During the time of Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrīla Gurudeva was always engaged in manifold services to the mission of his divine master. After Ācarya Kesarī entered the pastimes of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa, Śrīla Gurudeva continued his services without faltering. He took responsibily of the Gauḍīya Vedānta Samīti, along with his godbrothers Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Trivikrama Gosvāmī Mahārāja. Together they were renowned as the three pillars of their Gurudeva’s mission. History repeatedly reveals missions that disintegrate after the departure of their founder; however, because of the dedication and joint effort of Acarya Kesarī’s three dearest disciples, the Gauḍīya Vedānta Samīti persevered and developed.
Śrīla Vāmana Gosvami Mahārāja said to Srila Gurudeva and Srila Trikrama Gosvami Maharaja. Although I have been named acārya, I don’t consider myself an ācārya—I am just a servant. If my godbrothers accept me as their servant and remain with me, only then will I continue in this role.”
“I will never leave you,” Śrīla Gurudeva said.
“Together we will take all responsibility for fulfilling the desires of Guru Mahārāja,” Śrīla Trivikrama Gosvāmī Mahārāja answered. “We all never act independently from each other.”
With this sentiment, the three brothers shared responsibility for continuing the mission of Ācarya Kesarī by preaching throughout India, publishing the Gauḍīya Patrikā and Bhāgavata Patrikā, and organizing festivals such as Ratha-yātrā.
In 1969, allegations were raised against the observance of Ratha-yātrā in Navadvīpa-dhāma. Acarya Kesarī had originally initiated the Ratha-yātrā parade in Navadvīpa-dhāma without protest. Yet shortly after his disappearance, an article was published in another organization’s journal declaring that the performance of Ratha-yātrā in Navadvīpa is contrary to the conception of rūpānugā-bhakti.
If anyone is guru-gata-prāṇa, ready to give his life for the service of Śrī Guru, he will never be able to tolerate criticism of his beloved spiritual master and will demolish false accusations. Śrīla Gurudeva immediately wrote an article responding to the five doubts that were presented.
A series of articles were subsequently published between the organizations. Persuaded by Gurudeva’s reasoning, the opposition retracted their previous statements and apologized.
A pure guru’s primary activity is to distribute the moods of Vraja and to bring sincere aspirants to Kṛṣṇa. The mahā-bhāgavata ācāryas serve Kṛṣṇa and preach in their own unique way. One should not question their activities. This only deprives oneself of Kṛṣṇa’s service and disturbs others as well.
In the Bhāgavata Patrikā publied December 26, 1969, Gurudeva wrote an article under the title: Is Ratha-yātrā in Navadvīpa-dhāma contradictory to the ideology of rūpānugā-bhakti?
An abstract of the article follows:
(1) Doubt: Navadvīpa is hidden Vṛndāvana and one cannot see the Ratha-yātrā pastime performed in Śrī Vṛndāvana.
Established conclusion: The prominent Deities of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas in Vrndāvana, namely Śrī Madana-mohana, Śrī Govindajī, Śrī Gopinātha, Śrī Rādhā-Śyāmasundarajī, and Sri Radha Gokulānandaji as well as the Deities in temples of other sampradāyas, such as Śrī Raṅganāthajī and the Śrī Shaha-Biharijī are annually taken on the Ratha-yātrā parade with great pomp and splendor. In Maheśa, Bengal, Sri Kamalākara Pipalāi, an associate of Śrī Gaurasundara, has also manifested the Ratha-yātrā pastime of Śrī Jagannāthadeva.
Sri Caitanya Mahāprabhu expressed a particular mood in regard to Ratha-yātrā. He considered that Śrī Kṛṣṇa was mounted upon His chariot returning to Vṛndāvana to meet with all the gopīs, especially with Śrīmatī Rādhikā. The gopīs, having been afflicted with the severe agony of separation from Kṛṣṇa for a very long time, converged in Kurukṣetra to meet Kṛṣṇa. We should always remember that śrī rūpānugā-ācāryas have manifested the Ratha-yātrā festival on the earthly plane in order to simulate the aforementioned mood of Caitanya Mahāprabhu within their hearts and to nourish their bhajana. Some niṣkiñcana rūpānugā Vaiṣṇavas, being bereft of the necessary facilities for observing this festival, have simulated this mood within their hearts by mānasī-sevā. Alternately, they nourish their bhāva by taking darśana of Śrī Ratha-yātrā-līlā in various places such as Purī-dhāma. The purpose of both approaches is fundamentally one. There is no difference between them.
