Visvarupa Mahotsava and the Sannyasa Ceremony of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Sri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha, Mathura, India
13th September 2000
Today is a very sacred day in our line. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu had taken sannyasa and had begun to search for his brother, Sri Visvarupa. While searching, He found out that on this day His brother had been in Pandarapura, and there he had disappeared from this world and had taken samadhi on the bank of the river Bhima. Then, although Mahaprabhu was observing Caturmasya-vrata very strictly for four months, He shaved off His hair on this day. Before this year, He had never shaved during these four months, nor did He cut His nails. He observed all the rules and regulations of Caturmasya.a
There are many items that are not allowed during Caturmasya, such as leafy vegetables in the first month, yogurt in the second month, milk in the third month, and mustard oil in the forth month. Besides this, throughout all four months, tomatoes, eggplants, and several other foodstuffs are prohibited. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu would follow all these rules very strictly, but nowadays we see that devotees don’t follow. Our Guru Maharaja, Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada were very strong in this regard. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada said, “Take my photo during the four months of Caturmasya-vrata to show that I never shave at that time. Always keep it; otherwise so many so-called disciples will say, ‘Oh, Prabhupada never observed Caturmasya-vrata’.”
Parama-pujyapada Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja gave concessions in the Western countries, and that is the only reason he also would shave. The Westerners could not follow strictly at that time. That is why he allowed tomatoes and eggplant, and that is also why he would take them. And that is why he also allowed carrots. I am therefore also giving concessions, not here in India, but in Western countries. If the devotees there like, they can take these items, but we don’t take them. We should strictly follow our proper line from Mahaprabhu to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada and my diksa and siksa-gurus. In Western countries some concession should be given, but here in India we are very strict. If we cannot follow this, then how can we follow Krsna, and how can we serve Radha and Krsna? Mahaprabhu shaved – after two months – and we follow this.
After taking initiation, Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja, who, in his youth was known as Abhaya Carana De, became Abhaya Carana dasa Adhikari. After some time he became penniless; then he arrived here – Sri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha – about one month prior to this day. I requested him, “Don’t stay anywhere else. You are my siksa-guru, you are the friend of my guru, and you are a very senior devotee of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada. I have known you since 1946.” He accepted and said, “I will stay here.”
There were two rooms here. I was in this room, and I requested him to stay in the room next to mine. When this temple room was made, however, I went to that room and I requested him to go to the room opposite that one. He stayed there, and he would write the entire night.
He would publish a magazine from here. It was from here that he established the ‘League of Devotees’, and later on he named it ‘The International Society for Krsna Consciousness.’ He published the first three volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam in Delhi, and he presented them to me. I would edit his Hindi in the magazine Bhagavata Darsana, and he also continued that magazine while he was in Jhansi.
While he was here I requested him, “You are so qualified, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada wanted you to preach, especially in English, and to go to Western countries. You served him by writing so many articles in the Harmonist and other magazines. You are very qualified. Why not try to follow the order of your Gurudeva and take sannyasa?” He replied,
“Oh, I used to fear this. When my Prabhupada initiated me, I began to read Srimad-Bhagavatam, and I saw in a sloka there:
harisye tad-dhanam sanaih
tato ‘dhanam tyajanty asya
[“The Personality of Godhead said: If I especially favor someone, I gradually deprive him of his wealth. Then the relatives and friends of such a poverty-stricken man abandon him. In this way he suffers one distress after another.”]
“‘Those whom I accept, I make them street beggars.’ So I feared that would be my fate. I thought, ‘I have a good family – my wife, and my sons and daughters. What will become of them? Now I’m very wealthy; but if that happens, what will become of them?”
One or two months after taking initiation he became the manager of Bengal Chemical. Later he left that and came to Allahabad, where he started his own business called Prayaga Chemical.
That business failed. Then he started a very large medical shop, and after one year it also failed. Then he began to advertise medicines, as a medical representative. That failed, and he became poor like a beggar.
Then he came here to Mathura to sell his medicines, and in the meantime I requested him, “What are you doing? You have not come to this world to sell medicine. You are a representative of Krsna and Mahaprabhu. You should remember who you are, and take sannyasa. You are a friend of my Gurudeva – a very bosom friend. He is just about to come here. He will be here in about four or five days, so please be prepared to take sannyasa.” Muni Maharaja was here, and at that time he was about ninety-five years of age. He told Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja, “If you take the renounced order, then I must take it with you.” In this way he very much inspired him.
