A Life of Loving Devotion.
Submitted by Rasamanjari devi dasi.
A short sketch of the life and teachings of Sri Srimad Gour-Govinda Swami Srila Gurudeva
Trnad api sunicena taror iva sahisnuna
amanina manadena kirtanyah sada harih
"One should chant the Holy Name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street: one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the Holy Name of the Lord constantly."
Sri Sri Sikasastaka verse 3.
Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja practically lived all his life based on this verse. He often said, "This is the most important teaching of Sriman Mahaprabhu! Srila Kaviraja Gosvami has said, 'Make a garland of this verse and place it around your neck, then do hari-bhajan.' This is Mahaprabhu's most important teaching. Mahaprabhu is an ideal acarya. As an ideal acarya, He is teaching practically. He Himself practiced in His own life. He never spoke theoretically!"
Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaj appeared on the Holy appearance day of Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur in a small mud hut in the village of jagannath pura in Orissa, India, in the family of pure Vaisnavas . His grandfather was a pure devotee of Lord Krishna. By the age of eight he had read Caitanya-caritamrta, Srimad Bhagavatam , Bhagavad Gita and Ramayana, and he would explain them to others. He regularly went on padayatra from village to village chanting Hare Krishna Mahamantra and songs of Srila Narottam Das Thakur and other Vaisnava Acaryas from his very childhood. His love for Srimad Bhagavatam was so deep and intense that at night, he would read Srimad Bhagavatam in the meager light of the cooking fire, as the family had no money for lamp oil.
The following excerpts have been taken from the book called Krsnalingita Vigraha - One who is always embraced by Krsna.
Whenever as young boy he would become naughty and not stop crying, his mother would simply put the Srimad-Bhagavatam in his hands and he would stop crying. He was so much inclined to read the Srimad Bhagavatam, that if he were reading he would forget to take his meals. The family was too poor to afford candles or a lamp for reading, so in the evening he would sit close to the cooking fire and read Srimad-Bhagavatam. At night he would go to sleep clutching the Srimad Bhagavatam to his chest.
His mother and father were very fond of studying and reading the scriptures. They would regularly read to their son. Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja recalls," I would regularly listen to Krishna katha from my parents, they would read different Puranas to me and other Vedic literature: Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, etc. Such an opportunity I received at such an early age! From then I was singing, dancing, doing kirtana and listening to Srimad Bhagavatam." His father would read to him from Srimad Bhagavatam, completing all twelve cantos once a year.
He was completely absorbed in pure love for Sri Sri Radha Gopal Jiu.
His whole life prior to meeting his spiritual master His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, was one of purity, preparation and devotion. In search of his eternal spiritual master he left home with only two gamchas (short dhoti), a bamboo stick, a begging bowl, and no money. He completely depended on Krishna for everything. He would walk and talk about Krishna to the devotees, eat whatever Krishna would provide and sleep under any tree at night. As a mendicant, he visited many Holy tirthas, from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin in South India.
During his first meeting with Srila Prabhupada in Sri Vrindavan, Srila Prabhupada asked him, "Have you taken sannyasa?" He said No. Then Srila Prabhupada said immediately, "I will give you sannyasa." Thereafter, Srila Prabhupada gave him first initiation in Sridham Mayapur, second initiation in Bombay, and sannyasa in Sri Vrindavan, India.
Srila Prabhupada quoted the following verse at the time of giving Sannyasa to Srila Gour Govinda Swami, "The Supreme Personality of Godhead said - One who is unattached to the fruits of his work and who works as he is obligated, is in the renounced order of life, and he is the true mystic, not he who lights no fire and performs no duty." He uttered this verse and said, "He is a real sannyasi," and then gave him the sannyasa mantra and danda. Shortly thereafter, many sannyasis and GBC members started complaining, How has he taken sannyasa? He is a new man! Then Srila Prabhupada told them, "He is a devotee from his birth! you are new men!"
