Date: July 7, 2007 Location: ISKCON Gita Nagari [www.gitanagari.com] Occasion: Opening of HH Bhakti-tirtha Swami Maharaja’s Puspa Samadhi Mandir ________________________________
[note: transcription is not verbatim]
Part Two: Indrani DD, Romapada Swami, Cintamani DD, Jayapataka Swami, Anuttama Das, Rukmini DD, Kamagiri DD, Krsnanandini DD
Mother Indrani: Hare Krsna. What a wonderful day this is. Loving exchanges. It has been happening from the moment I arrived here and all I could do was thank Bhakti-tirtha Swami Maharaj. He taught us what love is. I found a tape, “What is Real Love”. I sent it to Gita Nagari last November. I asked somebody to make copies of it and pass it around. I don’t know if they did, but on that tape I heard him saying, “You go out and everybody is saying, you are so loving. I know here you are having problems and conflicts, here you are being bathed in love. Love is being poured out to you and you are taking it out.”
That is what he is, love personified. That is what he gave us all that is what he gave the world. and yet, it has to be imbibed. As most of you know, I moved to Alachua, Florida. Krsna moved me because I was having a problem with heat and hot water in the asrama. I found as I got older, it was harder heating water and the whole nine yards. I’m telling them, Gurudeva. Hey, this is great, maybe we’ll get the hot water fixed and I’ll have hot water the rest of the month. [laughter]
But I got to Alachua and I started interacting with devotees and I started calling up devotees and I found myself at times feeling sad about what I heard about devotees. What I would do, I would go to Gurudeva’s picture and pray to him to help me to have compassion and love that he gave to us, showed to us, revealed to us because I realized that after sixteen years, I still hadn’t imbibed the love and compassion that he gave us. That is all I have to say. All of you who know him, who have read his books, who have talked with him and shared with him, take what he has given us: love and compassion for Krsna. He took me at 64 years old and filled me with love and compassion and cleaned me up. Now I am praying for the purity. My darlings, I love you all, but that love has to be deeper, the compassion has to be deeper. We have a place to come. We have each other. Jaya Bhakti-tirtha Swami Maharaj ki jai!
Romapada Swami: A couple of anecdotes and one message on the loving exchanges theme. At one GBC meeting, I recall, we had a review of what is the role of ministries. There was only one ministry that was clearly performing its mandate, that was the Communications ministry, but the others had titles where it wasn’t really clear that they were performing. The idea was brought out that what we should really be doing is. . . the idea started going around who is actually doing something that is not a GBC assignment but it is still a service to our society, the title of ministry of culture went to Bhakti Charu Swami and minister of love went to Bhakti-tirtha Swami. I noticed him lighting up like a light bulb that didn’t go dim. Before that, his enthusiasm wasn’t the same as after. He far preferred to consider himself, different expletives, that is great, minister of love, minister of love, minister of love, etc. etc. for days! He was absorbed in having that service for all the devotees.
Another little example. Radhanath Maharaj was describing Bhakti-tirtha Swami as always an acarya on this minister of love theme or loving exchanges theme. Within the time limitation, I will just give the essence. When I came to visit Bhakti-tirtha Swami just before his departure, I heard from Vrajalila that the appointed time was going to have to be the day after the day I arrived because that whole night he had a sleepless night from so much pain. So he could receive you but probably not spend so much time because he was so weak, so I came with that expectation. Radhantah Maharaj and Vakresvara Pandit were with me. It wasn’t a short exchange. It wasn’t even an exchange. Bhakti-tirtha Swami spoke for about an hour and a half, non-stop giving, giving, giving. He was becoming more and more animated.
At one point, Ekavira was attending his different cancer lumps and he gave us a head to toe description of what is going on in his body. I can’t even imagine what, how he was rising above the pain to just give and give and give and becoming energized from that giving and giving and the only thing that interrupted was his appointed call with Satsvarupa Maharaj when he ended the conversation. Then he turned to Radhanath Maharaj and said, “Each person that comes to see me, I just pray to Krsna, what is it that in service to that devotee I can do. I am following that inspiration.” That is His Holiness Bhakti-tirtha Swami.
