Sripad Bhakti Premik Siddhanti Maharaja is a disciple of Srila Bhakti Vedanta Swami, and has been tirelessly serving Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math for many years. His ability to convey the excitement and hope brought about by Srila Govinda Maharaja’s touring will reveal to the reader the importance of the current preaching mission. Sripad Siddhanti Maharaja is primarily based in California, although he travels wherever Srila Govinda Maharaja can be found.
(at the time of this article he was known as Sriman Chidananda das Brahmacari)
As I stood waiting for the arrival of His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaja at the Honolulu airport in June of 1992, I had the exact same feeling I had twenty years earlier as I was waiting in the exact same spot for His Divine Grace Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to arrive from Fiji. Many planes were landing and taking off and many people were coming through the immigration doors to visit Hawaii from foreign countries.
There were tour parties, flower garland greeting parties with big buses and cars to take the people to resort hotels. But Srila Govinda Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada weren’t like these ordinary people. They were devotees of the Lord. They were coming to carry out work directly on behalf of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They weren’t interested to gain anything from the people of Hawaii or the western world but wanted to give their life experiences in Krsna consciousness.
There is one verse in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.12) where Narada Muni says to Vyasadeva, “Your vision is completely perfect. Your good fame is spotless. You are firm in vow and situated in truthfulness. And thus you can think of the pastimes of the Lord in trance for the liberation of the people in general from all material bondage.”
Both Srila Govinda Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada were completely perfect and fixed in truthfulness and therefore they could think of the Lord and know which way to liberate the people in general from all material bondage. They knew what was right and what was wrong. They knew what the present situation was of the material world and they knew how to preach and guide the living entities from the bondage of material life. And their truth is Satyam priya – hitam ca yat. It is pleasing truth or tasteful truth. It is a truth which is not dry but brings joy and pleasure to one who hears it. Amara anaya guru hara tara ei desa. And because they are distributing this truth in a pleasing way they have the bhava of Mahaprabhu when He said “I am distributing the truth for all who are drowning in the ocean of Maya. Go on with this relief work.”
They were coming as a pair of devotees with Srila Govinda Maharaja picking up and continuing to teach where Srila Prabhupada left off. I felt a great deal of happiness and joy as Srila Govinda Maharaja was about to arrive. I didn’t know what form his preaching would take but I felt it must be sublime.
Srila Govinda Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada had a long and close relationship and had prepared for their mission for a long time. Both were trained to preach in the western world by the most illustrious disciple of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaja.
Srila Sridhar Maharaja was the foremost and most important disciple of Srila Saraswati Thakur. He had traveled all over India helping him establish 64 branches of his Gaudiya Math. In the eyes of most of the elevated disciples of Srila Saraswati he was the finest preacher the world has ever seen.
Just before Srila Saraswati Thakur left this world he called Srila Guru Maharaja and asked him to sing Sri Rupa Manjari Pada the song which symbolizes and gives us light of the highest quarter of bhajan life. Our sampradaya is named as the Rupanuga-sampradaya and our Guru-parampara is adjusted according to that. And this great and most noble personality had agreed to train and teach Srila Prabhupada and Srila Govinda Maharaja to preach in the western world and give devotees relief from the onslaught of material nature.
Both Srila Prabhupada and Srila Govinda Maharaja spent many years working together and studying under Srila Guru Maharaja. During the later 1940’s and 1950’s Srila Guru Maharaja had a branch temple in Calcutta at the family home of Srila Prabhupada. Whenever Srila Guru Maharaja and Srila Govinda Maharaja were there they would associate intimately together. If Govinda Maharaja was by himself Guru Maharaja asked him to study Bhagavad-Gita as it is from Srila Swami Maharaja.
He would go to his room early in the morning when he was doing his translation work and Srila Prabhupada would instruct him in the slokas. Srila Govinda Maharaja is extremely intelligent and has a perfect memory so he learned the Bhagavad-Gita very rapidly.
Srila Govinda Maharaja enjoyed associating with Srila Prabhupada and sometimes they would go to preaching engagements together. They would sit on the same Vyasasan together. Govinda Maharaja would read the slokas and Srila Prabhupada would preach. During the question and answer period both would take time answering the questions. In this way Govinda Maharaja began to know the western mentality as most of Swami Maharaja’s friends were business friends who had a connection with the western way of life.
