All glories to Śrī Guru-Gaurāṅga Rādhā-Gopīnātha-jiu.
Being cordially invited by Śrīla Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Goswāmī Mahārāja, (the founder ācārya of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭh), my Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Dev Goswāmīpāda would attend and participate in the four-day-long grand annual celebrations of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭh in Kolkata as its distinguished speaker. l thus had the good fortune on several occasions to accompany him as his young personal servitor. It was on one such occasion at Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭh, Kolkata, most probably in the year 1972 or 1973 (when I was around 12 or 13 years old), that I had, for the first time, darśana of my Sannyāsa Gurudeva Śrīla Bhakti Pramode Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura, who was sitting on the same stage alongside Śrīla Guru Mahārāja, Śrīla Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Goswāmī Mahārāja and other distinguished sannyāsī ācāryas, who were stalwart disciples of Śrīla Saraswatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, accompanied by other distinguished guests who were eminent members of society. It was truly a beautiful sight to behold, with all of them looking glorious and effulgent. At some point during that occasion, Śrīla Gurudeva (Śrīla Bhakti Pramode Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura) delivered his Hari-kathā on the selected topics, and it was so fluent and scholarly, full of different quotes in Sanskrit and Bengali from the holy scriptures.
Thereafter, at a suitable time, following the wish of my Guru Mahārāja, I went to see him and, as I offered my praṇāma to his holy feet, he kindly looked at me with a sweet smile and blessed me by placing his hand on my head, knowing that I was a personal servant of Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Dev Goswāmī Mahārāja. In the following years, I saw him again several times during the observance of the same annual festival up on the ‘dharma sabha‘ stage and also in the saṅkīrtana processions conducted by Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭh in Kolkata, either sitting in a car along with other guruvarga or walking while leading the saṅkīrtana.
To honor the special invitation of Śrīla Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Goswāmī Ṭhākura, Śrīla Guru Mahārāja (Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Goswāmī Ṭhākura) also went to Śrī Purī Dhām (Śrī-Kṣetra) to participate in the grand dharma sabha organized by Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭh as part of the celebrations of the restoration of Śrīla Saraswatī Goswāmī Ṭhākura’s divine birth place. At that time, Śrīla Kṛṣṇa Dās Bābājī Mahārāja, Śrīla Govinda Mahārāja, myself and another devotee also followed him as his traveling companions. During that occasion, I had another chance of getting Śrīla Bhakti Pramode Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura’s darśana again, this time in Śrī Jagannātha Purī. As I approached him to offer my daṇḍavat praṇāms, I noticed the way in which he would look at me and at the other devotees around, who had also come to have his darśana and pay their respectful obeisances. It was so sweet and full of compassion. I felt in his eyes a holy grace and affection for me and the other devotees as well.
Years passed. Thereafter, I again had the fortune to have received his darśana on many occasions at our Śrī Caitanya Sāraswat Maṭh in Navadvīp, at Ananta Vasudeva Mandir in Kalna, at Śrī Gopīnāth Gauḍīya Maṭh centers in Māyāpur and Purī, in addition to those occasions at Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭh centers.
Responding to the loving invitations from Śrīla Guru Mahārāja, many times he would come to Śrī Caitanya Sāraswat Maṭh in Navadvīp and would often stay here for a few days during each visit. Besides, he would also affectionately invite us (devotees from Śrī Caitanya Sāraswat Maṭh) to his Kalna Ananta Vasudev Mandir, especially on the occasion of its grand annual festival, for which Śrīla Guru Mahārāja used to often send me and Śrī Kṛṣṇa Śaran Prabhu (sannyāsa name—Śrīpād B. P. Aranya Mahārāja) to participate as his representatives in order to lovingly honour Śrīla Bhakti Pramode Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura’s invitations.
During those days, the arrangement at the Ananta Vasudeva temple in Kalna was very simple. Śrīla Gurudeva’s (Śrīla Bhakti Pramode Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura) present bhajana kuṭir wasn’t built there yet. He used to live over there in a very simple, renounced way, deeply engaged in worshipping Śrīmad Ananta Vasudeva-jiu and Girirāja along with other temple Deities. I remember that on a couple of occasions when we took part in the celebrations at the Kalna temple, we found Śrīla Gurudeva so much absorbed in the worship of the holy Deities as well as immersed in beautiful Hari-kathā with tears in his eyes. He would often speak Hari-kathā with closed eyes, ascending into another world of divine taste beyond this mundane plane. In the way, he extended his loving care for all the assembled devotees, particularly with regard to feeding them prasādam; and all his loving gestures were indeed so sweet and pleasing—the quality of a pure Vaiṣṇava.
During his visits at Śrī Caitanya Sāraswat Maṭh in Navadvīp, we often had the immense fortune to witness the wonderful Hari-kathā that emanated from the lips of both their Divine Graces—Śrīla Guru Mahārāja and Śrīla Gurudeva. Both the exalted godbrothers would be absorbed in their Kṛṣṇa-kathā iṣṭagoṣṭhī for hours in sweet reciprocation, while remembering how their beloved Gurudeva, Śrīla Saraswatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, would be explaining and relishing the same topics in his sublime devotional mood. They looked effulgent in happiness, elated with the taste of divine joy. We, the devotees sitting close to their lotus feet, would be so touched and moved. I recall sitting in a chair next to Śrīla Guru Mahārāja when Śrīla Gurudeva smilingly asked me, “Baba, can you sing the ‘Prema Dhāma Deva Stotram‘ for me? You sing it so nicely, sweetly.” I felt blessed by his order and, though feeling a bit shy, yet, for his pleasure, I would begin singing some of those Sanskrit verses of that stotram (i.e. the song for beautiful Lord Gaurasundara, the abode of divine love). And they both relished it with happiness. They had so much love for Gaurahari and therefore their Hari-kathā would often become pure Gaura-kathā, or narrations of the glories of Lord Gaura. Once, he also mercifully asked me to explain Śrīla Guru Mahārāja’s commentary on ‘Śrī Brahma Gāyatrī’ and he smilingly looked at me with satisfaction as I repeated it all in the same way as His Divine Grace (Śrila Guru Mahārāja) would do. In fact, he was so moved by and appreciative of Śrīla Guru Mahārāja’s commentary of Brahma Gāyatrī in revealing its inner meaning, that of ‘Śrī Rādhā-dāsyam’ or ‘loving devotional service to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’. Subsequently, in some of his writings and Hari-kathā, he also specially mentioned and explained about the same commentary with much appreciation.
In the Sāraswata-Gauḍīya-Vaiṣṇava Sampradāya, especially among his godbrothers, Śrīla Bhakti Pramode Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura was well-known as one of the foremost and dear disciples of Prabhupāda Śrīla Saraswatī Goswāmī Ṭhākura. We heard from Śrīla Guru Mahārāja as well as from other guruvarga that Śrīla Prabhupāda entrusted him with the important service-responsibilities for his publications department. One day, Śrīla Prabhupāda blessed him by gifting him a pen (symbolic of his entrusted role) and asked him to take up the responsibility of writing and editing for his publications department. To fulfil his Gurudeva’s desire, Śrīla Bhakti Pramode Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura sincerely dedicated himself in that field of service. Aside from his writings and valuable compilation works on Śrīla Prabhupāda’s Hari-kathā, he also continued as the editor of ‘Daily Nadia Prakash’ and ‘Gauḍīya’ magazines for a long time. Śrīla Saraswatī Ṭhākura was so pleased with his scholarship and knowledge of siddhānta, efficiency and dedication. Śrīla Guru Mahārāja used to tell me, “He is our Praṇavānanda Prabhu, a pure brāhmaṇa and life-long brahmacārī, a dearmost disciple of Prabhupāda. He has been the editor of our Prabhupāda’s daily newspaper, ‘Dainik Nadia Prakash’, the monthly ‘Gauḍīya’ magazine, and also of his book department. Prabhupāda considered him as very reliable.”
Thus, being one of dearmost disciples and associates of Śrīla Saraswatī Goswāmī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, he was always recognized as being very reliable or dependable in the eyes of Śrīla Guru Mahārāja and his other godbrothers. In other words, Śrīla Guru Mahārāja always had deep faith in and special feelings of recognition for him. For example, he lovingly invited Śrīla Bhakti Pramode Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura at different times to preside over the Deity installation ceremony at his Hapaniya temple, his birthplace, and at the Kaikhali temple in Kolkata. Considering him as an expert priest and ācārya in the field of ‘arcana‘, Śrīla Guru Mahārāja was really pleased to have his temple Deities installed under the loving care and guidance of Śrīla Bhakti Pramode Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura..[In fact, during that time he was already well-known as a specialized teacher and ācārya in regard to Deity installation and yajña or fire-sacrifices].
During Śrīla Bhakti Pramode Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura’s stay at Śrī Caitanya Sāraswat Maṭh in Navadvīp, Śrīla Guru Mahārāja would often be personally taking care of him with much natural affection, while instructing and inspiring us to properly take care of him and serve him too. For example, he would tell us to make sure to serve his favorite items of prasādam everyday and to ensure that he has comfortable accommodation, etc. We, the disciples of Śrīla Guru Mahārāja, always felt so blessed and fortunate to be able to serve Śrīla Bhakti Pramode Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura during those days.
Śrīla Gurudeva’s honourable and sweet presence, along with his inspiring speeches, during the observances of Śrīla Guru Mahārāja’s Vyāsa-pūjā celebrations also remain etched in our hearts and minds as unforgettable and blessed experiences. The way he lovingly engaged in glorifying his dearmost godbrother, Śrīdhara Mahārāja, in relation to Śrīla Saraswatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda, their divine master, was exemplary and it clearly showed his own pure vaiṣṇava characteristics and qualities. Thereby, he also mercifully taught us how to engage in describing the glories of Śrī Guru and of the Vaiṣṇava in relation to Śrī Bhagavān. Śrīla Guru Mahārāja always expressed his loving gratitude for all his nurturing presence and valuable caring.