Now the third and final part: the Gita Nagari prophecy. I recall speaking about this at the inauguration ceremony, the previous one, but it is certainly worth repeating again and again. The presentation that Prabhupada made on the commemoration of Gandhi’s memorial, disappearance, Prabhupada explained that the way to honor a great person is not make a statue or name a building after that great person, but to create a community of person who exemplify and present to the world the teachings that that great personality gave to the world. Prabhupada said that a couple times, I am using a slightly different language, but it is the same message. In that same document, Prabhupada said, he called that place Gita Nagarai.
I heard Bhakti-tirtha Swami speaking that Prabhupada, before coming to Gita Nagari, he named it Gita Nagari, and it wasn’t accidental. My dear devotees, those that live in Gita Nagari and those that are friends of the Gita Nagari project and those that want to honor Bhakti-tirtha Swami, we have a memorial, but that is not the only way to honor a great soul. The teachings that he gave to the world is very clear. It is not unclear, it is very clear. He wanted to create a sanga of devotees, specifically here in Gita Nagari, and more broadly, the sanga where the teachings of Bhagavad-gita are taught and specifically this component, loving exchanges with devotees.
I just completed with Badahari Prabhu over the weekend, a japa workshop. One of the things that was coming out is the quality of our chanting determines the quality of our life. The quality of the way we live can also affect the quality of our life.
So on the theme of loving exchanges, if we can honor this great Vaisnava, do our part to create the quality of loving exchanges so that we can also go more deeply into the quality of chanting the Holy Name, then that will be wonderful offering to Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj, to Srila Prabhupada, and to all the predecessor acaryas.
HH Bhakti-tirtha Swami Maharaj ki jai!
Cintamani Devi: Hare Krsna. I feel most humble and insignificant to be speaking before this great assembly of Vaisnavas. I thank you for allowing me to have some opportunity to glorify my spiritual master. When I think of Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj in this topic of loving exchanges, I think of him as the embodiment of loving exchanges. There are so many thousands of stories we can speak on, but what inspires me is to take on the challenge of love in action, to challenge myself to see every action as an expression of love or a cry for love. When he challenged us all to take that on, it really takes a great depth of humility to see that.
I further extended to take this on in the context of community which puts on a greater challenge. Krsna gives you great opportunity to practice that because of the false ego. I have had so many nice experiences of that today in trying to assist in this service. It is so nice, expression of love, expression of love.
I also feel so humbled to be able to live in this holy Dham, to raise my children in this sattvic environment, where they are not exposed to TV, crime on the street. All the simple things in life that help one to advance spiritually. I am so grateful to experience this. I feel he has offered me really appreciating what is a Vaisnava, really appreciating the rarity of interacting with a Vaisnava. I thought of the sages of Naimasaranya. He actually arranged that I can be in your association and try to offer some service. I am eternally grateful for everything that he has offered and I pray that I can continue to be in mood of service and continue to make him proud.
His Holiness Bhakti-tirtha Swami Maharaj ki jai!
Jayapataka Swami: I was thinking about love when I came here to Gita Nagari to see Bhakti-tirtha Swami Maharaj towards the end. He had loving exchanges with me, but he was telling me how he was going to come to give the Sunday program here, but because his bones were so brittle at that time, that just a bounce on the road and he could be broken to pieces. I told the devotees, “Just see how much love he has for you. He is taking this huge risk just so that you can have a nice, be warm here inside the temple. Maybe you better just wear your overcoats and go over there.” I heard after that they went over there for the darshan. He was always thinking of others, wasn’t thinking about himself.
I was thinking this morning when I had darshan of Radha Damodar and they were in this chandan, chandan yatra decoration. It was very beautiful and very moving. I was remembering that I just came here for Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj’s festival, but Gita Nagari is a Srila Prabhupada Tirtha. He have the name Gita Nagari, he came here. On different occasions he worshiped Radha Damodara.
Bhakti-tirtha Swami wanted to teach the importance of the holy places we have here in the West. In India, there is Gaura Mandala Bhumi, one who understands this is a transcendental abode is actually residing in Vrindavan. There are so many holy places visited by associates of Lord Caitanya for one day, he chanted his rounds here and they change the whole name of the whole city, Haridaspur High School. Like Haridaspur, Haridas Thakur just stayed there for one day but they changed the name of the village, put a sripat, the place where he sat and chanted. Prabhupada went there also and mentioned that anywhere where some great devotee, associate, stays for even a short time, within three miles radius it becomes purified. I was thinking that actually how Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj his whole purpose for leaving his body here, he also mentioned that to me, to many devotees, he wanted to give importance to the holy places in the west. We shouldn’t forget that sacrifice he made.