Srila Prabhupada told him, "You will take me to Orissa". This is the Holy place where Lord Caitanya performed His most confidential pastimes. Also, Bhubaneswar is the gateway to Sri Jagannath Puri. Under Srila Prabhupada's order, Srila Gour Govinda Swami single-handedly underwent extreme hardships to begin the creation of a magnificent temple. February, 1977, the year of Srila Prabhupada's physical disappearance pastime, at his own insistence, Srila Prabhupada refused to stay in a government guesthouse and spent 17 days in the mud hut personally built for him by Sri Gour Govinda Swami. By the order of Srila Prabhupada, his intimate private instructions to Sri Gour Govinda Swami during those 17 days were kept confidential. No tape recordings were permitted. In perfect humility Srila Gour Govinda Swami disclosed to Srila Prabhupada that desired to be the tail (follower) but Srila Prabhupada ordered him to be the head (leader).
A few years after Srila Prabhupada's disappearance, in Sri Mayapur he manifested extreme ecstatic conditions. (For details of these pastimes please read chapter 32 of Krsnalingita-vigraha) Then he returned to Bhubaneswar with more intensity to fulfill the order of Srila Prabhupada. While other devotees who were told to assist left Bhubaneswar due to extreme austere conditions, he remained determined, and went through extreme hardships to fulfill the mission & instructions of Srila Prabhupada. He would sleep 2-3 hours a day, eat only once, and then go door-to-door preaching the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The rest of the time, he would spend translating Srila Prabhupada's books into Oriya.
In 1991, on Lord Nityananda's appearance day, after 16 years of struggle, Srila Prabhupada's last founded project, Sri Sri Krishna Balarama Mandir was completed. The magnificent temple & guest house was built, but he, with complete humility and simplicity, stayed in a portion of the mud hut that he had built for Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada is worshiped in his bhajan-kutir with full dedication and devotion.
His worldwide preaching took him to America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Mauritius, Australia, and India - especially to the rural villages of Orissa. He always practiced what he preached - compassion toward all living entities, true kindness, childlike simplicity, innocence, complete detachment, absolute tolerance, extensive spiritual blissfulness, exclusive devotion & complete surrender to Sriman Mahaprabhu, an unseen level of humility and unflinching faith in Srila Prabhupada. Without caring for his personal comfort and undergoing many austerities, he preached very dynamically and very purely all over the world. The mellifluous nectar emanating from his lotus mouth during his ecstatic kirtans made people dance and cry. His devotional discourses based on Sri Bhaktivedanta purports are full of sastric evidences and exuberant explanations. They inspired people to surrender to the chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna in the mood of separation, as taught by Sriman Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaj's knowledge of scripture was formidable. He would substantiate everything he said with evidence from all over the Vedic literature. He would always preach fearlessly and would never compromise the conclusion s of the scriptures in the name of being practical. During his powerful, informative, heart shattering and devotional lectures, he inspired numerous devotees. He used every moment of every day to fulfill Srila Prabhupada's desire to preach in every town and village the Holy Name of Krishna. He is a perfect example of tranad api sunichena verse. Although very meek and humble in his personal dealing, in his classes he would roar like a lion, smashing the pride and cutting the misconceptions from the hearts and minds of his disciples and followers. His authentic simplicity can be seen by looking at the small mud hut he lived in while he was in Bhubaneswar. His smadhi mandir has been built in the same mud hut.
Every year in Bhubaneswar, on Lord Nityananda's appearance day he would flood the audience with most nectarean, ecstatic and divine Nityananda prema Bhajans and speak about Lord Nityananda'a nectarean pastimes. During these ecstatic bhajans and lectures, his extreme ecstasy could not be checked. He would make everybody present there dip in the deep, nectarean sweetest ocean of Gauranga prema data Lord Nityananda's prema rasa kathamrita.
Lord Caitanya said to Srila Ramananda Raya and Svarup Damodara Goswami, "Love of Godhead, devoid of cheating propensities, is not possible within this material world. If there is such a love, there cannot be separation, for if there is separation, how can one live?"
