Russian Vaishnava News(RVN)
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20 may 2001 on the coast of the Black Sea in one of the most beautiful Ukrainians city Odessa Srila Bhakti Bibudha Bodhayan Maharaj acharyia-president of Sri Gopinath Gaudiya Math gave interview to news agency «Russian Vaishnava News» (RVN). Interviewed by Gourapriya Das (RVN), translated by Anuradha Dasi (Iinterpreter).
- RVN. Sripad Bodhayan Maharaj, please tell the readers of this Internet interview about who you are and how you came to Sri Gopinath Gaudiya Math. Tell us about the establishment of the Math. When was it founded? Tell about yourself personally, please.
- Srila Bodhayan Maharaj. (Maharaj laughs) I was born in a vaishnava family. My grandfather, Madan Mohan Prabhu was a disciple of Prabhupada Bhaktisidhanta Sarasvati Goswami Thakur. By his inspiration everyone in our whole family are vaishnavas and all are disciples of our Spiritual Master, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Goswami Maharaj. Also by my grandfather’s inspiration, my whole family has the mentality of vaishnavas and thus I became a servant of Srimad Mahaprabhu. I am not a vaishnava yet, I am trying to be a vaishnava. Officially I took initiation from Guru Maharaj on January 21, 1986. It was Putrada Ekadasi. Unofficially, I had a connection with Him (Srila Gurudeva) since my childhood. I took birth in 1964. So between 1964 and 1986, that means, how long? When I was… 21 years old, at that time, I took the first initiation from Him. When I took initiation he had no established Math. He had no buildings. He later gave initiation to my whole family, in our house (Purba-Ashram). At that time there was no question of staying in math. The family was inspired to approach Him to keep one place for vaishnava practices, so after His inevitable departure we could continue to gather with others. Following repeated requests, He agreed. He gave us permission to open a centre, a small place in Mayapur, but only for bhajan. It was 1987 when we purchased that small piece of land, and thus our Math was situated and now stands. There is a history behind Sri Gopinath Gaudiya Math name. Guru Maharaj‘s personal deities, Radha-Gopinath, ultimate need (prayajana tattva). For that reason, He kept this name. He had a personal temple, which was given by the Bengali king of the Burdwan district at Burdwan, Kalna. Previously the king had named the temple Ananta Vasudev Temple. But when He got the temple, Gurudeva immediately re-named it Sri Gopinath Gaudiya Math. After that He saw there was not enough facility for His preaching to follow in the footprints of His beloved Srila Bhaktissidhanta Sarasvati Goswami Thakur. He left that Temple and gave the responsibility to His youngest brother, Nani Gopal Chakravarti. So, that first temple once again became Ananta Vasudev Temple and Gopinath Gaudiya Math had no home. Sri Gopinath Gaudiya Math official start came in 1987, when we purchased the Mayapur land. And in 1989 we built one small building there. Guru Maharaj gradually started to spend time there. Actually not gradually, but frequently He did bhajan there. Often people would come to take darshan. Guru Maharaj was feeling that the Deities of Sri Radha-Gopinath should be established and served there. By the desire of Srila Guru Maharaj and the devotees, Sri Radha-Gopinath appeared on May 7,1990. After the deities appeared Srila Guru Maharaj made a habit of remaining with Them there and started to make arrangements for the facilities as they presently appear. Also on that same day, due to certain circumstances, Guru Maharaj asked me to remain with Him. That’s when I thought of coming into the Math. He told me that an auspicious date was approaching, May 28, 1990, and that should be the day to join Him. I followed His advice and I have been here ever since.
- RVN. In a few words, please tell us about Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Maharaj. Who is He? Whose disciple is He? Tell us of His merits and accomplishments. Tell us about His relations with other vaishnavas. Please introduce us to your Guru Maharaj.
