Here you will learn all about the etiquettes that Krishna's devotees follow in their devotional practice.
It is with deep sadness and sorrow that we heard of the loss of the Spiritual Global leader and Senior Member of ISKCON & GBC, HH Sri Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaj.
We offer our deepest heartfelt condolences to the devotees of H.H Sri Swamiji Maharaj and the ISKCON family worldwide.
Vedic Sanatana Dharma lost a great spiritual Guru, H.H Sri Bhakti Charu Swamiji Maharaj built a global faith and community founded on Vedic Sanatan value, His Holiness was highly respected for his personal piety and dedication, as well as his commitment to promoting Vedic values around the
world. The great soul like H.H Sri Swamiji Maharaj rarely visits this planet, we are very lucky to have him for 75 years,
We will be forever grateful for H.H Sri Swamiji Maharaj ‘s works and contributions for Vedic Sanatana Dharma.
We pray that during this difficult time and in the day to come, the whole world will find inspiration in remembering the life and teaching of HH Sri Bhakti Charu Swamiji Maharaj.
On behalf of HH Sri Jeeyar Swami,
(Tridandi Sanyasi of Sri Sampardaya & Former Chairman of International Srivaishnava Community)
The disappearance of the stalwart disciple and loving servant of Srila Prabhupada, His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami, on Saturday 4th July 2020 not only leaves a massive vacuum in the lives of the entire ISKCON community, but also represents a huge loss to the whole world. We’d like to join the chorus of tributes in gratitude to Maharaja with these few humble words.
In the service of His Grace Tribhuvanatha prabhu we are a small group of devotees in the UK traveling and holding Harinams and public facing Hare Krishna festivals as well as Rathayatras. We serve alongside Parasurama prabhu, his Food For All team and with the UK devotee community. His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami has been a huge source of kind encouragement and inspiration for all of us throughout the decades.
Excerpts from Bhakti Charu Swami
” I am very happy to hear about your preaching engagements. The Glastonbury music festival seems like a wonderful way to attract people to Krishna consciousness. During the early days when I was able to spend more time in England, I used to go to that festival. I remember going there twice. The youth those days used to be more open and receptive, and we used to have a good time there, preaching”
The way Bhakti Charu Swami explains his understanding of Srila Prabhupada’s mission is very much international and all inclusive
” Hare Krishna festival team have played a great role in helping the movement to reach a different level of audience and I am really appreciative of that “.
We were delighted to welcome Bhakti Charu Swami to talk at our public hall program in Dartford, East London in 2015. To our embarrassment an audience of only 20 or 30 guests showed up initially. However as the Maharaja arrived then began to explain the philosophy of Bhagavad Gita many more people streamed in, bringing the numbers up to over 250. We were relieved, but Maharaja said it does not matter whether numbers are great or small we shall just try our best to preach. His great spirit of unity in the diversity of all people was also manifest in our kirtan tent at Janmastami in 2017
” I too very much enjoyed being present in your tent during the Janmashtami celebrations at Bhaktivedanta Manor. The tent was very nicely done depicting the mood from where Srila Prabhupada started this movement, I could see that this tent attracted lots of Westerners and I was very pleased to see that. We definitely need the movement to reach everyone and I can see that you all are really dedicated to spread Krishna Consciousness among the westerners. Please continue to serve nicely like this going forward “.
Many of us will be overwhelmed by the departure of our unique spiritual leader Bhakti Charu Swami; perhaps this letter – sent to his disciple Ratnavali (a dedicated member of our festival team) 18 years earlier – can offer some solace at this difficult time of loss…
Letter from Bhakti Charu Swami
” Dear Ratnavali. Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada
Why did my last email make you cry? Accept everything as Krishna’s mercy and move forward. That is what Krishna Consciousness is meant for. Krishna is our dearmost friend and greatest well wisher. Therefore, whatever happens according to his arrangement is for our ultimate benefit.
Yes, a devotee always looks at things from a positive perspective. Krishna Consciousness means all to gain and nothing to lose. The quotation from Srila Prabhupada you mentioned, “We have to transcend the gross and subtle platform and come to the spiritual platform” is very correct. That is our goal to become totally free from material bondage. Both gross and subtle platforms are material bondages. When we become situated on our spiritual identity then it is like waking up from a dream. We wake up in another plane altogether and all that happened to us on the material platform does not bear any significance.
Srila Prabhupada, the founder Acharya of ISKCON is the guru for everyone in ISKCON. His siksa in the form of his books is the foundation of ISKCON and he is worshipped by everyone everyday during mangal arati and guru puja.
I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that my role as a spiritual master is simply to represent Srila Prabhupada and assist my disciples to approach his Divine lotus feet. I hope this meets you well.
Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada
Bhakti Charu Swami “
Gauranga das says a few words about HH Bhakti Charu Maharaja
Dear Bhakti Charu Swami,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada
It is still an unbelievable shock for me to know that I will not be able to associate with you the way I used to. I can visualize you walking so elegantly as if you are floating and this quality of effortless grace permeates every aspect of your personality. You are so dear to Srila Prabhupada that on the first meeting itself Srila Prabhupada gave you the mammoth seva of translating all his books into Bengali, a seva which you diligently and successfully completed as an offering to His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada on his centennial year.
When the GBC college began in 2015, I sent you the PDF of a document that we had prepared called ‘Being Srila Prabhupadanugas’ which has thematic sections on leadership guidelines for ISKCON based on Srila Prabhupada’s quotes. We planned to share soft copy PDF’s only with the students at that time. When you read through the document you called me and insisted on printing this for all the participants. I said time is less and how will this happen. You said I will take care and within a week’s time you not only printed 200 hardbound copies of this book but also brought them with you for distributing to the college students. I had asked you on what made you print these and your response touched my heart. You said ‘The future of ISKCON leadership is very much dependant on how we understand Srila Prabhupada’s mood and instructions and by applying that we please him’
In the Ujjain Kumbha Mela 2016 I was assisting you in the prasadam distribution to the masses and you mentioned that apart from prasadam distribution we should have superexcellent preaching set up like the multimedia dome. I was taken aback as Kumbha Mela set up is quite austere and basic and how would a sophisticated set up like a multimedia dome be managed. You were quite confident that such a special effort of a high caliber preaching exhibit would make ISKCON’s camp famous in the entire Kumbha Mela Campus. And you actually made it happen and the multimedia dome in ISKCON camp was the talk of the entire Kumbha Mela. I admire your vision to spread Krishna Consciousness in amazing ways and have witnessed your rock-like determination to do so irrespective of challenges and obstacles.
I pray that I will be able to remember and apply the invaluable pearls of wisdom you have shared with me on the nuances of Krishna Consciousness and appreciations of Srila Prabhupada.
