Gaudiya Acharyas

Sri Srimad Bhakti Sarvasva Giri Gosvami Maharaja

His bold competence

Once, in Burma, Sri Srimad Bhakti Sarvasva Giri Gosvami Maharaja showed up at the British governor’s house in a horse-drawn cart. The governor was furious with his gatekeeper and guards. “Even big, important officers do not have the nerve to enter here riding on a horse. How did this sādhu get in here on a horse-drawn cart? Why did you let him inside?”

Because Srila Giri Goswami Maharaja spoke English very well, he could understand everything the Governor was saying. He was accustomed to lecturing in English as per the instructions of Śrīla Prabhupāda, and so he did not hesitate to speak to the governor in English. He said, “I request you not to become angry with these people. They only let me in because I showed them the letters from the Governor General.” Srila Giri Goswami Maharaja handed him the handwritten letters, which were personally addressed to Srila Maharaja.

The governor was astonished. “Who are you?” he demanded. “From where have you come? And why did the Governor General write you these letters? I too receive letters from him, but to this day, I have never received a single letter with his signature on it. They are always marked with the words ‘from the Governor General.’ And you have not one, not two, but three letters, penned with his own hand, no less.” As he said this, he escorted Srila Maharaja into his chambers with the utmost regard.

Srila Giri Goswami Maharaja explained, “I first met the Governor General when I submitted a proposal to him in Kolkata. I proposed that the government allocate land for my gurudeva’s mission and assist in our preaching. He asked me about the mission, and I explained that its goal is to benefit the whole world.
“ ‘Frankly, I cannot have a part in anything that benefits a particular caste or creed,’ he told me.“I boldly asked him, ‘If I can prove you have assisted a particular caste or religious group in the past, will you agree to also assist us by agreeing to my proposal?’

“The Governor General hung his head and remained silent. He was not angered by my statement, but pleased. He said, ‘I appreciate those who speak to me straightforwardly, as you have just now.’

“After conversing for a long while, we developed a mutual friendship.

Therefore, whenever I sent him messages on his birthday and other occasions, he replied with personal, handwritten letters. I have come to you today to request you to similarly assist in my gurudeva’s preaching mission.”

In this way, Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja convinced many dignitaries to serve Śrīla Prabhupāda’s mission. He used to say, “When Śrīla Prabhupāda read the letters the Governor General sent me, he was very pleased and said, ‘My joy knows no bound when I see our sannyāsīs and brahmacārīs going from place to place and acquainting people with their competence.”

According honor to the right object at the right time

Once, when Srila Giri Goswami Maharaja was preaching in Burma, the head of the Bengali committee there told him, “Maharaja, you have come during the time of Durga-puja. Who will listen to you speak about Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu or Sri Krsna if everyone is busy worshipping Goddess Durgā?”
Srila Giri Maharaja replied, “There are three types of official telegraphs: standard, express and state. When a state telegraph arrives at any office, the staff regards the messages of any standard or express telegraphs that may have arrived as insignificant by comparison. The priority shifts in favor of the state telegraph, and the staff deploys its entire energy in fulfilling the instructions therein.
“Similarly, the golden opportunity to hear about Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the teachings and exemplary character of His identical manifestation —Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, the savior of this age of Kali—affords infinitely more benefit than the worship of His external potency, Durgā-devī. One who does not discard the worship of Durgā-devī to take advantage of this opportunity will be deprived of its glorious results. By neglecting to understand the comparative significance of two objects, a person fails to accord them due honor and thereby cheats himself. In this way, he becomes the loser.”

Serving his godbrothers financially

If any brahmacari or sannyasi happened to be in need, Srila Giri Gosvama Maharaja would immediately send him money. For instance, when Guru Mahārāja was collecting money for the bail of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Kṛṣṇadāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, and a number of other devotees who had ended up in jail due to false allegations, Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja handed Guru Mahārāja forty-five of the fifty rupees he had to his name.

Śrīla Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja (then Śrī Vinoda-bihārī Brahmacārī) was once visited by his godbrother Śrī Nārāyaṇa Mukhopādhyāya on the day of Ekādaśī in his maṭha, which was at the time a rented house at Bospada Lane in Kolkata. Śrī Vinoda-bihārī Brahmacārī was greatly distressed that day by the fact that he did not have a single paisa to serve his godbrother during his visit. Miraculously, a sparrow dropped a small packet containing six-and-a-half annas (about forty paisā) in the courtyard, and with that he was able to servehis godbrother. That same day, he also received a money order for one hundred rupees from Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja, who had tracked him down and sent it after hearing he had left Śrī Caitanya Maṭha without taking anything with him.

When Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Sāraṅga Gosvāmī Mahārāja went to preach in the West, he did not take any money with him, but rather resolved to depend entirely on whatever donations he would manage to solicit during his preaching there. When Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja found out about this, he sent a money order to him, as well.