- Srila Bodhayan Maharaj. Guru Maharaj’s behavior… Guru Maharaj, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Promode Puri Goswami Maharaj…His behavior is the absolute example of a vaishnava. Of a vaishnava’s nature, there are four main qualities. First quality is humility. His humility was excellent. No one can compare with Him. He is an example of humility. For that reason other vaishnava were attracted to Him. It would always be a nice connection. And then His tolerance… Amongst the vaishnavas communities, societies, there are so many problems. But He was not one of these problems; He never engaged in discord. He was always in His mood, His divine mood. He felt it…this tolerance. He never criticized any soul, no one at all. I never heard any criticism to others. Instead of criticism His nature was to glorify. He made a habit of glorifying the devotees. Here, I can give one example of His nature. Once Madhava Maharaj- Srila Bhakti Dayita Madhava Maharaj, my Guru Maharaj, and group of devotees from Caitanya Gaudiya Math, went to Jagannath Temple and made big sankirtan in front of Jagannath. Guru Maharaj was leading this kirtan: ‘Jaya Jaya Jagahhatha, Sri Sacinandana. Tribhubana kore Yanre charana vandan,’ – like this. At that time one thief, one pickpocket put his hand in a small bag of Gurudeva’s. Actually Guru Maharaj used to take this bag if someone gave pranami (donation). So, one pickpocket put His hand for taking that amount of money from Him. But He did not care for all that. One disciple of Madhava Maharaj, at that time he was a brahmachari, now his name is Bhakti Prasad Puri Maharaj, he caught this pickpocket’s hand and saying with shouting: “Maharaj, pakarlia pakarlia”. It means, “I catch him, catch that pickpocket!” Then Maharaj was telling him: “Hey now! Why do you break my mood? Forget about money, give him the money”. But this mood is not common, it will not commonly appear again. This kind of mood was there, then instead of that he was glorifying the thief, instead of threatening him, he was glorifying. “He needed money, so because of that reason he came here to take the money from us. So, what’s the harm?” This was His mood. So, that is why each vaishnava, each person had no conflict with Him. We cannot think of all that. After His departure, when we brought His transcendental body from Jagannath Puri to Mayapur, at that time more than five thousand people came to see His body. All Acharyas from ISKCON and from different Gaudiya Maths, who were near around Mayapur, everybody came to see Him, with groups of their disciples. It was the 22nd of November 1999. There’s small piece of land… Actually our Math is too small. Can you imagine this, in this way can you think? No one, no one can, no one has any kind of conflictions with Him. Since His joining, He always kept connection with so many vaishnavas. I even saw those whom we are calling sahajiyas babaji. They also used to come, to visit and see Gurudev. Even Lalita Prasad Thakur, Prabhupada’s brother, his disciples also like to keep His photo in their temple, still. After His departure they called me to their temple to arrange a festival. They wanted to make festivals in my presence. So, I went there with a group of devotees and I was there the whole night and day, the 24 hours performing Harinam sankirtan. From 6 o’clock in the morning until next 6 o’clock in the next morning. Harinam Sankirtan, then nagar sankirtan, then a big feast with speeches about the glories of our Gurudev. But they are sahajiya! Everyone could see the qualities of Srila Gurudeva. So, you can imagine this, His divine nature. The nature of a vaishnava is ‘ajata satraba’. ‘Ajata satraba’- means who has no enemy. He is absolute free from enemies. Everybody was happy to know Him. Absolutely He was an example of that nature. So, in this way He was honored by all vaishnava communities.
- RVN. What were His personal relations with Srila Swami Maharaj, Srila Sridhara Maharaj and other acharyas, who are popular in the West?
