Last Friday, on 12th August 1988 on amāvasyā-tithi at 5:48 am in the morning, the principal stalwart personality, dear associate and follower of Nitya-līlā Praviṣṭa Prabhupāda 108 Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura who preached the pure devotional instructions of Śrī Śrī Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu worldwide, namely Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja, the principal ācārya of Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha situated in Kolargañj at Śrīdhāma Navadvīpa, at the age of 93, entered into the eternal pastimes of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govindasundara amidst a mahā-saṅkīrtana of intense separation performed by his own associates and devotees.
The news of his disappearance has been announced everywhere in India and outside of India in the western world via the medium of telephone, radio and newspaper. Hearing the news of the disappearance of Pūjyapāda Mahārāja, the servants of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha were immersed in deep sorrow. He was the senior godbrother of the most worshippable founder-ācārya of Śrī Caitanya Gauḍīya Maṭha, Nitya-līlā Praviṣṭa Tridaṇḍi Gosvāmī Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Mahārāja. He was the very intimate friend of Pūjyapāda Mādhava Mahārāja. They preached the message of Prabhupāda together in many places in India. Śrīla Prabhupāda, with the help of his own associates such as Nitya-līlā Praviṣṭa Śrīmad Bhakti Sāraṅga Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Śrīmad Bhakti Hṛdaya Vana Mahārāja, Śrīmad Bhakti Dayita Mādhava Mahārāja and Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara Mahārāja, established various maṭhas/temples as permanent preaching centres in various parts of India for spreading the message of Śrī Śrī Gaurāṅga Mahāprabhu.
Because of our extreme misfortune, one by one, all the supremely bright stars of the Sārasvata Gauḍīya firmament are enacting the pastime of disappearing from this world and in this way they are immersing the Gauḍīya sky in deep darkness. Alas! Slowly we are becoming bereft of our own protectors and masters. Again, a deep darkness seems ready to eclipse the sun-like pure devotion. Śrīman Mahaprabhu asked, “Of all miseries, which is the worst?” Answering this question through the speech of His own intimate associate Śrīla Rāmananda, He said, kṛṣṇa bhakta viraha vinā duḥkha nāhi dekho para (“There is no sorrow greater than the sorrow caused by the separation from Kṛṣṇa’s devotees”). It is true. Being separated from Kṛṣṇa’s devotees causes endless grief and has no consolation! Apart from the devotees of the Lord who are an ocean of mercy and most compassionate to those suffering people whose very life is Kṛṣṇa, who else can try to save the living entities that are bereft of Kṛṣṇa by giving kṛṣṇa-kathā and helping them to find Kṛṣṇa? Who else will try selflessly to drive away the darkness of ignorance in which a fallen living entity like myself, blinded by illusion and in a perilous condition of life is situated?
Bhakti is the supreme dharma of any living entity, but bhakti becomes contaminated if apa-siddhānta enters it, leading to a rise of adharma. To eradicate such degraded dharma and to re-establish proper dharma, Śrī Bhagavān, with His own associates, appears in every age. Sometimes He also sends His devotees to preach proper dharma, and in this way reveals His mercy to the living entities. That is why the most merciful Śrī Gaurahari has sent His own associates one by one, such as Śrī Śrīla Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Gosvāmī Ṭhākura, and again, in contemporary times, He has sent His own associates such as Pūjyapāda Śrīdhara Mahārāja, Mādhava Mahārāja and other venerable personalities to perform the work of re-establishing proper dharma.
But alas! Today, with the passing of time, they have become unmanifest and we are completely without shelter! Oh Gaurasundara, please protect us! Pūjyapāda Śrīdhara Mahārāja has surely attained shelter at the holy feet of the most worshippable Prabhupāda and is engaged in his eternal worship. We pray earnestly at his holy feet that, from there, he may cast his holy glance a little upon we who are fallen and lowly.
Pūjyapāda Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī Mahārāja performed his appearance pastimes on Saturday 26th of the month of Āśvina in the year 1895 in the village of Hāpāniyā, near the Pāṭuli railway station on the Kātwa line. The village of Hāpāniyā belongs to the sub-division of Kalna in the Burdwan district. He accepted Śrīyukta Upendra-candra Bhaṭṭācārya Vidyāratna as his father and Śrīmatī Gauri Devī as his mother on that auspicious day of his appearance. Both of his parents were pious, religious and dedicated to the Supreme Lord. They named their jewel-like son Śrī Rāmendra-sundara Bhaṭṭācārya.
