Tag Archives: Sri Haridas Shastri Maharaja

Atha Sadhu-sanga (Part 4)

My intention was to study all the major Gaudiya Vaisnava literature from Maharaja while studying the Sad-darshanas, such as Nyaya and Vaisesika, from another teacher. My logic was that no one else could teach Gaudiya literature, while others were proficient in the Sad-darshanas, so I should not use Maharajji’s time to study the latter. Maharajji knew this, but one day said that he also wanted to teach me the Sad-darshanas. I was happy to hear that. He started teaching me Sloka-vartika of Kumarila Bhatta and Nyaya-siddhanata-muktavali of Visvanatha Panchanana. The first is a book of Purva-mimamasa and the second of Nyaya. Both are very difficult subjects. Maharajji was a great Naiyayika. Although he had degrees in all darshanas he preferred the title Nyayacarya for himself. Usually no one can teach these books without first preparing for the class, unless one is regularly teaching them. Maharajji, however, had no time to prepare. He told me that in his student life he worked very hard and studied under the best teachers in Banaras,therefore, he could teach them without preparation – even after such a long gap.

I learned a lot by observing him. He would do most of the temple services himself, such as sweeping in front of the temple, picking flowers and tulasi leaves for worship, and preparing bhoga for the deities. He did not take help from anyone in deity worship, he  served the cows himself – even grinding wheat for feeding them – and he personally cooked  and served all the ashram inmates.  He himself would only eat one meal a day, at 5 pm;  before then he would not even drink a drop of water.

He was a perfect example of a devotee. He was not just giving sermons, sitting on a high throne. He did not do anything just for show or to impress others. He was always in the mood of service. Whatever he did, he did it with full absorption, without any thought of anything else. When he was teaching, he was only absorbed in that, never deviating from the subject.

At first my class would start at 5pm and go until 9 pm without any break. There were rarely any visitors, and if there were any, they had to wait until the class was over. In the summertime, it was terribly hot and the electricity would fail for hours. Maharaja would light up a gas lantern for light, which would make the room even hotter, but he never felt any discomfort while teaching. We would sweat profusely, but the whole class was like samadhi. Nothing could disturb us. His presence was awe-inspiring. I felt insignificant in his presence, but was very attentive to all his words and movements – whether in class or the goshala.

 A Class of His Own

While in the goshala, he hardly spoke. Being with him was very intense, like a deep meditation. When he wanted me to do something, he would express it through his hand gestures or by his looks and I had to guess what he wanted. If sometimes I was not able to understand, he would become very upset. The reason was, as I understood, that for him goseva was not some ordinary activity. It was service to the cows, the beloved of Lord Krishna. He did not consider them animals, but ista-devatas, or worshipable deities. Therefore, he was unable to tolerate even the slightest discrepancy or delay in the service. This was perplexing in the beginning because I was unable to understand his mood. For example, before he came to the goshala, we would clean everything, change the water, and serve the chaff (bhusa) for the cows. Then he would come and personally mix flour in the bhusa. If he saw even one particle of bhusa floating in the water, he would look at me, which meant I should again change the whole water. At first I did not understand this, but then I realized that it is like putting an offering plate in front of the deity – and how can we offer a glass of water to Krishna which has a bhusa particle floating in it? I have neither heard nor seen such a mood of service to cows anywhere.

One of his favorite statements was “Seva to seva hai. Seva kam nahi hai” (Service is service. Service is not work). There is a difference between seva and work. In work the concentration is more on the outcome, one feels relieved and happy when it is over, and there is a sense of satisfaction when it is completed. In seva there is happiness from the very outset. There is no urgency to finish it, it is natural and without anxiety, and one is fully absorbed in it. This is what I observed in Maharajji: he was never in a hurry and there was no anxiety to finish the service.

It is said that in the spiritual world, time is flexible: it facilitates the Lord’s pastimes. Therefore, the Lord is never in a hurry. I could feel this mood in Maharajji. If I finished something quickly he would remark, “Punjab Mail”, a reference to a train that was supposed to be fast in the olden days.

