sri sri guru gauranga jayatah!
Issue 23, Monthly Centennial Edition
Posted: 19 September 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
Memories of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja
Śrīpāda Rasika-rañjana prabhu and Śrīpāda Govardhana Bābājī Mahārāja
Appearing in English for the first time
Memories by Śrīpāda Rasika-rañjana prabhu
[Śrīpāda Rasika-rañjana prabhu is a householder disciple of Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja]
Does a serpent also desire to hear bhāgavata-kathā?
This following incident took place in the month of Agrahāyaṇa (Nov–Dec) in the year 1966.
While preaching in different areas of Bengal, pūjyapāda Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja brought his auspicious presence to the home of my sister, who lived in the village Sāgara-bhaṅga in the district of Birbhum. That evening, a program of hari-kathā was organized. In those days, there was no electricity in that rural area, so the program took place by lantern-light. Pūjyapāda Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja spoke hari-kathā in his usual natural and calm manner. Suddenly, a large cobra appeared there. It positioned itself right in front of Śrīla Mahārāja’s vyāsāsana, very close, making its coil and raising its hood. We were fearful for Śrīla Mahārāja.There was a big uproar and some of the audience were ready to strike that snake. Pūjyapāda Mahārāja, however, spoke words of caution to us: “Like all of you, this nāgarāja (king of snakes) has come here to hear hari-kathā. There is no reason to fear it. It will not harm you in any way and you should not try to harm it. Sit down peacefully. I am granting you fearlessness.”
Hearing these words from Śrīla Mahārāja, everyone peacefully sat down in their respective places, even though, in their minds, they were still scared. Śrīla Mahārāja continued his hari-kathā, the snake peacefully hearing it and looking at pūjyapāda Mahārāja. From time to time it moved its hood from side to side. Śrīla Mahārāja was absorbed in speaking hari-kathā and his eyes were closed. After about ten minutes, the snake slowly slithered away. The audience again became restless, fearing that it may later harm someone, and again, Śrīla Mahārāja asked the audience to remain peaceful. Without harming anybody, that snake disappeared from our sight into the darkness of the night.
I personally witnessed the whole incident. Everyone there was astonished. “Does a serpent also desire to hear hari-kathā?” we wondered. We later put this question to Śrīla Maharaja, who replied, “Although that jīvais in the body of a snake, he may be a special sādhaka. When you all people were restlessly making an uproar, the snake was not slightly disturbed and showed no vicious tendency.”
Śrīla Mahārāja easily understood the snake. There is a saying that a jeweller can easily recognize a jewel. We were seeing the snake with external vision, as a poisonous cobra, but Śrīla Mahārāja was not seeing that external form; he was seeing the inherent nature.
That snake was blessed to hear hari-kathā from Śrīla Mahārāja. Such is Śrīla Mahārāja’s speciality [seeing beyond the external form]. Or maybe that snake was none other than Anantadeva Himself, who appeared to manifest the glory of His own devotee.
“What, I am untouchable?”
One day Śrīpāda Dhanañjaya prabhu and I went with pūjyapāda Vāmana Mahārāja for darśana of Mandāra Hill*. After taking darśana [of the temple] on the crest of Mandāra, we came to the temple at its base and honoured prasāda. We were then quartered in the dharmaśālā to take rest. In the evening, the paṇḍā gave us purī and sabjī prasāda to honour and he put a sheet and blanket on the large bed for us to rest on.
* Lord Kürma carried Mandara Mountain on His back when the milk ocean was being churned to produce the nectar of immortality.
Dhanañjaya prabhu and I were hesitant to sleep on the same bed as Śrīla Mahārāja and remained sitting on the floor. Seeing this, Śrīla Mahārājajī asked us, “What, I am untouchable (aspṛśya)? You cannot take rest next to me?”
Thus obliged, we also rested on that bed.
The next day we took a bus from Mandāra to Dumka [presently in the state of Jharkhand, previously in the state of Bihar]. Due to a strike in Dumka, there was no rickshaw wallah at the bus stand when we arrived, to take us to our destination of Dhadi, eight miles away. I was wondering how we would get there when pūjyapāda Mahārāja said, “Do we not have feet?”
We thus journeyed to the village of Dhadi by foot. Pūjyapāda Mahārāja walked so fast that we had to run to keep up with him.
Memories by Śrīpāda Govardhana Bābājī Mahārāja
[Śrīpāda Govardhana Bābājī Mahārāja, previously Śrī Nṛsiṁhānanda Brahmacārī, is a disciple of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja and was his personal servant for many years.]
My fortune to behold their love for each other
The teachings of Śrīla Guru Mahārāja and the teachings of pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja were of the same nature. I have seen that although a person endlessly endeavours to cause dissension between Śrīla Guru Mahārāja and pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, those two personalities could never be separated. Each ācārya has a unique speciality, but that does not mean that they actually differ [in tattva-siddhānta]. We were fortunate to behold their love (prīti) for each another.
Once, the day before pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja was to arrive in Kolkata from his first preaching tour abroad, Guru Mahārāja said to everyone, “Go and decorate the temple very nicely. Also nicely decorate the room that Śrīla Mahārāja will be staying in.” In the evening Guru Mahārāja went to the temple for darśana and saw that it had not been decorated. “If none of you have the time to do it, I will personally collect the flowers.” Hearing him say this, the brahmacārīs immediately went to the market and brought many kinds of flowers and other decorations. They nicely decorated Ṭhākurajī’s temple and then went to Guru Mahārāja’s room to decorate it. Guru Mahārāja said, “First ṭhākura-sevā, after that, vaiṣṇava-sevā, and after that, my sevā. Even though there is no need to decorate my room, if Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja sees it not decorated [but that his own room is decorated], it will make him feel uneasy. Our only aim is the pleasure and satisfaction of guru and Vaiṣṇavas, so decorate my room as well.”
When pūjyapāda Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja arrived, Guru Mahārāja greeted him in the temple room hall (nāṭya-mandira). When they went upstairs, they offered praṇāma to each other. Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja stayed in the Kolkata maṭha for five to six days. Every day, Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja would come to see Guru Mahārāja. If for some reason he did not come, Guru Mahārāja would go to meet with him.
How much harināma did you chant today?
No one ever dared to complain about any Vaiṣṇava [including one’s god-brothers] in front of Śrīla Guru Mahārāja, because whenever someone came to him to do so, Guru Mahārāja would ask him, “How much harināma have you chanted today? Go and chant harināma. Do not criticize or gossip about anyone. It is not necessary for you to look at what each Vaiṣṇava is doing. Śrīla Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Prabhupāda, and Śrī Rādhā-vinoda-bihārī are there to take care of it.”
In this way, no one in the vicinity of Guru Mahārāja was able to criticize any Vaiṣṇava. These days, however, many so-called devotees, thinking that Gurujī is not present (that he has left this world), are engrossed in such criticism.
[Translated by the Rays of The Harmonist team
from Śrī Śrī Bhāgavata Pātrikā, Year-18, Issue 1-9,
Śrīla Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja Centennial Special Edition-1]