Srila Govinda Maharaja in Soquel, California 2007.
This lecture was delivered in New York City during the 1994 World Tour.
All glories to the devotees of the Western world especially here in New York.I am very happy to be here now, as I was last year when I came for the first time. Actually, I am also happy that Sripad Kirtanananda Swami is here, it has been so long since I’ve had his darshan.What is my duty? Why am I here? These things I am trying to remember at every moment. I joined the Mission in 1947 at the lotus feet of Srila Sridhar Maharaja. After joining I stayed at the Calcutta math studying Sanskrit under Srila Sridhar Maharaja’s direction. Sometimes Srila Sridhar Maharaja would have to leave Calcutta and on those occasions he ordered that I learn Srimad Bhagavat Gita from Srila Swami Maharaja (Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada). Srila Swami Maharaja also had two or three sons, who were my friends, especially the middle son Mathura. Although we were friends we quarreled a lot. But I and another two students lived with Srila Swami Maharaja within his family. Srila Swami Maharaja had much affection for us, even though I was a very naughty boy still his affection came to me.
Srila Swami Maharaja had so much affection for Srila Sridhar Maharaja, and Srila Sridhar Maharaja had affection for me, so in this way Srila Swami Maharaja had affection for me.
Reflecting, I am thinking that from 1947 until 1985 Srila Sridhar Maharaja was trying to make me qualified. In 1964 Srila Sridhar Maharaja wanted to give me his ashram. Srila Sridhar Maharaja was always giving pressure to me to take sannyasa. He was always saying, “After taking sannyasa, then I will give you charge.” And I am telling, “I am not qualified. I am not feeling so qualified as a sannyasi. Please give me time.” But Srila Sridhar Maharaja was thinking that he would not live very long which made him draw up a will at a relatively early age naming me as the next acharya. But if I did not take sannyasa then I could not be the acharya according to the will. This document was called a deed of settlement and a deed of gift. The deed of gift gave all properties to the deities. The deed of settlement provided that from the time of Srila Sridhar Maharaja passing I had five years to take sannyasa after which time the governing body could select another acharya to succeed Srila Sridhar Maharaja.
But I was not so enthusiastic to take this position. Actually I was very unqualified. Of this I have no doubt. But some qualification must have come through the association of the great Vaisnavas like Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja and other godbrothers of Srila Sridhar Maharaja, who were very big personalities. Fortunately I’m getting their association. Many times during any given year so many advanced and august personalities would come to my Guru Maharaja’s math to get his darshan. At the math we were only three or four brahmacaris serving all these great Vaisnavas, so in this way we got their association. Also we were hearing their discussions which were on a very high level.
Year after year I was getting the association of the sadhus and hearing from them. In this way some good qualities must come to the hearer. It was by this process of hearing from the sadhus that I realized that I was not qualified to be the Acharya of this math. The chair of Srila Sridhar Maharaja is a very heavy and high chair, and I am a very below-standard bramhachari. Knowing these things made me very unenthusiastic to take the chair but Srila Sridhar Maharaja said publicly in 1947, “I wish to make this boy my successor.” At that time three or four of his godbrothers were very angry by his desire and so they left his math. But my Guru Maharaja tried in a variety of ways to make me qualified.
In 1964 Srila Sridhar Maharaja became frustrated that so many years had passed and I still had not taken sannyasa. During those 20 years my Guru Maharaja many times asked me to take sannyasa and each time I am thinking that if I take sannyasa my Guru Maharaja will leave this world. His only responsibility in this world was his mission, his deity and his devotees. Although I knew I was unqualified he thought I was qualified and he wanted me to take charge of his responsibility. And I knew his intention was to give me that responsibility and then disappear from this world shortly thereafter.
He was showing poor health, and all his godbrothers who he wanted to take over after his disappearance had already disappeared themselves. When the last of these godbrothers Srila Swami Maharaja disappeared Srila Sridhar Maharaja again asked me to take sannyasa. Seeing the situation, and still feeling unqualified, I didn’t want to take sannyasa because now I knew that if I took it, he would definitely disappear like his godbrothers. So, although he tried to give me sannyasa at that time, I resisted, and avoided it.
