Question: During the later Pastimes of Srila Guru Maharaj, we heard that he wanted to spend his last days in Jagannath Puri. Is this correct?

Srila Govinda Maharaj: Yes, but mentally. In earlier years, sometimes Srila Guru Maharaj went to Puri for observing Urja Vrata during Kartik month. He used to stay in the place that is now the Aravinda Ashram.

Actually, in Mahaprabhu’s lila, Puri is similar to Kuruksetra in Krishna’s lila. The mood of union in separation and intense service-need is at its greatest there. Mahaprabhu expressed:

priyah so ’yam krsnah saha-chari kuru-ksetra-militas
tathaham sa radha tad idam ubhayoh sangama-sukham
tathapy antah-khelan-madhura-murali-panchama-juse
mano me kalindi-pulina-vipinaya sprhayati
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Madhya-lila, 1.76)

This is a verse spoken by Srimati Radharani to Srimati Lalita Devi, and Srila Rupa Goswami expressed it in this way: «Krishna who lived earlier in Vrndavan Dham, that Krishna is now here before Me, and I am already in union with Him. I am thinking that this Krishna and I, We are the same persons as were living in Vrndavan, and that Krishna has mercifully given us His union here. This is sufficient for anyone, but it is not pleasing My heart so nicely because My heart is hankering to be in Vrndavan with this Krishna. Here also we are playing with Krishna and dancing with Him. All our activities are going nicely with Him, but still I am not happy with that. My heart always wants the association of Krishna on the banks of the Yamuna where there are many varieties of kunjas and He plays His flute.

«Here Krishna is not playing a flute, but in Vrndavan He plays His flute and calls everyone through that sound, and there He plays with us like our boyfriend. We want to meet with Krishna on those banks of the Yamuna, and that will give me full satisfaction, whereas this meeting in Kuruksetra is giving Me neither full satisfaction nor peace within My heart.» This is the meaning of the Kuruksetra-lila with the Vraja-vasis. Here we find the most extreme mood of separation.

On a plate there may be your favourite foodstuffs, but if you cannot take that food, then what will be your feeling? Similarly, if Krishna is in front of you but you cannot play as you like with Him, the mood of separation is very strong.

In Puri, Mahaprabhu went every day to see Lord Jagannath living in the Temple, and He saw Jagannathdev to be Krishna, but still He was not satisfied with that. He needed to meet Krishna with the Yamuna, flute, and so on. Such feelings of separation came to Mahaprabhu, and He suffered from that so much. It is that mood of separation that Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur worshipped. He did not worship union, but he worshipped the mood of separation of Mahaprabhu. Such mood of separation happened in Kuruksetra, therefore he wrote that in Vrndavan live bogus persons whereas the real devotees of Krishna live in Kuruksetra.

Srila Prabhupad Saraswati Thakur sent Srila Guru Maharaj to Kuruksetra to make a centre. As Math commander, he led a small group of devotees, and he succeeded in making an Ashram there. I have seen that place.

Question: Is it also the case that when the devotees saw Mahaprabhu in Puri, they had the feeling, «This is Mahaprabhu, but we want Him as Nimai in Nabadwip»?

Srila Govinda Maharaj: Yes. Such feeling is shown in the sloka by Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur:

ami chai gaurachandre laite mayapure

Here Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur expresses the great mood of separation he felt to see the sannyas-ves [sannyas clothing] of Mahaprabhu at the Gambhira: «I like to see Sri Chaitanyadev, but I particularly want to worship, remember, see, and serve Gaurachandra, Visvambhar Pandit. It is my desire to see the Mayapur-lila of young Sri Gaurasundar. As Nimai Pandit, He had beautiful hair, He decorated Himself with fine clothing, and He engaged in Pastimes like a young brahman boy along with His associated devotees in Mayapur, Isodyan. To see Him in such a way is my worshippable desire.» Mahaprabhu used to be Nimai Pandit, and that is a very sweet Name for Him.

Even after Mahaprabhu took sannyas, many of the goswamis, such as Srila Rupa Goswami, many times would say the name of Sri Sachi Mata. Sri Vrndavan Das Thakur said, and it is almost too much for anyone: even if in a dream one will chant the name of Sachi Mata, one will get full liberation and transcendental happiness.

Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur expressed his wish to be attached to Mahaprabhu’s Nabadwip-lila. He mentioned very clearly that Mahaprabhu took sannyas, and that is all right because it is His Pastime, but He has taken so much austerity, and the devotees, such as Sri Jagadananda Pandit and others, cannot tolerate that.

Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur wants to see Mahaprabhu living in Nabadwip peacefully with the devotees of Nadia. There the Pancha Tattva are chanting and dancing in great jubilation.

When I saw hanging behind my chair in Dum Dum Park a picture of Sriman Mahaprabhu chanting in this way, I wanted to compose a sloka describing it. Then suddenly I found that already Srila Prabodhananda Saraswati has expressed it very nicely in his book Sri Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi (1):

nindantam pulakotkarena vikasan-nipa-prasuna-chchhavim
prordhvi-krtya-bhuja-dvayam hari harity uchchair vadantam muhuh
nrtyantam drutam asru-nirjhara-chayaih sinchantam urvi-talam
gayantam nija-parsadaih parivrtam sri-gaura-chandram numah

In his book, Sri Radha-rasa-sudha-nidhi, he has made a mangalacharanam with this sloka. The general meaning is: «Mahaprabhu is chanting Hare Krishna with His parsad devotees in the mood of dancing. With arms upraised, with tears constantly flowing from His eyes to the earth making the whole ground wet, and with the hairs of His body standing on end — thus appearing like the white and yellow colour of the kadamba flower — I offer my worship to this Mahaprabhu who is chanting with His devotees in Nabadwip Dham.»

Another devotee expressed:

mane kari node juri’ hrdaya bichai
tahara upare sonar gauranga nachai

«That type of Mahaprabhu I want to worship in my heart, and I want to spread my heart like a carpet along the whole of the bank of the Ganges so Mahaprabhu may dance there in my heart.» There are many such expressions.

Question: So in Puri we find union in separation twice: the devotees see Mahaprabhu in the mood of separation, also Mahaprabhu sees Jagannathdev in the mood of great separation?

Srila Govinda Maharaj:Yes. It is especially the Nabadwip devotees who feel this mood of union in separation when they see Mahaprabhu. The Nabadwip devotees would sometimes stay in Puri Dham with Sriman Mahaprabhu for four months each year.

It is the tradition that each year many of our Nabadwip devotees go to Puri. Our Western devotees are also always eager to go to Puri even when it is not possible for them to see Lord Jagannath. They like to see the area of Jagannath and the places of the Pastimes of Mahaprabhu and the devotees. Previously, however, we had no place to stay there, so the devotees would stay in dharmashalas, but sometimes there would be no rooms available, especially at the time of Sri Jagannathdev’s Ratha Yatra. Therefore, for the devotees’ convenience and service, it was my desire to establish a centre in Puri.

Srila Guru Maharaj told me not to make many Maths or I may get much trouble to run them. However, it is the will of Krishna that lastly Srila Guru Maharaj gave permission, «Yes, you can make three: one in Vrndavan, one in Puri Dham, and one in Kolkata.»

Kolkata is our ‘transit station’, and Vrndavan is the destination of many devotees, as is Puri Dham. So, these three places are for service to the devotees. This is our mood.

In Puri, the devotees tried for a long time to buy a piece of land, but they were repeatedly unsuccessful. Then I promised to Srila Guru Maharaj, «I will take charge of purchasing the land. I will go there and within two months we must certainly get something.»

I wanted to follow the example of Srila Rupa Goswami, Srila Sanatan Goswami, Srila Haridas Thakur, and others, which was not to disturb the strict regulations of Jagannathdev’s pandas [priests]. I therefore looked in the area frequented by the Western travellers, which is a little distance from the Temple. I also wanted to avoid staying near other Missions of the Gaudiya Maths so as to avoid any danger of aparadh.

I tried so hard, but each piece of land that seemed suitable was eventually found to be under litigation or otherwise unavailable. Six weeks passed in this search, to no avail. Finally I prayed to Lord Jagannath, «Wherever You will give some land, I will make a Temple there.» Within three days, news reached me through Sripad Damodar Maharaj that a man wanted to sell some land in the area of Gaur Batsahi. I met the proprietor, within five minutes the sale was settled, and within just fifteen days it was registered.