After recovering a few miniscule expenses, Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja would always donate the entire proceeds he received from his preaching to the service of his godbrothers. This was the extent of his detachment. He used to say, “Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Thākura has instructed us:

ĵadi thāke bahu dhana, nije ha’be akiñcana, vaiṣṇavera karô upakāra
jīve dayā anukṣaṇa, rādhā-kṛṣṇa-arādhana, karô sadā ha’ye sadācāra

Kalyāṇa-kalpataru (1.12.4)

If you have great wealth, remain detached and use it to serve the Vaisnavas. Always be kind to everyone and engage yourself in the constant worship of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa while maintaining saintly conduct.
His desire before leaving this world
Śrī Giridhārī Lāla Bhārgava, a resident of Kānpura, donated land in Vṛndāvana to Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja so that he could establish Śrī Vinoda-vāṇī Gauḍīya Maṭha there. Shortly after, the same Śrī Giridhārī Lāla Bhārgava wanted to donate another nearby plot of land for Guru Mahārāja. When Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja was informed of this, he told Guru Mahārāja, “I would be pleased if you accept that land and stay here in Vṛndāvan

on your own. But if you build a maṭha so close to mine, my presence here will serve no purpose.”

Guru Mahārāja said, “If Giridhārī Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the lifter of Govardhana Hill, desires to personally give me land through this other Giridhārī (Lāla Bhārgava), then I should abide by His wish. Although I will construct a maṭha, I shall remain at your lotus feet, for you are my senior godbrother.”

Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja replied. “In the presence of your glory, mine is miniscule. Because of your enormous influence, many people follow you wherever you go. What, then, will happen to my mission?”

Appreciating his concern, Guru Mahārāja empathetically reconsidered his previous statement and resolved, “In that case, I will not accept this land. My first priority is to serve the Vaiṣṇavas. I will never position myself to be the cause of their disturbance. I will establish a maṭha elsewhere in Vṛndāvan, at some distance from yours. Please do not worry.”

Many years later, Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja expressed his desire to hand over Śrī Vinoda-vāṇī Gauḍīya Maṭha to Guru Mahārāja, who told him, “We have already established a branch of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha here. It would be unwise of me to accept a second establishment in the same locale. Please see if another godbrother of ours will accept it.”

Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja then took Guru Mahārāja’s hands in his own and said, “It is only after you accept this maṭha that I will be able to leave my body peacefully.” Saying this, Śrīla Mahārāja wept. Being profoundly impacted by the intensity of his emotion, Guru Mahārāja agreed to accept Śrī Vinoda-vāṇī Gauḍīya Maṭha.

When Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja later fell from a roof, Guru Mahārāja engaged Śrī Nitāī Prabhu, his own disciple, in Śrīla Mahārāja’s service. Guru Mahārāja was greatly pleased by the way Śrī Nitāī Prabhu served Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja.

Affirming Śrīla Prabhupāda’s blessings

Guru Mahārāja organized a grand three-day festival to celebrate the deity installation ceremony at Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha in Śrīdhāma Vṛndāvana. Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja was among the prominent disciples of Srila Prabhupāda present for the occasion. In his address, he said, “Śrīla Prabhupāda had sent me and Śrīpāda Paramānanda Prabhu to procure this very place for the Gauḍīya Maṭha, but we were unable to do so. Today, I am absolutely certain Śrīla Prabhupāda, being exceedingly pleased that Śrīla Mādhava Mahārāja has

constructed a maṭha here, is showering his mercy upon him. Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja’s success in securing this location is proof that he is a special recipient of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s unrestrained mercy.”

The importance of following rules

Once, when Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja arrived at our Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha branch in Kṛṣṇanagara, he realized he had not received the required letter of permission from Guru Mahārāja to stay there for a few days, and that he had altogether forgotten to inform him about his intention to do so. “What should I do now?” he asked me.

“Mahārāja,” I said, “a distinguished person like you has no need for a letter of permission. Everyone here knows who you are and that Guru Mahārāja would never hold you to such formalities.”

Śrīla Mahārāja replied, “That may be true, but it is always good to follow the rules. Although no harm may come to an influential person who takes advantage of his status and neglects to follow procedure, those who are unaware of his qualification and intentions may imitate him and thereby invite inauspiciousness for themselves. By diligently abiding by the rules ourselves, we cause good fortune for everyone.”

Honoring the remnants of his godbrothers

Once, Guru Mahārāja invited many of his godbrothers to a grand festival at the Kolkata branch of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha, which at the time was situated in a rented building on Rāsa-bihārī Avenue. There were three designated places where prasāda was served to the devotees attending the event, but Guru Mahārāja’s godbrothers were served prasāda in Guru Mahārāja’s quarters. Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja was the most senior godbrother there, and so we seated him at the head of the line and served him the various prasāda preparations first.

