Srīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja left home to find a transcendental guru and traveled extensively to the major holy places in India.
He also visited Vraja-maṇḍala. Since all trains to Vraja make a stop in Mathurā, Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja decided to visit the holy places in Mathurā before moving on to Vṛndāvana. And since Śrī Keśavajī Gauḍīya Maṭha was renowned as a place for sādhus to stay freely on the courtesy of Śrīmad Bhaktedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja, he made his way to the temple. Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja was given praśadam and a place to stay. He resided in the Keśavajī Gauḍīya Maṭha dharmaśālā for five days and from there, visited the various darśana places in Mathurā. During this time he conversed with the resident sādhus of the maṭha. They would blissfully speak hari-kathā for hours on end every day. They encouraged him to go to Vṛndāvana and meet Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Svāmī Mahārāja. He followed their advice and went to Vṛndāvana, where he surrendered at the lotus feet of Śrīla Prabhupāda, who warmly embraced him and promptly gave him initiation. Shortly after, Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “I will give you sannyāsa.”
Some GBC sannyāsīs said, “He is brand new. He should go through a trial period before being granted sannyāsa.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda asked those who spoke up, saying, “You are the brand new babies to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. He has been surrendered to Kṛṣṇa since infancy. He is much elder and more qualifed than you.”
Hence, Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja soon received sannyāsa from Śrīla Prabhupāda. He was given the responsibility to translate Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books into Oriyā, preach, in Odia, and develop a center in Bhubaneswar. Before his departure, Śrīla Prabhupāda instructed Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja to make disciples. Over the following years, Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja occasionally met with Śrīla Gurudeva and discussed siddhānta with him.
Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja had a good relation with all Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. He occasionally met with Vaiṣṇavas from the Gauḍīya Vedānta Samītī and they would speak hari-kathā together. In the fall of 1995, while Śrīla Gurudeva was residing in the Singania Guesthouse in Jagannātha Purī, along with Navīna-kṛṣṇa Prabhu and Śubha-kṛṣṇa Prabhu, Gour Govinda Mahārāja came from Bhubaneswar to meet with Śrīla Gurudeva. Satsvarūpa Mahārāja happened to be staying in the same guesthouse.
Navīna-kṛṣṇa Prabhu answered the door and gave him a chair.
“I have a big body. I need a big chair,” Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja said.
Navīna-kṛṣṇa Prabhu gave him a chair and offered him a glass of water.
“I have not come to drink water,” Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja said, “I have come to drink nectar from Mahārāja’s mouth. What is Mahārāja doing?”
“He is taking rest,” Navīna-kṛṣṇa Prabhu replied.
“Then don’t disturb him.”
But Navīna-kṛṣṇa Prabhu went and informed Śrīla Gurudeva. When Śrīla Gurudeva came out of his room, Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja offered his full prostrated obeisance, and Gurudeva returned the respectful gesture. They then warmly embraced each other.
“I told this boy not to disturb you,” Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja said.
“How can I take rest when a Vaiṣṇava has come?” Gurudeva replied.
“ISKCON is making so much trouble for me. I am in so much pain. I cannot preach the way I want. They say that I am junior to them. I would also like to bring you to Bhubaneswar, but you know the situation in ISKCON. I fear they will make problems for me. That’s why I came here in the afternoon when Satsvarūpa Mahārāja is not here, so that no one would see me. I only came with one servant.”
“My Gurudeva is Śrī Ācārya Kesarī,” Gurudeva said. “He was like a lion. I am also like a lion. I don’t fear to invite anyone to my maṭha.”
Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja lamented to Srila Gurudeva about the jīva-tattva resolution in ISKCON. “Now they are voting on siddhānta,” he said, “and they are turning Prabhupāda’s mission into an apasampradāya. But it cannot last. Śrīla Gour Govinda Svāmī then said, “Mahārāja, I would like to discuss with you in detail about rāgānuga-bhakti and rūpānuga-bhakti.”
For an hour Śrīla Gurudeva spoke with Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja about elevated siddhānta, especially in regard to rāgānuga-bhakti, Jagannātha Purī, and the mood of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī when She sees Kṛṣṇa in Kurukṣetra.
At the end of their conversation, Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja said, “I want to speak more about such topics, but the GBC are opposing it.”
“You are so fortunate to have such an exalted guru in the line of Rūpa Gosvāmī,” Śrīla Gurudeva said. “If we don’t speak about the pastimes of Bhagavān, what else shall we speak?”
