Srila Gurudeva’s preaching greatly expanded from the year 2000 onward. During nearly every Gaura-pūrnima after the year 2000 Srila Gurudeva bestowed initiation into the renounced order of sannyāsa to his qualified followers and disciples. Śrīla Gurudeva exhibited all the traits of a Gosvāmī, following in the footprints of the Six Gosvāmīs, and the Seventh Gosvāmī, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura. Śrīman Mahāprabhu instructed the Gosvāmīs to write books establishing the ideology of His Vaiṣṇava movement, to redevelop the phenomenal places of Kṛṣṇa in Vraja, to establish Vaiṣṇava etiquette, and to preach His message. Śrīla Gurudeva printed scores of spiritual books in many languages, and wherever he went, hundreds of people surrendered to him and begged for initiation.
For many years, even before Śrīla Gurudeva began preaching in the West, he had been engaged in preserving the culture of Vraja and restoring the holy places. He renovated Brahma-kuṇḍa and planted trees in Uddhava-kyārī, despite opposition from the government. With his preaching rapidly developing in the West and India, Śrīla Gurudeva was increasingly able to renovate the dilapidated sacred places in Vraja. For this purpose, Gurudeva started an organization called the Kuṇḍa Restoration Group, and projects were started at Kālīya-Daha and other places in Vraja that needed attention.
Some of the Vraja-tīrthas which Srila Gurudeva assisted in restoring are: Bankhandi Mahādeva, Viśāska kuṇḍa, Kṣīra-sāgara, Kālīya-daha, Jāvaṭa temple, Mānasi-gaṅga, Radha -kuṇḍa and Syama-kuṇḍa, Brahma-kuṇḍa in both Govardhana and Vṛndāvana, Dāvānala-kuṇḍa, Viśrāma-ghāṭa in Mathura temples such as Rādha-Gokulānanda, Rādha-Damodara, and the samādhi of Srila Sanātana Gosvami at Radha-Madana-Mohana.
Śrīla Gurudeva also helped local Vrajavāsīs by arranging for sweet water supply at Govardhana Mānasi-ganga and for causes like the Durvās Rishi public school, arranging many Gośālās, restoring kuṇḍas, planting trees in Vraja and repairing different roads in Vraja. In addition, by his own hand he would distribute prasādam, medicine, blankets, and clothing to the poor. He had respectful and sweet relations with the senior Vrajavāsīs and community members.
Śrīla Gurudeva spoke for a television interview in regard to his restoration work. During the interview, Gurudeva said, “We have been restoring the kuṇḍas, ghāṭas, and forests of Vraja for some years. In order to do this, we have formed the Kuṇḍa Restoration Group. In this regard, we arranged for the cleaning of Brahma-kuṇḍa in Govardhana. We installed water purification tanks in Rādhā-kuṇḍa, and the water there became clean as well. We also installed the water purification tank in Govinda-kuṇḍa in Jatura, and its water has also become clean. We have also done some work in Mānasi-Gaṅgā.
“In Bhāṇḍīrvana all the trees had died, we therefore planted many trees and made arrangements to preserve them. Viśākhā-kuṇḍa was going toward extinction. We renovated the ghāṭa of that kuṇḍa and reinstalled five feet of water. Nearby, where Kṛṣṇa used to graze the cows amongst the kadamba trees, we have planted a great number of trees as well.
“We are planning to make three kuṇḍas at Kālīya-ghāṭa, and we will represent Śrī Kṛṣṇa playing His flute on the statue of a snake in the middle kuṇḍa. By observing this spectacle, pilgrims will see that Kṛṣṇa punished Kālīya there.”
The reporter then asked Gurudeva, “What do you think about the local government and central government not doing anything about this?”
“I understand that the central government is not actively assisting,” Gurudeva said. “Millions of people come to take darśana of Vraja, by which the government obtains so much money, but still they refuse to acknowledge the importance of these kuṇḍas and ghāṭas. We thought that we should restore all the pastime places, and the water of Yamunā should also become clean and pure. We are trying to plant trees in Sevā-kuñja, because most of the plants there have died. That is where Śrī Kṛṣṇa performed Mahā-rāsa, and we want to restore that holy place as well.”
In honor of Śrīla Gurudeva’s continuing contribution to sanātana-dharma in Vraja and throughout the world, the World Religious Parliament, and the Vrajācārya-pīṭha, were eager to honor him with the title of Yugācārya—foremost spiritual preceptor of the millenium. Śrīla Gurudeva declined the offer me and again, but, finally, they decided to honor him with the title—with or without his consent.