Once Guru Mahārāja’s godbrothers had finished honoring prasāda, they called out “Nitāi-Gaura haribolo!” and got up. One by one, they trickled out the door, until finally, only Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja remained. Just as I was about to collect the discarded leaf plates and take them to the dust bin, I saw Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja begin to honor remnants from each and every one of his godbrothers’ plates. I immediately notified Guru Mahārāja, who was standing just outside the room. Guru Mahārāja then entered the room and, following Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja, also began honoring the remnants of his godbrothers.

My amazement surpassed all limits. I thought, “Although Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja is the most senior of all Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciples present, his humility has fully illuminated the concept of tṛṇādapi sunīcatā, feeling oneself more lowly than straw, which is the chief pillar of the Vaiṣṇava world.”

When I found an opportune moment, I sought understanding from Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja regarding his astonishing act. I told him, “As a measure to guard against blind faith, it is my practice to follow something only after I have grasped its actual significance. Because of this, the following question came to mind when I saw you honoring the Vaiṣṇavas’ remnants: Should one consider a Vaiṣṇava’s level of advancement before accepting his remnants?”

Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja replied, “I cannot say, but what I can say with certainty is that by honoring the remnants of the Vaiṣṇavas, one will acquire their moods. Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī’s relative Śrī Kālidāsa always faithfully honored the Vaiṣṇavas’ remnants without considering their qualifications, and as a result he became qualified to obtain the water that had washed Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu’s lotus feet. It is also described in ŚrīCaitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 16.60):

bhakta-pada-dhūli āra bhakta-pada-jala
bhakta-bhukta-avaśeṣa tīna mahā-bala

The foot dust of the devotees, the water that washes their feet, and their remnants are three greatly powerful items.

“Furthermore, in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Śrī Nārada Ṛṣi personally attributes his conviction in spiritual life to accepting the remnants of the ṛṣis. In this account, also, there is no mention of any differentiation of status. Why, then, should I try to assign any other certification to those whom śrī gurudeva has accepted and certified as Vaiṣṇavas? In my view, they are all worthy of my service, because they have more conviction than me and they serve more than I do. Thus, it is a matter of good fortune to receive an opportunity to merrily honor the remnants of my master’s dear kin, for it is written, ‘gurura kiṅkarahaya mānya se āmāra—the servant of śrī guru is always respectable for me’(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 10.142).”

The blessings of Śrī Gaura

Guru Mahārāja employed many techniques in his earnest attempts to comprehensively propagate the current of Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura’s precepts. He traveled to many places, established maṭha-mandiras, published magazines, bestoweddīkṣā to new initiates, awarded sannyāsa and saffron cloth to maṭha residents, and performed many otherfavorable activities.

Just as Śrīla Prabhupāda would bestow Śrī Gaura Āśīrvāda, a certificate indicating the blessings of Śrī Gaura, on the day of Śrī Gaura-pūrṇīmā to those who had rendered extraordinary service to Śrīman Mahāprabhu, so too did Guru Mahārāja bestow the same certificate to various brahmacārīs, gṛhasthas and vānaprasthīs on behalf of Śrī Caitanya-vāṇī Pracāriṇī Sabhā

Uniquely, instead of signing the certificate himself, Guru Mahārāja would have his senior godbrother Śrī Śrī Bhakti Sāraṅga Gosvāmī Mahārāja sign it, and after Śrīla Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s disappearance, Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja was assigned that task. Guru Mahārāja would accord them great honor by appointing them chairman of Śrī Caitanya-vāṇī Pracāriṇī Sabhā, and he would ask them to personally present from their own lotus hands the certificates to their respective recipients. The Śrī Gaura Āśirvāda certificate awarded to me when I was a brahmacārī, for example, was presented by Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja and bore his signature.

A special instruction for gṛhasthas

Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja would often tell gṛhastha devotees, “Scripture states that a gṛhastha should dedicate a portion of his monthly income to the service of Bhagavān and His devotees. If for some reason that is not possible, he should annually offer at least one month’s income. Ultimately, everything is intended for Bhagavān. It is for His service alone that we have received everything we have. We will incur fault if we do not acknowledge this and act accordingly.”

In this way, Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja inspired many gṛhastha devotees of Burma (now Myanmar) and India to yearly offer one month’s income for the service of Bhagavān and His bhaktas.

The consideration of true seniority

Once, when Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja came to our maṭha in Kṛṣṇanagara, I requested him to speak hari-kathā one morning during his stay.

“Actually, I have never heard you speak,” he said. “Speak hari-kathā today and I will listen from my room upstairs.”

“Mahārāja,” I said, “you are one of my gurus. You are so senior to me. Why would you want to listen to my class?”

He said, “In the realm of bhajana, there is no consideration of senior or junior. Śrīla Kavirāja Gosvāmī has written ‘ĵei bhaje sei baḓô—those who serve Śrī Kṛṣṇa are great.’ True seniority in the maṭha depends on the extent to which one respects and follows the teachings imparted here, and not on the number of days one has physically spent in the maṭha.