“Mahārāja, I am so happy to hear from you,” Śrīla Gour Govinda Svāmī said. “In this modern age I have not heard such wonderful things. I would like to hear more, but it is very difficult. I am also thinking of leaving this world. If I do, Mahārāja, please look after my disciples. I will try and come again to see you.”
Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja then left. His servant Vīrabhadra Brahmacārī was waiting down stairs. They drove off in a white ambassador.
Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja vehemently opposed the GBC resolution passed on jīva-tattva and the GBC pressured him not to preach against the official policy. He lamented that the GBC were turning ISKCON into an apasampradāya. Once, in his private quarters, he said to his close followers, “After 1996 Kali will have no more strength in Mahāprabhu’s movement. Those who stay in Mahāprabhu’s movement will get prema. But don’t think that on the last day of 1995 and the first day of 1996 everyone will get prema. It will take time. Śrīman Mahāprabhu started His movement doing saṅkīrtana behind closed doors, and after 24 years He took sannyāsa. In the same way it will take time. Be patient. The same thing that happened with the Gauḍīya Maṭha will happen with ISKCON. They will split and they will pick sides. The Kali-chelas (disciples of Kali) will be exposed and many will leave.”
On a similar occasion, Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja said, “In 1996 a prema-yuga will begin. In 1996—no more! Prema, prema–love will come.” And in reference to Śrīla Gurudeva, he said, “After 1996 the Ācārya will be firmly established in the world.”
In late January 1996, Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja mentioned, “Śrīla Bhaksiddhānta said that this material world is not a fit place for any gentleman. Therefore, because he was disgusted, he left this world prematurely. I may also leave. I don’t know. Let me ask Gopāla. I will do whatever He wants.” The next day he went to Gadei Giri to see Gopāla.
In February 1996, the GBC members were about to present a letter to Gour Govinda Mahārāja to ban him from ISKCON. He knew about this beforehand. Instead of having to leave his Guru Mahārāja’s institution, he chose to leave this world. In His last diary entry, Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja wrote, “By Gopāla’s mercy somehow or another I have spent the day in Māyāpura. I went to the GBC sub-commitee meeting rejecting the primary thing, accepting the secondary thing. For them, the members of the ISKCON society, It is necessary that they gradually come from secondary to primary. I sat there silently; there was nothing I could do.”
On 9 February 1996, the holy appearance day of Śrīla Bhaksiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, two senior ISKCON devotees requested an appointment in the early evening to see Gour Govinda Mahārāja. They inquired, “Why did Caitanya Mahāprabhu stay in Jagannātha Purī?” Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja enthusiastically began to explain the confidential significance of Mahāprabhu’s pastimes in Purī. He described the pains of separation felt by Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa when Kṛṣṇa was away from Vṛndāvana. He gradually unfolded the pastime to the point where Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa were finally united after their long separation. He described how Kṛṣṇa became so ecstatic upon seeing Rādhārānī that He manifested a form with big round eyes and shrunken limbs—Lord Jagannātha. At that time the devotees noticed that tears had come to his eyes and his voice had become choked up. Barely audibly, he said, “Then the eyes of Kṛṣṇa fell upon the eyes of Rādhārānī. Eye-to-eye union.” Unable to continue, he apologized with folded hands, “Please excuse me. I cannot speak.” He then gave his final instruction: “Kīrtana! Kīrtana!” The devotees present began to chant as he calmly lay back on his bed, breathing slowly and deeply. Upon his request a servant placed a picture of Gopāla Jiu in his hand. Then, gazing lovingly at that picture of his worshipable deity, Gour Govinda Svāmī said, “Gopāla!” Then his eyes closed and he lost external consciousness.
After the disappearance of Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja, most of his Western disciples requested the shelter of Śrīla Gurudeva; for when they asked their Guru Mahārāja, “Who can we take shelter of in your absence?” he had said, “Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja is a very pure Vaiṣṇava. You can take his shelter.”
When the time came for Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja’s deity installation, Śrīla Gurudeva was invited to perform the prāṇa-pratiṣṭha ceremony as the guest of honor. After this ceremony, Śrīla Gurudeva returned to Mathurā, where he arranged a viraha-mahotsava in honor of Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja and spoke extensively on his glories.
Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja inspired his disciples to approach Śrīla Gurudeva for further instruction in their spiritual lives. Śrīla Gurudeva helped these devotees advance in bhajana and deepen their internal connection to their Guru Mahārāja. He always encouraged them to remember and honor Śrīla Gour Govinda Mahārāja.
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! Srila Gour Govinda ki Jaya! (excerpted from: “Sri Guru Darshan”, available from firstname.lastname@example.org )