Soon our Gurudeva came and I told him, “Why are you not compelling him? He cannot disobey you. He is your bosom friend. You must insist that he take the sannyasa order.” Then, one day, Gurudeva and Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja were sitting in Gurudeva’s room and were joking and talking with each other. I went there and requested my Gurudeva, “Why are you not telling him to take sannyasa?” My Gurudeva said, “Oh, now it is the best time to take sannyasa. You should not fear. What was to be done has already been done. Your wife has left you, your sons have left you, and everyone else has left. Your wealth is gone and now you are like a street beggar.”
He became ready and took sannyasa where you are sitting, in the middle of this room, in front of the Deities. His own Deity, Mahaprabhu, is also here with Radha-Krsna, the Deity from Jhansi.
I was the priest. I made his danda, uttariya (sannyasa upper cloth), and all other items; and I taught him how to use them. Though he was so much senior to me, though he was my siksa-guru, I also became his siksa-guru in this – how to take sannyasa and how to use all these paraphernalia.
Kirtana was performed by Srila Krsna dasa Babaji Maharaja and Sesasayi Prabhu, and so many others were chanting: “Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” During the ceremony, kirtana was always going on. Krsna dasa Babaji Maharaja continually performed kirtana.
After this, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja began to preach in Agra, then he went to Delhi, and then he came to Vrndavana, to Radha-Damodara. In order to receive the blessing of Srila Rupa Gosvami, he stayed there, very near to him. At that time also he was penniless. I would go there and gave him my chadar to sit on. He had no bed, and practically no other possessions. He was very simple. Somehow he would make capatis. He would roll them and I would put them on the fire and cook them with ghee.
He knew how to make beautiful and tasteful preparations, and he would teach others. From his letters I came to know that he himself would cook and teach others how to cook delicious preparations. He would write to me from New York, “Please send very sweet pera from Mathura; not less than ten kilos.”
Especially you senior devotees should remember his pastimes – how he was a very strong personality, how he preached throughout the world in a couple of years, established so many preaching centers, and wrote and published a variety of books in many languages. He did parikrama of the entire world about twelve times, and now he is ordering me, “You should do it more times than I did.” He is arranging everything, and he is always calling me, “You have done it ten times, and now you should complete at least fifteen times”.
Sometimes the guru wants to make his disciples look greater than himself; and then he becomes very happy. He says, “My disciple is preaching so much here and there.” He is like a father. When Maharaja Dasaratha heard that Ramacandra was very strong and could defeat the entire world, he was extremely happy. When Nanda Maharaja heard that his son Krsna has lifted Govardhana for seven days on the little finger of His left hand, he became so happy and said, “Oh, how my son is victorious!” A guru becomes so happy if his disciples are qualified. My Gurudeva will also be very happy if I’m going here and there. He will shower his mercy on me, and Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja is also like this.
In this meeting, his dear senior disciples will speak something in his glorification, and thus offer puspanjali at his lotus feet. After that we will perform arcana.
At Srila Maharaja’s request, some senior disciples of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja spoke (such as Vrndavana Vilasini dasi, Krsna Kumari dasi and Radha-kunda dasa), after which Srila Maharaja continued:
I met Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja in 1946 in Calcutta, before ISKCON was established. He was apparently simply a grhastha Vaisnava. He had been a friend of my Gurudeva’s since 1923. My Gurudeva was somewhat senior because he joined Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada in 1916. He left his university studies and everything else in 1918, and at that time he fully joined. Then, in 1923, Sri Abhaya Carana De was initiated by Srila Prabhupada – first harinama and then diksa initiation. In 1941 our Guru Maharaja established Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti, and Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja was also one of the establishers. From the beginning, therefore, as one of the founders, he was very intimate with Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti.
When I met him in 1946, there was no ISKCON. He was alone, but he was serving his Gurudeva, Srila Prabhupada, in so many ways. When I saw him I was very attracted. This is my intrinsic nature – that person who is a friend of my Gurudeva, who helped my Gurudeva, who has done a little service for my Gurudeva, who glorifies my Gurudeva – I like that devotee very much and can give my life for him. I saw that although my Gurudeva was a sannyasi and Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja was a grhastha, Gurudeva gave him the same seat as himself. He never gave him a lower or inferior seat. The devotion of any person is the only standard of how much we should respect him. My Gurudeva was giving very much importance to this person, and therefore I also accepted him in that way. I thought, “He must be someone special; some qualification compels my Gurudeva to honor him so much.” I therefore began to serve him, and he was also very attracted to me. At that time I was very young, only twenty-five years old, but he would talk with me in a friendly way.
He Was Fearless
I know him very well. He had a strong character and never feared anyone. He was like a lion, like his Prabhupada, and like our Gurudeva. He would cut all the arguments of the mayavadis, sahajiyas, and many other non-bona fide groups. He never tolerated their misconceptions and he made no compromise with them. He was very strong.
