Appreciating Purnacandra Goswami
Submitted by Su-gita Vani devi dasi
In a year that has witnessed the untimely departure of several of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, the latest to leave us is H.H. Purnacandra Goswami.
His samadhi will come up in the gosala gardens of the Krishna Balaram Mandir in Vrindavan. To those who were familiar with Maharaj’s personality, this venue, with its peace and quiet, complete with cows and monkeys, appears to be the perfect choice for his samadhi.
His outstanding abilities as a preacher, his vast knowledge of sastra and his deep love of Vrindavan have already been written about and spoken for.
In this piece, we will attempt to describe the techniques he had evolved to extend spiritual care to devotees in trouble. His methods were subtle and sophisticated. They were clearly developed over time and combined the precision of a surgeon with the sensitivity of the artiste and musician that he was.
Our siksa connection with him goes back six years. Pre-occuppied as we were with the challenges posed by our fledgling teaching seva, we never made the effort to catch up with him when he visited India annually during this period. Our first darsan of Maharaj took place late last year, during karthik at Govardhan.We met him again, for the last time, at his vyasa puja in Russia in March.
Although there was a steady stream of sastric enquiries from our side over these six years ( sometimes submissive and at times challenging ), and detailed replies from the other side, we can honestly say that, it was only two years ago that we made a serious commitment to him. At that time, circumstances arose that helped us to take full shelter and to surrender.
Because he was equipped with vast experience of the various problems that devotees have faced in our movement, he could anticipate trouble.
With hindsight, I can confidently say that he had laid out a safety-net to catch and save me, long before I actually fell.
Armed with unflinching loyalty to Srila Prabhupada and determination to prevent devotees from leaving, he has helped many like me.
He did not lose sight of the big picture – of the Lord’s plan – why Krishna might be exposing a devotee to certain negative experiences in spiritual life. He did not kick-start the crisis although he must have seen it coming. He was patience personified and saw himself as nothing more than an instrument.
Once the storm had broken over our head, he was fully involved and yet he remained detached. Never aloof or impersonal, yet giving just the right amount of support , not an iota more or less – in this way, he warded off our becoming excessively dependent on him in the future. Such self-restraint could only have come from deep integrity.
In most cases, because of the way Maharaj extended himself to those in need, the whole problem turned into a wonderful learning experience.
Once the process of healing was concluded and the devotee back on his feet, Maharaj would caution ( with a dash of humour ), “Remember, always expect the worst and hope for the best “.
All those whose lives were touched by his have come away enriched by lessons learnt in the vaishnava qualities of integrity, humility, selflessness, patience, compassion and forgiveness. He taught us by example, how to bridge the gap between theory and practical application of these lofty concepts.
He demonstrated how it is possible to work within the organization and at the same time retain a highly independent and thoughtful approach to every issue. He was able to do this because he understood perfectly that freedom and creativity go hand in hand with bhakti.
Purnacandra Goswami’s book, “ Unspoken obstacles on the path to bhakti “ ( 2002 ) is available at the Mayapur Institute mens’ office and with the author of this post. She can be contacted at email@example.com.