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Sridhar Swami and Mayapur

Sunday, 01 September 2019 / Published in In Memoriam / 5,241 views

By Giriraj Swami

The Mayapur Temple of the Vedic Planetarium (TOVP), which is under construction, recently opened an office in the ISKCON Juhu temple, at Hare Krishna Land in Mumbai. In honor of the occasion, and to further the cause, I thought to share an excerpt adapted from my article “Memories of Sridhar Swami” in my book Many Moons.

In November 2003 Srila Prabhupada’s staunch disciple Sridhar Swami phoned me from Bombay and told me that he was planning to go to Vancouver in April for four to six months. Soon thereafter, however, he sent an e-mail saying that he had been diagnosed with liver cancer and was going to Vancouver immediately to see if he could get a liver transplant, which was his “only hope.”

In Vancouver tests revealed that Maharaja’s cancer had spread beyond the limit allowed for transplants, and so his “only hope” was dashed, and it seemed like he was soon to leave his body.

I phoned Maharaja from Santa Barbara and eventually got him on his cell phone. “Where are you?” I asked. “I’m shopping,” he answered. He seemed so jolly—like always. But then he confirmed my worst fears: “The doctor says that I could go at any time. Phone me back later. We have to talk.”

After that, we would speak every day, usually twice a day—wonderful talks. Then the question arose whether he should go to Mayapur—and when. He decided he would go to Mayapur and concluded that he should go as soon as possible.

Maharaja said that he had three desires: “I just want to survive until I reach Mayapur. Then, if possible, I want to live to see the Panca-tattva installed. And then, if possible, I want to live until Gaura-purnima. And then—whatever.” He meant, of course, “And then—whatever Krishna wants.” No one knew how much travel Maharaja’s weakened body could bear, but with these three desires in his heart, he flew to London and then to Kolkata, and eventually he arrived in Mayapur.

I wanted to phone Maharaja every day, but the way it worked out with the time difference and all the difficulties in just getting through to Mayapur, we managed to speak only every third day or so. The last time, two days before he left, he was having a good day. The previous day had been a bad one, but the night before, they had given him some additional medication. So when I spoke with him that last time, he was having a good day, and we had one of the best talks I have ever had with anyone in my entire life. We spoke mainly about the Mayapur project and Srila Prabhupada’s mission. I’ll cherish that talk for the rest of my life—the experience of it and the lessons it contained.

That was Thursday, March 11. The next day, Friday, we installed beautiful brass Deities of Gaura-Nitai in our Carpinteria ashram. They had come from Vrindavan, originally commissioned by Mother Kirtida for Tamal Krishna Goswami. I felt that Their coming was also part of Sridhar Swami’s mercy, because he so fervently desired that the glories of the Panca-tattva be spread and that we build the great temple for Them in Mayapur. So, two representatives of the Panca-tattva had come, and I felt that Their arrival was his desire.

On Thursday I had told Maharaja, “I don’t know if I will be able to phone you again before then, but the Deities have come and we will install Them Friday evening, and by your mercy we’ll try to serve Them and Their dhama.” And now, whenever I look at Their beautiful forms and appealing faces, I feel that we have to do something for Them—we have to build Their wonderful temple, as Sridhar Swami always reminded me.

I think this may have been Maharaja’s main contribution in recent years, at least to me in my service: He impressed upon me—and upon our entire movement—the importance of the Mayapur project, of the adbhuta mandira, “wonderful temple,” that Nityananda Prabhu had desired for the service of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and that Bhaktivinoda Thakura had envisioned. Maharaja’s whole life was dedicated to Srila Prabhupada, and I think he felt that this was one of Srila Prabhupada’s main desires left to be fulfilled. And he felt that we had to do it—and that we had to do it; it would benefit the whole society, and the whole world. He would quote Ambarisa Prabhu: “This will be the tide that will make all the boats rise.”So, although Sridhar Maharaja left so many wonderful legacies for us in terms of his personal qualities and activities, one legacy that may serve to unite the movement and fulfill one of Srila Prabhupada’s main desires is his inspiration to push on the construction of the great temple in Mayapur.