At that time Dr. Radha-Krishna was the president of India. He was one of the intellectual giants of the entire world, and a very learned person, especially in mayavada philosophy. He wrote an article about Bhagavad-gita, and there he said that Krsna’s soul is Krsna, but His body is not His soul. There is some difference between the possessor and possession. In reply, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja wrote a very powerful article in our Bhagavata Patrika magazine, and it was sent to that president of India. In that article he challenged all his arguments and said, “You can reply and try to defeat my arguments. I’m not writing to you as the president of India, but I’m writing to you because you are a learned person of Advaitavada philosophy (the philosophy of absolute oneness taught by Saìkaracarya, and whose conclusion is advaita-siddhanta).”
Dr. Radha-Krishna could not reply. Such persons cannot reply.
He also cut the arguments of the ‘murghi’ mission. Do you know the murghi mission? It is the mission whose members kill murghis, hens, and eat them. What mission is that? The Rama-Krsna mission – they are not religious persons. They are not even a welfare society because they will even eat cow flesh and other forbidden things. They don’t want to honor the Gita; they simply give importance to bread and butter. They don’t believe in God, who can give eternal bliss in heaven; they believe in bread and butter.
Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja never cared for them. He was against their philosophy and activities, and he cut all their arguments. Perhaps Vivekananda had never read scriptures like the Vedas, Upanisads, and Srimad-Bhagavatam. His followers are only social persons; they have nothing to do with religion. Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja was fearless like a lion, and he defeated all their arguments. He was in the line of our guru-parampara. He would follow all the doctrines, all the acaranas (practices and behavior), vaisnava-sadacara (pure habits), and Vaisnava etiquette. I’ve never seen him wearing so many kanti-malas around his neck, as some of his disciples do. We should totally follow him.
We should also try to be like strong lions. He was like this. He jumped the seven oceans from India and went to New York. What did he do there? He performed a miracle. He turned hippies into ‘happies.’ They are now happy. A gang of hippies became a high class of devotees.
He gave a lesson to this world, that even a street beggar who has very strong faith in serving his Gurudeva and Radha-Krsna, Mahaprabhu, and Nityananda Prabhu, can jump anywhere – in fire, over the Alps and the Himalayas, in the ocean – anywhere. He can go anywhere and Krsna will help him. Although penniless, he ‘jumped over the ocean.’ Somehow he traveled on the Scindia Navigation, and simply chanted the holy names of the Panca-tattva: Sri-krsna-caitanya prabhu-nityananda Sri-advaita gadadhara Srivasadi-gaura-bhakta-vrnda; and the Maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. He never took note of whether anyone was looking at him or not. We think, “Oh, all are seeing me,” but he was never like that. Sometimes hippies used to dance to his singing. They sometimes offered him a bottle of wine or cigarettes and addressed him, “O my friend.” They were very quickly attracted to him and they gradually gave up everything else.
He never made any compromise, especially with the babajis of Radha-kunda who speak sahajiya philosophy. He was like my Gurudeva and his Prabhupada. Nowadays, however, so many are going to Radha-kunda and taking babaji-vesa from the babajis who are not actually following Mahaprabhu. So many ISKCON members are also doing this. What becomes of them? They will also become like those bogus babajis. We should try to be like Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja and follow his process, line and instruction.
The Blind and the Lame
He would say that if a blind person and a lame person travel together, they can go anywhere they like. The blind person will take the lame person on his shoulders. The lame person has eyes and he will say, “You should go this way and that way.” The blind person will walk and the lame person will direct. The western world is blind and India is lame. What is the meaning? India has no source of wealth to preach this mission throughout the world. It has eyes but no legs; it is so lame. America and all western countries are very wealthy, but they have no eyes. If both combine and co-operate, we can preach this mission to the entire world.
Put Me in Samadhi
Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja would say, “Bombay is my office, Mayapura is my sadhana-bhumi or place of sadhana-bhajana, and my home is Vrndavana.” That is why he came to Vrndavana in his final days and took samadhi there – in his home, in Vrndavana – Goloka Vrndavana.
I don’t know why he was so pleased with me that he always loved me so much. He gave me so many occasions in which I was able to fully serve him. He was very much attracted to me, and it was my good fortune that he gave me so many orders to serve him. He told me, as his last service, “Put me in samadhi with your own hands.” There were so many god-brothers who were very scholarly and very high-class. And there were more than a hundred very qualified GBC and others. I had never been to university or anything like that. Still he had so much faith in me, and therefore he ordered me in this way – and I followed his instructions.
