In the late 1980’s and early 90’s, Śrīla Gurudeva received regular visits at his headquaters in Mathurā by various GBC members and senior disciples of Śrīla Bhaktedānta Svāmī Mahārāja including:
Tamāl Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja, Satsvarūpa Mahārāja, Girirāja Svāmī, Śarāma Svāmī, Dhanudhara Mahārāja, Āyodhyāpa Prabhu, Pārthasārathī Prabhu, Jadurānī Devī, Jagatarini Devī, Burijana dāsa, and Karta Devī. Gopal Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja, Rādhānatha Mahārāja, Sarvabhavana Prabhu, Pūrṇa Prabhu, and Nirjana Prabhu would also occasionally visit and hear hari-kathā from Śrīla Gurudeva. Most of the devotees who came to see Gurudeva were itinerant preachers with varying schedules, thus Gurudeva was visited intermittently throughout the year. Fulfilling his promise to give guidance to Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja’s disciples, Śrīla Gurudeva always found time for them even amidst his busy schedule and personal bhajana.
Śrīla Gurudeva welcomed the devotees to Keśavajī Gauḍīya Maṭha and ensured they were served a hearty breakfast. Patiently, Gurudeva explained the exalted truths of the Gauḍīya Guru-varga for an hour or more—illuminating the esoteric imports of the following books: Vilāpa-kusumāñjali, Rādhā-rasa-sudhā-nidhi, Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, Śrī Rāsa-pañcādhyāyī, Mādhurya-kaḍambinī, Rāga-vartma-candrikā, Harināma-cintāmaṇi, Jaiva-dharma, and Manaḥ-śikṣā. Hari-kathā once concluded, the guests stayed for noon ārati and lunch. Thereafter, their mind and hearts suffused with nectarean hari-kathā, and bellies filled with sumptuous prasāda, they returned to their residences, eager for more revelations.
The GBC sannyāsīs urged Śrīla Gurudeva to speak on elevated subject matters. They were eager to hear of the love of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and the path to attain the Divine Couple’s inmate service. Much of Śrīla Gurudeva’s hari-kathā was recorded, and what was preserved formed the basis for later publications. On the recordings, Śrīla Gurudeva is sometimes heard saying, “I am hesitant to speak about these high topics.” The sannyāsīs would repeatedly entreat Gurudeva to speak. One said, “How can we prove we will not misuse what you tell us?” And another, “If you don’t explain this, then the senior ISKCON devotees will go to Rādhā-kuṇḍa to hear from the bābājīs.”
“That is why I have agreed,” Gurudeva said, and he mercifully continued.
Śrīla Gurudeva spent a week on the first verses of Vilāpa-kusumāñjali. “These things take time,” he said, “we will go slowly.”
“Yes, yes. As you like,” his keen hearers said.
“Your devotional activities are considered actual sādhana,” Gurudeva said, “when they are aimed at the attainment of bhāva—spiritual ecstasy—and svarūpa-siddhi, your spiritual form. For one who pursues spiritual perfection, all material aspirations act as impediments. Therefore, during the cultivation of your creeper of devotion, you must be extremely wary of dangerous material desires that a like weeds to choke your spiritual sentiment and aspirations.”
ISKCON devotees would regularly a Śrīla Gurudeva about the ultimate goal of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. In ISKCON, many aspire to serve Kṛṣṇa with fraternal or parental affection. Some think the goal is to be an attendant of Rukmiṇī in Dvārakā, or Sītā in Ayodhyā. Others seek residence in Vaikuṇṭha, and others seek one of the four kinds of liberation. Most of the preachers focus on teaching rudimentary spiritual knowledge. They glorify different spiritual attainments as supreme, unclear or unaware about the ultimate goal.
Śrīla Gurudeva clarified, “The highest aspiration of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas is to become the maidservant of Śrīmatī Rādhikā, acting under guidance of Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī.”
“What is the specific meaning of a mañjarī?” the devotees asked.
“Creepers and flowers have what are called mañjarīs,” Gurudeva said. “The mañjarī (extra floral nectary) appears first and is located above the flower. When a bee comes to sit on the flower and drink s nectar, the mañjarīs tremble. Kṛṣṇa is likened to a bee and Śrīmatī Rādhikā and Her gopī expansions are likened to the flowers, whom He meets and performs loving pastimes with. Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s maidservants are the mañjarīs. Although the ‘bee’ does not sit on the mañjarī, the mañjarī trembles in bliss, feeling as if the bee is sitting on her. Whatever the ‘flower’ experiences in those pastimes manifests on the mañjarī and is felt by her, so there is no need for the bee to go directly to her. If the bee kisses the flower, the mañjarī feels that ‘the bee has kissed me.’
“In fact, the mañjarīs relish something special, which even the flower does not, in the sense that the flower does not tremble as the mañjarī does. The maidservants of Śrīmatī Rādhikā experience a pleasure in being Her maidservant that She Herself does not experience.
