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 Three: Braja Bihari Das, Candramauli Swami, Malati Devi, Nityodita Prabhu, Suddha-jiva Prabhu, Mukunda Prabhu, Bhuta-bhavana Prabhu, Parvati Devi (plus brief words from Vrajalila Devi, Radhanath Swami & Dhruva Prabhu)
Braja Bihari Prabhu: Hare Krsna. Yesterday I was at the Potomac temple chatting with Anuttama Prabhu and he was referring to a poem delineating some of the achievements of Bhakti-tirtha Swami. In his humility Anuttama said “I couldn’t achieve one of these things, what to speak of this whole laundry list that Bhakti-tirtha Swami did.”
I thought about that. What happens, naturally in the world and in ISKCON, is when you achieve amazing things, especially in nonstandard ways as Bhakti-tirtha Swami did, there are devotees who may criticize, they feel some discomfort. Some devotees did criticize Bhakti-tirtha Swami, and my service at that time was to deal with that and improve the misunderstandings.
Unfortunately I wasn’t successful in doing that, but the one advantage was that I got a number of opportunities to talk to him towards the end. He was saying to me, “It is fine if devotees have different opinions, ISKCON will flourish like that, but to have ill will isn’t fine just because of different opinions.”
That struck a chord with me and I try to implement that in my service. One of maya’s greatest tricks is to create discord between devotees. Since our theme is loving exchange, I want to paraphrase one of his sayings, that “We don’t let maya compromise the soul’s need for loving exchanges.”
Candramauli Swami: Hare Krsna, HH Bhakti-tirtha Swami ki jai! Srila Prabhupada ki jai! I remember one statement that Srila Prabhupada referred to himself, he said “I have the mind of an English army officer and the heart of a Bengali mother.” After meeting some Bengali mothers I realized how sweet that is. Sometimes we emphasize the first part and get very formal and philosophical in our relations, without the heart. Bhakti-tirtha Swami was trying to say we should be strict in following but kind and tolerant and patient with others, not only trying to help them in Krsna consciousness, but to do that in a mood of compassion.
The need for growth is there but we have to do it in a way that they see we have their best interests at heart. We don’t take time sometimes as it’s not easy to do that, but developing personal relationships on loving exchanges is the essence of Krsna consciousness, Srila Prabhupada writes about that, that this is the basis for the establishment of the Krsna consciousness movement and it’s expansion. He says we should practice these loving exchanges, we should give gifts to devotees.
Sometimes you may get gifts which may not be something you actually need, but the sentiment endears you. Someone once gave me a beautiful picture of Lord Nrsimhadeva in Mayapur, he was surrounded by lights, it was mystical. The devotee gave it to me with such concern and care. I accepted it and loved it. Then I lost it for a long time, and then when I found it again I remembered that devotee in a wonderful way. This is one exchange, giving and receiving gifts, giving and receiving prasadam, and revealing one’s mind and inquiring confidentially. These are the six loving exchanges so we have to practice that.
As Mother Krsnanandini said, Krsna will always give you an opportunity if you have a desire to practice those qualities. The soul has unconditional love for Krsna and as it extends to him it spreads to the whole universe. Practicing the six loving exchanges shows that we are one family going in the same direction.
The play was very powerful, [referring to a skit starring Navakishore Prabhu that had just been performed as part of the ceremony] that if we just stop overly focusing on oneself then somehow or other the problems go away. There is a story where one VIP came to see Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, and he wanted to ask some questions. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur greeted him graciously but said I have no time right now, please ask the pujaris. So the man went to where the pujaris were polishing the brass and silver paraphernalia. They told the man that if you help us you can ask your questions afterwards. So the man was helping very enthusiastically, and once it was done, when they asked about his questions, he said “I don’t have any questions any more.”
The power of devotional service clears away and helps us understand what we need. One powerful part of that is proper relations, becoming a devotee of the Lord means serving Krsna’s devotees. The love we give the devotees is going to Krsna ultimately. It’s not separate. The idea it is separate is incorrect and incomplete. The love for devotees indicates our love for Krsna.
Vrajalila Devi: Because these devotees did such an amazing service for His Holiness Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj during the time he was ill, during his departure, before his departure. I cannot say anything about Dhruva and how much he served Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj, and Parijata, how she cooked every single day, three meals for every visiting guest. Her and Mangala-arati, her husband Brahma Muhurta.
We have not seen them since the last program we had for Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj two years ago, we wanted to offer them a humble token. Dhruva and Parijata, please come up. We wanted His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaj, who inspired us so much during our Guru Maharaj’s departure, before his departure, every single time of Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj’s illness, HH Radhanath Maharaj was there and after his departure and continuing now, there are no words that can express how grateful we are to you. So we wanted to ask you to please offer this humble gift to Dhruva and Parijata on our behalf. This is a first time for anyone to receive this gift.
Radhanath Swami: We are putting Bhakti-tirtha Swami Maharaj again in your loving care. [offers them a framed photo of Bhakti-tirtha Swami] Parijata, please come. I personally witnessed how these two devotees served Guru Maharaj twenty four hours a day, week after week after week as well as of course Vrajalila and Ekavira Prabhu. It’s hard to even remember the extent, literally twenty four hours a day. They were hardly sleeping minutes a day. They would just lay down and if Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj rang the bell, they would be right up. Selfless service, really, I learned so much, truly selfless service. It is Guru Maharaj’s mercy and you received it wholeheartedly. Hare Krsna.
Dhruva Prabhu: I would like to say thank you to Radhanath Maharaj. It has been two years since Gurudeva’s departure. I guess I am just a dull brained fool, I haven’t really reflected much, so I was really looking forward to coming here, getting everybody’s association. Thank you all for encouraging us doing our service. Without all of you, I don’t think we could have done much service. All of you are so loving. I really want to thank you from the bottom of our heart for being there and even after Gurudeva’s departure, for being there for us. We are very, very grateful for having been let into the Dham again, Gita Nagari Dham, to get the wonderful association of all the wonderful devotees here. Thank you very, very much. Hare Krsna.
Malati Devi: All glories to His Holiness HH Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj. I will just say something really, really short because at a certain point it is almost like you are hearing so much profound and deep realizations, it is almost hard to absorb. You want to keep. . . . in the mood of loving exchange, how do we keep having that loving exchange, that ongoing loving exchange on a personal, intimate level with HH Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj. The obvious is we follow his instructions. This we learned from Srila Prabhupada. And that is nice and it is definitely what we should do.
But sometimes you just want to be a little closer. Sometimes you feel like you’d be laid back, sit with him, it would be almost casual, although it was never frivolous. Then there would be deep, deep moments. So it was mentioned a few times about his sadhana. Many times it was mentioned in memories of His Holiness about his particular dedication and determination to execute japa. So for myself, in the loneliness of his absence, the physical absence, I find a very, very nice way to associate with him is through a japa tape that I got in a very mystical way because I didn’t even know there was one.
I started receiving boxes of devotional paraphernalia in the mail from an unknown person. I could understand this person was giving up their devotional practice because they were sending me very intimate things, and finally, their japa beads. One day came a box of tapes and in there was a japa tape by His Holiness Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj. I had this box. After his departure I remembered that box and it was in Columbus. That is where the boxes started coming. So I made a trip to Columbus just to get that japa tape. I would say once a week, I chant my rounds with HH Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj. I am very attached to chanting with Srila Prabhupada and I am very attached to this time with Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj. Then I found out something really far out. Because this is an old fashioned cassette and I had to go to get a cassette player to play it so I put on the DVD of Srila Prabhupada and listen to them both together and it’s really ecstatic, so I invite you all to do the same.
Nityodita Das: I’d like to remember Bhakti-tirtha Swami in samadhi. This Samadhi is an incredible offering by the disciples, a testimony to Bhakti-tirtha Swami’s ability to put people in samadhi, when all of your senses are absorbed in Krsna. Coming here we can eternally take darshan of Bhakti-tirtha Swami and remember him here in his Samadhi. His samadhi was actually a living thing. I remember whenever he came to New Vrindaban he would sit in front of Srila Prabhupada and chant his japa. In one sense it was scary, the intensity of it. And in mangala-arati, if he was leading, you knew, as soon as “samsara” was uttered, you were dancing, samadhi, total absorption in Krsna. There’s this famous tape in Mayapur when he was preaching to the devotees so intensely that he almost fell off the Vyasasana. This total absorption he practiced throughout his life.
