I first visited Vrindavan during the month of Kartika. Being fond of buying books I went to Loi Bazar and happened to find the Sandarbhas printed by Guru Maharaja. From these books I got his address and immediately had the desire to visit him. I went there alone in the evening.
By Satyanarayana Dasa
I first visited Vrindavan during the month of Kartika. Being fond of buying books I went to Loi Bazar and happened to find the Sandarbhas printed by Guru Maharaja. From these books I got his address and immediately had the desire to visit him. I went there alone in the evening. When I first went to Guru Maharajji’s ashram in 1983, it looked much different from what you see now. The tall main front gate was not yet built. There were gardens on both sides. When I entered the temple room, Maharajji was teaching a sannyasi in Bengali. Later I learned that the sannyāsī was from ISKCON and his name was Venkata Swami. I hardly understood anything from the lecture because I didn’t know Bengali. After the class was over, I posed a question to Maharajji about madhurya rasa. He gave a long answer in very Sanskritized Hindi. The answer was very lucid and unprecedented -I had never heard anything like it before. It completely captivated me and made a deep impression on my heart. I left, but intensely desired to come back one day and study under him.
From then onwards I was always meditating on this. However, I was the co-president of ISKCON Tirupati and we had taken up the project of building a huge temple and guesthouse. I felt very responsible for my service. I used to contemplate that after this project was completed, perhaps in another ten years, I would resign from all my responsibilities and come to Vrindavan. In the meantime, I was visiting Vrindavan every Kartika and used to go to Maharajji’s place to have his darshan and buy any new literature he had printed. At that time his press was in full swing and he may have had two or three cows. Every time I met him my desire to study the Sandarbhas would become more intense.
Sri Krishna’s ways are very mysterious. Some very serious problems arose in the Tirupati center and it became impossible for me to function in my service. In spring of 1987 I left Tirupati and came to Vrindavan. I became a Sanskrit teacher in the Bhaktivedanta Swami International Gurukula and continued my study of Sanskrit.
After I settled down, one evening I went to visit Maharajji and requested him to teach me. One could visit him only in the evenings because he used to keep silence till 4 pm. Before he built the present temple, he used to live in the back side where there is a garden at present. There are a few small rooms on the northern side of the building where Maharajji lived with his gurudeva. After his gurudeva’s departure he continued to live there for some years and later on purchased the adjacent piece of land where the present temple and gosala are. The front parts of these rooms were demolished when we planted trees and did some renovation work. While living in the old place he was keeping silence till sunset. There was a board outside his old room which said, “Visitors only after sunset” in Hindi. Locally, Maharajji was known as Mauni Baba – ‘the silent baba’.
When I arrived at his ashrama I met Hare Krishna Baba outside the temple. I asked about studying from Maharajji. Baba told me that Maharajji doesn’t teach anymore because of the misbehavior of students. This was a shock to me and shattered my dream. I asked Baba if I could have darshan of Maharajji. He replied that usually Maharajji comes and sits in the temple room after 5 pm to receive any visitors, but on that particular day he had some other engagement. I left heartbroken. I was waiting for years to study under Maharajji. Now that dream was over.
I approached all the well-known scholars of the Gaudiya sampradaya in Vrindavan to see if anybody could teach me the Sandarbhas of Jiva Gosvami. To my despair each one of them expressed their inability to teach the Sandarbhas and told me that only Maharajji was capable of doing so. I continued my Sanskrit studies and hoped that when I became proficient, I could try to study the Sandarbhas myself.
The Most Joyous Moment
A few months passed and again something mysterious happened. One day I was talking with the head pujari of Krishna Balaram Temple, Purna Chanda Dasa, about studying the Sandarbhas. To my surprise he told me that he knew Maharajji personally and promised to take me to meet him. I took this as a special blessing of Sri Sri Radha Shyama-sundara.
One evening I accompanied Purna Chanda to Maharajji’s ashrama. When we arrived Maharaja was sitting on the roof and supervising the construction of the first part of the goshala where there were only four cows and one bull. He came down on a bamboo ladder and stood with his back against the big Papadi tree, which still exists. We paid obeisances to him and Purna Chand introduced me to him. I then requested him to teach me the Sandarbhas. He looked at me and was silent for some time. Then he asked, “Why don’t you first study Harinamamrita Vyakarana (the book on Sanskrit grammar by Jiva Gosvami)?” At that time I was studying Panini’s system of Sanskrit grammar from a Vaishnava sadhu at Akhandananda Swami Ashram. I replied that it would be difficult to study two grammars simultaneously and that I would surely study Harinamamrita Vyakarana after I had completed the Panini system. Maharaja was silent again and then said, “Yes, I will teach you”. That was the most joyous moment of my life.
A life according to shastra
On the first day of my class I took a garland and some offering to worship him. As soon as I offered the garland, he immediately removed it. This was very striking to me. In ISKCON I used to always see gurus with garlands. From his behavior, I learned what is meant by humility. Although Maharaja was highly learned – the only one who could teach the Sat Sandarbhas – he was very simple. He was not sitting on a high seat, but sat on the floor with a small wooden desk in front of him. He did not exude the air of a big scholar or acharya. He led his life according to the principles of shastra (scripture) and thus was rightly known as shastri.
I am very fortunate to have studied all the major Gosvami literature from him. Now when I look back I am amazed how Maharajji found time to teach me so much. He first taught me the Sat Sandarbhas of Jiva Gosvami: Tattva, Bhagavat, Paramatma, Krishna, Bhakti and Priti Sandarbhas. After these he taught me Sarva-samvadini and Harinamamrita-vyakaranam of Jiva Gosvami, Laghu Bhagavatamritam, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu and Ujjavala Nilamani of Rupa Gosvami, Brihad Bhagavatamritam and Haribhaktivilasa of Sanatana Gosvami, Siddhanata Darpana and Govinda Bhasya of Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Madhurya Kadimbini of Visvanatha Cakravarti, and Caitanya Caritamrita of Krsnadas Kaviraja Gosvami. He not only taught me these books, but their commentaries as well (except, of course, Govinda Bhasya andSarva-samvadini, which are commentaries in themselves). Moreover, he taught me Bhagavad Gita with the commentaries of Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti and Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana, and Srimad Bhagavatam with the commentaries of Sridhara Svami, Sri Jiva Gosvami and Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti.
(to be continued)
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