With a heart heavy with the grief of separation from you
HH Bhakti Bibudha Bodhayan Swami says a few words on HH Bhakti Charu Maharaja
All Glories to Sri Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Saraswata Sampradaya (lineage).
All Glories to my beloved Grand Spiritual Master His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Thakur PRABHUPADA and my beloved Spiritual Master His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Pramode Puri Goswami Thakur.
Our sampradaya’s prominent heritage, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaj, physically left all of us on the 4th of July 2020. I feel very much separation, remembering our association from the previous days. I saw how Srila Charu Maharaj used to come to my spiritual master, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Pramode Puri Goswami Thakur, at Kolkata’s Sri Chaitanya Gaudiya Math and also at Sri Gopinath Gaudiya Math, Mayapur with many spiritual queries. Srila Charu Maharaja’s service attitude to serve my Gurudeva was very beautiful. I have also seen Srila Charu Maharaja’s faith on others spiritual uncles like His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Rakshak Sridhar Goswami Maharaj and His Divine Grace Bhakti Alok Paramahamsa Goswami Maharaj. As I remember, Srila Bhakti Charu Maharaj engaged his disciples, Sriman Chaitanya Das Prabhu and Malini Devi (Sriman Chaitanya Das Prabhu’s wife) to look after the education of my Gurudeva’s brother’s grandson, Vasudeva Prabhu. Srila Charu Maharaj also engaged Sriman Chaitanya Das and Malini Devi to give some monthly financial support for my Gurudeva’s Ananta-Vasudeva temple located at Kalna. In 1994 Srila Charu Maharaja’s disciple, doctor Subal Sakha Prabhu, from Anudul, Howrah (West Bengal) facilitated in the health care of my Gurudeva. Thus, Srila Charu Maharaj taught his disciples to generously serve senior Vaisnavas without discrimination. According to my own feeling, Srila Charu Maharaj and his disciples were always loyal to my Gurudeva.
When I was a brahmachari, I used to attend Srila Charu Maharaja’s classes in the Conch Building. At that time Srila Charu Maharaj use to give classes on Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur’s Jaiva Dharma on the rooftop. His classes were very attractive to me. I am very much remembering Maharaj today. Two months ago, I requested Srila Charu Maharaj to write a homage for my Gurudeva which would be included in my Gurudeva’s biography. Srila Charu Maharaj composed a very sweet and faithful offering which was very heart-touching for me. All of Srila Charu Maharaj’s sweet behavior really makes me feel separation from him. Right after Srila Charu Maharaj sent me his homage, he went to USA. I did not know that within such a short period of time we would get such heartache news of his departure.
I am praying to my worshipful Lord, Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Jiu, for engaging Srila Charu Maharaj in the service of his Gurudeva, His Divine Grace Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada eternally. From the bottom of my heart, I pray at Srila Maharaja’s lotus feet: please forgive me for all of my offenses and bestow upon me your blessings to carry on the loving mission of Lord Chaitanya for the rest of my life under the shelter of my Gurudeva, HDG Srila Bhakti Pramode Puri Goswami Thakur with purity.
Yours in the Service of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Mission,
Bhakti Bibudha Bodhayan.
Sri Gopinath Gaudiya Math (President)
By HH Kesava Bharati Dasa Goswami
Srila Prabhupada was undoubtedly the personality sent by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to fulfill His prediction: “I have incarnated to inaugurate the sankirtana movement. I will deliver all the fallen souls of this world. . . In every town and village of the world, the chanting of My Nam Sankirtan Movement will spread” (Caitanya Bhagavata, Antya 4. 120, 126).
To understand Srila Prabhupada’s unique role in Gaudiya perspective, we must journey back in time and gain historical insight of how Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s plan to fulfill His prediction is gradually unfolding.
Upon His return from Gaya, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu began His nama-sankirtana mission. And in distributing nama prema, “He and His associates did not consider who was a fit candidate and who was not, nor where such distribution should or should not take place. They made no conditions. Wherever they got the opportunity, the members of the Pasca-tattva distributed love of Godhead” (Caitanya Caritamrita, Adi-lila 7.23).
This flood of nama prema swelled in all directions and continued to benedict this world under the shelter of empowered preachers like the Six Gosvamis, Srinivasa Acarya, Narottam Das Thakur and Syamananda Prabhu.
Unfortunately, after the disappearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and these empowered associates of His, a very dark age descended on the world of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. By Kali’s influence, many apasampradayas, deviant sects,
totally eclipsed Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s pure presentation of Krishna Consciousness with their unscrupulous, materialistic doctrines and practices. And they did that in His name! Soon, His teachings came to be identified with immorality, dogma and anti-social elements. As a result, the cultured and educated people of Indian society developed a deep aversion to Caitanya Mahaprabhu. This dark age continued for almost 250 years.
In order to revive His sankirtana movement and once again illuminate the Gaudiya sky, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then sent one of His intimate associates, Bhaktivinoda Thakur, to this world. Possessed of transcendental prowess, Bhaktivinoda Thakur wrote tirelessly to defeat all unauthorized and deviant philosophies opposed to Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s presentation of Krishna Consciousness. Through his tireless and dedicated writing, he exposed all the adharmic philosophies of that time and once again revealed to the world Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s path of supreme auspiciousness and compassion: His nama- sankirtana mission. These writings would later form the philosophical foundation for Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s systematic and institutionally based plan to set into motion fulfillment of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s prediction. Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s rediscovery of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s birthplace and his giving of a blueprint (in the form of his “namahatta”) to realise Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s desire that nama-sankirtana be propagated all over the world were a very clear and remarkable indication of his absolute conviction in Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s words. However, he knew that this massive task of spreading Krishna Consciousness all over the world would need the collective involvement of thousands of people for many generations. It could not, and would not, be just one man’s work—a transcendental institution was of absolute necessity.
His fervent prayers to Lord Jagannatha were answered and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura appeared in this world as his son to give practical shape to his blueprint in the form of the
Gaudiya Mission. Within fifteen short years, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura spread Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtana movement all over India and attracted many luminaries of that time to assist him in his mission. Sixty-four mathas dedicated to propagating Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings were established in India during this time.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura recognized the impor- tance of his institution for continuing vigorous preaching after his departure from this world. He emphatically and very openly instructed his leading disciples that his Gaudiya Mission be managed and maintained by a Governing Body. Surprisingly, he did not nominate anyone as his spiritual successor. He left this world on 1st January, 1937 and almost immediately dissension and quarrel arose within the Gaudiya Mission. Very soon the institution which had always been known for pure and bold preaching of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings became famous for its embroiled fractions and court cases. Two contending factions fought for acarya-ship and many senior disciples left the institution in disgust. The unified entity of the Gaudiya Mission as an all-India entity consisting of many centers, several presses and thousands of devotees working cooperatively under unified leadership ceased to exist. Illusions of proprietorship and prestige eclipsed Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s order, and his mission—to develop a worldwide movement for propagating Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings—came to a grinding halt.
