By Niranjana Swami
I’ve been told that some devotees are wondering why I have not posted anything yet about the departure of our wonderful godbrother, Gopiparanadhana Prabhu. The explanation is this:
I learned about Gopiparanadhana Prabhu’s departure on the 15th morning while honoring breakfast prasadam with a few godbrothers. The 15th was also the last day of the Evpatoriya Festival and the first full day of meetings which approximately 25 devotees scheduled with me for the 15th and 16th. Naturally I was torn between these events, but I had to follow through with the meetings since so many devotees remained in Evpatoriya exclusively for that purpose.
Gopiparanadhana Prabhu’s departure was not only a shock to me but it was a shock to ISKCON’s central nervous system. When I think of Gopiparanadhana Prabhu, I think of the one devotee in ISKCON upon whom all future Sanskrit translations would be resting upon. It’s not that he was expected to translate all the works of the Goswamis himself (although he was certainly fully committed to his translation work). But Gopiparanadhana Prabhu was singlehandedly training future Sanskritists who would carry on the tradition of producing scholarly translations and commentary. He was a jewel among Vaisnava scholars and was deeply committed to carrying on the tradition of translating and commenting in the same mood as Srila Prabhupada.
If fact whenever I refer to the Brhad-Bhagavatamrita, I repeatedly state that, although so many books have been translated since Srila Prabhupada’s departure, this translation and commentary of Brhad-Bhagavatamrita is the one book that I can read, quote, and meditate upon with the same confidence as if Srila Prabhupada had translated it and commented upon it himself. I was so much looking forward to reading Gopiparanadhana Prabhu’s work on the Sandarbhas by Srila Jiva Goswami. I cannot imagine how this work will continue without him.
It is very rare in this world to find someone who is so scholarly and so humble at the same time. Gopiparanadhana Prabhu embodied both qualities like no other Vaisnava I’ve ever known. Both his scholarship and his humility were profound. He was not interested in position, recognition, and followers. Many years ago, I recall that even though many senior devotees worldwide were encouraging him to accept disciples, he was unwilling to take even the slightest initiative to be recognized as a spiritual master. For years, he simply continued to translate, preach, teach, and serve in a way which was most natural for him. His mood was that if ISKCON wanted him to accept disciples, then someone else would have to take the initiative. He was not at all interested in promoting himself as anything other than Srila Prabhupada’s servant. And even though he was recognized several years ago as a disciple of Srila Prabhupada fit to serve as a spiritual master, his temperament never changed in the least.
I remember earlier this year I learned that Gopiparanadhana Prabhu had a conference called “Questions and Answers.” The same day I learned that the conference existed, I immediately enrolled in his conference. My thoughts at the time were that if somebody was going to be asking questions related to sastra, Gopiparanadhana Prabhu would give answers I could count on for their authenticity. The mere thought that there was a repository of such questions and answers enlivened me so much that I immediately downloaded every question and answer in the whole conference. I’m now left to wonder, “Where will everyone who was asking now go for their answers?”
A little less than three months ago, when I was flying out of Moscow, I was informed in the airport that Gopiparanadhana Prabhu was transiting Sheremetyevo Airport at the same time. I immediately changed course and asked the devotees to take me to see him. I was surprised to see him dressed in Western clothes, since I had never seen him dressed that way before. But I quickly learned that he was on his way to an other country to preach undercovered. We embraced, and we sat down together to talk for about 20 minutes. I was eagerly inquiring from him about his translation work and was asking when we could expect his next book to be published. Gopiparanadhana Prabhu was his usual self- unassuming, jolly, and informative. It was a pleasure to be with him, but unfortunately, it has now turned into the last time I will get the opportunity to be with him here in this world.
Although I have not been able to write anything about Gopiparanadhana Prabhu until now, I have talked about Gopiparanadhana Prabhu with many over the course of the last three days. Without exception, every senior Vaisnava I have spoken with has reacted the same way about his departure. They were both sad at the loss of such a great soul, but happy to hear that he left his body in Govardhana, the very place where he wanted to always remain. Although I pray that he has entered into Radha Syamasundara’s pastimes, deep down within me there is a strong, confident feeling that he is already there.
Gopiparanadhana Prabhu ki jaya!