As a result, Gurudeva finally acquiesced.
On October 31, 2003, in Uncagaon, Śrīla Gurudeva was honored jointly by the Vrajācārya-pīṭha, (the spiritual leaders of the villages of Vraja) and the World Religious Parliament in Delhi with the titles Vrajācārya and Yugācārya.
The representatives of each village in Vraja performed the puṣpa-abhiṣeka, throwing flowers on Śrīla Gurudeva and placing garlands around his neck. Svāmī Syāmajī, the leader of the World Religious Parliament, gave Śrīla Gurudeva a special cloth, and a certificate was presented to Gurudeva by Deepak Rāja Bhaṭṭa, the head of Vrajācārya-pīṭha. The chairmans of Varsānā and Nandagaon garlanded Śrīla Gurudeva, along with the leaders of the Vraja-gopa community,
the Lala-devī temple, Premapīṭha-Dijara, the leaders of the brāhmaṇa communities of Uñcagaon and the Gazur Village, and the elder of the Chiksoli village; Dr. A.K. Sharan of Varsānā also garlanded Gurudeva, as well as Sava dīdī, representing Śrīla Gurudeva’s disciples, along with Śrī Kṛṣṇa-kumara Maheśvari.
After this, the organizers called Śrī Padmanābha Mahārāja to the podium to read the words written on the award plaque:
“Vrajācārya-pīṭha and the World Religious Parliament of New Delhi, India, presents ācārya of the millennium. Engrained with the comprehensive spiritual wealth of the Vedas and Vedangas, Ayurveda, Jyotisa and related sciences; the protector of traditional heritages; eloquently knowledgeable in the doctrines of Sanskrit which is the mother of all languages; staunch believer in its spread and propagation; a passionate seeker of human social welfare; dedicated to the traditional path and following Caitanya Mahāprabhu, Caitanya Maṭha, and the bhāskara-gurus; being a disciple of Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja; entrenched in service through bhakti; a remarkable follower and adherent of the aryan-sanātana philosophical traditions; propagator of love to all faiths, humility, and selflessness towards every religion; saintly with pristine spiritualy and giver of the profoundest love to one and all; follower and practioner of luminous sanātana knowledge upholding the great tradition of universal brotherhood; dedicated to the promulgation, propagation, and protection of the unique Vraja culture and environment, and immeasurably desirous of the redevelopment of Vraja—his divine holiness is one who is enlightened and embraced with divine benevolence and is an authoritive ācārya filled with eruditeness, a teacher of teachers, and a guardian and flag bearer of the Śrī kṛṣṇa-bhakti movement—his Divine Grace oṁ viṣṇupāda aṣṭottara-śata Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja.”
Śrīla Gurudeva then addressed the leader of the Vraja Pyadia, Deepak Rāja Bhaṭṭa, and all the exalted and renowned scholarly persons who gathered from all the places of Vraja and from abroad. Gurudeva spoke in Hindi, and was translated for the
Śrīla Gurudeva said”, I am in no case fit for the high class of honor you have given to me. It is owing to your own greatness, benevolence, and arable natures that you are giving to me. I feel ashamed to accept this designation, because it is far too elevated for me. Syamji, the head of the World Religious Parliament, and Deepakjī, the head of the Vraja Pyadia, intensely insisted again and again to give me this award, and I rejected it again and again. But finally they have forced me to accept .it In this honorific title you have used the word acārya. In that regard there are so many past ācāryas such as our Gosvamis, Sri Madhvacarya, Sri Vallabhacarya, and so on. In comparison to all of them, I am insignificant. I do not understand the reason you all find me fit for this designation of Yuga-acarya. This is Kali-yuga and so many exalted, self-realized acarya’s came. It may be possible that this is Kali-yuga and I am the present, or most recent, acarya of Kali-yuga.
“One fact is true though: from the core of my heart I am always totally surrendered and dedicated to the Vrajavāsīs. My very great concern is that all the important places in Vraja-maṇḍala are vanishing and they are not being looked after correctly. I heard that an enormous number of rupees is allocated for the development of Vraja-maṇḍala, but that the money has gone in vain, in individuals’ pockets.