(2) Doubt: Seeing the chariot would simulate a terribly undesirable apprehension in the hearts of the vraja-gopīs. Therefore, how can the rūpānugā Vaiṣṇavas, whose goal is to experience the moods of the gopīs, join in the Ratha-yātrā procession?
Established conclusion: Adorned with the sentiments and complexion of Śrī Rādhā, Śrī Gaurasundara is dirctely Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself. Śrī Gadādhara Gosvāmī (Śrīmatī Rādhā), Śrī Svarūpa Dāmodara (Śrī Lalājī), Śrī Rāya Rāmānanda (Śrī Viśākhā), Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī (Śrī Rūpa Mañjarī), Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī (Śrī Lavaṅga Mañjarī), Śrī Dāsa Gosvāmī (Śrī Rati Mañjarī) and all of the associates of Śrī Gaurasundara, most of whom were sakhīs or sakhās in Vraja, assembled for Ratha-yātrā. They all danced and chanted before the chariot, deeply immersed in this mood: Kṛṣṇa lañā vraje yāi e-bhāva antara—let us take Kṛṣṇa back to Vṛndāvana. Did the associates of Mahāprabhu feel any distress or anguish upon seeing the chariot? Definitely not. Then why will their followers, the rūpānugā Vaiṣṇavas, feel any anguish or undesirable apprehension?
Sri Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Acarya, Srila Jīva Gosvami on the basis of the Padma-Purāṇa, has described in his Gopāla-campū that after killing Dantavakra, Kṛṣṇa returned to Vraja upon a chariot. Upon hearing the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s conch and the rumbling of His chariot, all the gopas and gopīs of Vraja surmised that Kṛṣṇa was returning. Driven by excessive eagerness to see Him, even feeble, old women ran with great haste to the direction of the sound of Kṛṣṇa’s conch and chariot. When they drew nearer and saw that Garuḍa was sitting on the flag of the chariot, they felt assured that Kṛṣṇa was definitely returning to Vraja. Being overwhelmed with joy, they became motionless, like statues, and were unable to go any further. Only their gaze advanced in the direction of the approaching chariot. Therefore, the idea that the vraja-gopīs become distressed and apprehensive upon seeing a chariot in all circumstances is not correct.
In the Ratha-yatra pastime and also on the path of sri rupanuga-bhajana, the importance of the internal mood is predominant. Externally perceived substances or places are not more important than the internal mood. In Ratha-yātrā, the internal mood that Kṛṣṇa is returning to Vraja is simulated. There is no internal vision relating to Dvārakā or Mathurā-dhāma in this līlā. The inspired vision is only of Śrī Kṛṣṇa returning to Vraja after being absent for nearly 90 years. It is in this mood that Śrī Jagannātha-devajī travels from the Jagannātha Mandira in Purī to the Śrī Guṇḍīcā Mandira. This signifies His journey from Dvārakā to Vṛndāvana. During the Śrī Ratha-yātrā procession, Śrī Gaurasundara and His confidential associates experienced utmost jubilation, being deeply absorbed in the moods of Śrī Rādhā and the vraja-gopīs. Moreover, they all assembled together before the chariot, fully absorbed in exactly the same bhāva during the Ulta-ratha-yātrā (the festival of Jagannātha-deva’s return to the Śrī Mandira from Śrī Guṇḍīcā).
Did they think that by observing Ratha-yātrā in the opposite direction, Śrī Kṛṣṇa was leaving Vṛndāvana and returning to Mathurā or Dvārakā? Never. Such an understanding is erroneous. It is mentioned in Sri Caitanya-caritāmṛta that Sri Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His associates congregated, danced, and did kīrtana at the Ulta-ratha-yātrā:
āra dine jagannāthera bhitara-vijaya
rathe caḍi’ jagannātha cale nijālaya
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 14.244
The next day, Lord Jagannātha came out from the temple and, riding on the car, returned to His own abode.
pūrvavat kaila prabhu lañā bhakta-gaṇa
parama ānande karena nartana-kīrtana
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 14.245
As previously, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and His devotees chanted and danced with great pleasure.
(3) Doubt: From ancient times up until the present day, no great personality who was expert in bhajana has ever performed the procession of Ratha-yātrā-līlā in selfsame Vraja-maṇḍala, Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma.