Our prayer to Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladev, and Lady Subhadra should be: «Kindly grant us some opportunity to render service at Jagannath Puri.» Srila Guru Maharaj gave a clue to bhajan life under Pandit Gadadhar. Our Math is near his Temple, the Temple of Tota Gopinath. Going from our Temple towards Tota Gopinath Temple, on the right side is Sri Purusottam Math, the Temple established by Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Prabhupad.

We purchased the land for our Temple in 1984, and the Deities were installed in 1990. Service goes on at our Math in Puri daily. Our guesthouse, Sevak Bhavan, is now well known in Puri, and all the town’s rickshaw drivers know its location.

Question: How did the Deities come to our Ashram in Puri?

Srila Govinda Maharaj: Inspiration came from Srila Guru Maharaj that there may be no, or at least very few, Sri Vigrahas [Deities] of Nityananda Prabhu in Puri Dham. At that time, several Deities of Mahaprabhu were there but not of Nityananda Prabhu.

In Nabadwip, we were already keeping two Deities: Sri Nitai and Sri Chaitanyadev. It was at first the desire of Srila Guru Maharaj that these Deities of Nityananda Prabhu and Mahaprabhu would play in Govinda Kunda opposite the Temple here in Nabadwip, and still it is in my mind to try to manifest such a project here. I would like to do it this year itself, and I have asked one good carpenter devotee to come. He can do so much seva in the Centenary Hall, and especially he can make a nice simhasan [throne] and a boat for Sri Sri Nitai-Gauranga’s Pastimes in Govinda Kunda. It has been my hidden desire to do this, and I have already purchased some teak wood especially for this project.

When I asked Srila Guru Maharaj if I could take these Sri Sri Nitai-Gaura Deities from here to Puri, he agreed, and said that if I wish, I may take them.

So, by the grace and will of Srila Guru Maharaj, when our Puri Math manifested, Mahaprabhu accepted the Name of ‘Chaitanya’ and went with Nitai to Puri for Their Pastimes. Srila Guru Maharaj honoured these Deities, and he touched the feet of Them both. They are very exalted and very heavy.

Previously there was no kirtan written for the particular arati of Sri Sri Nitai-Chaitanya. Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur had previously composed the Pancha Tattva arati (Jaya jaya Gaurachader aratika sobha), and he composed the Yugala arati (Jaya jaya Radha-Krsna-yugala-milan) for the worship of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna, but no kirtan had been composed for Mahaprabhu and Radha-Krishna on one altar. Therefore, Srila Guru Maharaj composed Sri Saraswat Arati specifically for the worship of our Nabadwip Math Deities, Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Gandharva Govindasundar Jiu. It was following their example, and by Srila Guru Maharaj’s inspiration, that I composed Sri Sri Nitai Chaitanyadev Arati for our Deities in Puri.

The area of our Temple is called ‘Gaur Batsahi’, which means the way and area of Mahaprabhu. It is the place where Mahaprabhu would regularly pass through, most probably after visiting the Jagannath Temple, going to see Srila Haridas Thakur, or going to bathe in the sea. The area is near the lotus feet of Chatak Parvat, the Govardhan Hill of Purusottam Dham.

Question: You mentioned that our Puri Math is near to Sri Gadadhar Pandit’s Ashram. In what way can devotees derive benefit from this proximity?

Srila Govinda Maharaj: You can gain benefit from everywhere. It exists within one’s mood of devotion; benefit’s nature is like that. But there is some particular opportunity that when seeing Sri Gadadhar Pandit’s Ashram, you can remember the Pastimes of Mahaprabhu.

Gadadhar Pandit lived a little distance from Mahaprabhu’s Ashram. Mahaprabhu lived about one kilometre away at Kasi Misra Bhavan, now known as ‘Gambhira’. When Mahaprabhu would go to bathe and meet with Srila Haridas Thakur, He would sometimes come via the road past Sri Gadadhar Pandit’s Ashram, and He would meet with him. Also, Sri Gadadhar Pandit sometimes invited Mahaprabhu to take prasadam there. Every day, Sri Gadadhar Pandit would offer bhog to the Deities in his Ashram, and sometimes he would offer that to Mahaprabhu, who would immediately come and accept it. Sri Gadadhar Pandit did not buy anything, but would somehow collect all ingredients. Mahaprabhu especially liked a particular spinach preparation that Sri Gadadhar Pandit made.

