gurvvabhista-supurakam guru-ganair asisa-sambhusitam
govindabhidham ujjvalam vara-tanum vande visva-gurun cha
divya-bhagavat-premno hi bija-pradam bhakty anvitam sundaram
“I worship the holy lotus feet of he who perfectly fulfills the most cherished wish of his Divine Master; who is adorned resplendently with the blessings of his Guru-varga; who is adept in all vedic conceptions, both conceivable and inconceivable; who is the faithful follower in the line of Sri Rupa; who is known as Srila Govinda Maharaj; whose beautiful divine figure revels in the mellows of divine love; who is the Guru of the entire universe and the bestower of the seed of divine love for the Supreme Lord.”
Guardian of Spiritual Wealth
Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj saw in Srila Govinda Maharaj, Srila Gurudev, from the very beginning, some extraordinary capacity, and at the age of seventeen he was selected by Srila Guru Maharaj to be his successor. In time, he would entrust him as the guardian of the storehouse of divine spiritual wealth. Srila Gurudev was ornamented with the blessings of all the Guru-varga. His uncle gurus all had so much respect and sweet affection for him and noted that he perfectly fulfilled the desires of his beloved Guru Maharaj. They found in Srila Govinda Maharaj one who could be the architect of the outward expression of Srila Guru Maharaj’s high conception.
Srila Govinda Maharaj’s qualifications and glories are immeasurable. We have heard how at the tender age of seventeen he left his family and sought the shelter and spiritual guidance of Srila Guru Maharaj; how his family tried to make him leave, even forcibly, but he would not budge from Srila Guru Maharaj’s lotus feet. He said, “I am coming. I am giving myself to you. That is forever.”
And later, before the close of his manifest pastimes, Srila Guru Maharaj said, “You must take this position.” And against his own wishes, he reluctantly obeyed and took the position of Srila Guru Maharaj’s successor. Constantly, we saw how he was humbly carrying out this duty. He took what came to him in the way of praise and recognition and placed it, like a golden gift, firmly at the lotus feet of his beloved Spiritual Master, Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj. This is his saintly example.
Srila Bhakti Bimal Avadhut Maharaj once said that because of Srila Govinda Maharaj’s gracious visit, all of Russia and the surrounding areas were miraculously and spiritually surcharged. Srila Gurudev sweetly deflected the glow of praise and very affectionately expressed appreciation to all the devotees, reminding us of our direction and our goal by saying, “Vaisnava seva–that is our life.”
We Shall Hanker for Connection with Sri Guru
Srila Narottam Das Thakur says, asrayalaiya bhaje tahre krsna nahi tyaje: “If one can get a bona fide guardian, his future is ensured.” And in Sermons of the Guardian of Devotion, Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj says, “When we suffer from uncertainty to the extreme, we shall hanker for connection with Guru, the reliable source. I cannot only put an enquiry to him with faith and trust, but Guru is a guardian who is my well-wisher more than I am to my own self. ‘Guardian’ means a friend who thinks more of me than I think of myself. He knows more about my welfare than I do. Such is the position to have a guardian, a friend, a Guru.”
One day, during darshan, Srila Govinda Maharaj said, “One who is happy to see the Vaisnavas, and in turn, the Vaisnavas are happy to see him; he is a real Vaisnava.” Also, we have heard, “One who is a lover of the devotee has got substantial devotion.” We found that these qualities were always fully present in His Divine Grace.
On one holy Vyasa Puja celebration the glorification of Srila Govinda Maharaj went on late into the night. In the nat mandir [temple], senior Vaisnavas spoke deeply and unconditionally about the glories of Sri Guru and the Vaisnavas. These talks were spoken mainly in Bengali, but the sound and the mood were so irresistibly sweet and heart-melting that all were captivated. In Srila Govinda Maharaj’s association, in Nabadwip, in the abode of ‘inexhaustible sweetness and purity,’ we have so many heart-capturing examples of the Vaisnava qualities of tolerance and humility. I feel that there, in the sacred land where one’s offenses are lovingly forgiven, we can place ourselves in the pathway of grace. In one essay, author Thomas Merton prayed, “Is it merciful of Your light to bring us, inexorably, to despair? No, it is not despair that You bring me, but to humility. For true humility is, in a way, a very real despair; despair of myself in order that I may hope entirely in You.”