When I was a new devotee, maybe less than two years in the movement, I approached Srila Prabhupada one day while he was getting his massage on the veranda of the Calcutta temple. “Srila Prabhupada,” I said, “I have been thinking about what pleases you most.” Srila Prabhupada took every word into his heart. He replied, “Yes.” I said, “The two things that seem to please you the most are distributing your books and building the big temple in Mayapur.” Srila Prabhupada smiled with great appreciation and said, “Thank you very much.”

Those were Srila Prabhupada’s two main strategies for spreading Krishna consciousness, and Sridhar Swami helped him in both. In his early days, Sridhar Swami was instrumental in developing book distribution in North America. And in his later years, he was very involved with the Mayapur project, planning and raising funds for the great temple. And by Maharaja’s mercy, on Gaura-purnima, standing in front of the Panca-tattva Deities in Laguna Beach, I got the inspiration: “Now it’s time for Mayapur. Sridhar Swami understood that long ago. Now it’s time for you [me] to join the effort, too.” And that was important for me in other ways as well—to let go of the past: “Forgive and forget. Now let’s all work together for Mayapur, for Sridhar Swami, for Srila Prabhupada, to build the wonderful temple.”

When I asked Sridhar Swami how I could help, he requested me to speak about my experiences of Srila Prabhupada related to Mayapur. In 1973, when Srila Prabhupada came to Calcutta from England, he was very excited and enthusiastic about Mayapur. Tamal Krishna Goswami had gotten the first land, we had observed the first Gaura-purnima festival there, and now Srila Prabhupada had come with the plans for the first building. There was a detailed discussion, and at the end Srila Prabhupada said, “If you build this temple, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura will personally come and take you all back to Godhead.”

Now I think, “That might be my only hope, so I’d better get to work. We’d better build the Mayapur project, because I don’t know how else I will ever get back to Godhead.”

His Holiness Sridhar Swami has given me a lifetime of work in service to Srila Prabhupada. Although jivo va maro va, to live or die is the same for a devotee—and certainly that was true of Maharaja—my own feelings are mixed. I think, “He has left so much service for me, given me so many instructions. So I must stay and execute his mission.” I think the same about Tamal Krishna Goswami. Even though part of me misses them terribly and wants to be with them, mainly I think, “They left me so many instructions. I have so much service to do for them here.”

Of course, how long we have to do what they have asked—what they would want—all depends on Krishna. Therefore, whatever time we do have left we should use in the best possible way—in Krishna consciousness.

Your Name Will Be There
In the Dungeon With Shridhar Swami

6 Responses to “Sridhar Swami and Mayapur”

  1. Adhiyajna Das says :

    I met Sridhara Swami in Vancouver during his visit after he had been diagnosed and he was jolly as ever.Over the course of his visit he was very lovingly sharing his association with all the devotees and I especially remember receiving his embrace on a couple of occasions and I felt his love and compassion each time . I felt truly blessed by his embrace to feel his genuine care and love. He was originally from Vancouver and he asked me if I could preach to his brother and try to help him become a devotee.

  2. cha108 says :

    I really think ISKCON as an organization should be more proactive concerning the health of its members. While this clearly is a serious stage IV terminal cancer case, this is what the Gerson Inst in San Diego and Mexico specializes in. Also the Hippocrates Inst in West Palm Beach. Both Gerson and Hippocrates have cured, and that’s cured, not just treated, many stage IV cancer patients, sent home to die by their conventional oncologists. We are supposed to be a holistic organization. We should take care of both the spiritual and physical health of the devotees.