“There is one more thing,” Śrīla Mahārāja continued. “With vaiṣṇavatā comes the eligibility to be worshiped, because at that point, one is considered tadīya-vastu, or among Bhagavān’s property. Keeping this principle in myheart, I request you to please speak hari-kathā today.”

Heeding Śrīla Mahārāja’s words as his kind instruction, I spoke hari-kathā that morning. Afterward, when I went to offer praṇāma to him, he said, “I heard your class. It was excellent. You chose a good subject and narrated it with sound reasoning. True hari-kathā is achieved when the speaker’s motive is not to indulge in the pride of influencing others through instruction, but to cause his own spiritual benefit by reminding himself repeatedly of that which he previously heard from his guru-varga. In this way, he avoids becoming a platform speaker and instead preaches by following the ideals he teaches. This preaching by practice is the foremost specialty of those who have taken shelter of Mahāprabhu.”

A lesson in Vaiṣṇava patience

Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja was unhurried in all his activities. He would take longer than usual to finish bathing, get dressed, or for that matter, complete any activity. Knowing this, those who cooked for him would often approach him well before they had even begun preparing his meal and ask, “Mahārāja, how much longer will you take? Your prasāda is almost ready, and it would be good if you take it while it is still hot.”

Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja would reply, “I am coming very soon.” However, he would not be ready even after his meal actually was prepared. On being called again, Mahārāja would say, “Why have you called for me a second time? I told you the first time that I am coming just now.”

One morning, when he and I were slated to go together to Kṛṣṇanagara to register the sale of his land in Svarūpa Gañj, he asked for hot water for his

bath. Accordingly, I brought him hot water, but because he was busy with something else, the water became cold after some time. So, I heated his water up a second time. Before his bath, I asked him, “Mahārāja, would you like to have flat rice with milk or yogurt for breakfast?”

“Milk doesn’t suit me,” he said, “but yes, I can have yogurt with flat rice. That will be fine.”

“Great,” I said. “I will prepare it while you take your bath and perform āhnika.”

I readied his breakfast, but he took so long to do his āhnika that it jeopardized our work in Kṛṣṇanagara. “Mahārāja, it is getting late,” I told him. “Please have your breakfast.”

“Save it for later. I will have it with noon prasāda,” he said, as he continued with other morning duties.

Before I knew it, it was lunch time, and Śrīla Mahārāja still had not finished with his activities. Next, he took so long to have lunch that by the time we arrived to register the sale of his land, the office clerk said, “It is too late to accept any new forms today. Please come tomorrow.”

I asked the clerk to please call for the registrar, to whom I then spoke about the glories of Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja. Somehow, I convinced him to accept our form.

It was dusk by the time we finished our errand. As we headed back to the maṭha, Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja said, “Today, you did not once becomeirritated by my slow nature. Instead, you glorified me and helped me by expertly convincing them to register the sale of my land. I have observed the same quality of patience in your gurudeva, Śrī Mādhava Mahārāja, as well. Paying no attention to the behavioral quirks of Vaiṣṇavas, he gives greater gravity to the fact that they are Vaiṣṇavas, and behaves with them accordingly.”

He continued, “We cannot recognize a Vaiṣṇava by whether he is slow or fast, on time or late, clean or filthy, well- or shabbily-dressed, or by his habit of eating large or small amounts. The true measure of vaiṣṇavatā is not any external trait, but rather one’s citta-vṛtti (proclivities of the heart) and principles. As you refrained from becoming impatient with me, so too do my godbrothers. Observing my leisurely manner, they tease me as a gesture of sweet endearment. And what could I do even if I wanted to move more quickly? I am limited by my habit and nature. Should I be held accountable for something I cannot control?”

The childlike manner in which Śrīla Mahārāja confided his heart to me was profoundly unassuming and innocent.

Simple yet vital instructions

Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja once sat me down beside him and gave me the following instruction: “Unless honoring prasāda in a group, never eat anything in front of others lest you cause them to crave it. Do not wear clothes others would want to wear, and do not furnish your room in the way householders do; keep it simple and neat.” These were principles that he not only taught, but followed himself in the course of leading a very renounced life.

Remembering his invocation

Although Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja was very lean and thin, his voice was so distinctly loud that he never required the use of a microphone in any assembly, even if the audience were huge. Without fail, he always began the invocation to his hari-kathā with the same verse, upon hearing which his audience would become awestruck by such a divine vibration:

ājānu-lambita bhujau kanakāvadātau
sankīrtanaika pitarau kamalāyatākṣo
viśvambharo dvija-varau yuga-dharma pālau
vande jagat-priya-karau karuṇāvatārau

Śrī Caitanya-bhāgavata (Ādi-khaṇḍa 1.1)

I venerate Śrī Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu and Śrī Nityānanda Prabhu, whose arms are long, reaching past Their knees; whose complexions are like that of pure gold; who are the inaugurators of sankīrtana; whose eyes are lotus-like; who maintain the universe; who are the best of the dvijas (twice born); who uphold the ultimate spiritual practice for the current age; who are the world’s benefactors; and who are incarnations of compassion.