During his student life, when he was studying law, after passing B.A. from Calcutta University, he joined the Non-cooperation Movement at the call of Mahatma Gandhi. Later in the year 1923, when he came under the merciful glance of the most worshippable Śrī Śrīla Prabhupāda at the Gauḍīya Maṭha located at Ultadaṅga Junction Road, he accepted the good fortune of hearing hari-kathā from him and discovered the real purpose of human life. He used to hear very attentively to whatever Prabhupāda used to say. Very soon, in 1926 in the month of December, he exclusively joined the above Śrī Gauḍīya Maṭha and Śrī Śrīla Prabhupāda showered special affection upon him. Then, in the month of Vaiśākha, he was given initiation into the mahā-mantra, and on the 23rd of the month of Śravaṇa, he accepted mantra-dīkṣā as per the rules of the pañcarātrika system. The name he was given at initiation was Śrī Rāmānanda Dāsa. It was observed that he had exclusive dedication to sādhana/bhajana and a genuine attraction to serve Śrī Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas based upon following the inner thinking of Prabhupāda in order to present the siddhānta of genuine śāstras with very unique expertise. Seeing all the aforementioned qualities, soon, around the year 1930, he was given tridaṇḍi-sannyāsa dress. His sannyāsa name was given as Tridaṇḍi Bhikṣu Śrīmad Bhakti Rakṣaka Śrīdhara. In fact, today he has become worshippable by the entire world by fulfilling the name he has given by his master.
All good qualities befitting a Vaiṣṇava were present in him. One attains the grace of the Lord only by the grace of the guru. All the demigods and their good qualities reside within one who has unalloyed devotion to the Lord. Despite his birth in a high brāhmaṇa family, we never saw him expressing any pride on account of his aristocratic lineage, opulence, scholarship, divine fortune etc. at any time in his maṭha life.
In many big debates and conferences, where many acclaimed personalities participated, it was very wonderful to observe how he always maintained a calm, focused, solemn manner while establishing proper devotional conclusions and cutting asunder wrong conclusions that are averse to the words of pure devotional scriptures. Hearing from his holy mouth the wonderfully logical explanations imbued with devotion on scriptures such as Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā, Bhāgavatam etc., as well as his lectures delineating pure devotional conclusions, many pious, essence-seeking people had the good fortune to perfect their lives by taking shelter at the holy feet of jagad-guru Śrīla Prabhupāda. Each of his lectures was like a thesis. If someone could note them down, they could achieve a doctorate degree – the highest degree within the society of scholars.
In the Garuḍa Purāṇa it is declared that the Śrīmad Bhāgavata is the natural commentary on the entire mother of the Vedas, the Brahma-gāyatrī. Based upon this, under the guidance of, and allegiance to, the Bhāgavata, he revealed a wonderful nectarean explanation revealing śrī-rādhā-padam dhīmahi within the Brahma-gāyatrī, which has been especially honoured by those highly learned people in society that are expert in the transcendental science of aprākṛta-rasa. How can there be any other way to obtain the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa other than exclusive dedication to His hlādinī svarūpa-śakti which has been spoken of in the Bhāgavata verse, ananyā-rādhito nūnanaṁ? Kṛṣṇa is worshipped by taking shelter of the hlādinī svarūpa-śakti. This alone is the worship of the Husband of Lakṣmī, following in the footsteps of the vraja-gopīs.
rādhā-bhajane yadi mati nāhi
kṛṣṇa bhajana tava ākarane gelā
“If one is not inclined toward the worship of Rādhā, his worship of Kṛṣṇa is useless.”
This is the only advice of a spiritual master who is an ardent follower of Svarūpa Dāmodara Gosvāmī and Rūpa Gosvāmī. If one follows and chants this instructive mantra, then the witch of māyā will flee in fear. This itself has been hinted in this sentence, dadāmi buddhi yogam taṁ yena mām upayānti te (‘I continue to bestow upon them devotional inspiration by which they may come to Me’). This is the pure steady intelligence for attaining eternal service at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord which are the very object of attainment being prayed for to gāyatrī, the mother of the Vedas.
In the heart of Pūjyapāda Mahārāja, such an explanation has wonderfully manifested by the mercy of his spiritual master Śrī Varṣabhānavī Devī Dayita Dāsa, who is the eternal associate of Śrī Rādhā.
śyamac chavalaṁ prapadye śavalāc chyāmaṁ prapadye
With the help of the abhidhā-vṛtti (the direct meaning) we can understand the meaning of this Vedic sentence – “I take shelter of Kṛṣṇa through the mood of His hlādinī svarūpa-śakti and I take shelter of Kṛṣṇa’s svarūpa-śakti through Him.”