I was thinking his name is also Bhakti-tirtha Swami. And this lila where he was presenting the importance of the tirthas we have here in the West. New Vrindaban is also a Tirtha, Gita Nagari. We don’t have that many tirthas in the West. In the Centennial, one of the lotus petals was all of Srila Prabhupada’s holy places. We were talking that we forgot that initiative, to preserve the tirthas of Srila Prabhupada. It was on Bhakti-tirtha swami’s agenda. We have to be grateful to him for reminding us. That is why we are here.
Bhakti-tirtha Swami Maharaj ki jai!
Then of course Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj encouraged building communities, building congregations. He was one of the main ones who was always promoting my ministry, the Congregational Development ministry. Some people are proposing we should make it the Community Development ministry. He was always supporting and encouraging. For me that is also a very big loss, but even more is the personal loss of his association. He is one of the few people I could confide in. he gave me some siksa, some help how to deal with. He had been though a lot and sometimes people don’t understand. When you try to give out love to devotees, they say, “What’s your motive? Why are you doing this? What do you want from me?” [laughter] He was also facing that a little bit.
It is actually so satisfying that you can see some devotee is helped. [missing section] With their japa and Bhakti-tirtha Swami came and chanted some rounds of japa in the devotees dream. Some special mercy.
So I mentioned yesterday before I really wanted to thank Candramauli Swami and especially Radhanath Swami Maharaj because he spent so much time in the final months giving association to Bhakti-tirtha Swami. This is something which I feel guilty that I didn’t do, but Bhakti-tirtha Swami told me to get out of here: “If you stay, I can’t leave.” Later I thought maybe I should stay. But I’m grateful that Radhanath Swami gave that time and represented his Godbrothers.
He gave me three instructions before he left: one was to come here to Gita Nagari. They encourage me to come every year now. One was to go to West Africa; I’ve been there twice now and really feel his presence there, and the third was to help his disciples t remain in ISKCON. So I feel connected by him giving these services.
I had a gift to offer, I think Anasuya is the Vice President, or someone else from the management can take it. [unveils two posters] See this concept, we have the Vamanadeva approach which was inspired by Bhakti-tirtha Swami: you make contacts, cultivate devotees, and finally you take care of them when thy become devotees. That’s one of the main pillars: contact, cultivation care, and he is the main inspiration for that. Another is the Bhaktivinod Thakur poster. I want to give these posters as gifts to the temple here.
Anuttama Prabhu: Srila Prabhupada’s main instruction was for us to be preachers, it’s a mistaken thought that philosophy is what brings people to a religious institution, the social network is what works, when people decide they want to be with those people, not these people. That happened to me, I was in Boulder and met the devotees. They were so nice and after they left I decided I wanted to be with them. I didn’t know the philosophy, I think I was still a Mayavadi for the first two weeks in the temple.
Bhakti-tirtha Swami really embodied that spirit in his preaching and if we really want to help the future generations and enable the Krsna consciousness movement to change the suffering in the world around us, then we need to create that feeling in people so they want to be with us, not the others.
I’ve shared this story before, but another place that moves me is when I was in South Africa a few years ago and I went to Robin Island where Nelson Mandela was in prison for 3 decades. Later when he came into power he turned it into a museum. There is a quote there from Mandela which says roughly: “I did not want to make this a museum of human suffering, but a beacon of what perseverance can do.”
This moved me so much that I took a rock from there and would keep it in my beadbag. Sometimes devotees, I don’t know for what reason, would look in there and ask me what sila I had. I would explain that I’m not so advanced to have a sila, but this is a rock from Robin Island. I kept it as it gave me so much inspiration. Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj is such an example of that persevering spirit. Here we are dedicating his Samadhi. My first memory of him is saying that this might be my last day and he would live his life like that. So we should be ready to build those loving communities as he did and benedict the whole world.
Now the heart of the family gets to speak:
Rukmini DD: If we are going to truly honor the ongoing presence of Bhakti-tirtha Swami, what comes to my mind is a Christian saying that goes along the lines of “Be careful to honor a guest because you may entertain an angel unaware.” So we have to be careful to honor even the newest person who wanders into a temple as that person may become a Bhakti-tirtha Swami.