His surrender to the lotus feet of the Vaiṣṇavas

Once, Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja enacted such a grave illness pastime that he required both an eye operation and a blood transfusion. He was admitted to the Presidency Government Hospital in Kolkata, which during British rule treated only officers working in top positions. After India gained independence, however, it was made open to everyone, and Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja was checked in to the hospital’s finest division, the Woodburn Ward.

When Guru Mahārāja informed his disciples that someone was needed to donate blood for Śrī Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s transfusion, the devotees were

practically vying for the chance to give blood. I was included among the few devotees who had their blood tested. My blood group turned out to be O. The doctor said, “This blood type can work, but it would be better to find someone with the same blood group as Mahārāja.” When he later discovered that my godbrothers Śrī Bhakti Vijaya Vāmana Mahārāja and Śrī Madana Prabhu shared the same blood group as Śrī Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja, he gave Śrīla Mahārāja the blood of Śrī Vāmana Mahārāja.

When Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja returned to the maṭha after his operation and transfusion, he said, “My eyesight now is similar to that of my college days. The Vaiṣṇavas have consistently saved and cared for me. The scriptures describe six limbs of surrender. Unless these six limbs of surrender for the lotus feet of the Vaiṣṇavas manifest in a person’s heart, he can never surrender himself to Bhagavān. Again and again, I say to the Vaiṣṇavas, ‘mārobi rākhobi jo icchā tomāra, nitya dāsa prati tuwā adhikāra—kill me, nurture me or do with me as you please, for you have full authority over your servant.’ ”

An object of his godbrothers’ special affection

Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja and Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja shared a special affection, partly because Śrīla Prabhupāda had awarded them sannyāsa on the same day. At the same time that Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja manifested his disappearance pastime, Śrīla Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja was undergoing treatment at a nursing home in Āgrā and required the use of a catheter. As soon as Śrīla Vana Gosvāmī Mahārāja heard that his godbrother entered nitya-līlā, with catheter in hand and despite the doctor’s objections, he left the hospital and departed for Vṛndāvana. There, he personally supervised all aspects of Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja’s samādhi ceremony.

I have personally witnessed renowned Vaiṣṇavas—such as Guru Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Saurabha Bhakti-sāra Gosvami Mahārāja, Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktyāloka Paramahaṁsa Mahārāja and others—express their immense affection for Śrīla Giri Gosvāmī Mahārāja. That such exalted devotees possessed faith in him is a testament to his illustrious Vaiṣṇava qualities.

Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Sarvasva Giri Mahārāja Enters Nitya-līlā

Composed under the editorship of Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja

Indifferent to worldly talks

Pūjyapāda Giri Mahārāja appeared in a distinguished, aristocratic family inthe city of Ḍhākā, East Bengal (now Bangladesh), in 1899. From childhood, he displayed a rather detached disposition. He was indifferent to what he ate or wore and had no taste for playing. He was of a sober nature. He spent a great portion of his time associating with sādhus and pious persons. Observing his attachment to religious activities, his father and mother thought that perhaps either a demigod was controlling him or that he was under the influence of some astrological event. Being worried for the trajectory of his life, they anxiously prayed at Śrī Bhagavān’s lotus feet for their son’s welfare.

Meeting with Śrīla Prabhupāda

In November, 1921, during the month of Kārtika niyama-sevā, our most worshipful Śrīla Prabhupāda was lecturing on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in Ḍhākā at the house of Śrī Sanātana dāsa Mahāśaya, a renowned and wealthy landowner who has since passed. During that time, many educated, high-class individuals became attracted to Śrīla Prabhupāda, for they had never before heard anything quite like his discourses. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciple parivrājakācāryatridaṇḍi-svāmī Śrīmad Bhakti Pradīpa Tīrtha Mahārāja, who has since left thisworld, also lectured on Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam for some days there. Śrīmad Giri Mahārāja, then known as Indu Bābū, would visit Śrī Sanātana dāsa Mahāśaya’s home to hear Śrīla Prabhupāda’s hari-kathā. Later, when he took shelter of paramārādhyatama Śrīla Prabhupāda, he became Śrī Gaurendu Brahmacārī,and once he received sannyāsa, Śrīla Prabhupāda gave him the name tridaṇḍī-svāmī Śrīmad Bhakti Sarvasva Giri Mahārāja.

A fearless speaker

From that time onward, as per Śrīla Prabhupāda’s order, Śrīpāda Giri Mahārāja vigorously preached in various places in India, thereby fulfilling his gurudeva’s innermost desires.

Pūjyapāda Giri Mahārāja was a fearless speaker who captivated audienceswith his thunderous voice and the spirited, compelling language he utilized in his lectures. In fact, his voice was so powerful that he never required the assistance of a microphone.