Our Srila Prabhupada, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, was heartbroken by this tragic turn of events, but it was very evident from his activities that he perfectly understood his spiritual master’s heart and mission:
1. As soon as a few New York followers took his message to heart, he legally incorporated his institution. He named it the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and also legally stated its seven purposes. This all happened as early as 1966.
2. To continue Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission and secure ISKCON’s transcendental legacy, Srila Prabhupada very systematically established the Governing Body Commission and very emphatically instructed his senior followers: “Don’t make the same mistake that my god- brothers made after my Guru Maharaja’s disappearance. Manage the society collectively through the GBC.”
3. To secure ISKCON as a transcendental mission with a strong philosophical and culture base, he tirelessly and meticulously translated and commented on the most important and sublime of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings in the form of Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrta. And he emphatically said that his books are the basis of his Krishna Consciousness movement and the institution of ISKCON.
4. And, like his Guru Maharaja, he did not name or select a successor for his ISKCON, rather, he wanted his disciples to collectively manage the institution through a Governing Body.
When I was Srila Prabhupada’s personal servant, I noted many times that he would insist that on any printed material the title Founder-Acarya and his full name be printed under the society’s name of ISKCON. I was very immature and inexperienced at that time and often wondered, “Srila Prabhupada is such a humble and exalted Vaisnava, why is he so persistently insisting on this?” I did not ever openly express this to Srila Prabhupada, but it continued to perplex me. But slowly, by his divine grace, in due course of time, I began to understand his intent. The phrase “Founder-Acarya” is not just a title but a transcendental system intended to protect, preserve and give longevity to an institution dedicated to the mass liberation of conditioned souls all over this world in this dark abysmal age of Kali.
Great Vaisnava stalwarts like Sri Madhvacarya and Sri Ramanujacarya successfully implemented this system.
Obviously, full implementation of this system in ISKCON is crucial to the successful fulfillment of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s prediction. I shared this realization with a number of my senior god-brothers and was enlivened to find that Srila Prabhupada had blessed them with the same insight.
Then, in 2006, the GBC body formed various committees to plan and achieve different strategic objectives. One such committee is the Srila Prabhupada Position Committee (SPPC), whose mission is to assist the existing efforts and develop new initiatives to eternally establish Srila Prabhupada as the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON and the pre-eminent siksa guru for all ISKCON devotees. This book is an initiative of the SPPC.
His Grace Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, who is undoubtedly one of ISKCON’s most brilliant thinkers and writers, wrote the book and all the GBC members and many senior devotees have seriously and diligently scrutinized it.
This book is thoroughly researched and based on sastra and historical facts. It is academic in nature and provides a foundation on which we can build a holistic culture of education meant to firmly and very practically establish Srila Prabhupada’s position as the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON. Of course, pure Krishna Consciousness acknowledges no technique—its only base is humility and absolute surrender. And it is in this mood that we offer this publication to Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Prabhupada and all his devotees.
Kindly note that this book is not meant for casual reading but for implementation. If we do that, our personal and collective relationships with Srila Prabhupada will flourish unlimitedly and we will come to very practically understand that our beloved Founder-Acarya is not frozen in time. He is an eternal assistant of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s divine flood of compassion and Krishna prema. And his heart melts and flows without restriction or impediment to anyone and everyone who shows the slightest interest in his teachings and the nama- sankirtana mission.
We humbly seek your kind and active support in imple- menting the next important step in Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s plan to flood the entire world with Krishna prema—to firmly and very practically establish Srila Prabhupada as the Founder- Acarya of ISKCON for all time.
Thank you very much.
Yours in the service of Srila Prabhupada,
Bhakti Charu Swami Vrindavan, India November, 2013
Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
In about one hour’s time, His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami’s vapu will embark upon the final journey to Sri Dham Mayapur where devotees are already lovingly preparing the dust of the dham to receive Maharaja once again in the place where he began his journey as Srila Prabhupada’s intimate assistant.
Maharaja’s vapu will be carried aboard a flight from Orlando to New York via Charlotte. Overnight, the casket will be reconditioned in a New York funeral home in preparation for the journey aboard a repatriation flight from New York to Delhi. After traveling on from Delhi to Calcutta by a private flight, Maharaja’s vapu will continue to Mayapur in a specialized vehicle. The exact date and time of arrival in Mayapur is not yet confirmed.
Once again, we will reiterate that the Mayapur campus will be inaccessible for devotees and public alike before, during, and after the ceremony. The same can be said for any spot along the journey – please do not attempt to visit the airports along the way or interfere in any way. We humbly request your cooperation in this matter.
During the next few days, please offer prayers that this journey and the samadhi ceremony may be completed with safety and auspiciousness.
We also would like to take this opportunity to thank those devotees who have worked tirelessly, day and night, overcoming innumerable hurdles and acquiring uncountable permissions to make this all possible. HH Bhakti Charu Swami’s blessings are certainly upon you, as are our heartfelt gratitude and prayers for your spiritual success.
Thank you very much.
Bhakti Caitanya Swami
GBC Executive Committee
H.H. Bhakti Charu Swami – Vapu Journey to Mayapur
A summary of the journey plan, enabling devotees to track the progress in *real-time* as Maharaj’s vapu is transported from Orlando to Mayapur for samadhi.
(Current stage of the journey is highlighted in yellow)
Click here to go: https://bit.ly/2Cpt4h7
In dedication to Bhakti Caru Swami
It’s hard to fathom,
That it could be so,
But warriors do enter,
And charge into battle,
And may not return—
A matter of death and dignity.
Because of the love lost,
It becomes a tearful time.
With the voice of guidance now gone,
An apparent vacuum exists.
Something went wrong perhaps.
Loved ones become confused,
No one can know the plan…
Emotions begin to play out—
A welling of tears in the eyes—
An wholesome outpour of feelings,
With friends/family around.
A figurative pool of water collects,
Leaving a surface of reflection,
Of two faces—of one grieving,
A second—the one who died achieving.
If you look deep and hard,
The warrior-saint who achieved,
Carries a magnificent smile.
And with a nodding approval,
And directional message,
He says, “Go forward!
There’s a fight to fight!
There is a world to shake!
There’s a God to love!
Don’t be disturbed!”