One day in 1985 Srila Sridhar Maharaja called me to his room whereupon he said, “The day after tomorrow you will take sannyasa.” I told Srila Sridhar Maharaja, “Give me three months to take care of some things and on Gaura Purnima I will take sannyasa.” To which he replied, “No, the day after tomorrow you will take sannyasa and if you say no I shall die now.” Hearing that I knew that what Srila Sridhar Maharaja was saying was the truth. I knew his health was showing itself to be very bad, being that I was his doctor (homeopathic doctor) at that time. All the allopathic doctors could not treat Srila Sridhar Maharaja. So for 13 years, I was treating him. I knew his heart condition, and I knew that if I told him I could not take sannyasa then, no doubt, he could have a heart failure. So I gave him this answer, “I am your goat; you can cut my neck or cut my legs as you like. I cannot say no today. That is you are determined to give me sannyasa.”
My Guru Maharaja then called for Puri Maharaja who came within two days at which time I was given sannyasa. Then two months later at Gaura Purnima time he declared me the Acharya of the Mission and that I was to fully take over his responsibilities. In this way, I became the Acharya.
Still I am feeling unqualified. Service came to me and I am trying to serve. Sannyasa means serving bodily, mentally and verbally. At the time of sannyasa initiation I had to promise in front of the sacred fire to serve my guru and my garuanga. This is the real meaning of Vaisnava sannyasa.
In the Kaliyuga, sannyasa is not possible. Actually it is restricted. According to the scriptures, sannyasa is useless in this yuga. Vaishnava sannyasa means that wholeheartedly I shall serve my Lord. And it was this promise that I took in front of the sacred fire. In the Srimad Bhagavatam it is stated that the best service to Krishna is the service to the Vaishnava. That is, 24 hours I am trying to serve my Guru and Gauranga and that is the sannyasa that I was given.
After taking sannyasa I got so much affection from the disciples of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I would say 80% of his disciples are affectionate to me and so many of the acharyas in his mission as well. All the acharyas from Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON mission came to our math this year to Gaura Purnima time. We all met together and very happily talked. Also the acharyas came to our Navadwip math during the Navadwip Parikrama. So I am getting some good association from many of the acharyas of ISKCON.
To the disciples of Srila Prabhupada I am indebted 200%. I mean, today I am in the Western world. And by the grace of Srila Prabhupada who entered into this Western world and blasted a tunnel through maya, I was able to enter easily into the Western world.
Before Srila Prabhupada came, a few Gaudiya Math sannyasis and brahmacaris tried to preach in America, England, Germany and France. They tried to preach but they could not preach. Whatever they preached, however, had no real noticeable effect or impact. But when Srila Prabhupada came alone to the Western world and after doing one year of intense tapasya or austerity, we can see what Nityananda Prabhu and Mahaprabhu have given through him. That is all of you here tonight are the evidence of that gift. And today the whole world is able to chant the name of the Lord through the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. If I was to not mention the name of Srila Prabhupada then it would be a great offense.
One disciple of Srila Prabhupada who is my very good friend, who often comes to see me and stay with me in Navadwip for a month, or sometimes more, once asked me a question. This man is very straight but a little crazy. He said, “Srila Prabhupada has given us so much about Krishna consciousness and through that we are here in India practicing Krishna consciousness. And Prabhupada said that after my disappearance, if you want to know anything further about Krishna consciousness, you can direct all philosophical questions to Srila Sridhar Maharaja. So we came to Srila Sridhar Maharaja, and he gave more and more explanations about Krishna consciousness in greater and greater detail. But from you, Govinda Maharaja, we are not getting anything new. So what should I do? Why should I stay here with you?”
I was very happy to hear that. So I told him, “Maharaja, are you sure you have gotten everything from Srila Prabhupada and from Srila Sridhar Maharaja.” He said, “Yes.” Very strongly he said yes. He said, “If you can’t give us something new then we can leave the math.” So I said, “Maharaja, I am very sorry. What was given to you by Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhar Maharaja, no one can give you more than that in this mundane world. What they were giving is the highest conception. Even in our sampradaya, not many could give what they gave. Srila Prabhupada was empowered by Nityananda Prabhu. He spread Krishna Consciousness all over the planet. Srila Sridhar Maharaja rectified many of the devotees and imparted some deeper thinking to many of them. So what they have not been able to give you, I cannot give you Maharaja. So please go somewhere else and search for that knowledge. If you can get that knowledge, that will be very nice. You can try to get it from all the living disciples from Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur next to whom I am certainly unqualified. But if you can’t find what you are looking for elsewhere then please feel free to come back. And we shall stay happily here in Chaitanya Saraswat Math.”