The other unforgettable memory in my life was when Śrīla Gurudeva Bhakti Pramode Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura made a spontaneous visit to Śrī Caitanya Sāraswat Maṭh in Navadvīp during the time when Śrīla Guru Mahārāja was manifesting his pastimes of physical sickness, thus signalling to us that soon he was going to depart from this world to enter into the nitya-līlā, or eternal pastimes, of the Lord. Śrīla Gurudeva was on his way to Māyāpur, perhaps from Kolkata. As he was passing near Śrī Caitanya Sāraswat Maṭh, somehow or other, he had a strong feeling in his heart telling him to stop by and see his dear godbrother, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja, whose health, as he had heard, wasn’t very good. So, straightaway, he came to the Maṭh and went up to see Śrīla Guru Mahārāja. As soon as Śrīla Guru Mahārāja saw him, Śrīla Guru Mahārāja became so happy and lovingly requested him to stay in and did not let him go.
Upon understanding his dear godbrother Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s heart’s desire and the special importance of his request, Śrīla Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura also immediately postponed his program of going to his Gopīnāth Gauḍīya Math in Māyāpur, and stayed for the night. The next day, as he went up to see Śrīla Śrīdhara Goswāmīpāda, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja immediately took his hands into his folded palms while renewing his same request not to go, but to continue staying there for only a few more days in order to put him in samādhi with his own hands and to kindly take care of everything, in other words, guide the whole last rites and rituals after he leaves this world. Śrīla Guru Mahārāja said he could feel that his time had arrived, and therefore he was soon going to depart within two or three days. Śrīla Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura simply couldn’t hold himself any longer upon hearing this and almost broke down in tears, while somehow managing to tell his dear godbrother in a choked voice—”Mahārāja, you cannot leave us like this. We consider you to be our loving guardian. So, I still cannot believe you will leave us, Mahārāja! We need you very much. You cannot deprive us of your association. I cannot agree.” I was just standing near them, beside Śrīla Guru Mahārāja’s bed, witnessing such heart-breaking, heart-wrenching, overwhelming tearful moments. Śrīla Guru Mahārāja, lying on his bed, replied, “Mahārāja, I feel I have received my call; my time has arrived. So, please don’t try to keep me here anymore. Please take care of everything.” Both the brothers were in tears, weeping, holding each other’s hands. Just within two days after that, Śrīla Guru Mahārāja left this world (on 12th August 1988) and entered into the nitya-nisanta-lila of Their Lordships Śrī Śrī Gaurāṅga Gandharva-Govinda-sundara. To fulfil Śrīla Guru Mahārāja’s desire and to keep his promise to him, Śrīla Gurudeva Bhakti Pramode Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura presided over the whole samādhi ceremony of Śrīla Guru Mahārāja, i.e., all the last samādhi rites), with tears in his eyes. Our hearts were filled with so much respect and overwhelming gratitude upon seeing his noble ācārya qualities and love for his godbrother. Once the samādhi was completed, he left for his Gopīnāth Gauḍīya Maṭh in Māyāpur.
Śrīmat Madanmohan Dās Prabhu was a dedicated disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddānta Saraswatī Ṭhākura. His grandson, Śrī Achyutānanda Dās Brahmacārī, who was later known as Śrīmad Bhakti Bibudha Bodhayan Mahārāja after receiving sannyāsa from Gurudeva Śrīla Bhakti Pramode Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura, also came to Śrī Caitanya Sāraswat Maṭh in Navadvīp several times. The first time, he came accompanying his same maternal grandfather, Śrīmat Madanmohan Dās Prabhu, a pure vaiṣṇava, and had the darśana of Śrīla Guru Mahārāja and heard his Hari-kathā as well. It was a wonderfully pleasant experience for them. Thereafter, H.H. Bodhayan Mahārāj-ji visited Śrī Caitanya Sāraswat Maṭh a number of times, which were very nice and helpful. Upon seeing his devotional service endeavors, Śrīla Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura subsequently selected him as the next ācārya of his Śrī Gopīnāth Gauḍīya Maṭh.
As my Śīkṣa and Sannyāsa Gurudeva, Śrīla Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura has always been a benevolently gracious guardian in my life. The light of his causeless mercy has always removed the darkness of my ignorance through divine illuminations and guided me through the right path of pure devotional service to the Supreme Lord. I feel ever indebted to his magnanimous guardianship and compassion for giving me his priceless shelter and for blessing me with his characteristic love and affection.
Being an embodiment of Śrīla Saraswatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’s divine teachings, he was the manifestation of an ideal ācārya of the Gaura-Sāraswata Sampradāya, especially pertaining to arcana, nāma-bhajana, and bhagavat-mahimā-kīrtana. Embellished with numerous vaiṣṇava qualities, such as kindness, benevolence, graciousness, a forgiving attitude, humility, renunciation, peacefulness, scholarship, truthfulness, etc., and above all pure loving devotion to the Supreme Lord, Śrīla Purī Goswāmī Ṭhākura will be ever regarded as none other than a gracious and sublime expansion of His Divine Grace Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Offering respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my beloved Sannyāsa Gurudeva, herein, I humbly pray that his divine mercy be always bestowed upon me.
English editor: Sri Sakshi Gopal Das Prabhu (Singapore)