Let us hear about “Srila Prabhupada Personifies Devotee Care” from a very close and a dear disciple of Srila Prabhupada, HH Giriraj Swami. He is being interviewed by HG Gauranga Das.
About Giriraj Swami
Giriraj Swami was born Glenn Phillip Teton, the only son of a respected Chicago attorney and judge. In March 1969, while a student at Brandeis University, he met His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), from whom young Glenn said he learned more in one brief exchange than in his many years of academic education.
After graduating cum laude from Brandeis University, he became an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada receiving the spiritual name Giriraj Das. Giriraj Das quickly became a leading member of ISKCON-Boston and was soon given the opportunity to go to India with Srila Prabhupada where he helped establish his spiritual master’s mission.
In 1972 Giriraj Das was appointed president of ISKCON Mumbai and a trustee of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Since then, he has made many significant contributions to Srila Prabhupada’s mission, most notably overseeing the development of Hare Krishna Land in Juhu, Mumbai.
He was instrumental in the acquisition and development of the Bhaktivedanta Ashram in Govardhana and led the development of the Kirtan Ashram for women, the Bhaktivedanta Hospice, and the Vrindavan Institute of Palliative Care, all in Vrindavan. Through his efforts, Giriraj Swami has become renowned for his austerities, loyalty and dedication to Srila Prabhupada’s mission, his ability to raise funds and cultivate important members of society, and his care for devotees around the world.
In the year following Srila Prabhupada’s departure in 1977, Giriraj Das was awarded the renounced order of life and appointed president of ISKCON’s board of trustees in India. From 1982-2000 he served as a member of ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission. In that capacity he oversaw ISKCON’s activities in Mumbai, Mauritius, South Africa, Spain, Portugal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.
Giriraj Swami has also taught at the Vrindavan Institute for Higher Education and continues to lecture and to give presentations at japa retreats and workshops around the world.
Presently based in Southern California, Giriraj Swami now focuses on writing, one of the main personal instructions that he received from Srila Prabhupada. Giriraj Swami is the author of Watering the Seed and Many Moons and is working on several other publications, including books about death and dying in the Vedic tradition, his search for a spiritual master and his early days in the Boston temple, his travels with Srila Prabhupada in India and Srila Prabhupada’s monumental efforts in Mumbai, and Vaishnava holy days.
Dear Disciples of Bhakti Charu Maharaja,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupad.
When I heard the news of Maharaja having tested positive for COVID-19, I was left speechless. Daily at that time of the morning I am on a zoom Japa conference. I made the announcement to the participants in much disbelief. I checked again with my disciples if this message was in fact authentic and a part of me feverishly hoped that there was some error or this was just fake news. I could not concentrate on any of my services and had difficulty in following the daily routine for the rest of the day and several days thereafter. I was very disturbed and disheartened. All that I could think of was Bhakti Caru Maharaja and went deeply into thoughts and prayers for his recovery.
And eventually I heard the news which I was dreading. Bhakti Caru Swami Maharaja had departed and I immediately thought about how Bhakti Caru Maharaja had helplessly wept at Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi, ready to sacrifice his life alongside that of Srila Prabhupada – such was his intense grief after the departure of his spiritual master. In all of his lamentations in separation from his Guru Maharaja, lovingly remembering him and serving him in separation (vipralambha seva) only intensified this relationship and increased his services over the years. Following in the footsteps of your beloved Guru Maharaja may you also solidify your relationship with Maharaja and expand your services by following his example and instructions.
In lamenting Maharaja’s departure, I had this intense desire just to hear Maharaja once again, to feel his close presence, and I regretted not having the foresight to record our last telephonic conversation just before he left for America. Bhakti Caru Maharaja had just finished watching ‘The Lost Village’ documentary. Maharaja had called me and said to me, “I got to know you better.” In his inspired self, he excitedly suggested that I refresh and relaunch ‘The Lost Village’ production because he saw the relevance of its content for the COVID-19 pandemic. The two of us had resolved to communicate more regularly over the phone and meet and spend some quality time together as well. Maharaja had also accepted my invitation to visit Pandharpur. I was really looking forward to that visit and now under the new scenario this could only happen on another realm.
Following his departure I wanted to hear some of Maharaja’s bhajans or lectures and to my great surprise the first bhajan which I came across was “Je anilo prema dhana” which Maharaja had sung on the Disappearance day of one of our predecessor acaryas. As his soothing voice filled the room I felt really close to him. I had a strong momentary feeling that Maharaja is right here and that he had never left. Listen to Maharaja’s sweet singing and enlivening talks. From my experience I would also advise you to remember the times you have spent with Maharaja giving you general or specific instructions and make a plan to follow the same and you will feel his presence and his company forever. As Bhaktivinoda Thakur says, “He reasons ill who tells that Vaisnavas die, when thou art living still in sound! The Vaisnavas die to live, and living try to spread the holy name around!”
As I searched for further closeness to Bhakti Caru Swami, I was sharply conscious of all the anguish and pain that you, his spiritual children must be feeling. My heart goes out to all of you. Your loss is our loss. Your grief is our grief. Your tears are our tears. We are one family and together in this. Some have lost their spiritual father; some have lost their spiritual uncle; and some their god brother. Everybody in the family has lost ‘someone special.’ There is an unprecedented influx of glorifications, remembrances, memories of and prayers for our exalted Bhakti Caru Maharaja and certainly sympathy and support for you all. Please be assured that this all-pervading consciousness will remain with us through the legacy that your Guru Maharaja has left behind, his pure love for his spiritual master, ISKCON Founder Acarya, Srila Prabhupada and his desire to spread the Hare Krishna movement everywhere. In the case of Maharaja, soldiering on as a frontline fighter preacher especially in areas where the pandemic was most rampant. Following in the footsteps of his spiritual master, he boldly travelled to America in spite of the odds and departed a martyr, a true soldier of Srila Prabhupada, where he strongly believed he was most needed during these perilous times.
On that unfortunate last day I spoke to Prana Govinda Prabhu from Alachua on the phone who at that time was rushing to the hospital where Bhakti Caru Maharaja was being nursed. He was en route and he shared with much anxiety whether he was going to reach the hospital in time to speak to Maharaja. Arrangements had been made for him, facilitating this meeting with Maharaja. Since Maharaja could only listen, he asked me, “Is there anything you would like me to convey to Bhakti Caru Swami Maharaja?” I told him, “Please, please beg Maharaja not to leave us behind. He must recover early and join us again, and be amongst us because we are already missing him so much. I continued my conversation with Prana Govinda Prabhu, “And if Krsna wants to bring Maharaja back to Him, then my message on behalf of all our god brothers and god sisters and senior leaders was: “Please convey to Bhakti Caru Swami Maharaja that he may leave peacefully, happily, and we will take care of his managerial responsibilities, continue his legacy and especially take care of his direct disciples.” This was my message and promise to your Guru Maharaja. You need to know that you are not alone. You never were and never will be. You have a family of loving and caring spiritual masters, godbrothers and godsisters, senior leaders and god cousins to whom you can turn for comfort and relief.