“I have arranged this Parikramā in order to bring the foreign devotees here—to narrate to them the glorifications of Vraja-maṇḍala and to have them visit all these glorious places. I would like them to understand the glories of the holy places. I also want them to see the dilapidated condition of these places so they can begin to think about their renovation. The foreigners could see what they are giving their life to, and through them I will do what I can to redevelop the pastimes places in Vraja.
“I do not think that there is one real Indian in the Parliament, otherwise he would have thought about renovating these places.
This Vraja-maṇḍala is the life and soul of Bhārata (India), and unless we accept its culture, our life will go in vain. It is the Indian government in name only. If its members were Indian they would have taken care.”
Śrīla Gurudeva then said, Srimati Rādhārāni Vṛndāvaneśvari, Lord Kṛṣṇa may be Vrajeśvara, but He cannot be Rāseśvara because our Srimati Radharani is Rāseśvari. Sri Krsna dances when Srimati Radharani snaps Her fingers. What to speak of Radharani, even Mother Yasoda terrifies Him, by showing Him a stick.
“Śrī Kṛṣṇa falls down at the feet of the gopīs. All demigods worship Him as God, yet the position of these gopīs is so highly elevated that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, falls at their feet. He told the gopīs:
na pāraye ‘ham niravadya-samyujām
sva-sādhu-kṛtyam vibudhāyusāpi vah
yā mābhajan durjara-geha-śṛnkhalāh
samvṛścya tad vah pratiyātu sādhanā
‘I am not able to repay My debt for your spotless service, even within a lifetime of Brahmā. Your connection with Me is beyond reproach. You have worshiped Me, cutting off all domestic ties, which are difficult to break. Therefore please let your own glorious deeds be your compensation.’
“I am completely absorbed in and influenced by the culture of vraja-bhāva,” Śrīla Gurudeva said. “It is the real jyotir-gamaya—the light into which we should enter (as described in the Upaniṣads).
We should understand that the ultimate limit of bhāgavata-prema is rādhā-dāsya (service to Śrīmatī Rādhikā).
“What is bhāgavata-prema? Without rādhā-dāsya no one can attain Lord Kṛṣṇa. Who is a Vrajavāsī? Not everyone born in Vraja is a Vrajavāsī. A Vrajavāsī is one who has a mood like Nanda Baba, or Mother Yaśodā, or Śrīmatī Rādhārānī. One who has a bhāva (transcendental emotion) like Nanda Baba—‘Kṛṣṇa is my son’—or a bhāva like—‘Śrīmatī Rādhikā is my sakhī’—is a Vrajavāsī. One who has such a relation with Śrīmatī Rādhārānī will think, ‘We don’t want any dire relationship with Kṛṣṇa. Our mistress, our life and soul, is Śrīmatī Rādhikā. If Śrī Kṛṣṇa calls me, I won’t go. I will only do what is required to make Them meet.’ The mañjarīs, those Vrajavāsīs who think ‘Śrīmatī Rādhārānī is our friend,’ understand that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is fully controlled by Her. They are pālya-dāsīs of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī and are so great that they can even stop Kṛṣṇa when He is on the way to see Her. This culture is full of prema.
“This spiritual culture has degenerated now in Vraja. I would like to see that when people come from outside to look into this culture, the residents approach them in an honorable way—not to rob the Westerners’ pockets to fill their own. These days Indians don’t read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and certainly they don’t read it in Parliament.
I don’t think that anyone in our Parliament knows these truths or has even read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
“I am happy that Syāma-dāsajī, the head of the World Religious Parliament, has read my translation and commentary of Śrī Bhagavad-gītā and appreciates it. Bhagavad-gītā is our real treasure. I have not done anything wonderful. I simply translated the commentary of Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura and, having taken his remnants, I also wrote something.
“Our Vraja consists of Kadamba-kyārī (Uddhava-kyārī), Pāvana-sarovara, and many other places of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s transcendental pastimes, and according to my capacity I am donating money to renovate them. I want to make the government members understand that by my renovating Vraja-maṇḍala their own status will be glorified; but they do not understand. They said we should do this in a proper way, but when I asked them what is the proper way they said, ‘Submit an application.’ We gave them an application and nothing happened for four months—the magistrate was transferred and no action was taken to renovate. Without their help we have begun renovating Ter-kadamba and Pāvana-sarovara, and we have already started cleaning the water of Rādhā-kuṇḍa and Manasi-ganga. We are trying to purify the water of Pāvana-sarovara, Pili Pokhara, and Yaśoda-kuṇḍa. Three quarters of the water are already purified by the apparatus we brought, and we will try to purify the rest, and also the Yamunā. By the help of affluent scientists and others, I will help.”