When such a perfect meaning can be found on the basis of the lakṣana-vṛtti (indirect meaning), why is there any necessity of speculating about the hārda-brahmatva (impersonal interpretation) of the word ‘śyama’? Thus, if one obediently follows the meaning of śrī-rādhā-padam-dhīmahi, one will achieve the lotus feet of Śrī Rādhānātha-Śyāmsundara. Only He is the Supreme Truth. Therefore, Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja’s purport to the gāyatrī and its meaning has become victorious in every respect.
Almost every senior sannyāsī, brahmacārī, gṛhastha, vānaprastha and servant of our Gauḍīya Maṭha mission used to honour Pūjyapāda Śrīdhara Mahārāja appropriately, and used to feel joy in discussing spiritual topics with Mahārāja who was highly experienced and advanced in bhajana. Even Nitya-līlā praviṣṭa pūjanīya Tridaṇḍi Gosvāmī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Mahārāja, the founder of Śrī Devānanda Gauḍīya Maṭha situated at Tegharīpāḍā in Śrīdhama Navadvipa, and Nitya-līlā praviṣṭa pūjyapāda Tridaṇḍi Gosvāmī Śrīmad Bhakti Sāraṅga Gosvāmī Mahārāja also accepted tridaṇḍi-sannyāsa veśa from Śrīmad Bhakti Raksaka Śrīdhara Deva Gosvāmī. During his manifest time in this world, that personality who preached the message of Śrī Caitanya and established many maṭhas/temples in the Western countries, who accepted tridaṇḍa sannyāsa veśa from Pūjyapāda Keśava Mahārāja and became world-famous by the name Tridaṇḍi Svāmī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, also used to specially honour Pūjyapāda Śrīdhara Mahārāja, considering him as his senior godbrother and highly experienced in bhajana. He used to come from time to time to meet him personally and used to get unlimited transcendental bliss hearing kṛṣṇa-kathā from Śrīla Śrīdhara Mahārāja.
Pūjyapāda Mahārāja became specially learned in the Sanskrit language along with English during his student life under the astute guidance and instruction of his guardians. He was born in a family with a well-reputed scholastic lineage. At very young age, his natural talent for composing poems etc. in Sanskrit was observed.
At the shelter of the holy feet of the most worshippable Prabhupāda, his perfect God-given potency further blossomed. During his manifested pastime in this world, Śrīla Prabhupāda used to sometimes recite the ślokas composed by Śrīdhara Mahārāja, especially Śrīmad Bhaktivinoda-Viraha Daśakam and felt very pleased with him. He also composed Śrī Śrī Prabhupāda-padma-stavakam, Śrī Dayita Dāsa Pañcakam, Śrī Śrī Dayita Dāsa Daśakam and Śrī Śrī Prabhupāda Praṇati – in such stotras one can easily understand the kind of intensity of his affectionate devotion towards the lotus feet of his guru. Apart from these compositions, he also wrote Śrīmad Gaura-kiśora Namāskara Daśakam, Śrīmad Rūpa-pada-rajam Prārthanā Daśakam, Śrīman Nityānanda Dvādaśakam, Śrīla Gadādhara Prārthanā, Ṛg Tatparyam, Śrī Gāyatrī Nigūḍhārtham, Śrī Prema-dhāma-deva Stotram, Śrī Gaurasundara Nuti Sūtram etc. These verses have been very much honoured and appreciated in the Śrī Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava society. The above-mentioned stotras were chanted and relished with great affection by Śrī Śrīla Prabhupāda’s own men, Nitya-līlā praviṣṭa bhajanānandī Vaiṣṇava-pravara Śrīpāda Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja and Tridaṇḍi Gosvāmī Śrīpada Bhakti Vicāra Yāyāvāra Mahārāja during their manifested presence in this world.They were especially very appreciative of his qualities.
In his jewel-like prayer named Prema-dhāma-deva Stotram, almost all of the pastimes of Mahāprabhu’s Ādi, Madhya and Antya-līlās have been briefly described and remembered. If this stotra is published with an anvaya (word for word explanation), ṭīka (commentary), and anuvāda (translation) as a separate book, then it will self-manifest as a great devotional work for reading and studying daily.
His composition in Bengali, Aruṇa Vasane Sonara Sūraja is chanted on the day of Śrī Gaurasundara’s appearance. Songs such as Sārasvata-Ārati etc. are being chanted by the Vaiṣṇavas with great affection. Under the editorship of Pūjyapāda Mahārāja, the entire text of Śrī Śrīla Rupa Gosvāmīpāda’s Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (main ślokas, ṭīka, anvaya and Bengali translation) has been published. Apart from this, Śrī Prapanna-jīvanāmṛtam (ślokas written by Mahārāja himself, with Bengali translations), Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (main ślokas, anvaya with Bengali translation), Śrī Śikṣāṣṭakam, Suvarṇa Sopāna (‘The Golden Staircase’), Śrī Guru and His Grace, Śaśvata Sukha-niketana, Śrī Bhakti Rakṣaka Divya-vāṇī, Śrī Bhakti Rakṣaka Hari-kathāmṛta, Premamaya Anveśana, Śrī Gaurasundarera Vipralambha Līlāra Samahara etc. are a few books that have been published in Bengali as well as in the English language. These books have been specially welcomed with high appreciation and they have been preached very extensively far and wide.
It is of great joy to us that, being attracted by the pure devotional sermons (śuddha-bhaktisiddhānta-vāṇī) from the holy mouth of Pūjyapāda Mahārāja, many good people that are essence-seekers from the western world, after coming to Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha in Śrīdhama Navadvīpa, have achieved the good fortune of obtaining shelter of Mahārāja’s holy feet. His instructional sermons, while he was reclining or lying down were recorded and later published in the form of books. All those books have been especially honoured in the English-speaking western literary and learned societies and by their heartfelt enthusiastic endeavour, a few preaching centres have been established in specific western locations like London etc. In those preaching centres, the pure devotional conclusions and instructions of Śrī Śrīla Prabhupāda are preached on a massive scale in various languages. Even by staying in one place – pṛthivite āche yata nagarādi grāma, sarvatra pracāra haibe mora nāma – he miraculously fulfilled the prophesy of the words spoken by Śrīman Mahāprabhu. In India, he has established Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha (Navadvīpa), Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Āśrama (Hapanīya, Bardhaman), Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Kṛṣṇānuśilana Saṅga (in Svargadvāra at Purī, Dumdum Park and Dumdum Airport). In those places, preaching centres have been established and the activity of preaching the words of Śrī Caitanya are being undertaken there. Presently, Pūjyapāda Mahārāja has appointed his disciple, Parivrājakācārya Tridaṇḍi Svāmī Śrīmad Bhakti Sundara Govinda Mahārāja as the president-ācārya of those maṭhas.
On the day before his disappearance, the most worshippable Śrī Śrīla Prabhupāda bestowed his mercy upon him by expressing the desire to hear songs like Śrī Rupa Mañjarī-pada, sei mora sampada sei mora bhajana-pūjāna composed by Śrīla Narottama Ṭhākura Mahāśaya, from the holy mouth of Pūjyapāda Śrīdhara Mahārāja. Pūjyapāda Mahārāja took the merciful blessings of the most worshippable Prabhupāda upon his head and has tried with all his heart and soul till the time of his disappearance to fulfil the desires of Śrī Svarupa-Rūpānuga-vara Prabhupāda.
Śrīla Prabhupāda even said a few days before his disappearance, “The line of Bhaktivinoda will never be obstructed. All of you dedicate yourselves with great enthusiasm to preach the innermost desires of Śrī Bhaktivinoda.”
Ṭhākura Śrīla Bhaktivinoda is a mahājana in the line of the followers of Śrī Rūpa (rūpānuga-vara-mahājana). The most worshippable Prabhupāda established the great ideal of fulfilling his heart’s desire. His own associates, who are under the shelter of his holy feet such as Pūjyapāda Tīrtha Mahārāja, Gosvāmī Mahārāja, Mādhava Mahārāja, Vana Mahārāja, Yāyāvāra Mahārāja, Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Bābājī Mahārāja and Śrīdhara Mahārāja etc. and other Vaiṣṇava ācāryas, having followed that ideal, have been accepted amongst the associates of Rūpānuga Prabhupāda. At this moment, those who are servants of the servants of Śrī Śrīla Prabhupāda and his eternal associates have to firmly nurture the great hope and desire to fulfil the mission and wish of their spiritual master. In this regard, our only strength and shelter is the foot dust, foot water and remnants of the Rūpānuga Vaiṣṇavas.