A cause of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s boundless joy

His dedication to the truth was such that he was not the slightest bit hesitant to fearlessly speak the truth before anyone, including governors and the Viceroy. In a personal meeting with Governor General Lord Willingdon, the Viceroy of India, Śrīla Mahārāja was the first to convey to him the message of truth as issued from the lotus mouth of paramārādhyatama Śrī Śrīla Prabhupāda. Being pleased with Svāmī-jī’s bold words, the Viceroy awarded him with several commemorating certificates. News ofthis delighted paramārādhyatama Śrī Śrīla Prabhupāda. In a letter to some of his disciples,dated the twenty-fourth day of Kārtika, 1926 and published in the first volume of his collected letters, Śrī Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote of Śrī Giri Mahārāja’s travels in India:

I was delighted to review the certificate Bhakti Sarvasva Giri obtained from the English. I experience boundless joy to see our sannyāsīs and brahmacārīs going from place to place acquainting people with their competence.

We saw that various other governors, viceroys and distinguished royal personages had sent Śrī Giri Mahārāja many other letters in which they profusely praised his preaching efforts and displayed plentiful enthusiasm regarding the widespread propagation of Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s religion of divine love.

An expert in spoken and written English

Although Śrīla Prabhupāda had many highly educated and English-speaking disciples in his Śrī Caitanya Maṭha—his principal maṭha in Śrīdhāma Māyāpura—and its various Gauḍīya Maṭha branches, Giri Mahārāja’s style of both spoken and written English was profusely praised by especially qualified individuals, like Śrī Niśikānta Sannyāl (Śrīman Nārāyaṇa dāsa Bhakti Sudhākara Prabhu), a professor of history at the Ravenshaw College in Cuttack.

His exemplary conduct

Pūjyapāda Mahārāja possessed an amazing ability to captivate his listeners.As paramārādhyatama Śrīla Prabhupāda and the Vaiṣṇavas under his guidance accept a person’s natural qualities above all else, they all loved his speeches.

His qualities—his pure, holy and spotless character, his childlike innocence, his contentment with whatever he received, his unprecedented

conviction in the service of śrī guru, his indomitable enthusiasm in and attachment to performing bhāgavat-kathā and kīrtana everywhere, and his ability to subdue dissenters—were truly exemplary.

His comprehensive service

Through his body, mind and words, Śrī Giri Mahārāja made sincere, wholehearted efforts to fulfill the innermost desire (mano’bhiṣṭa) of paramārādhyatama Śrīla Prabhupāda, and he preached that mano’bhiṣṭa in thetemples and maṭhas Śrīla Prabhupāda established, as well as in various places all over India. He spread the sacred teachings practiced and preached by Śrīman Mahāprabhu by unveiling Sat-śikṣā Pradarśinī exhibitions in Śrīdhāma Māyāpura, Kolkata, Ḍhākā, Paṭnā, Allahabad, Kurukṣetra and other places. He also distributed devotional literatures and magazines and rendered comprehensive services in Śrī Gauḍa-maṇḍala, Śrī Kṣetra-maṇḍala and Śrī Vraja-maṇḍala. All of Śrīpāda Giri Mahārāja’s service efforts are, in all respects, noteworthy.

A driving force in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s mission

During the manifest presence of Śrīla Prabhupāda, Śrīmad Giri Mahārāja was the driving force behind establishing a Gauḍīya Maṭha in Rangoon, Brahmadeśa (Burma), where deities were later established due to his tireless efforts.

In order to transform the Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha center Śrīla Prabhupāda established in Lucknow into a permanent maṭha, he occupied a huge two-story house in 1938 and acquired deities.

Pūjyapāda Giri Mahārāja was principally responsible for procuring theland for Śrī Sārasvata Gauḍīya Maṭha in Haridvāra, and he also oversaw the construction of its residential quarters. Additionally, he gave much of his life’s energy to the service of Śrī Paramahaṁsa Maṭha in Naimṣāraṇya.

His special contribution

It was after listening to the hari-kathā issuing from the worshipful lotus mouth of Śrīla Giri Mahārāj that Rāya-Bāhādura Śrī Madana-gopāla Sardānā Mahodaya, the then Superintendent Engineer of Irrigation for Uttar Pradesh, obtained the fortune of accepting the shelter of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s lotus feet.Pūjyapāda Mahārāja even imparted the message of Śrī Śrī Guru-Gaurāṅga toRāya-Bāhādura J.N. Rāya, the resident District and Session Judge of Lucknow who is now deceased, as well as other distinguished figures in Uttar Pradesh.

Through these personalities, Śrī Giri Mahārāja accomplished tremendous service to śrī maṭha.

His noble enthusiasm and strict dedication

After paramārādhyatama Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disappearance pastime on 1 January, 1937, his distinguished disciples gathered in Śrī Bāgbāzār Gauḍīya Maṭha to form a governing body that would oversee the maintenance of the maṭhas and temples he established. For a period of time thereafter, ŚrīpādaGiri Mahārāja served as a member of this governing body and rendered much service to śrī maṭha with noble enthusiasm and a strict dedication to the truth.

