Sraddha ceremony according to Vaisnava rites in Kalyanapura
Sri Rasa-bihari dasa Adhikari Bhakti-sastri Bhisag-ratna Mahasaya, an inhabitant of Kalyanapur (in Medinipura district), zealously endeavoured to invite Srila Gurudeva to participate in the observance of the sraddha ceremony of his mother. Srila Gurudeva attended the program with many of his associates. The priestly duties at this ceremony were performed by pujyapada Sri Bhakti Bhudeva Srauti Maharaja, who was a favourite of Srila Prabhupada and who had a close relationship with Srila Guru Maharaja. He was a special preacher expert in Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindi, English and other languages, and had preached pure bhakti in Kasi, Prayaga, Patna, Medinipura and other regions under the guidance of Srila Prabhupada. He had also managed the monthly Hindi magazine Bhagavata-patrika during Srila Prabhupada’s time.
Here it must be particularly noted that Srila Gurudeva was very firm in the philosophical conclusions of bhakti and fearlessly spoke the impartial truth. He was never reluctant to speak bhakti-siddhanta, regardless of whether his words pleased others or not. Although pujyapada Srauti Maharaja was his godbrother and close friend, Srila Gurudeva still strongly objected to the errors he made in conducting this Vaisnava sraddha ceremony. He has made a signed statement to this effect in his notebook. The following points are taken from his notes.
- Srila Srauti Maharaja chose Brahma as the object of worship in this Vaisnava sraddha. (Sri Sri Radha-Krsna, Sriman Mahaprabhu and sri gurudeva were not chosen as the worshipful objects.) Srila Srauti Maharaja said that it is proper to worship Brahma in Vaisnava sraddha, because Sri Vaikhanas Maharaja has written this in his paddhati. Yet the arrangement of choosing the object of worship is given in Sat-kriya-sara-dipika, Hari-bhakti-vilasa and other Smrtis.
- In this ceremony, unboiled paddy rice (arva rice) with ghee was sanctified by mantras and given to a smarta brahmana (Sri Rasa-bihari’s family guru) first, and tridandi-sannyasis were given donations after this. This practice is also contrary to vaisnava-smrtis which state that substances offered to Bhagavan should be given to sri gurudeva and Vaisnavas.
- In regard to establishing the presiding deity (brahma-sthapana) of the sraddha, Sripada Srauti Maharaja stated that this is not a duty, because Sat-kriya-sara-dipika mentions that in the absence of a presiding deity, a deity made of kusa can be established. He also said that Sat-kriya-sara-dipika was composed by Vaikuntha Vacaspati and not by Sri Gopala Bhatta, which is not true. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura collected an old copy of the text by Sri Gopala Bhatta from the famous royal library in Jaipura and published it, and the gosvamis of Sri Radha-Ramana still have an old copy of the manuscript by Sri Gopala Bhatta.
- Adhivasa (preliminary rites) was performed with some smarta mantras rather than in accordance with Sat-kriya-sara-dipika.
- At this ceremony, giving of charity was performed first, instead of after Vaisnava homa, as stipulated in Sat-kriya-sara-dipika.
Sripada Srauti Maharaja called the smarta guru-brahmana inside the sacrificial altar and gave a begging bowl, eating plate, wooden shoes, umbrella, bedding and other things in charity to him. This custom is completely opposed to Hari-bhakti-vilasa (9.103), where it is clearly written:
One should deceive those who are grossly involved in karma, i.e. the non-Vaisnavas, by giving them unoffered items or wealth, but one should give the Vaisnavas the items which have been offered to Bhagavan.
- There was no performance of achidra-vacana, the chanting of mantras to allay faults, as described in Sat-kriya-sara-dipika, for the defects in the prayascitta homa. (Uddicya, concluding activities, were also left out.)
- In the Vaisnava sacrifice, no sacrifice was performed to the guru-parampara.
- Some portion of the ghee of the Vaisnava homa was offered in the fire for each personality’s name, and a portion was kept in a separate pot, which was mixed with maha-prasada and was given as pinda at the time of offering pinda. (This process has not been mentioned in any vaisnava-smrti.)
- Unoffered uncooked rice, dal, salt, potatoes, green bananas and ghee were kept in two separate pots, and both were offered in the name of the expired mother of Rasa-bihari. One of these was given directly to the smarta-brahmana, the family guru, who accepted it sitting on a separate asana in the sacrificial altar. This is improper in every respect.
- In this ceremony there was no worship even of Sri Vasudeva as given in Sat-kriya-sara-dipika.
- Santi-homa, circumambulation and other Vaisnava customs were omitted in this ceremony.
- Offering of pinda and bhoga was also not performed in accordance with the rules.
- It seems that the mantras used in this ceremony were also different [from those in vaisnava-smrti ].
- Acamana, etc., also, was not performed.
- Prasada was served facing south. This is not proper.
(Please see page 133 in the first Hindi edition of Sat-kriya-sara-dipika.)
(Signed) B. P. Keshab 10.11.47
Preaching in Bihara
In 1945, Srila Gurudeva sent pujyapada Bhakti Kusala Narasimha Maharaja, Sri Narottamananda Bhakti-kamala, Sri Radhanatha dasa Adhikari, Prema-prayojana Brahmacari and others to preach pure bhakti in Dumka, Sahibaganja, Rajmahal and Bhagalpur in the state of Bihara. While Sri Narottamananda Bhakti-kamala was preaching in Sahibaganja, I [then Sriman Narayana Tivari, the author] became acquainted with him. At that time, I was working in the office of the police station. Upon hearing brahmacariji’s extremely sweet hari-katha, I became eager to renounce this material world. Nonetheless, I remained in my service for some time. In December 1946, however, I retired from the police service and left home to join Sri Gaudiya Matha in Navadvipa-dhama. The following year, 1947, on the day of Gaura-janmotsava after the Navadvipa-dhama parikrama, paramaradhyatama Srila Gurudeva gave me sri harinama and diksa. I then became known as Sri Gaura-narayana Bhakta-bandhava.
Sri vyasa-puja celebration
On 27 February 1948, sri vyasa-puja was celebrated at Sri Uddharana Gaudiya Matha to commemorate fifty years from the day Sri Gurupada-padma appeared. On the first day of this occasion there was an elaborate observation of sri vyasa-puja, including the worship of krsna-pancaka, vyasa-pancaka, acarya-pancaka, sanakadi-pancaka, guru-pancaka, upasya-pancaka and panca-tattva-pancaka. Then puspanjali and a fire sacrifice concluded the morning ceremony. In the evening program, Srila Gurudeva lectured from Srimad-Bhagavatam and explained the episode in which Krsna Dvaipayana Vedavyasa obtains realization of the Absolute Truth while in samadhi. On the third day of the festival, on jagad-guru Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada’s auspicious appearance day (avirbhava-tithi), Srila Gurudeva worshipped the nicely decorated deity of Srila Prabhupada. Arati took place during the singing of ‘Srila Prabhupada arati’, a song composed by Srila Gurudeva, and then puspanjali was offered to Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet. Every year after that, Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti observed sri vyasa-puja in this elaborate way.