His Divine Grace
Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami-vandana
Nama om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhutale
Srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine
I offer pranama unto om visnupada Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Svami, who is very dear to Krsna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet.
Namas te sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine
Our respectful obeisances unto you, O servant of Sarasvati Gosvami. You are kindly preaching the message of Gaurasundara and delivering the Western countries which are filled with impersonalism and voidism.
Biography by Srila BV Narayan Maharaja
Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja took birth in a religious family in Calcutta on Nandotsava, 1896. His childhood name was Abhay Carana De. His parents were Vaishnavas, and from childhood he was brought tip in a devotional atmosphere and was taught the virtuous conduct of a Vaishnava.
As a child, he would celebrate Janmastami, Jhulanyatra and Rathayatra very enthusiastically along with his friends and companions. When sadhus and sannyasis called at the house, his parents prayed for their blessings so that their child would receive the mercy of Srimati Radharani.
Abhay was at first educated at home, and did not attend school until his eighth year. Thereafter he was educated in English and Bengali medium schools. He completed his studies at the Scottish Church College in Calcutta and took his BA. examination in 1920. After taking his exam he joined Mahatma Gandhi's movement. He married in 1918, during his BA. studies. In 1921, Svargiya Kartikcandra Bose (who was Managing Director of Bengal Chemical, the owner of Dr. Bose's Laboratory and a close friend of Abhays father) appointed the qualified Abhay Carana as his Assistant Manager.
In 1922, a close friend took Abhaya to meet Om Visnupada Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada in Calcutta's Ulta Danga district. Abhay was very impressed by Srila Prabhupada's powerful hari-katha and influential instructions. Seeing Abhay's special qualification in English, Srila Prabhupada made him enthusiastic to write essays in that language and to preach in foreign countries.
From then on, the young Abhay Carana often came to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada to hear hari-katha. in Prayag, 1932, Jagadguru Srila Prabhupada mercifully gave Abhay Carana both diksa-mantra and upanayana (sacred thread), according to Gopal Bhatta Gosvami's paddhati. After diksa his name became Sri Abhaya Caranaravinda Dasadhikari. Thereafter, he started regularly writing essays and articles for the English magazine "The Harmonist" which Srila Prabhupada had established.
After Srila Prabhupada entered aprakata-Iila, Sri Abhaya Caranaravinda's association with our most worshipful Gurupadapadma Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami Maharajaji increased. Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu was a bosom friend of my Gurudeva when they met in the association of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's Gaudiya Matha since 1922.
When my Gurudeva lived with him for those months in Allahabad, Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu organized so much preaching for them everywhere in that city. He had cultivated numerous associates from his pharmaceutical business and knew many educated, qualified people. He also arranged for my Gurudeva to give extensive lectures on Vedanta. Together they defeated mayavadis and also several influential Catholics and Christians. Those opponents were favorably impressed by the bona fide arguments and siddhanta they presented.
"Wherever there is any sign of mayavadism, bhakti cannot be preached in full force. So we have to remove mayavada from the root.", my Gurudeva would always state. Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu also liked this idea very much. "We must kick out mayavada," he would always say. Both of them had this understanding; they were very united in their preaching. My Gurudeva gave the name 'Bhaktivedanta' to those of us who took sannyasa from him, and when they formed an organization, they called the samiti 'Gaudiya Vedanta', which denoted that Vedanta is synonymous with bhakti.
In 1940, after the departure of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada, there was turmoil in the Gaudiya Matha. One party wanted to arrest some of the senior Vaisnavas and cases were filed in the Calcutta court. At that time our Gurudeva, then known as Vinodabihari Brahmacari, was akincana (without material possessions) and he travelled to Prayaga, Allahabad. There he stayed at the Rupa Gaudiya Matha for a few days.
Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu, who had his family residence and business in Allahabad, invited our Gurudeva to come and stay in his home with him as a guest. So they lived together there for the next four or five months. During this extended time they became very near and dear to each other. They always discussed Bhagavad-gita and so many other subjects concerning guru-seva for their Srila Prabhupada and his mission.