- Srila Bodhayan Maharaj. I already explained that all His God-brothers were so dear to Him. By His nature He was also accepted everywhere, with amicable mood. You know amicable mood? He looked for the good in them. So, Sridhara Maharaj and Guru Maharaj had such a close relationship. Actually Guru Maharaj, as he joined the Math, was senior (eearlier joined the Math) most from all. Three years senior to Sridhara Maharaj, He was also three years senior to Madhava Maharaj. And Swami Maharaj… He was ten years senior to Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj. But he was not keeping this mood of senior. This mood: “I am your senior”. He was always servant of servant of servant of vaishnavas. He was endeared in this way to all His God brothers. They saw so many meetings with Sridhara Maharaj and others. Three days before Sriddhara Maharaj was going to departure from the planet, it was like Sriddhara Maharaj was pulling Srila Grurdeva from Calcutta. Suddenly they were in the car from Calcutta via Kalna to Mayapur… On the way to the destination there was Sridhara Maharaj’s Math. Just near Sridhara Maharaj’s Math the tire of the car had a leak and went flat on the highway. The tire had to be refitted. So, then Guru Maharaj asked: “This, what is this? This is Sridhara Maharaj’s Math! Right?” Then a devotee answered, “Yes”. “I should go to see Sridhara Maharaj”. When the party arrived Sriddhara Maharaj told Him: “I was thinking about you. Please come… please stay with me. I have lots of questions I must ask you. I like your association”. After two days of their talks Sridhara Maharaj expired…he left his body behind. Before he went, Sridraha Maharaj was telling Guru Maharaj: “Please, take care of my disciples”. Bon Maharaj also was in the same situation with Srila Gurudeva. After Sridhara Maharaj passed His body all His disciples repeatedly requested Him to do Sridhara Maharaj’s samadhi. He also really wanted to do it and thus it was done. The samadhi of Sriddhara Maharaj was made by Gurudeva. I heard one audiocassette of Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj and Guru Maharaj’s conversation (because I was personally never present). On that cassette Swami Maharaj was begging pardon: “Maharaj, by my ego I said so many things against all of my God brothers. Maybe I said something to offend you also. So, please, excuse all my offences”. Then Guru Maharaj replied: “No, Maharaj! You have done a lot of course. Actually by your service all pratistha, all fame was behind you. But you were not eager to take the name and fame. Fame is always behind you. Your activities, your preaching activity brought you in that fame, but you were not involved in this. So, forget about this. I am not taking any kind of offence from you. I pray to God for your relief”. Then Swami Maharaj was apologizing: “I know you were a good singer- kirtaniya, Srila Prabhupada was so happy to hear your kirtan. So, I like to hear from you. Please, sing one kirtan”. Then Guru Maharaj sang: “Jaya Radhe, Jaya Krishna, Jaya Vrindaban”. Bhakta Caru Maharaj, Guru Maharaj and Swami Maharaj, three persons were all there. Later ISKCON made some kind of complain against our Gurudev. Of course, unconsciously it was due to our fault, not His. A few devotees from ISKCON were initiated by Him. It is not good at all. We are not feeling well about that. So, because of this, ISKCON’s new acharyas sometimes use their word against Him. But He was not affected by this, by their comments.
- RVN. Please say how you interact with other acharyas while preaching. Do you meet with them? Do you hold programs with ISKCON or with other Maths anywhere in the world?
- Srila Bodhayan Maharaj. I like to communicate with everybody in an amicable way. You can see here is Govinda Maharaj. He has come here to show the example of our unity. Now of course Govinda Maharaj has no enemy in society. But he can really see this one little camp. I like to show this example. We can stay in one camp in an amicable way. In this way I would like to keep this kind of connection with every society. Of course I am so junior. I am more junior than all of them. I am much lower than all of them. I want to learn from them. This is true. I am saying this from my heart, not my lips. When Jayapataka Swami Maharaj of ISKCON was inspired to start Saraswat Gaudiya Vaishnava Association, I took initiative to organize it in a proper way in 1994. Also when Bhaktialoka Paramadvaity Maharaj from Germany was trying to start Visva Vaisnava Rajsabha, World Vaishnava Association he made me a member of the organization. Still I am an active member of this organization, but for some reason we are not really active, both societies are practically not active. But from my heart I am trying to cooperate with everybody, arrange some programs. I have been a chairman of Saraswata Gaudiya Vaisnava Association continuously for two years. Under my chairmanship there were festivals, which were so glorious: Vyasa-puja of Prabhupada Bhaktissidhanta, Vyasa-puja of Bhaktivinode Thakur at Mayapur. For two years we had done festivals, two festivals every year. Four festivals this society organized. Still I am trying to cooperate with each math, as we should be united, otherwise we cannot preach against impersonalism, mayavada. Actually our real fighting should be against mayavad. But due to our ignorance we are fighting amongst each other. I would really like to redirect that fight to impersonalism and to destroying mayavadi philosophy. That was the aim of Prabhupada Bhaktissidhanta Saraswati Thakur. This fight, against impersonalism was the motto and reason to establish Gaudiya Math, the vaishnava societies, and all this kind of religious culture. It was the motto of our Bhaktissidhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad. So, I would like to carry out His mood by my capacity. I cannot do it alone. I would like for all maths to do it together. But due to the age of Kali it is quite impossible. I have been trying for five years, but the result is coming very slow. So, I hope Mahaprabhu’s wishes will not be inactive. They should be activated very soon.