His relationship with Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha

Pūjyapāda Mādhava Mahārāja, the overseer of Śrī Caitanya GauḍīyaMaṭha, shared a genuine bond of friendship with Śrīla Mahārāja. Śrīmad Giri Mahārāja was a prominent member of the managerial committee for the Sanskrit school Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja established at Īśodhyāna, Śrīdhāma Māyāpura. Also, on the annual occasion of Śrī Gaura Janmotsava, Śrī Mādhava Mahārāha would appoint him as chairman of the Śrī Caitanya-vāṇī Pracāriṇī Sabhā hosted by Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha in Śrīdhāma Māyāpura.

His final prayer

Śrīla Giri Mahārāja left this world listening to the recitation of ŚrīmadBhagavad-gītā while the devotees of the maṭha performed mahā-mantra kīrtana. Śrīla Mahārāja was fully conscious and coherent up to the last momentof his manifest presence, when he attained the dust of Vraja. Earlier during that day, he wept distraughtly as he remembered his śrī gurupāda-padma and called out with great urgency, “Prabhupāda! Please protect me. Have mercy on me. Please forgive all my offenses and give me a place at your worshipful lotus feet.”

Śrīla Mādhava Mahārāja’s concern for him

When Śrīla Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja first received word of Śrīla Mahārāja’s illness, he issued specific directives by both wire and letter to the sevakas of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha in Śrīdhāma Vṛndāvana to serve him by all means and to arrange for his treatment. Bhakta Śrī Nitai dāsa remained with Śrī Giri Mahārāja day and night, and he tirelessly and smilingly engaged in serving him in every way. Being satisfied by Śrī Nitai dāsa’s sincere service, Śrīla Giri Mahārāja blessed him profusely.

The effect of his absence

The absence of a pure Vaiṣṇava such as Mahārāja overwhelms everyone’s heart with pain. Perhaps it was because he knew, by divine ability, that he would not remain in this world for long that he was inspired to offer the responsibility of Śrī Vinoda-vāṇī Gauḍīya Maṭha to Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja, even though he had sannyāsī disciples to whom he could have bestowed this service.

The greatest sorrow

Śrī Śrīman Mahāprabhu asked his foremost associate Śrīla Rāya Rāmānanda, “duhkha madhye kona duhkha haya gurutara—of all sorrows, which sorrow is most grave?”

In response, Śrī Rāya said, “kṛṣṇa bhakta-viraha vinā duhkha nāhi dekhipara—I do not see a sorrow greater than that experienced in separation fromKṛṣṇa’s devotee.”

Among the 8,400,000 species of life, attaining that of a human is indeed rare, for although it can end in a moment, it is especially favorable for bhagavad-bhajana. Even the demigods of heaven sing profuse praise of theattainment of this spiritually advantageous human birth within the land of India, which is considered the courtyard of Vaikuṇṭha, the spiritual realm. However, it is stated, “tatrāpi durlabham manye vaikuṇṭha-priya-darśanam—among the embodied forms of life, the fickle human form is rare, but even more rare is to catch a glimpse of a devotee who is dear to the Supreme Lord.” What greater sorrow can there be than being deprived of the company of a pure devotee who has surrendered to a bona fide guru and is dedicated to the service of Śrī Hari, guru, and Vaiṣṇavas?

kāhāra nikaṭe gele pāpa dure ĵāya
emôna dayālu prabhu kebā kothā pāy

Where can one find such a merciful personality by whose mere proximity one’s sins go far away? *

His only aim

The divine message that issued from Śrī Giri Mahārāja’s worshipful lotus mouth liberated hundreds and hundreds of souls from the bondage of material existence and inspired them to take up the path leading to ultimate liberation. His holy life was completely dedicated to pure bhakti, and he possessed a genuine attachment for Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa’s associates and devotees. Beholding

his sweet, radiant, moonlike form, hearing his hari-kathā and remembering him would sanctify one’s heart and arouse within it a longing to perform bhagavad-bhajana with one’s body, mind and words. His śrī gurupāda-padma displayed great compassion toward him and granted him the name ‘Bhakti Sarvasva,’ which means ‘he whose all in all is bhakti.’ Until the very last moment of his manifest presence, he lived up to that name by leading a spotless, exemplary life of supreme sanctity with krsna-bhajana as his only aim.

A matter of supreme joy and pride

Today, the pain of no longer being able to have kṛṣṇa-priya-darśana—the sacred audience of he who fulfilled the innermost desire of his śrī gurupāda-padma, the beloved of Śrī Kṛṣṇa—has truly affected the core of our hearts.Still, even in the midst of this great sorrow, it is a matter of supreme joy and pride that he has attained the eternal shelter of not only Śrī Śrī Rādha-Madana-mohana-jiu

—the presiding deity of sambandha-tattva (the principle of divine relationship) and the very life of Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī—but also his śrīgurupāda-padma, whose eternal identity is conveyed by the name ŚrīVārṣabhānavī Dayita dāsa—the servant of the beloved of Śrī Rādhā, the daughter of Śrī Vṛṣabhānu Mahārāja—and who is Śrī Rādhā’s nayana-maṇi, the jewel of Her eyes. Such great fortune is never indicative of ordinary spiritual merit.

