is your lotus feet. I may fall down, but will I sleep there? It is not possible. I am a living entity, a jiva-soul. I have willing, I have feeling, I have thinking. This is my property, and with that property I shall worship your lotus feet.”

What happened, happened. We don’t care.

Service to the Vaishnavas, and service to Guru is our only life’s goal. Then, what happened, happened. We don’t care. What have we seen? Many big, big rishis and big, big munis are sometimes falling down. But they are not completely attached with that environment. Vishvamitra Rsi also fell down. Sometimes willingly, sometimes unwillingly. Sometimes they willingly fall down. But our shelter is not there, our shelter is the lotus feet of Krishna. That is our only shelter.
You know everything, and that is the problem. That is why your heart is not satisfied with anything else. I have so much love for everybody, especially yourself. You know that love. When you come I feel it is my own atma, my own soul coming. That is how I see you.
It is not necessary to abuse anybody. We will only think, “My fortune gave me that type of environment and I fell down there. But I will not stay there forever.”

Everything belongs to my Gurus, and has been made by them, prepared by them. I can say that I am only mud, and they can make a Deity or make a dog.

I am the example. I am always telling to the devotees, I am the example. You know me. You see me, and what one Guru can do. I am looking at my Guru and I am surprised to see how it has come out. I am a very fallen soul, so how did my improvement come out this way,  and not only in a very small way? When I consider that I get so much strength. That is why I sometimes say, defeat is not in my life. Victory is always with me, because Guru Maharaj is with me.
My body, my mind, my age, everything belongs to my Gurus, and has been made by them, prepared by them. I can say that I am only mud, and they can make a Deity or make a dog. They can make anything, but my position is like soft mud. I did not know anything when I joined with Guru Maharaj’s mission, but after that everybody gave respect, and why? Not for my qualification, but for my Guru Maharaj’s qualification. When everybody is giving me respect I am thinking, “Oh, it is Guru Maharaj’s respect, it is going to Guru Maharaj.”
Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur said,
guru-jana-śire punaḥ, śobhā pāya śata guṇa
When anybody gives some respect, when anybody comes for service to Krishna I am thinking it is because of Guru Maharaj’s quality. By his mercy it is possible. And I have seen Guru Maharaj’s form, and how merciful Guru is.
Srila Gurudev speaking in Govardhan, March 1991
This talk is continued in the post ‘The pillar of success’
virachaya mayi daṇḍaṁ dīna-bandho dayām vā
gatir iha na bhavattaḥ kāchid anyā mamāsti

nipatatu śata-koṭir nirbharaṁ vā navāmbhas
tad api kila-payodaḥ stūyate chātakena
(Srila Rupa Goswami)
“O Friend of the needy, whether You chastise me or reward me, in the whole wide world I have no other shelter but You. Whether the thunderbolt strikes or torrents of fresh waters shower down, the chātak bird (who drinks only the falling rainwater) perpetually goes on singing the glories of the raincloud.”
ohe prabhu dayāmaya, tomāra charaṇa-dvaya,
śruti-śiropari śobhā pāya guru-jana-śire punaḥ,
śobhā pāya śata guṇa, dekhi āmāra parāṇa juḍāya
(Gītā-mālā: 1.1.1)
“O merciful Lord! Seeing Your feet become more beautiful atop the heads of the scriptures and a hundred times more beautiful atop the head of my Guru soothes my heart.”

Sri Guru charana-padma

Srila Gurudev singing Sri Guru charana-padma during the installation festival for Sri Sri Nitai Chaitanyadev, Sri Puri Dham, 1989.

Download mp3 audio file

śrī guru charaṇa-padma kevala bhakati-sadma
vando muñi sāvadhāna mate
yāhāra prasāde bhāi e bhava tariyā yāi
kṛṣṇa-prāpti haya yāhā haite
[1] I carefully offer my obeisance to Śrī Guru’s lotus feet, which are the only abode of devotion. O brother! By his mercy we cross over this world and reach Kṛṣṇa.
guru-mukha-padma-vākya chitete kariyā aikya
āra nā kariha mane āśā
śrī guru-charaṇe rati sei se uttama-gati
ye prasāde pūre sarva āśā
[2] Make the teachings from Śrī Guru’s lotus mouth one with your heart, and do not desire anything else. Attachment to Śrī Guru’s feet is the best path. By his mercy all desires are fulfilled.
chakṣu-dāna dilā yei janme janme prabhu sei
divya-jñāna hṛde prakāśita
prema-bhakti yāhā haite avidyā vināśa yāte
vede gāya yāhāra charita
[3] He who gave me the gift of vision is my lord, birth after birth. He manifested divine knowledge in my heart. He gives prema-bhakti and destroys ignorance. The Vedas sing of his character.
śrī-guru karuṇā-sindhu adhama janāra bandhu
lokanātha lokera jīvana
hā hā prabhu kara dayā deha more pada-chhāyā
e adhama la-ila śaraṇa
[4] Śrī Guru is an ocean of mercy and the friend of the fallen. He is the lord and life of all people. O master! Be merciful. Give me the shade of your feet. This fallen soul has taken shelter of you.