Excerpt from an informal lecture given by Srila Janardan Maharaj
We can see that Srila Govinda Maharaj had so much eagerness to give Krishna consciousness to everyone, to revive the dormant Krishna Consciousness in us. Actually as we always heard, Krishna consciousness is not some foreign imposition upon the mind; it is not something that we somehow or other have adopted like some strange costume, or strange dress, or different activities. It is actually the natural activity of the soul. The soul by nature has a natural inclination towards service to Krishna and the association with the devotees. It is very natural and we can see that. Especially in the presence of a vaishnava like Srila Govinda Maharaj this kind of spark very easily becomes a full flame. That is the effect of association with the pure soul.
We have this rare opportunity to get association with the spiritual master, because normally the tendency to take notice, to be able to know the presence of the Lord within our hearts requires some direct association and some sukriti and inclination.
When I came to Krishna Consciousness, in my mind I was thinking that this is not my religion, I am not a Hindu and I do not have a connection in that superficial level. If anything, I can tell you that my real attraction at the very beginning was with the vaishnavas and the books of the vaishnavas–that was my attraction. From the very beginning when I met Srila Prabhupad, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, I though he was a special person and I actually thought innocently that if I could be like him someday that would be a very good accomplishment in my life. I had some idea, not to imitate but to emulate, that I wanted to be like him. I was so different from him; he was so special to me and so different that I thought if I could be like that, that would be what I want. And that thought was not always in the foreground of my consciousness, but I always had the desire to be near him, and hear from him.
I went to India and I had no desire to leave India because when I was in India,
for most of the year I could be with Srila Prabhupad. It could have been India or Bulgaria, but I knew Srila Prabhupad was there and I wanted to be there. That was the place where he was living for most of the year and so I stayed there.
To me it always seemed that what we need is that connection with the vaishnavas, particularly Srila Prabhupad, and Srila Govinda Maharaj and whatever commitment I made in my life was related to them. Always, whatever I was doing I couldn’t break that association with them or my activities that were related to that plane of service. For association is eternal and it has to be continued. Thus this was always in my consciousness; to have some loving association with the vaishnavas through service. Because really this is the way we relate with this kind of personalities.
And then when I heard the word, the scriptures–like Srila Sridhar Maharaj says “What are the scriptures? The scriptures are the words of the sadhus, the saints. They are transmitted to us from the mouth of the sadhus.” That is what the scriptures are. And I can always appreciate it, although I am not a great scholar, I could always appreciate that divine presence, the Bhagavat, the book Bhagavat and the person Bhagavat. I remember when I first read the Sri Bhagavad Gita of Srila Prabhupad how slowly I progressed through that book. At the beginning I would read a page and a half in an hour. Everything to me in those early days was somewhat unknown, beautiful but somewhat foreign. And when I came to the association of Srila Prabhupad, from the very beginning I had no way of seeing him or knowing him, I could not say in the beginning whether Srila Prabhupad was tall or short or anything in the physical level, to me he was always bigger than life. I always saw him as someone I looked up to. I was never thinking of him in terms of what his physical stature was. In this way we can understand that there is some different way of seeing the vaishnavas.
Sometimes people will say to me “you know Srila Prabhupad was very strict?” I never saw him that way. I was very pleased when I heard Srila Govinda Maharaj describe Srila Prabhupad. He was not strict, he was extremely accommodating to the Western devotees. He went out of his way to accommodate so many persons and really it was very attractive just to come into his presence. Even to see him smile, that was very, very attractive. He was very easily pleased by the activities of his devotees. He would always refer to us as “his boys.” He spoke in that way, like an affectionate father, and sometimes like an affectionate grandfather; that was his way of communication.
I told that story one time when some man came in saffron, a sadhu, and he came into the room and Srila Prabhupad gave me a garland and said “give this garland to this man,” and so I gave the garland to the man, but I didn’t offer dandavats. And Srila Prabhupad looked at me and said “you know you gave a garland to this sannyasi but you didn’t offer dandavats, you should fast today!” I said “Srila Prabhupad I didn’t know he was a sannyasi,” and Srila Prabhupad said “Oh you didn’t know he was a sannyasi? Then you do not have to fast.”
And so when people tell me that Srila Prabhupad was strict that was not my experience. And Srila Govinda Maharaj always said “when I remember how much Srila Guru Maharaj tolerated from me, then I am very tolerant of others, and I try to give affectionate mercy to others. Because I remember how much affection and tolerance and mercy Srila Sridhar Maharaj gave me.”
But in order to get that, to have that, we have to have some direct participation in the service of Srila Govinda Maharaj, and maintain some connection through association with the vaishnavas.