If Srila Prabhupada and began to help him in his mission by distributing Back To Godhead magazine. He often boast that he was the first distributor of B.T.G. magazine.
Their relationship grew through the 1950’s and reached a culmination in 1955 when Srila Prabhupada sent him a letter of congratulations on his revitalizing the Gaudiya Darsan which was begun by Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. In this letter he said “I can see in time you will become a great transcendental humorist in the art of journalism. You have the complete mercy of your Divine Master…”
The relationship between Srila Guru Maharaja, Srila Govinda Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada grew in a very affectionate way. Srila Prabhupada had seen Srila Saraswati Thakur only a few times. His main association was with Srila Guru Maharaja and Govinda Maharaja. When Srila Prabhupada would come to Nabadwip or when Srila Guru Maharaja would stay at his Calcutta temple they would have high level discussions of the finer points of Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada would question Guru Maharaja and Guru Maharaja would give the answer. Sometimes their discussions would go all morning or late into the night. Srila Guru Maharaja knew everything of both material and spiritual knowledge.
He taught Srila Prabhupada how the major philosophers of the western world from Socrates to Plato to Bishop Berkley, David Hume, Hegel, Kant and Charles Darwin compared to the various Vedic Philosophers of Buddha, Sankaracharyya, Vyasadev, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur and Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. They would discuss many things from many different angles and establish the superiority of the Vedic conception and the teachings of Mahaprabhu.
Srila Guru Maharaja directly taught Srila Prabhupada the philosophy of subjective evolution that states life comes from life. In this modern age the whole world is under the misconception that life comes from a fossil, a rock, a black hole in space or some combination of dead inert matter. The modern scientists think that by the proper arrangement of dead matter and by given enough time that somehow an other life will come. Despite the fact that no scientist has proved or demonstrated this, they still hold to this idea. Many secondary theories are based on this great misconception.
For example, people believe the food they eat can be manufactured in a laboratory or saturated with many chemicals that take the life and vitality from food because our life is not dependent on another life but is ultimately from dead matter. The whole synthetic drug and food industry is based on this misconception. They think, that if ultimately life comes from dead matter then we can maintain our body from dead matter.
Srila Guru Maharaja taught that “Evolution comes from inside, from consciousness, and is the cause of seeing the different things of this world. Evolution is from within, not from outside. Reality does not develop from imperfection (a stone) to perfection (a human being). To theorize that imperfection is producing perfection is ludicrous.” (Subjective Evolution of Consciousness by Swami B. R. Sridhar, p. 52)
And how does consciousness evolve or what is the force behind evolution? Srila Guru Maharaja said, “Our consciousness evolves through dedication.” Dedication or devotion is moving force behind evolution and is the innate property of all living entities. Everyone has some degree of devotion. The more one has the higher he has evolved. The Vedas say there are 400 thousands different species of human beings. The higher class such as the Brahmins and Ksatriyas are understood to have evolved more and are closer to God than the lower ones.
The quantity and quality of devotion that one has acquired determines whether he is in a higher or lower of the 400 thousand human species, not some random force the scientist can’t put their finger on or explain. These ideas and conceptions were all explained to Srila Prabhupada by the mercy of Srila Guru Maharaja so when he went to the west he was able to defeat many great scientists and scholars who were operating under this misconception.
Srila Govinda Maharaja was always at these high level of discussions. When Guru Maharaja was in Calcutta speaking with Srila Prabhupada, Srila Govinda Maharaja was there taking part in these discussions. When Srila Prabhupada came to Nabadwip, Govinda Maharaja was there also. When the exalted Godbrothers of Srila Guru Maharaja came to question Srila Guru Maharaja, Srila Govinda Maharaja was always there. He has often said the reason he became perfect in Krsna consciousness was because he received the full blessings of his spiritual master as well as the exalted disciples of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur.