Srila Govinda Maharaj constantly reminded the devotees to be humble by way of trnad api sunichena taror api sahisnuna, amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih. If we can truly hear this and understand properly, we must think, “I am very, very insignificant and my only hope is the mercy of the Vaisnavas, and my only shelter is my Divine Master.”
On our own we cannot do anything, but if grace comes from above, from Sri Guru and Vaisnava, there will be some sweet hope. If we can attract that grace with a most sincere, heartbreaking mood of unworthiness, of emptiness and humility, then we may have some great expectation. The negative mood can invite the Positive. And Sri Guru, like the Supreme Lord, is generous, kind and loving. He is won over by the affection of his devotees.
Jewel of the Garland
We have heard how His Divine Grace Srila Govinda Maharaj and other disciples of Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Maharaj, described the inconceivable pain of his disappearance and how the area of Gauda-desa was shaken by earthquakes in the days preceding and following the close of his manifest lila in this world. All over the world, and particularly in Sri Dham Nabadwip, the devotees were suffering from the shock and the pain of shattered hearts. Srila Govinda Maharaj said, “Guru Maharaj is a great devotee of Krishna, and when he leaves this mundane world, really, the jewel of the garland must fall down, like a star from the sky. Then some disturbance and symptoms must come again. And it happened.”
We were reminded that just as the glorious full moon of Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj’s divine Pastimes was setting, the brilliant sun that is his most beloved disciple, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj, was rising and spreading his soothing rays to the hearts of the afflicted devotees.
Their Merciful Glance
Srila Govinda Maharaj has said, ”The sun rises and sets. It does not take birth or die. So the appearance and disappearance of the pure Vaisnava is like the sunrise and sunset. Both are good for the conditioned souls of this world. When they depart, they cast their merciful glance everywhere, and whoever remembers them will get that mercy.”
He instructed, “This is Madhava tithi. When Krishna, Radharani, and His associates are appearing in this mundane world, and when disappearing, all these days are very auspicious for the devotee–that is called Madhava tithi. That is, Madhava is getting the happiness. That day we must try in a more glorifying way to give our service to our Lordship and with great care we shall try to give honor to that date.”
Now, again, our star has fallen, and our devotional family is struck with the unbearable grief and heartbreak of physical separation from our beloved master and guardian. In The Divine Servitor Srila Govinda Maharaj gives sweet and soothing hope, reminding us, “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, Srila Guru Maharaj remains present as our guardian in the form of his direct representative, dear associates and chaittya-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 every 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 realize this extension of his divine service: this wealth of his divine service.”
I Am Only an Instrument
Once, on the observance of Srila Guru Maharaj’s disappearance, Srila Govinda Maharaj said, “Chaitanya Saraswat Math is going everywhere and we are surprised, but this was the vision of Srila Guru Maharaj within that small thatched room. The glories of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math are overflowing. Now I am seeing you all have come here from Hungary, Germany, Holland, Poland, America, England, France‚ everywhere. Now this Mission is everywhere, and we can feel the sun never sets on Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. California is thirteen hours different from Nabadwip. Then when night comes in Nabadwip, in California the sun is shining; and when it is night in California, in Nabadwip the sun has risen. Therefore the sun is never setting on Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math. Russia, Siberia, Alaska. We cannot conceive. I cannot conceive.”
“I am only an instrument, and I am following the Vaisnavas’ footsteps. First they are going and making something; I am going after that, and I am surprised. Hearing what Guru Maharaj wants, we are all trying to fulfill his divine desire all over the world. Still we are going on. What can I say? His Gurudeva, Srila Prabhupada Saraswati Thakur, wanted to send him to the West, and that desire he fulfilled through us.”
“I did not know any English, and I told Guru Maharaj, “I do not know English, but I will try, and I shall preach.” Guru Maharaj said, “When the time comes, English will come to you.” I am surprised, and now I am thinking it is true. I can speak something in English now.”
In the words from the introduction to Srila Govinda Maharaj found on the Math website, “the elixir of nectar which has been carried around the world from Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math is still flowing by the mercy Sri Guru and Gauranga represented in the person of Srila Govinda Maharaj, and through him it has become doubly sweet.” Srila Guru Maharaj–acclaimed by one and all as the “Maker of Gurus”–has presented to us his most precious gem in the personage of Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj.”