Then he went to his room. After half an hour, he returned crying. He said, “I think what you said is right. Beyond what Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhar Maharaja gave cannot be given in this mundane world. That knowledge can only be given in more and more refined ways. And after half an hour of thinking about this I beg you to forgive my offences.”
So the topic may arise why I have come to the Western world. What Srila Prabhupada has given is sufficient for the West. Why should it be necessary for me to come and try to give more? I am thinking that what Srila Prabhupada has given is sufficient: that is Krishna Consciousness. Those who are fortunate also got some association of Srila Sridhar Maharaja. So why am I coming here?
I promised Srila Sridhar Maharaja that I would serve his Mission, his deities and his devotees. That was my sannyasa. My sannyasa is worthless but I made that promise. A promise you can make. Our Vaishnava sannyasa is actually a promise. And with that I have no difficulty and I am trying heart and soul to continue my seva. I am thinking that it is my service to the devotees of Srila Sridhar Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada to come here.
I am seeing some deficiency in the West. Here you are all chanting Hare Krishna Mahamantra for many years. But many have complained to me that they are not feeling much enthusiasm in their hearts. And many have complained that the result that they were expecting, they were not seeing. So this is my service. I am thinking that all over the world I have many friends. They ask for my association but I am thinking, what should I give them.
The only gift I can give to my friends is remembrance. That is why we are all here today. Together we can remember our previous devotional lives, our gurus and we can consult with each other why after so many years, we are not attaining the highest result. We are getting something no doubt, but why are we not getting the proper result. For that it is necessary to have some discussion. This discussion is not so important for the newcomer. When the newcomer comes he does not have so much offense. But after joining in the line of Krishna consciousness we cannot but make many offenses. The ten kinds of offenses to the holy name are the cause. That is why Harinanma is not revealing Himself within our hearts. We may be following the four regulative principles of spiritual life, namely no meat eating, no illicit sex, no gambling and no intoxication. But the main thing that Sriman Mahaprabhu and the previous Acharyas said, that we have forgotten. Actually we haven’t forgotten it, we’re just ignoring it.
The nature of the transcendental world is if you get some good result which is like honey or some sweet then you want to give that to your friends and also that you will try to spread it. So you may know everything but why then are you not following?
trnad api sunicena
taror apii sahisnuna
kitaniyah sada harih
One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street, one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.
(Sri Sri Siksastaka, Mantra 3)
What result will follow the practice of this instruction of Sriman Mahaprabhu? That nobody will be your enemy. Actually everyone will be your friend if you are humble. Everyone will think, “He is a very humble person. He will not disturb me. Then why should I disturb him.” Mahaprabhu said, to even those who have no honor themselves, his disciples should show those persons honor and be tolerant. This is necessary in our Sampradaya. Sampradaya means society. If we can follow these things properly, at least 60% then we will definitely get some result.
For second initiation, there are some rules and regulations for the gayatri mantra. But for first initiation there is no rules and no regulations, only that one should avoid the ten offenses to the Holy Name. If you honestly try to avoid those offenses then you must follow Mahaprabhu’s instruction “Trnad api sunicena…” Then you can chant the Hare Krishna mahamantra.
