Srila Gurudeva annually gathered the devotees from Matura and brought them to Navadvīpa for parikramā. Once, a brahmacārī asked Śrīla Gurudeva, “Why do we go on parikramā every year? I heard that in our line mānasī-sevā is the highest practice. So, is it necessary to do parikramā physically year after year? Why don’t we simply visit the holy places mentally?”
“Five material elements compose the physical body,” Śrīla Gurudeva answered. “These elements are governed by demigods.
If we do not take the body on parikramā and engage it in the service of Hari, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas at the holy places, we will remain indebted to the presiding deities of the elements in our bodies and will not be able to achieve salvation. During parikramā our bodies touch the dhāma and become purified, and we have the opportunity to serve the sādhus. Our bodies thence purified, the senses become favorable to the execution of devotional service. The nine limbs of devotion are naturally performed during parikramā. When we engage in bhakti, the demigods presiding over the elements of the body are pleased and discharge all debt. If we don’t engage our bodies in service, our senses will be agitated, and it is unlikely we will have the mental discipline to serve internally. Laziness is the worst malady. We must cure indolence by forcible engagement in service. For this reason we travel in sādhu-saṅga to all those places where Śrīman Mahāprabhu and Nityānanda Prabhu went with Their associates:
gaura āmāra, ye saba sthāne, karala bhramana raṅge
se-saba sthena, heriba āmi, praṇayi-bhakata-saṅge
‘In the company of devotees that have love for Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu, I will visit the places where My Lord happily wandered.’
“Alone you cannot attain perfection. By going on parikramā in sādhu-saṅga, and smearing the dust of the holy places on your body, you will certainly receive the mercy of Śrī Guru, Kṛṣṇa, and the dhāma.
“The Guru-varga serve the dhāma by annually bringing the devotees together for parikramā. They teach us that parikramā of the dhāma must not only be done annually, but daily—no matter where we are physically. We learn from them that we must first offer praṇāmas to the Guru-varga when we wake in the early morning, chant our mantras, and also visit all the dhāmas, praying to Guru and Vaiṣṇavas, ‘Please let me stay nearby you. Without you I am a helpless orphan. Please do not reject me.’ You will always be with Guru and Vaiṣṇavas if you have this humble and prayerful mood.
“While chanting harināma, you should mentally go to Vraja-maṇḍala, Navadvīpa-maṇḍala, and Kṣetra-maṇḍala. Offer obeisance at each of the places within these dhāmas, and pray at those places, as well as to all the devotees and associates of Rādhā, Kṛṣṇa, and Mahāprabhu. Render service in the mind by sweeping, cleaning, and decorating the dhāma, and offer gifts to the Deities. By doing so, your mind will be present in the spiritual abodes and will not wander in the realm of illusion, māyā–maṇḍala.
“The dhāma cuts our relations with our temporary home and family, and awakens our relation with our eternal home and family. In truth, we are refugees in this world; like guests staying for some time in a boarding house—our material body. In these temporary dwellings we meet with many other refugees, whom we call our relatives. Inevitably however, death will come and all these relations will be lost. We must understand this bitter lesson. The duty of sādhus is to take the conditioned souls to the dhāma and connect them to Kṛṣṇa and His associates. is Navadvīpa-dhāma Parikramā has been going on continually from the time of Nityānanda Prabhu and Jīva Gosvāmī, to the time of Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura.
My Guru Mahārāja continued this tradition and that continuation runs on to this day. All branches of the Gauḍīya Maṭha perform Navadvīpa-dhāma Parikramā.”
In 1986, a massive celebration was held in Māyāpura for Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s fifth centennial. Millions of people came to Māyāpura from India and all over the world in the days before and after Gaura-pūrṇimā just for a chance to see the birthplace of Mahāprabhu. In preparation for all the people, the Bengal government set up temporary shelters, hand-pump wells, lights, and other facilities all around Māyāpura. The Indian Prime Minister granted 25 lākhas rupees for preparation and orchestration of the festival.
Each branch of the Gauḍīya Maṭha organized a party of many thousands for Navadvīpa Parikramā; the overall congregation of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas was well over a hundred thousand adherents from all over India. The fifteen thousand strong Parikramā party of the Gauḍīya Vedānta Samīti, led by Śrīla Gurudeva and his dear godbrothers, Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja, and Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Trikrama Gosvāmī Mahārāja, was the largest group.
ISKCON invited the Parikramā party of the Gauḍīya Vedānta Samīti to participate in their opulent celebrations at the Māyāpura Candrodaya-mandira on Jagannātha Miśra Mahotsava. Śrīla Gurudeva led the procession from Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha to Māyāpura, with dozens of other sannyāsīs and scores of brahmacārīs, all singing, playing instruments, and dancing ecstatically in saṅkīrtana. A hundred and eight mṛdaṅgas played in rhythm to the kīrtana of Mahāprabhu’s names and glories, and devotees carried 108 clay pots of paraphernalia for Mahāprabhu’s abhiṣeka. As the grand procession entered the Candrodaya-mandira’s gates, the devotees were welcomed with showers of flower petals from both sides.
Śrīla Gurudeva spoke in the temple room, glorifying Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja, and the specialty of Māyāpura and Mahāprabhu. Gurudeva concluded his speech saying, “The glories and specialties of Sri Guru are always present in the place that Vaiṣṇavas are welcome, and those who respect Vaiṣṇavas can experience the mercy of Śrī Guru. Those who serve and respect the family and disciples of Śrī Guru are true guru-sevakas. Today, the magnanimous disciples of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja have conquered the world by their service to the Vaiṣṇavas.”