“In his prayers, Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī aspires to be a mañjarī, not a flower. He did not want sakhi-bhāva (the mood of Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s friends like Lalitā and Viśākhā, who have direct relationships with Śrī Kṛṣṇa). Do you understand? Herein lies the importance of the mañjarīs. In our sampradāya, no one wants to be Śrī Rādhā’s sakhī; they only want to be Her mañjarī. This is the highest possible attainment for the jīva and is the ultimate goal of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas.”
“Hearing these topics from you is very inspiring,” a sannyāsī member of the GBC said. “When we read about or hear these topics from others it is dry and abstract. But it becomes clear and reliable from you.”
Another sannyāsī asked, “Should we preach these topics to the members of ISKCON? We will forget what you have told us if we don’t repeat it.”
“When preaching to neophytes and the public,” Gurudeva said, “you should speak on introductory topics, such as how we are not the body and how the nature of the soul is to serve God. Higher subjects can be discussed with those who are more advanced.”
“We feel a special joy hearing from you,” a sannyāsī said, “and we want to share it. Some of us feel we are hiding something from our disciples. But in our position we must be cautious; they can hear when they are prepared.”
One of the GBC sannyāsīs said, “Some devotees in our ISKCON think, ‘Prabhupāda only taught us vaidhī-bhakti and we don’t want to hear anything else.’ And we sometimes come into conflict with that mentality because we are trying to learn more. And they say, ‘No, to be faithful to Prabhupāda you don’t require more than what you find in the books.’ But actually, when we look at the books, we see there is more than they say there is in the books.”
“Because we need assurance,” another GBC sannyāsī member said. “We don’t want to think, ‘Oh, I am not going to Prabhupāda, I am going to some other source.’ But we want more. We need more.”
“Everything is present or hinted at in your Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books,” Śrīla Gurudeva said. “Those who say otherwise are not seeing what is there. But also, he has purposefully left something for you to hear afterward. He wants you to advance, not to always remain studying the ABC’s. There is a gradual process of development in devotional life that you must follow.
“You should also know, your Prabhupāda would have continued writing if he remained longer in this world. He would have composed commentaries on the esoteric works of the Gosvāmīs, such as Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi and Vilāpa-kusumañjali. However, since he left of his own will with work unfinished, I understand that he has left some remnants for me to teach in his place. Don’t think I am acting independently of him when explaining these topics to you. He requested me time and again to guide his disciples and followers, so I am acting on his behalf.”
The ISKCON leaders once asked Śrīla Gurudeva: “Please tell us what rasa Śrīla Prabhupāda was in and, if we are qualified to hear, please disclose his spiritual identity.”
Hesitant to speak about this, Gurudeva said, “I fear you may misuse or misrepresent what I say.”
“Please do not keep this hidden from us,” they said. “How can we properly serve Prabhupāda if we don’t understand his spiritual identity?”
After persistent requests, Gurudeva consented and said, “Śrīla Prabhupāda is in mādhurya-rasa. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta it is said:
kṛṣṇa-śakti vinā nahe tāra pravartana
“Without Kṛṣṇa’s śakti, one cannot preach. The greatest preachers are always expansions of Kṛṣṇa’s śakti. Those who are not the pālya-dāsīs of Śrīmatī Rādhikā cannot preach kṛṣṇa-nāma and read kṛṣṇa-prema.”
The ISKCON sannyāsīs then asked, “Sometimes Śrīla Prabhupāda mentioned that he wanted to be with the sakhās going to the forest with Kṛṣṇa. And he established the Kṛṣṇa Balarāma temple in Rāmaṇ Reti at Vṛndāvana. Why would he speak like this, or make a Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma temple if he wasn’t in sakhya-rasa?”
“Without Rādhikā’s desire,” Gurudeva said, “there is no pracara of sakhya-rasa. The sakhās don’t go for preaching; the sakhīs and mañjarīs preach. It is true that Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja made a temple in Rāmaṇ Reti, but the preaching was done by the vraja-gopīs. Sakhās always play with Kṛṣṇa without thoughts of anything else. Also, if Svāmījī was in sakhya-rasa, then in all his temples he would worship Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma and not Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, and he would not sing ‘jaya rādhā mādhava kuñja-bihārī.’ In Māyāpura, he establied Rādhā-Mādhava and the aṣṭa-sakhīs. Also in Rāmaṇ Reti he established Rādhā-Śyāmasundara, not just Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma. Mādhurya-rasa includes all other rasas but sakhya-rasa does not.”
“According to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī,” Śrīla Gurudeva continued, “the qualities of all five prominent rasas are present within mādhurya-rasa, so there is no contradiction when Prabhupāda prays to go with Kṛṣṇa to the forest with the sakhās. The gopīs also pray to be with Kṛṣṇa when He is in the forest, and sometimes the gopīs dress as sakhās, on days like Gopāṣṭamī, and then play with Kṛṣṇa in the forest like sakhās. Around the world, the Deities of Rādhikā are all dressed as sakhās on Gopāṣṭamī, so we see there is no contradiction that Śrīla Prabhupāda is in mādhurya-rasa when he prays like this. So, your Svāmī Prabhupāda’s mood is in śṛṅgāra-rasa in Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa’s sevā. I know this practically; but to convince you, many arguments are given.”