During the later days when the goshala increased in size he engaged in goseva until early morning 2am or sometimes even 3am.  He was beyond time. Through observing him I could understand the traditional Indian mind.

I felt that Maharjji had two different moods. When he was teaching he seemed a different person, one completely absorbed in scriptures. I could ask him any question and he would give a very elaborate answer. While engaged in goseva, however, he was very grave and reticent. He did not like any interruptions from anyone. He was very alert and intolerant of any discrepancy in the service. I have met many sadhus in my life, but I have not seen anyone with such a service mood.

I feel that Maharajji was a class of his own: He belonged to the old school. He was probably the last person with the mood of Gosvamis of Vrindavan, learned in all shastras, highly renounced, and in a service mood with no concern for his body. I wonder if such a person will walk again on earth in this Kaliyuga.

His exalted character is my good fortune and the good fortune of all others who came in contact with him. Without seeing a living master it is impossible to understand uttama bhakti – no matter how much we read and hear about it. This is my experience and firm conviction.

Now that Maharajji has left us, it all appears like a dream. It is hard to accept that he is no longer physically present at Kalidaha. For so many years I went there day after day and always found him. While living in Vrindavan my movements were just from my room to Kalidaha and back. I hardly did any parikramas of Vrindavan, Govardhana, or visited any places in Vraja. I did not think that he would leave so suddenly, I was somehow quite certain that he would be a centenarian. But who can say anything about the Lord and His devotees? I live remembering his words and his personal life which I got to see so closely, and I wonder how Lord Krishna arranged for me to move from Detroit to Maharajji. It can only be yadrcchaya.

Atha Sadhu-sanga (Part 3)

By Satyanarayana Dasa

Maharaja at the goshala

I first visited Vrindavan during the month of Kartika. Being fond of buying books I went to Loi Bazar and happened to find the Sandarbhas printed by Guru Maharaja. From these books I got his address and immediately had the desire to visit him. I went there alone in the evening. When I first went to Guru Maharajji’s ashram in 1983, it looked much different from what you see now. The tall main front gate was not yet built. There were gardens on both sides. When I entered the temple room, Maharajji was teaching a sannyasi in Bengali. Later I learned that the sannyāsī was from ISKCON and his name was Venkata Swami. I hardly understood anything from the lecture because I didn’t know Bengali. After the class was over, I posed a question to Maharajji about madhurya rasa. He gave a long answer in very Sanskritized Hindi. The answer was very lucid and unprecedented -I had never heard anything like it before. It completely captivated me and made a deep impression on my heart. I left, but intensely desired to come back one day and study under him.

MaharajjiFrom then onwards I was always meditating on this. However, I was the co-president of ISKCON Tirupati and we had taken up the project of building a huge temple and guesthouse. I felt very responsible for my service. I used to contemplate that after this project was completed, perhaps in another ten years, I would resign from all my responsibilities and come to Vrindavan. In the meantime, I was visiting Vrindavan every Kartika and used to go to Maharajji’s place to have his darshan and buy any new literature he had printed. At that time his press was in full swing and he may have had two or three cows. Every time I met him my desire to study the Sandarbhas would become more intense.

Mauni Baba

Sri Krishna’s ways are very mysterious. Some very serious problems arose in the Tirupati center and it became impossible for me to function in my service. In spring of 1987 I left Tirupati and came to Vrindavan. I became a Sanskrit teacher in the Bhaktivedanta Swami International Gurukula and continued my study of Sanskrit.

 

After I settled down, one evening I went to visit Maharajji and requested him to teach me. One could visit him only in the evenings because he used to keep silence till 4 pm. Before he built the present temple, he used to live in the back side where there is a garden at present. There are a few small rooms on the northern side of the building where Maharajji lived with his gurudeva. After his gurudeva’s departure he continued to live there for some years and later on purchased the adjacent piece of land where the present temple and gosala are. The front parts of these rooms were demolished when we planted trees and did some renovation work.  While living in the old place he was keeping silence till sunset. There was a board outside his old room which said, “Visitors only after sunset” in Hindi. Locally, Maharajji was known as Mauni Baba – ‘the silent baba’.