He would listen to me with intensity, you usually wouldn’t get that from ISKCON leaders, they are too busy. The intensity of his samadhi was available to everybody, some may feel left out if they didn’t have personal exchanges, but anyone who was in a kirtana or class of his, he was giving his all and this is the untamed samadhi of Bhakti-tirtha Swami I am remembering. These exchanges were kind of scary as I knew I could never have that intensity. I’m with him, I’m eating with him, but I’m not there, he’s there; he’s in samadhi, even when eating.
That was a scary samadhi and I’m glad we have this tame samadhi so we can remember him at our own pace. I’m very grateful to have this samadhi and I know the devotees were working really hard to finish it as they even called me to help a month ago and I haven’t laid marble for twenty years.
I’m so glad to be here and drink the love of his devotees here, it is just being poured out. Again it’s scary as I think I’ve missed the boat. If I’m hitchhiking back to Godhead, please the disciples of Bhakti-tirtha Swami, pick me up.
Suddha-jiva Das: first I want to ask forgiveness from Bhakti-tirtha’s disciples for being so intense. I’ve known Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj ever since he was a slender brahmacari as Ghanasyama. For me he was living proof of the power of Krsna consciousness. He has reinforced my belief. For me there is absolutely no argument or criticism that can sway that he is the perfect example of the power of serving Srila Prabhupada. Somehow or other I have had the fortune to experience that he has always popped into my life in times of difficulty. One of those major difficulties was when I was going through a divorce. He said to come here, so I came here and took shelter of him and all his disciples. The first thing he did was put me to work, which his the solution to all your grief. He said, “Oh Suddha-jiva, we need a greenhouse and by the way we need a cowshed and a wood shed.” [laughter] So many lunches we would have together.
I will just tell you one short story. We would talk about everything. You could talk to Maharaj about anything. He would listen to anything you had to say. He didn’t just listen because he was supposed to listen but because he genuinely cared about you.
He told me a story about one of the secrets of his success on the library party. He would make appoints with different important persons in universities. Either he himself or he would have someone go and spy on their library. He said you can always tell a man’s psyche by looking at his library. He would discover a man by looking at his books. So many stories he told me.
The one incident that sticks in my mind the most was right before his departure. Here he is about to leave his body–I can’t imagine the pain and suffering his mind and body is going through, but somehow or other he is still looking at me with affection and concern for me and my life. He had no fear for leaving his body but he looked at me and started to cry and he was concerned about my well being.
He said, “Suddha-jiva, you tried everything in your life, so now it is time to go for it. Go for serving our spiritual master.” I thank his disciples for giving me an opportunity to serve him and to assist you all in serving him.
Today I pray for the strength to listen to his advice.
Mukunda Das: So to try to discuss the ocean in three minutes is very difficult, so I thought I would try to take a drop of my association with HH Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj and summarize something. Many devotees have touched many points, but the last time I saw pujya pada Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj we talked about one thing that I thought was amazing, because for all of us it is the continued phrase he coined, “love in action”. The idea of talking about love and affection is one thing, but how to put it into action is another. For me it is kind of mysterious how he was able to do it so consistently, so affectively, for so long, with so many people in such a wide spectrum, and everybody be satisfied.
Sril Rupa Goswami has said there are four things that happen in the process of bhakti, guru padasraya, guru-diksa, guru-siksa, and visrambhena guru seva. So in all of these things, they are mostly one-sided affection of the guru for his disciple. Most people I saw who came to see HH Bhakti-tirtha Maharaj. . . nobody walked into the door with a solution–everybody had a problem. He effectively dealt with everybody’s problem, giving them a solution. This is guru padasraya.
Guru diksa was a further confirmation of his mercy. From his own heart, he gave the devotees Sri Sri Radha-Damodara. All devotees coming from various countries and various backgrounds are here serving Sri Sri Radha-Damodara. This is guru diksa. Then he showed personally by his example and teachings how to serve Sri Sri Radha-Damodara. This is guru siksa.
But this last thing is the responsibility and onus of the disciple. This is called visrambhena guru seva, to serve the guru beyond just awe and reverence, with deep love and affection. How would he accomplish that? Very amazingly he performs this pastime of getting sick, leaving this world, immersing everybody in an ocean of service in the deepest mood, having everyone there twenty four hours a day absorbed. Even this element of visrambhena guror seva, he gave devotees.