When the sannyāsīs asked again for Gurudeva to reveal Prabhupāda’s transcendental form, Śrīla Gurudeva replied, “Realization of your Prabhupāda’s spiritual form will dawn when he bestows his mercy, seeing you qualified, after you have chanted your guru-mantras and harināma while meditating on him with single minded absorption. There would be no benefit for you if I told you prematurely Prabhupāda’s spiritual identity. This will be realized when you are ready to serve internally in that world.”
The GBC sannyāsīs also asked Śrīla Gurudeva about practical matters and how to deal with sensitive issues in ISKCON. One day, some of the men asked Gurudeva, “Is it favorable for our bhakti to do exercise and yoga? Because we feel it necessary for our health, so that we are able to maintain our service.”
“Any activity which encourages or inspires puruṣa–bhāva is not favorable for vraja-bhakti,” Śrīla Gurudeva said. “Extensive exercise and activities like wrestling enhance the male false ego. You should be careful that everything you do is favorable to your aspired position as an associate of Kṛṣṇa. If you aspire to be a sakhā, then you can wrestle. The body is temporary, like a vehicle, so it should be maintained, but only as much as necessary, and without attachment to it. Too much exercise will develop more absorption in the body and less thought of the soul.”
“If we don’t exercise we have difficulty digesting and have little energy.”
“You should dance more in kīrtana,” Gurudeva suggested.
When the men exchanged sly glances, Gurudeva asked, “You do do kīrtana? Do you not?”
“Most of our time is engaged in writing, meetings, administrate work, and preaching,” one sannyāsī said.
“Try to save your inner bhāva by any means,” Śrīla Gurudeva advised. “If there is no spiritual sentiment then all activities are useless. Once a slight greed awakens for vraja-bhakti, reject everything opposed to the cultivation of vraja-bhāva. If you desire gopī-bhāva, then dance in kīrtana and perform services favorable to the development of that mood.”
“What if we haven’t come to that stage, but we want to? Should we stop exercising?”
“You should not imitate. Still, from the beginning you can do what is favorable, even if you are not on the higher stages.”
“What to speak of exercise, so much of our work develops puruṣa–bhāva, because we are managing ISKCON.”
“You are doing it for guru-sevā,” Gurudeva said. “Anything you do that is actually guru-sevā will help you advance.”
Once, an ISKCON sannyāsī gave harināma initiation to an aspirant without permission from the GBC, and they then suspended him from preaching and giving initiations. He came to Śrīla Gurudeva and asked him to intervene in his favor. Gurudeva brought the subject up to the GBC sannyāsīs who had pushed to instigate the ban. They argued in s favor. “If you get involved with all these small matters,” Śrīla Gurudeva said, “how will you do sādhana-bhajana? When you chant, all these issues will come in your mind, and you won’t remember Kṛṣṇa. You are in a large society. If you are too strict, many people will leave ISKCON. This sannyāsī only gave harināma to one person. Now if he creates propaganda it could cause so much more headache and tension. Focus on your own sādhana, and don’t delve into these politics so much; Kṛṣṇa will take care of these things.” The next day the sannyāsī in question came and informed Gurudeva that the ban had been removed.
In circa 1990 the king of Chaarpura, from near Gvalior, Madhya Prade, offered to donate land wh a building in Govardhana to Śrīla Gurudeva. Śrīla Gurudeva accepted the land. Soon after, Tamāla Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja and Girirāja Mahārāja from ISKCON requested Śrīla Gurudeva for the land.
Śrīla Gurudeva agreed to donate it to ISKCON. He went there with a group of devotees, did arcana of Girirāja, and later registered the property over to ISKCON in Tamāl Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja’s name.
Śrīla Gurudeva told Tamāl Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja and other ISKCON leader’s. “Make your Srila Prabupāda’s bhajana-kuṭīra here. He resides in this place eternally. For this reason, I offer this proper to his servants. Nearby is Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s caraṇa–śīla—a stone of Girirāja where Her footprints are present. Kṛṣṇa placed His head at Her feet at this site, and therefore it is one of the holiest sites for Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. By honoring that place, where the red minerals that anointed Her lotus feet have touched, your hearts can be colored wh anurāga. Your Prabhupāda resides here eternally.”
The GBC sannyāsīs named the property the Bhaktivedānta-āśrama, and told Śrīla Gurudeva, “We will always keep a room here reserved for you. You can come stay here whenever you like.” However, a few years later, the ISKCON leaders changed their position towards Śrīla Gurudeva and banned him from ISKCON properties and threatened anyone from ISKCON who regularly heard from him with expulsion.
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (excerpted from “Sri Guru Darshan”, available from: [email protected] )