  3. brahma dasa says :

    At $4000 to $5000 a week (not covered by health insurance) Gerson and Hippocrates retreats are beyond the means of most devotees. Their therapies, which are juiced based and vegan, are beneficial and can be practiced at home if one is determined and willing to buy an expensive juicer and give up fried foods, dairy, sugar, etc. They both claim to have had success in curing cancer but of course there is no guarantee, and on the internet you can find stories of desperate families who spent their savings and more fighting cancer through Hippocrates Institute to no avail.

    However, now that ISKCON is financed largely by donations from its congregation it might be proper for centers to purchase health insurance for all its full time monastics, as does the Catholic Church.

    brahma

  4. Puskaraksa das says :

    (Kadamba Kanana Swami, 12 December 2013, Midrand, South Africa, Evening Lecture)

    Prabhupada was saying, “How did this miracle happen to me? I’m an old man, I’m an old man. I am a foreigner. I came to America, I didn’t have any money.”

    Old man, foreigner, no money. Who’s gonna listen to him? Nobody will care for him. He said, “How did this miracle happen to me?”

    By the grace of guru and Gauranga! When guru is pleased then Krsna is pleased then Krsna will do, Krsna will make it all possible. Then anything can be done. Prabhupada was so successful and Prabhupada became so glorious but he never accepted any glory.

    He would always point at Krsna or his spiritual master, “If you see any good qualities in me, then know it to be the good quality of my spiritual master.” He said, “Just like the moon, the moon actually has no effulgence of it’s own. It’s just reflecting light of the sun. In the same way, if you see any good quality in me, then know it’s just a reflection of the good quality of my spiritual master.” Like that, Prabhupada is not claiming any fame. Oh no. Prabhupada was pointing at Krsna.

    Prabhupada said, “Krsna is your best friend.”

    “Oh Prabhupada, you are our best friend,” the devotees said.

    Prabhupada said, “No, no. I may disappoint you but Krsna, he never will, he never will because Krsna is omnipotent. He can do anything and everything. He is your best friend. I may disappoint.”

    So like this, Prabhupada was pointing at Krsna as our shelter, as our friend, always Krsna, putting Krsna in the centre.

  5. Puskaraksa das says :

    Prabhupāda: I don’t make any compromise with these rascals. No words. No, no. I never made that. Even if I don’t get any disciples, I’ll be satisfied. But I can’t make any compromise like these rascals. I cannot make. Ekaś candras tamo hanti na ca tārā sahasrasaḥ. If I create one moon, that is sufficient. I don’t want many stars. That was my Guru Mahārāja’s principle, and that is my principle. What is the use of having number of fools and rascals? If one man understands rightly, he can deliver the whole world. (break)
    (Morning walk, – March 23, 1974 – Bombay)

  6. Pusta Krishna das says :

    His Holiness Giriraj Maharaj is a very unusual and rare bhakta. I say this from personal experience with him. A man should know what he knows, understanding that if he expresses it, he is only regurgitating what he already knows. But, Giriraj Maharaj has refined the art of hearing….and not just superficially. He is a very deeply thoughtful devotee, with a lot of feeling as well. Sometimes after sharing with him one on one, I have the feeling that “here is a devotee that one can confide in and share one’s deepest thoughts and realizations.” It is a wonderful quality to possess, and one that is not earned by mechanically performing vaidhi bhakti.
    We used to speak in the old days about some pop singers and say that they have “soul”. Well, Giriraj Maharaj is such a bhakta, a “soul-man”, in a very good way. I have recently visited his ashram in the Santa Barbara area of California, and I offered my respect to the Gaura Nitai Deities he mentions. In fact, his altar is mixed with spiritual memorabilia from many of our godbrothers, and those he reveres.
    I remember that Srila Prabhupada’s dear godbrother and friend, Srila Sridhar Maharaj, used to say that extreme humility can attract Krishna. The kind of self-effacing, self-minimizing “negative” can attract the Supreme “Positive”. Nice things to meditate upon. Pusta Krishna das

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