I will always cherish Maharaja’s memories and my loving dealings with him and will humbly endeavour to fulfil my heartfelt promise to your Guru Maharaja to the best of my ability, to ensure that all will be taken care of as he had envisaged.
Your servant in service to your spiritual master, Lokanath Swami
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
While I am still trying to come in terms with the devastating news about the sudden departure of Bhakti Charu Maharaja, there is also a strong urge to glorify this exalted Vaisnava with the hope that it will give some solace to my heart.
Out of his numberless outstanding contributions to our movement like “Abhay Charan” serial, construction of the beautiful temple in Ujjain, establishing and teaching in the GBC College, etc. etc., perhaps the most significant is his untiring efforts to unite our movement around Srila Prabhupada in the center. And he was extremely successful in these endeavors due to his complete, absolute selfless dedication.
HH Bhakti Charu Maharaja himself observed in one of his recent lectures that one of Srila Prabhupada unique characteristics is that even in India where everyone knows about ISKCON and Hare Krishna’s, not so many people are aware about Srila Prabhupada’s personality. Unlike many other charismatic Indian spiritual leaders, Srila Prabhupada did not want to promote himself. He was promoting the chanting of the holy name and the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and was not promoting himself. In the similar way, Srila Bhakti Charu Maharaja as an absolutely loyal disciple was only promoting Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON. There is not the slightest trace of self-promotion in his presentation of Krishna consciousness. And that is one of the reasons why he was able to touch so many hearts. And even now, by his sudden departure he continues to unify ISKCON. Now everyone from the beginners to the greatest leaders feel united in glorification of Bhakti Charu Maharaja.
It is an irreparable loss for all of us. One thought though gives me some solace – he was not of this world. He was like a lotus flower, which grows from the mud in the water, but still is completely unaffected by the muddy environment, not to the slightest extent. Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu gave this sent this perfect servant of His to assist Srila Prabhupada in his mission, and He also showed to all of us by the example Bhakti Charu Maharaja what it means to be a Vaisnava. And now Gauranga Mahaprabhu just called him back.
Now, after his departure, I feel like an orphan myself. I spoke with many devotees who knew him, even though they were not his direct disciples. They all feel the same. The son after the departure of his loving and protective father, feels the need to become more mature in order to survive in the hostile environment. In the similar way, I hope and pray that now we as a spiritual movement, after the departure of Srila Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja, who was protecting ISKCON from internal strife, will have to become mature and united to be able to continue preaching the message of Srila Prabhupada in this material world.
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For Gopala Bhatta Gosvami’s disappearance day, I thought to read one verse and purport about him from Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Ten, “The Branches of the Caitanya Tree”:
sri gopala bhatta eka sakha sarvottama
rupa-sanatana-sange yanra prema-alapana
Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, the forty-seventh branch, was one of the great and exalted branches of the tree. He always engaged in discourses about love of Godhead in the company of Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami.
PURPORT by Srila Prabhupada
Sri Gopala Gosvami was the son of Venkata Bhatta, a resident of Sri Rangam. Gopala Bhatta formerly belonged to the disciplic succession of the Ramanuja-sampradaya but later became part of the Gaudiya-sampradaya.
COMMENT by Giriraj Swami
The word sampradaya means “party.”
In the year 1433 Sakabda (A.D. 1511), when Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was touring South India, He stayed for four months during the period of Caturmasya at the house of Venkata Bhatta, who then got the opportunity to serve the Lord to his heart’s content. Gopala Bhatta also got the opportunity to serve the Lord at this time. Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami was later initiated by his uncle, the great sannyasi Prabodhananda Sarasvati. Both the father and the mother of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami were extremely fortunate, for they dedicated their entire lives to the service of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. They allowed Gopala Bhatta Gosvami to go to Vrndavana, and they gave up their lives thinking of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. When Lord Caitanya was later informed that Gopala Bhatta Gosvami had gone to Vrndavana and met Sri Rupa and Sanatana Gosvami, He was very pleased, and He advised Sri Rupa and Sanatana to accept Gopala Bhatta Gosvami as their younger brother and take care of him. Sri Sanatana Gosvami, out of his great affection for Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, compiled the Vaisnava smrtinamed Hari-bhakti-vilasa and published it under his name. Under the instruction of Srila Rupa and Sanatana, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami installed one of the seven principal deities of Vrndavana, the Radha-ramana deity. The sevaits (priests) of the Radha-ramana temple belong to the Gaudiya-sampradaya.
Actually, one of the families entrusted with the Deity service at the Radha-ramana temple has a history of relations with the line of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Visvambhara Gosvami’s father or grandfather had relations with Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the family maintained relations with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, and then Visvambhara Gosvami had very friendly relations with Srila Prabhupada. And he spoke very nicely about Srila Prabhupada. Now Visvambhara Gosvami’s son Padmanabha Gosvami is also very favorable to ISKCON. In fact, ISKCON devotees often honor prasada at his home at the Radha-ramana temple. I also took prasada there with His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami, and Padmanabha Gosvami showed us a letter that Srila Prabhupada had written to his father, Visvambhara Gosvami, about how all Vaishnavas should cooperate. So, not only does the Radha-ramana temple belong to the Gaudiya-sampradaya, but at least some of the sevaits have had close relations with the line of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
When Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami took permission from all the Vaisnavas before writing Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami also gave him his blessings, but he requested him not to mention his name in the book. Therefore Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami has mentioned Gopala Bhatta Gosvami only very cautiously in one or two passages of the Caitanya-caritamrta. Srila Jiva Gosvami has written in the beginning of his Tattva-sandarbha, “A devotee from southern India who was born of a brahmana family and was a very intimate friend of Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami has written a book that he has not compiled chronologically. Therefore I, a tiny living entity known as jiva, am trying to assort the events of the book chronologically, consulting the direction of great personalities like Madhvacarya, Sridhara Svami, Ramanujacarya, and other senior Vaisnavas in the disciplic succession.” In the beginning of the Bhagavat-sandarbha there are similar statements by Srila Jiva Gosvami. Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami compiled a book called Sat-kriya-sara-dipika, edited the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, wrote a foreword to the Sat-sandarbha and a commentary on the Krsna-karnamrta, and installed the Radharamana Deity in Vrndavana. In the Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika (184) it is mentioned that his previous name in the pastimes of Lord Krsna was Ananga-manjari. Sometimes he is also said to have been an incarnation of Guna-manjari. Srinivasa Acarya and Gopinatha Pujari were two of his disciples.