Thereafter, Śrīla Gurudeva offered puṣpāñjali to the deity of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, and then proceeded to Yogapīṭha with the Parikramā party. At midday, over 50,000 Mahāprabhu-bhaktas gathered in a field by Śrīdhara-āṅgana. Śrīla Gurudeva had arranged for the distribution of kicari, sweet rice, chutney, sabjis, and other varieties of prasāda, with generous help from Rāma Praka from Mathurā, Phuland from Āgrā, and other devotees.
Śrīla Gurudeva wrote an offering in Bengali for the auspicious occasion of Mahāprabhu’s fifth centennial was published in the Gauḍīya Patrikā—year 38, Issues 5-7, 1986. Śrīla Gurudeva began the article with the verse:
namo mahā-vadānyāya kṛṣṇa-prema-pradāya te
kṛṣṇāya kṛṣṇa-caitanya- nāmne gaura-tviṣe namaḥ
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 19.53
I offer obeisance to the giver of kṛṣṇa-prema—the supremely magnanimous Śrī Kṛṣṇa–Caitanya, who is in fact Kṛṣṇa Himself endowed with the golden complexion of Śrīmatī Rādhikā.
Śrīla Gurudeva explained how this verse describes the essence of Mahāprabhu’s name, form, qualities, and pastimes. He also elaborated on how Mahāprabhu is the Supreme Personality, the selfsame Kṛṣṇa—not an incarnation, but the origin of all incarnations. Gurudeva substantiated his affirmation with numerous scriptural quotations:
kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣākṛṣṇaṁ sāṅgopāṅgāstra-pārṣadam
yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair yajanti hi su-medhasaḥ
‘In the Age of Kali, taking up the method of worship known as the saṅkīrtana-yajña, or the congregational chanting of the holy name, intelligent persons adore that incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the name of Kṛṣṇa, whose complexion is fair, and who is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons, and confidential companions.’
yadā paśyaḥ paśyate rukma-varṇaṁ
kartāram īśaṁ puruṣaṁ brahma-yonim
tadā vidyān puṇya-pāpe vidhūya
nirañjanaḥ paramaṁ sāmyam upaiti
Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 3.2.3
‘When one sees the Golden Lord, the supreme doer and the source of brahma, he attains pure knowledge. He becomes cleansed of both pious and impious activities, he is freed from worldly bondage, and he enters the Lord’s most magnificent abode.’
Śrīla Gurudeva explained how the Supreme Lord is one without a second, in accordance with the aphorism of the Candogya Upaniṣad—ekaṁ-eva-dvitīyaṁ, and then how the essence of Bhagavān’s nature is His sweetness, or mādhurya, and most importantly, that this sweetness can only be realized by the living entities through the Lord’s compassion. The Lord’s compassion manifests in different ways in this world, as evidenced in the Bhagavad-gītā (4.7-8) wherein Kṛṣṇa details the circumstances in which He appears on Earth. Gurudeva then illuminated the three reasons for Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s advent and propounded that Mahāprabhu’s mercy is greater than all other incarnations. This he demonstrated with the following examples of Śrī Gaurahari’s boundless compassion.
Only Śrī Gaurahari gave bhakti freely to everyone—unlike His incarnations—and only He bestowed rāga-bhakti. Not only that, He was a paragon of how to practice bhakti. Mahāprabhu gave prema without taking into account the qualification of the living entities. Surrendering to His Mercy Potency, Śrīman Mahāprabhu told His karuṇā-śakti, “Karuṇā, I surrender unto you. In whichever direction you choose, however far you want to go, and to whatever place you want to travel, drown everyone—the offenders, the antagonists, the neutral, the faithful, the faithless, the ordinary devotees, and the special devotees—in a flood of prema.”
Sri Gaurahari desired earnestly to deliver all living beings, including all moving and inanimate beings. He did so without caring any weapon or taking anyone’s life. He did so by destroying the demoniac natures of the living entities and bestowing divine love upon them. Kṛṣṇa liberated the demons by destroying them and thereby relieved the burden of the Earth; however, Mahāprabhu freely gave prema, which is difficult even for Brahmā to attain.
He even gave prema to offenders. Mahāprabhu is therefore known as parama-karuṇā—supremely compassionate.
Sri Gaurahari relishes rasa to the greatest extent. Gaurahari tastes even that which Kṛṣṇa cannot—the ecstatic moods of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. Also, as only the Original Lord can, Śrī Gaurahari exhibited His various forms as different incarnations before His devotees who cherished Him, each in a particular manner.
Further exceptional qualities of Mahāprabhu’s compassion are: love for Kṛṣṇa awakens in the heart of one who chants the name of Gaurāṅga; there is no offense taken when chanting His names; one who surrenders to Gaurahari attains Śrī Kṛṣṇa; one who takes shelter of Gauḍa-maṇḍala achieves eternal residence in Vraja; one who dives into the ocean of gaura-prema will float in the waves of pure love for Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Mādhava; and by taking shelter of the associates of Mahāprabhu, one becomes a maidservant of Śrīmatī Rādhikā.
Śrīla Gurudeva closed his article with a discussion of parakīya-bhāva, describing as the most sacred gift given by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Mahāprabhu extolled parakīya-bhāva above all else, and His apostles, the Gosvāmīs, elaborately delineated parakīya-rasa. In conclusion, Gurudeva gave a life sketch of Śrīman Mahāprabhu.
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (Excerpted from the Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Sri Guru Darshan”. Available from: firstname.lastname@example.org )