- RVN. Why does he say that the results are very insignificant? We heard that last year he was holding a program together with Niranjana Swami, ISKCON leader, in Russia. During that same year he also held joint programs with Russian speaking leaders of Bhaktivedanta Math.
- Srila Bodhayan Maharaj. Association we are looking is that we are staying together only for one stage. But practically it is very difficult because we are expanding our societies out of our capacity. Each society is expanding out of its capacity. So, all leaders are engaged there to control their societies. They practically have no time to be united. We are thinking, but not acting in this way. This is the reason…There are lots of examples and I’ll give you one. There was one fighting amongst sampradayas, Babaji Sampradaya and Gaudia, Srila Prabhupada’s groups (Bhaktissidhanta Saraswati). Babajies were criticizing us, that we have not any guru parampara, we have not anything. So, many things. We are spreading message and lots of innocent devotees give-up our sampradaya and join them, taking babaji, doing nonsense, doing madhukari, then keeping some Matajees... and many other nonsense things. We had a Sankrits school together. The school was on their land, financially the school building was made by us. It was their land. On their land we made this school. We liked to show one example of unity. This school was called Sri Syamananda Vidialaya. But because of a certain problem related to our parampara there was a long-term conflict between Babajies and Gaudiya Math. Finally Srila Narayana Maharaj wrote a book defending our Guru-parampara. By this book Srila Narayana Maharaj asserted our parampara. Then the fighting with babajies started. In the end we, Narayana Maharaj and other Gaudiya Math devotees founded a new school together separately from babajies at our Keshighat. The land for this school was purchased by our God brother Sripad Ramdas Prabhu. This school is called Srijiva Sarasvata Sanskrit Vidyalaya.
At that time we called a meeting to discuss this problem. There was no leader at this meeting except for the leader of Devananda Gaudiya Math (Narayana Maharaj) and the leader of Gopinath Gaudia Math (that was me). There were many devotees form various vaishnava schools but they were not leader of appropriate societies. It is impossible to have any discussions about a foundation of a school without a leader.
- Iinterpreter. Maharaj, I would like to ask you a personal question. There are many Maharajas and they talk about peaceful mood, about amicable mood in communication with other vaishnavas, but actually vaisnavas fight with each other and a lot of vaishnavas fight with Srila Narayana Maharaj and I do not understand why do they fight with him and with Srila Bhaktisundar Govinda Maharaj. We are told that Narayana Maharaj made a lot of offence. I do not understand, firstly, why vaishnavas speak about amicable mood but actually they fight with Narayana Maharaj and other Maths. Tell me if you have time, give some reply to me.