After the disappearance of their Srila Prabhupada and after the Gaudiya Matha institution had broken apart, my Gurudeva together with Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu and Nrsimhananda Brahmacari (later Srila Bhaktikamala Madhusudana Maharaja) filed the establishment papers for the Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti. This was done on April 7th, 1940, the day of aksaya tritiya in a rented house at 33/2 Bosapada Lane, Calcutta.
In 1955 Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu came to the Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha in Mathura. We embraced him and he embraced us. Before coming he had been successful with his pharmaceutical business in Allahabad, Prayaga Pharmacy, which was very famous. Many important personalities including the Prime Minister of India were customers in his shop. Later on, however, he had to sell it. Then he travelled to all the important cities of North India, Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Agra, Jhansi, Mathura and other towns to sell some medicines he had made from his own formulas. Kunja Bihari Prabhu, a senior disciple in the matha, was especially devoted to him during this time. He helped to carry his bags and also to bring him prasadam while he worked.
After a while this job also finished and Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu gave up his household life and all its possessions in Calcutta. He again came to Mathura, this time without belongings. He brought a medical formula for treating ringworm which he distributed to the shopkeepers, store-to-store; but sales were not good. He was living in a room he had rented by the Yamuna, in Hooli Wali Gully near Bengali Ghat. He had been there three or four days when I went to see him. Straight away I (Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja) said, "Prabhu, why are you staying here"
He was very humble and didn't want to impose upon us so I forcibly took his luggage. I told him, " I will not let you go anywhere else. We are here. We are your sons. You are our Gurudeva's Godbrother and are very dear to us. We want to care for you. I will not allow you to stay here separate from us." So I brought the brahmacaris, Kunja Bihari Prabhu, Sesasayi Prabhu, and some others and we forcibly took what few utensils he had and we brought him to live in our matha.
While he was living there, Sri Abhaya Caranavinda Prabhu started to translate Srimad Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam into English. Day and night he would stay in his room and do this. He also chanted harinama so much and sang bhajans very beautifully. We did not know when he ever took rest. He slept only a short time in the morning , because all during the night he was awake, and throughout the day also.
During this time, Srila Gurudeva appointed Abhaya Caranaravinda director of his Sri Gaudiya Patrika (Bengali monthly) and Sri Bhagavat-patrika (Hindi monthly). Abhaya Caranaravinda regularly wrote articles for both these magazines. Earlier he had written articles for the Harmonist, and now he continued to write many wonderful essays, Gita purports, etc. Sri Abhaya Caranaravinda Prabhu himself established an English magazine, Back to Godhead.
He wrote so marvelously that everyone praised him. He challenged all who were opposed to pure bhakti at that time, especially the 'Murgi Mission'. He called the Ramakrsna Mission 'the Murgi Mission' because the members ate chicken. In fact, they took flesh, eggs and many abominable things. Vivekananda and his Ramakrsna Mission were very prominent in those days. They were renowned by the public who said, "Oh, these are such high-class devotees. In all of India only they are following the Vedas, and all others are not. The Gaudiya Mission and others are not Vedantic."
Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu wrote this one particular two-part article about the murgis. He began with the first part, and when the second part was also printed all were astonished and convinced. It was like a drama. Everyone requested him to write more articles like these which called for the reform of religious institutions and samskaras.
We always requested Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu to give Srimad Bhagavatam classes. Usually there was not a big audience because only a few of us lived in the matha then. We were just beginning the Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha temple, so we had just five or ten persons. But very high-class, learned gentlemen from Mathura would often come to hear him speak.
Prabhu would lecture, explaining his discourses word-by-word. Very erudite scholars were attracted by his pravacana. Also during this time he would give Caitanya-caritamrta classes to those of us who were at the matha in the evenings. His devotion for Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His pastimes was very deep. Later on, after he took sannyasa, he often gave these classes in English, even though almost everyone there could not understand English. He would say that he was 'practicing'.
