In 1985 Śrīla Gurudeva traveled to Śilīguḍī (northwest Bengal) to join the inauguration ceremonies of the Gauḍīya Vedānta Sami’s new center: Śyāmasundara Gauḍīya Maṭha. The train journey from Mathurā lasted two days and nights. Śrīla Gurudeva traveled with a group of brahmacārīs—mostly his junior godbrothers.
Śrīla Gurudeva’s bhajana never ceased under any circumstance.
He always completed his fixed number of rounds even if he was traveling or extremely busy. His unshakable practice included waking, singing prayers to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa and Their associates, and chanting harināma during brāhma-muhūrta. Most of the other maṭhavāsīs (temple residents) woke later or after sunrise, and then carried on with their regular activities.
Feeling responsible for the brahmacārīs’ spiritual well-being, Gurudeva sharply questioned them, “What do you do when you wake up in the morning?”
Receiving only silence and nervous looks in response, Gurudeva admonished the brahmacārīs, saying, “Your life is meant for bhajana and guru-sevā. Why don’t you utilize your valuable time? You left your homes but continue to engage in frivolous activities and think only about eating, sleeping, and idly passing the day. What benefit will come of this? Try to enter into the realm of transcendence. If you don’t, you will not only waste this life, but you will have to be reborn again and again to reap the result of karma performed in your present birth. There is no guarantee you will receive another human body in your next life. You may have to traverse the millions of plant and animal species before again coming to the human platform.”
Śrīla Gurudeva continued, “Amongst all the living entities in the various species of life, taking birth in the human form is extremely rare; yet is even more rare to meet with sādhus, the beloved devotees of Bhagavān.
durlabho mānuṣo deho
tatrāpi durlabhaṁ manye
Among life forms, the human body is rarely attained, and it can be lost at any moment. However, for those who have achieved human life, This is even more rare to come in the association of pure devotees, who are dear to the Lord of Vaikuṇṭha.
“You are so fortunate to be born as humans in the land of dharma,” Śrīla Gurudeva said, “and are even more fortunate to stay in the company of sādhus. But still, you do not value or a upon this opportunity for spiritual progress. I am here and ready to help you, but you are only interested in uselessly passing the time.”
Most of the brahmacārīs were stout and sturdy, but they shifted in their seats like children before Gurudeva, not knowing what to say—dreading the rest of the long journey. Conditioned souls want to roam here and there freely. It is very difficult for them to remain under the watful eye of sādhus.
“Look,” Gurudeva said, “you ould t to seriously perform bhajana and develop a relaon wh the Guru-varga and Bhagavān.
en your life will be successful.”
“How can we do that?” they meekly asked.
“Pray to always have the shelter of the Vaiṣṇavas. Engage in the limbs of devotion and study śāstra under their guidance; then soon all truths will be revealed to you. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam states (6.11.24):
ahaṁ hare tava pādaika-mūla-
dāsānudāso bhavitāsmi bhūyaḥ
manaḥ smaretāsu-pater guṇāṁs te
gṛṇīta vāk karma karotu kāyaḥ
O Lord Hari, will I again be able to become a servant of Your servants who have taken exclusive shelter at Your lotus feet? I pray that my mind always remains engaged in remembering Your transcendental qualities, my words in describing those qualities, and my body in rendering varieties of service to You—the Lord of my life.
“By following bhakti-yoga,” Śrīla Gurudeva said, “you will develop your dormant relation with God and His associates.”
“How should we practice bhakti?”
“Every day you must chant a fixed amount of harināma,” Gurudeva replied. “In Kali-yuga, chanting harināma is the only assured means to achieve spiritual perfection. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam states (6.3.22):
etāvān eva loke ’smin
puṁsāṁ dharmaḥ paraḥ smṛtaḥ
Devotional service to Bhagavān, beginning with the chanting of His holy names, is the ultimate religious principle for all mankind.
yogināṁ nṛpa nirṇītaṁ
The constant chanting of the holy name of the Lord following in the ways of the great authorities is the doubtless and fearless way of success for all, including those who have no material desires, those who desire all kinds of material enjoyment, and those who are self-satisfied with transcendental knowledge.
“Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata (Madhya-khaṇḍa 23.76–8) states:
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
prabhu kahe – kahilāṅ ei mahāmantra
ihā japa, giyā sabe kariyā nirbandha
ihā haite sarva-siddhi haibe sabāra
sarva-kṣaṇa bala’ ithe vidhi nāhi āra
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu said, “Recite this mahāmantra with great love and faith, keeping track of the number of rounds you chant. By this practice, all types of perfection will arise. At every moment utter this mahāmantra, for there are no restrictions on time or circumstance when chanting this mantra.”
Śrīla Gurudeva continued, “As you chant harināma, pray to those personalities in whose hearts Harināma Prabhu always resides.
Śrī Hari is always with the sādhus, thus by developing a relationship with them you will naturally become inclined to remember and chant harināma; whereas if you stay in the company of materialistic people, rather than performing hari-kīrtana, you will become engaged in maya-kīrtana—glorification of the transitory mundane world.
“By regularly and sincerely chanting harināma in sādhu-saṅga, eventually Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes will manifest in your heart, eradicating all difficulties in your life and flooding you with auspiciousness. It is not enough to chant half-heartedly, negligently, or without a prayerful mood. One day you will have to truly follow the process. The first step is to wake up during brāhma-muhūrta, offer obeisance to Śrī Guru, bathe, apply tilaka, and chant your dīkṣā-mantras. Next, worship the guru-paramparā by giving each personality a seat, washing their feet, and offering arghya, ācamana, flowers, abhiśeka, tilaka, cloth, bhoga and ārati. One becomes related to those he serves, receiving their qualities as a result.
“While chanting, remember and offer obeisance to the Vaiṣṇavas, the associates of Mahāprabhu, and the Vrajavāsīs. Pray to them from your heart, ‘Please bestow your mercy on me so that I may develop a sincere desire to always chant the holy names.’ Next, mentally perform parikramā of Gauḍa-maṇḍala, offering praṇāma at all the pastime places of Mahāprabhu and His associates while reciting prayers to Navadvīpa-dhāma and the pañca-tattva. Start parikramā from the lotus feet of your Gurudeva, then visit the prominent places of each of Navadvīpa’s islands.
“In Koladvīpa, have darśana and offer pranāma to Jagannātha dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja’s bhajana-sthalī, as well as Paramatālā—where Praudhamāyā and Vṛddha Śiva reside; visit Samudragaḍa, and Cāṁpāhāṭi. Next, visit Rādha-kuṇḍa and Śyāma-kuṇḍa in Ṛtudvīpa; Jahnu Ṛṣi’s āśrama in Jahnudvīpa; and the birthplace of Vṛndāvana dāsa Ṭhākura in Modadrumadvīpa. From there, go to Sīmantadvīpa via Rudradvīpa, having offered obeisance to Śiva Ṭhākura—the greatest of Vaiṣṇavas. In Sīmantadvīpa, visit Cānda Kāzī’s samādhi and go to Śrīdhara-aṅgana, which lies on the border of Śīmantadvīpa and Antardvīpa. Arriving in Antaradvīpa, or Māyāpura, go to Śrī Caitanya Maṭha, Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda’s samādhi, Śrīvāsa-aṅgana, Yoga-pīṭha and the Gauḍīya Maṭhas established by the disciples of Śrīla Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.
“Next, go to Godrumadvīpa and have darśana of Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura’s Sivānanda-sukhada-kuñja as well as Suvarṇa-vihāra, Harihara-kṣetra, and Nṛśiṁhapalli. Afterward, go to Madhyadvīpa and offer prostrations to the holy places such as Paṅcaveṇī and the place where the seven sages—Marīci, Atri, Aṅgīrā, Pulaha, Kratu, Pulastha, and Vaśiṣṭha—worshiped Mahāprabhu.