Śrīla Gurudeva then spoke about parakīya-rasa. He said, “Jāvaṭa is the place of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī’s in-laws, not Nandagaon. We don’t believe that Nandagaon is the place of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī’s in-laws, but rather that place is Jāvaṭa. Śrīmatī Rādhārānī is not married to Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Rādhārānī is dear to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, but Yogamāyā didn’t allow their marriage. If Śrīmatī Rādhikā was Kṛṣṇa’s wife and Nanda Baba was Her father-in-law, they would have taken Her in their home—but they didn’t. She didn’t live there. Also, Satyabhāmā and Rukmiṇī had so many children. Why didn’t Śrīmatī Rādhikā have any children?
“Śrīmatī Rādhikā did not stay or live in the house of Nanda Baba as a bride because She is Kṛṣṇa’s paramour. This paramour rasa is the topmost rasa. A wife is a type of servant. If one becomes a wife she is forced to serve her husband, and her husband is bound to supply her necessities like clothing and other paraphernalia. We have never seen that Kṛṣṇa gave clothes, soap, or anything of the sort to Śrīmatī Rādhārānī. He only gave Her garlands, which are free of cost.
He never spent any money on the gopīs.
“We have to reconcile Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s supposed marriage. She was married in Bhāṇḍīravan, but that was not a real marriage. It was by the gandharva system of simply exchanging garlands. No in-laws were present. By Yogamāyā’s order She and Kṛṣṇa never married. The essence of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is parakīya-bhāva and this is what
Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu came to give. I want to present the idea of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam was spoken by Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī and written by Vyāsadeva. This is what Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu came to give. He accepted that Śrīmatī Rādhārānī was never married to Kṛṣṇa, and our Gosvāmīs like Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, and Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī are in the same line. There are so many examples of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s mercy in the form of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu. These books are only descriptions of these principles.
“I want to renovate Jāvaṭa. I went to that sacred place of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī’s in-laws, but I saw that the managers are installing deities of Durgā-devī and Ganesh. Ganesh, Śaṅkara, and Pārvatī are sitting there on the altar. I was sad to see these deities sitting there. I told the managers, ‘If you take them off the altar, then I will develop this place.’ They became angry.
“I am trying to beautify this small place where the pastimes of Jāvaṭa can be remembered. Now, even the vaṭa tree is not there in Jāvaṭa, but rather another tree is there. This is shameful. In Vṛndāvana, at rāsa-sthalī, there is no vaṭa, banyan tree. I want to plant a vaṭa tree there. I came to know that Bhaṭṭajī wants to renovate this place. Let them come up with a program and I’ll see it. Since I already want to serve this sacred place, I can expand my program to include them.”
After Śrīla Gurudeva’s speech, when Mr. Syāma, the organizer of the program, went up to the podium and expressed his gratitude, he addressed him as, “this fellow.” He explained that he used the word “fellow” because, “When we Vrajavāsīs love someone, we accept him as our own inmate family member or our own self—so we call him fellow. This Yuga-acarya, this fellow, demonstrated that he is fit for this post. He says he is not fit for it, but his humble words are also the symptom of the greatness of great personalities.”
Some of the Nandagāon Paṇḍas were upset by Śrīla Gurudeva saying that Nandagāon was not Śrīmatī Rādhārānī’s in-laws’ place, so Gurudeva spoke further:
“The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is written in parokṣa-vāda. Parokṣa-vāda is a statement that is made only indirectly. For example, Kṛṣṇa told the gopīs who came after hearing His flute, ‘Go back to your homes and serve your husbands. It is the dharma, religious duty, of a chaste wife to serve her husband—even if her husband is ugly, sick, lame, crippled or harsh.’
“ ‘Oh,’ the gopīs replied, ‘we have just heard this message from You. You are so great to have given us this instruction, and therefore You are our guru. We have heard from authority that we must serve our guru first, and then anyone else. We accept You as our guru because You are giving us this religious knowledge. Also, You are our real pati, one who nourishes another. You are the personality who nourishes our heart. You nourish everyone, even our husbands, and therefore You are our pati (husband) in the real sense.’ ”
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (Excerpted from the Bhaktabandhav book publication, “Sri Guru Darshan”. Available from: [email protected] )