Srila Gopala Bhatta Gosvami ki jaya!
One story about Gopala Bhatta Gosvami is that on the eve of Nrsimha-caturdasi all the other Gosvamis and Vaishnavas in Vrindavan were preparing to worship their deities and hold festivals. Gopala Bhatta Gosvami had only a salagrama-sila; he didn’t have a deity with form, with arms and legs, a body he could dress and decorate. So he was feeling deprived of the opportunity to serve his deity like the other devotees who had deities with forms. Out of his strong desire, a salagrama-sila manifest in the form of Radha-ramana. Radha-ramana is considered the most beautiful deity of Krishna. It is the one original deity of the Gosvamis that has remained in Vrindavan, while the others had to be taken elsewhere for fear of the Muslim invaders. And near the temple of Radha-ramana in Vrindavan is the samadhi of Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami.
Gopala Bhatta Gosvami’s uncle and siksa-guru was Prabodhananda Sarasvati. His samadhi is also located in Vrindavan, just off the parikrama path near Kaliya-ghata, which is quite near our Krishna-Balaram temple. Often when we go on parikrama down the path near the Yamuna, we visit Prabodhananda Sarasvati’s samadhi and bhajana-kutira. Then we proceed to Srila Sanatana Gosvami’s samadhi. Sanatana Gosvami was the most senior of the Gosvamis and was also a close associate and instructor of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. In fact, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami worked with Sanatana Gosvami to produce the great treatise Hari-bhakti-vilasa.
I feel that Gopala Bhatta Gosvami has been especially merciful to me on two occasions. On one, I visited his bhajana-kutira at Sanketa, a place between Nandagrama and Varsana where Radha and Krishna used to meet and sometimes perform rasa-lila. Gopala Bhatta would sit and chant underground in a deep cavern accessible only through a long, narrow passage. At the end of the passage was a somewhat roomier place where Gopala Bhatta used to chant, now marked as his bhajana-sthala. I remember going there with Tamal Krishna Goswami and others on a very hot day and struggling to crawl through the passage to the bhajana-sthala. It was difficult, but when I finally reached there, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami was very merciful. He allowed me to chant with a glimpse of taste. And after all the devotees emerged from the cavern, I stole back in. I crawled back to Gopala Bhatta’s lotus feet and sat there chanting. I will never forget his mercy to me there, and I pray that he will enable me to chant with relish and love.
On the other occasion, during Kartik of 1999, shortly before my surgery, I visited Gopala Bhatta’s samadhi near the Radha-ramana temple in Vrindavan. We arrived just after raja-bhoga-arati, and the pujari was closing the doors to the samadhi-mandir. But he was kind enough to open the doors for us, to allow us darshan of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. He gave us some flowers and caranamrta and invited us to stay for prasada. Thus our small party, along with some local sadhus, honored Gopala Bhatta Prabhu’s maha-maha-prasada with great relish, and we even stayed to take a little rest before, filled with bliss, we continued on our way. So, Gopala Bhatta Gosvami is very kind.
Years later, when some of my disciples from Bombay went to Vrindavan on pilgrimage, they visited the samadhi of Gopala Bhatta Gosvami. They told the pujaris about me, how my health no longer allowed me to visit Vraja, and asked for some prasada for me. And the priest kindly gave them a piece of cloth from Gopala Bhatta Gosvami’s samadhi. It is very special. Now, twice a year, on his appearance day and on his disappearance day, we bring it out and touch it. So now we shall pass it around and touch it to our heads and to our hearts—and pray to Gopala Bhatta Gosvami for his sublime mercy.
[A talk by Giriraj Swami Gopala Bhatta Gosvami’s disappearance day, July 31, 2002, Carpinteria, California]
In the holy land of Vṛndāvana, where the Divine Couple Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda are performing their eternal pastimes, resided a great devotee named Śrīla Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, one of the six Gosvāmīs of Vṛndāvana. But where did he come from? Why did he reside in Vṛndāvana? To know that we have to go to a holy place called Śrī Raṅgam.
In 1510, Mahāprabhu went to Śrī Raṅgam. Located in South-India, it is a major pilgrimage destination for Śrī Vaiṣṇavites. There, with His hands raised, He began chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa Mahā Mantra. The chant was so sweet that it attracted the local devotees. One of the local devotees was Shri Vyeṅkaṭa Bhatta, who detected the symptoms of a Mahāpuruś, a great personage in Mahāprabhu. After the kīrtan, Vyeṅkaṭa went to Mahāprabhu and asked for His mercy. Mahāprabhu embraced him heartily. Vyeṅkaṭa then asked Mahāprabhu if He could stay at his residence as Cāturmāsya was around the corner. Mahāprabhu agreed and resided at his residence for four months.
Vyeṅkaṭa ‘s son was Gopāla Bhaṭṭa and at the time of Mahāprabhu’s visit he was only a child. When the little boy offered his respects at the feet of Mahāprabhu, the Lord picked him up and held him on his lap, affectionately embracing the boy. Mahāprabhu used to call the boy and give him the remnants of his prasāda. By giving him his prasāda, he was blessing Gopāla Bhaṭṭa to become a great acharya in the future.
After spending four months in the house of Vyeṅkaṭa Bhatta it was time for Mahāprabhu to bid farewell to their family. Gopāla Bhaṭṭa fainted at the feet of Mahāprabhu. He then instructed Gopāla Bhaṭṭa to stay with his parents and serve them and later on come to Vṛndāvana where he would constantly hear and glorify the holy name of the Lord. After giving this instruction Mahāprabhu left their house.
In due course of time, Gopāla learnt Sanskrit and excelled in learning the bhakti-śāstras from his uncle Śrīlā Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī. After the passing away of his parents, he then left for Vṛndāvana.
When he came to Vṛndāvana, Śrīlā Rūpa and Sanātana Gosvāmī greeted him and treated him like a brother. At that time Śrīlā Rūpa Gosvāmī was preparing to send messages with some devotees from Vrindavan to Mahāprabhu in Purī. When Mahāprabhu heard about Gopāla’s arrival in Vṛndāvana He sent with the messenger kaupin and outer garments of the bābājī order, to be given to Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī as symbols of his renunciation. Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī accepted this with great happiness, considering it to the Lord’s mercy and prasāda.