I want to repeat Candrasekhara Swami’s realization, since he is not here, that by watching the gradual process of Bhakti-tirtha Swami leaving us he was realizing the process of how the stone heart becomes melted. He was saying when the rain falls in to the sediment of rock it becomes absorbed and as the temperature heats and freezes, the sediment and stone cracks and gradually they become pebbles and dirt where seeds can grow. By our tears watching Bhakti-tirtha Swami leave, this is actually the process of melting the stone heart, feeling the separation and meeting this cracks the stone heart and when it cracks and becomes dirt, the bhakti lata can actually grow there.
Kamagiri Devi: I feel very honored to be here today. It is a very special day for many reasons. We only have just a few minutes so I’ll only speak a little bit. The first time I had the opportunity to have personal association with His Holiness Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj, he kind of established our relationship and he was the first sannyasi I had the opportunity to serve personally. I was doing his laundry and he asked to speak to me one day. I didn’t know what I had done wrong, so I was very nervous. The Mataji encouraged me to go. Ekendra Prabhu was there with His Holiness Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj. He was sitting in the office in Cleveland, Ohio. It was actually our fist meeting personally. He started speaking about my husband. At that time, my husband wasn’t following so nicely, so I had gotten permission that we could live separately. My husband had approached Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj and asked that he would speak to me so that I would accept him back.
Maharaj was presenting so many arguments to me why I should accept him back and I was fighting. Then he just looked and me and smiled and said, “Just do it for me.”
I just had to surrender and I said, “Maharaj, only for you I will do this.”
He said he would do so many things to get my husband to take initiation. And he fulfilled them. That was the beginning of our relationship. I never forgot that exchange.
Over the years, as Radhanath Maharaj and my other Godbrothers were speaking about Maharaj’s glories, one of the things that struck me as a Godsister, whenever Maharaj would come to Cleveland, he was always concerned about everyone else’s welfare. I was reflecting one day that we had arranged this program. We made all the perfect arrangements, down to the wire. When Maharaj came, the perfect van broke down and we had not made a plan B. So, I was driving in my dirty little car without any expectation that Maharaj would get in that car, but Mother Krsnanandini said, “Kamagiri, you’re going to have to come and take Maharaj to his mom’s house.”
We were riding, the three of us. I was thinking about how Maharaj, he was an African king in his preaching, he traveled all around the world, he had so many disciples, he was preaching to unlimited living entities, but I say to him that I love you not because of that, but because you take time out for me and you say, “Kamagiri, how are you today?” He was like that even in his last days when everyone was coming to visit. I have many stories, but I am not going to say more. Another time we will. I am going to let Mother Krsnanandini speak.
Krsnanandini DD: As I was leaving home yesterday, I had this Congregational Preaching Journal that was beside my bed and I thought they may ask me to say something, what should I say? This is a quote:
“The expert devotees also can discover novel ways and means to convert the nondevotees in terms of particular time and circumstance. Devotional service is dynamic activity, and the expert devotees can find out competent means to inject it into the dull brains of the materialistic population. Such transcendental activities of the devotees for the service of the Lord can bring a new order of life to the foolish society of materialistic men. Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His subsequent followers exhibited expert dexterity in this connection. By following the same method, one can bring the materialistic men of this age of quarrel into order for peaceful life and transcendental realization.” That verse is taken from the Srimad-Bhagavatam First Canto, Chapter Five purport.
He has been an expert in so many things, but he is the Minister of Love, when we think of these loving exchanges he has asked us to have. One day we were going over the qualities you need to have, and a devotee said, “Mother Krsnanandini, you are saying patience, compassion, forgiveness, but how do you get that if you don’t have it?”
I said, “Prabhu, this is what this workshop is all about.” Two things jump into my mind. I lacked everything when Prabhupada came to me, but simply by following his instructions and just holding onto his lotus feet, no matter how inadequate I was and then praying to Krsna, “Lord, bless me to be patient, bless me.”
He doesn’t just give me patience or forgiveness, he gives me an opportunity to be patient, to be forgiving, and he leaves it up to me to be patient and forgiving. Take advantage of the opportunities the Lord gives us to be loving. So I have to say all glories to all of you wonderful Vaisnavas. I am so happy. All glories to Bhakti-tirtha Swami. All glories to my eternal, divine father, Srila Prabhupada.