When Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja entered nitya-līlā, some of his prominent disciples came to Śrīla Gurudeva to hear hari-kathā and for advice on how to manage ISKCON—as their spiritual master had ordered them to do before he departed. Śrīla Gurudeva gave them advice and instructions on pure bhakti from a neutral standpoint.
One day in 1980, a few of the ISKCON sannyāsīs brought Banavarilal Singhaniya, a young factory owner from Kolkata, to meet Śrīla Gurudeva. His family was very successful—they owned three factories that manufactured springs and other parts for trains, and produced components for oil refineries. Śrīla Gurudeva spoke sweet hari-kathā, gave him mahā-prasāda, and took him on darśana of the prominent temples of Vraja. Singhaniya was attracted to Gurudeva’s personality and expressed his desire to be engaged in service.
“I do not need anything for myself,” Śrīla Gurudeva said, “and I do not want to accept personal service. e mano’ bhistha-sevā of our Guru-varga is to serve the places of our sampradāya and the Gosvāmīs.”
When Singhaniya asked what service he could do, Śrīla Gurudeva said, “The Śrī Rādhā Dāmodara Temple is in disrepair and the samādhis of Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, and Śrīla Kṛṣṇa dāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī are all dilapidated. Śrīla Svāmī Mahārāja stayed there for a long time and performed bhajana. Hence, it would be a great service to the Gosvāmīs if this temple was repaired and built up nicely. Repair work can also be done on the samādhi-mandira of Sanātana Gosvāmī, and the Gokulananda Temple.”
Singhaniya prayed at Śrīla Gurudeva’s lotus feet, saying, “This work can be properly accomplished only under your guidance. I do not see anyone else who is as qualified as you. To use wealth without attachment for a spiritual purpose is only possible for a niṣkiṅcana devotee. If I give money to rebuild the Rādhā Dāmodara Temple to an ordinary proprietor, he will misappropriate the money and thus destroy his life.”
Śrīla Gurudeva agreed to oversee the project. In those days, cement was expense and very difficult to acquire. The government supplied to construction companies, but was not in the open market—one had to apply with the government and have a good connection to get quality cement. Srila Gurudeva made arrangements for the cement with the help of Srila Bhakti Prasāda Purī Mahārāja, the temple president of Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha’s Vṛndāvana branch, who had contact with an influential official.
When Śrīla Gurudeva spoke with the Rādhā Dāmodara Gosāis, requesting permission to renovate the temple, they refused to allow any repairs unless they themselves oversaw all the money and construction. They went to Singhaniya’s factory in Kolkata and fabricated many falsehoods in an effort to defame Śrīla Gurudeva and generate doubt in Singhaniya’s mind. Singhaniya had firm faith in Gurudeva and strongly told the Gosāis, “I will only fund the renovation if Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja supervises everything. If you do not allow him to do so, I will consider that the Gosvāmīs are not accepting my service.”
The Gosāis stubbornly refused to allow the project to commence unless they were in control, and Singhaniya would also not be swayed in his conviction. Thus the work was delayed. Previously, the Rādhā Dāmodara proper was much larger, but much of the land was sold off and now only the area of the Deities and samādhis remains.
Singhaniya told Śrīla Gurudeva, “I took a vow to perform some service under your guidance. The cement and other building supplies we purchased will go to waste if left unused for too long. Please reveal some other service I can be engaged in.”
After consideration, Śrīla Gurudeva said, “Thousands of pilgrims come for parikramā at my Guru Mahārāja’s āśrama in Navadvīpa, Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha. They tolerate rain, heat, and cold, for we have very little facility or land for their accomodation. If you like, you can purchase land adjacent to the temple and build a dharmaśālā there.”
Singhaniya agreed. He then requested Śrīla Gurudeva to accompany him to Kolkata by plane, along with one assistant, and from there go to Navadvīpa and begin the arrangements to buy land and build a dharmaśālā.
Who would go with Śrīla Gurudeva? One brahmacārī was serving Śrīla Gurudeva at the time, and there was another brahmacārī who had recently joined the maṭha after completing his studies in Kolkata. Both were eager to travel with Śrīla Gurudeva for his first flight, and they argued with each other over who was more suitable for the service. Gurudeva told the brahmacārī who was serving him at the time, “You can come with me,” but seeing the dejected look on the other brahmacārī’s face, Gurudeva said to the first brahmacārī, “I will take this new boy. He has already finished college. Stay here and continue your studies. I will take you next time.”
