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“Regarding the second question, we have spoken to nearly every disciple of our Guru Maharaja [Gour Govinda Swami], and not a single one has reported that he or she was told by him to go for shelter to Sripad Narayana Maharaja.”

      About Gour Govinda Swami

Gour Govinda Swami passed away in Mayapur on the disappearance day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, during the centennial celebration of the appearance of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1996. He was a senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada, a member of the ISKCON Governing Body Commission, and an ISKCON Initiating Spiritual Master. On the direct order of Srila Prabhupada, he developed a large temple in Bhubanesvara, India. His disappearance day has since been added to the ISKCON Gaudia-Vaisnava Calendar and is observed every year.

Srila Gour Govinda Swami and Sripad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja
By Madhavananda Das

There have been some articles published recently on VNN concerning our revered guru-pada-padma Srila Gour Govinda Swami, and many devotees have approached us for clarification. Finding it necessary to respond publicly in order to uphold the prestige of our Guru Maharaja, we therefore take the dust of the lotus feet of all the Vaishnavas, and with straw in our teeth offer the following information for their pleasure. The questions we have been asked are:

Q1: Some devotees are saying that Srila Gour Govinda Swami had a meeting with Sripad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja. Others are saying that they never met. What is the actual history?

Q2: We have also been told that Srila Gour Govinda Swami instructed some of his disciples that after his disappearance they should take shelter of Sripad Narayana Maharaja. Is this a fact?

Q3: Some devotees are saying that Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja has now merged into the body of Sripad Narayana Maharaja. Have you found any justification for such a statement?

Regarding the first question, we have noted that there are widely conflicting accounts as to where the alleged meeting took place, when it happened, who was there, and what went on. To investigate, we interviewed the devotees who were closest to our Guru Maharaja at the various reported times of the supposed meeting. We also went over our Guru Maharaja's diaries from those periods (in which he daily recorded details about all of his activities), we spoke to his personal servants, and we listened to the tapes from those periods.

From these sources we have not been able to substantiate any part of any of the various stories.

But in any case, even if such a meeting had occurred, we would not consider it significant. Our Guru Maharaja may have met many people. The sastric injunction (Bhag. 10.33.30) is that a great personality may do many things, but we should not imitate him-naitat samacarej jatu manasapi hy anisvarah. Rather than imitate we should follow his instructions, and since our Guru Maharaja never mentioned the meeting to any of us we do not consider it to be a very relevant fact in our spiritual lives.

Regarding the second question, we have spoken to nearly every disciple of our Guru Maharaja, and not a single one has reported that he or she was told by him to go for shelter to Sripad Narayana Maharaja. The only comments we have found from our Guru Maharaja regarding this issue have been ones like the following. We quote them unedited, with clarifying explanations in brackets. The first is from April 1995:

They [some senior devotees] are going to Narayana Maharaja. They came to me. I said, "You committed wrong. They [others in general] cannot understand these things, so they [the activities] create disturbance." They [some senior devotees] said at last, "Yes. What you say is true." Last time at the end of GBC meeting they came to me and said, "Yes, Maharaja. What you have said is true." I said, "I told you in the beginning you committed wrong. We are in a society. Some cannot understand. So if you want to take siksa from an advanced devotee, do it secretly, don't expose it." But they exposed. The people cannot understand because this question of adhikara is there. They have no adhikara, how can they understand rasika-bhakti? Raganuga-bhakti? "If you are doing you should do it secretly. Nobody should know it. But you didn't do it secretly. Publicly you did, so these things [disturbances] come, and it is quite natural." At last they said, "What you have said is correct." [Darsana with Srila Gour Govinda Swami 18/4/95]

Furthermore, from the tapes of our Guru Maharaja and from the devotees who lived with him we find a very clear indication that he was always strongly against devotees leaving the mission of his guru, Srila Prabhupada. He tolerated and served in ISKCON out of devotion to Srila Prabhupada, not out of any mundane party spirit or institutional fanaticism. He always saw ISKCON as the seva/sanga of Srila Prabhupada. The following excerpt from an evening darsana in 1989 is typical of his attitude on this subject:

Parabrahma Das: You said we should always seek the association of advanced devotees. When Srila Prabhupada left the planet some of his disciples took shelter of....

Srila Gour Govinda Swami: Thereby they committed a mistake.

PD: Who committed a mistake?

SGGS: They left Prabhupada's mission. For the clarification of philosophical doubt or [to] accept some siksa from him [one may visit]. But why do you leave?

PD: Some people took shelter of ... and naturally because he was giving some instruction they became attached to him, and also accepted him as guru, siksa-guru. But because of this it seems that our society [ISKCON] rejected them rather than they rejected our society, in some cases.

