Please accept my humble obeisances. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudeva!
During this year’s Navadvipa Mandala Parikrama (27 Feb- 05 Mar) I had the greatest fortune to be the personal servant of Srila Gurudeva. The Parikrama commenced a few days after the conclusion of the annual GBC meetings here in Mayapur. The Parikrama toured the islands of the Navadvipa archipelago, each of which stands for a different process of devotional service: Simantadvipa (Sravanam); Godrumadvipa (kirtanam); Madhyadvipa (smaranam); Koladvipa (pada-sevanam); Rtudvipa (arcanam); Jahnudvipa (vandanam); Modrumadvipa (dasyam); Rudradvipa (sakhyam) and Antardvipa (atma-nivedanam).
In the course of my service to Srila Gurudeva, I had opportunity to appreciate some of his transcendental qualities, as described below.
At Ekacakra Dham, Gurudeva spoke on a song of Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur. Fluently Reading the Bengali from a song copy translated into Russian, he spontaneously delivered the English translation and further went on to give the purport of each verse, expounding rich and nectarine glories of Lord Nityananda and the Sankirtana movement.
Srila Gurudeva would also speak to devotees in Hindi and others in Russian and others still in Bengali. Once, as a bus drove by, Gurudeva spontaneously read the message on it written in Bengali.
As the Parikrama scenes unfolded over the days, Guru Maharaja took keen interest in the quality of the video footage captured by His film crew. He would watch the captured footage with an eye for detail and quality. He would point out ideas to the devotees, displaying His creative genius. When Saci Kumar Prabhu took ill, Srila Gurudeva Himself took up the filming.
On an early morning as we waited at the bank of the Ganges, Srila Gurudeva filmed the Mayapur sunrise. Several times during walks, Guru Maharaja ran ahead to film the devotees walking past in their large numbers. Guru Maharaja also filmed the dham-vasis, including the birds.
After a brief stop en-route the airport, Guru Maharaja considered not to use the air conditioner in the car. However, first, he asked his disciples in the backseat what we would prefer. I stated, “whichever you prefer, Guru Maharaja”. He then switched off the air conditioner and enjoyed the warm breeze.
Devotees on the Parikrama took the opportunity to offer Srila Gurudeva refreshments, such as bottled water and green coconuts. On two distinct occasions, Srila Gurudeva expressed His gratitude to the devotee by saying “Thank you, you have saved my life”.
At the first Parikrama camping site, Srila Gurudeva desired to take a shower after the long walk. The common bathing facilities comprised a large water tank with several taps. As Guru Maharaja approached, a large stream of water began to gush from the tank unexpectedly. Even though this was due to some problem with the tank, this provided an overhead supply of water, which served as the ‘shower’. This pastime was the sweetest of the day, as we got the opportunity to personally serve Srila Gurudeva while He took a shower.
Devotees brought forward soap and others tilak. Ramananda Raya Prabhu soaped Guru Maharaja’s back and poured water on Guru Maharaja. As He exited the rather chaotic scene, Srila Gurudeva smiled, putting us into great ecstasy. As Srila Gurudeva was ready to leave, I received the opportunity to dust His Lotus feet, before He put on His shoes.
Loved and Appreciated
It was very clear how dear Guru Maharaja is to the devotees. As He would walk or drive past, all the devotees would pay their respects. Several Indian devotees had never had Guru Maharaja’s Association before. However, they each developed a loving relationship with Him and approached me to engage them in some service to Srila Gurudeva. All the devotees appreciated Srila Gurudev’s rich description of the Holy places and the pastimes associated with them. HG Rajendranandana Prabhu, a fellow God-brother of Srila Gurudeva from Texas, associated closely with Guru Maharaja during the Parikrama. He really appreciated Guru Maharaja’s descriptions and Guru Maharaja appreciated him too.
Srila Gurudeva frequently asked me how I was coping as His assistant. Daily, after I served Him prasadam He would ensure that I would also take prasadam.
As the car was about to depart from the Belpukur campsite, Srila Gurudeva (knowing that I had ran off for an errand) checked if I was in the car. Seeing me in the back He smiled, and I beamed feeling His love and care.
At the birthplace of Srila Vrndavan dasa Thakur, HH Lokanath Swami mentioned that later on that day we will have the opportunity to bathe in the Ganges. As Guru Maharaja heard this He checked with me if I had brought His red shorts along. I shook my head affirmatively, and Guru Maharaja (knowing that I was nervous about the quality of my service to Him) nodded in great approval. This removed all my nervousness, at least momentarily.
The opportunity to serve Srila Gurudeva, personally, was most rewarding. During the week I felt my relationship with Him develop nicely and my heart becoming easily purified. Even though some tasks were challenging, I found that because Srila Gurudeva had willed it, it was easy to complete: switching off public generators, moving boats out of harbour and setting up prasadam arrangements in the fields of Navadvipa, to mention a few.
At an evening program at the ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Arogya Asrama (Swarup Ganj), a devotee asked a question about the disciple’s relationship with the spiritual master. Srila Gurudeva replied, that in such a relationship there are only two things: mercy and burden. The disciple gets the mercy and the spiritual master gets the burden.
By serving Srila Gurudeva on the Navadvipa Mandala Parikrama, I became slightly more grateful for the shelter of such a merciful and powerful spiritual master as Srila Bhakti Caitanya Swami Maharaja, and I realised the importance of my own responsibility in following Srila Gurudeva’s instructions and desires to make the burden of myself on Him easier.
Your aspiring servant,
Isvara Puri dasa