In His later Pastimes, almost every day Mahaprabhu would go to the ocean and meet with Sri Gadadhar Pandit, and Sri Gadadhar Pandit would sometimes go to Gambhira and read Srimad Bhagavatam to Mahaprabhu. For the last twelve years, Mahaprabhu lived in Puri in an extreme mood of separation in the Gambhira. When Mahaprabhu was so intoxicated with Krishna-prema in the Gambhira, and constantly in the mood of separation from Krishna, and crying, crying, crying, at that time Gadadhar Pandit would go there and give nourishment through his reading of Srimad Bhagavatam.

Mahaprabhu considered every letter of Srimad Bhagavatam to be a manifestation of Krishna, and when He heard it from Gadadhar Pandit’s lotus mouth, He felt so much peace and felt Himself to be fully nourished. Sri Gadadhar Pandit served Mahaprabhu in this way. Srila Guru Maharaj composed the pranam mantram to Sri Gadadhar Pandit:

nilambhodhi-tate sada svavirahaksepanvitam bandhavam
srimad-bhagavati-katha-madiraya sanjivayan bhati yah
srimad-bhagavatam sada svanayanasru-payanaih pujayan
gosvami-pravaro gadadhara-vibhur bhuyat mad-eka-gatih

«If a friend feels so much separation from his girlfriend or boyfriend, he or she cannot understand what to do and may even act like a madman. At that time, a friend may try to make him peaceful by giving a little wine or something similar. The ecstatic recitations of Srimad Bhagavatam by Sri Gadadhar Pandit are likened to this nourishment, which he gave to Sriman Mahaprabhu in His extreme mood of separation from Sri Krishna. Srimad Bhagavatam is the nondifferent form of Krishna Himself, and it is ecstasy in the form of sound vibration. Sriman Mahaprabhu would sit opposite Gadadhar Pandit, and He would receive nourishment from Sri Gadadhar Pandit’s reading of Srimad Bhagavatam.

«Sri Gadadhar Pandit himself became intoxicated to chant the slokas from Srimad Bhagavatam, and he would cry. With those tears, he worshipped his dearmost friend, Sriman Mahaprabhu. Such is the mood of Gadadhar Pandit, and that Sri Gadadhar Pandit Goswami is the only shelter of my life.»

Mahaprabhu took the whole bhava and kanti of Srimati Radharani, that is, all the mood and colour of Srimati Radharani was taken by Mahaprabhu because He wanted to taste Her ecstasy. Sri Gadadhar Pandit is Radharani minus the mood of Herself, that having been taken by Mahaprabhu. Sri Gadadhar Pandit is the incarnation of Srimati Radharani, but he is subdued. However, this is of another plane, and it is all full.

A short while after Mahaprabhu took sannyas it was decided by the devotees in Santipur and agreed by Sachi Mata that Mahaprabhu would stay in Jagannath Puri. Then Sri Gadadhar Pandit decided, «I shall go there and stay.» Sri Gadadhar Pandit took ksetra-sannyas, which means that he promised to accept to stay in one place.

That place was his Ashram, the Temple of Tota Gopinath. The Odishan poet Govinda Das Kavi was in Puri at the time of Mahaprabhu’s leaving His manifest Pastimes, and he wrote that Mahaprabhu left by entering within the Tota Gopinath Deity. Srila Prabhupad Saraswati Thakur did not accept all his writings, but he did accept this idea of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s disappearance.

Sri Tota Gopinath is also famous for His Pastime that one night He sat down so that Sri Gadadhar Pandit in his old age could still reach up to garland Him. He remains seated to this day.

Question: What guidance would you like to give for the devotees going to the Jagannath Ratha Yatra festival this year?

Srila Govinda Maharaj: The first thing is not to break any rules and regulations of the Jagannath Temple. They will humbly try to see the places of the Pastimes of Mahaprabhu and His associates, such as Srila Haridas Thakur, Sri Ramananda Ray, Sri Svarup Damodar, Sri Raghunath Das Goswami, Sri Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, Sri Gadadhar Pandit, Sri Jagadananda Prabhu, Sri Paramananda Puri Goswami, Maharaj Prataparudra’s house, Gundicha, Sikhi Mahiti’s house, and many others. They will see these places and try to feel in their heart the mood of union in separation shown by Sriman Mahaprabhu, and they will offer prayers to the associates of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. If they cannot go inside any of the places, then they can see these places from outside.

Question: We have heard it is recommended that a visitor to Vrndavan should stay just three nights so as to minimise his chances of committing offences. Does this recommendation apply to Sri Puri Dham also?

Srila Govinda Maharaj: In fact, this is not actually so. If the devotees will go to Vrndavan and follow the mood of Srila Rupa Goswami, Srila Sanatan Goswami, and Srila Raghunath Das Goswami, they can stay in Vrndavan, but they should not go there for business or for the Loi Bazaar shops.

The Dham is chinmay-bhumi: it is made of transcendental substance. Srila Guru Maharaj was questioned many times by the Western devotees as to how one should see Nabadwip Dham, and he clearly explained that it is chinmay-bhumi. So, we should see the Dham in this way, and not with any mundane view.

The matter is that when we shall go to the Dham, we shall try to live and feel where we are going: the feeling should come that it is the transcendental Dham, and Mahaprabhu’s Pastimes with His devotees are always going on.

My own mood is that I do not go every day to the Temple of Lord Jagannath, but I go before Jagannath in His Temple, and I say to Him in this way: «My dandavat pranams to Your lotus feet. I am present, Sir. I am here.»

I cannot see Jagannath because I cannot see Him through my mind and vision, therefore, I am not trying to approach Him in that way. Instead, I am presenting myself in front of Jagannath with the mood and prayer, «I am here at Your lotus feet. Please see me.»

«Please see me», means: «My good and my bad — everything is in front of You. You please make me as You like to see me.» That is the mood. Then I do parikrama and then return to our Ashram by the ocean to stay under the lotus feet of Sri Sri Nitai-Chaitanyadev.

It is my advice to everyone not to behave like a businessman with Sri Jagannathdev. Not to approach Him in the way of, «I am paying my dandavat pranams. Give me this, give me that. Make my son good, my wife good ….» No. We shall pray like Prahlad Maharaj:

yadi dasyasi me kaman varams tvam varadarsabha
kamanam hrdy asamroham bhavatas tu vrne varam
(Srimad Bhagavatam: 7.10.7)

«If You want to give something to me, and You are eager to give, then please give me this: that I shall not be again within the illusion of desiring anything. Please don’t permit me to ask You for anything again. Please demolish that type of desire from my heart.» This should be our prayer, and this is ananya-bhakti [exclusive devotion] in santa-rasa.

When devotees will go to see Lord Jagannath during the time of Ratha Yatra, they will see His Deity, no doubt, and they will pray: «Jagannathdev, if You want to give anything, please give devotion.» We will make this our desire, and not anything of mundane form.

In the mundane plane, whatever bad or good will come to us will come according to our karma. We will not involve our Master and Lord with that.

Question: Upstairs in the devotees’ quarters adjoining our Temple is a large new room for Your Divine Grace, and you occupied it for some time. However, last time you were in Puri, you returned to your previous quarters downstairs in Sevak Bhavan. Why was that?

Srila Govinda Maharaj: Downstairs in Sevak Bhavan I feel much peace of mind, I am readily accessible to all, I can see all the comings and goings of the people, and there is a nice garden outside, but upstairs in the Temple accommodation I cannot see who is coming and going, and I cannot meet with the devotees so readily.

If we invite anyone, they may feel a little trouble to climb the stairs. Also, if I stay in Sevak Bhavan, it is helpful to make the devotees there conscious of their conduct in the Dham. There is also plenty of space for devotees and guests to sit and meet with me. For these reasons, I moved back to Sevak Bhavan, so that I can serve my Srila Guru Maharaj in a better way.

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