By Ananda Tirtha Das
I attended the recent samadhi ceremony and memorial service for Gopiparanadhana Prabhu at Govardhan. It was an emotional ceremony, full of memories of a most dedicated servant of Srila Prabhupada. I also had the fortune to visit the apartment next to the Govardhan Palace where he left this world. Unmentioned in any reports I read of his passing, Gopi Prabhu was actually living somewhat separately from his family as a vanaprastha and was thus alone when he left.
Years ago I had the fortune to spend some time at Govardhan serving the Brhad Bhagavatamrta project in Prabhu’s company. Once I recall meeting him wheezing and struggling up the parikrama road towards Govardhan town. He was in urgent need of asthma medicine which I glady hurried to get for him while he sat on the roadside waiting.
Some time back, perhaps after Aindra Prabhu left, I was wondering whose departure might be the biggest loss to our society, and I thought of Gopiparanadhana Prabhu. Although not as well known as many other senior devotees, his scholarship and humility were unmatched. His scholarship is well-evidenced, but what always struck me more was his genuine and total humility. It was if it were oozing out of his pores, a quality he lived by and owned totally.
It is hard for me to fathom the bigger picture, how this is all Krsna’s arrangement and for the ultimate good. Some years ago it was Sadaputa Prabhu, our number one scientist; then Aindra Prabhu, our number one kirtaniya; and now Gopiparanadhana Prabhu, our number one scholar.
None of these devotees were in the forefront of our consciousness, none made, so to speak, daily headlines, but their departure has created voids impossible to fill. They are simply irreplaceable.
Being in Vrindavan for a few days, some clarity on this difficult topic gelled in my mind. Every time I visited the temple, I was struck by the enthusiasm of the kirtan party. Rather than shrivel away in Aindra Prabhu’s absence, his crew, both veterans and newcomers, have bonded to not just maintain the kirtan but actually expand it. This goes to their great credit. I honestly don’t recall seeing the same enthusiasm even when he was here.
I know from the inside something of the ongoing struggles and sacrifices to keep the kirtan party running. Aindra Prabhu would certainly be pleased.
Now what will happen to Gopiparanadhana Prabhu’s legacy, his translation work and Bhagavata Vidyapitha school? That responsibility must now be shouldered by his senior students and well-wishers.
This is the natural progression of the changing of the guard, the principle of parampara in action. As the senior generation moves on to serve Srila Prabhupada elsewhere, the onus falls on their students and disciples to carry forth their work. As Srila Prabhupada took his spiritual master’s instructions as his life and soul, disciples such as Aindra Prabhu, Gopiparanadhana Prabhu–and of course so many others–similarly took Srila Prabhupada’s instructions as their life and soul. Now it is up to the next generation to carry on the great mission of all our spiritual preceptors.
Therein lies the challenge for all dedicated disciples and followers of Gopiparanadhana Prabhu, and indeed for all granddisciples of Srila Prabhupada.
Ananda Tirtha Das