A Few Mahatmas
His Divine Grace Srila Gour Govinda Swami would always stress the importance of sadhu sanga, associating with the true Gaudiya Vaishnava sadhu. During his Acharya lila in this world Srila Gour Govinda Swami, relishing the association of saints and teaching by his own example, would sometimes spend time with one or two seniour Vaishnavas. On this page we attempt to honour these great souls.
Whilst stressing the importance of always taking sadhu sanga, Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja would also clearly explain, “because Srila Prabhupada has said that his disciples shouldn’t go outside of Iskcon to hear from his godbrothers, therefore I didn’t go to them. Rather he would send them to me.” Srila Gour Govinda Swami never ‘went outside’ of Srila Prabhupada’s institution for association, because of this most important instruction. But sometimes, certain Vaishnava sadhus, who were supportive of Srila Prabhupada and his Iskcon movement, would come to visit him at the Temple, by Srila Prabhupada's own arrangement.
We have listed only a few great souls on this page, but our Guru Maharaja was highly regarded and appreciated by many exhaulted Vaisnavas. For example, when Guru Maharaja's disciple Atmarama prabhu informed Sripad Maha Yogi Swami, who was one of Srila Prabhupada's godbrothers, of our most worshippable Gurudeva's departure from our vision in 1996, the Maharaja responded, (expressing that Srila Gurudeva left this world because he was on the highest platform of prema-bhakti and could no longer tolerate separation from his Lord, Gopaljiu),
akaitava kṛṣṇa-prema, yena jāmbūnada-hema,
sei premā nṛloke nā haya
yadi haya tāra yoga, nā haya tabe viyoga,
viyoga haile keha nā jīyaya
“Pure love for Kṛṣṇa, just like gold from the Jāmbū River, does not exist in human society. If it existed, there could not be separation. If separation were there, one could not live.” (CC Madhya 2, 43)
ka-i-avarahi-aṁ pemmaṁ ṇa hi hoi māṇuse loe
ja-i hoi kassa virahe hontammi ko jīa-i
Sri Srimad Bhakti Charana das Baba; Bhagavat Maharaja
Once, on the day celebrating Srila Prabhupada’s sacred disappearance in this world, Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja was feeling unhappy about not having any money with which to hold a festival in honour of his beloved Gurudeva. At this time he was living pretty much alone in a brick hut on the site that would in the future become the beautiful Sri Sri Krishna Balaram Temple in Bhubaneswar. As he was lamenting, at that moment an auto rikshaw stopped on the road outside the Iskcon property and out stepped one elderly Vaisnava. He introduced himself as Bhakti Carana das Baba, a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Swami Prabhupadaji Maharaja. When Srila Gour Govinda Swami mentioned that the day was the day of Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance, Babaji Maharaja instantly offered to pay for the feast and festivities. So the festival was held, well attended by the local villagers and devotees.
Srila Gour Govinda Swami explained that at that point he realized that Srila Prabhupada had sent Babaji Maharaja to him.
Over the coming years, Srila Babaji Maharaja would sometimes visit Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja, coming again to the Iskcon Bhubaneswar Temple property.
Then, just a matter of days before Babaji Maharaja left this world at the end of 1993, hearing that his friend was quite ill, on this occasion, Srila Gour Govinda Swami privately visited him at his Nikunja bihari Ashram in Kendarapara. He was travelling with only his servant, cook and secretary, and was on his way back to the Bhubaneswar Temple from a month of preaching on the Padayatra. During their final meeting Babaji Mahasaya was tearfully calling out “Gour! Gour!” and “Radhe! Radhe!” with great spiritual emotion. He was chanting various verses from our sacred scriptures, including a verse which describes how on the peacock feather adorning Krsna’s hair are the syllables ‘Ra’ and ‘Dha’. He was quite obviously on the spiritual platform, absorbed in thought of his Lord.
Sri Srimad Sriniketan das Babaji
In 1991 at the opening of the Sri Sri Krsna Balaram Temple at Bhubaneswar, Sri Srimad Sriniketana dasa Baba, a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupadaji Maharaja who was living in his ashram at a village near Khurda, stayed as a special guest in the Temple Guest House, for several weeks. He took a very active part in the installation of Srila Prabhupada’s murti at the Bhubaneswar Temple and during his time at the Temple, he gave several classes in the English language to Srila Gurudeva’s disciples (with Guru Maharaja sat beside him.). The respected Maharaja left this world at Sri Jagannath Puri dhama on 30th January 1995.
The Professor, Sripad Dr. Fakir Mohan das
Another Vaisnava that Srila Gour Govinda Swami had a relationship with was Professor Sripad Dr Fakir Mohan Das Prabhuji. Both were born in Vaisnava families at around the same time, and in the same area of Orissa. As children they had known each other, and in later years they also spent some time in each others’ company.
The Professor was present during part of the final meeting between Srila Gour Govinda Swami and Sripad Bhakti carana das Baba in Kendarapara one day in 1993. After their meeting Maharaja accompanied the Professor to his library of ancient manuscripts – which was just down the lane from Babaji Maharaja’s Nikunja bihari Ashram.
In 1994 Srila Gour Govinda Swami wanted the Professor to head up a Vaisnava Vedic University that he had envisioned at Bhubaneswar. He was also very interested to help the Professor with a temple for Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur’s deities of Sri sri Radha-Madhava at Choti, the Thakur’s native place.
Srila Gour Govinda Swami very much appreciated the Professor’s scholarly research into Vaisnava topics, and once stated that ‘no-one knows as much about Mahaprabhu’ as the respected Professor.
The Professor was well known and highly respected throughout the Vaisnava world (as well as in scholarly circles) crossing all sectarian boundaries, and travelled widely visiting devotees around the world nearly 20 years. He was well known for his scriptural expertise, for his jolly sense of humour, for his simplicity and for his genuine humility. He left this world on the 18th November, 2018.
Brief biographical detail from Asia/Pacific Who’s Who –
Das, Fakir Mohan M.A. PhD (Oriya) Sahityacharya writer and research scholar born 24th August 1932 Panchapalli, Orissa. President of Sri Bhaktivinode Library; vice-chairman of International Thakur Bhaktivinode and Thakur Bhaktisiddhanta Memorial Trust, Kendrapara; Chairman Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana Research Inst, Bhubaneswar… he has published more than 35 books, mostly in Oriya but ‘Choti, the Native Place of Thakur Bhaktivinode’ and ‘Bhakta Kavi Gopalkrishna’ are in English.
(What this doesn’t tell you is that he was a devotee from childhood, and spent many decades in close association with the Gaudiya Math/Mission’s, and Gaudiya Vaisnava world in general’s leading acharyas, scholars and devotees. He was also highly regarded by many of Iskcon's leaders.)