- Srila Bodhayan Maharaj. This is a nice question. We are talking about amicable mood but practically we do not like to have amicable relations with each other. This is true. That was not the mood that Srila Bhaktissidhanta Saraswati Prabhupada was establishing. We are deviating from that line, quite far, because before it was a mood for spreading the message of Sriman Mahaprabhu. Instead of that we are becoming a Guru cult. Guru cult means, “my guru is highest”. You can see that in all books they are printing first class pictures of Gurudev, but what about Rupa Goswami’s picture! We are aspiring to be rupanuga bhaktas. However, instead of spreading message of Mahaprabhu we are too involved in Gurudev’s glories. This is called Guru Cult. When we are trying to glorify Gurudeva instead of Mahaprabhu. Though it is true that Guru is the light of our bhajan, we are deviating our energies away from Mahaprabhu and onto Mahaprabhu’s devotee. So, in this way there are different societies and different moods. There is a mood of “my Gurudev”. So, actually we are acting like a Guru cult, but practically we are lacking attachment for bhajan. You know, we have lack of bhajan? When we preach to our devotees, regarding our camp, we should not be fanatical. Devotees are in that fanatical mood by association. This is fanatism going on. So, we are just fighting about how to make our camp the biggest- this kind of fighting. Because of this all camps are fighting each other – it’s camp consciousness, not Krishna consciousness.
- Iinterpreter. Even in Russian we have such a notion and this notion is “transcendental fighting”...
- Srila Bodhayan Maharaj. No, this is not transcendental fighting. You know Srimad Bhagavatam has an explanation. Gradually religion will be our occupation. It is going to be that way. Devotees are saying, “we should defend absolutely, we should give up everything for Mahaprabhu”. But we are fighting with Mahaprabhu’s devotees. What for? For our livelihoods, for maintaining our livelihoods. If we think very deeply, it is like that. We must have broad mind for thinking, most are not thinking on a broad scale. Broad scale is that we should fight impersonalism. But instead of that we are fighting amongst us. “Narayana Maharaj is bad, Govinda Maharaj is bad, Puri Maharaj is kanishtha adhikari, then ISKCON is sahajiya. Narayana Maharaj is preaching Raga Marg… This is how they speak. I don’t know if he is preaching Raga Marg or not. If he is preaching to the Western world this parakiya ras, this is so glorious prasada for the Western world. You know in the Western world you can see that one woman was three times married. One man was five times married. They have achieved it. But this kind of association is not good for Mahaprabhu. It was not the motto of Mahaprabhu. Mahaprabhu was discussing this kind of mood – parakiya ras - very closely with His intimate association - Raya Ramananda and Swarup Damodara. Where? In a very small room-Gombhira. This is not discussible with everyone. I know he is so much senior than me. I respect him from my heart. Before I was born he joined the society, before my birth. So, I have no right to fight against him. In my opinion, as per my knowledge, preaching of Raga Marga? They (new devotees) need saranagati first. Then they need some chanting to cure their hearts. Otherwise it is not possible to realize the Raga-Marga. They (new devotees) will use it in a material way- Radha Krishna’s parakiya taste (rasa), should be always in their way. Gradually we become a sahajiya. I hope Narayana Maharaj is not doing this mistake. He is a senior vaishnava, how can I claim it against him. I have no right to do this. I personally have no right to do it. Narayana Maharaj is serving the math maybe more than 50 years. My age is not 50 years. My age is only 36 years now. How can I claim?
- RVN. As far as Govinda Maharaj is concerned, tell us please about Govinda Maharaj. He has come here. It had never happened before. We personally had not witnessed such an occasion that acharyas take somebody to accompany them especially if it is a person outside the organization, completely free from such attachments. What is the reason? Who is Govinda Maharaj? Why does he travel with you?
