Book excerpts Acarya Kesari The Collecting and Publishing of Sri Vyasa-puja-paddhati

The Collecting and Publishing of Sri Vyasa-puja-paddhati

In February 1952, sri sri vyasa-puja was celebrated with great festivities for three days, from Maghi-krsna-trtiya to Maghi-pancami, at Sri Uddharana Gaudiya Matha in Chunchura. On Srila Guru Maharaja’s appearance day, he gave valuable instructions in response to the greetings and puspanjali of the Vaisnavas. He said, “Tridandi-sannyasis should perform sri guru-puja [of their own guru] on their appearance days. In conjunction with this guru-puja it is also necessary to worship the guru-parampara, Sri Sri Radha-Krsna Yugala and Sacinandana Sri Gaurahari and His associates. Vyasa-puja, guru-puja, acarya-puja and upasya-puja are different names for the same principle (tattva). The word krsna-pancaka does not mean five types of krsna-puja; rather it is a puja whose objects are Krsna’s five manifestations (prakasas or vilasas).

“Acarya Sri Sankara’s vyasa-puja is not a true vyasa-puja; it is only for show. Vyasa’s sampradaya is the foremost in India; India and the Indians are indebted to him. But at the present time the country’s educated community is not showing Vyasa proper respect. This is a very painful matter. Therefore, the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti is celebrating sri vyasa-puja very enthusiastically in different places of India.”

Srila Sarasvati Prabhupada collected the book Vyasa-puja-paddhati from [Sri Sankara’s] Sri Govardhana Matha in Puri. Srila Guru Maharaja also collected the same paddhati from Brahma Matha in Puskara and Sarada Matha of Gomati Dvaraka. He published Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s revised and modified edition in the third issue of the fourth year of Sri Gaudiya-patrika. To this day, all mathas of Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti, and especially the original matha, Sri Devananda Gaudiya Matha in Navadvipa, celebrate sri vyasa-puja according to this paddhati.

Awarding Astottara-sata-nami Tridanda-sannyasa

In 1952, the week-long Sri Navadvipa-dhama parikrama and Sri Gaura-janmotsava took place with great festivity, from 6 March to 12 March. On Gaura-purnima day (Monday, 11 March) at Sri Devananda Gaudiya Matha, the founder and president of the Samiti, parivrajakacarya astottara-sata Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharaja, gave Vedic tridanda-sannyasa dress to Sri Sajjana-sevaka Brahmacari, the publisher of Sri Gaudiya-patrika; to Sri Radhanatha dasa Adhikari, the Patrika’s office manager; and to Sri Gaura-narayana dasa Adhikari Bhakta-bandhava [the author], the Patrika’s preaching manager. The astottara-sata-nami tridanda-sannyasa dress was given according to the accepted regulations for Vaisnava practice (vaisnava-sattvata-smrti). Their sannyasa names were tridandi-svami Srimad Bhaktivedanta Vamana Maharaja, tridandi-svami Srimad Bhaktivedanta Trivikrama Maharaja and tridandi-svami Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, respectively.

The sannyasa title ‘Bhaktivedanta’ preceding each of the sannyasa names was completely unheard of until that day. The president of Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti – whose nature is identical to that of Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana, who composed the Govinda-bhasya on Brahma-sutra – inundated the earth with the flow of gaudiya-vedanta. Gaudiya-vedanta is non-different from bhakti-vedanta. Its purport is established in the paramahamsi samhita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, which is the authentic commentary on Brahma-sutra. Non-envious, knowledgeable Vaisnavas, expert in extracting the essence, realize the very deep secrets regarding the fundamental truths about bhakti through Srimad-Bhagavatam.

On Phalguna-purnima, the appearance day of Sri Gaura, the devotees fasted from morning onward. The entire Sri Caitanya-bhagavata was read throughout the day, and sankirtana was performed. Sometimes local Navadvipa residents entered the matha compound, stained with the bright colours of Holi, singing Holi songs accompanied by dholak and small cymbals, and throwing showers of coloured powder. Joining the sankirtana, they performed parikrama of the deities, took darsana of Sri Sri Guru-Gauranga Radha-Vinoda-bihari and Sri Koladeva and then left. The matha pilgrims had bathed in the Ganga and were dressed in new clothes. Carrying coloured powder in their hands, they first offered it to Sri Mandira, then they offered pranama to guru and Vaisnavas, and with great love they met with each other.

Mid-morning, the rituals of dor-kaupina and danda were performed, followed by the giving of sannyasa, a fire sacrifice and other rituals. These were all done according to the rules of the vaisnava-smrti, Samskara-dipika. The sky was filled with the sound of sankirtana and jaya-dhvani (jubilant cries of “Jaya!”), and the atmosphere was beautified by the deep reverberation of the conch shells and the auspicious ulu sounds made by the ladies. On this glorious occasion, tridandi-svami Srila Kesava Gosvami Maharaja gave the sannyasa-mantra and the astottara-sata sannyasi names, names indicative of bhakti, to his three initiated servants in front of an audience of thousands of faithful people. After the ceremony, on the order of Srila Guru Maharaja, the new tridandi-yatis went out to beg alms, as befitting one in the sannyasa-asrama. Following the rules of that asrama, they offered everything they received – grains, money, flowers and fruits – to the lotus feet of their guru.

In the evening, in an assembly filled with innumerable pilgrims, the three new sannyasis astonished their audience by explaining the profound truths and philosophical conclusions of suddha-bhakti.

Preaching Suddha-bhakti in Assam

In April 1952, paramaradhyatama Acarya Kesari travelled to the state of Assam to preach Sriman Mahaprabhu’s prema-dharma in various places. He was accompanied by tridandi-svami Srimad Bhakti Kusala Narasimha Maharaja, Srimad Damodara Maharaja, Srimad Trivikrama Maharaja, Srimad Vamana Maharaja, Srimad Narayana Maharaja [the author], Sri Paramesvara Brahmacari, Sri Satya-vigraha dasa Adhikari, Sri Sudama Sakha dasa Adhikari, Sri Dhira-krsna Brahmacari and others. Srila Guru Maharaja and the preaching party first visited the house of Srimati Sucitra Bala-devi in Goloka-ganja. Then they preached very strongly in the town of Dhuvadi, where they stayed at the residence of the late pujyapada Nimananda Seva-tirtha Prabhu. Afterwards, on the special invitation of respected Sri G. N. Niyogi Mahodaya, the chief minister of the kingdom of Abhaypuri, Srila Gurudeva gave an impressive lecture on Hindu dharma in the Bijani royal palace of Abhayapuri.

From there, Srila Gurudeva went to the village of Bhatipada on the entreaty of the members of the Assam Vaisnava Assembly. Thereafter he delivered a very powerful lecture on sanatana-dharma and Mahaprabhu’s philosophy at a huge gathering at Gandhi Maidan in the village of Bongai. After this, Srila Gurudeva went to Maligaon, a large, important township in Assam, on the insistence of Sri Yadavendra dasa and Premananda dasa. Maligaon is the stronghold of a community which is completely against the philosophy of Sri Caitanya. The majority of the people there worship Krsna as nihsaktik (without potencies), and do not accept His deity form. They do not acknowledge Sri Vyasadeva’s Srimad-Bhagavatam as authoritative but rather favour the modern Bhagavatpothi, written in Assamese by Hankaradeva. They eat fish, meat, onions and garlic and drink alcohol. They are against Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s philosophy of pure bhakti and are antagonistic to pure Vaisnavas.

One evening, a huge public assembly was arranged for Srila Acarya Kesari and his group of followers. The grounds were packed with ten to twelve thousand people waiting for Srila Gurudeva’s lecture. Srila Gurudeva began to speak on pure sanatana-dharma, with a brilliant command of words typical of him.

“Vrajendra-nandana Sri Krsna is the complete, eternal brahma in His features of sarva-saktiman (being the possessor of all potencies), savisesa (possessing all transcendental qualities) and akhila-rasamrta-murti (being the personification of all rasas). The pure bhakti that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu preached and practised is actually sanatana-dharma in its complete form. The supreme duty of human life is to completely give up onions, garlic, meat, intoxication, etc., and follow the path of sanatana-dharma, which is suddha-bhakti. The life of those who go against this highest duty and take meat, intoxication and other impure substances is like that of an animal –dharmena hinah pasubhih samanah (Hitopadesa 25).” Upon hearing this, one person in the middle of the gathering stood up and loudly declared, “We don’t believe in the philosophy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”

Gurudeva replied, “Not only Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, but the Vedas, Upanisads, Puranas and all other sastras say the same thing. No authentic scripture gives a concession for meat-eating and intoxication. Bhagavan is not nirakara, formless. His beautiful form is unprecedented. Despite having a form, He is still all-pervading and omnipotent.”

One listener said, “That is not written in Hankaradeva’s Bhagavata. We do not accept this siddhanta ; we consider Hankaradeva’s Bhagavata to be authoritative.”
Gurudeva explained, “Hankaradeva’s Bhagavata is a modern literature, written only two hundred or two hundred and fifty years ago. The Vedas, Upanisads, Puranas and other sastras are divine, eternal and ever-existing. That is why they are actual evidence.”

The listener asked, “Sriman Mahaprabhu is a recent personality, and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta is also modern literature. Is Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s name mentioned in the Vedas? Is there supporting evidence in the Vedas that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Bhagavan?”