When I arrived at his ashrama I met Hare Krishna Baba outside the temple. I asked about studying from Maharajji. Baba told me that Maharajji doesn’t teach anymore because of the misbehavior of students.  This was a shock to me and shattered my dream. I asked Baba if I could have darshan of Maharajji. He replied that usually Maharajji comes and sits in the temple room after 5 pm to receive any visitors, but on that particular day he had some other engagement. I left heartbroken. I was waiting for years to study under Maharajji. Now that dream was over.

I approached all the well-known scholars of the Gaudiya sampradaya in Vrindavan to see if anybody could teach me the Sandarbhas of Jiva Gosvami. To my despair each one of them expressed their inability to teach the Sandarbhas and told me that only Maharajji was capable of doing so. I continued my Sanskrit studies and hoped that when I became proficient, I could try to study the Sandarbhas myself.

The Most Joyous Moment

A few months passed and again something mysterious happened. One day I was talking with the head pujari of Krishna Balaram Temple, Purna Chanda Dasa, about studying the Sandarbhas. To my surprise he told me that he knew Maharajji personally and promised to take me to meet him.  I took this as a special blessing of Sri Sri Radha Shyama-sundara.

One evening I accompanied Purna Chanda to Maharajji’s ashrama. When we arrived Maharaja was sitting on the roof and supervising the construction of the first part of the goshala where there were only four cows and one bull. He came down on a bamboo ladder and stood with his back against the big Papadi tree, which still exists. We paid obeisances to him and Purna Chand introduced me to him. I then requested him to teach me the Sandarbhas.  He looked at me and was silent for some time. Then he asked, “Why don’t you first study Harinamamrita Vyakarana (the book on Sanskrit grammar by Jiva Gosvami)?” At that time I was studying Panini’s system of Sanskrit grammar from a Vaishnava sadhu at Akhandananda Swami Ashram. I replied that it would be difficult to study two grammars simultaneously and that I would surely study Harinamamrita Vyakarana after I had completed the Panini system. Maharaja was silent again and then said, “Yes, I will teach you”. That was the most joyous moment of my life.

A life according to shastra

On the first day of my class I took a garland and some offering to worship him. As soon as I offered the garland, he immediately removed it. This was very striking to me. In ISKCON I used to always see gurus with garlands. From his behavior, I learned what is meant by humility.  Although Maharaja was highly learned – the only one who could teach the Sat Sandarbhas – he was very simple. He was not sitting on a high seat, but sat on the floor with a small wooden desk in front of him.  He did not exude the air of a big scholar or acharya. He led his life according to the principles of shastra (scripture) and thus was rightly known as shastri.

I am very fortunate to have studied all the major Gosvami literature from him. Now when I look back I am amazed how Maharajji found time to teach me so much. He first taught me the Sat Sandarbhas of Jiva Gosvami: Tattva, Bhagavat, Paramatma, Krishna, Bhakti and Priti Sandarbhas. After these he taught me Sarva-samvadini and Harinamamrita-vyakaranam of Jiva Gosvami, Laghu Bhagavatamritam, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu and Ujjavala Nilamani of Rupa Gosvami, Brihad Bhagavatamritam and Haribhaktivilasa of Sanatana Gosvami, Siddhanata Darpana and Govinda Bhasya of Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Madhurya Kadimbini of Visvanatha Cakravarti, and Caitanya Caritamrita of Krsnadas Kaviraja Gosvami. He not only taught me these books, but their commentaries as well (except, of course, Govinda Bhasya andSarva-samvadini, which are commentaries in themselves). Moreover, he taught me Bhagavad Gita with the commentaries of Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti and Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana, and Srimad Bhagavatam with the commentaries of Sridhara Svami, Sri Jiva Gosvami and Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti.