“From there, proceed to other places in Gauḍa-maṇḍala such as Ādvaita-bhavana in Śāntipura; Phuliyā—where Haridāsa Ṭhākura did bhajana; Kaṅcanapallī, Kumārahaṭṭa, and also Pāṇīhāṭī—where Nityānanda Prabhu conducted Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī’s daṇḍa-mahotsava. Go to Iśvara Purī’s appearance place and then to Khaḍadaha—where Nityānanda Prabhu stayed after His marriage with Jāhnavā-devī and Vasudhā-devī. Go to the temple of Rādhā-Śyāmasundara in Khaḍadaha; the temple of Rādhā-Nandadulāla which is near Khaḍadaha; Pāṭ-bāḍi, or Varāha-nagara—the place of Bhāgavatācaa; Saptagrāma—within which Uddharaṇa Ṭhakura resided and Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī was born; Jhaḍu Ṭhākura’s place of residence (Bhedo-Bhadvagram); Cākadha—where Maheśa Paṇḍita resided; and the area of Śrī Rāmapura—where Kamalākara Pipalāi resided and a temple of Rādhā-Mādhava is situated.
“Also go to Ambikā-kālnā and offer praṇāma to the residence of Gauridāsa Paṇḍa, Sūryadāsa Paṇḍa, Jāhnavā-Vasudhā, and the Deities of Gaura-Nityānanda Prabhu. Have darśana of Gopīśvara Mahādeva in Bāgnāpāḍā as well as the Deities of Kṛṣṇa-Baladeva known locally as Kānāi-Bālāi. After that, go to the place of Nakula Brahmacārī, Agradvīpa—where the Deity of Gopīnātha who was worshiped by Govinda Ghoṣa presides; Ākāīhāṭa; Jhāmaṭapura—where we offer obeisance to Mīnaketana Rāmadāsa and Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī; Kaṭvā—where Mahāprabhu accepted sannyāsa from Keśava Bhāratī and where the samādhi-mandira of the brothers Jagāi and Mādhāi is located as well as that of Dāsa Gadādhara; Jājīgrāma—where werespect Srinivasa Thakura, Narottama Thakura and Syāmānanda Prabhu as well as Rāmacandra Kavirāja. Continue on to Śrīkhaṇḍa, the abode of Narahari Ṭhākura, Raghunandana Ṭhākura, Mukunda Datta and many eminent associates of Mahāprabhu; Boḍodāṅgā—where Abhirāma Ṭhākura danced in ecstasy with Raghunandana Ṭhākura; Kogrāma—the birthplace of Locana dāsa Ṭhākura; and Vasantī-kuñja (Govinda Gopīnātha).
“From there, proceed to Ekacakra-dhāma—Ntyānanda Prabhu’s birthplace—within which places such as Padmavatī-kuṇḍa, the residence of the Pāṇḍavas, and the temples of Bāṅkima Rāya and Jagannātha-Baladeva-Subhadrā are prominent.
“After thus praying and performing parikramā of Gauḍa-maṇḍala, go to Mahāprabhu’s pastime places in Jagannātha Purī while continuing to chant harināma. First, offer praṇāma to Jagannātha, Baladeva, Subhadrā, and Sudarśana in Śrī Mandira; then to the Garuḍa-stambha; to Mahāprabhu’s footprints; Bimalā-devī, Nṛśiṁhadeva, Kṣīra-corā Gopīnātha, Nīla-mādhava, Lakṣmī-devī, Sūrya-devatā, and Pātāla Śiva, (the shrines of whom are all included witthin the compound of the Śrī Mandira). Before leaving the premises, circumambulate Śrī Mandira four times. Also prostrate yourself at the Mukmaṇḍapa where Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura spoke hari-kathā. Then go to Siddha-bakula and offer praṇāma to the lotus feet of Haridāsa Ṭhākura. Remember Mahāprabhu’s pastimes enacted there under the shade of the bakula tree.
“Next, go to the Gambhīrā and offer praṇāma to Svarūpa Dāmodara, Rāya Rāmānanda, Śikhi-māhīti, Mādhavī-devī, and Mahāprabhu’s other close associates. There, you can pray, ‘Please bestow Your mercy so that I may give up material attachment and have entrance into Vraja. Even a dog can be liberated by Your mercy, but I am worse than a dog, being always absorbed in collecting the excrement of māyā.’
