Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Last night we finished the GBC meetings, and in a couple of days we start the Navadvipa Mandala Parikrama. I haven’t been on it for at least 10 years, and I’m looking forward to it very much.
The meetings were basically nice, although as usual they were somewhat grueling. To sit there for more than ten days and discuss all sorts of often controversial and difficult subjects is quite a challenge, but for Srila
Prabhupada we have to be ready to do things like that.
A number of devotees have been approved for taking sannyasa this year, including the well known South African devotee Brhat Mrdanga prabhu, and Jaya Govinda from Botswana. Altogether 6 devotees were approved for taking sannyasa, which is always something very exciting for the movement.
Another lady was elected to the GBC Body, Dina Sharana devi dasi from Germany, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. To date the only lady GBC has been Malati devi dasi one of Srila Prabhupada’s most senior disciples from America. It has also been confirmed that ladies can become gurus, which is something that many devotees have been waiting for for some years.
An interesting subject that was discussed was about chanting the name of Srimati Radharani in kirtana. There are a small number of devotees in different parts of the world who sometimes really get into chanting “Radhe Radhe” or Jaya Radhe, Jaya Radhe, Jaya Radhe, Jaya Sri Radhe” and variations on these themes on a regular basis, and some devotees argue that this is something that Srila Prabhupada did not approve of. Certainly if it is done in a frivolous way, or if it is done too much, that cannor be right.
There was a disciple of Gopala Bhatta Goswami, one of the 6 Goswamis of Vrindavana, named Hit Harivamsa who is said to have really gone too far in focusing on Srimati Radharani, and as a result he became excommunicated from our Gaudiya sampradaya. He refused to chant Hare Krishna, or particularly to mention the name of Krishna, and would only chant the name of Srimati Radharani. He would not observe ekadasi, and would not observe Krishna Janmastami, but rather only observed Radhastami. Indeed he did not even like to hear the name of Lord Krishna. As a result, it is said that he was declared to be unqualified and was rejected by the Gaudiya Vaisnavas in general.
So there’s no doubt it’s possible to go overboard in this regard. However, of course, Srimati Radharani is our worshipable Deity, and to ignore Her altogether could hardly be right, and as a result a considerable controversy has developed over the past couple of years.
Srila Prabhodananda Sarasvati concludes his Vrindavana Dhama Mahimamrita by glorifying Srimati Radharani’s name: “Vrndavana! Forest filled with the sweetest nectar! Forest that contains the great treasure of spiritual love! Witness of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna’s amorous pastimes! Forest so dear to me! Master of the rasa-dance! Enchanter of the worlds! Wonderful with flowering vines, birds, and a host of beautiful creatures! O beautiful Vrndavana far beyond the world of matter, you are the goal of my life. You are my goal.
“Obeisances to the beautiful couple that stays in Vrndavana. Obeisances to the beautiful couple that wanders in Vrndavana. Obeisances to the beautiful couple that is the life of Vrndavana. Obeisances to the hero and heroine of Vrndavana. Obeisances to the beautiful couple that is merciful to Vrndavana. Obeisances to the beautiful couple that is the transcendental nectar of Vrndavana. Obeisances to the beautiful couple that is the perfection of Vrndavana.
“No place is more exalted than Vrndavana forest. No person is more lowly than me. It is only by the power of Sri Radha’s holy name that these two have met. May the all-wonderful, limitlessly powerful, and supremely
auspicious holy name of Vrndavana’s queen once be glorious in my mouth.”
Actually I don’t know what the result of the vote on the subject was, but from the discussions that took place, and the preliminary voting that happened, it seemed that some type of middle ground would be sought
Perhaps the most enlivening thing was the return of Jayapataka Maharaja to Mayapur for the first time since he suffered his stroke on October 23rd last year. The stroke was so severe that a devotee doctor reported that “normally the survival rate for such a stroke is zero”. However, they reckoned without the amazing determination of Jayapataka Maharaja, plus the mercy of Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda, who Maharaja has completely dedicated his life to.
Maharaja returned on the evening of February 20th, flying from Mumbai to Calcutta in the morning, and then coming slowly out in an ambulance to Mayapur. From Calcutta airport to Mayapur is only about 130kms, but a lot of the road is in such a disastrous condition that it takes 3 to 4 hours to make the trip, and because of Maharaja’s condition it took him much longer to arrive.
Maharaja transferred to a car at the Jagannatha temple and then came to Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir. It was early evening, probably around 6pm and all the devotees were gathered from the main entrance down to the temple room. I was with the other GBC members waiting closer to the temple entrance.
We knew that Maharaja had pulled in when the elephant came down the driveway, surrounded by hundreds of devotees. Maharaja’s car was immediately behind, and pulled up close to the courtyard in front of the temple. He was sitting in the front seat, on the left, and Bhakti Purusottama Maharaja opened his door, and some of the GBC members came forward to greet him.
I also came forward and embraced him as he sat in the car. I told him “I’m so happy to see you!” as I hugged him for a little while, and he responded “I’m really happy to see you too.”
It was a very moving experience.
Then he was taken out of the car and put in a wheelchair which was then brought into the temple room. By this time most of the devotees were quite overwhelmed and were pushing to get as close to him as possible, while his personal team tried to keep them back.
I went into the temple room with Prahladananda Maharaja in front of Maharaja and waited for him to come. There was a seething mass of devotees all around him, coming closer to us, and I turned to Prahladananda Maharaja and told him: “in a few seconds we’re going to get crushed!”
Sure enough we were unceremoniously picked up by the swelling mass of devotees and thrown to the side, completely scrunched together with dozens of other devotees.
Maharaja had darsana of Srila Prabhupada, Panca Tattva, and then went onto the platform in front of Radha Madhava. The temple room was pretty chaotic with so many devotees and guests pushing and shoving, and one devotee on the platform started shouting “sit down! Sit down! Sit down!” repeatedly, which hardly anyone seemed to take notice of. Maharaja then spoke from in front of Radha and Madhava. Because of his condition he has difficulty pronouncing words clearly, although his mind is as crystal clear as always, and as a result he had a devotee repeat what he said, to make sure we understood.
Then every day Maharaja would come into the GBC meeting and make some comments on the different subjects we were discussing. One of the days he gave every one in the meeting a gift pack of Nrsinga oil, Ganges water, a gamcha, tilaka and other items.
On the 23rd Maharaja gave Srimad Bhagavatam class and as he began he asked “do we need repetition?” meaning having the devotee say again what he has said. All the devotees shouted out “no!” and Maharaja proceeded to give a very nice Srimad Bhagavatam class on his own.
I have included some photos from Mayapur with this report.
So now we will go on the parikrama, and I will write again after that.
Hoping this meets you well.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami