During our Vrindavan Kartika Parikrama this year we plan to take our group to Kurukshetra for 2 days. It is a 6 hour train ride from Mathura. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur once surprised his audience by saying, “Shallow thinkers appreciate Vrindavan, but a man of real bhajan, real divine aspiration, will aspire to live in Kurukshetra.” He noted that Bhaktivinoda Thakur, after visiting many different places of pilgrimage remarked, ‘I would like to spend the last days of my life in Kurukshetra.’”
In one class Srila Prabhupada said:
“So Krishna sometimes sent Uddhava to pacify them, that ‘I am coming very soon after finishing My business.’ So when they got this opportunity that, ‘Krishna has come to Kurukshetra with His brother, sister, father. So let us go and see…’ So they went to Kurukshetra to see Krishna. Whenever they got some opportunity, they wanted to see. Just like these cowherds boys, when there was battle of Kurukshetra near Delhi … Vrindavan is not far away from Delhi. It is about ninety miles.”
I am boarding a flight to London where I will stay for 4 day days with programs scheduled at both the Bhaktivedanta Manor and Soho Street Temple. I am remembering my great fortune in flying with Srila Prabhupada to London in 1971 and beholding the beautiful forms of Radha London Isvara in his presence for the 1st time. It was there at 7 Bury Place that he affectionately slapped me on the back and said to me, “So much endeavor in this material world, but when I take you back to Godhead everything will be easy and sublime.” Srila Prabhupada, I remember your words every day of my life and live only to serve you in this world or the next.
Today I am going on pilgrimage to 7 Bury Place, the site of ISKCON’s first temple in London. It was there in 1971 that Srila Prabhupada gave me one of his dhotis and instructed me to, “Preach boldly and have faith in the holy names.” Srila Prabhupada, your words to me that day were enshrined within my heart and became the very essence of my life. I continue to serve those orders with all my heart and soul.
A precious jewel: Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s signature in his autobiography entitled, “Svalikhita Jivani.”
Devotees in Vrindavan just phoned to inform me that Brahmananda prabhu, beloved disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a pioneer in spreading Krsna consciousness in different parts of the world, left his body one hour ago in the sacred land of Sri Vrindavan Dhama.
I am lamenting the departure of Brahmananda prabhu as he was instrumental in bringing me to Krsna consciousness and the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada. In the autumn of 1970 I met him, Visnujana Swami, Gargamuni prabhu and Subal dasa on the lawn of the campus of the University of Michigan in America. Along with Visnujana Swami, Brahmananda prabhu preached to me about the glories of Lord Krsna. The 4 of them stayed with me for 3 days. Soon after they left, I joined the temple in Detroit. This morning I was happy to find a photo of Srila Prabhupada, Brahmananda prabhu and myself, amongst other devotees in Mayapur, in the early 1970’s. Thank you Brahmananda prabhu! Your love for Srila Prabhupada was contagious.
On Thursday I am going to Ukraine to participate in a devotee festival near Lviv, in the western part of the country. They are expecting over 2,000 devotees. Niranjana Swami, Trivikrama Swami and Badrinarayana Swami will all be there. Looking forward to the kirtan and katha!
Dear Disciples: A class entitled, “Remembering Brahmananda Prabhu” which I gave at the Radha Krsna Temple in London on Sunday, is now available on: www.narottam.com — with Carol Kanchanbala Blumert.
Below is newsreel footage from Ratha Yatra in Puri in 1932! Next week, on June 14, London devotees will hold their 47th annual Ratha Yatra through the streets of London. One of Srila Prabhupada’s many gifts to the world.
Govinda dasi’s tribute to Brahmananda prabhu:
Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to our beloved Srila Prabhupada!
It is with great sadness that I have heard the news of our beloved Godbrother Brahmananda Prabhu. There was a sobbing message on my voicemail, from Kosha Rupa, and the rest of my day was spent in bereavement.
Brahmananda was, is, a very great soul. He loved Srila Prabhupada dearly. He never wanted to usurp his position. He never felt he was an ideal disciple, but his love, his heartfelt love, for Srila Prabhupada was most selfless and unambitious. He never had personal ambitions to be this or that–he just wanted to serve Srila Prabhupada, to assist him in whatever way possible. And also to protect him from harm.
Amazingly, just yesterday I stumbled upon an older BTG article that Brahmananda had written, praising the prayers of Queen Kunti. In the past couple of days, I have just begun reading his book, “Swamiji,” and relishing those memories of early New York 26 Second Avenue. It was such a special time.
My dear friend and Godsister, Kusha devi, sent me Brahmananda’s book, “Swamiji” but I hadn’t had time to really look at it until yesterday. Then, when I opened it, I saw that Brahmananda had written me a note on the first page: In that big scrawling Brahmananda script it said, “For Govinda dasi, Where is YOUR book?” What a surprise! And then this news of his departure!
A Brahmin lady friend once told me that when a person dies, the soul remembers all the persons they knew, and loved, and sometimes they even come to bid them farewell. I would like to think that is true, for I loved Brahmananda the most, of all my Godbrothers, and I still do. His mood of love for our Swamiji was very special, and I also felt a similar mood. We shared a common feeling of love for Srila Prabhupada that I am unable to adequately describe.
I reflect on those sweet times in early 1967, in New York, where we sat around Swamiji’s room every evening, relishing his talks about Krishna–and just about everything under the sun! I recall the times when Swamiji held up the world globe in his hands, and turning it slowly, said confidently, “Brahmananda, you will go to Russia, Goursundar, you will go to Japan, Rayarama, you will go to England…” Our Swamiji had big plans. And our dear Brahmananda was one of those beloved disciples who helped fulfill those plans.
Brahmananda and I shared a similar vision, that is: “Swamiji’s room was the whole world, and he was all the people.” He was our everything. There was never a thought of personal ambition, power, or position–
none of that existed. It was simply not in the realm, that spiritual realm, that we knew as the early days of Swamiji’s Iskcon.
We will miss him. For me, Vrindaban will not be the same. Just going to visit the “brothers” was always a big “must” on every visit. Just to sit and reminisce about Srila Prabhupada, and hear those wonderful stories! I always felt Srila Prabhupada’s presence right there in the room!
Poor Gargamuni, he must be devastated.
But I also know that in some of my last visits with them, Brahmananda’s mood was one of anxiously waiting to go to be with Srila Prabhupada, and to serve him wherever he was. The separation was becoming more and more painful: Brahmananda missed him, and just wanted to be with him again!
Brahmananda was indeed a “one of a kind devotee.” His surrender and unconditional love for Srila Prabhupada was exemplary. There is no need of empty praise here. He was truly a soul dedicated to his Spiritual Master Srila Prabhupada, and one who had zero desire for personal name, fame, and fortune, and all the baggage that comes with it. His only thought was how to please Srila Prabhupada, and that sunshine smile was his coveted reward. He was satisfied with that, as he knew the true value of pleasing the Acharya, and he knew how to do it.
His mood was one with Srila Prabhupada’s. He wanted to share Krishna consciousness with everyone, to make it available to every soul, and not to make it a business to gain money or fame. Though he and his brother, Gargamuni Prabhu, were naturally talented in business, he chose Prabhupada’s mood of scattering the seeds of Krishna consciousness worldwide. When the American division was charging $600 for a Vedabase of Prabhupada’s teachings, Brahmananda was charging $20–with only $3 or $4 dollars profit margin to keep his little business running.
Brahmananda told me at that time, “Prabhupada would never want this–so much money they’re charging–the Russian devotees, the South American devotees, they can’t afford this! I just want to make it available to them. You know how much concern Srila Prabhupada had for Russia, from the very beginning. I know Srila Prabhupada would want this, that’s why I’m doing it.”
True to his commitment to Srila Prabhupada, he continued to make the teachings available and affordable to everyone–even when the American
BBT sued him, and even when he was banned from entering Vrindaban’s Krishna Balarama Mandir, the temple of his beloved Master! Still, he continued to do what Srila Prabhupada wanted, to make the teachings of Krishna consciousness available to everyone. For this also he is to be seen as a hero, one that remained faithful to Prabhupada in spite of the passing whims of politics.
Brahmananda had a protective mood of Srila Prabhupada, and this is what I most appreciated. I had a similar mood, almost a nurturing motherly mood–yet he was a huge mountain of a man–entirely capable of downing any aggressor. One story goes that an aggressor moved toward Srila Prabhupada, and Prabhupada calmly pointed to Brahmananda, and said, “This man will kill you if I ask him to…” And Brahmananda would have, most assuredly! He would have given his life to protect Srila Prabhupada. And in fact, he did give his life in continued service to Srila Prabhupada, from the very moment he met him, to the very last day of his life.
Even if there sometimes appears to be mistakes or deviations in the lifetime of such great devotees, I personally believe these should be viewed as instructional, for all those who come later. We learn from the lives of such dedicated devotees, and we also receive their blessings.
From his newly published book, “Swamiji,” I am now coming to learn more about Brahmananda’s “pre-Prabhupada” history. And it is giving me even a greater appreciation for him. He was definitely one of those selected souls sent to help Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada used to say to us, back in 1967 and 1968, “My Guru Maharaja has sent you all to help me!” Indeed, these early disciples must have had previous relationships with Srila Prabhupada, for as soon as we met him, practically all of us, we knew he was the person we had been waiting for all our lives! Though we were very young, we were hungry for truth, and it seemed like eons that we had been waiting for him. So we just jumped right in, and began to love him and serve him anyway we could. We loved him immediately.
There was no question in Brahmananda’s mind that Srila Prabhupada was his eternal guru. Most of the other early devotees felt the same way. We knew, from the moment we met him. And even though there were ups and downs, due to the struggles within the material world and modes of nature, throughout it all, we never quit knowing this. We always knew, Srila Prabhupada is our sat guru, our eternal Acharya, and he is everything to us.
Recently I heard one leader quoted as saying, “these early disciples of Srila Prabhupada, they were drug-crazed hippies!” How wrong! (And how offensive–both to Srila Prabhupada as well as to his dedicated disciples!) This person probably doesn’t know because he wasn’t there! He came some time later, and does not really understand. There were, of course, hippies in the 60’s, for certain, but the core group of devotees who came to Srila Prabhupada early on could be better described as seekers, spiritual seekers.
They grew up in the 1950’s, in post-war America, a time of peacetime affluence. Every American home had amenities that were unknown in third-world countries–things like piped in hot and cold running water, indoor bathrooms, electric stoves and heaters and fancy kitchens, television sets, and cars–most families had at least one car, usually two. Many of these youths were even gifted a car at high school graduation! Most had college degrees, and jobs available to them; some even had master’s degrees and teaching positions, as most of them came from affluent families.
In spite of this, they were dissatisfied with all the material world had to offer, and were simply searching for truth, for some deeper meaning of life, and for their actual place in the universe. They were frustrated with their modern education and the materialistic society they grew up in. They were not satisfied with all the comforts of life that came so easily to them, simply by their birth in America. If one is a beggar, he has nothing to renounce. These youths were not beggars. They were not “drug-crazed hippies.” This is a misnomer. These young disciples were serious spiritual seekers, and Swamiji, later known as Srila Prabhpada, fulfilled their quest for truth, and more.
Some of them even traveled to Europe or India in search of truth. Brahmananda traveled to India in search of his guru, some time before ever meeting Swamiji in New York. Hayagriva, already a college professor, also went to India on such a search. Both met Swamiji in New York. This search for meaning was common to all of Srila Prabhupada’s early disciples. They were, as Srila Prabhupada used to say, “sent by my Guru Maharaja to help me.”
This fact should always be remembered and such derogatory attitudes, calling them “drug-crazed hippies,” should be wiped from the memory of Iskcon. Srila Prabhupada dearly loved his early disciples such as Brahmananda, as well as all the others. He sometimes spoke of the sweetness of “those early days in New York.”
These early disciples, like Brahmananda, gave everything, and took nothing. They gave their lives in support of their Swamiji’s movement. There was not even the temptation of name and fame and money and position at that time. None of that was existent in the very beginning. Some were tempted later on, but not disciples like Brahmananda. Brahmananda was in a class of his own; he always kept Srila Prabhupada as his topmost hero, and never tried to become the hero himself. And that fact has made him the greatest hero!
Brahmananda always thought of Srila Prabhupada, day and night, and contemplated how to please him. So let us somehow follow in the footsteps of such a great soul, and never forget his example. This is the essence of the path of Bhakti.
I am so very glad that Brahmananda was able to leave this world in the Holy Dhama. That’s what he wanted. And that is what Srila Prabhupada wanted. May we all become so fortunate!
Srila Prabhupada’s disciples are leaving, one after another, and in a very few years, none of us will be here. My only hope is that in the future, the youth, the second and third generations, will step up to the plate and unravel all the knots in Srila Prabhupada’s legacy. I pray that the third generation, along with their guardians, the second generation, will find a way to reinstate the original glory of Srila Prabhupada’s Iskcon and his mood of love and trust.
To do this, they will have to look to the service mood of such great souls as Brahmananda, for he served Srila Prabhupada with loving devotion, free from the poison of pratistha and pride. And in this way, that original beauty of Krishna Consciousness that filled Srila Prabhupada’s early Iskcon will again become prominent in the minds and hearts of devotees all over the world. That will be the glorious revival of Lord Chaitanya’s movement, the saving grace of Kali Yuga.
A touching video of the last rites performed for Brahmananda prabhu on the banks of the Yamuna river.
Two thousand devotees in Ukraine are enjoying a week long festival of kirtan and seminars in the tiny hamlet of Slavske, in the Carpathian mountains. Staying in log cabins and other rustic buildings, they are basking in the first warm days of summer and in the association of a number of ISKCON leaders including Trivikrama Swami, Niranjana Swami and Bhakti Caitanya Swami.
Devotees from all over Ukraine gathered this week for their annual Gauranga Festival in the Carpathian mountains. Blissful Kirtan resounded throughout all the hills and valleys!
Festivities continued throughout the weekend at the Gauranga Festival in Ukraine. The clear, fresh mountain air facilitated long and loud chanting of the holy names. Prasadam, cooked in ghee on open wood fires, was super excellent. And the association couldn’t be beat!
During the Gauranga Festival this weekend in Ukraine a number of devotees took initiation. The ceremony outside was briefly interrupted by a downpour of rain, which we all took as flowers thrown from the demigods above!
As a build up to our festival this coming weekend in Chisinau, Moldova we did harinama on the streets of the capital in the morning. In the afternoon we were featured live on the most popular television talk show in the country. Over one million people watched as we explained the philosophy of Krsna consciousness and discussed our upcoming festival. We even cooked halavah in the studio as part of the program, much to the delight of the TV crew who enjoyed it immensely after the 90-minute show!
Thousands of people attended the first day of our festival in Chisinau, Moldova. Held at the prestigious MoldExpo grounds near the center of the city the event attracted people of all ages. Our ‘larger than life’ puppet theaters thrilled both parents and children alike and our Bhagavad Gita play brought forth a resounding applause from the audience. All the devotees were happy seeing so many people enjoying Krsna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada, may this festival go on for 100 years and spread your message to the 4 corners of the earth!
Srila Prabhupada would sometimes refer to the spreading of Krsna consciousness as a “cultural conquest.” Certainly we conquered the hearts and souls of many thousands of people in Moldova with our festival program here in Chisinau this weekend. As I walked around the festival site I would stop and ask people what part of the festival they liked best. Many of them would smile and reply, “Everything.”
“Here in France … they are chanting Hare Krsna also village to village in buses, so the propaganda work is going on nicely.” [ Srila Prabhupada letter to Bon Maharaja, August 11, 1975 ]
Srila Prabhupada, I was heading up one of those buses in France ( actually large vans ) that you refer to in your letter to your godbrother in 1975. Now, as then, I am still trying to deliver your message ‘village to village’ wherever I go. Next week we begin our 27th annual festival tour along the Baltic Sea coast in Poland. Please bless all the tour devotees, who are so eager to serve you. We will make sure your work “goes on nicely.”
[ Pictured: A Hare Krishna Bus – circa 1970’s, Australia ]
Dear disciples: A new class entitled, “The Cultural Conquest” has been uploaded on www.narottam.com. The class was given on June 23 in Chisinau, Moldova. Srila Prabhupada once said, “We will take over the world with culture.” All glories to His Divine Grace!
One time in Los Angeles, as Srila Prabhupada was leaving for India, he told the devotees,”Lord Nrsimha will protect you in my absence.” I pray that Supreme Lord will watch over and protect me as I travel the world in service to my spiritual master.
Just this morning Srila Prabhupada’s disciple, Kurma Rupa prabhu, passed away in Sri Vrindavan dhama due to cancer. He took care of Krsna’s cows in Vraja for many, many years. Below BB Govinda Maharaja recounts his visit to Kurma Rupa prabhu a few days back. Thank you Kurma Rupa prabhu for showing us how to take care of cows … and love them with all one’s heart and soul.
When in Vraja I was informed that Kurma Rupa Prabhu was quickly leaving his body due to cancer. So I walked to his room one evening and we spent time together.
Last month he had his gall bladder removed. I saw a picture on Facebook after the operation and his hand was completely filled with gall stones.
When the doctors performed that operation they detected a tumour at the bottom of his stomach which was blocking passage for the stomach to the small intestine.
It was biopsied and declared to be benign. So the doctors left it and made a small slit in his stomach to connect the stomach to his intestine that he could begin to eat and eliminate.
A few weeks ago he began to experience burning pain in his stomach. He tried all varieties of antacids to no avail. Thus again he went to Delhi to see his doctors.
The burning was caused by bile .. and lots of it.
Since his gall bladder operation the liver had gone into overdrive and could not deal with the creation of bile. The doctors placed a catheter in his liver and the first night night drained 4.5 litres of bile. Everyday since there has been at least a litre drained.
The doctors also realised the tumour had expanded greatly, again biopsied, the doctors returned the verdict of a stage 4 cancer tumour.
They wanted to reopen Kurma Rupa prabhu but he said no .. take me back to Vrindavan to die.
While I was with him he was very weak but very focused.
He was salivating all the time and had to spit regularly. He said the bile was causing him to have a very horrible alkaline tasting saliva.
He said initially he was worried .. but now he had no fear.
We both remembered when we were young in Vrindavan. Whenever we were faced by danger, gundas, thieves, or temple presidents, our mantra was,
“Look, I came to Vrindavan to die .. so .. if you want to kill me do it now.”
He softly said that during rare moments in his life of sadhana bhakti, when Krishna had blessed him with His causeless drops of grace, he had seen that his only aspiration was to be with Gopal, helping him to tend to the cows in Vraja.
I mentioned that when I had first spoken to Srila Akinchana Krishna dasa Babaji Maharaja that I told him,
“Babaji Maharaja, I am so blessed to be in Vrindavan.”
Babaji Maharaja looked at me and said, “why are you blessed?”
I replied, “I am blessed because in this Vraja I can see two merciful paramhamsa vaisnavas, you .. and my guru maharaja.”
He looked at me very intensely, yet very kindly, and replied,
“Do you really want to know why you are blessed here in Vrindavan?
You are blessed …
because just outside these windows Sri Krishna and Balaram are walking and playing with Their cows,
and the dust from Their divine feet, and the dust of the divine feet of Their cows, is rising up, and covering your entire body,
and this is your greatest treasure of life.”
Then Babaji Maharaja fell silent.
When I told that to Kurma Rupa he looked down in his deep and serious way,
“my only hope and desire is to serve Gopal as He is with his cows.”
Then he said,
“some people think in a beautiful way of service to Sri Radha and Her associates. I give them my deepest respects .. but my only hope and desire is to be with Gopal and serve Him and His cows.”
He said that he deeply admired how I was always travelling and sharing harinama.
I replied that I love Vrindavan, and if I were not unqualified, I would always remain here. But as I am not qualified, I can only stay for a few days before I am again sent away.
But I said his life was most blessed life because he has spent at least 30 years in Vraja, and everyday fixed in service.
He then said that he felt bad that he did not travel and preach. He said that if he made it through this crisis he may go west somewhere in the west and attempt to start a cow care program.
Then I became very strong and told him,
“No !! If you do recover stay here and serve your cows with more and more love and affection.
But I order you, never, never, never leave Vrindavan.
Never leave …
Until that blessed moment arrives when Gopal comes to take you from this Vrindavan to the other Vrindavan, welcomes you with tears, embraces you with love, swears to you that you that He will never allow you to leave again, and then, introduces you to Sudama, Subala, Madhumangala, and you both walk, arm in arm, in the mist of 900,000 cows.
He said, “I accept your instruction as an order. I will never leave Vrindavan.”
The next day Kurma Rupa returned to Care For Cows.
He told me that he wanted to go back there as soon as he could. he said he wanted to hear the cows, smell the cows, breathe the dust of the cows.
He looked at me seriously and said;
“Maharaja, If you ever have a problem in life .. serve a cow with love .. then, all your problems will dissipate by the grace of Gopal and you’ll be blessed with bhakti.”
I held his hand tight and begged him to forgive me if I’d ever offended him.
I begged him to give me blessings to attain bhakti.
And, I deeply thanked him for his full life of sacrifice to Srila Prabhupada’s mission, harimana, vaisnavas, and his glorious and selfless love for cows.
We embraced and parted.
Just a few minutes ago Dharmatma Prabhu called me and said that Kurma Rupa prabhu’s situation has deteriorated.
Today may be his last day in this section of Vrindavan.
My request is that everyone offer a prayer to Gopal for this selfless servant,
Kurma Rupa Prabhu. May Sri Gopal quickly come, give Kurma Rupa the sweet embrace that he so merits, and deliver him to the planet of the cows.
My realisation was that as youngsters we had souls like Prabhupada, Babaji Maharaja, Shridhar Maharaja and other venerable vaisnavas that we would associate and beg mercy from.
Venerable vaisnavas like Kurma Rupa Prabhu are the saintly monarchs and pure devotees of this age.
Kurma Rupa Prabhu Ki Jai !!
Patita Pavana Srila Prabhupada Ki Jai !!
Harinama Sankirtan Ki Jai !!
Jai Jai Sri Radhe … Shyam !!