sri sri guru gauranga jayatah!
Issue 13, Fortnightly Centennial Edition
Posted: 28 December 2021
In honour of the centennial appearance year of
nitya-līlā-praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda
Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Māhārāja
Dedicated to and Inspired by
nitya-līlā-praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda
Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Māhārāja
Remembering nitya-līlā-praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda
Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja
Excerpts from Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja's Foreword to
A True Servant, A True Master – Letters from Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Māhārāja
Presented in English for the first time
The speciality of the rūpānuga ācāryas
So, what does rūpānuga mean? One who follows Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s ācāra (conduct) and vicāra (conceptions) exclusively, who knows the service he renders in his eternal svarūpa (his svarūpa-gata-sevā) and who grants his disciples the desire, or aspiration, to serve in that same way is a rūpānuga ācārya. This is our sampradāya.
First, long ago, Śrī Nāradajī came and gave service in the mood of dāsya-rasa. Other great ācāryas have also come, even incarnations of Bhagavān have come, but they could not even approach the vicinity of what Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu gave. And Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, in a natural and spontaneous manner, infused Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s heart with all of what He came to give. Where did He do this? In Prayāga first, and then in Purī. One who can take those moods of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu into his heart and convey them to the hearts of his followers is truly one of our rūpānuga Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava ācāryas.
This is why Śrīla Prabhupāda referred to Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura as mahā-mahā-vadānya. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu is mahā-vadānya, but Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura distributed what He came to give on a brand-new golden platter. What, then, is Śrīla Prabhupāda like? What did he do? He revealed Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura, as well as the whole guru-paramparā, Śrīman Mahāprabhu, and Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. Those who reveal to us a personality such as Śrīla Prabhupāda are truly revered. We are so fortunate to have taken birth close to the time of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s associates. I came not long after, yet it is my misfortune that I could not take what Śrīla Prabhupāda gave. All those associates of his took that. Pūjyapāda Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Mahārāja is one of those associates. Our fortune is that we could have the association of those who received Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instruction. If we can grasp their conduct and conceptions and enter the realm of bhagavad-bhakti, then we will be greatly fortunate.
Pūjyapāda Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Mahārāja’s early life in the maṭha
Śrīla Prabhupāda was in this rūpānuga guru-paramparā and he had many associates. In a very short time, they preached throughout the whole world the message that was practised and preached by Śrīman Mahāprabhu. Of them, my gurudeva, nitya-līlā-praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja was foremost, and he [Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja] is his foremost disciple. Some identify with their families, with their mothers or fathers, but his identity was as a disciple of our guru mahārāja. His mother was a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda. Her name was Śrīmatī Bhagavatī-devī. His father was a disciple of our guru mahārāja. Almost everyone else in his family – his brothers, his father, and most of his uncles – was a disciple of Guru Mahārāja. His mother, however, had, before any of them, taken shelter of Śrīla Prabhupāda. She entrusted pūjyapāda Vāmana Mahārāja into the care of our guru mahārāja at a very young age.
Guru Mahārāja was like his father, and Śrī Narahari Prabhu, known as the mother of the Gauḍīya Maṭha, raised and nurtured him. Even if some of the boys wet their beds at night, Narahari Prabhu would clean it up. He would make sure they all got to bed on time, and then he would wake them up in the morning and bring them to maṅgala-ārati. He fed them and taught them how to read and write. He took care of everyone very lovingly. That is why there were so many people in the maṭha back then. People will only be attracted to guru if he gives them more love than they receive from their families and the rest of the world. Therefore, guru has to be loving like this. Then he can attract everyone.
Pūjyapāda Vāmana Mahārāja’s childhood name was Santoṣa. He was originally from the Khulna district, but from childhood, he was raised here in the Gauḍīya Maṭha. Guru Mahārāja enrolled him in the Bhaktivinoda Institute. Guru Mahārāja taught him everything. He would give Santoṣa a “lemon juice” (candy) for every verse he memorized, so he would memorize up to a dozen verses or more a day. He lived in the āśrama [at Śrī Caitanya Maṭha] and went to school there [at the Bhaktivinoda Institute next to Yogapīṭha]. There were many other boys who went to school with him, but none of them remained brahmacārīs or took sannyāsa. Most of them left. A few remained. Everyone else left.
From childhood, pūjyapāda Vāmana Mahārāja had a profound love of learning, but he also served. He would set plates for everyone, set their āsanas, put salt and lemon on their plates, sweep and clean up after prasāda, bring everyone drinking water for the day, and also cut and prepare the vegetables for cooking. This is one of the main services in a Vaiṣṇava temple – cutting vegetables. He was so quick at cutting vegetables, you can’t imagine. You would look away for a moment, and chop, chop, chop, he would be done, and every piece would be the exact same size, none too big or small.
During our guru mahārāja’s time, we lived together a lot of the time. We and one or two others used to go preaching together with Guru Mahārāja, in Medinipur, Chaubis Pargana, and so many other places, so we had time to get to know many things about each other. Pūjyapāda Vāmana Mahārāja told us that once there was a flood in Māyāpura and he got stuck in the flood. He had taken a boat out into the river, when suddenly, a strong current came and swept his boat and him away. It was a very precarious situation. Somehow or other, he caught hold of a tree and brought the boat over to it. But then he noticed that the tree was full of snakes. They had no place to go, so they had sought refuge in the tree. There were snakes everywhere. It was very risky, especially since one could have fallen on him. Nevertheless, he said he had to just cling to the tree, chanting Bhagavān’s names, and after a while, some people spotted him and rescued him.
Praying for the mercy of an extraordinary guru-sevaka
I lived with pūjyapāda Vāmana Mahārāja for almost sixty years and had the opportunity to closely observe and understand him. He possessed all the qualities that are inherent in a Vaiṣṇava. By nature, he was simple, grave, humble, tolerant, overflowing with guru-niṣṭhā and inclined to serve the Vaiṣṇavas. This situated him on a high level of bhakti. His guru-niṣṭhā was astounding. With his life in his hands, he would step forward and offer himself in the service of Guru Mahārāja. Guru-niṣṭhā is the backbone of bhakti. I have seen many guru-sevakas, but pūjyapāda Vamana Mahārāja’s service to Guru Mahārāja with his body, mind, words, and sentiments was extraordinary. In this world, such a guru-sevaka is rare. We pray to him that while engaged in the eternal service of Śrī Gurudeva and Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, he be merciful upon us all so that we can also perform guru-sevā with niṣṭhā like him and thus dedicate our lives to śrī guru and his mission.
Translated by Rays of The Harmonist team