Established conclusion: Whenever the inspiration came in the hearts of great personalities, they have manifested this līlā in various places in Gauḍa-maṇḍala, such as in the district of Maheśa. Therefore, if a great personality is also inspired to manifest this līlā in Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma, then it is in no way contrary to the path of sri rupanuga–bhajana. For example, in the Śrī Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava-sampradāya, from the time of Śrīman Mahāprabhujī, Śrīmad–Bhāgavatam has been considered the natural commentary on Sri Brahma-sūtra. However, when the necessity arose, Śrī Gauḍīya Vedanta acarya Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa Prabhu manifested a separate commentary—Sri Govinda-bhāṣya.
(4) Doubt: Jagad-guru oṁ Viṣṇupāda Śrīla Bhaksiddhānta Sarasvatī Prabhupāda has not performed Ratha-yātrā-līlā in Śrī Gaura-dhāma.
Established conclusion: Jagad-guru oṁ Viṣṇupāda Śrīla Bhaksiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura manifested Śrī Rādhā-kuṇḍa and Śrī Śyāma-kuṇḍa in Vraja-pattana (Śrī Caitanya Maṭha) within Śrīdhāma Māyāpura.
He preached daiva-varṇāśrama-dharma. He reestablied the acceptance of saffron cloth and tridaṇḍī-sannyāsa in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava-sampradāya. He has flown the victory flag of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava-dharma throughout the world. Prior to the appearance of this crown jewel in the dynasty of ācāryas, no other ācārya ever inaugurated the aforementioned activities. Yet can any of these projects of Śrīla Prabhupāda be considered contrary to the principles of sri rupanuga–bhakti? Never. Anyone who could say such a thing would have to be utterly ignorant of bhakti-tattva.
(5) Doubt: In Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma, how is the darśana of Dvārakā possible or appropriate?
Established conclusion: We have already explained that the predominant bhāva in Śrī Ratha-yātrā-līlā is Kṛṣṇa laña vraje jāi. There is not even the slightest scent of a sphūrti (momentary vision) or darśana of Dvārakā in this bhāva. Hence, even the question of any kind of Dvārakā darśana arising from the performance of Ratha-yātrā-līlā in
Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma is completely irrelevant. On the other hand, Śrī Navadvīpa-maṇḍala, which is the selfsame Vṛndāvana, is aṁsī-dhāma (the source of all dhāmas, in which all other dhāmas exist). Mathurā, Dvārakā, Ayodhyā, and Paravyoma all eternally exist in Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma, just as all the plenary portions of aṁśī Kṛṣṇa, such as Nārāyaṇa and Viṣṇu, exist eternally within Him.
When at Candraśekhara-bhavana (Vraja-pattana) in Māyāpura-dhāma, Śrī Gaurasundara personally danced in the mood of Śrī Rukmiṇī. It is well known that Śrī Rukmini-devī is an associate in dvārakā-līlā. Therefore, if this līlā is possible in Vraja-pattana then how can dvārakā-darśana be impossible in Śrīdhāma Navadvīpa? On what grounds can it be said that the manifestation of Ratha-yātrā-līlā is not possible?
Hence the conclusion is that there is an inseparable relation between Ratha-yātrā-līlā and rūpānugā-anugatya. Śrī Rūpānugā Vaiṣṇavas manifest this līlā everywhere in Navadvīpa-dhāma and thus, according to the path founded by Śrīman Mahāprabhu, they inspire the internal mood expressed in the following verse written by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī:
priyaḥ so ‘yaṁ kṛṣṇaḥ sahacari kuru-kṣetra-militas
tathāhaṁ sā rādhā tad idam ubhayoḥ saṅgama-sukham
mano me kālindī-pulina-vipināya spṛhayati
Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 2.76
O friend, I have met My beloved Kṛṣṇa on this field of Kurukṣetra. I am the same Radha and He the same Kṛṣṇa, and although our meeting was very pleasant, I would still like to go to the bank of the Yamunā beneath the trees of the forest. I wish to hear the vibration of His sweet flute playing the fifth note within that forest of Vṛndāvana.
This thoroughly nourishes the bhajana of the genuine rūpānuga Vaisnavas.
(Tridandisvami Bhaktivedanta Narayana)
Srila Gurudeva ki Jaya! (Excerpted from the Bhakta Bandhav Publication, “Sri Guru Darshan”. Available from; firstname.lastname@example.org )