All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga!
The following is an interview with Hasyapriya Prabhu, who just spent three weeks in India visiting some of our centers there:
Which centers did you visit in India?
By the mercy of Srila Gurudev and the devotees I was able to be in Govardhan for the annual Govardhan puja festival. Uma Devi and the local devotees hosted a very wonderful festival that was attended by many vaishnavas, both from around the world and from India. Then we spend some time in Vrindavan visiting some of the temples there, under the guidance of Sripad Madhusudan Maharaj, Sripad Mangal Maharaj and many other senior devotees of our mission. Next I went to Nabadwip and with Srila Acharya Maharaj’s association, we visited some of the holy places around Nabadwip. At the end of my visit, we spent several days at the Sevak Bhavan in Kolkata, where Srila Acharya Maharaj took some time to rest and take care of his health.
How is Srila Acharya Maharaj’s health?
I am always amazed at how much energy and dedication Srila Acharya Maharaj has! When he is operating on less than 100% good health, still he is functioning many, many times more than I am, even if my health is great! But his health has definitely improved and continues to improve more day by day.
What is the current situation in Nabadwip?
The opposition group leads the kirtans during the arotiks at the samadhis and the nath mandir. They are visible, but not prominent. There are morning and evening programs in the Centenary building daily and when his health and schedule allow, Srila Acharya Maharaj, leads those programs. If a senior devotee is there, then he will give a class to the other western devotees. For me there was no problem moving around the Math premises and paying obeisances to Srila Govinda Maharaj, Srila Srila Maharaj or Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Gandharva Govinda Sundar. Also walking around Sri Govinda Kund was both beautiful and peaceful.
Is it safe for devotees to travel there?
Is it safe anywhere in this material world? I was more concerned with being involved in a traffic accident or just walking across the road while I was in India, than I was concerned for my safety at the Math. I have heard some devotees warn that it is not safe to go to Nabadwip and therefore they recommend not going there. I cannot agree with this position. When Srila Janardan Maharaj recently visited Nabadwip, I asked him if he felt “safe” there. His answer was since when did we concern ourselves with “safety” when it came to executing the order of our Gurudev?
Around the world we hear of many devotees who are arrested, physically threatened and sometimes assaulted, and experience many other difficulties while they are trying to execute their service. Russia, China, Venezuela, to name just a few of those places.
Since the disappearance of Srila Govinda Maharaj, some devotees are thinking “why should I go to India?”
I can only answer this question for myself – why do I go to India? When Srila Govinda Maharaj was physically present, we went to India regularly for his holy association and felt so enlivened to sit in his darshans and hear whatever subject he spoke about. We couldn’t think of anywhere else we wanted to be, except with him.
Sometimes I think that there are many people in opposition to Srila Acharya Maharaj. So I hope that when I go there, I can just be one person in the crowd that is giving him my affectionate support, offering an affectionate smile.
Srila Govinda Maharaj made his desire very clear to us as evidenced by this statement in his last will and testament: “I hereby direct all to assist Sripad Bhakti Nirmal Acharyya Maharaj with love and affection.” This is our chance to follow that order. Whatever we can do to help, in any small way, it is our duty to try and execute the order of Srila Govinda Maharaj.
There are devotees who unlike me, actually do some significant service when they go to the Math in India. There is such a need for assistance there. When Srila Ashram Maharaj visited, they would see him every day in the goshala, cleaning and caring for the cows. Others have a similar mood and Krishna is fulfilling their desire for service.
What are Srila Govinda Maharaj’s instructions for us regarding India?
Srila Govinda Maharaj clearly instructed the Western devotees to not get involved in the politics of the Indian devotees. Everything in India operates in a way that is completely foreign and mostly not understandable by us. So we should stay out of those dealings and not become concerned with gossiping and hearing the latest dirty things that are being said. We should only associate with those devotees who are supporting Srila Acharya Maharaj. Also we should try to be respectful to everyone. What is the harm in offering even the most fallen devotee our respects from a distance?
What is the mood of the devotees who are in the Math now?
The devotees I spoke to expressed their gratitude for the Western devotees who have come there. Even though the local servitors know that the devotees around the world support Srila Acharya Maharaj, still by seeing them come and join in with a humble service mood, they are reminded of this support and affection and it gives them renewed energy.
The local devotees all are stalwart devotees who feel the responsibility to serve all the Vaishnavas who are coming to India for pilgrimage. Their dedication and steadiness is inspiring.
Would you recommend others to visit Nabadwip?
For the senior devotees in our mission, it would be good if they can go to India now to give their association to the younger devotees who may be there. A few kind words of encouragement does not take much effort on our part, but may be very meaningful and enlivening to those devotees who we express that to. Srila Govinda Maharaj gave us so many treasures in his association and teachings. We can pray that Srila Gurudev may allow us to share a little of those treasures with those devotees who have come to Sri Nabadwip Dham.
For the younger devotees in our mission, here is your opportunity to serve when service is most needed.
We can never forget that even though we may only see it through our material eyes, the holy Dham is of the highest spiritual nature. We are the beneficiaries of some special mercy when we visit Sri Nabadwip Dham, or the other holy places, and take the dust of Sri Nabadwip on our heads. This can give us the highest mercy in our spiritual lives.
Why is the situation so disturbing now?
I think this a misconception. Disturbances have always been attacking our mission. Even in the very early days of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, several brahmacharies tried to oust Srila Sridhar Maharaj from his own Math! They tried unsuccessfully and then with some assistance from Sripad Madhav Maharaj, the brahmacharies were paid to leave the Math. Then later the government tried to take the Math. It was a very heavy situation, but finally it was resolved. Srila Govinda Maharaj recalled that many difficulties came to him in his life, but these two incidents were the most difficult.
We also saw that when Srila Sridhar Maharaj appointed Srila Govinda Maharaj as his successor, there were devotees who vehemently rejected Srila Sridhar Maharaj’s desire. They were finally told by Srila Sridhar Maharaj to leave the Math. Now some of those same persons are coming back today to Nabadwip to claim that even Srila Govinda Maharaj was not the authorized successor to Srila Sridhar Maharaj!
I do not wish to minimize the extent of the difficulties that exist today, but we should remember that difficulties have come to each of our illustrious acharyas. They continued their service and demonstrated their faith by never giving up that service that had come to them by the mercy of their Gurudev!