Live from Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir! Radhanath Swami on Bhakti-tirtha Swami
Date: February 25, 2008 (Vyasa-puja of HH Bhakti-tirtha Swami) Verse: Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.12.57 Speaker: HH Radhanath Swami
By Ananda Tirtha (das) PVS (Mayapur – IN)
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rucaye pradat kardamaya tu madhyamam daksayadat prasutim akutim ca yata apuritam jagat
TRANSLATION: The father, Manu, handed over his first daughter, Akuti, to the sage Ruci, the middle daughter, Devahuti, to the sage Kardama, and the youngest, Prasuti, to Daksa. From them, all the world filled with population.
PURPORT: The history of the creation of the population of the universe is given herewith. Brahma is the original living creature in the universe, from whom were generated the Manu Svayambhuva and his wife Satarupa. From Manu, two sons and three daughters were born, and from them all the population in different planets has sprung up until now. Therefore, Brahma is known as the grandfather of everyone, and the Personality of Godhead, being the father of Brahma, is known as the great-grandfather of all living beings. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gita (11.39) as follows:
vayur yamo ‘gnir varunah sasankah prajapatis tvam prapitamahas ca namo namas te ‘stu sahasra-krtvah punas ca bhuyo ‘pi namo namas te
“You are the Lord of air, the supreme justice Yama, the fire, and the Lord of rains. You are the moon, and You are the great-grandfather. Therefore I offer my respectful obeisances unto You again and again.”
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta purports of the Third Canto, Twelfth Chapter, of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, entitled “Creation of the Kumaras and Others.”
HH Radhanath Swami: In Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna speaks: aham bija-pradah pita, that he is the seed-giving father of all living beings. Acintya-bhedabheda-tattva is an all pervading force that pertains to every aspect of the material and spiritual workings, the inconceivable nature of simultaneous oneness and difference. There are eight million, four hundred thousand species of life, and unlimited living entities who are within these various species, so much variegatedness, but at the same time, there is always oneness. In this instance, we are all coming from the same source. We are factually all brothers and sisters, whether we are mosquitoes, or whether we are prime ministers.
When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave an order to Haridasa Thakur and Nityananda Prabhu to preach, this was his message. “Go to everyone, do not discriminate what is their caste, what is their race, what is their education or economic condition. Go to everyone and give this simple message: Worship Krsna, chant the Holy Names of Krsna, speak about Krsna. Krsna is your mother, Krsna is your father, Krsna is your real wealth, Krsna is your very life and soul. ”
Srila Prabhupada emphasized this. We could have our League of Nations or United Nations or so many other philanthropic, social, and political efforts to try to create unity in human society, but unless we have realization about real common connection that spirit souls are part of Krsna, children of Krsna, there is no possibility of any substantial peace in this world.
In this particular verse, Manu and Satarupa are just born from the body of Brahma. In the verses to come, Svayambhuva Manu, with folded palms, approaches Brahma and surrenders to him. He says, “I am yours. Give me any order and my life is to execute your order.” He was sincere.
Brahma was so pleased with him. He said, “Because your respectful to your superiors, because you are not envious of others, and because you are really surrendered to execute the order that is given to you by the Supreme Lord through me, you will be powerful.”
Lord Caitanya taught, mahäjano yena gatah sa panthah, that the only way to perfection is to follow the footsteps of the mahajanas. Svayambhuva Manu was one of the twelve mahajanas. We should study very carefully this particular incident from Srimad Bhagavatam. He is surrendering to his guru, his father, Brahma, knowing him to be the representative of Krsna. Then Brahma gives him instruction. He said, “You should procreate living being, you should rule over the world according to the principles of pure devotional service to the Supreme Lord, and you should perform yajna or sadhana for his satisfaction.” Then a very key instruction here, he said, “The best service that you or any leader can render is to protect all living beings within the material world. If you sincerely and honestly act as a protector of others, you will please the Supreme Personality of Godhead and he will empower you.”