Pūjyapāda Mahārāja disappeared from this world on 12th August at 5:48 in the morning, but before that, from the 5th August he took refuge in mauna-mudrā (abstaining from speech) and completely dedicated his mind deeply to the lotus feet of His worshippable Śrī Śrī Guru-Gaura-Rādhā-Govindasundara, accepting the last sojourn of leaving his body. The manner in which his servants from eastern and western countries earnestly dedicated themselves to serve his holy body day and night is inconceivable to understand and very exemplary. Following the ideals of the service performed by Śrī Śrīla Īśvara Purīpāda during the disappearance pastimes of Śrī Śrīla Mādhavendra Purīpāda, a few boys belonging to Gauḍa-deśa, especially a boy named Tapana, very mystically served their guru with full surrender of body, mind and words and have received the unlimited mercy and blessings of their Gurudeva.
Four days before the disappearance day of Pūjyapāda Mahārāja on Monday, 8th August, by divine arrangement, Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Mahārāja received the good fortune of coming to Śrī Caitanya Sārasvata Maṭha to have darśana of Pūjyapāda Mahārāja and stayed there till the time of his disappearance. From time to time he honoured the good fortune of close association to the lotus feet of Pūjyapāda Mahārāja and had the opportunity to do some service for him.
After his disappearance pastimes took place, he was taken from his room on the second floor on his bed accompanied by saṅkīrtana to the temple courtyard of his worshippable Deities Śrī Śrī Guru-Gaurāṅgasundara-Rādhā-Govindasundara Jiu, and there, for a long time, mahā-saṅkīrtana was performed. After 11:41, we took him to the north side of the temple courtyard under the tulasī tree and bathed his body with Gaṅgā water and, after bathing, applied ghee to his body, performed mahā-snāna with the recitation of mantras and dressing him with new cloth, tilaka was applied on his body, along with writing the samādhi-mantra on the chest, based upon the rituals detailed in Saṁskāra-dīpikā. After that, at the north side of the temple in a seven-foot hole in the ground, he was seated facing east and mahā-pūjā was performed with ṣoḍaśopacāra (the offering of sixteen items), then offering mahā-prasāda, ārati, an offering of prasādī garlands and sandalwood oil. With mahā-saṅkīrtana and amidst the loud sounds of ‘Jaya’, the samādhi was performed with salt and earth.
All these ceremonial activities were performed under the priestly guidance of Śrīmad Bhakti Pramoda Purī Gosvāmī Mahārāja. Śrīmad Govinda Mahārāja wrote the samādhi-mantra on the chest of Pūjyapāda Mahārāja and during that time also sang Śrī Rūpa-mañjarī-pada and other songs that were dear to Mahārāja. From almost every maṭha in the city of Navadvīpa and Māyāpura, Vaiṣṇavas came to offer garlands to Pūjyapāda Mahārāja. By the time the rituals and the samādhi ceremony was completed, it was past 1 pm. In the holy temple of the Lord, when the pūjā, the offering of bhoga and ārati had ended, the assembled devotees were welcomed with mahā-prasāda. Śrīmad Purī Mahārāja, along with Śrīman Dayāla-Kṛṣṇa and Gopīnātha Dāsa Brahmacārī, stayed that day in the Kolergañja Maṭha and after passing that night, the next morning they returned to Gopīnātha Gauḍīya Maṭha situated in Śrīdhāma Māyāpura.
Regarding the disappearance of Śrī Śrīla Nāmācārya Ṭhākura Haridāsa, Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s own words have been written in poetry by Śrīla Kṛṣṇa Dāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī in this manner:
haridāsa āchila pṛthivīra ‘śiromaṇi’
tāhā vinā ratna-śūnyā haila medinī
“Haridāsa was the crown jewel on the head of this world. Absent of him, this world is bereft of its most valuable jewel.” (Cc. Antya-līlā 11.97)
kṛpā kari’ kṛṣṇa more diyāchilā saṅga
svatantra kṛṣṇera icchā kailā saṅga-bhaṅga
“Being merciful to Me, Kṛṣṇa gave Me the association of Hari Dāsa. Being independent in His desires, He has now broken that association.” (Cc. Antya-līlā 11.94)
Today we are also immersed in an ocean of sorrow after losing one of the most worshippable associates of Prabhupāda. His position cannot be filled in any way. A Vaiṣṇava is adoṣa-darśī (one who finds no fault). We pray earnestly with the deepest humility at his holy feet that Pūjyapāda Mahārāja forgives and corrects all our offences, shortcomings made either knowingly or unknowingly, and that he bestows his true mercy upon us. He has now been recruited in the eternal service of Śrī Śrīla Prabhupāda. May he kindly bestow upon us the right to serve the lotus feet of Śrīla Prabhupāda and his companions, and in this way deeply oblige us. We submit this prayer to his lotus feet.