Lord Caitanya ordered Gopāla Bhaṭṭa to write a book to check the spread of pseudo-loving rasas and negligence to Vaidhī-bhakti. In corroboration with Sanātana Gosvāmī he compiled the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, the authorized book explaining the ritual and devotional practices of the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava sampradaya. Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī was responsible for originating the six thesis of Ṣaṭ-sandarbha later elaborately developed by Jīva Gosvāmī. He also wrote Sat-kriyā-sāra-dīpikā, a guide to Vaiṣṇava saṁskārāsand rituals for birth ceremonies, sacred thread initiations, marriage ceremonies, sannyasa, and funerals etc.
Śrīlā Prabhupāda wonderfully summarizes the works, role in Kṛṣṇa Lila and disciples of Śrīla Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī in the purport of CC Adi 10.105. He writes “Śrīla Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī compiled a book called Sat-kriyā-sāra-dīpikā, edited the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, wrote a foreword to the Ṣaṭ-sandarbha and a commentary on the Kṛṣṇa-karṇāmṛta, and installed the Rādhāramaṇa Deity in Vṛndāvana. In the Gaura-gaṇoddeśa-dīpikā (184) it is mentioned that his previous name in the pastimes of Lord Kṛṣṇa was Anaṅga-mañjarī. Sometimes he is also said to have been an incarnation of Guṇa-mañjarī. Śrīnivāsa Ācārya and Gopīnātha Pūjārī were two of his disciples.”
Śrīla Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī was born in the year 1503 AD on the 13th day of the dark moon in the month of Pauśa. He lived within this world for 75 years. In the 1578 AD, on the sixth day of the dark moon, he left this world behind and entered into the eternal pastimes of the Lord.
July 7th, 2020
Dear disciples, followers, and friends of Bhakti Charu Maharaja:
I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet.
I offer my obeisances to the lotus feet of His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami, who is very soft-hearted and expert at compiling devotional literature.
He eloquently speaks the pastimes of Lord Krishna, his heart is full of the mellows of devotional service, and his life and soul is Srila Prabhupada.
Hare Krishna. What follows are a few meditations on the departure of Bhakti Charu Maharaja. We have all been deeply affected by this sad event—and that is testimony to the power of his exemplary life and association.
Let me begin by mentioning a few of his qualities that come mind:
Although a powerful and influential person, he was always humble, easily approachable, and friendly to all.
He was a strong and consistent voice for how we all needed to respect and cooperate with each other.
At the same time, he could be like a lion when it came to protecting ISKCON, the system of governance that Srila Prabhupada put in place, and Srila Prabhupada’s mood and teachings. I was so proud of him, re-assured, and inspired when we were able to see him in this mood.
One of the qualities of his I hear mentioned again and again is how he was always such a gentleman. Srila Prabhupada said that this was a symptom of an advanced devotee.
He embodied sweet Vaisnava loving exchanges.
He was a refined person, expert at bhajans, drama, philosophy, and of course cooking. He was so happy when he could cook for the devotees, personally serving the prasadam, and seeing to it that each guest was filled to the neck with their favorite dish.
Others have narrated how Bhakti Charu Maharaja arrived as a young devotee, new to ISKCON, and Srila Prabhupada quickly raised him to brahmin initiation, sannyasa, and to serving as Srila Prabhupada’s personal secretary and servant. Tamal Krishna Maharaja told me that he asked Srila Prabhupada at the time “Why is it that you have brought this new devotee up so quickly?”
Srila Prabhupada replied “I can see purity. You cannot”.
We hear the question: “Why did he have to leave now?”
In reply, we know from shastra that pure devotees are under the divine energy of the Supreme Lord. My conviction is that Srila Prabhupada needed him and therefore he called Bhakti Charu Maharaja to his side.
We hear the question: “But why did he leave due to Covid?”
We should first note that Bhakti Charu Maharaja left this world, by Krishna’s arrangement, on Guru Purnima / the disappearance day of Srila Sanatan Goswami. This is most auspicious and not by chance.
Srila Prabhupada gives the analogy that “The housewife teaches the daughter-in-law by teaching the daughter”. Srila Prabhupada explains that sometimes devotees are put into suffering so that the rest of the world can learn a good lesson. The devotee’s internal meditation on the Lord’s lotus feet is not broken and the conditioned souls learn by seeing the devotee’s example. All we have to do is think of the struggles of the Pandavas, Kunti devi, Draupadi, Prahlad Maharaja, as well as Srila Prabhupada’s several heart attacks while coming to the West and starting ISKCON. Because these exalted souls were put into difficulty, by the arrangement of the Lord, we have their examples to learn from. I am convinced that Bhakti Charu Maharaj left the world as he did in order to make the rest of the devotees see this horrible disease as the grave threat that it is. There is symmetry here. Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s core mood was service to the devotees. I see his departure due to Covid as Krishna using him in one final act of service to the devotees—to wake us all up to the dangers of this vicious disease.
Krishna accomplishes many purposes with one act. That is often the style of His lila. As Ranchor, His leaving the battlefield was to deliver Rukmini, shame Jarasandha, kill Kalayavana, and deliver Mucukunda. We can see the same in the departure of Bhakti Charu Maharaja, that is to say several purposes accomplished by one act. Krishna took Bhakti Charu Maharaja as He did because Srila Prabhupada needed him and to serve as a severe warning about Covid to the rest of us. We can also see that Krishna confirmed Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s exalted spiritual stature by taking him on Guru Purnima / Srila Sanatan Goswami’s disappearance day.
I remember the wave of grief that washed over me when I heard that Srila Prabhupada had left this world. One element of that grief was the fear that Srila Prabhupada might gradually fade into the background of my life. I can assure you, from my own experience, that the opposite will happen. For those who sincerely follow Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s instructions and example, you will find your relationship with him becoming sweeter and deeper with every passing year. Rather than fading away, he will become your constant guide and companion.
Srila Prabhupada confirms this in his closing words upon completing his translation of and commentary on the Chaitanya Charitamrita:
“Although according to material vision His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada passed away from this material world on the last day of December, 1936, I still consider His Divine Grace to be always present with me by his vani, his words. There are two ways of association-by vani and by vapu. Vani means words, and vapu means physical presence. Physical presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not, but vani continues to exist eternally. Therefore, we must take advantage of the vani, not the physical presence.
I think that His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur is always seeing my activities and guiding me within my heart by his words. As it is said in Srimad Bhagavatam, tene brahma hrda ya adikavaye [SB 1.1.1]. Spiritual inspiration comes from within the heart, wherein the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His Paramatma feature, is always sitting with all His devotees and associates.
Certainly if His Divine Grace were physically present at this time, it would have been a great occasion for jubilation, but even though he is not physically present, I am confident that he is very much pleased by this work of translation.”
The vacuum felt by Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s departure is immense. And that is how it should be. These feelings of separation are the proper testimony to Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s life—so exemplary, so well lived. What more can we say? “He was a Vaikuntha man”—a saintly Vaisnava and surrendered servant of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada.