Often we would visit each others' rooms. We had many philosophical discussions together, speaking about Prahlada-caritra and Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. We read many of those books together. He would deeply discuss the matters he wrote about in the Gaudiya-patrika. Swamiji and I had many intimate talks together about Krishna consciousness, the Gaudiya Matha and other confidential topics which I cannot disclose to others.
Sometimes he would have talks with one, two, three, or five disciples of my Gurudeva in my room. There were also some big officers and other important gentlemen who came to hear him speak. They would say, "Oh, Abhay Caran Babu is such a learned advanced person." Everybody would glorify him.
Prabhu was very fond of cooking delicious food; very delicious. He wanted to prepare it, he wanted me to prepare it also and then feed all of the Vaisnavas. By his request, he and I would cook and offer so many preparations. Occasionally when he received funds he would even offer fresh mangos to the Deities. Then he would distribute that opulent prasada to all of the brahmacaris.
He always used pure ghee to cook for Krishna. No matter how few rupees he had at any time, he would have a special jar of ghee for cooking; he never used oil. Also he cooked with one or two green chilis and ginger instead of red chilis. A favorite preparation of his was ginger morabba (crushed ginger root cooked with ghee and sugar or gur). Prabhu was so enthusiastic about that cooking and he often declared that all Gaudiya Vaisnavas should be expert in cooking for Krishna.
During the many months he stayed at the Kesavaji Matha, the two of us would perform sundara-arati together each evening. He would always play the mrdanga so expertly and I would play the kartalas and sing. He liked my singing very much and always requested me to lead the kirtanas. Someone asked me, "Why didn't Swamiji also sing? He had a beautiful voice as well." I replied, "Yes, surely he did, but there were times he didn't sing because he was having so much devotional feeling and was weeping."
In 1959, we would talk together and he would say, "When I first met Srila Prabhupada and when he gave me initiation, he told me that I should preach in the Western countries in the English language. He told me this twenty years ago in Calcutta." Guru Maharaja and Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu were bosom friends and they had lived and served together. Both were intellectual giants, very erudite persons from high-class families. In Calcutta, Srila Sridhara Maharaja also had recommended that he approach our Gurudeva. So I encouraged him to accept sannyasa now from our Gurudeva and then go to preach in the Western countries. "We will try to help you", I said to him.
At this time, therefore, I requested my Gurudeva to apply some pressure so that he would take sannyasa. Guruji called him and said, "Narayana Maharaja and all the other boys are encouraging that you take sannyasa. I also support this idea. Do not hesitate to take the renounced order. You are so qualified. You please take sannyasa now. It will be very beneficial."
Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu thus agreed to accept sannyasa and the ceremony was held the very next day. That day was the auspicious Visvarupa-mahotsava. Prabhu asked, "How should I prepare?" I told him, "Don't worry, I will arrange everything." So I prepared bahira-vesa (sannyasa dhoti), uttariya (outer cloth) and a danda with my own hands. I taught him how to wear all these things and then I performed the fire yajna.
Akincana Krishnadas Babaji Maharaja came, and Sesasayi Brahmacari, Kunja-bihari Brahmacari, Parijataka Maharaja and many other persons were there. Now most of these devotees have departed. Sanatana Prabhu took sannyasa with Swamiji and he became Bhaktivedanta Muni Maharaja. He was ninety years old and had said to Swamiji, "If you agree to take sannyasa, then so shall I." He also is no longer here, having joined the eternal service of Krishna.
I recited the yajna-mantras and performed the ceremony. Akincana Krishnadas Babaji Maharaja, Prabhu's intimate Godbrother and friend, chanted Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. He chanted continuously from 8:00 AM until 3:00 PM in a most sweet and deep manner. Swamiji requested that only Krishna-nama be sung, the kirtana of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. My Gurudeva then gave him the sannyasa-mantra.