He also told me, “You should try to help my devotees. I brought them, but I could not train them fully due to their inability to fully accept my instructions.” Then I called Tamala Krsna, Brahmananda, Bhagavan, Kirtanananda, and so many others, and I told them, “Don’t quarrel after his departure. You should not think that he will die. A Guru like him never dies. He is always in this world. He is eternally present. So if you want to serve him, you should try to preach his mission all over the world – as he wanted. Don’t quarrel for position, name and fame, wealth, or disciples. I know that after the disappearance of a high class of acarya, some quarrel, and some problems come. But I think that you are qualified persons, and you should therefore not quarrel for all these things. Try to give respect to all the disciples of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja, regardless of whether they are senior or junior. You should be very liberal to all, and then you can protect his mission. Otherwise you can destroy his whole mission. I know that you have learned something – how to make money. I know that He has trained you all how, very easily, in a moment, to make so much money. But I think that you’ll have to learn more.”
His Real Mission
“You will have to learn his intrinsic moods, why he descended here from the transcendental world, and what his mission was. You should try to understand this. His mission was the same as that of Mahaprabhu. And they both did it through sankirtana.
anarpita-carim cirat karunayavatirnah kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasam sva-bhakti-sriyam
sada hrdaya-kandare sphuratu vah saci-nandanah
(Caitanya-caritamrta Adi-lila 1.4)
[“May the Supreme Lord who is known as the son of Srimati Saci-devi be transcendentally situated in the innermost chambers of your heart. Resplendent with the radiance of molten gold, He has appeared in the Age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation has ever offered before: the most sublime and radiant mellow of devotional service, the mellow of conjugal love.”]
“You know what kirtana is, but you do not know what real kirtana of the heart is. You do not know what the pure name is. If the pure name manifests, a man is totally changed. Love and affection comes for all, even for creepers, trees and everything else. There will be no quarreling, and then you will be:
trnad api sunicena
taror api sahisnuna
kirtaniyah sada hari
(Caitanya-caritamrta Adi-lila 17. 31)
[“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 respects to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.”]
“Then I will think that you know his intrinsic mood and you are following that.”
If they will honor all devotees, I think that all will return back to Godhead. But if they are not giving honor and respect to the devotees, no one will join them. Even a dog knows. If you will call a dog, “Oh here, here, here,” he will come. All can understand if you have bhakti in your heart and honor for all devotees.
As Srila Rupa Gosvami has told:
krsneti yasya giri tam manasadriyeta
diksasti cet pranatibhis ca bhajantam isam
susrusaya bhajana-vijnam ananyam anya-
(Nectar of Instruction, Text 5)
[“One should mentally honor the devotee who chants the holy name of Lord Krsna, one should offer humble obeisances to the devotee who has undergone spiritual initiation and is engaged in worshiping the Deity, and one should associate with and faithfully serve that pure devotee who is advanced in undeviated devotional service and whose heart is completely devoid of the propensity to criticize others.”]
We should try to honor all, according to their qualification in bhakti, and then everyone will be trained and no one will fall. Otherwise, all are going to fall down. If anyone has a strong personality like your Prabhupada, serving gurudeva and preaching like him, he will be a very high class of devotee.
So it was here, on this day that your Prabhupada took the renounced order, and he preached over the entire world in a couple of years. This miracle has not been seen before. He was one of the arms of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, and they predicted his coming. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written, “I think that within a very few years, thousands of western devotees, wearing sikhas, tulasi malas and chanting Hare Krsna, will join Indian devotees. Both will chant and dance together.” This is what we are now seeing everywhere.
So we should chant and remember in the proper line, and all other things will come automatically. The maha-mantra, Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, are Radha and Krsna Themselves, and Mahaprabhu Himself. If we are chanting and remembering with sadacara, we will achieve the goal very soon. Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja is showering his blessings upon all those who, although having left Krsna consciousness, are now coming again to this Krsna consciousness movement.
The Real Meaning of ISKCON
What is the real meaning of ISKCON, International Society for Krishna Consciousness?
kriyatam yadi kuto ‘pi labhyate
tatra laulyam api mulyam ekalam
janma-koti-sukrtair na labhyate
(Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya-lila 8.70)
[“Pure devotional service in Krsna consciousness cannot be had even by pious activity in hundreds and thousands of lives. It can be attained only by paying one price – that is, intense greed to obtain it. If it is available somewhere, one must purchase it without delay.”]
If anyone is following this principle, then he is an ISKCON member in the real sense; otherwise not. So we should try to know his mood – krsna-bhakti rasa bhavita matih. If our hearts are saturated with the bhakti-rasa of Vrndavana, then we are ISKCON members in the truest sense. If anyone is falling down, he was never a real ISKCON member, because anyone who has a taste in bhakti-rasa will never fall down. A true ISKCON member can never fall down.