The best way to find solace from the pain of Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s separation is to remember his words, follow his example of a pure Vaisnava’s life, and to redouble our dedication to the mission Bhakti Charu Maharaja gave his every breath to—Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON.
His Holiness Bhakti Charu Maharaja ki jai.
Your grieving servant,
At the time that I was voted onto the GBC, ISKCON and its governing body was undergoing an excruciatingly difficult period of trial and testing. However, there were compensations for all our trials and tribulations, and for me the main compensation was the opportunity to serve with a number of extraordinary devotees, extraordinary especially in their dedication to Srila Prabhupada and to his mission. And chief among them, for me, was His Holiness Bhakti Caru Swami. Especially, he embodied, in his own singular way, that particular synthesis of opposites seen in the person of Srila Prabhupada and other great devotees: although in the breadth and depth of his pure dedication to Guru and Krsna, he is awe-inspiring, the devotee himself seems to be altogether unaware of it. I had seen first hand in Srila Prabhupada that singular union of greatness and humility, and, somehow, here it was again, in Bhakti Caru Swami.
Owing to the generosity of his affection, Maharaja and I soon became not only colleagues but friends. I found it always a special delight to be with him and it wasn’t maya. That is because Bhakti Caru Swami was, unfailingly, “a very perfect gentleman,” who exemplified Srila Prabhupada’s succinct characterization of “a true follower” of his:
Interviewer: How would I recognize a true follower of the Krishna consciousness movement by his behavior? What would his traits be? What would his outward expressions be? Srila Prabhupada: He’d be a very perfect gentleman, that’s all. You could not find any fault in him. That is perfect Krishna consciousness.
-Television Interview, Gainesville, Florida, July 29, 1971.
The last time I saw Bhakti Caru Swami was when I visited him in Florida last year. Just as I was about to leave for the airport, he took me aside to hand me a parting gift. It was an Apple Watch. (I suspected it was one of many timepieces with which Maharaja had been gifted, and I was delighted to have his remnants.) Since that time, I wear it every day. I’m wearing it right now. And it never fails to remind me of him.
Your fallen servant, Ravindra Svarupa dasa
Dear Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja,
Please accept my respectful obeisances. All glories to You. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
This is the 3rd day we can’t have your personal association. I’m so sad and morose at the same time I’m sure that Krishna and his associates are overflown with joy to have you among them.
A guru is someone who teaches by example. You were a guru who was teaching the whole world. You were a guru who showed the best example of all Vaisnava qualities beginning with humility and being devoid of pride. You were the example of the 5 limbs of devotional service that Caitanya Mahaprabhu emphasized.
Sadhu-sanga – you always hankered for the association of the devotees. You were an amazing host, the most wonderful cook and friend of all. The way you treated all the devotees equally not considering their position, service, or seniority was so astonishing and humbling at the same time.
Nama-kirtana – no one has to prove your love for Kirtana and the devotees’ love for your kirtana. Thank you for showing the way of merging into the chanting of the Holy Names.
Bhagavata-sravana – your exquisite classes are a neverending source of inspiration for all of us. The way how you repeated the acaryas’ words is so unique and you always gave a fresh view to all the topics, thus proving that if we listen to the Bhagavatam for many years still there is much more to learn.
Mathura-vasa – you were not only living in the Holy Places in India but wherever you went you turned that ordinary place into places of pastimes. Even on your last journey, you were working so tirelessly on establishing a new farm community fulfilling Srila Prabhupada’s desire.
Sri-murti-seva – I was always looking at you, completely amazed, when you so graciously performed arati with deep meditation for the deities and the way how you participated in functions around deity worship.
Now I’m here, remembering all the wonderful days I’ve spent together with during the GBC meetings and when you visited Hungary. You should know that we are always thankful that we could have your association and we will do our best to follow your footsteps.
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and his most beloved son Bhakti Charu Maharaja!
Bhakti Charu Maharaja was a true touchstone. Whoever came in contact with him was given an opportunity to experience a life-changing transformation. I experienced the magic of his presence for the first time in 1979 when we met in Calcutta. He was in charge of the local BBT office, and thanks to our common service as translators of Srila Prabhupada’s books, we immediately connected as brothers in arms, exchanging our realizations.
Above all the wonderful qualities he embodied, it was his sweet and caring personality that captured my heart. Over the years this appreciation grew ever stronger, and it reached its culmination in 2004 when he was the first person to call me after my eldest son had suffered an accident and was hovering between life and death. Just to hear Maharaja’s soothing voice and consoling words provided relief in those extreme circumstances.
A few days later, after my son had succumbed to his injuries, Bhakti Charu Maharaja called me again. As soon as I heard the tender tone of his voice, tears started to well up in my eyes, and I began to weep. “It’s alright”, he said softly, “you can let it all out; it is only natural to cry when we lose a person very dear to us.” But at the end of the conversation, his concluding words cut through the fog of gloom and grief: “In times like this, we realize that there is actually nothing besides Krishna consciousness.”
I can still hear his voice uttering those words, but now my heart is broken again. That very same person, a very dear and well-wishing friend – not just to me, but to everyone – has suddenly left us. Although my intellect tells me that there is nothing to lament – vaisnavas don’t die but continue to live in sound –, my heart does not want to hear such words. It simply wants to weep. So, I let it weep. It’s alright.
But at the end, Maharaja’s conclusion will have to prevail: “Actually, there is nothing besides Krishna consciousness.”
But where do we find Krishna consciousness? We find it in devotees like Bhakti Charu Maharaja who are transparent via mediums because they carry Krishna in their purified hearts and let Him shine through wherever they go. As Prabhupada says in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta (Adi 13.5): “Krsna is described to be like the sun. The supreme powerful is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna, or Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and His devotees are also bright and illuminating because they reflect the supreme sun.”
Thus, when such devotees leave, it appears as if the world had gone dark. In such moments of confusion and painful separation the only light of hope is the remembrance of their vani presence. Because it is, of course, true: Vaisnavas don’t die but continue to live in sound. As Srila Prabhupada points out in the Concluding Words in Caitanya-caritamrta: “Physical presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not, but vani continues to exist eternally. Therefore we must take advantage of the vani, not the physical presence.” After Prabhupada’s departure in 1977, that was our only solace. And it will continue to be so, until we are allowed to join him again. Meanwhile vani will fill the void.
Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s departure has also left a terrible void. In his physical absence, his vani will give solace. And there is great hope that in the not too distant future we will be able to join him again. After all, he is waiting for us under the umbrella of Srila Prabhupada’s lotus feet.
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