The sannyasa name which Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Maharaja gave to Abhay Caranaravinda Prabhu is 'Swami'. It is one of the bona fide sannyasa names and means 'controller' and 'master'. The title 'Bhaktivedanta' had already been awarded in Calcutta by some of his Godbrothers, and 'Maharaja' is a formal ending for those in the renounced order. This name 'Swami' is just fitting because Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja became the controller of many, many jivas' hearts due to his being so strong and faithful to his Gurudeva. This is why we affectionately call him 'Swamiji', not at all in a common way, but showing the greatest respect.
After accepting sannyasa, he lived at Sri Radha-Damodara Mandira in Sridhama Vrindavan, and also in Delhi. During that time he published translations of the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam in three parts with English purports. We would often associate together there - in his little bhajan kutir. Sometimes we took prasadam with the Radha-Damodara Gosvamis. We also performed Radha-Damodara parikrama, walking together and paying respects at the samadhis of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, Srila Jiva Gosvami, Srila Krishnadas Kaviraja Gosvami, and especially Srila Rupa Gosvami.
Srila Swami Maharaja spent considerable time in Delhi before he went to America. This is where he was printing and distributing his books. He had published three volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Several times I went there to be with him and we stayed together in his rooms at the Chippiwada Radha-Krishna Temple. He preached vigorously in Delhi. Wherever he went he preached to the public. To everyone he met he spoke about Radha-Krishna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission. He also engaged me along beside him.
One day he announced to me, "Now the time has come and I am going." He was leaving for the Port of Calcutta and was to visit Mayapur also. I came and said good-bye and I took his footdust and put it on my head. Before he left he requested me to keep a regular correspondence with him, which we did. In 1965, he went to the United States of America to preach Sriman Mahaprabhu's message, and in July 1966 he established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
In 1967 during his first trip back to India he came to visit my Gurudeva, his sannyasa guru, Srila Bhaktiprajana Kesava Goswami. At that time my Gurudeva was in weak health and was confined to his bed in Calcutta. They had a confidential visit then. It was their last time together in this world. My Gurudeva was overjoyed at Swami Maharaja's devotional service to their Srila Prabhupada. He expressed his appreciation and glorification of Swamiji's preaching so much and pledged to cooperate in the preaching work.
After our Gurudeva Srila Bhaktiprajnana Kesava Maharaja departed from this world in 1968, Srila Swami Maharaja along with his disciples sent us a telegram of condolence. He also sent a long letter to Trivikrama Maharaja in Navadvipa. In Seattle, Washington he delivered a lecture about our Gurudeva. There he described the history of his awarding him sannyasa. He wrote about how much appreciation, affection and glorification he had for him, and how he had now entered Krishna's abode. We heard later from some of his disciples that he shed tears when he received the telegram telling of our Gurudeva's entering into nitya-lila.
In a short time the branches of ISKCON were established in many countries around the world. He wrote more than fifty books on Krishna-bhakti, which are translated into many languages of the world. Thus, to this maha-purusa goes the majority of the credit for spreading Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's suddha-bhakti and nama-sankirtana throughout the whole world.
Srila Swami Maharaja was becoming very ill. Our Sukananda Prabhu was offering him naturopathic massages with Gangajala. These helped him, before he last went abroad to England. Sukananda Prabhu came to Vrindavana for two hours every morning and evening for fourteen days to massage him. We also sometimes visited and spoke with Swamiji then.
Just before Kartika month in early October when our annual Vraja Mandal parikrama was about to begin, Srila Swami Maharaja sent for me. He requested his senior sannyasis and many others, "I want to meet with Narayana Maharaja." They came by car and requested me, "Srila Prabhupada wants you, so please come now." We were just giving evening discourse for our parikrama party, but I came immediately.
When I arrived in his room at Krishna-Balarama Mandira, he was quite silent. Some boys were singing the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and some sannyasis and other disciples were silent. After some time he opened his eyes and indicated with his eyes for me to come close. He wanted me to take a seat on his bed. He tried to sit up but I put my hands on him and said, "Please lie down and I will sit over here." He then motioned for me to come nearer to his bed and said, "I want to speak to you." He wanted me to sit closer to his ear so he told some disciples, "Bring a chair" and I sat on it near to his ear.