ĵatô dekhô vaiṣṇavera vyavahāra-duhkha
niścaya jāniha sei parānanda sukha

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 9.240)

Know for certain that whatever behavioral sorrows one observes in a Vaiṣṇava are actually the utmost ecstatic joy.

Śrīla Mahārāja’s enactment of illness was a grand example of these words, which have been proclaimed by our exalted predecessors.

Serving śrī guru was his very life

Pūjyapāda Mahārāja never employed a single paisā of the donations hereceived in his own gratification. Rather, he offered everything to the maṭha and temple for the service of Śrī Hari, guru, and Vaiṣṇavas, thus living up to

the title ‘Bhakti Sarvasva.’ What stone-like heart would not melt upon losing such a soul mate, a parama-bhāgavata devotee whose life and soul was the service of Kṛṣṇa and kaṛṣṇā, those who belong to Kṛṣṇa.

Serving the innermost desires of Śrīla Prabhupāda was his very life. Prabhupāda, who is supremely compassionate, therefore granted him, his dear associate, the eternal qualification to serve as the servant of the servant of the beautiful lotus feet of Śrī Vārṣabhānavī-dayita Śrī Madana-mohana. Śrī Śrī Madana-mohana-jī inspired the hearts of His Gosvāmī servants and the honorable mayor of Śrī Vṛndāvana to be favorably inclined toward him. In this way, He gave His dear associate a place close to His lotus feet, thereby granting him the eternal qualification to serve Him. Blessed is bhakta-vatsala Bhagavān’s affection for His devotees.

A universal truth

After the birth of his son, Śrī Nanda Mahārāja traveled to Mathurā to deliver his annual taxes to the reigning king of Mathurā, Kaṁsa, in order to keep him satisfied. After submitting his taxes, he met with his bosom friend Śrī Vasudeva. During their conversation, Śrī Nanda Mahārāja said:

naikatra priya-saṁvāsaḥ
suhṛdāṁ citra-karmaṇām
oghena vyūhya-mānānāṁ
plavānāṁ srotaso yathā

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.5.25)

Just as it is unlikely that the wooden sticks flowing in a stream will meet or stay together, it is rarely possible for friends whose fates are divergent to remain together.

This truth certainly applies to all of us, as well.

kṛpā kôri’ kṛṣṇa more diyāchila saṅga
svatantra kṛṣṇera icchā hôilô saṅga-bhaṅga

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya-līlā 11.94)

Mercifully, Kṛṣṇa gave me his association. By Kṛṣṇa’s independent will, our exchange has ended.

Heart-breaking circumstances

Pūjyapāda Giri Mahārāja was the embodiment of humility. Memories ofhis innocent, sweetly smiling face appear in my mind today, casting my heart into a pit of despair. Recollections of his life in the maṭha, from beginning to

end, first melt me with joy, and then throw me into an ocean of sorrow. Just a few days before he left this world, he appeared to me in a dream looking recovered and healthy. This infused my heart with great hope. But alas! All my hopes have been dashed. It is heartbreaking to realize I will never again have his darśana in this life.

Our inseparable relationship

Śrī gurupāda-padma is our eternal master, birth after birth, and similarly,his intimate companions who have offered their lives to him will forever remain our closest friends. We remain eternally rooted in an inseparable relationship with them life after life. It is only as a result of gurur-avajña, the grave offense of disobeying the spiritual master, that a person’s heart becomes hard-hearted, deviates from this knowledge of our eternal relationships, becomes the servant of Māyā and thereby becomes bound by the chains of worldly desires.

A pitiful prayer at his lotus feet

Pūjyapāda Giri Mahārāja has attained the eternal shelter and guidance ofhis śrī gurupāda-padma, the crown jewel of the āśraya-vigrahas (the repositories of devotion) who rests now at the feet of Śrī Govardhana-Girirāja, the principal viṣaya-vigraha (object of devotion) in Śrī Vraja-dhāma. It is said, “vaiṣṇavera kṛpā ĵāhe sarva-siddhi—all perfections are attained by the mercy of the Vaiṣṇavas.” I therefore submit this pitiful prayer at his lotus feet: May he grant us the qualification to tread the same path to Vraja.

1 Lit. ‘the Assembly for Preaching the Message of Śrī Caitanya;’ an annualconference established by Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Gosvāmī Mahārāja.

2 Śrī Vinoda-vāṇī Gauḍīya Maṭha is situated on the same lane andapproximately two hundred meters south of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Madana-mohana’s temple in Vṛndāvana.