Śrīla Gurudeva continued, with a smile, “You are now fighting to come with me on the airplane; you both have so much enthusiasm for this. But don’t worry, in the future your lives will be full of airplane flights one after the other.” We can see today that this prophecy came true.
When the small party arrived in Navadvīpa, land was bought and plans were prepared for building the dharmaśālā. Śrīla Gurudeva stayed in Navadvīpa for six months to oversee the start of construction and then returned to Mathurā. Gurudeva went back and forth by train to Navadvīpa over the next few years until the dharmaśālā was complete. Singhaniya generously donated the land and helped with the expense of construction.
Later, the Rādhā Dāmodara Gosāis relented and requested Śrīla Gurudeva to oversee the renovations of the temple. Singhaniya Prabhu agreed to help and Gurudeva diligently managed the repairs. When Singhaniya Prabhu asked for more service, Śrīla Gurudeva inspired him to help develop Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s temple and guesthouse in Navadvīpa. Singhaniya Prabhu also donated toward the guesthouse and temple of Caitanya-Gauḍīya Maṭha at Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s birthplace in Jagannātha Purī. He served many Vaiṣṇava-ācāryas and temples and the Guru-varga blessed him profusely for his niṣkapaṭa-sevā—sincere selfless service.
Srīla Gurudeva was periodically invited to events at the prominent temples of Vṛndāvana. He once attended, along with a group of temple residents, a recitation of “Rasa-pañcādhyāyī”
(the five chapters of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam describing rāsa-līlā) at the Rādhā Gokulananda mandira. Gurudeva sat amidst a group of Paṇḍas and a large assembly of Vrajavāsīs as the Gopi-gīta was recited in the open courtyard of Rādhā Gokulananda. In a impetuous tone, the reciters sang of the gopī’s acute separation from Kṛṣṇa, churning the hearts of the listeners. At the beginning of the day’s recital, the sun had shone brightly, but in the afternoon it began to rain heavily, as if the gopīs’ were weeping and their tears were pouring down from the clouds. Amazingly, although the rain turned into an intense storm, the courtyard of Rādhā Gokulananda remained dry and undisturbed. However, the hearts of Śrīla Gurudeva and the Vaiṣṇavas present in that assembly had melted, and everyone was weeping profusely. Gurudeva later helped repair the Rādhā Gokulananda mandira with generous donations. He made a beautiful garden there and ensured that the Deity worship was being elaborately performed.
Once, the Gosvāmīs of the Rādhā-ramaṇa mandira: Gaura-kiśora śāstrī, Viśvambhara Gosvāmī, and Puruṣotama Gosvāmī, invited Śrīla Gurudeva to speak at their temple. Śrīla Gurudeva was pleased to accept the invitation and went there on the appointed evening.
After exchanging due respects according to Vaiṣṇava etiquette, Śrīla Gurudeva was requested to take the honored seat and present his discourse. Śrīla Gurudeva first said, “Bhagavān, Rādhā-ramaṇa, and Caitanya Mahāprabhu are one and the same, just as Caitanya Mahāprabhu is the same as Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. Now, let us consider how to establish one’s relationship with Rādhā-ramaṇa. Śāstra and the esteemed Vaiṣṇava-ācāryas of the past have revealed to us that Kṛṣṇa accepts what is offered to Him with the accompaniment of Tulasī. We can therefore conclude that our body can be offered to Kṛṣṇa by taking the shelter of Tulasī—in the form of wearing sacred Tulasī beads around our neck and honoring the Tulasī leaves that have been offered to Ṭhākurajī. However, to accomplish full surrender of our self to Kṛṣṇa there is a further necessary. What is necessary is mantra.
“Pāñcarātrika-dīkṣā was arranged for this purpose. When Śrī Guru gives pāñcarātrika-dīkṣā, first he gives the oṁkāra. After this, he gives brahma-gāyatrī and other mantras. The jīva is connected to Bhagavān by the oṁkāra, the sacred thread, and gāyatrī-mantras. When one chants the oṁkāra, he is at the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Vraja-maṇḍala, under the guidance of Śrīmatī Rādhikā. The brahmaṇa thread is the form of oṁ, comprised of three strands which represent a-u-m and sat-cid-ananda. By wearing the brahmaṇa thread one binds himself and receives protection and shelter from Parabrahma. And when one places Tulasī on his body, he becomes Kṛṣṇa’s prasāda. At the time Śrī Guru initiates a disciple, he bestows Śrī Nāma, Tulasī-mālā, neck beads, pāñcarātrika-dīkṣā, and the brāhmaṇa thread. At this time
Śrī Nāma Prabhu enters the hearts of the jīvas and awakens their faith. Śrī Guru then gradually helps the disciple advance along the stages of niṣṭhā (fixed determination), ruci (taste), āsakti (attachment), and bhāva (spiritual ecstasy).