(to be continued)

Atha Sadhu-sanga (Part 1)

By Satyanarayana Dasa

 

Introduction

Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa at his guru's goshala

Sri Rupa Gosvami says bhakti develops from sadhana to bhava by passing through eight steps (BRS 1.4.15-16). The first step, sraddha, leads to the second, sadhu-sanga: association with a sadhu, a Vaishnava saint. Commenting on these verses, Sri Jiva Gosvami writes that prior to attaining sraddha, a person has association with a sadhu by whose grace one acquires sraddha. This is how he interprets the word adau (which literally means, “in the beginning”). The first association of a sadhu instills trust in the statements of scripture. This trust is called sraddha. Because it comes without the conscious effort of the recipient, it is described as the “causeless grace” of a devotee. Often scriptures use the word yadrccha for this phenomena which is usually translated as “by chance” or “independent,” and has the connotation of being causeless (e.g. SB 11.20.8, 11).

Sadhu-sanga, which awards sraddha, is the greatest blessing for a conditioned being. It brings about a permanent revolution in the heart of a person, which is why it has been glorified in scriptures more than anything else. In Bhagavat Purana, Lord Krishna himself speaks about the importance of sadhu-sanga (SB 11.12.1-15).

It is rare to acquire a human birth, but sadhu-sanga is still more rare:

durlabho mānuṣo deho
   dehināṁ kṣaṇa-bhaṅguraḥ
tatrāpi durlabhaṁ manye
   vaikuṇṭha-priya-darśanam

“For the conditioned souls, the human body is a rare boon and that too is very transient. But I think that even rarer for those who have achieved human life is the association of devotees, who are dear to the Lord of Vaikuntha.” (SB 11.2.29)

Sri Haridas Shastri Maharaja in front of Gadadhara Gaura Mandir

According to King Mucukunda, material existence comes to an end when one has such sadhu-sanga:

bhavāpavargo bhramato yadā bhavej
   janasya tarhy acyuta sat-samāgamaḥ
sat-saṅgamo yarhi tadaiva sad-gatau
   parāvareśe tvayi jāyate matiḥ

“O Lord Acyuta, the living being wanders in the cycle of birth and death. When the time for his release from this cycle approaches, he obtains the association of those established in truth. From the moment he obtains such association, a devotional inclination is awakened towards You, who are the supreme goal of attainments for the sages and the orchestrator of both cause and their effect.” (SB 10.51.54)

The Lord arranges the cause – the association of sages – which creates the effect of liberation from material existence and inclination towards devotion. Although material existence is uprooted by sadhu-sanga, Mucukunda shows its efficacy by stating that when one’s material bondage has come to an end, one gets the association of a sadhu.  He thereby places the effect before the cause.

After attaining sraddha the recipient makes a conscious effort to seek further sadhu-sanga. This is the second of the eight steps. Here the meaning of sadhu (literally, a holy person) is guru because bhajana-kriya (practicing of devotion) is the third step, and, according to Rupa Gosvami, practice of uttama-sadhana-bhakti begins with surrender to a qualified guru (BRS 1.2.74). In other words, when one has proper sraddha one seeks a guru.

 

Dreaming of the Life of a Sadhu

Sri Haridas Shastri Maharajji
Sri Haridas Shastri Maharajji

I am fortunate to have met such a qualified guru in my life, although I am now bereft of his physical association. He entered into the eternal lila of Sri Sri Radha Govindadeva on 6th October, 2013. In separation, my memories of association with him are surfacing on the screen of my mind. This elevates my consciousness and I write to share my memories with others, so they might also benefit.

How I came to his association and became a recipient of his causeless grace is an interesting journey. Thinking in retrospect I cannot consider it anything but the yadrccha kripa of Sri Krishna. It is He who appeared in the form of my guru.

            Since my early childhood I had a deep, inner inclination to live the life of a sadhu, Thus I never made plans to lead a material life and was quite certain that I would never marry . As a child I used to lie in my bed and contemplate death. By nature I was very reticent and never revealed my plan to become a sadhu to anybody, therefore nobody in my family ever suspected that I had such an inclination.