Gurudeva said, “Yes, there is evidence. Not only one but thousands of examples are there. Listen carefully.” He looked at Srila Vamana Maharaja, indicating that he should present the evidence. Sripada Vamana Maharaja had written in his notebook forty to fifty scriptural statements that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Bhagavan, and he gave this to Sripada Trivikrama Maharaja who, on Srila Gurudeva’s order, started to read the examples of evidence loudly. However, the opposition was not interested in hearing proof‚ but, wanting to instigate chaos in the gathering instead, they started throwing stones. Other members of the audience objected to such behaviour. Guruji fearlessly continued with his lecture throughout this disruption. He said, “We sannyasis and brahmacaris are not afraid of death. We are followers of Sri Prahlada Maharaja and Sri Haridasa Thakura.” After the scriptural proofs had been read, the gathering came to an end. Sri Gurudeva’s fearlessness was discussed everywhere for many days. Such a fearless speaker of the impartial truth is rare in this world.

After preaching in Maligaon, Srila Guru Maharaja was requested to speak by the pious members of a religious assembly in the village of Bamsvadi. He gave a penetrating talk about the philosophical concepts that distinguish Gaudiya vaisnava-dharma from the different apasampradayas, or unauthorized philosophical schools. Thereafter he and the preaching party travelled to Gauhati. At various places in the town, Srila Gurudeva gave lectures filled with scriptural explanations of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s prema-dharma and the subject matter established in Vedanta. While preaching in Gauhati, very praiseworthy services were rendered by Sri Gauri-sankara Chattopadhyaya (a Divisional Medical Officer of Assam’s Railway), by Sri M. Salai (a lecturer at Gauhati College) and others.

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Srila Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvami Maharaja and Srila Bhaktiv­­­edānta Trivikrama Gosvāmi Mahārāja were very upset when they heard members of the GBC were mistreating Gurudeva and trying to defame him in ISKCON. Some members even had the audacity to criticize Srila Gurudeva in the presence of Srila Vāmana Gosvāmi Mahārāja at Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha in Navadvīpa. Someone once said, “He as against the rules and regulations of your Vedānta Samīti by speaking on elevated topics that ordinary jīvas are not qualified to hear. You are president of the Samīti, please tell him to mend his ways or remove him from your society.” Śrīla Vāmana Gosvāmi Mahārāja rebuked those who thus spoke and said, “I am not separate or different from Srila Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja. Whatever he speaks is correct and in line with “sadhu-guru-sastra”. Śrīla Trivikrama Gosvāmi Mahārāja was also angered at the ill character of the GBC towards Srila Gurudeva. Srila Vāmana Gosvāmi Mahārāja and Srila Trivikrama Gosvāmi Mahārāja said, “An offense to our dear godbrother is an offense to ourselves and our whole society.”In September 1995, Pūjyapāda Bhaktivedānta Trivikrama Mahārāja arrived in Keavaji Gauḍīya Maṭha. Upon arrival, he offered prostrated obeisance to Śrīla Gurudeva and Gurudeva offered sāṣṭāṅga-praṇāma in return. Śrīla Trivikrama Mahārāja had immense respect for Śrīla Gurudeva. Sometimes, when Śrīla Gurudeva was residing inside his room, or absent, Śrīla Trivikrama Gosvāmī Mahārāja would bow to Gurudeva’s shoes at his door. In the temple programs, Śrīla Gurudeva and Śrīla Trivikrama Gosvāmī Mahārāja sat together for the kīrtanas and hari-kathā. Gurudeva deeply honored Śrīla Trivikrama Mahārāja and always requested him to speak first. One morning, a few days before Kārtika commenced, Śrīla Trivikrama Mahārāja gave class while Gurudeva was elsewhere engaged. 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He works always for the welfare of others, yet still people criticize and insult him. But Mahārāja never thinks ill of anyone.“Vaiṣṇavas observe the essence. Mahārāja discerns if a person is eager for bhajana and helps him in all ways. If someone wants to serve māyā, he helps him on his way as well, knowing that, after receiving the continual kicks from māyā, he will come back and be prepared for his help.“Mahārāja is nirdoṣa, faultless. He never criticizes others or speaks idly of mundane topics. Indeed, he wastes not a moment. He’s always engaged in hari-bhakti. He is magnanimous. He speaks vraja-kathā to inspire others towards vraja-bhakti, even if they are not qualified or strictly practicing bhakti. He knows that ten or twenty lifetimes may pass before a person becomes qualified, but he also knows that unless one hears vraja-kathā and develops greed for vraja-bhakti, he never has a chance to progress toward the ultimate attainment. 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