This is the first duty, according to Lord Brahma, who is the first guru after Krsna in our parampara, of a leader, to protect one’s subordinates. Protection can in a simple way be classified as physical protection, emotional protection, spiritual protection. Srila Prabhupada, as our acarya, has exemplified this for all of us to learn from, and to try to put in practice by trying to follow in his footsteps. Here in Sri Mayapur Dham, we have been told by devotees who were here for the first Gaura Purnima festival, there were very simple facility. At night, when devotees were sleeping, Prabhupada was going around to see that everyone had their mosquito nets and everyone was fed nicely. He was so worried about the comforts of the devotees. He writes in his purports that he built temples and guesthouses in Vrindavan and Mayapur especially so that the devotees from all other the world could come to India to these holy places and feel comfortable, feel protected.
One of the first temples in ISKCON was Bury Place in London. It began with just a few devotees, but soon, the Hare Krsna explosion took place and Prabhupada came to Bury Place, Radha Londonisvara’s temple and he saw devotees sleeping on the stairways, sleeping in the hallways. It was so overcrowded. So he approached George Harrison, “My devotees are suffering. They don’t have proper accommodation. They have given up so much. Can you find a spacious place for them?” On the basis of Srila Prabhupada’s concern for the physical condition of his devotees, Bhaktivedanta Manor was purchased and developed.
Emotional care, Srila Prabhupada made every devotee feel so valuable. He was so encouraging. Even by a glance or a smile or by some kind words or by chastisement, even when he chastised devotees, the devotees felt. . . I don’t know their minds, but their hearts were feeling ecstatic because they knew, “He is chastising me because he really cares about me. He is trying to help me. He is protecting me.” If you chastise someone and it breaks their heart, then we’re not really following Prabhupada’s footsteps. Prabhupada was melting people’s hearts by his chastisement. They felt he was protecting them.
I remember one time, I was a very insignificant – I still am a very insignificant devotee – doing some deity worship, milking some cows. I handed Srila Prabhupada a little rose, a wild rose that I just picked from the forest as I was going to see him. He smiled at me with such gratitude and he said, “Thank you very much” in such a way that I felt like I just built a temple [laughter], I felt like I just distributed a million books. Prabhupada protected us by encouraging us and making us feel valued and appreciated for whatever efforts we made sincerely to serve Krsna.
And of course spiritual protection, Srila Prabhupada would stay up most of the night translating his books and writing purports. He spoke on so many occasions, “If devotees are not reading these books, if they are not reading their sixteen rounds attentively every day, at anytime they can fall victim to maya. ” Prabhupada was writing these books and pleading with us to read them, pleading with us to distribute them to others, pleading with us to chant the Holy Names.
He personally, by his own example, was such an inspiration to protect us because if devotees are not protected, whatever else we do is like building a house with out a foundation. Everything will fall. If we feel protected, we can feel empowered. By Srila Prabhupada doing that, devotees felt so protected by Srila Prabhupada physically, emotionally, and spiritually that they were willing to take any risk, even risks of death, suffering, poverty. That’s how the Hare Krsna movement started – because devotees took such immense risks. How were they able to take such risks? Because in their heart of hearts they felt so protected by Srila Prabhupada: “If I please you it doesn’t matter, life or death, I’ll go back to Godhead.”
Earlier in this chapter, Srila Prabhupada writes in a purport to text twenty-two that the whole process of creation, maintenance, and disillusion of the cosmic manifestation is simply for the purpose of giving the conditioned souls an opportunity to go back home, back to Godhead. That is the only purpose of the material world. And when devotees really feel protected, they feel empowered to continue on with their sadhana, continue on with their fearless preaching endeavors, but we have seen historically within our own society when devotees lose that sense of protection, how so many survival modes come in for our economic situation, for our social situation, for our positions. People lose their sadhana, they lose their taste for the Holy Name, quarrels between devotees over superficial subjects. But what does it mean to protect, to maintain? It is the foundation of our society.
Today is the appearance day of His Holiness Srila Bhakti-tirtha Swami Maharaja. His beloved disciples specially requested me, I don’t know why, but they requested me to give class and speak something about this very, very dear, beloved disciple of Srila Prabhupada. Srila Bhakti-tirtha Swami Maharaja, especially in the later years, it was his passion and purpose in life to encourage and protect the devotees in Srila Prabhupada’s society.