My parents and grandparents were krishna-bhaktas associated with the Radha Vallabha-sampradaya which was founded by Hit Harivamsa Gosvami. My paternal house was next to the village temple, which housed the deities of Radha Krishna and Lord Shiva’s family, so I grew up participating in the temple ceremonies. I also had my personal puja room in my house where I used to do some artik and offer the food which my mother cooked for the family. I was very fond of reading Mahabharata and Ramayana and used to recite them for the village people. Sadhus would sometimes visit the village temple, but they were not very knowledgeable.

After I completed my engineering education I had no desire to take up a job. I was contemplating how to take to spiritual life and was always on the lookout for sadhu-sanga. I used to meet sadhus whenever I got the opportunity, but never met a sadhu who impressed me. There were no ashramas or spiritual societies in my village area, so I did not have any definite idea how to take to spiritual life. I had no choice but to take up a job. My parents and other family members had no idea about my personal plans and assumed I would lead a normal life and get married eventually. I was very reserved in my dealings with others and had little interest in mixing with people. When I did engage with them, I acted as if I had no spiritual interests.

After I got a job in my home town, there was a proposal for marriage. I considered that it would completely ruin my plans, so I resigned from my position and found another job in Mumbai – more than 1000 km away from my home town. This was a relief because I knew nobody would pressure me to marry in Mumbai!

In Mumbai, I searched for a spiritual organization. I went to the headquarters of a meditation group at Mount Abu in Rajasthan to attend a three day meditation camp especially for engineers and doctors. I had many questions during the lectures, but they were not answered satisfactorily. So I returned to Mumbai disappointed.

Whenever I returned to my village to visit my family there was a proposal for marriage.  I did not think I would be able to convince my parents that I wanted to pursue a sadhu life rather than get married. It is ironic that Indian families hold sadhus in such high regard, but if one of their own members wants to become one, they protest vehemently. I knew very well that if I joined any ashram in India, my family members would track me down and try to convince me to give up my spiritual pursuit because of their strong attachment to me. Consequently, I decided to leave India and go to the West.  In January 1979 I moved to the USA – Miami, Florida.

When I landed there, I had a sort of epiphany.  I realized the importance of Vedic culture and my resolve to take to spiritual life became much more intense. The American lifestyle did not attract me. I had heard a lot about America and its high standard of living, but to me it all looked very empty inside – a lot of glamour without much substance. At the same time I felt very safe since no one would try to convince me to get married. I had no relatives in the area, and the only communication with my family in India was by letters. It took about a month to get a reply.

ISKCON Miami altar

At that time there were not many Hindu temples or Hindu organizations in the US.  I visited the Krishna Murti Study Center in Miami and the center of Bala Bhagavan, popularly known as Guruji, but was not impressed. Eventually I came to know that there was a temple run by American devotees just a few kilometers away from my residence, so I attended a Sunday evening class. I was unfamiliar with ISKCON up until this point, but learned more about the organization after visiting. The whole atmosphere appeared very strange to me and I was put off by the devotees’ aggressive mood: They seemed mostly interested in selling their books. I have always been fond of buying books, but I refused to make any purchases due to their aggressiveness. I left the temple as quickly as I could and never went back. I remember thinking, “This society is not for me.”

(to be continued)

“Vrindavan-Anti Party” Is Provoked Again

Entrance Krsna Balaram Mandir Vrindavan
Entrance to Krishna Balaram Mandir Vrindavan

Recently it was brought to my notice that an article entitled “The Vrndavana Anti-party” which criticizes my views, was published on HareKrsna.com. Many of my students have approached me about this and asked me to write a rejoinder.  I personally have no interest in getting into any such debates and controversies. I have no intention to attack or minimize any particular group or society of Vaishnavas, especially Gaudiya Vaishnavas. I have philosophical differences with Gaudiya Matha and its branches and I do not hesitate in admitting it, but this does not mean that I have any hatred or malice towards them. I also don’t have any agenda to attack them or minimize their position.

However I feel that it is my responsibility towards my students to clarify the history behind this article.  From the article, it appears that this incident describing the meeting with me happened only recently.  However, this article was originally written by Swami B.G. Narasimha in 1998. It was posted on his website  (and can be still found there) and on VNN (Vaishnava News Network) and apparently even published in his book Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Parampara.