“From the Gambhīrā, go to the house of Sārvabhauma Paṇḍita and have darśana of Śveta-gaṅgā and offer respect to Gaṅgāmātā Gosvāminī. Then go to Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s samādhi and make some kind of offering there. As Mahāprabhu placed Haridāsa Ṭhākura into samādhi on the shore of the ocean, He declared, ‘If anyone offers even one handful of sand or a flower here, he will surely obtain kṛṣṇa-prema.’
“Next, proceed to Caṭaka-parvata, which is the same as Govardhana. Go to Ṭoṭā-Gopīnātha, where Mahāprabhu became deeply absorbed in the gopīs’ moods as He heard the verses of Gopī-gīta and began to search for Gopīnātha in the garden. ‘Where is Gopīnatha?’ Mahāprabhu lamented. In an effort to pacify Him, Svarūpa Dāmodara said, ‘He is in Your heart.’ Mahāprabhu immediately began to tear at His chest with His nails. Svarūpa Dāmodara grabbed His hand and said, ‘Gopīnātha is hiding in the garden of Vraja.’ Hearing this, Mahāprabhu dug in the soil and uncovered the Deity of Gopīnātha. He embraced Gopīnātha and then gave Him to Gadādhara Paṇḍa to worship.
“From Ṭoṭā Gopīnātha, go to where Yamarāja witnesses the desires of those who come to Jagannātha Temple. Yamarāja observes and bestows appropriate results to those who pray for prema-bhakti and those who desire objes of sense enjoyment.
“Go to the appearance place of Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda and to the significant sites within the city of Purī such as Balabandi Udyana, the Guṇḍīcā Temple, Ādi Nṛśiṁhadeva, Indradyumna-sarovara, Cakra-tīrtha, Beḍi Hanumān, Sonāra Gaurāṅga, Lokanātha Śiva, Paramānanda-kūpa, Mārkaṇḍeya-sarovara, and Candana-sarovara.
“Next, go to the Ālālanātha Temple—where Mahāprabhu manifested Rādhā-kuṇḍa and where Brahmājī performed Ālālanātha’s abhiśeka in ancient times. Visit Sakṣī Gopāla and Liṅgarāja in Bhubanesvara, near to which are the temple of Ananta Vāsudeva, Bindu-sarovara, and Kedāra-Gaurī. Do praṇāma to Mahāprabhu’s pāda-pīṭha in Viraja-pura and then to Cuttack—where Mahāprabhu crossed the great river Vaitaraṇī. Proceed from there to Remunā and the temple of Kṣīra-corā Gopīnātha. Also visit the samādhi of Madhavendra Purī. When you have completed your darśana of Śrī Kṣetra-maṇḍala and offered appropriate prayers, proceed to Vraja-maṇḍala.
“Enter Vṛndāvana from Keśi-ghāṭa, the place on the bank of the Yamunā where Kṛṣṇa killed the Keśi demon. We have such a demoniac nature towards the Vrajavāsīs, bhakti, bhajana—and this is keeping us far from Vraja. One can be staying in the dhāma, but if his mind and nature are impure, he will not be present in the true sense.
Hence, pray at Keśi-ghāṭa, ‘O Madhusūdana, hey Keśava, please destroy my demoniac nature.’ From there, go to Vaṁśīvaṭa, Gopeśvara Mahādeva and Baelvana—where Lakṣmī-devī performs austerities to gain entrance into Vraja. Next, go to Madana-ṭera, where Kṛṣṇa played his flute and called all the cows. Afterward, go to Kāliya-daha and Prabhodānanda Sarasvatī’s samādhī-mandira, the Madana-mohana Temple and Sanātana Gosvāmī’s samādhi-mandira, then to Imlītālā, Śṛṅgāravaṭa, Jhāḍu-maṇḍala, and the Jagannātha Temple. Then proceed to Pānī-ghāṭa, Ṭaṭīyā-sthāna, Aṭalavana, Davanala-kuṇḍa and Sevā-kuñja.