In Sri Guru and His Grace, Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj reminds us that the sincere devotee comes to the stage where he realizes, “I shall derive more benefit by giving my closest attention to the nearest agent, my Gurudev. I shall thrive thereby.” All our attention should be concentrated on the service of our Guru. This should be the ideal. Srila Sridhar Maharaj says that we must conduct ourselves in such a way that naturally we can connect with this highest, purest spiritual connection from here. We must not allow ourselves to be satisfied with anything less than this highest ideal. That should be the highest goal of our life.
“We are minors. Our father has left us with so many important documents about the properties we are to inherit. As minors, we should try to find what properties belong to us in those documents. When we come of age, then we shall take possession of our rightful inheritance. The raganuga-sastra, the scriptures of spontaneous devotional love, have been given to us, left to us, by our Guru, our guardian, our father. And as we grow more and more in the spiritual line, we will have to detect what is our prospect, what is our wealth. We must recover that. We must have that. It is there in the document. It is ours. This is our position. We are minors, but we must become majors and demand the service meant for us by our guardians…With the key come and open the iron chest and find what valuable ornaments and gems are within the chest.”
“What is favorable for the practitioner’s life,” said Srila Govinda Maharaj, “we shall take that happily, and what is non-favorable, we must leave that. Most favorable is: suddha-bhakata-charana-renu, bhajana-anukula. We always try to take the dust of the lotus feet of the devotee who is a real devotee of Krishna. If we take shelter of him, and if we follow his guidance, we must be benefited. And it is said, that ‘I am your servant, please give me instruction and service to Krishna under guidance of you.'”
This is Sri Guru’s inconceivable gift to us–upadeksyanti te jnanam. The Lord is always engaged in a loving search for the lost servant, and Sri Guru, in that mood, is our guide, lovingly directing us back to our sweet, sweet home. Guiding us toward our essence, toward the sweetness we are hankering for–bhakti, pure service, love and affection. We do not know our way home, we have been wandering homeless for so long, but Sri Guru has come to guide us and protect us on our dangerous journey. He is our sustenance, our hope, our shelter, our everything. And what shall we give in return?
mat-tulyo nasti papatma naparadhi ca kascana
parihare ‘pi lajja me kim bruve purusottama
“My Lord, I feel ashamed. How shall I offer you so many pure things like flowers? Generally, pure things are offered to you, but what about me? I have come with the most filthy thing to offer to you. I feel ashamed. I have come to you, with only my shame, to beg for your mercy. There is no parallel to my sinful, criminal life. Everything that can be conceived of as bad is found in me. It is very difficult even to speak about the characteristics of my heinous sins and crimes. Still, your nature, existence, fame, and benevolence cannot but attract me. You can save me. You can purify me. Hoping against hope, I have come to you. And I have only one solace, that I am the real object of your mercy. Your tendency is to purify the meanest. Those who are the most needy have some claim to your mercy. I am the worst of the needy and the meanest of the mean. This is my only qualification, my only hope to attract your attention and appeal to your magnanimity.”
(Sri Rupa Goswami)
I feel ashamed that I do not know how to appreciate and glorify the pure devotee of the Lord. Daksa prayed to Lord Siva, “I did not know your full glories…I request that you be pleased by your own mercy, since I cannot satisfy you by my words.” In a similar way, I must pray to His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj, to our gracious Guru-varga, and to all the Vaisnavas, that you will be pleased by your own kind mercy. I do not have the words to adequately glorify you.
I offer my obeisances to His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj. He has said that he will create for us a grand palace of devotion. It is a promise and an image so startling and wondrous and lovely that it captures and pierces and enters deeply into the heart. “Just run,” he said, “and don’t look back–whether your eyes are open or closed it does not matter, you won’t fall down. We cannot guess from here how much joy and ecstasy is there in our home, how much happiness and enjoyment.”
He revealed that he will always be with us, and time after time, again and again, by spotless example he is reminding us: “ami guru-dasa-nahi anya. I am a servant of Sri Gurudev–and nothing else.”
ei-baro koruna koro vaisnava-gosai
patita-pavana toma bine keho nai
O Vaisnava Goswami, please be merciful to me this one time. You are the savior of the fallen, without you there is no one.
All glories, all glories to Sri Guru and all the worldwide Vaisnavas.
Offering obeisances and praying for your gracious glance,