- Srila Bodhayan Maharaj. Now Govinda Maharaj does have his own organization. He belongs to our original math – Mul math, Sri Chaitanya Math. But due to certain circumstances he is not staying there for a long time. Maybe more than 20 years. But in mind he is connected with them. He is a disciple of Bhaktivilas Tirtha Goswami Maharaj. And actually he has some understanding of the western world. So he approached me and asked, “Maharaj, if you have any chance to take me, you please bring me there with you”. And I was thinking also that this kind of pure vaishnava, if he goes and bestows his blessings to all the vaisnavas there, they can only be benefited. For that purpose, the devotees’ benefit, I brought him here with me. I like his mood. He is very straightforward and he also took sannyasa initiation from my Gurudev. In this way I have some connection with him. And if I face any cultural problem, by a cultural problem I mean, you know, when I need some Sanskrit shloka, he can immediately assist. He has these kinds of qualities. And I do not have any confliction with him. I don’t like to conflict with any vaishnavas by my nature. This is why I bring him. Devotees do not usually agree to bring anybody, but due to my relationship, I am bringing him. I want to show this kind of example to the public, that a vaishnava is free from envy. There is not any enviousness. This kind of (envious) nature is in Bengal. So, I want to destroy this mood. I follow this example. Anybody can go with me. Anybody can do as they wish, but not to break the rules. God gives us free will, but if we misuse that free will, then God arrests us by his policeman who is illusion personified. Here I can give one example. A car has free will to go here and there, but every car has a driver. A car will go to many places with a driver. So, God gives us free will, but the driver is God. If we break His law, He will give us punishment. Understand? Like a horse, it has a right to walk, but a horse is controlled by a driver. When it is uncontrolled it will be harmful and cause lots of problems. Understand? So, vaishnavas have free will, but they should use it properly, for the ultimate benefit of Mahaprabhu’s preaching. If we use this, then we‘ll be saved, if we do not use this, then we’ll be a guru cult – fighting each other. We are always fighting: “I am big, I am bigger than others. They are wrong, I am right, they are wrong, I am right”. What is this? This is a nature of enviousness. We should destroy it first. I am telling this, I have also some problems. In fact I have had this kind of mood before. So, I want to destroy this thought. Everyone should destroy it first. Otherwise it is very difficult to preach. Instead of preaching we are doing religious business.
- RVN. Maharaj, there are so many devotees. We would not like to take up much of the time that is why I would like to ask the last question. What do you think about preaching through the Internet? And, probably… yes of course it’s a good tool. But, what do you think about it?
- Srila Bodhayan Maharaj. Mahaprabhu‘s desire ‘Prithibite Ache Yata Nagaradi Grame / Sarvatra Prachar Haibe mor Nam’… “For as many villages and towns there are in the world, everywhere My Name will spread there.” This was the desire of Mahaprabhu. The Internet is a proper channel to distribute everything and everywhere. So, Internet preaching is a very very excellent preaching. I do agree with that. Also devotees are going here and there, but we are in human bodies. We have no time to go to each place to distribute that message. So, the Internet is doing this on behalf of each of us.
I want to pray to Mahaprabhu for His blessing. If it (the Internet) is more developed scientifically, it is good for our preaching. Not only good. Material persons are spreading their advertisements and selling their goods. If they do it, we have a right to spread the message of Sriman Mahaprabhu, the message of all vaishnavas, the message of Sri Rupa Goswami and the six Goswamis? Why not preaching this message of Prabhupada, Bhaktivinoda Thakur, our Gurudev? These messages are, in our opinion, in favour of vaishnavas. This is good for us. The Internet is a very very excellent link, excellent media, excellent media for us. I appreciate this and if it is possible to develop it more, I will also appreciate that. But, you know, science is blessing and science is curse. When we use it in a favourable way, it will be all blessings for us. When we use it in a bad way, it will be a curse for us, like television. People are using television for making money. How to make people’s mind very dirty, make some money with their dirty mind. Money is dirty, you know. Association! Birds of same feather flock together. They are thinking, “I know what kind of nature I have, I should find others with that kind nature”. You know it, I should go there. So, money is dirty. They think, “If I make people’s mind dirty, then I can make money”. So, they are spreading that kind of advertisement, which is very dirty and spoils our society. If they are using it this way, we have also a right to preach in this way. We should fight, you know, side by side (laughs). People will choose. It’s good. Scientifically it will develop. If it will develop more, I can appreciate that.
- RVN. Thank you very much, Maharaj.
- Srila Bodhayan Maharaj. Hare Krishna!
Especial thanks for cooperation in redaction to:
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