“When a person reaches bhāva-dasa, he realizes his spiritual form. One who engages in mañjarī-bhāva-upāsanā then receives transcendental knowledge of his form and service and takes shelter of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī’s lotus feet. When one receives the bhāva of being Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s maidservant in his heart, he becomes qualified to serve Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa. No one else is capable of serving Rādhā-ramaṇa. Hence, there is the necessary for every person to receive pāñcarātrika dīkṣā from a pure guru in a Vaiṣṇava-sampradāya who can guide him to this perfection. This is the conception of Mahāprabhu as proclaimed by Gopāla Bhatta Gosvāmī in his Sat-Kriyā-Sāra-Dipika. Every human being must receive the gāyatrī-mantras to become connected with Rādhā-ramaṇa.”
Śrīla Gurudeva continued, “The darkness of night begins to dissipate even before the sun rises above the horizon. Similarly, before the effulgent sun of the pure holy name rises in the heart, the darkness of anarthas begins to fade as the sādhaka chants nāma-ābhāsa. When the sādhaka chants śuddha-nāma, the pure holy name, it is like the morning sun rising, further dispelling the darkness of anarthas and illuminating the spiritual form of the soul. As the sun of Śrī Nāma reaches the zenith, its great heat completely destroys all anarthas. By the mercy of Śrī Nāma, one receives sambandha-jñāna and crosses the stages of ruci and āsakti, entering the platform of bhāva-dāsa. That stage is compared to the evening, for at that time one does not feel the pain of his anarthas burning. He becomes utterly immersed in loving devotion. Then the sun disappears for the night. For those who surrender to the nāma-rupi-sūrya, the supremely powerful sun-like holy name, impairment and scarcity cease. On the other hand, one who stops chanting nāma remains in a deplorable condition. Similarly, Bhagavān sends Guru and Vaiṣṇavas to help the living entities. When Gurudeva disappears, his potency and opulence depart with him. This is like the darkness of night for the sādhaka, and the world appears desolate. Then one must wait for morning, or the renewed meeting with Śrī Guru.
“When the jīva surrenders to Śrī Nāma, he receives the shelter of a bona fide guru, who is like a ray of the sun of Śrī Nāma.
When one chants the holy names purely, his anarthas are washed away. This is like the midday sun. When ecstatic love for Kṛṣṇa arises in his heart, then it is like the arrival of evening and the sunrays disappear, meaning Śrī Guru enters nitya-līlā. If the disciple, feeling disunited and isolated, cries out for Śrī Guru’s mercy and proximity, he will be transferred to another universe where Śrī Guru is present and serving in Mahāprabhu’s līlā.
“Śrī Guru appears as the sunrays of pure love coming from Śrī Nāma.
He wields the immense spiritual heat capable of destroying the jīvas’ anarthas. This heat radiates from the transcendental light which illumines the spiritual form of the soul. That illumination originates from Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and possesses the power to take the jīva across the immeasurable ocean of birth and death and offer him at the lotus feet of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa in Vraja. By receiving nāma and prema from Śrī Guru, one becomes situated in pure transcendental reality and will never come again into material existence.
“One who does not receive Śrī Nāma and pāñcarātrika-dīkṣā from a bona fide guru will never be liberated. Foolish and ignorant jīvas do not take shelter of Śrī Guru, Vaiṣṇavas, and Harināma. Oṁkāra, praṇava, and Gāyatrī are obtained by those who take shelter of Śrī Guru’s lotus feet. Only they can serve Rādhā-ramaṇa.”
The Gosāis marveled at the wonderful conception Śrīla Gurudeva had presented and expressed gratitude that he had come and spoken. Gurudeva gave his respects to the Gosāis and offered gifts and donations for Śrī Rādhā-ramaṇa’s service before returning to Keśavajī Gauḍīya Maṭha.
Excerpted from the Bhakta Bandhav Publications, “Sri Guru Darsana”