(Cc. ML, 2.42)
Srila Gour Govinda Swami's disappearance pastime perfectly exemplified the highest level of surrender and separation from Krishna as explained by Sriman Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the above verse. During Centennial year, he made a wonderful offering of himself at the beautiful lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada, on the divine appearance day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. At an auspicious moment in Sri Mayapur Dham, he dove into divine trance of pure devotion while narrating the ecstatic Mahabhava condition of Sri Krishna's reunion with Srimati Radharani in Vrindavan after a long separation. He mentioned how "after a long separation, Krsna came back to Vraja Bhumi and then the eyes of Krsna fell on the eyes of Srimati Radharani - Eye to Eye union." Overwhelmed with ecstatic love and unbearable separation from Srimati Radhika and Shamsundar, he could speak no more and gave his final instruction: Nama kora! Nama Karo! (chant the Holy Name) and called out, "Gopal!" and returned to His beloved Lordships Sri Sri Radha Gopal Jiu in Sri Golok Vrindavan Dham.
Contributions (to name a few)
· Inculcates & nourishes the seed of Bhakti in the hearts of all sincere seekers of Krishna prema, with his pure Sri Krishna Katha.
· Emphasized unflinching faith in Sadhu, Sri Guru and Sastra. · Uncompromisingly adhering to the siddhantas.
· Perfect example of pure humility in his personal dealings.
· Illumined the wonderful gems hidden in Sri Bhaktivedanta's purports.
· Going through severe austere conditions he completed Srila Prabhupada's last founded project in Bhubaneswar- Sri Sri Krishan Balarama Mandir.
· Established the annual Orissan Padyatra on Srila Prabhupada's disappearance day that takes Sri Sri Gour Nitai in a bullock cart to villages to promote the Holy Name of Sri Krsna.
· Offered beautiful lotus bud temple to Srila Prabhupada at Centennial.
· Renovated the historic Sri Alarnath Temple.
· Lead the most noble cause of Reforestation project for Lord Jagannath of Puri. More than 125,000 trees were planted for building of the Ratha-yatra cart and cooking.
· Translated volumes of Srila Prabhupada's books into Oriya.
· Initiated construction of a grand new temple for Sri Sri Radha Gopal Jui of Gadai Giri & Sri Ram temple in Berhampur, Orrisa.
· Fulfilled Srila Prabhupada's desire for a magnificent temple where lord Sri Sri Jagannath, Baladeva, and Subhadra devi give darshan to all devotees.
· Taught simplicity by his own example.
Teachings (to name a few)
Param pujay Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja dispelled the doubts of those who came to him for shelter and spiritual guidance. He would place great stress on the offenseless chanting of the Holy Name encouraging and inspiring all to achieve the pure state of chanting- prema nama. He would always say, "chant without offense, chant the pure name, get Krsna prema and get Krsna in this very life!"
He practiced and preached complete surrender, not partial or conditional surrender, but complete 100% surrender to the instructions of his spiritual master Srila Prabhupada.
One of the main aspects of his preaching was to reveal the innermost secrets of Puri-Bhubaneswar Dham of the Lord Jagannatha and why Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu stayed in Puri. He gave the most subtle and lucid understanding of the Lord's pastimes in Jagannath Puri. Speaking about Gauranga Maharpabhu, he said, "...If prema bhakti is added to Krsna, that is Caitanya. Therefore, Sacinandana Gauranga is the Supreme Absolute Truth, Parama Tattva, Bhagavan, but with Bhakti-naipunya added to it. And in the Gauranga form you will find two things combined together- Sambhoga and Vipralamabha. These two things combined together, that is Gauranga. That is bhakti-naipunya - the last limit of bhakti…"
Sri Guru vandana - a personal offering to Srila Prabhupada from Srila Gour Govinda Swami - was complied from the lecturers delivered by him: "The lotus feet of Sri Guru are the abode of pure bhakti, kevala-bhakti sadma. I offer my prayers and respectful obeisances there with utmost care, savadhana mate. I shall never become careless. One should understand what is the meaning of sri-guru-carana-padam. These words sri guru are very significant. What is the meaning of Sri? Sri means shoba, sampada, srestha, Sri means beauty, it means transcendental wealth, and it also means the topmost. These are meanings of 'Sri'. Then what is the meaning of Sri Guru? Sri Guru refers to that Guru who is endowed with Sri, that is prema-bhakti. And this word 'Sri' is only applicable to a guru who is always manifested. It is not that the Guru is ever un-manifest. There is no question of His disappearance. He is eternally manifest and thus He is called Sri Guru. Therefore this word 'Sri' is used, otherwise this word cannot be used."