Finally he showed no matter about suffering his body, what happened with his body, he showed how to leave this body. That was the last discussion we had that very few disciples get to see that. Even among the disciples of Srila Prabhupada, some were very fortunate to go to Vrindavan to see, but he did not go to Vrindavan or Sridham Mayapur but stayed here and allowed so many people to see how to leave this world. [applause]
As pujya pada HH Radhanath Maharaj mentioned, in that leaving his world, he showed perfection because no mundane talk whatsoever, only hari-katha. Then his love in action manifest in his disciples who then manifest the Samadhi so that you can also follow his path of perfection not only by your living example, but because you certainly have to leave this world, there is no doubt about it. We can also follow our Gurudeva by walking in the path of his Samadhi, by following how he lived, and by following his example of how to leave this body. No greater gift can be given to a disciple than this that everything else is theoretical until you see it for yourself. He was so merciful that even on the internet-though some people criticized that-he showed that anybody, you have to go from here, so let me show with all my loving compassion you how this should be done.
For this, I am eternally grateful among millions of things that I could never do in three minutes here. So dandavat pranam to all Gurus and sannyasis and Srila Prabhupada disciples and Godbrothers and Godsisters. Vancakalpa. . . .
Bhutabhavana Das: Hare Krsna. I also saw often myself in my service as an extension of Bhakti-tirtha Swami’s service. When I was with him in Washington DC in 78-79 at Govinda’s restaurant on Capitol Hill, we were so close to the Capitol that we used to circumambulate it hoping that the people inside would become Krsna conscious.
Maharaj one day told me how old he was. And I said, Well Maharaj we were born in the same year. Then he said I’m about 5 ‘ 11″. I said, I’m 5’ 11″ too Maharaj. We were the same height. You may not believe it now, but he said I weigh 150 pounds and I said I also weigh 150 pounds then. Then he said my shoe size is ten, and I said my size is also ten. Then he said I have this suit, I want you to try this suit on. This was the suit he used me to do his book distribution with on the library party. Now he was in administration and not necessary going out, he was like a lion in the chase on the library party, so I felt he still had that passion. He had me try on his suit and tie and shoes and they all fit perfectly. Then he gave me the Afro wig he used to wear. [laughter] I used to shave my head even before becoming a devotee and it was so awkward. He sent me out to do books, but as the saying goes, you may wear the emperor’s clothes but you’re not the emperor. I wasn’t very good at book distribution so he took his suit back. [laughter]
Then later on he got involved in Africa and he sent me to Nigeria and I used to take pleasure writing to him about the huge book distribution, it was like an explosion. So then I was able to fulfill his mood and Prabhupada’s mood. I see him as an extension of Prabhupada’s mercy getting me to give up my nonsense and going out to distribute Prabhupada’s books.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
All glories to Bhakti-tirtha Swami Krsnapada.
Our Gurudeva always did thinks in such a unique way. I am going to follow that tradition. I am going to ask everyone to stand up. Now this time, when you stand up, we are going to sing Hare Krsna one more time:
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
OK, just keep standing because I am not going to be long. I want to share one of the things guru put on our hearts: he wanted us to be able to manifest our dreams. He said that in his leaving he would empower us to do greater things and I believe that. Those of us who loved him, had the opportunity to associate closely with him, I would like you to see Gita Nagari in a vision, see Gita Nagari in a condition that guru would be proud of.
Let’s see this community in a loving exchange of relationships. Not just words, but how he really wanted us to be. It’s not impossible. Let’s hold that vision with our own intent because Radhanath Swami, he told us that the Vaisnavas have the ability to bless. Let’s bless this community right now. Can you see it? I see it. I see the well managed buildings. I see an ashram full of women, an ashram full of men. I see hot water. I see paved roads. I see the devotees working together to do the holistic workshops. I see the devotees working together and not having to work outside of this community. Guru always said there is such a wealth of talent in these devotees, there is no reason we cannot work together. Let’s see that right now. With the power of our intent, let’s make that happen.
On behalf of our guru Maharaj, I thank you and I thank Vrajalila. Guru loved Vrajalila so much. Of all the people he could call upon, who did he call? Vrajalila, and Ekavira of course. Thank them.[applause, concluding words, puspanjali etc.]