Today, his appearance day, we think back of the inconceivable way he was born. A vaisnava, who was to be a great spiritual leader of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission, was born in such a simple way. Christians cry when they think of Jesus being born in a little goshalla. [Laughter]Bhakti-tirtha Swami Maharaja was born in a violent, poverty stricken ghetto in one of the downtrodden cities of America, Cleveland. Practically didn’t even have clothes to wear. He would just have one or two sets of clothes at a time. His mother would give away anything else.
Being an African American born in 1950, before the civil rights movement actually developed, it meant the African American people were very, very downtrodden and persecuted. You were destined, almost guaranteed to born, live, and die in poverty and violence. Plus he had a speech defect. He told me, even before he was a teenager, the neighborhood he lived in, you had to carry a gun. If you didn’t carry a gun with you every time you walked out of your house, you were subjected to being beaten or exploited. That was the law of the land. Someone tries to exploit you, you show him your gun, then he shows you his gun, then you have some respect for each other. [Laughter] You leave each other alone because you know that if you try to do something to the other, one of you are going to die.
How would you like to grow up in a situation like that? But he struggled, and ultimately, he was given a scholarship to Princeton University. Even there, people hated African-Americans, practically the whole of college. Even there, he went out with a gun every day – and he was a completely non-violent person. He was a local leader of the civil rights movement, fighting for the justice of his downtrodden people. But all his life, he was looking for something deeply spiritual, beyond all these material miseries and conflicts.
By Krsna’s grace, he found everything he was looking for in Srila Prabhupada. He surrendered his life. We know the stories of how Prabhupada was putting so much emphasis on book distribution. At that time, his name was Ghanasyama. He joined the library party to distribute books, but he wasn’t ordinary. He was doing such unbelievable services. He volunteered to go behind the Iron Curtain in communist countries. He was so fearless, so amazingly creative in how he was selling entire sets of books of Srila Prabhupada in universities, libraries, homes , all these different places.
He would regularly send his reports to Srila Prabhupada. At that time, Prabhupada was going though his pastime of gradually departing from this world. He was bedridden. Tamal Krsna Goswami Maharaja, as his personal secretary, would read the reports of Bhakti-tirtha Swami, or Ghanasyama Das. Srila Prabhupada would rejoice hearing them. He said, “The reports of Ghanasyama, his fearless enthusiasm to give my books out, risking his life”, he said, “This is the medicine that is sustaining my life.” Tamal Krsna Goswami Maharaja said that whenever those reports came, it was a highlight for everyone to read those to Srila Prabhupada because it brought him so much happiness.
When Prabhupada went to London, Ghanasyama Prabhu was given a personal meeting with Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada embraced him with tears filling his eyes, embraced him with such love and spoke the words, “Thank you very much. Your life is perfect.” He won the heart of his Guru Maharaja. For those of you have ever heard of reports, although we don’t have time to speak them, every day was amazing miracles. He would put himself in the most inconceivable situations, just leaving it up to Krsna to save him. Krsna always saved him.
Some years later, he went to West Africa. His life was very much in danger, especially in the beginning days: diseases, voodoo curses, so many things. He was persistent. He developed temples, farm communities, book distribution, communities, traveled around the world. Prabhupada so much encouraged his creative ways of distributing books, but he also had creative ways of preaching Krsna consciousness because somehow or other, in his heart, he had such a deep passion to reach people’s hearts and somehow or other inject Prabhupada’s mercy as it is.
Sometimes his techniques were like some sort of anesthesia and people didn’t really know what was going on, but once they got that injection, we see the result. They became full fledged Gaudiya Vaisnavas, loyal, devoted followers of Srila Prabhupada. People that were very difficult and hardly anyone else could reach were becoming devotees.
But as time went on, he did see how devotees within our movement were going through so many struggles and sometimes those struggles were making them spiritually weak, sometimes even making their faith weak. Again, there as a deep passion in his heart to somehow reach them. Some people may agree with how he did it, some may not agree, but what he was trying to give them, what his motivation was, was something very deep. In the eighth canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, in regard to the story of Lord Siva drinking poison to protect the living entities, Srila Prabhupada, Sukadeva Goswami, they both say that the greatest service that pleases Lord Krsna is to make sacrifices in your own life for the welfare of others. That is compassion. He really did have that compassion.
During the last seven and a half weeks of his life, he requested me to be with him. I stayed at Gita Nagari during those weeks. Actually, I had so many other pressing emergency obligations, but when he looked at me with such affectionate eyes and said, “Please stay.”
I said, “I’m here, I’m here.” How could I refuse? I’d like to share with you a few things I saw in this regard about his real concern and how his concern empowered him to inspire Vaisnavas. He was sitting in his room, one of his legs were amputated, some of his bones were disintegrating, there were tumors all over his body, big tumors, he was physically emaciated, just being plundered by this most aggressive form of cancer. Usually for such people, you come to try to cheer them up, that’s why people came, but the result was completely different.
There was a festival in New Vrindavan, Festival of Inspiration, and on the last day, he felt, and his doctors felt, within a couple of days, he would die. So probably a hundred devotees, I don’t know what happened in New Vrindavan at the festival, but a hundred devotees went to Gita Nagari to hear his last talk. Afterward, probably fifty godbrothers and godsisters came into his room. It was amazing. He was just so concerned that each and every one of them, everyone was weeping, weeping in gratitude. Everyone in that room, ask them today, will declare that it was a totally life-transforming experience. They felt so connected to Srila Prabhupada and to Krsna’s love just by hearing him.
The next day, a group of very disgruntled godbrothers came to see him. These are people who don’t really want anything to do with a leader of ISKCON. For whatever justified or unjustified reason, they are bitter. They sat with him for about an hour. The whole time, they were weeping in gratitude. I saw before my eyes, a total transformation. I knew these men, I knew their attitude. After that meeting, some of them who gave up chanting, started chanting again. Some of them who would never go to the temple, started coming to the temple, doing service again. They came out of that room, they all just sat down weeping. They had such a deep spiritual experience.
On another day, there were some gurukulis that came. Some of them had been abused. Some of them had gone to other maths to look for shelter. What I was seeing was unbelievable, their hearts were totally melting. Maharaja was just speaking Prabhupada’s words to them, in such a way, they were all crying from their hearts. They all said, “We never had such a spiritual experience. We never have met such a spiritually advanced person. ”
After all these meetings, because I was watching, when everyone left and I was alone with Maharaja, I said, “Maharaja, what are you doing? I’ve known you for thirty years, you’ve always been compassionate, you’ve always been dynamic with powerful lectures and amazing kirtans and always really concerned about the welfare of others, but I’ve never seen you affect people like this. The only thing I can think of is that Srila Prabhupada is really empowering you.
He smiled, he said, “Actually, I don’t even know what I’m doing or saying. These people come in, people have to pick me up and carry me, all this pain, I have a missing limb, but I just pray to Prabhupada and I can feel Prabhupada showing his love to these people through me.” Then he said to me, “This is perhaps the greatest blessing I’ve ever had in my life, to have this cancer, because in this situation, in this helpless, painful situation, I can feel Prabhupada’s love and compassion coming through me to help devotees like I’ve never been able to do before in my whole life. This cancer is only a small price to render such a valuable service to Srila Prabhupada.”
Tat te ‘nukampam su-samiksamano , one of the most often quoted verses from Srimad Bhagavatam by our beloved Guru Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada. “Who is rightful to attain the supreme liberation, going back home, back to Godhead? One who even in the most painful, difficult situations can fold their hands and bow down to Krsna with gratitude thinking, ‘I deserve worse, Krsna.” It is easy to talk about, but to see it is something that is something so beautiful.
Toward the end of Bhakti-tirtha Swami Maharaja’s life in this world, the cancer was ravaging his body. I’ve never seen anything like this. Every day I would spend some hours with him reading from Srila Prabhupada’s books, discussing Lord Caitanya, Lord Krsna, Vrindavan. He made a rule that during my time with him there were no other words to be discussed but glorification of Krsna, Lord Caitanya, Srila Prabhupada, and the Vaisnavas, no other talks. I have never experienced such intimacy with another human being than when the focus on our attention is to lovingly try to help each other remember Krsna, lovingly trying to enthuse each other to serve Srila Prabhupada. Try it, it’s not of this world.
One day as we were talking, we were just lying down, he started crying. He said, “Maharaja, we are in the spiritual world, we are in Vrindavan, can’t you feel it?”
I said, “No.” [Laughter]
He said, “Can’t your feel it? We are in Vrindavan! What is Vrindavan? Where there is loving exchanges of glorifying exchanges, that is Vrindavan.” Then he said, “We have achieved the ultimate goal of life. He said it with such conviction that I actually believed I was in Vrindavan. [Laughter] It was amazing, it was the spiritual world.
Another time, Ekavira Prabhu picked him up and put him on a chair and I would read to him, talk about Krsna with him and he would always be in rapt attention. Usually he was like a great general, just leading the forces, preaching. Remember that time in Mayapur when he gave that, such an empowered lecture, he was so emotionally surcharged that as he was speaking, his hat just flew off his head [Laughter] and everyone went, “Wow!”
But when we would discuss Krsna, he was just like an innocent little boy just gazing with such simplicity and love in his eyes, but on this one day, the cancer was so intense that his entire body was trembling. The cancer was literally making his body tremble with pain. I never saw him cry due to pain, but the pain was so immense, I could see he couldn’t concentrate on what I was speaking, so I stopped speaking and just chanted the Holy Names:
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
His body was still trembling, just an emaciated little person, all these tumors all over his body. [Devotee hands Maharaja a note.] Everyone knows what this is. [Laughter]
When I chanted the Holy Names, as soon as I chanted, he chanted along with me. We were chanting together. Tears literally poured from his eyes. The most effulgent, blissful, almost ear to ear smile manifested on his face. His eyes were twinkling. He looked at me and said, Maharaja, “This is it.”
I said, “This is what?” [Laughter]
He said, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” He said, “We are together chanting the Holy Names of Krsna, tasting the sweet nectar of the Holy Name. It doesn’t get any better than this.” Then, blissful, right from the core of his heart, he said “I would not trade the condition I am in today for anything else or anyone else in the creation because today I am in the association of a devotee tasting the sweet nectar of the Holy Name. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
From the time Caitanya-Caritamrta came out, his idol, of course, Srila Prabhupada, and also, Vasudeva Datta because Vasudeva Datta was willing to suffer for the welfare of others so that they would attain Krsna. For years and years, we would talk about Vasudeva Datta. He meditated on that mood, which Srila Prabhupada so much relished, of Vasudeva Datta. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, when he spoke about Vasudeva Datta, he glorified him as if he had a thousand mouths, because of his compassion to others.
One day when he was lying there, just towards the end, I told him, “Maharaja, today is the disappearance day of Mukunda Datta, the brother of Vasudeva Datta.
He just started weeping, he became blissful. He said, “This would be the perfect day to leave this world.” He kept saying, “Vasudeva Datta! Vasudeva Datta! Prabhupada loved him so much!” He called all the devotees to his room in Gita Nagari and requested, “I think today I am going to leave, it is Vasudeva Datta’s brother’s disappearance day.” He had them all doing kirtan and he was really in a very, very difficult situation physically. They did kirtan for several hours. He was disappointed. He stopped the kirtan. He said, “You can go, Krsna is not letting me go today.” [Laughter] He said, “I thought he would let me go on Vasudeva Datta’s brother’s disappearance day, but I guess he’s not letting me go today.”
But Bhakti-tirtha Maharaja really, what he sincerely gave his heart, life, and soul for is to create community, to inspire loving relationships and care amongst the Vaisnavas because he knew where there are loving relationships, where there is sincere care amongst the devotees for each others’ welfare, where there is really a spirit of servant of the servant of the servant, the devotees feel protected, and in that protection, they are inspired, they are empowered to spread this mission and to chant the Holy Names of the Lord:
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
On this very auspicious day, we offer our sincerest gratitude and obeisances to this effulgent, beloved disciple of Srila Prabhupada who gave his life and soul to inspiring us in the essence of bhakti, chanting the Holy Name in a spirit of loving relationships with Vaisnavas and spreading that culture to the world. Let us bow down at the feet of Srila Bhakti-tirtha Swami Maharaja in gratitude.
Thank you very much.
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