You cannot chant the transcendental mahamantra with your mundane tongue. It’s like when I go into the temple of Jagannath Puri to see Lord Jagannath. I go there very unhappily because my Western friends cannot enter. They can live in Jagannath Puri but they cannot enter the temple. So every time I go to Jagannath Puri, I go to see the deity. Every time I pray to Jagannath, “O Prabhu Jagannath, please see me.” Like a schoolboy replying “present” to his headmaster. In that way I am praying to Lord Jagannath. It’s like roll call. I pray, “I have not come to see you, my Lord. I don’t have the capacity to actually see you. But I am present in front of you. That is, you are my honorable Lord here, living in the temple. If I neglect coming to see you I will make offense to your lotus feet. That is why I am coming to show myself in front of you, to show you that I am present here out of respect. But I have not come to see you. Firstly, I cannot see you with my mundane vision. I cannot see your transcendental form. Also I am unhappy that my friends cannot come into your temple. You will give them your darshan, no doubt, after a few years. At present they cannot come and that is why I’m unhappy. You are my Lord and therefore I must come to show myself before you.”
The Holy Name is like that. We cannot chant the Name properly when our mind is mundane and our tongue is mundane. The plane of exploitation is always our business and we are part of that mundane world. How then can we chant properly the mahamantra? Of all the mantras, this mantra is the highest and Krishna and our Guru Parampara are sending this mantra down, and through Srila Prabhupada you have got that mantra and through Srila Sridhar Maharaja I have gotten that mantra. But why are we not getting the proper result?
We must think and chant properly and then we will be happy. The mahamantra will then reveal in our heart and Harinanma will dance on our tongue. We must not stop chanting. Yet, we need the result quickly. Why should we wait life after life after life after life? It is possible in this life. I have the present-day in my hand. Tomorrow what will be I do not know, and yesterday what is past is nothing more than history in my life. I can learn from that past history but I cannot repeat it again. Rather I want to follow the directives of my Gurudeva and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow I shall make that service to Guru and Gauranga. And today I have within my hand. Chanting is service to the Harinama.
Srila Prabhupada has given that Mahamantra to you all. And Srila Sridhar Maharaja has given that mantra to you all. So now you should try to get the proper and good result. Through Namabhasa (impure chanting of the name or hazy conception) you can get liberation. But we are not interested in liberation. We are interested in the service to Harinama. The service to Harinama is non different than the service to Radha-Govinda. We should pray to our Lord for his mercy and think, “If you give me your mercy my Lord, I shall be very happy.” But you can also give me a thunderbolt if that is your wish and I will not care. Srila Rupa Goswami has shown that the soul’s position is like this.
Everything you hanker for will increase with the association of the sadhus. The sadhus are serving 24 hours a day their Lord Sri Krishna. They are always engaged in that service. So if you want that kind of service to Krishna then through their association, you can get it. In India there are many different religions. Everywhere, like in Christianity, like Islam, like Buddhism, like Sikhism there is the central point of chanting the holy name of their Lord. So if everybody is trying to chant God’s Holy Name then everybody is not foolish and all the Sampradayas are not bogus. When the Sampradayas manifest in this world, it is of benefit to the living entities here.
Like when Lord Buddha appeared. At that time, animal slaughter was going on regularly. And the Vedas were being used as justification. Buddha came and said, “Your justification is bogus. Throw out these rules and regulations which promote the killing of animals. And learn from me the meaning of dharma.” Buddha was also an avatar and an incarnation of the Lord. From time to time the Lord or his associates come down to instruct and save us. In many ways, the Lord wants to do good for us and in the varieties of religion in India I can see this.
All these religions are trying to chant and attain the Holy Name of the Lord. Mahaprabhu said that only by the chanting of the holy name will you get everything and without chanting the holy name, you won’t get anything. There is no other alternative.
In this age of Kaliyuga, other mantras and processes are very difficult to follow, but chanting the Holy Name, you will be able to get piety and more inspiration. When the Harinama will reveal in your heart, everything will become transcendental and at that time, the Harinama will dance on your tongue. That means your mundane tongue, your vision, your body and your mind will become spiritualized.
This mantram has been given to us by our gurus and we will try to follow their directives in chanting it. It is the quality and qualification of Krishna that he can make us perfect by revealing himself in our heart. Srila Prabhupada said, “Chant Hare Krishna and be happy.” Sriman Mahaprabhu said, “Chant Hare Krishna. There is no other alternative.” Srila Sridhar Maharaja said, “Chant Hare Krishna and see their glories.” So, now, let us chant Hare Krishna!
All Glories to Sri Sri Guru Gauranga!
All Glories to the Assembled Devotees!