“Next perform parikramā of Rādhā Dāmodara, Rādhā Śyāmasundara, Nidhuvana, Rādhā Ramaṇa, Rādhā Gokulānanda; and don’t neglect the samādhi-mandiras of Lokanātha dāsa Gosvāmī, Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura, and Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura. Continue on and have darśana of Rādhā Gopīnātha—the life and soul of Madhu Paṇḍita. Then go to Rādhā Giridhārī and other temples and pastime places of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and our ācāryas in Vṛndāvana.
“After going to these places, proceed to Māna-sarovara—where Kṛṣṇa pacified Śrīmatī Rādhārani’s māna; Bhāṇḍīravana, Māṭavana—where the sakhās stayed after Kṛṣṇa left Vṛndāvana and where the animals and birds weep even to this day; Dāūjī, Brahmāṇḍa-ghāṭa, Gokula—where Kṛṣṇa delivered the sons of Kuvera; Ramaṇa-retī, Rāval, Lohavana and then Mathurā. Perform parikramā of Mathurā and have darśana of the principal places such as Ādi-Keśavadeva, Mathurā-devī, and Viśrāma-ghāṭa. Then go to Madhuvana, Tālavana, Kumudavana, Bahulavana, and Govardhana.
“Do parikramā of Govardhana, offering praṇāma at Dāna-ghāṭī, Dāna-nartana-kuṇḍa, Govinda-kuṇḍa, Apsarā-kuṇḍa, Navala-kuṇḍa, Kadamba-khaṇḍī, Gopālajiu, Mukhāravinda, Cakleśvara Mahādeva, Uddhava-kuṇḍa, Rādhā-kuṇḍa, Śyāma-kuṇḍa, Kusuma-sarovara, Mānasī Gaṅgā, and Harideva.
“Afterwards, visit Sūrya-kuṇḍa, Karehlā and Kāmāī—the birthplaces of Lalā and Viśākhā respectively. Next, proceed to Varsānā, offering praṇāma at Dānagaḍa, Mānagaḍa, Vilāsagaḍa, Bhānagaḍa. From there, go to Bajarā—Sudevī-sakhī’s birth place; Uncagaon, Sakhīgiri-parvata, Prema-sarovara, Sāṅketa, Uddhava-kyārī Tera-kadamba, Lalita-kunda, Nandagāon, Nanda-bhavana, Pāvana-sarovara, Sanātana Gosvāmī’s bhajana-kuṭīra, Vrnda-kunda, Choti, Caraṇa-pahadi, Kāmyavana, Vimala-kuṇḍa, the temple of Vrnda-devi, Kāmeśvara Mahādeva, Bhojana-thali, Pichala-pahadi, Caraṇa-pahāḍī, Kedārnātha, Badrī-Nārāyaṇa, Kokilavana, Jāvaṭa, Baṭhan, Vihāravana, Rāma-ghāṭa, Akṣayavaṭa, Nanda-ghāṭa,
Cīra-ghāṭa, Bhayagāon, Vatsavana, and Garuḍa-Govinda.”
Śrīla Gurudeva concluded, “In the beginning stage, the sādhaka cannot perform aṣṭa-kālīya-līlā–smaraṇa—meditation on Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s eight-fold daily pastimes—but if he ever wants to advance, he must chant harināma while internally going on parikramā of these holy places every day. Parikramā should be done in the guidance of the Guru-varga while begging for their mercy.
“Even if a dog comes to a person’s door daily, he will one day be given a piece of bread. After some days, he will become a member of the household. Similarly, if you pray every day to the Guru-varga and go to Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and Mahāprabhu’s pastime places, you will surely achieve Their mercy and make your human birth successful—of this there is no doubt. Hence, don’t waste your time. Memorize the stavas, stutis, and aṣṭakams and pray every day from the core of your heart while internally going on parikramā of the holy dhāma.”
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (Excerpted from the Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Sri Guru Darshan”. Available from firstname.lastname@example.org )