There are certain facts which are misrepresented in this article. It claims that I was interviewed by two brahmacaris which is not true. Rather, it was my friend Kundali Dasa who was my editor for the Sandarbha project, after I had left ISKCON, who came to visit me at my Institute. His main purpose of visiting me was to know why I could not continue to serve within ISKCON and reconcile my differences. We had a long conversation in which I touched upon various points on which I differ and I also told him that I was willing to reconcile my differences.  My book “In Vaikuntha Not Even the Leaves Fall” was an attempt in this direction. Unfortunately it was banned by the GBC and I was put under heavy pressure to leave my service in the Bhaktivedanta Swami International Gurukula Vrindanvan. Besides banning my book, I was forbidden to give any classes, with the exception of teaching the students in the gurukula and was restricted from studying with anyone outside of ISKCON.

I recorded this talk because many of my old friends from ISCKON were raising the same questions as Kundali to me and in order to save time and not repeat the same answers, I decided to record and then let people hear it. I didn’t intend to distribute this tape publicly and I never did, because I had no intention to create any opposition against ISKCON.

After a few days Kundali called me and informed me that Swami B.G. Narasimha, who was unknown to me, was doing research on parampara. He thought that my talk would be helpful for his research because I also discussed the parampara issue. Kundali said told me that Swami would like to come and hear the tape, to which I agreed.

Krishna Balaram Mandir in Vrindavan
Krishna Balaram Tempel

The next day, instead of Swami B.G. Narasimha coming himself, he sent two of his brahmacaris. Not foreseeing that the material from the tape would be used to attack me, I gave it to them to listen to.  I am not sure how much these brahmacaris, who reported it to their guru Swami B.G. Narasimha, understood the subject matter.

After some time I was sent an article written by Swami B.G. Narasimha which referred to me as “the spokesman of a Vrindavan Anti-Party” who is “on a campaign to disrupt the faith of innocent devotees who had taken shelter of our Guru-varga” (Swami Narasingha , “The Vrndavana Anti-party”, 04/23/98).  It presented 26 points which he claimed to be “anti-devotional concepts.”

To read this was a shock to me and I felt very disappointed. Yet I did not make any attempt to refute the Swami and let him have the pleasure of believing that he has done a great service to his guru-varga.

ISKCON / Gaudiya Matha Tilak
ISKCON / Gaudiya Matha Tilak

I am not obliged to conform to ISKCON / Gaudiya Matha theology. My faith is in shastra and if I see that some group believes in certain principles which are not supported by shastra I see no reason to accept them. This doesn’t mean that I am trying to disrupt anyone’s faith or that I am an Anti-Party.

From the fact that the Swami is still keeping this article on his website and then Hare Krsna Sun is republishing it after 15 years in the name of Mahasrnga Dasa as if it were a new discovery, it seems that they want to put me in bad light.

To reiterate,  I have no interest in a kind of debate and creating disturbance. At the same time, I am not afraid to debate if it is done in an appropriate manner. In my opinion, internet is not a suitable medium for that since it allows anybody to write anything without reaching a definite conclusion. If someone desires to debate with me on any controversial point, the following conditions should be met:

1. The debate should be done in person

2. There should be a qualified judge (parikshaka) who listens and understands both sides.

3.  The decision of the parikshaka should be acceptable to both parties.

4. The debater must prove that he or she is qualified to debate with me. The qualifications of the debater are as follows:

a) The person must have basic knowledge of Sanskrit.

b) The person must have studied the basic books of Nyaya Vaisheshika, such as Tarka Sangraha, Nyaya-siddhanta-muktavali.

c) The person should have basic understanding of Purva Mimamsa, such as Artha-sangraha, Mimamsa-nyaya-prakasha.

Our Gosvami literature assumes good knowledge of Sad-darshana or Indian Schools of Philosophy (which are Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Yoga, Sankhya, Purva Mimamsa and Vedanta) and Sanskrit grammar.  It is for this reason that I am putting up these minimum requirements for a person to debate with me.