When Srila Prabhupada was ready to go to the west, he approached Srila Guru Maharaja for sannyasa. Guru Maharaja wasn’t able to give him at that time as he had a close relationship with the family of Srila Prabhupada. He asked him to wait six months but when Srila Prabhupada said he was very eager to go, he advised him to go to Sripad Kesava Maharaja. He said he had given the mantra to him and it would be the same as taking sannyasa from himself.
Srila Govinda Maharaja was always eager to help Srila Prabhupada in his missionary activities. When he first returned to India in 1967, Govinda Maharaja arranged a grand reception from the residence of Nabadwip Dham. He rented a large hall and invited the town leaders. Govinda Maharaja introduced Srila Prabhupada as the first true ambassador of India to go abroad. He said many Indians and religious teachers had gone abroad but they hadn’t made one devotee of Mahaprabhu.
Srila Prabhupada had single handedly established Krsna consciousness in the west. He had undergone many difficulties and austerities and the residence of Nabadwip should be proud that their very own Mahaprabhu’s teachings had been successfully established abroad. After this reception, he took Srila Prabhupada to a large (the blue) house next to the Math and arranged for his lodging needs. Everyday many respectable people came to speak with Srila Prabhupada.
In 1973 when Srila Prabhupada was opening the Sri Chaitanya Chandrodaya temple in Mayapur he invited Srila Guru Maharaja and Srila Govinda Maharaja to preside over the ceremonies. Srila Prabhupada introduced Srila Guru Maharaja who spoke first. Afterwards he called on Srila Govinda Maharaja. He was a little surprised and wasn’t prepared. As he was rising to speak he was praying for guidance. Just as his time had come he caught a glimpse of Krsna das Babaji Maharaja and this one verse from the Padyavali 1.26 came to his mind.
srutim apare smrtim itare
tam anye bhajantu bhava-bhitah
aham iha nandam vande
yasyalinde param brahma
“Those who fear rebirth in this world may follow the advice of the Vedic scriptures – others may follow the Mahabharata – but for me, I follow Nanda Maharaja in whose courtyard the Supreme absolute truth plays as a child.”
He began by saying who could believe that this great grand person, Srila Prabhupada, who was formerly a simple householder disciple of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, who was always struggling to maintain his family had now gone to the west and successfully preached Krsna consciousness, now returned a world famous devotee who was opening such a grand temple. It was as unbelievable as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the cause of all causes, playing as a simple child in the backyard of Nanda Maharaja.
As I stood waiting at the Honolulu airport for the arrival of Srila Govinda Maharaja, I was thinking of the intimate relation between these three great souls. By looking at their relationship I could understand the verse of the Bhagavad-Gita that says:
kathayanta ca mam nityam
tusyanti ca ramanti ca
“… the lives of the great souls are surrendered to Me and they receive great satisfaction and bliss enlightening one another and conversing about Me.”
I knew the three of them had spent much time together and had enlightened one another in Krsna consciousness. I knew Srila Govinda Maharaja and Srila Prabhupada had been trained for their mission by Srila Guru Maharaja. Srila Prabhupada teaching had been sublime and I knew Govinda Maharaja must be also. I didn’t know how it would manifest but it must be auspicious for the world.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.5.11) states that literature (or words) spoken by great souls bring about a revolution in the impious lives of this world’s misdirected civilization. Many calamities had come to the world since Srila Prabhupada’s preaching stopped but now a brighter future would result because of Srila Govinda Maharaja’s coming to the west. He, like Srila Prabhupada, was coming to do good for the people.
tava kathamrtam tapta-jivanam
havbhir iditam halmasupaham
bhur grnanti te bhurida janah
“O Krsna, we are always suffering in this world but just hearing the nectar of Your words and pastimes gives us life and as by-product it removes all of our sinful reactions. This sort of hearing is all auspicious and fills us with spiritual wealth. Those who delivers this message of Godhead are doing the highest relief work for human society and are actually the greatest humanitarians.”
Srila Govinda Maharaja is the greatest humanitarian and he is doing the highest relief work for human society. However his preaching would manifest itself in this world would be for the good of everyone. I knew when his plane landed and he walked through the immigration doors that the whole world again be blessed just as twenty years earlier when Srila Prabhupada walked through those same doors.