SGGS: Why should they leave ISKCON?

PD: Some people... I spoke to one devotee who had taken shelter of... and he said that his life was made very difficult within ISKCON and he could no longer preach, he was so restricted. Therefore in order to preach he left ISKCON.

SGGS: What difficulty is there! Preaching the mission of Gauranga Mahaprabhu? Mahaprabhu says, "I will help you... I assure you I'll protect you, I'll help you. You'll never be affected by maya." [If] you have no faith in Gauranga Mahaprabhu, then you'll be put into difficulties. Understand? They have no faith in Gauranga Mahaprabhu, so they faced difficulties. Don't be afraid of problems. Krishna is there. His representative, guru is there. They are always with you. Do you understand? They are always prepared to help you. And these dangers, these problems, difficulties, will help you to become fixed. Do you understand? To become fixed. So they [the problems] are welcome. [20/11/89 BBSR]

As far as the third question is concerned, even if such an event as a departed Vaishnava merging into the body of another Vaishnava is ontologically possible, as tiny baddha-jivas we have no ability to perceive such events, and hence we could only speculate about the authenticity of the statement. However, if it were true that our Guru Maharaja entered the body of Narayana Maharaja then it would be reasonable to assume that the teachings of Sripad Narayana Maharaja would not differ in any significant way from those of our Gurudeva. We have found that in most areas Sripad Narayana Maharaja speaks in a similar way to our Gurudeva. Yet we have also found some differences we consider significant. To cite one of several differences: Iiiin the Rays of the Harmonist magazine Vol. III 1999, in an article entitled "Vrsabhanu-Nandini", Sripad Narayana Maharaja describes Puri Dhama as being equivalent to Dwarka and on a spiritual platform less than Vrindavan and Nabadwip. He describes the pastimes of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Puri as being full of opulence and on a lower level than His pastimes in Nabadwip.

Our Guru Maharaja's conception is quite different. Quoting from Vaisnava-tantra and Srila Sanatana Gosvami's Brhad-bhagavatamrta, he repeatedly established that Puri is non-different from Vrindavan. He also taught that Mahaprabhu's pastimes in Puri were the topmost part of gaura-lila. We quote from The Embankment of Separation: "This lila [of Mahaprabhu] is like an unlimited ocean. That ocean swells up, and the topmost swelling is there in Purusottama Ksetra [Jagannatha Puri] because Mahaprabhu manifested His antya-lila in Jagannatha Puri Dhama." (Pocket edition p.48-49)

"Jagannatha Puri Dhama is known as Sri Ksetra. Sri Devi is the svarupa-sakti, Krishna's internal potency. Therefore, that dhama which is glorified by the presence of the sri-sakti is known as Sri Ksetra. Sri means sarva-laksmi mayi amsini radhika, Srimati Radhika, Who is the source of all saktis. ... Therefore, those who are followers or devotees of madhurya-rasa can see that Sri Ksetra is the ksetra in which Radharani's madhurya-rasa is manifested. Only such madhurya-rasa bhaktas can see it; others cannot. That is why Jagannatha Puri is known as Sri Ksetra." (Pocket edition p.78) The topic of Puri dhama was very dear to our Guru Maharaja, so much so that in 1996 while describing the esoteric non-different nature of Puri and Vrindavan he displayed various symptoms of ecstasy and left his body.

This information should be sufficient to resolve any doubts in the minds and hearts of the devotees. Our purpose in presenting it is not to quarrel with anyone, we have simply tried to present the facts as we have found them in an honest way. In presenting this topic if we have somehow unintentionally disappointed or offended anyone we beg their forgiveness. As Maharaja Rahugana said to Jada Bharata:

naham visanke sura-raja-vajran
na tryaksa-sulan na yamasya dandat
chanke bhrsam brahma-kulavamanat

"My dear sir, I am not at all afraid of the thunderbolt of King Indra, nor am I afraid of the serpentine, piercing, trident of Lord Siva. I do not care about the punishment of Yamaraja, the superintendent of death, nor am I afraid of fire, scorching sun, moon, wind, nor the weapons of Kuvera. Yet I am afraid of offending a brahmana. I am very much afraid of this." Bhag. 5.10.17

Wholehearted support and agreement for the publication of this article has been offered by Srimat Sacinandana Das, ISKCON Danda Bhanga Project; Srimad Atmarama Das, President, ISKCON Bhubaneswar, and Srimac Caitanya Candra Das, President, ISKCON Gadeigiri.

© CHAKRA 21-May-2000

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