July 7th, 2020
Dear disciples, followers, and friends of Bhakti Charu Maharaja:
I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet.
I offer my obeisances to the lotus feet of His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami, who is very soft-hearted and expert at compiling devotional literature.
He eloquently speaks the pastimes of Lord Krishna, his heart is full of the mellows of devotional service, and his life and soul is Srila Prabhupada.
Hare Krishna. What follows are a few meditations on the departure of Bhakti Charu Maharaja. We have all been deeply affected by this sad event—and that is testimony to the power of his exemplary life and association.
Let me begin by mentioning a few of his qualities that come mind:
Although a powerful and influential person, he was always humble, easily approachable, and friendly to all.
He was a strong and consistent voice for how we all needed to respect and cooperate with each other.
At the same time, he could be like a lion when it came to protecting ISKCON, the system of governance that Srila Prabhupada put in place, and Srila Prabhupada’s mood and teachings. I was so proud of him, re-assured, and inspired when we were able to see him in this mood.
One of the qualities of his I hear mentioned again and again is how he was always such a gentleman. Srila Prabhupada said that this was a symptom of an advanced devotee.
He embodied sweet Vaisnava loving exchanges.
He was a refined person, expert at bhajans, drama, philosophy, and of course cooking. He was so happy when he could cook for the devotees, personally serving the prasadam, and seeing to it that each guest was filled to the neck with their favorite dish.
Others have narrated how Bhakti Charu Maharaja arrived as a young devotee, new to ISKCON, and Srila Prabhupada quickly raised him to brahmin initiation, sannyasa, and to serving as Srila Prabhupada’s personal secretary and servant. Tamal Krishna Maharaja told me that he asked Srila Prabhupada at the time “Why is it that you have brought this new devotee up so quickly?”
Srila Prabhupada replied “I can see purity. You cannot”.
We hear the question: “Why did he have to leave now?”
In reply, we know from shastra that pure devotees are under the divine energy of the Supreme Lord. My conviction is that Srila Prabhupada needed him and therefore he called Bhakti Charu Maharaja to his side.
We hear the question: “But why did he leave due to Covid?”
We should first note that Bhakti Charu Maharaja left this world, by Krishna’s arrangement, on Guru Purnima / the disappearance day of Srila Sanatan Goswami. This is most auspicious and not by chance.
Srila Prabhupada gives the analogy that “The housewife teaches the daughter-in-law by teaching the daughter”. Srila Prabhupada explains that sometimes devotees are put into suffering so that the rest of the world can learn a good lesson. The devotee’s internal meditation on the Lord’s lotus feet is not broken and the conditioned souls learn by seeing the devotee’s example. All we have to do is think of the struggles of the Pandavas, Kunti devi, Draupadi, Prahlad Maharaja, as well as Srila Prabhupada’s several heart attacks while coming to the West and starting ISKCON. Because these exalted souls were put into difficulty, by the arrangement of the Lord, we have their examples to learn from. I am convinced that Bhakti Charu Maharaj left the world as he did in order to make the rest of the devotees see this horrible disease as the grave threat that it is. There is symmetry here. Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s core mood was service to the devotees. I see his departure due to Covid as Krishna using him in one final act of service to the devotees—to wake us all up to the dangers of this vicious disease.
Krishna accomplishes many purposes with one act. That is often the style of His lila. As Ranchor, His leaving the battlefield was to deliver Rukmini, shame Jarasandha, kill Kalayavana, and deliver Mucukunda. We can see the same in the departure of Bhakti Charu Maharaja, that is to say several purposes accomplished by one act. Krishna took Bhakti Charu Maharaja as He did because Srila Prabhupada needed him and to serve as a severe warning about Covid to the rest of us. We can also see that Krishna confirmed Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s exalted spiritual stature by taking him on Guru Purnima / Srila Sanatan Goswami’s disappearance day.
I remember the wave of grief that washed over me when I heard that Srila Prabhupada had left this world. One element of that grief was the fear that Srila Prabhupada might gradually fade into the background of my life. I can assure you, from my own experience, that the opposite will happen. For those who sincerely follow Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s instructions and example, you will find your relationship with him becoming sweeter and deeper with every passing year. Rather than fading away, he will become your constant guide and companion.
Srila Prabhupada confirms this in his closing words upon completing his translation of and commentary on the Chaitanya Charitamrita:
“Although according to material vision His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada passed away from this material world on the last day of December, 1936, I still consider His Divine Grace to be always present with me by his vani, his words. There are two ways of association-by vani and by vapu. Vani means words, and vapu means physical presence. Physical presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not, but vani continues to exist eternally. Therefore, we must take advantage of the vani, not the physical presence.
I think that His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur is always seeing my activities and guiding me within my heart by his words. As it is said in Srimad Bhagavatam, tene brahma hrda ya adikavaye [SB 1.1.1]. Spiritual inspiration comes from within the heart, wherein the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His Paramatma feature, is always sitting with all His devotees and associates.
Certainly if His Divine Grace were physically present at this time, it would have been a great occasion for jubilation, but even though he is not physically present, I am confident that he is very much pleased by this work of translation.”
The vacuum felt by Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s departure is immense. And that is how it should be. These feelings of separation are the proper testimony to Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s life—so exemplary, so well lived. What more can we say? “He was a Vaikuntha man”—a saintly Vaisnava and surrendered servant of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada.
The best way to find solace from the pain of Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s separation is to remember his words, follow his example of a pure Vaisnava’s life, and to redouble our dedication to the mission Bhakti Charu Maharaja gave his every breath to—Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON.
His Holiness Bhakti Charu Maharaja ki jai.
Your grieving servant,