By Varsana devi dasi and Ananda Caitanya
Srila Tamal Krishna Goswami, affectionately known as Srila Gurudev by many, left this mortal realm in March 2002, leaving behind many dedicated disciples and a society that was never to be the same. He also left behind an almost completed PhD thesis which he had been working on since 1998 in the serene surroundings of Clare Hall, Cambridge University (UK). It was to commemorate him, as well as the work that he did at the college and university more broadly, that a special memorial bench was installed in the grounds of Clare Hall.
The inauguration ceremony for the bench took place on Wednesday 25th November 2009, and was attended by a number of his close friends and colleges from the university as well as devotees. At a somewhat emotional event, many from the local community said a few words of remembrance and appreciation for âGoswamijiâ. It was obvious that TKG, as he is often referred to by ISKCON devotees, had had a profound impact on many around him during his stay there. In the various remembrances he was often referred to as a âpeople personâ someone who truly cared about people.
The ceremony began with the President of the College, Sir Martin Harris, giving a warm welcome to all attendees and explaining his regret at never having met Goswami Maharaj but simultaneous delight at having heard so much about him that he felt he knew him. Sir Martin also mentioned that in his opinion Goswamiji represented all that Clare Hall stood for. Prof Julius Lipner, Professor of Hinduism and the Comparative Study of Religion, was Maharajâs PhD supervisor, and spoke very warmly of him. In particular he spoke of TKGâs very commanding personality, quite natural for someone in the position of guru as well as a leader of an international society. It was noted however that despite this, he exhibited great humility in being able to take the role of a student, and an excellent one at that! Goswami Maharaj was also referred to more than once as a âtrailblazerâ, wherever he went, he would impact people, and would not be afraid of going against the status quo â his decision to embark on a PhD being a case in point. Professor Lipner spoke of the challenges of coming into academia at a later stage in ones life, after all Goswamiji was the same age as himself, however Maharaja took up this challenge in the same way as he did everything else in his life, with focus, determination and an abundance of intelligence. Finally, the Professor spoke fondly of the peanut burfis that Goswami Maharaj would always bring for him and how Maharaja would love to feed him with all sorts of vegetarian culinary delights.
Goswami Maharaj placed the final chapter of his PhD thesis on the desk of the Professor before he left for India in 2002, explaining that they would discuss it upon his return. Of course, he did not return. Prof Lipner took it upon himself, as Maharajaâs PhD supervisor, to complete the thesis, he spent one and a half years going through the whole thesis so that he could ensure the concluding chapter would be representative of what Maharaja was saying in the body of the text. This thesis was then handed over to Dr Graham Schweig (Garuda das), scholar of Comparative Religion. Professor Lipner voiced that it is his great hope that the thesis will be published in Goswamijiâs name and looks forward to the day when this much awaited work would be brought to completion.
The ceremony continued with a few words from Rosemary Luff PhD, College Tutor and Librarian, who got to know Goswami Maharaj well, speaking of how she always looked forward to the abundance of âIndian fare (cuisine)â that visitors to his nearby home would invariably be treated to. Praghosh das, ISKCON UK GBC, spoke of his various pleasant encounters with Goswami Maharaj and an amusing story or two. And finally, Varsana devi dasi concluded the ceremony with a short reading from Sri Brhad Bhagavatamrta (1:7:125-130), a favourite of Goswami Maharajâs. It depicts his depth of realisation of the deepest aspects of Vaisnava siddhanta and was greatly appreciated by all as a section containing great depth and meaning, just like the man himself.
Others who attended the ceremony such as Dr Peta Dunstan from Divinity Faculty & St Edmund’s College, all spoke with such love and high regard for Goswami Maharaja that devotees could not fail to conclude that here was a disciple who honoured his spiritual master Srila Prabhupada in such an exemplary way and we are proud of him and of his achievements in Cambridge that continue to have impact seven years after his departure.
The proceedings ended as all auspicious occasions are concluded with a buffet of prasadam that appeared to delight everyone, bringing back memories of such culinary adventures they enjoyed with their âdear Goswamijiâ.
The plaque on the bench reads as follows:
Tamal Krishna Goswami (1946 â 2002)
PhD Student Clare Hall (1998 â 2002)
Leading member of the Hare Krishna Movement (1968 â 2002)
A loyal friend and spiritual teacher of compassion and integrity