First he began to weep. His heart was melted. From the core of his heart he told me, "Narayana Maharaja, can you excuse me? I feel that there is cause. For the sake of preaching I have told my disciples some things which perhaps I should not have said. Also I spoke so strongly about my Godbrothers in one letter which was then revealed to everyone. I said that we are preaching and others are not, that they are kanistha-adhikaris who don't preach but are idle. I said that all the Gaudiya Vaisnavas did not help me and they only take mahaprasadam and sleep." Swamiji had once written one letter to me saying, "I am preaching all over the world, but they are not doing this nor are they cooperating with me."
At this time many of his sannyasi disciples were watching. His words and mood implied to me many things about how he had wanted to encourage his young students. As we are careful with babies, so he instructed them not to mix with his Godbrothers and the other Gaudiya Vaisnavas. To save his newcomers from becoming disturbed or confused, he sometimes told them not to visit anywhere else because a few of his Godbrothers had done some wrong things.
Swamiji continued, "Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Prabhupada ordered all of us to preach in Europe and America. That was his strong desire. His other desire was that we all work together to preach. I didn't waste a single moment. I tried my best, and to some extent it has been successful." His voice was choked with emotion. "If we can work conjointly then, as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu declared, this sankirtana movement has great possibilities." Then he told me, "I want you to help take care of my disciples. I want them to be good and qualified devotees. If they come to you, please care for them."
After this Swamiji told me, "I pray to you that you will put me into my samadhi with your own hand. I don't want to take samadhi from anyone else's hands. I think you are the proper person. After my samadhi arrange to celebrate my mahotsava separation festival. You should give some amount of money to all the seven temples in Vrindavana and to all the Gaudiya Mathas. It depends upon you, 201 rps, 1001 rps, according to your discretion, whatever you recommend."
In his last days Swamiji requested all of the devotees, "Take me to Govardhana. I want to go there just now. I don't want to go by car. By bullock cart I will go, like Nanda Baba, Yasodamaiya, like all the Vraja-vasis, like the gopis." He wished for this opportunity; I knew this fact. But he could not go. Actually he went there with his soul and transcendental body. He is always there amongst Sri Rupa, Sanatana, Raghunatha, by tad-anuragi jananugami. So this was his last wish.
When we arrived in the final hours on November 14th, he was not speaking. I felt at that time by seeing his face that he was fully remembering the pastimes of Krishna in Vrindavana. I think it was great mercy coming from Krishna because for his whole lifetime he had served Radha-Krishna. For that special person, Krishna absorption is there. Entranced in this way, his eyes were closed and he was exhibiting special symptoms. It was a very touching (karuna) scene. He had no pain, no distraction. At that time his mouth was so beautiful- like a blossomed rose, like a lotus. These are the signs of a very great personality. There are signs, particular signs at that moment which show someone is remembering Krishna, and Swami Maharaja was exhibiting all those signs. He was very beautiful, very high-class.
Our brahmacaris were softly singing some bhajanas. At that time I saw that he was fully satisfied, and thus I was also fully satisfied. I knew then that he would surely go soon, but there was no sign when he would go; he would leave now or in a short time. Before, he had talked with me when he was in his external senses, but he did not request me to stay. I was not in a hurry, but I was thinking that just after my leaving for Mathura he would enter into nitya-lila. We left to return to Mathura and then we were informed that he departed a few hours later.
Shortly after that time we returned to the Krishna-Balarama Mandir and made all arrangements for his mahotsava. According to his wishes we took him on procession in front of most of the important deities of Vrindavana. There were so many of his disciples and other persons chanting in that procession. All of the Vraja-vasis came into the streets to honor him. After this, I prepared his body. I wrote the special mantras on his chest and forehead with tilaka. I used the salt for his body. Then, following all of the proper Vaisnava procedures, I put his transcendental body into samadhi with my own hand.
----Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja